Douglas allows five bills to pass without signature

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(Host) Governor Jim Douglas is allowing 5 bills to become law without his signature. It’s the largest number of bills to become law in this manner in a number of years.

Douglas says he’s trying to send a message to voters and lawmakers by using this practice.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports:

(Kinzel) The content of the five bills is quite varied. One bill expands the state’s medical marijuana law, another requires that naturopathic physician services be available in all health insurance policies sold in the state, while a third allows towns to increase the number of voters needed to rescind a local budget.

The governor faces three options after lawmakers have passed a bill. He can sign it – that’s an action he’s taken many times; he can veto it – he’s done that twice since the end of the session with campaign finance reform legislation and the global warming bill; or he can let a bill become law without his signature.

Under what circumstances would his choose this third option?

(Douglas) “The legislature and I have worked together on a number of things. They’ve approved several of my top priorities and obviously they passed a number of bills that I’m not very happy about. In a couple of cases where I feel very strongly I’ve exercised my privilege of veto. But in other cases I’ve voiced my objections and want them and Vermonters to know that I’m not too happy.”

(Kinzel) Legislation that requires all health insurance companies to include naturopathic care in all policies illustrates the conflict that Douglas says he feels with a number of these bills.

The governor says the new provision will increase premiums by roughly one half of one percent but he says it’s a benefit that Vermonters want:

(Douglas) “That’s pretty substantial as we try to reduce the cost of care and reduce the rate of premium increases. On the other hand it’s an option that many Vermonters feel provides them the kind of care and relief that we want for all the people of our state. So it’s a conflict between choice and flexibility and care and an increase in costs.”

(Kinzel) Don Milne is the Clerk of the Vermont House. He says he can’t recall a time when so many bills became law without a gubernatorial signature:

(Milne) “I don’t remember having more than one maybe two in any particular year. He doesn’t do anything here for 5 days, it automatically becomes law. He can kind of walk away from the bill to a degree by saying, I didn’t sign it,’ But by not signing he doesn’t change anything it’s still going to become law as if he’d signed it.”

(Kinzel) Lawmakers will return to the State House for a special veto session on July 11th. It takes a two-thirds majority of those voting to successfully override a gubernatorial veto.

For VPR News I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.

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