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St. Augustine Republican files constitutional amendment to limit Legislature's veto override authority

@MichaelAuslen

When Gov. Rick Scott vetoed $461 million from the state budget, he made some lawmakers pretty unhappy, cancelling pet projects or funds to go to their districts.

Though the House and Senate haven't made any moves to override his vetoes, restoring funding to those programs, it's an option that remains at their disposal.

But in future years, they could be limited, if Republican Sen. Travis Hutson of St. Augustine succeeds with a constituional amendment he proposed for the legislative session in 2016.

Under Hutson's proposal (SJR 78), the Legislature would have only 90 days to overturn the governor's line-item vetoes on the budget.

"Funds get dispersed at a certain time, so if those vetoes are going to be overriden, it should be in a timely manner from the veto, as opposed to them reconvening in December to fiddle with the budget that started in July," said Matthew Kauffman, Hutson's legislative assistant.

But passing the amendment would be an unusual step in limiting the Legislature's authority to override the governor's veto.

It takes a two-thirds majority in both the House and Senate to pass a bill into law or fund a line item in the budget over the governor's objections (one of the reasons why it's rarely done). But right now, lawmakers have until the end of the next session of the Legislature to do so.

The senator points to a second provision of the proposed constitutional amendment that he says is important for helping the state run like a business. It would set aside any vetoed spending for the state's funding reserves, rather than returning it to the Legislature in the following year's budget to be spent elsewhere in government.

"That's how a business would do it. If you got a bunch of money, you wouldn't spend it on the same bad deal you'd already spent it on," Hutson said. "Why shouldn't we do the same?"

Hutson's proposal -- which he says will be backed by Rep. Dane Eagle, R-Cape Coral, in the House -- would require three-fifths of the House and Senate's approval. Last year, when Hutson was a member of the House of Representatives, it was never heard in committee. Republicans have a three-fifths majority in both chambers, but many in the Senate felt Scott's budget vetoes quite personally.

In the aftermath of the budget vetoes in June, former Senate President Don Gaetz, a Republican of Niceville, was one of several who leveled critiques at Scott.

“Today the governor hurls thunderbolts from his fists,” said Sen. Don Gaetz, R-Niceville. “Tomorrow, he’s just another guy looking for a bill to pass.”

Assuming the Legislature is willing to limit its override power, it would also require the support of 60 percent of voters to amend the state constitution.

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