President vetoes bill on legislative process

Noel Lyn Smith
Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye greets people on Nov. 9 at the Four Corners Monument.

FARMINGTON — Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye has vetoed a resolution that would have amended the legislative process for bills assigned to the Navajo Nation Council.

It would have also changed the legislative process for bills assigned to the standing committees.

Begaye issued the veto on Thursday and explained his decision in a memorandum to Speaker LoRenzo Bates and the tribal council.

The president wrote that he vetoed the bill because it included an amendment by Delegate Leonard Tsosie that the council passed in its fall session in October.

Tsosie’s amendment proposed changes to the president’s authority to issue line-item vetoes for budget items in the tribe’s annual comprehensive budget and supplemental appropriations.

Under Tsosie’s amendment, the line-item veto authority would have only applied to numeric dollar amounts.

Begaye wrote that when the council passed the amendment, it "overstepped" its authority, especially since the line-item veto authority was authorized to the president though a referendum vote that passed in December 2009.

“In other words, only the Navajo people can amend this authority, not the Navajo Nation Council,” Begaye wrote.

He stated that on Dec. 15, 2009, the Navajo people approved an initiative to empower the tribal president with such authority.

“In 2009, the intent of the line-item veto initiative was to protect the government from wasteful spending and ensure government fiscal efficiency and responsibility,” Begaye wrote.

Since the enactment of the line-item veto authority, both Presidents Joe Shirley Jr. and Ben Shelly have used it on percentages, condition of appropriations and waivers listed in the budget, Begaye wrote.

“Although these do not hold a specific dollar amount, as the government moves into each new budget cycle these dollar amounts become known and the impacts could be trivial or substantial,” the president said.

If Begaye had signed the resolution into law, it would have amended and clarified the legal language for the comment period for bills posted on the council’s website.

Under current law, the comment period is five days after the bill is posted online.

The amendment would have reduced the comment period from five days to three business days.

The council passed the bill on Oct. 21 during the fall session in Window Rock, Ariz.

There are two more resolutions from the fall session that the president has yet to address.

The first requests $500,000 in supplemental funding from the tribe’s Unreserved Undesignated Fund Balance for Teec Nos Pos Chapter to renovate its chapter house in Arizona.

The second resolution would approve a tribal grant and a request for $2.4 million in supplemental funding from the UUFB for St. Michaels Association for Special Education Inc. in Arizona.

Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636.