Governor, House Speaker Bicker Over Veto Protocol In Lawsuit

Jun 30, 2016

Kentucky House Speaker Greg Stumbo
Credit Ryland Barton

Democratic House Speaker Greg Stumbo is suing Republican Gov. Matt Bevin, saying the governor didn’t properly deliver vetoes to the Secretary of State at the end of this year’s legislative session.

At stake in the lawsuit is Bevin’s line-item vetoes to the state budget, which could be reversed if Stumbo is successful.

Bevin’s office says the vetoes were delivered to House Clerk Jean Burgin’s office, who Bevin’s attorney says promised to properly deliver the documents to the Secretary of State’s office, as required by law.

The documents never wound up in the Secretary of State’s office, though copies of them were delivered — a move that Bevin’s office says was necessary because Burgin’s office was locked at the end of the day on April 27, the last day vetoes could be filed.

Steve Pitt, Bevin’s general counsel, accused Stumbo of obstructing the proper delivery of the vetoes, saying he had “unclean hands.”

“The House Clerk had been instructed by House leadership not to take those veto messages to the Secretary of State, to lock the office and not come back,” Pitt said.

The vetoes include provisions to expanded free preschool from 160 percent to 200 percent of the federal poverty level, $7.5 million for indigent care in Jefferson County, $9.4 million for community college scholarships and the framework for a free community college program.

In a court filing, Speaker Stumbo said that even if Burgin told Bevin’s office she would deliver the vetoes, she had no legal obligation to do so.

“The Chief Clerk of the House, indeed the House of Representatives itself, simply has no post-adjournment role with regard to vetoes and no duty to assist the Governor in his attempts to void or otherwise erode the laws duly created by the legislature at the request of the electorate,” Stumbo’s court memo said.

Franklin Circuit Court Judge Philip Shepherd refused to rule on whether Burgin would have to testify in a lawsuit.