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Republican lawmakers could deliver rare rebuke to Gov. Snyder

It’s been 15 years since Michigan lawmakers reversed a Governor’s veto but it could happen again this week when the Legislature returns to Lansing from its summer recess.

Some members of the GOP are getting a little fed up with their fellow Republican Governor Rick Snyder and they want to try and muster the two-thirds majority needed to override his veto of a bill they passed earlier this year. It was a pretty innocuous piece of legislation that accelerated tax breaks for car buyers who trade in their vehicles.

Governor Snyder vetoed the legislation, saying the state budget couldn’t handle the revenue hit.

Previous vetoes

This is not the first time Snyder has vetoed legislation from fellow Republicans.

He vetoed a bill to create a “Choose Life” license plate(it wasn’t the first anti-abortion bill he’s rejected). He also vetoed a bill to ban the sale of e-cigarettes to minors.

Snyder also recently thwarted efforts by House GOP leaders to roll back the state’s income tax.

But, the Governor is not just at odds with some members of his party over policy. He’s also been stepping up his political game.

Snyder has appeared at political fundraisers for some Republican House members who’ve backed him. Some of those same lawmakers are expected to run for the state Senate next year and will face primary races against other House Republicans.

This veto override effort seems to be less about a specific policy difference than a desire on the part of some legislative Republicans to show the governor they have muscle.

Snyder reacts

Faced with the prospect of the veto, Snyder’s public face is sanguine. “I have a good relationship with the Legislature,” he told It’s Just Politics. “They make their decisions. I’m a separate branch of government, and I want to continue working well with them.”

But make no mistake, there’s a lot at stake here. And Snyder knows it.

The Governor is term-limited. He has just 16 months left in office. He’s a lame duck.

And he needs a consequential fall session of the Legislature because next year is an election year when votes rarely happen because lawmakers don’t want to make controversial decisions as they are about to face voters.

Snyder says he wants to tackle public pensions, a system for grading schools, an overhaul of how Michigan recycles, and auto insurance in the state.

All these issues have political aspects that make them difficult to pull off even in the best of times.  

A little history

In the summer of 2002, Republican Governor John Engler was in almost the exact same position as Rick Snyder.

It was his second to last year in office, and he, too, had a Republican-led state House and Senate.

But there was wide dissatisfaction with Engler’s veto of a local government funding bill. Mayors and local councils revolted, and put pressure on their legislators, who voted to override Engler’s veto.

It was the first veto override in 25 years. And the following year, Engler allowed a ban on directional drilling under the Great Lakes to take effect without his signature knowing that a veto would probably be reversed.

So, whether or not the Legislature does in fact try and override Snyder's veto this week, the Governor is learning like others before him, that the governor is the governor until the final day, but final terms can be cruel. 

Zoe Clark is Michigan Public's Political Director. In this role, Clark guides coverage of the state Capitol, elections, and policy debates.
Rick Pluta is Senior Capitol Correspondent for the Michigan Public Radio Network. He has been covering Michigan’s Capitol, government, and politics since 1987.
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