State legislators voted along party lines Thursday to sue the governor over what they contend is her illegal use of her constitutional power of line-item veto.
The move paves the way to ask the judicial branch of government to intervene in a legal dispute between the executive and legislative branches. It would be the third such lawsuit in the last 14 years.
Lawmakers — or at least those in the Republican majority — contend the governor’s constitutional power of lineitem veto permits her only to remove one or more specific spending authorizations from larger legislation without vetoing the entire bill.
They argue it does not allow the Democratic governor to veto a provision in state worker pay raise legislation that says employees hired beginning next year above certain salary levels do not have the protection of the personnel rules to be able to appeal discipline and dismissal.
Gov. Janet Napolitano counters that the language she vetoed really was an appropriation of state dollars. She noted that people exempt from state personnel rules accumulate paid time off faster than those who are within the system.
The GOP legal move drew criticism from House Minority Leader Phil Lopes. The Tucson Democrat said if Republicans are unhappy with the governor’s veto they should first try to override it.
But House Majority Leader Steve Tully, R-Phoenix, said that misses the point: He said the veto itself was illegal.
Tully said overrides, which require a two-thirds vote of each chamber, are appropriate when the dispute is over political differences about legislation.
But legal disputes, he said, require a legal resolution.
“It is a direct assault on the power of the Legislature and must be resolved,’’ he said.