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Court Upholds Governor’s Use of Line-Item Veto

(CN) - The Oklahoma governor's power to exercise the line-item veto extends to all bills involving appropriations, the Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled.

Glenn Coffee, the president pro tempore of the Oklahoma Senate, and Chris Benge, Speaker of the Oklahoma House of Representatives, asked the state's highest court to clarify the extent of Gov. Brad Henry's line-item veto power.

The legislators argued that Henry overstepped his powers when he exercised the line-item veto in a pair of "general bills," saying the veto must be reserved for "appropriation bills."

Examining the state Constitution, Justice John Reif found the following:

"Every bill passed by the Legislature, making appropriations of money embracing distinct items, shall, before it becomes a law, be presented to the governor; if he disapproves the bill, or any item, or any appropriation therein contained, he shall communicate such disapproval. ... Any item or items so disapproved shall be void, unless repassed by a two-thirds vote."

Reif said the line-item veto is not restricted to appropriation bills. It also affects modifications of previously appropriated funds.

"The framers of the Oklahoma Constitution provided a classic system of checks and balances for the expenditure of public funds," Reif wrote.

"The framers clearly intended the governor to play a critical role at every stage of the appropriations process."


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