Don’t forget: Under the 1901 Alabama Constitution, a veto can be overridden by a simple majority. Thus, this veto under normal circumstances would be little more than a gesture. The only time a governor can make a veto stick is when it comes at the end of a session and the Legislature can’t reconvene for a vote.
That happened in this year’s session when Gov. Robert Bentley vetoed the so-called Taxpayers Bill of Rights II, a bill that would set up an independent tax-appeals commission intended to streamline the tax administration and appeals process for state and local taxes.
Bentley did that because he said the bill — which was passed on the last night of the regular session — contained errors. Since there was no time to send it back to lawmakers so it could be corrected, he vetoed it rather than let a bad bill become law.
Good for the governor.
The Legislature had the whole session to meet with tax lawyers from the Alabama State Bar and representatives from the business community and write a bill that would improve how the state handles tax disputes. But it was not until the last day of the session that an agreement was reached. When that happened in a rush before adjourning, all of the agreed-upon language did not get into the bill. “There were a couple of things omitted — all unintentional,” Montgomery tax attorney Will Sellers told the Associated Press.
Haste makes waste.
Now the interested parties will have to get together, write a better bill and get it passed when the Legislature meets next year. (This year’s vetoed bill passed the House with a 95-1 vote and a 33-0 vote in the Senate.) Meanwhile, the state will continue to settle tax disputes under a system almost everyone wants changed.
This fiasco provides two lessons Alabama’s lawmakers should learn.
First, legislators need to take the time to write capable legislation.
Second, the governor — or, at least, his advisors — should read the bills that reach his desk. We wonder how many legislators read what they voted for?