UPDATE: Missouri lawmakers don't seek to override vetoes

Wednesday, September 14, 2011 | 7:42 p.m. CDT

JEFFERSON CITY — Missouri lawmakers opened and closed their annual veto session Wednesday without attempting to override any of Gov. Jay Nixon's vetoes.

Lawmakers were already at the state Capitol for a special legislative session that began earlier this month. The legislature took a brief break from their special session to consider the vetoed legislation; no attempts were made to override the vetoes in either the House or the Senate.

Nixon, a Democrat, vetoed 14 entire bills and part of one budget bill that was approved by the Republican-led legislature during its regular session this year.

One of the highest profile vetoes was for redrawing Missouri's congressional boundaries with eight districts instead of the current nine districts. However, lawmakers overrode that veto in May, so it was not on the agenda Wednesday. That left an elections measure and a transportation bill as the most likely candidates for a veto override attempt.

It takes a two-thirds vote to override a gubernatorial veto. Republicans control more than two-thirds of the Senate, but the GOP is slightly short of that threshold in the House, which means at least a few Democrats would have had to join Republicans for a successful override.

House Speaker Steven Tilley, R-Perryville, said leaders did not think there were enough votes so they opted against trying any overrides.

Senate Majority Leader Tom Dempsey, R-St. Charles, said there was interest among senators in overriding the veto of the elections measure because it included provisions to require special elections instead of gubernatorial appointments to fill vacancies for statewide elected offices.

Dempsey said senators also favored overriding the veto of the transportation legislation becausesome changes in the measure could have helped Missouri get additional federal money.

"We had the ability to override both bills in the Senate, but we weren't going to send the House a bill unless they were reasonably certain that they had the support to override," Dempsey said.

Although the House did not seek to override any vetoes, Budget Committee Chairman Ryan Silvey, R-Kansas City, used the session to renew complaints about Nixon's handling of budget cuts.

In June, Nixon announced $172 million in cuts to public colleges and universities, school busing and other programs from the budget that began July 1. However, instead of vetoing the spending — which would have made the cut subject to an override by the legislature — Nixon used governor's constitutional authority to withhold money when actual state revenues fall below the estimates upon which the budget was based.

Silvey, R-Kansas City, said Nixon has unilaterally rewritten the budget, denying lawmakers a chance to override his spending cuts. The governor's office has said that Nixon is using the same authority that other governors have to balance the state's budget.

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