Insurance Bill Veto Override Unlikely
By Joe Follick
LEDGER TALLAHASSEE BUREAU
Published: Sunday, June 28, 2009 at 12:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, June 27, 2009 at 11:02 p.m.
When Gov. Charlie Crist vetoed a major insurance bill last week that had strong support among lawmakers, insurance companies and major Florida businesses, speculation began immediately that the Legislature could override the governor’s veto.
After all, lawmakers voted overwhelmingly for the bill, which would have made it easier for property insurance companies, like State Farm, to raise their rates with less state regulation. The House voted 105-13 for the bill (HB 1171) and the Senate voted 27-9 for the measure – both votes well in excess of a two-thirds support necessary for an override.
But we don’t expect that to happen. Veto overrides are rare in Tallahassee with only a handful recorded in the last quarter of a century. And political circumstances have to be right for an override to take place.
The Legislature’s last override vote occurred more than a decade ago in the last year of Gov. Lawton Chiles’ two-term administration.
In 1997, Chiles had vetoed a bill banning "partial birth" abortions, saying the law only protected the lives of the mothers and not their health.
But the Democratic governor’s veto drew the ire of a Legislature, which for the first time in the 20th Century was being run by Republican leaders. Meeting in their spring session in the following year, lawmakers voted to override the governor’s decision – although the law was later struck down by the courts.
Before the 1998 override vote, which also occurred that year on two other less controversial measures, you would have to go back to the final year of Gov. Bob Graham’s administration in 1986 when a Democrat-led Legislature overrode the Democratic governor.
With that background, we believe it is unlikely the Republican-led Legislature is ready to override a Republican governor on the insurance bill as they head into an election year where the governor is running for a U.S. Senate seat and Senate President Jeff Atwater, R-North Palm Beach, is running for a Cabinet seat and House Speaker Larry Cretul, R-Ocala, is considering a congressional bid. A veto override would seem to run counter to the plan for party unity in a critical election year.
Instead of an override, you can expect legislative leaders to try to rework the insurance bill – which was designed to provide more incentives for large national insurance companies to stay in the Florida market – and get it into a form that might be acceptable to the governor and state insurance regulators.