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House, Senate appeal Chiles' partial veto

In what has become a battle over power and money, the Legislature has jumped into a court fight over the budget process and the governor's veto power.

What started it all: A controversial portion of the education budget that Gov. Lawton Chiles vetoed earlier this month.

"This court should declare the veto invalid . . ." lawyers for the House and Senate wrote in documents filed this week with the Florida Supreme Court.

Chiles should have to veto the entire school spending plan _ $4.9-billion distributed to schools around the state _ if he wants to strike down language attached to it, the attorneys said, citing a prior ruling in a case over vetoes.

Chiles vetoed two paragraphs in the funding formula that attempted to redirect salary money to the classroom and away from administrators and others who don't deal directly with students to teachers.

A coalition of teachers, administrators, school boards and union officials have criticized the plan, saying it is confusing and unfair. The "redirect" plan involves about $127-million.

Even before his veto, Chiles asked the Supreme Court to order the language stricken because he said it inserts changes in the law into the state budget and alters the distribution formula for financing public schools.

The Legislature took issue, arguing that the redirect language doesn't change state law on the subject of appropriations.

In any case, Chiles acted outside the limits of his power by vetoing the language, legislative attorneys said.

His actions represent "an unconstitutional intrusion into the Legislature's power to make law," the lawyers wrote.

"It is within the framework of the separation of powers doctrine that the scope of the governor's veto power must be determined."

Oral arguments on the case are scheduled July 5 before the Supreme Court.

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