Oklahoma justices reject lawsuit by Republican leaders

Chris Rizo Jan. 27, 2010, 1:18am

Brad Henry (D)

OKLAHOMA CITY (Legal Newsline) - The Oklahoma governor has the authority to veto specific sections of legislation, the state Supreme Court ruled Tuesday, rejecting a lawsuit by Republicans.

In its 5-4 ruling, the state's high court said Democratic Gov. Brad Henry may use the line-item veto when considering legislation that adds either conditions or restrictions to previously appropriated funds.

"The framers of the Oklahoma Constitution provided a classic system of checks and balances for the expenditure of public funds," Justice John Reif wrote for the majority. "The framers clearly intended the governor to play a critical role at every stage of the appropriations process."

Reif was appointed to the court by Henry in 2007.

In a dissenting opinion, Vice Chief Justice Steven Taylor said the ruling hamstrings state lawmakers.

"Contrary to the separation of powers mandate in the Oklahoma Constitution, today's ruling restricts the Legislature's power to control the state's purse while it enlarges the governor's veto power over legislation," Taylor wrote.

The original lawsuit was filed by House Speaker Chris Benge, R-Tulsa, and Senate President Pro Tem Glenn Coffee, R-Oklahoma City.

The Republican leaders filed the lawsuit after the governor used the line-item veto to change certain sections of legislation that affected executive agency budgets. They argued that Henry only had the power to veto portions of appropriation bills.

From Legal Newsline: Reach staff reporter Chris Rizo at chrisrizo@legalnewsline.com.

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