March 11, 2004 – Along with overturning Gov. Charles W. Turnbull's veto of legislation for Fire Service funding, the Senate on Wednesday was successful in overriding numerous other vetoes the governor had handed them last December.
Of all the many overrides, the one likely to irk the governor the most is not an appropriation. It is a mandate for him to provide to the Legislature — within 30 days — a five-year cash flow projection of the government's finances, and also henceforth to provide the lawmakers quarterly cash-flow reports.
In his cover letter to Senate President David Jones last December, Turnbull said he had vetoed the mandates because they "violate the separation of powers doctrine and infringe on the powers of the Executive as set forth in the Revised Organic Act."
Another override now mandates the governor to submit to the Legislature — again within 30 days — a comprehensive plan to consolidate certain government departments. The legislation calls for:
– Combining the Health Department with the Human Services Department.
– Transferring the housing section of the Housing, Parks and Recreation Department to the Housing Finance Authority.
– Transferring the Office of Collective Bargaining from the Office of the Governor to the Personnel Division.
– Transferring the Corporations and Trademarks Division of the Lieutenant Governor's Office to the Licensing and Consumer Affairs.
On Thursday, James O'Bryan, Government House spokesman, said that "each one of the affected agencies would need to take a look, and give thought to how they would plan to implement those things that were overridden. The long and short of it, is we have to deal with it."
The Senate also resurrected the Bureau of Information Technology, a new agency intended to bring the territory into compatibility in the cyberspace era and to increase overall government efficiency. The extremely detailed, comprehensive Technology Enterprise Act of 2003 took up 24 pages of the 2004 Omnibus Bill. The bureau's $300,000 in funding is to come from the Division of Insurance in the Lieutenant Governor's Office.
The governor dismissed the measure last December in one sentence. "While we are in agreement with certain aspects of the bill, it needs further study to ensure that consolidation works properly," he wrote.
Other than the $1.3 million Fire Service appropriation, none of Wednesday's overrides involves tapping into the General Fund. They include appropriations of:
– $1 million from the Tourism and Advertising Revolving Fund for a 30-member tactical unit within the Police Department to reduce crime in high-traffic areas. The bill mandates the appropriation on an annual basis through 2008.
– $150,000 from the St. John Improvement Fund for repair of the Julius E. Sprauve School roof.
– $87,495 from the St. John Improvement Fund for St. John Rescue to install a communication system and for other operating expenses.
Although he knew better, Sen. Celestino A. White Sr. made a gesture proposing an override of Turnbull's veto of $12 million for firefighters' and other government employees' retroactive raises. The appropriation was included in the miscellaneous section of the fiscal year 2004 Executive Budget, which Turnbull vetoed in its entirety. The Senate cannot selectively override portions of a totally vetoed bill.
The governor line-item vetoed the Omnibus Bill, which left it fair game for item-by-item overrides.
All senators attended Wednesday's deliberations except for Sen. Adlah "Foncie" Donastorg, who was excused.
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