State history was made during this year’s legislative session, but not in a way we want to see repeated.
As the March 10 regular session deadline approached, it was obvious lawmakers once again would be heading into overtime. Gov. Jay Inslee, angry at another delay, warned he would veto every bill on his desk if they couldn’t hammer out a supplemental budget.
Well, lawmakers didn’t seem too bothered by Inslee’s threat, and negotiations continued until last week when the Legislature finally got the job done.
Inslee, though, followed through with his ultimatum and vetoed a record 27 bills in a single night. Ironically, several were bills he had requested the Legislature approve, which made his veto decision all the more bewildering.
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And what good did it do?
Judging by the reaction of lawmakers — no good.
Most were perplexed by the move. If the governor had made the threat with a week or two to go, it might have been more motivational. But he made the challenge so close to the end of the session that there was no way lawmakers would suddenly be able to get their act together and approve a budget.
The stunt actually added to the workload of lawmakers because both chambers ended up overriding the vetoes. Getting a veto override in the state Legislature is not an easy accomplishment. It takes a two-thirds majority vote of the members present in both chambers to get it done.
In the Senate, that took hours because a roll call vote is required. Each senator’s name was called and their vote recorded. In the House, it took 20 minutes because they can vote by pressing a button.
It worked out, but these bills never should have been used like pawns in the first place — sacrificed for a political game the governor could not win.
It takes time and work to get any bill to the governor’s desk, and that process should be respected. To veto legislation — not on a bill’s merits, but simply because it is in a particular batch and veto power is being used to make a statement — is wrong.
We understand the governor’s frustration at the Legislature’s continued inability to meet the regular session deadline. But killing worthwhile legislation is an abuse of veto power, and it accomplishes nothing.
Some of the bills Inslee vetoed had to do with affordable housing, health care, helping the disabled get a higher education and reducing barriers for those seeking help with alcohol and drug addictions.
If the Legislature had not overriden Inslee’s vetoes, vulnerable people would have suffered, not lawmakers.
In the past 25 years, there have been only nine other times when a veto override was successful.
Now, in 2016, the record has been set at 27 successful veto overrides. We hope the events that led to this never happen again. This is one record we don’t want to see broken.