Pres. Weah to Veto All Districts, Townships Bills

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President Weah (R) in warm handshake with House Speaker Bhofal Chambers.

Will the Legislature override some of the President’s vetoes by two-thirds votes?

The Daily Observer has gathered that President George Weah will be issuing a lot of “vetoes” — in the next two years of his administration — against the creation of districts or townships in the country.

Sources in the President’s office and in the Legislature informed this newspaper over the weekend that budget constraints and the country’s bad economy would be the core reasons.

The Daily Observer sources further said the government’s Pro-poor Agenda for Prosperity and Development (PAPD) national development plan, in the wake of the current bad economy, will not consider the creation of districts and townships, but focus its meager resources on priorities of empowering Liberians, economic growth and sustainability as well as infrastructural development.

It can be recalled that President Weah recently vetoed a bill seeking for the creation of Zeyeama District in Lofa County. The House Engrossed Bill #18 has been in Joint Committee room in the House of Representatives since Tuesday, January 15, during the 2nd day sitting.

On Thursday, January 17, during the 3rd day sitting, additional two bills were forwarded to the House of Representatives from the Senate for concurrence. If concurred, it would be sent to the President for approval.

The two bills are “An Act to Incorporate Demeh Town in Dewon District, Bomi County, with other existing towns and villages to create the Township of Demeh in Bomi County” and “An Act to Incorporate Sasstown in the District with other existing towns and villages to create the Township of Sasstown in Bomi County.”

The two bills have been sent to the Joint Committee on Internal Affairs, Judiciary and Ways, Means, Finance and Development Planning for scrutiny and report within two weeks.

Bomi County District #3 Representative Haja Fata Siryon, who openly complained in Thursday’s session of being undermined, marginalized and overlooked in the creation of the Township of Demeh, which is a part of her electoral district, was included as a resource person to the Joint Committee.

That means both bills would either be shelved in the Joint Committee’s room or, if approved and sent to the President for approval, are expected to also be vetoed.

Furthermore, three bills seem to be stuck in the Senate’s Committee room for concurrence and if concurred by the Senate, would be sent to the President and might also be vetoed.

The three bills include an act creating the Administrative District of Gbea-Gblor, and providing for the governance of it in Nimba County; an act to create the City of Vahun in Lofa County, and to grant it a charter; an act creating the Potutpo Statutory District in River Gee County.

President’s Challenge to the Legislature

Despite the constitutional right of the President to approve or veto bills in accordance to Article 35 of the Constitution, the President has challenged members of the House of Representatives and the Senate to tell their constituents that they should be aware that the creation of townships and districts have financial consequences.

“However, it is incumbent upon us as leaders to educate our people and help them to understand the underlying factors associated with some of their demands.

“While we are not against the creation of new districts, we believe there should be matching financial resources when districts are created in order to pay workers who provide services. The creation of a new district also means that the resources for service delivery will be diverted and that resources of the parent district will be split and shared out,” President Weah wrote.

Besides the President’s suggestion to the Legislature to educate their people about their unreasonable demands on the creation of districts and townships, he informed members of the Legislature about the way they are violating the Constitution.

“I believe the framers of our Constitution did not empower the Legislature in Article 34(a) to create new counties and other political subdivisions, and readjust existing boundaries based upon political rallies or through negotiations between a few powerful individuals within a county or just from the floor of Parliament.

“I surmise that they are intended for districts to be created based on the necessity for effective development and the need to bring services closer to the people. I also believe that districts should be created using a rigorous process that involves a study on the justification, structure, density of population, revenue base and economic viability of the request,” President Weah wrote.

Legislature’s Override Power

Regardless of the President’s vetoes, the Constitution says it can be overridden by a two-thirds’ vote in both the House of Representatives and the Senate. If this occurs, the bill becomes law over the President’s objections.

Article 35: “Each bill or resolution which shall have passed both Houses of the Legislature shall, before it becomes law, be laid before the President for his approval. If he grants approval, it shall become law. If the President does not approve such bill or resolution, he shall return it, with his objections, to the House in which it originated. In so doing, the President may disapprove of the entire bill or resolution or any item or items thereof. This veto may be overridden by the re-passage of such bill, resolution or item thereof by a veto of two-thirds of the members in each House, in which case it shall become law. If the President does not return the bill or resolution within twenty days after the same shall have been laid before him it shall become law in like manner as if he had signed it, unless the Legislature by adjournment prevents its return. No bill or resolution shall embrace more than one subject which shall be expressed in its title.”

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