A Cornucopia of Veto Overrides
My emailbox is aflood with announcements of the General Assembly’s overrides of Governor Carcieri’s latest vetos. Not a single press release contains the phrase “failed to override.” Some highlights of the GA’s actions-by-override:
- Created another voice for established players to govern healthcare in Rhode Island — a Health Care Planning and Accountability Advisory Council — with membership rules that arguably trample principles of separation of powers and are otherwise dubious (the following list is partial):
- The speaker of the house or designated representative
- The house minority leader or designated representative
- The president of the senate or designated senator
- The senate minority leader or designated representative
- Five (5) consumer representatives. A consumer is defined as someone who does not directly or through a spouse or partner receive any of his/her livelihood from the health care system. Consumers may be nominated from the labor unions in Rhode Island; the health care consumer advocacy organizations in Rhode Island, the business community; and organizations representing the minority community who have an understanding of the linguistic and cultural barriers to accessing health care in Rhode Island
- Added restrictions and legislative oversight of the governor’s behavior as the state’s CEO. The statement of Rep. Elizabeth Dennigan (D-East Providence, Pawtucket) in the press release is deceptive: “With the passage of this bill, getting access to exactly where money goes in the budget should be a more streamlined process. In turn, having this information should make difficult budget-cutting decisions easier to make, because we will be making them as informed legislators.” What the new law actually does, according to its summary is to “require all state departments prior to contracting with non-state employees for services to make an effort to find qualified employees within the state and to issue reports on why outside services are being used.”
- Found a way to squeeze more money out of part-time residents by increasing time-share real estate value assessments.
- Expanded the state’s discount drug program to include any households earning 300% of the poverty level ($61,956 for a family of four) and established an Advisory Commission to be co-chaired by “the speaker of the house or his or her designee, and the president of the senate or his or her designee.”
- Reduced the governor’s influence on the Board of Elections by removing his authority to appoint the Chair and Vice Chair, leaving it to a majority vote of the board, and added language ensuring the legislature’s veto power over appointments.
- Flaunted the non–separation of powers method of appointing magistrates.
- Heightened the pressure to pursue affirmative action policies when filling government positions, although I see that the Senate allowed a bill that would have deleted “references in the Rhode Island general laws which exempt the legislative branch of state government from compliance with provisions of equal opportunity and affirmative action” to die in the Judiciary Committee.
The only hint of a fantasy of a silver lining to this slate of legislative action is that “equal and diverse representation on state boards, commissions, public authorities and quasi-public corporations” might be argued to require the appointment of some conservatives… or even just plain ol’ Republicans.