The Republican-led legislature overwhelmingly voted to override all four of Gov. Matt Bevin’s vetoes of bills so far this year.
Only a handful of lawmakers voted against the governor’s rejections of the legislation.
The overrides are the first since 2013, when the General Assembly voted to reverse then-Gov. Steve Beshear’s veto of a religious freedom bill.
It only takes a simple majority in each chamber to override a governor’s veto in Kentucky — the 100-member chamber House needs 51 votes and the 38-member Senate only needs 20.
But House Speaker Jeff Hoover said it was still difficult to rally lawmakers for the overrides, especially since they were directed at Bevin, a fellow-Republican.
“When you override a governor’s veto you are telling him that publicly that we disagree with you, and for some members that’s difficult to do,” Hoover said. “Especially if the governor’s of your own political party and a friend and someone who’s campaigned for you and helped you. So it’s not as easy as saying ‘Well, we passed the bill, the governor vetoed, so we’re going to pass it again. It’s not quite that easy.’”
The veto that drew the most outcry was Senate Bill 91, dubbed “Tim’s Law,” which will allow judges to order people with severe mental illnesses into outpatient treatment.
Mental health advocates say the policy will stop a “revolving door” of mentally ill people being incarcerated or put into treatment for repeated short-term stints.
Sheila Schuster, executive director of the Kentucky Mental Health Coalition, said she was “delighted” lawmakers overturned the governor’s veto of the legislation.
“I heard from legislators who were in a state of shock that this had been vetoed,” Schuster said. “I think there was a huge public outcry. And it was easy to get calls made to the [state Capitol] switchboard. So we knew we were generating lots and lots and lots of calls.”
Bevin also vetoed part of House Bill 471, which creates a trust fund for settlement money from the Volkswagen emissions lawsuit; House Bill 520, which creates regulations for unmanned drone aircraft; and Senate Joint Resolution 57, which deals with the naming of roads and bridges.
All of the bills now become law.
The final day of this year’s legislative session is Thursday.
Lawmakers are expected to consider a bill that would strip powers from the attorney general’s office, one that would make changes to the state worker’s compensation laws and another that would limit the supply of opioid pain killer prescriptions to three days.
The governor has 10 days to sign or veto bills after they pass the legislature. If neither happens, the legislation becomes law.