Gov. Mike Beebe issued his first veto of the 89th General Assembly – a bill that would restrict abortions after 20 weeks.

Beebe said HB 1037 by Rep. Andy Mayberry (R-Hensley), the “pain capable abortion” bill, violates the U.S. Constitution and would cost taxpayers money through litigation.

Beebe sent a letter to House Speaker Davy Carter (R-Cabot). In his veto letter, Beebe said:

…because it would impose a ban on a woman’s right to choose an elective, nontherapeutic abortion before viability, House Bill 1037, if it became law, would squarely contradict Supreme Court precedent. When I was sworn in as Governor I took an oath to preserve, protect, and defend both the Arkansas Constitution and the Constitution of the United States. I take that oath seriously.

Second, the adoption of unconstitutional laws can be very costly to the taxpayers of our State. It has been suggested that outside groups or others might represent the State for free in any litigation challenging the constitutionality of House Bill 1037, but even if that were to happen, that would only lessen the State’s own litigation costs. Lawsuits challenging unconstitutional laws also result in the losing party – in this case, the State – having to pay the costs and attorneys’ fees incurred by the litigants who successfully challenge the law. Those costs and fees can be significant. In the last case in which the constitutionality of an Arkansas abortion statute was challenged, Little Rock Family Planning Services v. Jegley, the State was ordered to pay the prevailing plaintiffs and their attorneys nearly $119,000 for work in the trial court, and an additional $28,900 for work on the State’s unsuccessful appeal. Those fee awards were entered in 1999, and litigation fees and costs have increased extensively since then. The taxpayers’ exposure, should HB 1037 become law, will be significantly greater.

While I must therefore veto HB 1037, I wish to express my appreciation to its principal sponsor, Representative Mayberry, for his candor and for his respect for the Governor’s role in the legislative process.

The bill passed with strong majorities in both chambers of the Arkansas legislature. It only requires a simple majority of 50% plus one vote in both chambers to override a veto.

You can read the full veto letter from Beebe here.

Beebe has vetoed more than 10 measures in previous legislative sessions during his six years as Governor.

UPDATE:  Mayberry told KARN Newsradio today that he knew there was no guarantee on his bill becoming law.

“I thought it was about a 50-50 shot that the Governor would sign it to be honest with you,” Mayberry said. “I was hopeful that the Governor would sign it. He told us he had been leaning toward vetoing it, but would consider what we brought to him (in our meeting this morning.)”

Mayberry, dissatisfied with the result says he feels an override of the veto is possible.

“I am not pleased with that decision but we will move to the next stage of the legislative process… I think this is a great bill. It saves babies lives. This bill – even under the current Roe v. Wade ruling – is constitutional,” he said.

“I feel pretty confident that we will have enough votes to override the veto. We need 51 and I feel confident that we will have many more than that.”

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