Missouri’s regular legislative session runs from the first week in January through the second week in May. The only constitutional requirement of the session is to pass the state budget, yet each year many important legislative bills are introduced and heard in committees, debated on the floor, amended, perfected, and eventually passed out of both chambers before being sent on to the governor for his signature or his veto. These bills will either become Missouri law or be vetoed by the governor. Occasionally he will allow a bill to become law without his signature. If he chooses to neither sign nor veto the bill, it automatically becomes law forty-five days after the close of session. The vetoed bills will be taken up during the annual Veto Session.
Any attempt to override a governor’s veto is extremely difficult—even with veto-proof majorities in both the House and the Senate—and to do so requires a two-thirds majority from each chamber. The Missouri House has 163 members and the Senate has 34. At least 109 House and 23 Senate votes are needed for an override. This Veto Session the Missouri House has one vacancy and the Senate has two vacancies, but the number requirement remains the same.
Going into the Veto Session this year, the House Republicans hold 110 seats, while the Democrats hold 52 seats. The Senate Republicans hold 23 seats and the Democrats hold 9 seats. The two chambers are veto-proof for the Republicans if they can hold their caucus together on override attempts.
In 2011 and again in 2012, the governor vetoed 14 bills and one line item. There was one override in each of those years. In the 2013 Veto Session, the General Assembly overrode a record ten bills. At that time the governor had vetoed 29 bills and only four line items of appropriation bills. The Legislature overrode 10 of the 29. To put this in perspective, in the 2014 Session, the governor vetoed 33 of the 169 bills that were sent to his desk. He also vetoed 116 line items on the appropriation bills. These were budget bills and the monies had already been appropriated for various state programs. What can be the most time consuming part of the upcoming Veto Session is the 116 line item vetoes we may address.
The vetoes have set the stage for what could prove to be one of the longest Veto Sessions in our state’s history, and all sides are gearing up for a major showdown. Governor Nixon is already waging a public relations campaign against the General Assembly in anticipation of possibly being overridden, and this past Friday and Saturday the House Republican Caucus met to discuss which of the bills might be considered for an override. Of those 33 vetoed bills, there are 11 that are House bills. They will first have to be brought back up in the House by the bills’ sponsors and passed again by a two-thirds majority before they can go on to the Senate for the same process. Not every one of the vetoed bills will be considered for override. The Senate bills (22 of them) must begin the same override process in the Senate before coming to the House.
There is a major philosophical difference between the Republican-led General Assembly and the Democrat governor, which revolves mostly around the state’s taxing policies. Republicans seek to make changes over a period of time in the personal income and business income taxes, attempting to shift the tax burden toward a sales tax instead of an income tax. They are also trying to make reductions in the overall corporate tax in the effort to make Missouri a more competitive state for businesses, thus creating additional economic growth within the state. The governor seems to be content to keep the status quo, and economic growth in our state is suffering.
Again, the governor is using education and municipal government as his pawns in this political game. He is making exaggerated or false claims concerning these groups and is holding their money hostage. Herein lies the struggle, a struggle that will be revisited at the upcoming Veto Session. Though it appears that the philosophical differences will remain, one thing is sure. This year’s Veto Session will be challenging.