Pocket Veto

Two recent actions of the General Assembly effectively eliminated the pocket veto.  From 1870 the General Assembly only met in the first year of the biennium, except if a special session was called. By the 1960s the press of business led to routine special sessions until the practice of adjourning to the second year of the biennium was adopted. In 1968 Vermont moved to its current practice of holding adjourned sessions. The legislature decided to apply the pocket veto only to the final adjournment. If a bill was vetoed after the end of the annual session, the adjourned session voted on whether to override.

This practice still allowed for a pocket veto at the end of the adjourned session. In 1994 Governor Howard Dean vetoed fourteen bills, nine as pocket vetoes after the general assembly had adjourned. From the legislative perspective, this was unacceptable. The 1995 general assembly responded with two measures.

The first ended the practice of not sending bills to the governor until they were requested. This tradition evolved primarily as a courtesy to governors. The increasing number and complexity of bills passed in the waning days of the session, if sent at once to the governor, could limit the quality of executive review. Rather than trigger the pocket veto clock, the general assembly held the bills after adjournment until requested by the governor. This tradition also allowed bill sponsors the opportunity for formal signing ceremonies. The general assembly ended this practice and instructed that bills be sent to the governor upon passage. Over time, however, the general assembly has reverted to the practice of waiting to send bills until the governor requests them, thus delaying the start of the pocket veto clock until the governor receives a bill.

The second problem was the inability of an adjourned legislature to respond to a pocket veto. Starting in 1995 the general assembly included, as part of the adjournment motion, the setting of a date certain at which they could reconvene to address a veto.

This new mechanism was employed in 2000 when Gov. Dean vetoed S.237 on May 29th, after legislative adjournment. The general assembly reconvened on May 31st. Rather than directly voting on the veto, the general assembly crafted a new bill that met the Governor's objections. The bill was signed into law as Act 163.

By providing a mechanism for addressing any post-adjournment vetoes, the legislature eliminated the pocket veto. The adjournment language allowing for a return in the event of a veto, however, has not been consistently applied. For example it was not included at the end of the 2009 or 2014 sessions. The veto of the 2009 budget bill forced the governor to call a special session in order to get a budget by the July 1st start of the fiscal year. In an unusual maneuver the legislature overrode the veto during the special session and re-inserted the veto session language in the motion to adjourn the special session.

This page was last updated: 2018-02-13