On Tuesday Governor Nixon announced he would allow HB 137 to take effect without his signature. Perhaps he did not have a strong opinion either way or he allowed it to become law because both the Senate and the House passed it by a veto-proof majority. As it had an emergency clause attached to it, it automatically became law on the 15th of July.
House Bill 137 (HB 137) will change the way Missouri’s license offices are bid. A competitive bidding process was put into place in 2009 in an effort to eliminate political patronage. Before that time the governor (whether Republican or Democrat), upon his election would change the administration of the license office to a person of his own political party. Under the 2009 bidding process contracts were awarded by the Office of Administration to those bidders who earned points based partially on how much of their revenue profit would be returned back to the State. Many lawmakers felt that this process was unfair to numerous non-profit organizations and individuals within the community who used the profits from the business to help fund local projects or not-for-profit groups and their activities. The new policy is aimed at stopping the Department of Revenue’s practice of awarding contracts on how much the low bidder promises to give back to the State.
Governor Nixon vetoed eighteen bills that the General Assembly sent him this session. The legislature could attempt overrides, but it will take a two-thirds majority—23 of the 34 senators and 109 of the 163 House members—to do so. Currently, both the House and the Senate are led by Republicans who have 116 members in the House and 25 seats in the Senate. At this time, though, it is still questionable if enough votes can be mustered for a successful override. House Republicans will caucus later this month and the Senate will caucus in August to determine which bills they will focus on in the September Session.
There are several bills that could be considered for possible overrides in Veto Session. Most discussed is the Right to Work legislation that passed in the House 92 to 66 and in the Senate 21 to 13; yet so far both are short of the required two-thirds majority needed. Another measure that could garner discussion in September is the bill that bans cities from setting their own minimum wage. This bill passed in the House 105 to 48 and in the Senate 24 to 10. In addition, legislation preventing illegal immigrants from receiving the A-Plus College Scholarship passed the House 108 to 38 and the Senate 25 to 8. All these were vetoed by the governor but stand a chance of being revisited in Veto Session.
Another bill, HB 150, might be back for a possible override attempt as well. The governor vetoed it before the end of the regular session and the House overrode it, but the Senate failed to bring it back up before session ended. HB 150 is a welfare reform bill that would reduce from 20 to 13 the number of weeks individuals may be able to collect unemployment benefits. The legislation seeks to keep Missouri from depleting its unemployment trust fund again. When this happens the state must borrow money from the federal government, a very expensive action since they charge the state both a fee, plus interest. Because of the unique situation with the House having overridden HB 150, and the Senate not bringing it up before session’s end, should the Senate do an override, it is possible that the governor may challenge the override in the courts.
With fewer bills to be considered in this year’s Veto Session, it will no doubt be shorter than last year’s; however, as always, it will be interesting to see what happens. I will continue to keep you informed as to the movement of these and other bills.