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Lawmakers meet today for veto session

Lawmakers meet today for veto session

September 13th, 2017 by Bob Watson and Brittany Hilderbrand in Missouri News
Missouri's Capitol

Missouri's Capitol

Photo by Julie Smith /News Tribune.

LINK: The Latest on Missouri Veto Session: Live updates from Wednesday's legislative veto session at the Missouri State Capitol

Missouri's lawmakers are back at the state Capitol at noon today, holding a veto session automatically scheduled when Gov. Eric Greitens vetoed four bills lawmakers passed last spring, a resolution and parts of three budget bills.

"The general assembly shall automatically reconvene on the first Wednesday following the second Monday in September," the state Constitution says, "for a period not to exceed ten calendar days for the sole purpose of considering bills returned by the governor."

It's the last part of that phrase that has some wondering whether any other actions can happen this week.

There have been calls for lawmakers to oust state Sen. Maria Chappelle-Nadal, D-University City, and state Rep. Warren Love, R-Osceola, after both made Facebook posts wishing death on others.

Both later apologized for their remarks — but have rejected calls for them to resign.

Chappelle-Nadal on Aug. 17 said she wished President Donald Trump would be assassinated.

Love on Aug. 30 suggested those who had vandalized a monument in Springfield's National Cemetery should be hanged "from a tall tree with a long rope."

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Greitens has declined to call lawmakers into a special session to deal with the ouster questions, saying the two chambers have the authority to act on their own.

House leaders haven't said whether they'll seek to oust Love.

Senate President Pro Tem Ron Richard, R-Joplin, reportedly has a resolution drafted to begin the process of expelling Chappelle-Nadal.

At least one Republican — state Sen. Bob Dixon, R-Springfield — has said he won't support such a resolution, telling colleagues in a letter that her post was "intemperate and embarrassing," but not worthy of senators voting to expel her.

But some think there may be a legal question of whether either chamber could vote for expulsion in a veto session, since that would not be "considering bills returned by the governor."

As far as the vetoed bills, state Rep. Travis Fitzwater, R-Holts Summit, told the News Tribune "there will not be a lot to consider for an override" this year because — for the first time in eight years — the governor and the majority of the lawmakers are from the same party.

"Until this year, we had a Democrat governor," Fitzwater explained. "So, we had a number of conservative priorities that would be vetoed throughout the years.

"With Gov. Greitens being on the same page as the Legislature, we have been able to pass priority legislation."

But there have been disagreements.

"The one bill that stands out as being something that would be challenged would be House Committee Bill 3 and the cuts to in-home care," Fitzwater said. "However, it was passed by only a slim margin during the regular session, so I don't think the votes are there for an override" even if it's brought to the floor for a discussion.

The bill required the state treasurer to deposit $34.5 million into the Senior Services Protection Fund by Sept. 1 and authorized the commissioner of Administration to make a one-time fund sweep of unspent balances to pay for the deposit.

In his four-page veto letter, Greitens called the plan "an unconstitutional, one-time fix that jeopardizes more than 200 state funds without the courtesy of a public hearing."

The governor wrote the Constitution is "clear that taxpayer money cannot be withdrawn or spent without specific appropriation authority" — and the bill itself isn't an appropriations bill.

Greitens also said the final language was completely different from the original House bill.

"Elected officials in the General Assembly must confront funding issues seriously and not dodge tough decisions through last-minute, unconstitutional gimmicks," Greitens wrote.

The governor also vetoed:

  • House Concurrent Resolution 19 and the budget line in House Bill 5, authorizing the state to pay for half of the proposed University of Missouri-Kansas City Conservatory building for dance and music programs. "I veto this section (of the budget bill) to protect Missouri taxpayers and to signal my support for a real plan, before the state makes any major capital investment," Greitens wrote.
  • A $2.66 million appropriation in House Bill 6 for the state Environmental Improvement Authority Fund, because that section of the budget bill "brings the operations of the Environmental Improvement and Energy Resources Authority (EIERA) on the state budget," when state law already gives the authority "broad and specific powers" to do its job with funds from its own bond sales.
  • A $35.5 million allocation in House Bill 9 to the Inmate Canteen Fund, when state law already places the fund outside of the state treasury.
  • House Bill 850, which prohibits National Guard members from forwarding to the governor a complaint lodged against a commanding officer. "There are situations in which the State's Commander-in-Chief should be on notice of soldiers' grievances," Greitens wrote.
  • Senate Bill 65, which allows anyone to ride on parts of a motorboat "without adequate guards or railing," the governor said. "I understand that one purpose of this bill may have been to exempt small boats that travel at low speeds on slow moving float streams. The final language contained in this bill may have unintended consequences."
  • Senate Bill 128, which "started as a one-page, 35-word bill that removed the division designations from the Jackson County courts," Greitens wrote, but grew into a 77-page bill affecting 68 different sections of statute. "This final bill violates the Missouri Constitution and contradicts other legislation passed this session and already signed (into law)."