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2 senators criticize HOV lane order

Bashes use of executive order Sen. Thayer Verschoor says Gov. Janet Napolitano has set a dangerous precedent.

Two senior Republican lawmakers today criticized Gov. Janet Napolitano for issuing an executive order allowing hybrid cars but banning alternative fuel vehicles in the carpool lane.
Senate Majority leader Thayer Verschoor said what this essentially means is that the governor has “veto power over [a law] through an executive order.”
“The problem that I have is that we have statutes. We are the legislative body and we passed those. And the governor by executive order now is essentially overturning the statutes that were passed by this body, and not even consulting us,” Verschoor told his colleagues during a floor session today.
“I don’t know of any other time specifically when she basically just carved out a section of the statute and said this is no longer applicable,” he later told reporters.
“It is a dangerous precedent. You just throw the whole balance of power concept out… Now what we have is the judicial and executive (branches) bypassing the legislative process,” he added.
Not only is the majority leader disappointed that the move supposedly infringed on the power of the Legislature to make laws, he is also dismayed that the Senate was kept out of the loop when the Governor’s staff and others discussed the program.
Under Napolitano’s Energy Efficient Pilot Program, vehicles that could achieve a 45-increase in fuel efficiency, such as hybrids, would be allowed on the HOV lane even with a lone driver. Currently, there are some 9,000 cars of this type in the state. The program is limited to 10,000 such vehicles.
With a few exceptions, the HOV lane is restricted to cars with two or more occupants.
Verschoor said something needs to be done about the governor circumventing the work of the Legislature through the issuance of executive orders.
Sen. Ron Gould said today that an executive order effectively translates to making laws “by fiat.”
“Folks we need to remember that the same thing applies to the President of the United States. I’m Republican. George Bush is Republican. He uses executive orders, I disagree with them,” said Gould, R-3.
“I don’t know if there is a basis for executive orders either in the U.S. Constitution or the state Constitution,” he said.
Under the governor’s program, details of which were released Feb. 9, three models of hybrid cars have been permitted to use car pool lanes — the Honda Insight, the Honda Civic Hybrid and the Toyota Prius.
But bi-fuel vehicles, which run on gasoline and alternative fuel such as natural gas, would be banned under the program. The Arizona Department of Motor Vehicles is set to issue them new plates within 90 days.
Currently state laws allow single occupants of vehicles using alternative fuel to use the faster lanes.
“This (program) is something that has been in the works. I talked to ADOT. They’ve been working on it for the last couple of months. Why weren’t we brought in the loop?” Verschoor said, adding if people wanted to make or repeal laws, the proper course is to go through the legislative process.
“I think it’s going to cause confusion… You are going to have someone get a ticket for driving in a HOV lane, and they’re going to court and they are going to clearly state that this is it. This is what state law says and it has not been repealed,” Verschoor said.
Napolitano spokesperson Jeanine L’Ecuyer has this reply today:
“Basically the position is as follows: The governor has brought the state into compliance with federal law and we believe the action is appropriate.”
L’Ecuyer added that the press might want to ask the senator if he owns an alternative-fuels vehicle.

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