After the close of session, the governor has 45 days to address any bills passed during the last two weeks before the gavel falls at 6 p.m. on May 15. He can sign the bills into law, veto them, or allow the bills to become law without his signature. Any of these vetoed bills could then be taken up for a possible override by the General Assembly during the September Veto Session. These final two weeks will be very busy and very important for all who work in state government.
Already Governor Nixon has signed several bills into law, including two agriculture bills, the data center facility and job creation bill, and a bill to generate new revenue for the state by providing a pathway of tax amnesty for delinquent taxpayers. Several other bills are currently awaiting the governor’s consideration, having arrived before the April 30 deadline. These bills include the state’s operating budget for 2016, unemployment reform, and medical malpractice reform.
This past week the governor did take action on Senate Bill 24 by vetoing the bill. SB 24, also known as the Strengthening Missouri Families Act, is the welfare reform bill. This legislation easily passed through both chambers with a veto-proof majority (two-thirds of both chambers) that could override a governor veto. When giving his reason for vetoing the welfare reform bill, the governor stated that it would “hurt kids.” He maintains that “children suffer from their parent’s behavior” and the bill is “mean-spirited and just plain wrong.” His was the same argument that was given in floor debate by those who opposed the legislation. What the bill will do is reduce the number of months in which welfare recipients may draw benefits under the TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families) program. Currently recipients are eligible for sixty months of benefits. In Missouri, recipients can be on this program for two years and not work or have a job. This bill lowers the lifetime eligibility of those on the TANF program from sixty months (5 years) to 45 months (just under 4 years). It will also require recipients to work in order to receive benefits.
Today, Missouri has the national distinction or ranking last in the nation in welfare reform. As it now stands, Missouri’s law discourages work and thus creates a system of dependency. Supporters of this legislation believe that these reforms are necessary to slow down the ballooning welfare costs in our state, costs that are pulling much needed revenue from other necessary programs. This reform bill puts greater emphasis on work and becoming self-sufficient individuals.
Many other states in our nation have already implemented welfare reform policies similar to what Missouri is trying to do. For example, twelve states limit lifetime eligibility under the TANF program to four years, while two states—Arkansas and Indiana—have limited the program to 24 months (2 years).
In Missouri, restructuring of our welfare system and reinvesting the savings into other programs that will directly help children while putting people back to work is the intent of this legislation.It emphasizes work and personal responsibility and strengthens our accountability in welfare policies, thus empowering Missourians to become self-sufficient.