From Missouri Digital News:
MDN Menu

MDN Home

Journalist's Creed


MDN Help

MDN.ORG: Missouri Digital News
MDN Menu

MDN Home

Journalist's Creed


MDN Help

MDN.ORG Mo. Digital News Missouri Digital News MDN.ORG: Mo. Digital News MDN.ORG: Missouri Digital News
Lobbyist Money Help  
NewsBook:  Missouri Government News for the Week of September 8, 2014

Gov. Jay Nixon's office issued a short announcement Friday afternoon that he had blocked funding for all of the 57 vetoes that the legislature had voted to override just two days earlier.

The blocked funds involve programs for child abuse and rape investigations, abortion alternative programs, school safety and heart defibrillators for the Highway Patrol.

Nixon provided a one-sentence explanation in the announcement emailed to reporters Friday. The email said the spending ban was "in order to prevent the growth of government beyond available revenues and ensure a balanced budget."

Even as they were debating the overrides Wednesday, legislators acknowledged Nixon likely would block funding the veto overrides.

There is little or nothing the legislature can do. In a case two years ago, the state Supreme Court granted the governor broad powers to control state spending.

A constitutional amendment on the November ballot would give the legislature power to repeal funding restrictions by the governor.

But even if that provision had been in effect, it would have had no immediate affect since the legislature will not be back in session until January when the budget year is half over.

Missouri legislators overturned just two out of ten vetoed tax-cut bills during Wednesday's veto session. Gov. Jay Nixon had threatened to withhold more than $140 million in education funding if legislators didn't sustain his vetoes.

Although lawmakers overturned two vetoes, Nixon announced that he would release the withheld funds Thursday.

"The resources I'm announcing today are possible because legislators of both parties came together and agreed that it's time invest in our schools," Nixon said in a statement.

The tax cut bills, also known as "Friday Favors," would have given tax exemptions to manufactured homes and graphing calculators, among other things.

The two tax bills overturned by the legislature Wednesday would exempt farmers' markets from sales tax and gives the Revenue Department the burden of proof in tax liability cases against all companies. In total, these bills will cost the state an estimated $3.1 million.

The Missouri Supreme Court handed down a decision Tuesday arguing that the state's statutory cap on punitive damages is unconstitutional.

The court said the cap violated the plaintiff's right to a trial by jury, a decision influenced in part by the court's 2012 decision banning caps on medical malpractice damages.

Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder said the court's decision was "another blow" to the state's tort reform efforts. Kinder oversaw the Senate's tort reform process in 2003 and 2004. The General Assembly passed tort reform legislation in 2005.

Get the print story here.

Missouri House during the veto session
Sen. Will Kraus during the veto session

State lawmakers handed the state's governor the largest number of veto overrides in any year in the state's history.

In total, 47 budget cuts were overridden along with overrides of 10 non-budget bill vetoes during a one-day veto session Wednesday, Sept. 10. The income-tax bill veto had been overridden during the regular session last spring.

The 58 overrides far exceed the previous annual record of 12 veto overrides in 1833.

Legislators of both parties said the Jay Nixon's defeats were an indication of a governor disengaged with the legislators and the legislative process.

"The reports of his disengagement have reached lengendary status," said GOP Senate President Pro Tem Tom Dempsey, R-St. Charles County. "It's time to be an active participant instead of making a policy statement and then disappearing for five months and then reappearing for the next six while we're out of session."

While the bulk of the governor's veto overrides involved budget cuts, many of his tax-cut vetoes he had championed were sustained.

Only two of the vetoed tax bills he had attacked as special interest tax breaks were overridden. And they did not carry large price tags. The administration put the price tag for the two at $3.1 million per year for state and local governments out of the $514.7 million for all ten bills.

Among the non-budget vetoes were some of the most controversial issues before the legislature involving guns and abortion.

The gun bill would let schools authorize teachers to carry firearms on school grounds after training. It also would ban housing authorities from prohibiting guns in tenant residences and ban cities from prohibiting those with concealed weapons from openly carrying their firearms.

The abortion measure would extend the current waiting period for an abortion after contacting a doctor from 24 hours to 72 hours. The vote came as small protests on both sides of the issue rallied at the statehouse earlier in the day.

The Senate vote on the abortion override required approval of a rare motion to shut off a Democratic filibuster around Wednesday's midnight hour.

There was an historic irony to the vote. The last time the Senate voted to shutdown a filibuster was in 2007.

That too involved an abortion-related bill. It was sponsored by Sen. Delbert Scott, R-Lowry City, whose son, Todd Scott, now serves as the chief aid to the Senate's president pro tem and helped in laying the groundwork for the 2014 motion.

Except for measures with a delayed effective date, an overridden vetoed bill takes effect 30 days after he legislative override vote.

Non-budget veto overrides:

House members put the finishing touches on completely overriding Gov. Jay Nixon's veto of a controversial gun bill early Thursday morning.

Just before 2 a.m., the House put their bipartisan stamp of approval on the bill with a 117-39 vote.

Speaking against the bill, Rep. Stacey Newman, D-St. Louis County, said the bill is not about making the streets safer.

"Today, you are big government," Newman said. "This bill is about you."

Rep. Rick Brattin, R-Harrisonville, disagreed.

"The 2nd Amendment is for the populous to defend themselves," Brattin said.

Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon vetoed the bill in July and took issue with the provision that arms teachers and administrators if they pass specialized training.

"I have consistently opposed the arming of teachers as a means to keep schools safe," Nixon wrote. "It is simply the wrong approach, and one that I do not support."

