Except general appropriation bills and bills for the codification and general revision of laws, no bill shall be passed containing more than one subject, which shall be clearly expressed in its title."Appropriation" and "codification" bills can have more than one subject. If a bill addresses more than one subject of statutory change or addition, it is not legal according to the Constitution of the State of Utah. The fact that our National Congress passes pork-laden omnibus bills all the time because our national constitution doesn't explicitly prohibit them is completely irrelevant. In fact, doesn't relying on that argument admit that SB2 is in fact an illegal statutory omnibus bill as defined by the Utah Constitution?
The legislative leadership's argument that the bill address only one subject, education, is laughable on face. (See my last post) And claiming that the title "Minimum School Program Budget Amendments" clearly states the subject is...is...pick an adjective here ...impossible ...absurd ...dishonest ...desperate ......wrong.
You can't come up with a title that clearly states the subject of SB2 precisely because the 12 logrolled bills aren't the same subject. Having something to do with with education is not an acceptable standard to meet an objective constitutional test. That would allow the legislature to use titles like "12 Things That Have To Do With Education" (which would at least be more honest than SB2's current title) or "A Bunch of Immigration Stuff." I'm trying to think of a common sense test we could run with a legislator to help them see beyond the blinders. Maybe we could walk the street in any city of Utah and question people on the street. We'd give them a quick overview of what "Minimum School Program" is, hand them a list of the 12 different programs/budgets/policies established by SB2, and ask them if they thought the title, Minimum School Program Budget Amendments, clearly stated each one. I bet 100% would find the assertion ridiculous.
That the process was non-transparent and dirty is unarguable, and I believe the fact that the bill's subjects and title on-face violate the simple language of the state constitution is obvious too. I don't know what the court will rule, but all should remember the legislature's attitude towards transparency, open debate, and education, regardless of whether they successfully split legal hairs or not.
Anyway, here is the text from the March 22nd Salt Lake Tribune article discussing those who were disappointed Governor Huntsman did not line-item veto portions of SB2. I have underlined Huntsman's rationale for signing the omnibus bill into law and another admission from Senator Stephenson that omnibus bills are usually financially wasteful.
Critics fail to derail omnibus school bill
SB2 was a fusion of 12 bills, some that didn't pass on their own
By Lisa Schencker
The Salt Lake Tribune
Article Last Updated: 03/22/2008 12:58:37 AM MDT
Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. signed a $2.5 billion education bill in its entirety Thursday despite protestations from the Utah Board of Education.
Huntsman signed a second substitute of SB2, which includes $1,700 raises for educators and a 2.5 percent increase in per-pupil spending. It also, however, includes the contents of 12 education bills that were rolled into SB2 late in the session, though several of the bills had already failed in the House.
The school board recently asked the governor to consider using line-item veto power to erase parts of SB2, especially the parts that failed in the House. Board members argued that because the bill appropriates money, Huntsman should have the power to veto parts of it.
They sent the governor a letter recently saying they were "appalled" by the process of passing the omnibus bill. The letter also suggested the process might have been unconstitutional.
Huntsman, however, signed the bill without any line-item vetoes Thursday. The governor's spokeswoman, Lisa Roskelley, said vetoing parts of the bill was not an option.
"Line-item veto only applies to appropriations items, and most of [SB2] was actually statutory," Roskelley said.
Kim Burningham, the state school board member who led the charge to send Huntsman the letter, called Huntsman's signing of the bill without any line-item vetoes "disappointing."
He said it's not fair to roll so many bills, including some that were already defeated, into one. He said that forced legislators to vote for the whole bill even if they didn't like parts of it.
The omnibus bill included the contents of several bills that failed on the House floor, including one to fund an at-home software pilot program for preschool-age children and another that asks school districts to help pay for charter school students. A third bill included in the omnibus, to pay math and science teachers more, didn't pass out of a House committee.
"We ought to be debating each item on its own merit," Burningham said. "That, to me, is the bottom line."
Sen. Howard Stephenson, R-Draper, who sponsored the bill, said it was the best way to pass many major education reforms in a coordinated way as the end of the session approached. Stephenson said, however, that he generally doesn't like the idea of passing omnibus bills, and there were several parts of it he didn't like, even though he was the sponsor.
"Overall, I felt the package was good legislation," Stephenson said. "But I would want to avoid omnibus bills in the future. I think they disallow the scalpel approach to precision budgeting."