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Senate Takes Rare Vote To Override Gubernatorial Veto, But House Does Not

tyler pace
AZ Senate Republicans
Tyler Pace is a Republican state senator representing Legislative District 25.

State senators did something Thursday they haven't done in four decades and voted to override a gubernatorial veto.

Now they're hoping that Gov. Doug Ducey doesn't retaliate.

The 25-5 bipartisan vote came on one of the 22 bills that Ducey vetoed a month ago because he was upset that the Republican-controlled Legislature had failed to send him a budget. They needed just 20 to get the required two-thirds vote for an override.

Senators voted on Thursday to enact new versions of 21 of those measures and send them back to the governor. Some were minor changes while others enacted more controversial provisions, like banning the use of public dollars for "critical race theory training." That left only one — a bill making technical corrections in previously enacted laws. And there clearly were the votes to re-enact that, as the original version had been unanimously approved.

But Sen. Tyler Pace (R-Mesa) said it was important for lawmakers to send a message: The legislature has a constitutional right to override a veto.

"That authority can be used when the legislature feels that a policy or bill that was otherwise vetoed should become law," he said.

"The intent here is not to slap the hand that is in the 9th floor (where the governor's office is located) or to poke the eye of the bear but really to show an exercise to the people that we are paying attention, that we just don't roll over any time the wind changes," Pace said. And he said the fact is that lawmakers represent constituents in their own districts.

"I hope that today they will realize that, when it is important to us, we can and will exercise our power to make sure that what is done represents everybody," Pace said.

However, the move was not matched by the House. On Friday morning, representatives instead opted to enact a new version of the technical corrections bill.

Sen. Kelly Townsend (R-Mesa) who voted in favor of the override, said she hopes that Ducey, facing the prospect of being the first governor in four decades to be overridden — and by his own political party — does not lash out at the Senate.

"If this action brings retaliation in that other bills are vetoed that are passed by the people of this body, that, then, brings harm to the people of this state," she said.

Ducey appears to be taking the move in stride.

"This seems pretty procedural in nature, on a technical bill," press aide C.J. Karamargin said in a prepared statement. He said Ducey is focused on getting approval for the budget and tax cuts "and he's pleased that the legislature has acted."

The last governor to face an override was Democrat Bruce Babbitt.

In 1981 he vetoed congressional and legislative redistricting plans approved by the Republican-controlled legislature, saying they "dilute racial and ethnic minority interests in an unconstitutional and unlawful manner." Babbitt also said Republicans were trying to undermine Congressman Morris K. Udall by dividing Tucson, which he represented, into two districts.

The 60-member House, with 41 Republicans at the time, had no problem getting the necessary two-thirds vote for an override.

In the Senate, however, Republicans controlled just 16 of the 30 seats. But they got the necessary 20 for override by cutting a deal with four Democrats, agreeing to preserve their rural districts in exchange for their votes.