Governor Haley Barbour has already done more to strengthen the office of governor in relation to the state legislature than any previous governor in our state’s history. The most recent appropriations battles resolved (but for one agency) in the special session just ended is only the most recent example of the governor’s ability.
But perhaps the biggest stroke in Governor Barbour’s efforts to rebalance the powers of the executive and legislative branches in our state government has yet to be resolved. Barbour issued seven partial vetoes among appropriations bills passed last week, and the effect of his partial vetoes is the subject of lots of kibitzing among Capitol insiders.
Section 73 of the state’s constitution provides: “The governor may veto parts of any appropriation bill, and approve parts of the same, and the portions approved shall be law.”
The language is simple enough. The legal history of that provision, however, is anything but simple. The state Supreme Court has, for a hundred years, construed Section 73 so narrowly as effectively to render it meaningless. Most recently, both Kirk Fordice and Ronnie Musgrove tried during their administrations to utilize the apparent partial veto authority granted by Section 73 and both efforts were disallowed by the court.
If Barbour has among his seven partial vetoes finally landed on an acceptable application of Section 73, one that will meet legal muster, he will have revolutionized the way the business of state government for many years to come.