Legislators unlikely to override any of Gov. Nixon's 22 vetoes

Wednesday, September 16, 2009 | 12:01 a.m. CDT

JEFFERSON CITY — Although Republicans questioned some of Gov. Jay Nixon's vetoes, legislative leaders don't expect any to be overridden.

The governor vetoed 22 pieces of legislation after this year's session. Legislators in both parties doubt enough votes exist to override any of the vetoes.

Under the state constitution, a motion to override the Governor's veto must be approved by two-thirds of both the House and Senate. Lawmakers have overridden five vetoes in the past 50 years, according to the Secretary of State's office, and the last veto before that was in 1855.

Senate Floor Leader Kevin Engler, R-Farmington, said he doesn't see a point in bringing up an override unless it gains enough votes to pass.

"I can't see the point in stirring it up just to stir it up," he said. "I would be glad to vote if someone could show me we had enough."

Members of House leadership agreed with Engler's assessment.

"Nothing's probably going to rise to that level," House Speaker Ron Richard said.

To reach the amount of votes necessary to override a veto requires an issue people feel strongly about, said House Minority Leader Paul LeVota, ademocratic from Independence.

"I can't anticipate an issue decisive enough to bring enough people," he said.

Legislators discussed overriding a veto on a bill that includes several provisions to expand legislative review over federal stimulus funds. Nixon vetoed the bill because it also provides a key to the top rotunda of the Capitol to each legislator, a total of 197 when all seats are full. It passed the House 143-10 and the Senate 33-0.

Nixon, a Democrat, said in a letter that he vetoed the bill because of safety concerns relating to creating more than a hundred additional keys to the rotunda. Other laws have already established the stimulus accountability and oversight put forth in the bill's first two provisions, Nixon wrote.

Capitol Police Chief Todd Hurt described the rotunda as the attic of the Capitol. Hurt said the rotunda is not designed for large groups of people, and if someone becomes injured there, police can't get that person down, he said. Former Republican Gov. Matt Blunt vetoed a similar law.

Some legislators, however, still question Nixon's concerns.

"If that was the reason (for the veto), I'd be very surprised," Engler said.

Engler believes Nixon's administration dislikes the stimulus oversight provisions.

The laws cited in Nixon's letter differ from this bill, said state Rep. Jason Smith, R-Salem, sponsor of the original bill.

The purpose of the stimulus oversight bill the governor signed is to find the maximum amount of money the state could receive, Smith said. The vetoed bill would create an oversight committee with subpoena power and the ability to monitor individual agencies.

That bill would have also required daily reporting of budget cuts Nixon makes over the course of the year. Now, the office of administration has to report spending but not those cuts.

The governor's office would be willing to work with Smith on this provision, said Linda Luebbering, state budget director.

"It's a cop-out," Smith said of the reason for the veto. He said no one cared about the dome keys except for state Sen. Jason Crowell, R-Cape Girardeau, who added the dome-key provision into the bill.

Crowell promised to reintroduce the key issue.

"I vote for a $24 billion budget, and I can't get a key to the men's room," Crowell said. "I will put this on every bill I possibly can until I find one the governor can't veto."

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