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No veto overrides, but Missouri lawmakers more than halfway done with special session

Marshall Griffin | St. Louis Public Radio
Missouri Capitol on Sept. 10, 2018, undergoing renovations.

While the special legislative session moves forward, Missouri lawmakers have wrapped up their annual veto session with no overrides.

The House did vote in favor of overriding four of Gov. Mike Parson’s line-item vetoes, which would’ve restored $785,546 to the current state budget. But the Senate needed to override them, too, and it didn’t.

“I’ve had numerous discussions with the governor and his staff, and they’ve assured me that this money will show up in the supplemental spending budget,” said Republican Dan Brown of Rolla, who chairs the Senate Appropriations Committee.

The supplemental budget bill, which will make adjustments to the current state budget, won’t be filed until next year’s session begins.

Credit File photo | Jason Rosenbaum I St. Louis Public Radio
Dan Brown, R-Rolla, is the top budget official in the Missouri Senate.

Brown also said the governor is hoping to use federal grants to cover one of his line-item vetoes, which removed $153,546 to hospitals that perform time-critical emergency medical diagnoses.

“It’s felt that the Department of Health and Senior Services can absorb the cost of the start-up of this program, and the governor is committed to looking for more permanent funding and to pull down some grants,” he said.

But House leaders vehemently disagreed with that plan, saying without state funding the Time Critical Diagnosis Unit program is now effectively dead.

“When a veto is given on a specific line item, we can’t just take money from somewhere else and go ahead and do it anyway,” said State Rep. David Wood, R-Versailles. “We needed to do this in the cleanest way possible, so we can get back to normal without violating the state constitution or taking away our rights as a Legislature.”

The other three line-item vetoes the House voted to override, but the Senate didn’t, were:

  • $487,000 for juvenile advocacy units with the state public defender’s offices in St. Louis and Kansas City
  • $100,000 for the Office of Child Advocate
  • $45,000 to provide a full-time employee at the Deaf and Hard-of-hearing Commission

House passed two bills in special session

After House members finished with the veto session, they held a short recess and then reconvened the special session and passed two bills, including one that would create an online curriculum of science, technology, engineering and math courses.

House Speaker Todd Richardson, R-Poplar Bluff, said the STEM bill is especially critical for high-school and middle-school students in Missouri.

“When we talk about trying to compete for jobs in the 21st century, we’ve got to have a trained, educated workforce, and that means up and down the skill spectrum,” he told reporters. “This legislation, I think, is going to help us close the gap.”

Credit Tim Bommel | Missouri House Communications
Rep. Kevin Austin, R-Springfield, sponsor of the treatment courts expansion bill.

The House also passed legislation to expand treatment courts.

“We’ve demonstrated time and time again it’s an effective model – it dramatically reduces recidivism,” Richardson said. “This bill is going to allow that program to expand statewide in a much broader way than it’s existed in the past.”

The sponsor, Rep. Kevin Austin, R-Springfield, said it would also allow a defendant in a county without a treatment court to have his or her case transferred to one that does.

“Now, that is not going to result in just dumping from one county to another of these defendants,” he said. “It has to be agreed to by both the transferring county and the receiving county – it has to be agreed to by the prosecuting attorney as well as the defendant.”

The Senate is scheduled to hold public hearings on the treatment court and STEM bills on Thursday, and then debate and vote on them by Friday. If the Senate passes them without any changes, they would then go to Parson’s desk for his signature. Any amendments, though, would result in the bills going back to the House for more debate and another vote.

Follow Marshall on Twitter: @MarshallGReport

Marshal was a political reporter for St. Louis Public Radio until 2018.

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