House Speaker Greg Stumbo raised concerns Thursday about how Gov. Matt Bevin handled vetoes of several bills approved by the state legislature and indicated he may ask a court to determine if the governor acted properly.
Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, also said in a telephone interview that the governor may have signed into law a bill that the House never delivered to him.
“We have spent the biggest part of the day trying to nail down the facts” on how the Republican governor presented his veto messages and dealt with a bill that the House did not finalize, said Stumbo.
“There are serious concerns that may require some direction from the courts,” he said.
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Bevin’s communications director, Jessica Ditto, said the vetoes were handled properly. “The vetoes are valid,” she said.
Ditto also said the bill Stumbo questioned had been signed by House Majority Leader Rocky Adkins, D-Flatwoods.
It was Senate Bill 296, a measure sponsored by Sen. Chris McDaniel, R-Latonia, that would set up the Governor’s School for Entrepreneurs in the secretary’s office of the Education and Workforce Cabinet.
Stumbo said the bill was not brought to the House from the Senate until after the House had adjourned on April 15, the final day of this year’s legislative session.
“It was never enrolled in the House,” Stumbo said, referring to the final legislative procedure before a bill goes to the governor for his signature or veto.
On Wednesday, Bevin vetoed parts of the state budget and six other bills that were approved by lawmakers on the last day of the session. Legislators had lost their opportunity to override any gubernatorial vetoes.
Among his vetoes, the governor delayed for one year a new program pushed by House Democrats to cover the cost of tuition for Kentucky high school seniors who attend community college.
The move upset Stumbo, but he stressed Thursday that he is questioning how the governor presented his veto messages, not their content.
“I’m not going to involved in litigation that doesn’t have merit,” Stumbo said. “However, it does appear on first blush that there are some legislative issues involving the governor that need to be looked at.”
Stumbo said some of Bevin’s vetoes did not contain a message explaining them. “That raises a court issue,” he said.
He also said the signed vetoes were dated April 27, when the governor was in Europe on an economic development trip.
“I don’t think he can delegate that authority,” said the speaker, adding that the documents require an original signature on the specified date.
“On his vetoes, the date and his actual whereabouts don’t match up,” Stumbo said.
Stumbo also said he was looking into how Bevin’s staff delivered the governor’s vetoes to legislative leaders and Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes, the official keeper of state documents.
Bradford Queen, a spokesman for Grimes, said Grimes’ office “filed the veto messages as presented to us by the governor’s office, and we spread them on the register as required by the Constitution.” He did not elaborate.
Asked what would happen to the governor’s vetoes if it is determined they were not handled properly, Stumbo said “that’s also unclear.”
“The vetoes have to be done in strict compliance,” he said.