The Republican-controlled Senate voted 25-5 Thursday to override Governor Doug Ducey’s veto of a bill that made technical corrections to previously enacted laws. Ducey vetoed SB1635 along with 21 other bills a month ago, following through on a threat he’d made in May over the legislature’s failing to send him a budget. It was the first time in 40 years, the Arizona Senate has overruled the governor.
“Our priority needs to be passing a budget for Arizonans,” Gov. Ducey said in his letter to the legislature discussing his decision. “Until that happens, I do not intend on signing any additional bills transmitted by the Legislature.”
When Ducey vetoed the bills, he explained in a tweet, “Some are good policy, but with one month left until the end of the fiscal year, we need to focus first on passing a budget. That should be priority one. The other stuff can wait.”
Today, I vetoed 22 bills. Some are good policy, but with one month left until the end of the fiscal year, we need to focus first on passing a budget. That should be priority one. The other stuff can wait. 1/
— Doug Ducey (@dougducey) May 28, 2021
The legislature opted to repass new versions of the 21 other bills instead of overriding them, which would have required a two-thirds vote.
Although the bill was fairly uncontroversial, Sen. Tyler Pace (R-Mesa) said the legislature needed to send Ducey a message. According to KJZZ, Pace 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.” The bill fixed grammatical errors, updated citations, and wrote numbers numerically instead of alphabetically.
Sen. Kelly Townsend (R-Mesa) expressed her concern that Ducey might retaliate. “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.
So far, it appears Ducey is taking the maneuver in stride. According to KJZZ, his press aide C.J. Karamargin responded to the Senate override, “This seems pretty procedural in nature, on a technical bill.” He said Ducey’s focus is on the budget, “and he’s pleased that the legislature has acted.”
At the time, many conservative legislators were furious with Ducey’s decision. According to the Arizona Daily Independent, Rep. Jake Hoffman (R-Queen Creek) said, “The decision to employ strong arm tactics by vetoing over 20 Republican bills, presumably driven by some of his staff and advisors, reflects a fundamental miscalculation regarding the status and progress of the budget negotiations. It is deeply concerning that they did not foresee how detrimental indiscriminately vetoing nearly two dozen bills would be on reaching consensus on the budget.”
Among the bills Ducey vetoed were a ban on taxpayer funding of Critical Race Theory and a ban on election officials sending ballots to people who did not request them. Republicans were joined by some Democrats, including Sen. Tony Navarette of west Phoenix, who called Ducey’s vetos a “public temper tantrum.”
According to House and Senate rules, the legislature is required to adjourn for the rest of the year “no later than the Saturday of the week in which the 100th day (April 20) of session falls.” The rules give the governor the authority to extend the deadline by up to seven days, and the legislators can extend it themselves by a majority vote. The past two years, the legislature missed the deadline by a little over a month. The legislature passed nine of 11 bills containing the budget to Ducey on Thursday.
The last time the legislature overrode a veto the move was successful. In 1981, Democratic Governor Bruce Babbitt vetoed redistricting plans for the legislature and Congress, saying they unconstitutionally diluted the votes of minorities. The override easily passed the House, but in the Senate Republicans were forced to cut a deal with four Democratic legislators, agreeing to preserve their rural districts in exchange for their votes.
Although Republicans control both the state legislature and the governor’s office, it is natural for friction to occur between the two branches, longtime Arizona lobbyist Stuart Goodman says. “All governors naturally have conflict with their Legislature. It is the nature of the job, between implementing laws versus creating them,” he said during an interview in April with State of Reform. He compared Ducey’s relationship with the legislature to that of previous Governor Jan Brewer, saying they both started out with little conflict in their dealings, but as time went by, the relationship became “strained” because it’s “the nature of the job, and the nature of the responsibilities, and it’s not a reflection on the individual.”
Ducey is term limited in 2022 so will not be running for reelection after serving two terms. A Capitol insider said the two-term governor was considering a challenge to Mark Kelly, a Democrat in 2022.
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Rachel Alexander is the State House reporter at The Arizona Sun Times and The Star News Network. Follow Rachel on Twitter. Email tips to [email protected].
Photo “Doug Ducey” by Gage Skidmore. CC BY-SA 2.0. Background Photo “Arizona State Senate Chamber” by Willem van Bergen. CC BY-SA 2.0.