Friday, March 20, 2015

West Virginia Legislature's Typos Too Much for Governor

West Virginia's governor, Earl Ray Tomblin, recently vetoed a bill that would have eliminated partisan judicial elections in the state. Governor Tomblin vetoed HB 2010, which had been passed by both the West Virginia Senate and House of Representatives, because the bill contained typos, missing language, and errors in referencing other statutes. You can read Governor Tomblin's veto letter here.  

The West Virginia House amended the bill to address Governor Tomblin's concerns, and the Senate approved the changes. The amended bill has been sent back to Governor Tomblin but has yet to be signed.

To the casual observer, Governor Tomblin's complaints might appear nitpicky. But all lawyers (and some non-lawyers, like Governor Tomblin) know the importance of precise language. The Governor's concerns are hardly minor and almost certainly would have cost the state time and money if challenged. For example, the original amendments to § 3-1-17(b) of the West Virginia Code omitted the language "There shall be elected," leaving an incomplete sentence that made no sense:

At the general election to be held in 1992, and every fourth year thereafter, a sheriff, prosecuting attorney, surveyor of lands, and the number of assessors prescribed by law for the county; and at the general election to be held in 1990, and every second year thereafter, a commissioner of the county commission for each county; and at the general election to be held in 1992, and every sixth year thereafter, a clerk of the county commission and a clerk of the circuit court for each county.

This error and others, including additional missing language and misplaced commas, were too much for Governor Tomblin, who apparently is a stickler—he’s vetoed four other bills in the 2015 session alone for technical errors like these.

Happy Friday!

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