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No Overrides

September 13, 2000
By: Suzanne Bessette
State Capital Bureau

JEFFERSON CITY - One year after suffering only the third veto override in this century, Missouri's governor survived his last veto session without even a motion to challenge his vetos.

The veto sessions of the state House and Senate were held Wednesday, giving the legislature the chance to override the governor's vetoes on last session's legislation. Both houses were silent.

While not a day of legislative change, the sessions were marked by rumblings of changes in the composition of the legislature expected in the next session.

Although he will preside over the Senate for a short time in January, Lt. Gov. Roger Wilson's term in office is effectively over. He first took the office eight years ago, after legislation was passed to expand the office to be an advocate for the elderly and children in state government.

Now at the end of his term, this expanded role is once again being contested and the protection of the elderly in nursing homes has been criticized.

Wendell Bailey, the Republican candidate for lieutenant governor, is calling for a full-scale overhaul of the office, while his main opponent, Sen. Joe Maxwell, wants the office expanded. Libertarian candidate Phil Horras argues that the office is redundant and promises to seek its abolishment if elected.

"It's debatable whether we ought to have it or not," said Wilson. Although opposing abolition of the office, Wilson said he favors the idea of change. He said the office should be modernized and a department for elderly issues created.

Wilson voiced concern over the future of elderly care in Missouri. A recent report by State Auditor Claire McCaskill found that more than 600 nursing home employees have histories of abusing children or the mentally ill.

McCaskill has called for an overhaul in coordination between state agencies to filter out these potentially dangerous employees. "Claire's audit was right," said Wilson, "but what's the price tag on that?"

Whatever the future of the office, Wilson is determined that his future will be free of politics. He'll be working in financial management in the St. Louis County town of Clayton, but looks forward to spending more time with his family in Columbia.

"There are definitely things I'll miss about this job," he said. "But spending time with my family -- that's the biggest bonus."

The Senate session passed quickly and quietly, save for one resolution presented by Sen. Steve Ehlmann of St. Charles. On his last days as a senator, Ehlmann called for the investigation of one casino's relationship with a gambling lobbyist.

Officials from Station Casino refused to comply with Gaming Commission subpoenas to testify about a $500,000 "bonus" paid to a lobbyist who then communicated with a former chairman of the Gaming Commission. Missouri Gaming Commission rules forbid private communication with casinos.

Ehlmann's resolution urges the Gaming Commission to enforce the subpeonas. "They may come in and take the fifth or they may come in and say I don't remember, but I think the public wants then to come in and testify," Ehlmann said.

Ehlmann's resolution appeared headed to oblivion. The Senate majority leader, who chairs the Rules Committee where Ehlmann's resolution now sits, did not schedule an immediate hearing.

Sen. Ronnie DePasco, D-Kansas City, said staff had advised him that during a veto session the Senate may not be allowed to consider any thing except vetoes.

The House session was similarly quiet, though goodbye speeches and tributes took hours. 35 representatives will not return to the House in January, including House speaker Steve Gaw, D-Moberly. Some are retiring, while a few others have reached their term limits or are seeking higher office.