Thursday, May 26, 2011

Campfield vs. Planned Parenthood: Is It Worth It to Haslam to Veto the Budget?

Posted By on Thu, May 26, 2011 at 7:07 AM

So, since some other Republican played Stacey Campfield for a fool and amended the budget to spare the state the inevitable lawsuits his amendment to defund Planned Parenthood would have caused, and the budget has been passed and sent to the governor, Campfield and the Tennessee Right to Life folks have been trying to come up with some way to undo what has been done.

In a story in the Commercial Appeal, Campfield outlines his strategy:

Campfield said that he and Tennessee Right to Life are trying to find out if the state Constitutional provision giving the governor line-item veto authority on appropriations can be used to excise a policy provision in the appropriations act. He said he hasn’t asked Haslam to veto the provision but believes he should.

“He said he would defund Planned Parenthood and I think this is a golden opportunity for him to prove it. We’re looking into whether it’s possible for him to do a line-item veto or is it possible for him to have to do the whole Health Department budget.”

Yes, you read that right. Campfield, who claims to be pro-life, would ask Gov. Haslam to torpedo the whole Health Department budget in order to defund Planned Parenthood. Keep that in mind, folks, the next time you hear him or the Tennessee Right to Life folks prattling on. They're happy to play chicken with your health and your life to score political points in the name of a "right to life." I guess they decide who has such a right and it ain't you.

But why do Campfield and Tennessee Right to Life have to try to find out anything about the state constitution? Can they not read it for themselves?

The Governor may reduce or disapprove the sum of money appropriated by any one or more items or parts of items in any bill appropriating money, while approving other portions of the bill. The portions so approved shall become law, and the items or parts of items disapproved or reduced shall be void to the extent that they have been disapproved or reduced unless repassed as hereinafter provided. The Governor, within ten calendar days (Sundays excepted) after the bill shall have been presented to him, shall report the items or parts of items disapproved or reduced with his objections in writing to the House in which the bill originated, or if the General Assembly shall have adjourned, to the office of the Secretary of State. Any such items or parts of items so disapproved or reduced shall be restored to the bill in the original amount and become law if repassed by the General Assembly according to the rules and limitations prescribed for the passage of other bills over the executive veto.

So, it seems pretty clear that, no, the governor can't veto an amendment, since the only line-item veto power he has is to "reduce or disprove the sum of money appropriated by any one or more items or parts of items in any bill appropriating money."

Which means, even if he did completely veto the health department budget, the amendment to this year's budget that's so vexing Campfield would still stand. And still stand in the way of defunding Planned Parenthood.

Unless Haslam vetoes the whole budget.

Here's where I think it gets interesting. Legislators thought they were done for the year. Campfield's Planned Parenthood defunding effort had gotten little attention, but the fight could get very ugly in the current political climate if people noticed it. And Tennessee was Title X compliant.

Is Haslam ready to give up federal funds? Is he willing to put the health of people in Memphis and Nashville in jeopardy, since both of those local health departments have told the state they're not set up to see the influx of patients? We saw last year in the District 62 race that, while an endorsement from Tennessee Right to Life is nice for Republicans, that endorsement did no good for Democrats — which essentially means the group doesn't have enough clout to swing elections. (Please note that they're palling around with Campfield and not someone higher up the food chain.) So is Haslam actually that concerned whether they get mad at him?

Here's what it comes down to: Is Haslam willing to put his butt on the line for Campfield and Tennessee Right to Life? Do they have enough power to make him veto a budget that was unanimously approved by both houses so soon after he refused to veto the anti-anti-discrimination law in part because it passed with 70 percent approval in the legislature? And if Haslam does veto the budget, does that count as the first sign of any moxie we've seen from him?

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