In an hour-long hearing Tuesday, the state Senate's Government Oversight Committee heard arguments for and against a constitutional amendment that would curb the governor’s veto power.
Constitutional amendments require a two-thirds majority vote in both the Senate and Assembly. Republicans are three votes short of that supermajority in both chambers.
Constitutional amendments must pass consecutive legislative sessions and then be approved by a statewide referendum before they are ratified.
While the media may paint the hearing as an attempt by Republicans to curtail spending efforts made by newly elected Gov. Tony Evers, Wisconsin residents have been trying to reign in the governor's veto powers for decades, Sen. Dave Craig, R-Big Bend and author of the amendment, said.
Evers used partial veto powers in July to rewrite the state budget and allocate $65 million more to public schools than was proposed in the budget.
Joint Resolution 59 is one of several attempts made by legislators to curb the governor’s veto power, Craig notes. If passed, it would create a new section (10 (1) (d)) of article V of the state constitution “prohibiting the governor from using the partial veto to increase state expenditures.”
Craig referred to a 2008 constitutional amendment, which ended the practice of the “Frankenstein veto.” Previously, governors could delete and stitch together words to form new sentences within veto authority.
In 1990, another amendment was passed to end the “Vanna White veto,” which allowed the governor to delete individual letters and numbers from bills.
JR 59 "would shield taxpayers from further unauthorized spending in the future," Craig said.
Two Democrats on the committee, Sens. Fred Risser and Lena Taylor, spoke against the amendment, arguing it wasn’t necessary.
Lucas Vebber, Deputy Counsel at Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty, testified in favor of the amendment, arguing it makes clear “that when the people of Wisconsin, acting through the Legislature, set a cap on spending – the governor must abide by it.”
Craig said he expects the committee will vote on the amendment next week, followed by a full vote by the Senate.