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Shields predicts no veto overrides, praises Storch for state Senate

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon Sept. 2, 2009 -State Senate President Pro Tem Charlie Shields, R-St. Joseph, doesn't expect much out of the legislative veto session that comes up in a couple weeks.

In a telephone interview Tuesday, Shields acknowledged that there has been a bit of controversy surrounding Gov. Jay Nixon's vetoes of various stimulus-spending projects, a measure providing more money for public defenders and a bill eliminating Missouri's requirement that motorcyclists wear helmets.

Even so, Shields says he "would be really surprised'' if there's enough support in the GOP-controlled state House and Senate to override any of the Democratic governor's vetoes.

In the last couple decades, Shields noted, most of the overridden gubernatorial vetoes involved social issues like abortion or gun rights. None of Nixon's vetoes seem to meet that threshhold, he said.

Shields, who gets along well with Nixon, appears to be focusing less on this month's veto gathering and far more on January, when he'll commence his last legislative session.

Because of term limits, Shields will be out of office after next year. He's already one of the few longtime legislative veterans in Jefferson City, amassing 20 years in both chambers when he heads out.

(Shields served two terms in the state House before Missouri's term-limit law took effect, which now restricts legislators to no more than eight years in each chamber.)

"It's kind of interesting going into your last year,'' he said.

Shields said he has no plans for a final "marquee piece of legislation that I'm trying to pass.''

Rather, he's more interested in advancing his series of "2020" special committees formed to create long-term strategic plans for various issues confronting the state, including the economy and education.

Such long views are important to discuss and debate, Shields said, during "a era of term limits'' when legislators have limited time to confront such issues or make a difference.

Still, Shields is paying attention to at least one short-term matter: the selection in the city of St. Louis of a new state senator in the 4th District, to replace Democrat Jeff Smith, once a rising political star who resigned last week after pleading guilty to a felony in connection with his almost-successful 2004 bid for Congress.

While emphasizing that he has no role in the selection of Smith's replacement, Shields -- who lamented Smith's predicament -- volunteered kind words for state Rep. Rachel Storch, one of at least four St. Louis Democrats vying for the nomination.

The selection of one of them will be made shortly by the party's 36 committeewomen and committeemen in the 18 wards that make up the 4th Senatorial District. Shields acknowledged that in an overwhelming Democratic city, that party's nominee will likely have an edge in the special election Nov. 3.

Storch "would be a very capable senator,'' Shields said, explaining that he was familiar with her work while she was an aide in 2003-2004 for then-Senate Minority Leader Ken Jacob, D-Columbia.

Shields emphasized that he wasn't criticizing any of the other contenders -- who include state Reps. Jamilah Nasheed and T.D. El-Amin -- but that he didn't know any of them as well as he knew Storch.


Shields will begin this veto session, and his last legislative session, without his longtime chief of staff Chris Roepe.

Shields announced in a press release Wednesday that Roepe "has accepted a new position that begins in November. His last day with us was yesterday, as he will be working as a campaign manager for a local school levy campaign in St. Joseph in September and October. 

“Chris has been with me in the Senate since 2003. Working together, we have accomplished many great things for the people of the 34th District and our state. But, as a result of term limits, this is a normal and expected transition....

"Brendan Cossette, my general counsel, has agreed to serve as my new Chief of Staff. He served in this same position when Mike Gibbons was president pro tem and he begins in this new role today.”

Jo Mannies has been covering Missouri politics and government for almost four decades, much of that time as a reporter and columnist at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. She was the first woman to cover St. Louis City Hall, was the newspaper’s second woman sportswriter in its history, and spent four years in the Post-Dispatch Washington Bureau. She joined the St. Louis Beacon in 2009. She has won several local, regional and national awards, and has covered every president since Jimmy Carter. She scared fellow first-graders in the late 1950s when she showed them how close Alaska was to Russia and met Richard M. Nixon when she was in high school. She graduated from Valparaiso University in northwest Indiana, and was the daughter of a high school basketball coach. She is married and has two grown children, both lawyers. She’s a history and movie buff, cultivates a massive flower garden, and bakes banana bread regularly for her colleagues.