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Texplainer: What Happens to a Bill Perry Doesn't Sign or Veto?

Hey Texplainer: What happens to the bills that Perry doesn't sign or veto? Gov. Rick Perry has vetoed and signed a multitude of bills this year, but to date there have been 27 he allowed to become law by default.

Gov. Rick Perry ceremonially signed HB 274, which brings lawsuit reforms to Texas courts, including a loser pay system for...

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Hey Texplainer: What happens to the bills that Perry doesn't sign or veto?

When a bill is passed by the House and Senate, the governor has three options: veto it, sign it into law, or do nothing. If he decides not to sign nor veto, the bill becomes law as if it had the governor’s signature. Effectively, bills can become law simply by escaping gubernatorial veto action.

According to the Legislative Reference Library, during the legislative session, the governor has 10 days (excluding Sundays) to review and either sign or veto a bill after its passage. Once the session is over, the governor has up to 20 days to make a decision before the bill passes by default. Article I, Section 7, of the U.S. Constitution gives the president the option of a pocket-veto in which a bill can be killed by leaving it unsigned after the legislature adjourns, but the Texas governor doesn’t have that option.

By not signing a bill and allowing it to pass into law, a governor can walk the delicate line between defying the Legislature and actually supporting the content of the bill in the question.

Gov.Rick Perry has vetoed and signed a multitude of bills this year, but to date there have been 27 he allowed to become law by default. Perry allowed HB 3033, SB 1285 and SB 1286 to pass into law without his signature on Friday. Each of the bills changes provisions of local retirement systems. Perry said the changes could have been made by municipalities and shouldn't require the Legislature's involvement. In his statement, Perry called the bills an “unnecessary exercise” and said he was “disappointed that the Legislature continues to mandate what local pension benefits must be.” Perry warned lawmakers in the last two legislative sessions that they should avoid meddling in local retirement benefits.

Several other bills were not signed by Perry, including one establishing a council to examine why there are more minority children in the state's juvenile justice, foster care and special education systems and one authorizing Midwestern State University's board of regents to levy a fixed fee on students that will go toward to a student center. Perry also declined to sign a bill reapportioning districts for the State Board of Education. Three bills relating to the creation of improvement or utilities districts, SB 1922, SB 1822 and SB 1877, also passed without his signature.

One example of a time when Perry walked a tenuous line between consent and defiance occurred during the Gardasil controversy of 2007. In February of 2007 Perry issued an executive order requiring all girls receive the Human Papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine Gardasil before entering sixth grade. Gardasil helps prevent against four strands of HPV, two of which cause 75 percent of cervical cancers, and two others that cause 90 percent of genital warts. Perry cited in his mandate that research indicates the “HPV vaccine is highly effective in preventing the infections that are the cause of many of the cervical cancers.”

However, Rep. Dennis Bonnen, R-Angleton, authored legislation in May 2007 overriding the HPV mandate after expressing concern about insufficient research into Gardsail’s effect on health. According to the National Vaccine Information Center archives, the NVIC issued a press release urging state legislatures to reconsider mandating the vaccination, citing reports of loss of consciousness, seizures, joint pain and Guillain-Barre Syndrome. When Bonnen’s bill passed, Perry neither signed nor vetoed it, accepting the Legislature had enough votes to overturn a veto but refusing to have a hand in its passage into law. 

Bottom line: If the governor neither signs nor vetoes a bill within 10 days during the session or 20 days after, that bill automatically becomes law even without the governor’s explicit consent.

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