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Contemporary debates about state constitutional law have concentrated on the role of state constitutions in the protection of individual rights and have paid less attention to the state constitutional law of government structure.This is ironic since the emergence of a state jurisprudence of individual rights has been hampered by the similarity of the texts of the state and federal constitutional provisions concerning individual rights, whereas many state constitutional provisions dealing with government structure have no federal analogues, and thus state jurisprudence in this area is free to develop outside the dominating shadow of the Federal Constitution and the federal courts. Moreover, as the "laboratories of democracy" metaphor suggests, the study of the structural features of state constitutions can enable us to consider alternative means of organizing representative democratic governments, assess the efficacy of different mechanisms for governing, and illuminate the implications and consequences of aspects of the federal government's structure that we ordinarily take for granted.

One of the distinctive structural features of state governments is the item, or partial, veto. Whereas under the Federal Constitution, the President must accept or reject in toto a bill passed by Congress, most state constitutions enable governors to veto items in appropriations bills while simultaneously approving other parts of those bills. The state item veto provisions have had an impact on federal constitutional debate. Citing the states' experience, Presidents Reagan, Bush, and Clinton have all called for some form of presidential item veto of congressional appropriations measures, and Congress and scholars have deliberated the wisdom of such a change.


Constitutional Law | Law | President/Executive Department