Can the Legislature Override the Governor’s Vetoes? Yes, But No
Late last week, the governor vetoed several pieces of legislation. Meanwhile, for the first time in several years, he did not issue any budget vetoes. As Sean and I pointed out here, the governor in West Virginia has extraordinary power compared to other states. In fact, the people of the state grant West Virginia’s governor more budget power than any state except Maryland. Overall, gubernatorial power in West Virginia is second highest in the nation, according to political scientist Thad Beyle.
The governor also has a lot of power when it comes to vetoes. This is because the legislature has little recourse due to the timing of gubernatorial vetoes. Typically, the governor vetoes bills and budget line items two weeks after the conclusion of the 60-day legislative session and the additional special session called to pass the budget. By this time, all of the legislators are out of town. To override the governor’s vetoes – according to Article 6-19 of the state constitution – three-fifths of the members elected to each house need to agree to do so and send a letter to the governor requesting a special session. While the strong Democratic control of the legislature and executive may be partly why vetoes are rarely overridden, it is also very difficult to get super majorities of both houses to agree on confronting the governor.
What does all of this mean? It means that if you want to implement policy in West Virginia, you better have the governor on board. No support from the Governor, no policy change. It might be that simple.