CHARLESTON, W.Va. — In a letter to legislative leaders state Attorney General Patrick Morrisey said he believes the legislature could override Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin’s veto of the fetal pain bill.
Morrisey told Senate President Jeff Kessler, House Speaker Tim Miley, Senate Minority Leader Mike Hall and House Minority Leader Tim Armstead his office has studied the state Constitution.
“Because we have found no such clear statement in the Constitution that restricts the Legislature’s authority to override the Governor’s veto during a Legislative-initiated special session, it appears the Legislature retains this override authority,” Morrisey wrote.
Gov. Tomblin vetoed the fetal pain bill, which would have banned abortions in the Mountain State after 20-weeks of pregnancy, citing concerns about its constitutionality but pro-life supporters are calling for lawmakers to override the veto even though the regular legislative session ended weeks ago.
Attorney General Morrisey said on MetroNews Talkline Thursday the end of the regular session doesn’t bring the legislature’s authority to act on a vetoed bill to an end.
“It (state Constitution) sets forth different mechanisms to override the veto,” Morrisey said. “If you were to simply use the clock or the fact that the legislature has gone out of session to stop that constitutional function—I think that would be problematic.”
Morrisey did caution there’s really no precedent.
“To be clear, when you don’t have a specific case in place you have to always exercise caution because you can’t predict with certainty what will happen,” he said.
A legislative-initiated special session would a petition to the governor signed by a significant number of House and Senate members. That would be 60 delegates and 21 senators. Senate President Jeff Kessler previously said on MetroNews Talkline he would not be in favor of a legislative-initiated session.
Attorney General Morrisey said his office received several inquiries from lawmakers so they decided to research the issue.
“We’ve provided them with our best information on how this would occur,” Morrisey said.