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Harsdorf urges yes vote on Frankenstein Veto amendment

Since the 1930s Wisconsin governors have enjoyed some of the strongest line-item veto powers in the nation.

However, one area legislator hopes that next Tuesday Wisconsin voters will say yes to a proposed amendment to the state's Constitution that would put limits on those powers.

Sen. Sheila Harsdorf, R-River Falls, says that she supports partial veto authority, but that governors are abusing for purposes not originally intended.

"I don't believe that governors should be able to enact laws that have not been passed by the Legislature," Harsdorf said.

On the April 1 statewide ballot the following question will appear:

"Shall section 10 (1) (c) of article V of the constitution be amended to prohibit the governor, in exercising his or her partial veto authority, from creating a new sentence by combining parts of two or more sentences of the enrolled bill?"

A yes vote will be in support of the amendment while a no vote will leave the governor's veto powers intact.

"This is a fundamental clipping of the executive's (executive branch) wings," said Alex Kirby, an associate professor of history and government at the University of Wisconsin-Stout.

He added that this will give Wisconsin's governor partial veto authority similar to those of other governors.

Harsdorf noted that one reason she initiated the amendment was Gov. Jim Doyle's veto of the 2005-06 biennial budget where he partially vetoed 752 words out of four subsections of the state budget to obtain a 20-word sentence.

That sentence transferred $427 million from the transportation budget to the general fund to increase spending. That transfer was never voted on by the Legislature.

"This amendment will bring needed budget reform and integrity to the budget writing process," said Harsdorf.

"It's going to restore tax and spending accountability," she added.

"This will make the governor's authority resemble more closely the intent of the original state Constitution," Kirby said.

Prior to 1931, governors could only sign or veto bills in their entirety. In November 1930, voters amended the Constitution to permit governors to veto appropriation bills in whole or in part.

In April 1990, voters approved a constitutional amendment prohibiting the governor from creating a new word by rejecting individual letters in the words of the enrolled bill.

Then in the Assembly, Harsdorf voted for that amendment when there was a Republican governor.

"Each governor gets more creative with their use of the partial veto and that's why this amendment is before the voters," Harsdorf said.

The amendment passed the Senate unanimously 33-0 in December and in January the Assembly passed the measure 94-1.

"This is by no means an exclusively Republican belief that the there is too much power in the executive branch," Kirby said.

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