Tuesday, December 6th, 2016

Frankenstein must die

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It’s a week of bad jokes in this week’s column in support of a good cause, destroying the Frankenstein Veto. Definitely worth the 50 cents.

On Tuesday voters will be asked to vote “yes” on a constitutional amendment to reduce the governor’s veto authority. No, it won’t make everything rosy in Madison. But it’s a step towards bringing the balance of power back into line.

Aside from the Wisconsin Supreme Court race and a plethora of smaller races, on the ballot this Tuesday is a state constitutional amendment to limit the governor’s veto power. While it is not receiving much attention, the amendment is a substantial change in the balance of power in Madison.

Currently the Wisconsin governor has the most extensive veto power in the country. Veto is actually the wrong term for it. It’s a superlegislative power concentrated in one branch of government. The governor’s veto allows him to strike out individual words from bills, stringing together the remaining words to form new sentences. This enables the governor to create new laws and new spending not even contemplated by the state Legislature.

For example, imagine if the Legislature passed a law that read, “Everyone is banned from smoking cigarettes. Anyone caught smoking will be given a $250 fine.” Using his current powers, the governor could change the law to, “Everyone smoking cigarettes will be given $250.”

We can have a lot of fun with that kind of power. We can reduce the Declaration of Independence to, “The history of Great Britain is wholesome and good,” although I think Mr. Jefferson would have objected.

The temptation for a governor to use the veto power to declare himself a god must be overwhelming, if not for the wrath of those who would find such a declaration blasphemous and offensive to Eric Clapton fans.

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