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AG OK’s prez’s vetoes, legislative disagrees


Attorney General Ethel Branch’s legal opinion declares that President Russell Begaye waiting an extra day to sign the $767 million operating budget for the Nation is legal, but Chief Legislative Counsel Levon Henry says it is not.

Navajo Times | Donovan Quintero
Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye answers questions posed to him by members of the 23rd Navajo Nation Council during the summer session in Window Rock.

When Begaye exercised his line-item veto by striking 31 items from the 2019 comprehensive budget, it was found that he signed the budget a day later than the 10 days allotted to him by law.

The Navajo Nation Council voted unanimously to accept the budget Sept. 4 and Speaker LoRenzo Bates certified the resolution on Sept. 10, and Begaye had 10 days from Bates’ signature to act.

Begaye’s memo explaining his vetoes was dated Sept. 21 – a day after the 10 days was up.

But Branch states in her legal opinion that “a true and correct copy” of the comprehensive budget wasn’t actually given to Begaye until Sept. 17, and the Sept. 21 signing by Begaye is “timely and valid.”

“Yes. The president’s line item veto … is timely and valid,” states Branch. “It is not clear that the 10-day period for exercising Presidential vetoes applies to the President’s line item veto authority, but assuming arguendo that it does, the President had until September 27, 2018 to exercise his line item veto.”

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About The Author

Arlyssa Becenti

Arlyssa Becenti reports on Navajo Nation Council, Business, Fort Defiance Agency, New Mexico State politics and Art/fashion. Her clans are Nát'oh dine'é Táchii'nii, Bit'ahnii, Kin łichii'nii, Kiyaa'áanii. She’s originally from Fort Defiance and has a degree in English Literature from Arizona State University. Before working for the Navajo Times she was a reporter for the Gallup Independent. She can be reached at