This year the governor withheld $1.2 billion of general revenue and of that amount $250 million was outright vetoed. The withheld monies can be released at a future date when revenues are available, but the vetoed monies have to go through the appropriation process again next Session. It was with the line item vetoes that the members of the General Assembly and the governor most disagreed. The General Assembly overrode 47 line items, restoring over $40 million in state funds. Members of the Missouri House first dealt with line item vetoes—individual lines of appropriated funding. Many of the overridden 47 line items were budgeted programs for children, seniors, and Missouri’s poorest, programs such as Meals-on-Wheels, sheltered workshops, regional autism projects, Alzheimer’s services, science and math tutoring programs, Bright Futures, independent living centers, etc.
While some of the opposition was critical of the line item overrides, many from both sides of the aisle were supportive, thus making numerous overrides a bi-partisan effort. However, both the governor and members of the General Assembly acknowledged that these overrides may just be symbolic, because any override of a vetoed line item can still be withheld by the governor until he chooses to release it if and when monies are available. Ultimately, it is still his call. Also, the Attorney General’s office has questioned whether or not legislators can restore spending cuts, because of provisions in the state constitution that might be interpreted to prevent the General Assembly from overriding line item vetoes. Only twice in most recent state history have legislators successfully overridden line items vetoes, once in 1980, and then again in 2013. A main reason why those legislative actions stood was because the then governors did not challenge them in court. Overriding these line items (even if they cannot be enforced) still sends a message to the governor. The day following Veto Session, he began releasing some of the withheld funds. Hopefully, next year will find all sides working together more closely throughout the entire Session.
While there were 10 bills overridden, several other bills failed because they weren’t able to receive the necessary two-thirds (109) votes. One such bill that failed—and failed by one vote—was HB 1326/SB 506. This was the agriculture omnibus bill. What made this bill controversial was the adding of the captive deer language to the other multiple agriculture provisions. While the deer language proved to be the stumbling block, overall, the agriculture issues found much support. Unfortunately, there was not quite enough support for an override.
For those who are unaware of HB 1326/SB 506, this legislation dealt with the deer portion of this bill seeking to redefine captive deer as livestock under state law. If it had been successfully overridden, it would have moved the regulation of captive deer from the Missouri Department of Conservation to the Missouri Department of Agriculture. Wild deer are, and will remain, under the jurisdiction of the Conservation Department. Captive deer ranchers desired the change in oversight because they feel the Conservation Department is blaming them for Chronic Wasting disease, as well as believing that the Department is unfairly trying to regulate them out of business. Most states, as well as the federal government, define captive deer as livestock. In Missouri these deer are certified and ear-tagged by the Department of Agriculture, who also keeps records on them. Whatever the outcome is for this deer issue, there is a good possibility that the final verdict will come from the courts.
With the 2014 Veto Session relegated to the history book, our attention is now focused on the next Legislative Session, which begins the first week of January.