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Executive Veto Power

An executive can refuse to sign a bill and can return it to the legislature with a veto message explaining why. The legislature can attempt, first in the house where the bill originated, to override the veto by an extraordinary vote, usually a two-thirds majority.

Governors in a majority of states also have the authority to select particular items from an appropriations bill and individually veto them. This authority, called the line-item veto, became popular because it allowed the executive to cancel specific appropriations items from bills that were hundreds of pages long. Congress enacted the federal line-item veto authority in 1996 (2 U.S.C.A. §§ 691, 692) to give the president the ability to impose cuts on the FEDERAL BUDGET. In Clinton v. City of New York, 524 U.S.417, 118 S.Ct. 2091, 141 L.Ed.2d 393 (1998), however, the Supreme Court ruled that the Line-Item Veto Act violated the Presentment Clause under Article I of the Constitution. Under the Presentment Clause, after a bill has passed both Houses, but "before it becomes a Law," it must either be approved (signed) or returned (vetoed) by the president. By canceling only parts of the legislation, the president, in effect, amends the law. The Court concluded that there was no constitutional authorization for the president to amend legislation at his discretion.

The line-item veto, like a regular veto, can be overridden at the state and federal levels by a two-thirds majority vote.

If the executive does not sign a bill or return it to the legislature with a message of disapproval, the bill becomes law within a prescribed number of days. At the state level, the governor turns the bill over to the office of the secretary of state, and the fact that it became law without the governor's signature is noted. If the legislature adjourns before the governor's time for signing expires, the bill does not become law without the signature. The governor's time for consideration has been curtailed, and the adjournment prevents the governor from returning the bill with a veto message. In this case the governor can defeat the bill by refusing to act, which produces a pocket veto.

The veto power gives the executive a pivotal role in the legislative process, if the executive cares to assert his or her authority. Use of the veto power varies considerably, depending on the personality of the executive, the political allegiances of house members and independence of legislative leaders, local customs, and the quality of the work produced by the legislature.

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Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationFree Legal Encyclopedia: Labor Department - Employment And Training Administration to Legislative PowerLegislation - Legislative Bills, Sources Of Legislation, Legislative Procedure, The Enactment Of A Bill, Executive Veto Power