1-Subject Rule for Legislative Bills Upheld

Article excerpt

By Bill Johnson Associated Press Future legislatures must hold non-appropriation bills to one subject only, the Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled Tuesday in a confusing decision that also spelled out the limits of the governor's veto power.

The opinion, written by Vice Chief Justice Ralph B. Hodges, said a governor does not have the power to pick and choose which parts of a general legislation bill _ a non-appropriation bill _ that he wants to veto.

House Speaker Glen Johnson said the opinion "preserves the balance of power" among the three branches of government.

But Senate President Pro Tempore Bob Cullison said the part on one-subject bills might make it impossible for the Legislature, under the shortened time it can meet, to pass so-called cleanup bills in the closing days.

Cullison and Johnson had filed a lawsuit against Gov. David Walters after the governor vetoed parts of two bills passed on the final day of the 1991 legislative session.

One of the bills was the so-called budget reconciliation bill, House Bill 1271. The other, House Bill 1743, had two sections granting the Legislature the power to allocate all space in the Capitol. The third section authorized the sale of water from Sardis Reservoir.

Walters, contending that House Bill 1743 was unconstitutional because it embraced multiple subjects in general legislation, treated it as three separate bills and vetoed the sections dealing with the Capitol space.

The governor called in "legislative logrolling," the practice of putting controversial legislation in with legislation that was popular in an attempt to keep the controversial sections from being vetoed.

He vetoed several sections of general legislation in the reconciliation bill along with several sections appropriating funds.

Johnson and Cullison argued that a governor, although he has line-item veto power over appropriations bills, has no such power for general legislation bills.

They contended that all of House Bill 1743 must be declared dead along with all general legislative sections of House Bill 1271.

Hodges' opinion relied on an earlier Supreme Court decision that held that general legislation bills must be vetoed or approved in toto. …