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Abortion Fight Abandoned

September 09, 1995
State Capital Bureau

JEFFERSON CITY - Much of the drama for the legislature's veto session on Wednesday evaporated Friday when the sponsor of the anti-abortion bill announced he would not try to override the governor's veto.

Every September, legislators return to discuss bills vetoed less than five days before the previous legislative session ended.

Gov. Mel Carnahan vetoed five bills and used the "line-item" veto to reduce several budget appropriations passed by the legislature last spring.

The most controversial piece of legislation Carnahan vetoed was a bill that would have required that a woman seeking an abortion consult a volunteer case manager before undergoing the procedure.

But the bill's sponsor, Sen. John Schneider, said Friday that he would not bring up the proposal during the veto session. Instead, the St. Louis County Democrat said he'll reintroduce the proposal at next year's session that begins in January.

By legislative tradition, only the bill sponsor can make the motion to override a veto.

Although the abortion measure had passed both the House and Senate by overwhelming majorities, several Democratic supporters had said they would not vote to override the Democratic governor's veto.

In a test vote on the issue last spring, the abortion bill fell short of the two-thirds that would have been needed for an override.

In addition, an override effort would have faced a legal challenge. The governor's office and the Senate leadership argued that because the governor had vetoed the bill before the closing days of the regular session, the matter could not be brought up during the veto session.

Instead, they argued the constitution restricted any override effort to the closing days of the session last spring.

Like the abortion bill, it appears the governor's other vetoes also will not be challenged.

Rep. Norma Champion, R-Springfield, said she isn't planning on bringing up her bill concerning charitable campaign solicitations because of an amendment tacked on by the Senate. The amendment would have denied insurance benefits to suicide victims, if the policy had been in effect for less than one year.

"I think the governor's objection to the amendment is reasonable," Champion said. She said she plans on reintroducing her original bill during the 1997 Legislative Session.

And a representative from Sen. Harold Caskey's office said Caskey, D-Butler, won't bring up his bill dealing with school retirement, since a similar bill was passed and signed by the governor.

The bill dealing with elections for county planning, sponsored by Sen. Marvin Singleton, R-Joplin, won't be brought up either, said Singleton's administrative aide.

And as for the bill dealing with late fees on credit transactions, the sponsor, Sen. Walt Mueller, R-St. Louis, was unavailable for comment.

Legislative inaction on the governor's vetoes will not be unusual. An override requires a two-thirds vote in both chambers - 109 votes in the House and 23 in the Senate - that has proven to be difficult to get.

"Historically, vetoes aren't overridden," said Gene Rose, communications director for the Missouri House.

In fact, a governor's veto has been overridden just twice this century.

While it would seem Wednesday's veto session will be relatively boring, extensive private discussions are expected by House Democrats on a successor to House Speaker Bob Griffin, D-Cameron.

But no formal action is expected. Several House leaders have said formal vote of the Democratic caucus will be delayed until November.

Griffin, under federal investigation for has activities involving riverboat gambling, has said he will resign before the January session.