Delegate plans to challenge Shelly's line-item veto

By Marley Shebala
Navajo Times

WINDOW ROCK, June 14, 2012

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C ouncil Delegate Katherine Benally said she will challenge President Ben Shelly's use of the line-item veto on the Council's appropriation of $2.7 million of emergency funds for a six-month roundup of feral horses.

Benally, who sponsored the roundup legislation, said on June 8 that her challenge is based on the definition of budget line-item veto.

"Budget...line...item," she said slowly, "means vetoing a budget line item by line item. He shouldn't have used line-item veto on the entire $2.7 million."

On June 6, Shelly informed the Council that he used the line-item veto to veto the bill "in its entirety."

"He just doesn't know the definition of line item," Benally, chair of the Council's Resources and Development Committee, added.

On Wednesday, acting Chief Legislative Counsel Edward McCool planned to meet with Benally to discuss her challenge.

He added that he was informed that Shelly sent a "clarification" of his veto message late Tuesday night.

The Navajo Times contacted Shelly's office on Wednesday about the clarification but by press time no response had been received.

Under the law, the president can veto entire bills but, unlike the line-item veto, the Council can override the veto.

On June 7, the president's office said the line-item veto was used because the bill is a "financial matter."

Benally also said that she was disappointed that Shelly stated in his veto message that his decision was based on the lack of a plan.

Her committee had brought together grazing officials and Department of Agriculture, Resource Enforcement and veterinary program representatives to develop a plan, which was included in the legislation.

"It's a good plan because it came from the people that work daily with feral horses and livestock roaming along the highway," she noted. "He doesn't have a plan. And he expects the chapters to foot the bill for a roundup when they don't have the money."

On March 5, Agriculture Department Director Leo Watchman Jr. stated that "the feral livestock situation on the Navajo Nation is dire.

"Decrease of livestock and feral livestock is supported by many communities," Watchman stated.

This was backed up by the town halls held by Shelly's office where citizens said the land was eroding and turning into sand dunes due partly to the overpopulation of feral and domestic livestock.

Several delegates asked his department to develop a plan to address the problem.

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