What’s a “Pocket Veto” Anyway? – A Guide to the End of New Jersey’s 217th Legislative Session

At noon on January 9, 2017, the New Jersey Legislature’s 217th session comes to a close. That means any bill not presented to the Governor for his consideration before then will become moot and must be reintroduced in the 218th session.

But certain constitutional rules also apply to bills passed by the Legislature and presented to the Governor in the last days of the session. During the two year legislative cycle, the New Jersey Constitution (Art. V, §1, ¶14(b) and (c)) allows the Governor 45 days to either sign the bill or veto it, with the veto being either absolute or conditional. This time frame can be extended if the house of origin (the Senate or General Assembly) is not in session on the 45th day. If the Governor takes no action within the allotted time, the bill becomes law.

Any bill presented to the Governor on or after November 25, 2017, cannot receive 45 days of consideration before the end of the session on January 9, 2018. The New Jersey Constitution (Art. V, §1, ¶¶14 (c) and (d)) provides special procedures for this situation:

  • Any bills presented on November 25, 2017, must be signed by noon on January 9, 2018, or vetoed and returned to the Legislature by noon on January 8, 2018, or else the bill becomes law.
  • Any bills presented between November 26, 2017, and December 29, 2017, must be signed into law or vetoed and returned to the Legislature by noon on January 8, 2018, or else the bill becomes law.
  • Any bills presented between December 30, 2017, and noon on January 9, 2018, can be signed into law by the Governor until noon on January 16, 2018, or may be vetoed and returned to the Legislature before noon on January 9, 2018.
  • The Governor also has the option to not take any action on bills presented between December 30, 2017 and noon on January 9, 2018. Instead of becoming law, the bill is considered to be “pocket vetoed.” This means the bill does not get returned to the Legislature and the veto cannot be overridden. These “pocket vetoed” bills become moot, just like any other bill not acted on by the Legislature.

Please contact a member of the Gibbons Government Affairs Department if you have any questions on pending legislation.

Michael D. DeLoreto is an Associate in the Gibbons Government Affairs Department.
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