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Mind the Gap – What Happens to Bills that Linger Between Two Different Administrations?

Jan 30, 2019

By now, you are well aware that the 2018 Lame Duck session was historic.  Over 400 bills were sent to the governor’s desk by the 99th Legislature.  Governor Rick Snyder made it a point to either sign or veto the bills that were sent to him.  No bills lingered in between his administration winding down and Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s starting up.  But, what happens when a governor leaves office and doesn’t take action on a bill and a new governor takes over? Can that new governor sign legislation that was passed prior to taking office? 

In 1982, that very question was posed to then Attorney General Frank Kelley.  More specifically, he was asked “whether a governor-elect may, upon assuming office, act on any enrolled bills which were presented to, but not acted upon, by his predecessor within 14 days of the expiration of his predecessor’s term of office”?  Attorney General Kelley, in his analysis of the question, determined that there were no state Constitutional provisions that would preclude a new governor from signing the pending legislation.  He even noted that the 1963 Constitution lengthened the time a governor had to sign a bill from 10 days to 14 days. In his analysis, it was the timeframe that was key not the fact that a governor was leaving office.

It’s important to note that the 14-day gubernatorial review period doesn’t start over with the new governor taking office.  Attorney General Kelley made it clear that whatever portion of the 14-day review period remained would be the timeframe in which the new governor could take action on the legislation.

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