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Nixon’s veto pen has been busy

Governor could be on pace to set record

By constitutional requirement, Gov. Jay Nixon has only one more week to decide whether he’s signing or vetoing the remaining 46 bills that lawmakers passed during the 2013 legislative session.

With the majority of proposed laws passed during the final two weeks of the session, the Constitution gives the Legislature’s staff until May 30 to complete the paperwork on those bills, then gives the governor 45 days — until July 14 — to act on those measures.

Nixon already has signed 92 measures into law — and vetoed 24.

That last number is one more than he vetoed in 2009, his first year in office.

And it leaves him 11 vetoes shy of what may be the all-time “modern” record of 35 vetoes, issued by Gov. John Dalton in 1961, his first year in office.

Until Friday, Nixon’s 23 vetoes was the same as Gov. John Ashcroft made in 1989, his fifth year as Missouri’s chief executive.

None of those numbers include appropriation bills, where the Constitution allows the governor to sign the bill into law, but veto specific budget lines — which Nixon did four times this year.

Nixon spokesman Scott Holste said Friday that political considerations don’t play a role in the decision to sign or veto a bill lawmakers approved.

“The governor undertakes a thorough review of all the bills presented to him,” Holste explained, “and that comprehensive review often

determines there are drafting problems.

“Those types of problems, along with policy issues, can lead to a governor’s veto.”

Many times, lawmakers will pass two versions of the same bill — one that started in the Senate and the other in the House.

If both measures were adopted with the same language, both may get signed.

But several times in his first five years, including this year, Nixon found that lawmakers

passed two different versions of the same idea — and signing both measures would have created a legal headache for future administrators.

So one would be vetoed while the other was signed.

Among Nixon’s vetoes this year were:

• House Bill 253, which would reduce income taxes over a decade. Nixon said the bill would create a budget hole bigger than the predicted revenue lawmakers used to write this year’s budget.

• House Bill 278, which would have prohibited any state or local government from restricting the practice or mention of any federal holiday, including Christmas.

• House Bill 436, which would have — among other things — prohibited federal officials from enforcing federal gun laws within the state.

• Senate Bill 29, which would have required public employee labor groups to get an employee’s permission before dues could be withheld from a paycheck, and before dues and fees could be used for political contributions.

• Senate Bill 265, which would prohibit state and local governments from implementing policies affecting property rights, based on the “environmental sustainability” proposals of the United Nations’ voluntary “Agenda 21.”

• Senate Bill 267, which would prohibit Missouri courts from using language from other countries’ laws in Missouri court rulings, if those other laws are considered “repugnant” to the Missouri and U.S. Constitutions. Opponents said it might make overseas adoptions impossible to enforce in the U.S.

Until the late 1980s, lawmakers generally had to wait until early in the next legislative session to act on a governor’s veto, but a 1988 constitutional amendment created the mid-September veto session, when nothing else is on the agenda except giving lawmakers a chance to override a governor’s rejection of a bill.

That requires a two-thirds majority in each chamber — 109 votes in the House and 23 in the Senate — so most lawmakers don’t attempt to override a measure the governor rejected.

Dalton was a Democrat who vetoed bills passed by a Legislature controlled by his own party, while Ashcroft and Nixon were governors of one party working with a General Assembly controlled by the other party — Republican Ashcroft with a Democrat majority for all eight of his years as governor and, now, Democrat Nixon with a Republican legislative majority for at least the first six years of his governorship.

The Legislature’s makeup during Nixon’s final two years as governor won’t be decided until the November 2014 elections.

Republicans currently have the largest majorities they’ve ever had in Missouri’s 192-year history, with 109 House seats (and one vacancy) and 26 Senate seats.

Few political observers today predict a Democratic takeover of the majorities in either house next year.

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