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Graham's Veto of School-Construction Funds Challenged

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The Florida House of Representatives has filed suit in state supreme court alleging that Gov. Robert Graham's line-item veto of $5.8 million in a $232-million school-construction bill violates the state constitution.

The suit seeks to have the vetoes expunged from the record.

In a statement released Aug. 2, the day the suit was filed against Governor Graham and Secretary of State George Firestone, House Speaker James Harold Thompson said he believed the constitution requires the Governor either to accept the Public Education Capital Outlay bill as is or to reject it in its entirety.

Mr. Thompson said the Governor has line-item veto power over general appropriations bills only and not over bills passed outside the framework of the budget act.

"Extension of the line-item veto power to the peco bill would allow a governor to play politics with public education and would open the door to what would amount to executive log-rolling," said Mr. Thompson. "A governor would be free to threaten to veto important local education facilities in order to secure support for his pet legislative proposals. While I have tried to avoid involving the House in litigation since becoming speaker, I believe the time has come to settle this issue once and for all."

Governor Graham vetoed portions of the peco bill in June, including a $2-million project between the Hillsboro County School Board and a local community college to build a natural-history museum, and a $522,000 project between the Jackson County School Board and the city of Marianna to build a recreational complex.

Most of the remaining vetoed items involved the state university system.

According to Gale F. Gaines, an analyst in the Governor's office, the vetoed items had not gone through the proper review channels and, in particular, had circumvented the list of priorities developed by the board of regents for the state university system.

Ms. Gaines said the Governor had anticipated a lawsuit and would like the matter settled. A hearing date has not yet been set.--lo

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