ROMNEY DEFENDS EXECUTIVE POWER OF APPOINTMENT
Files suit with SJC to prevent legislative incursion into executive authority
Governor Mitt Romney today filed suit with the Supreme Judicial Court to undo a legislative action that encroaches on the power of future governors to make executive appointments.
The lawsuit, filed in the Supreme Judicial Court for Suffolk County, concerns legislation passed in April that gives the Legislature and private parties the power to appoint members of the Public Health Council, an executive panel that oversees the Department of Public Health. Currently, the Governor appoints all council members.
"By attempting to remove the power of appointment from the Executive Branch, the Legislature has overstepped its bounds as set forth in the Massachusetts Constitution," said Brian J. Leske, the Governor's Chief Legal Counsel. "To continue the separation of powers that is crucial to our democracy and prevent a precedent that could diminish the role of future governors, it is necessary to counter this incursion into executive authority."
The Legislature diminished the Governor's power to appoint the Council's members by inserting language into health care reform legislation enacted in April. Governor Romney vetoed that language, stating that the "appointment of these members as prescribed by the Legislature is a violation of the separation of powers required by the Massachusetts Constitution." Despite the Governor's concerns, the Legislature overrode the veto.
The changes made by the Legislature do not affect Governor Romney, as they are scheduled to take effect on Feb. 1, 2007 when a new governor will be in office.
The Governor's lawsuit challenges the Legislature's action on several grounds, including that it violates the separation of powers provision of the Massachusetts Constitution. The Constitution forbids one branch of government from usurping the powers of another branch.
Currently, the Public Health Council consists of eight members and a chairman, who is the DPH commissioner. All eight members are appointed by the Governor.
Under the change in the law, the Council would grow to 17 members plus a chairman. None of the 17 members would be appointed by the Governor, although the chairman would still be the commissioner of DPH. Of the 17, five would be directly appointed by the Legislature and the remaining members would be selected as follows:
* The Massachusetts Hospital Association would appoint one member;
* The Massachusetts Extended Care Federation would appoint one member;
* The Massachusetts Medical Society would appoint two members;
* Health Care for All, Inc. would appoint one member;
* The Coalition for the Prevention of Medical Errors, Inc. would appoint one member;
* The Massachusetts Public Health Association would appoint one member;
* The Massachusetts Community Health Worker Network would appoint one member;
* The Board of Registration in Nursing would appoint two members who would be selected by a vote of registered nurses;
* The Secretary of Veterans' Services would appoint one member; and
* The Secretary of Elder Affairs would appoint one member.