Ohio High Court Strikes Down Governor’s Veto of Paint Lawsuit Bill

August 2, 2007

The Ohio Supreme Court on Aug. 1 struck down Gov. Ted Strickland’s veto of a bill prohibiting lawsuits over lead paint.

In a 5-2 decision, the court ordered Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner to move forward with the bill, which was passed by the Republican-controlled Legislature before Strickland took office in January.

Strickland had Brunner return him the bill immediately after the two Democrats took office, attempting to veto it despite former Gov. Bob Taft having opted to let it become law without his signature. Lawmakers sued, arguing that the move had violated procedures laid out in the Ohio Constitution.

The legislation says paint manufacturers can’t be sued under public nuisance laws, which some U.S. cities have used to try to force companies to help pay for the removal of lead-based paint in older homes.

In his majority opinion, Justice Robert R. Cupp said the 10-day time limit for vetoes laid out in the Constitution begins ticking when a legislative session is adjourned rather than when a bill is delivered to the governor. By that count, the opportunity to veto the bill expired on Jan. 6, two days before Strickland’s action.

The administration had argued that the 10-day window began when Taft received the bill, not when the session adjourned. They said the period ended Jan. 8, the day Strickland took office.

It was a section of the state’s Constitution that had never been tested.

Cupp was joined in the majority by Chief Justice Thomas Moyer and Justices Evelyn Lundberg Stratton, Maureen O’Connor, and Terrence O’Donnell. Justices Paul Pfeifer and Judith Ann Lanzinger dissented.

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