JEFFERSON CITY - The Missouri Senate voted to sustain the governor's veto on a bill that would give the student curator voting rights on the UM System Board of Curators if Missouri were to lose a congressional seat following the 2010 census.
Senators rejected the veto override 16-17 during the veto session Wednesday. A two-thirds majority in both the Senate and the House was needed to override the veto made by Gov. Matt Blunt in June.
Sen. Chuck Graham, D-Columbia, who sponsored the bill that originally passed in the Senate 31-2, said he was not surprised that the motion failed.
"It's tradition," he said. "Members of the governor's party don't vote against their governor."
The Board of Curators has one non-voting student curator who is appointed by the governor and serves a two-year term. The current student curator, Tony Luetkemeyer, is an MU law student. The next student curator will be selected from Missouri University of Science and Technology and will begin his or her term in January 2009.
As a result of the 2010 census, Missouri could potentially lose a congressional seat if population shifts across the country, which could maintain the number of curators without removing a curator from his or her position.
Blunt used this as a reason to veto the bill, saying that "the makeup of the board is unclear if Missouri does not lose a congressional district after the 2010 census but does so in a later census."
Even though no one spoke Wednesday in objection to the motion, Sen. Mike Gibbons, R-St. Louis County, said, "This summer there's been quite a bit of objection raised. The Board of Curators were very concerned about that."
Some of the objections raised by the curators and the governor include: It is not applicable to all Missouri state universities; a 2-year limit doesn't give the student a chance to be well-informed on issues; and a student is too young to have the necessary leadership skills.
"In addition to these objections, this legislation is also fiercely opposed by many members of the higher education community who also expressed the above concerns and more through correspondence, phone calls and conversations with me and my office," Blunt said in his explanation for vetoing the bill.
Gibbons, who is running for attorney general, said he thought those were legitimate concerns.
"The issue itself with those concerns didn't rise to the level of an override," said Gibbons, one of several Republicans who switched from his earlier "yes" vote.
In the only speech concerning the bill Wednesday, Graham went through the objections, claiming that the only people who thought the bill was controversial were the board members and Blunt.
"They're (the curators are) happy to take the tuition checks, my colleagues, and cash them," he said. "But they don't even want to meet with the students, to consider whether a student who is already on the Board of Curators ought to have the right to vote."
When reached by phone, Curator David Wasinger would not comment on the bill or any of the concerns.
Various versions of this bill have been brought to the floor every year since 2002 except in 2004. This is the closest the bill has come to being made into law.
The bill originally passed 100-47 in the House, where it was sponsored by Rep. Bryan Pratt, R-Jackson County, and co-sponsored by six representatives, including Reps. Jeff Harris and Judy Baker, two Democrats from Columbia.
The last time the Missouri Legislature overrode a veto was in 2003.