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Missouri Legislature Fails To Overturn Governor’s Vetoes

Missouri Senate on the second day of the 2020 legislative session Jan. 9, 2020
File / Jaclyn Driscoll
St. Louis Public Radio
Senators spent hours Wednesday debating who exactly has the right to make a motion to override a veto

The Missouri Legislature’s annual veto session Wednesday resulted in no overturned legislation, leaving all of Gov. Mike Parson’s legislative decisions intact.

The final decision by the Senate to not override any of Parson’s vetoes came after over four hours of debate on who exactly has the authority to bring a vetoed bill up for an override.

Earlier in the day, the House did vote to override four of Parson’s line-item vetoes on appropriation bills, but without Senate action, the overrides failed.

The House overrides were sections of:

  • H.B. 4, allotting $150,000 for tax refunds for certain businesses.
  • H.B. 11, which provides 3% raises for Children’s Division workers, an amount that totaled over $2 million.
  • H.B. 12, $300,000 to fund a Lincoln County program that focuses on crimes against children.
  • H.B. 19, providing $700,000 in stabilization funds for a Community Improvement District in Columbia.

However, once the bills made it to the Senate chamber, a disagreement on who can make a motion to override a veto led the Senate to a standstill and eventually the failure to take further legislative action on any of the House’s overrides.
When Sen. Mike Moon, R-Ash Grove, made a motion to override the section of H.B. 4 that the House already overturned, Lt. Gov. Mike Kehoe declined to recognize the motion.

“The Senate follows a process that has been long established that the handler of the bill is the person responsible to make that motion,” Kehoe said.

Because all of the vetoes the House overrode were from appropriation bills, Sen. Dan Hegeman, R-Cosby, the budget chairman, had the presumed authority to bring those bills up for consideration.

Moon’s motion to override a budget veto, followed by Kehoe’s denial, led to hours of procedural debate, with many lawmakers furious over what they saw as an overreach from the executive branch, including Sen. Bill Eigel, R-Weldon Spring.

“This is the first time that we’ve had a discussion in a veto session about overriding a bill. And the first time we do this, our lieutenant governor, who should know better because he was the former floor leader of this chamber, has decided not to recognize you [Moon] for that. Extraordinary,” Eigel said.

Eventually to quell further debate and to continue the current precedent of who can bring up bills, Hegeman brought up the bill for override consideration, even though he was against overriding it. The motion failed 15-13.

Senate Majority Floor Leader Caleb Rowden. R-Columbia, admonished lawmakers who were in favor of breaking precedent.

“The idea that we’ll just stand up and turn this into a clown show, turn this into basically the House and say that anything goes because we say it does, is just incredibly disrespectful to this chamber,” Rowden said.

Parson took action against 16 pieces of legislation passed during the 2021 legislative session. Four were against entire bills while 12 vetoed sections of budget bills.

House members, who must initiate the overriding of budget bills, had more opportunities to override Parson’s vetoes than the Senate and tried to overrule seven of them, all related to the budget. Of the four successful overrides in the House, three were initiated by Republicans.

Rep. Randy Pietzman, R-Troy, in whose district the Lincoln County program would have operated, brought up that section of H.B. 12 for an override, which passed in the House 150-3.

“I’ve had people say I’m trying to divide our caucus and our party over this, just cause I think the governor made a mistake. I’m going to just give him the benefit of the doubt and say he slipped with his freaking pen,” Pietzman said.

While the section of H.B. 12 was the other bill Hegeman brought up for an override motion, though he was in favor of Parson’s veto, the motion failed in the Senate 16-13, short of the two-thirds majority needed.

One veto override that wasn’t successful in the House would have given millions in federal funding to the state department of health’s community and home services.

Rep. Peter Merideth, D-St. Louis, in speaking in favor of the override, mentioned both the unprecedented amount of federal funding the state has received and Missouri’s current budget surplus of over $1 billion.

“This isn’t 'cause we don’t have the money, this is because we’re still dragging our feet on how to spend it. Let’s send a clear message [that] one of the ways it needs to be spent is this right here,” Merideth said.

Despite previously expressing interest in overriding the veto of one of his bills, Sen. Andrew Koenig, R-Manchester, did not take on S.B. 226, which would have provided tax relief to businesses that were impacted by health restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Sarah Kellogg is a Missouri Statehouse and Politics Reporter for St. Louis Public Radio and other public radio stations across the state.