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Navajo President’s Veto Power Questioned

Navajo President’s Veto Power Questioned
December 22
14:52 2015

The executive branch and the legislative branch are on opposite sides of the fight over the power of the president’s veto pen, yet both claim to represent the voice of the Navajo people.

The Naabik’iyati’ Committee met last week to discuss the growing divide.

Speaker LoRenzo Bates said the offer to meet was issued in the spirit of K’e.

“As leaders of our respective branches of government I firmly believe that we ca resolve this matter,” Bates said in a press release.

Former president Peterson Zah, an executive staff assistant to President Russel Begaye and Vice President Jonathan Nez, delivered a letter to the NABI from the president. Begaye was in Las Vegas for a meeting and could not attend, Zah informed the committee.

However, in  a letter to the committee, Begaye offered a compromise that includes Delegate Alton Joe Shepherd withdrawing his override legislation.

Begaye said he would support new legislation that addressed the original intent – which did not address the president’s line-item veto authority.

The line-item veto was an initiative pushed by former president Joe Shirley, Jr. in 2008. It was meant to reign in wasteful spending.

The Navajo people approved this referendum so their voice is clear, according to Begaye.

After Begaye vetoed a bill on November 12 that would limit the president’s veto power, Shepherd began his efforts to override Begaye’s objection.

The council disagreed with Begaye, arguing that his line-item veto authority is only for “budget line items” and not for legislative language, such as conditions for appropriations.

“We are not attempting to take away what the people granted through referendum,” Shepherd said.

But Nez noted that the veto power was approved to ensure the government’s fiscal responsibility. What the council’s override would do is allow for appropriations to be hidden in other parts of legislation, he said.

“The president needs to be reasonable,” said Delegate Leonard Tsosie, who backs the override.

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