Democrats turn back veto override try in Missouri House

Wednesday, September 16, 2009 | 5:24 p.m. CDT; updated 8:18 p.m. CDT, Wednesday, September 16, 2009

JEFFERSON CITY — House Democrats turned back an attempt Wednesday to override Gov. Jay Nixon's veto of a bill adding accountability measures for public money and giving lawmakers keys to the Capitol dome.

Majority Republicans who sought the veto override touted provisions requiring budget cuts to be posted online and creating a legislative oversight committee for Missouri's use of federal stimulus money.

The Democratic governor's veto had cited safety concerns over giving each lawmaker a key to the dome, an exclusive tourist site that is closed to the general public.

The bill passed the House by a bipartisan 143-10 vote in May. But Democrats who originally supported it switched Wednesday to sustain Nixon's veto. The override vote was a party-line 86-71 — well short of the 109 votes required for a two-thirds majority. Because the bill originated in the House, the Senate never considered whether to override the veto.

Neither the House nor Senate took votes on whether to override any of Nixon's numerous line-item budget vetoes nor on any of the other 22 nonbudgetary bills he struck down.

Missouri lawmakers already can borrow one of several existing keys if they want to take a hike up some winding steps to an outdoor observation area on the Capitol dome.

"Allowing 197 extra keys to an unsafe area of the Capitol would have caused a public safety concern here, and we are glad the lawmakers took that into account," said Nixon spokesman Jack Cardetti.

Former Republican Gov. Matt Blunt vetoed a similar bill last year.

While spiking this year's bill, Nixon asserted the provisions regarding accountability for public funds were similar to ones included in other bills that passed. But Republicans said Wednesday that the vetoed bill was more expansive than those others.

For example, Nixon said a separate law already placed into statute the Missouri Accountability Portal, a searchable online database of state expenditures begun under Blunt. But unlike that legislation, the vetoed bill would have required the online database to include daily updates of spending cuts made by the governor to keep the budget in balance.

Nixon also said a separate measure already created a legislative committee dealing with Missouri's $4.5 billion share of federal stimulus funds. The vetoed bill would have created a different, more powerful oversight panel, with legislative subpoena powers.

"We need to have government more open, transparent and accountable," sponsoring Rep. Jason Smith, R-Salem, said while urging lawmakers to override the veto.

Democratic lawmakers backed Nixon's assertion that the public accountability measures were duplicative and unnecessary.

"This is an excuse to throw the words 'fiscal responsibility' around," said Rep. Jason Kander, D-Kansas City. "Fiscal responsibility is what's come out of the actions the governor's actually taken" to balance the budget.

House Minority Leader Paul LeVota said the Capitol dome keys were the primary issue.

"If the Capitol Police say we don't want extra keys out there, we probably should listen to them and respect our law enforcement," said LeVota, D-Independence.

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