Governor Nixon vetoed only eighteen bills (12 House bills and 6 Senate bills) and one line item on an appropriation bill this year, doing so after session officially ended and during the time he legally has to act on them. However, before the end of session in May, the House and Senate overrode the governor’s veto of Senate Bill 24, the bill that seeks to modify Missouri’s system of welfare—Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)—by moving individuals off those programs sooner and toward greater self sufficiency. Also, the House overrode the governor’s veto of HB 150, the bill to reform Missouri’s system of unemployment by reducing from twenty weeks to thirteen the time individuals can collect benefits. The Senate failed to act on the override before session’s end; therefore, this bill may come up during the Veto Session. To override a governor’s veto, a two thirds majority from both chambers (109 votes from the House and 23 from the Senate) is required.
Even with fewer bills vetoed this year, we are still looking at about ten that may have override attempts. One such bill is HB 722, the paper vs. plastic topic, but perhaps more importantly, the setting of local minimum wage requirements. These wage requirements are becoming a nationwide issue being pushed by activists seeking to raise the hourly minimum work rate. Last week the Missouri Secretary of State determined that seven initiative petitions regarding a minimum wage increase met the necessary qualifications to be circulated around the state. Supporters of these petitions will now be collecting signatures from at least six of the state’s eight congressional districts and must have signatures from at least 5% of voters in the 2012 gubernatorial election from those districts. The signature petitions must be on the Secretary of State’s desk by May 8 of next year in order to make the 2016 ballot.
HB 722, known as “the bag bill,” was voted out of the House and sent to the Senate. The original House bill specified that retailers were not required to offer both paper and plastic bags for customer purchases, but maintain they have the option to provide either of their choosing. When the bill returned from the Senate, it carried a Senate Amendment specifying that the minimum wage will be set by the state and that political subdivisions could not enact a minimum wage greater than one set by the state or the federal government. The bill, with the amendment attached, returned to the House where it was passed and then sent on to the governor.
In the Governor’s veto message, he stated his reason for vetoing the bill was that it was an unwarranted government intrusion on local control. Supporters of the bill reason that it prohibits government intrusion by protecting customer rights and the right of businesses to choose whether or not they prefer paper or plastic. The question of local control is far more important than the subject of paper or plastic, though, and this portion of the bill clarifies current state statutes that local political subdivisions do not have the authority to enact their own minimum wage by making it greater than the existing state or federal minimum wage.
Supporters of HB 722 say that if the governor’s veto is sustained, then any municipality in the state has the ability to set its own minimum wage level, thus creating a “patchwork” of complicated wage standards across the state and making it more difficult for Missouri employers and businesses to adapt to so many wage standards. Because of this, most legislators feel that the minimum wage standard should be one set by the state and not left up to individual municipalities and towns to set their own. This summer both Kansas City and St. Louis have challenged state statutes by setting their own minimum wage, which, no doubt, will be left to the courts to decide its fate. Currently, Missouri’s minimum wage as adjusted for cost-of-living is $7.65 per hour; we are one of twenty-nine states with a minimum wage set higher than the federal government’s.
If HB 722 is any indication, the minimum wage will continue to be an issue, both in our state as well as nationwide, and when the Missouri House and Senate convenes on Wednesday for this year’s Veto Session, it will be interesting to see what happens.