Gov. Bob Holden forgot the first rule of business this week - never sign anything until you read it - and his mistake almost caused the state a major headache. It appears now that the Holden error has been resolved but only because of the cooperation of other state officials.
Last month Holden was handed a stack of legislation awaiting his signature before it became law. But in that stack were two measures that Holden had planned to veto. Instead of reading the front of the bills before signing, Holden inked his signature onto the back of every bill and went on his way. Secretary of State Matt Blunt uncovered the mistake and huddled with Holden and his people. Two days later, on the deadline to veto legislation, Holden received the bills back from Blunt and this time he vetoed them as he had planned earlier.
For now it appears that the flip-flop may pass constitutional muster though some in state government question the legality of the reversal. Both sponsors of the two bills in question have said they will not challenge the mistake in court. We're fortunate because had the bills been of a more controversial nature, rest assured a court case would be inevitable.
A political scientist at St. Louis University said Holden's mistake was clearly unconstitutional but since there is no precedent, it appears that the governor was simply granted a "courtesy" and the problem may just go away.
Shortly after the mistake was uncovered, Holden met with his staff to arrange for additional organization to assure the error would not be repeated. We can only imagine that the fur was flying over the embarrassing mishap. But maybe it takes strong words to improve organization even in the governor's office.
The state's hero in this fiasco is clearly Secretary Matt Blunt. Even though he hails from the opposing political party, Blunt took the problem to the governor and declined to make an issue of it. In other times it would be easy to see a situation that turned politically nasty. Let's say the legislature approved a transportation bill that would have taken money from other state agencies. Had the same thing happened, believe me, supporters of the bill would have taken Holden's signature as law and we'd be headed to the courts.
I've consistently criticized Holden for his lack of leadership during his brief tenure in office. I'm not alone on that position either. But this mistake wasn't about leadership. This mistake was just dumb.