The bill also lowers the conceal-carry age from 21 to 19 and prohibits cities from banning open-carry laws, even if they already have such laws.

The Senate overrode the veto on Wednesday on a straight party-line vote of 23-8.

Senate Republicans took the unusual step of voting to shut off debate in order to force a vote on the abortion restriction bill.

It was the first time the Senate took the unusual step of shutting off debate since 2007.

The measure now made law would expand the waiting period for an abortion after contacting a doctor from 24 hours to 72 hours.

"We just witnessed the majority party shut off debate," charged Sen. Jason Holsman, D-Kansas City.

"I believe we just changed the nature of this chamber," Holsman said.

Ironically, legislation on abortion clinics and sex education was one of the bills for which debate was shut off in May of 2007.

The sponsor of that bill was Sen. Delbert Scott, R-Lowry City.

His son, Todd Scott, is the top aide for the Senate's president pro tem and helped in staff work leading to Wednesday night's previous question vote.

The Missouri House voted to override Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon's veto of a bill that lengthened the mandated abortion wait time from 24 to 72 hours with bipartisan support.

Members spent 90 minutes debating over the bill. Rep. Genise Montecillo, D-St. Louis County, spoke against the override of the bill.

"This is really about not trusting women." Montecillo said. She went on to say that she has "no right" to tell somebody what to do about their medical decisions.

In response to Montecillo, Rep. Jeanne Kirkton, D-St. Louis County, fought back tears to read stories of women who have been sexually assaulted over a period of years.

With the override of the bill, women must wait 72 hours after their initial consultation with a physician to proceed with an abortion.

Missouri would be the third state to have a 72 hour abortion waiting period.

The Missouri House overturned every budget veto considered on a range of issues, including abortion alternatives and substance abuse treatment.

The House and Senate spent much of the day considering dozens of budget items during Wednesday's veto session.

In total, the overturned budget items will cost the state more than $50 million, although some lawmakers said Gov. Nixon might withhold funding.

By bi-partisan majorities in both the House and Senate, the veto session of Missouri's General Assembly has begun passing a series of budget overrides.

The first override came just a few hours after the session had started and quickly was followed by a continuing series of votes against Gov. Jay Nixon's vetoes.

Legislative budget leaders have a list of 50 budget item reductions or eliminations they plan to present before legislators.

In the Senate, the votes began after an hour-long attack by black legislators of Nixon's actions in Ferguson and his delayed response.

The first item overrode by the legislature is a $1 million appropriation for a private, non-profit organization to establish two pilot education programs for troubled juveniles.

In the Senate, only one of the chamber's nine Democrats voted to support the Democratic governor's vetoes on several of the budget items.

At one point during the debate, the SenateAppropriations chair acknowledged advice from a lawyer with the attorney general's office that a veto session may not actually have power to override budget vetoes, as opposed to non-budget bills. Also, the governor has expansive powers to simply block spending of budget items.

The Senate's majority leader has vowed to keep the Senate in session for however long it takes to finish. The governor has gotten more Democratic support in the House, but still has met with 

Business owners questioned the Department of Revenue about sales tax collection and the lack of communication between legislators and Missouri businesses.

Consistency and efficiency were high in demand at the meeting of an interim Senate committee on tax issues.

"Improved communication and improved access to information, which would help us make sure that we're getting the sales tax we're supposed to get, and we're getting all the businesses that are registering with the state," Director of finance for the city of Creve Coeur, Dan smith said.

Smith also recommended was to improve communication and how to come up with ideas to provide additional information.

In a letter to the Senate's top leader, a legal staffer with the state attorney general has advised that Missouri lawmakers may not have legal power to override the governor's line-item budget vetoes in the veto session.

"If the governor acts when the legislature is not in session, the plain reading of the Constitution...provides no authority for the general assembly to reconsider line-item vetoes," wrote James Layton, the solicitor general for the attorney general.

Layton wrote that the section dealing with the legislature's veto session did not explicitly include appropriation line-item vetos in the measures lawmakers could consider.

However, Layton added that it has been the custom and the history of the General Assembly to allow consideration of budget vetoes.

Nixon has vetoed about 140 separate sections in the budget under a constitutional provision that allows the governor to reduce or eliminate individual sections of the budget bills passed by the legislature.

Also on Tuesday, the top budget leaders said they had identified about 50 items then want to bring before the legislature to reconsider constituting about $40 million in spending cuts.

Senate Appropriations Committee Chair Kurt Schaefer, R-Columbia, attacked the governor for spending more than $500,000 on his state airplane while cutting funding for Water Patrol debibrillators and exams of abused children.

"These are programs people need," Schaefer said.

Schaefer acknowledged the advice from attorney general's office along with the power of the governor to simply block spending of an appropriation item even if the governor's veto is overridden.

But the Senate's budget leader said overriding the vetoes would send a message.

Just a couple of days before the legislature will take up the governor's budget vetoes, State Auditor Tom Schweich issued a critical audit of the governor's withholding of program funding approved by the legislature.

Missouri law lets the governor block release of appropriations if state tax collections and revenues are falling below original expectations.

In a 2013 decision, the state Supreme Court granted the governor extensive budget restriction powers concluding that the governor can control the rate of expenditures.

The court held that the lawsuit filed by Schweich was filed too soon because the budget year had not yet concluded.

In his latest audit released well after that budget year had concluded, the state auditor argues that the final revenue collections did not justify the governor's budget withholdings from appropriations approved by the legislature.

The audit also makes reference to a November ballot issue that would give the legislature power to overturn budget restrictions by the governor.

Less than 48 hours before the Missouri General Assembly votes to override Gov. Jay Nixon's veto of a bill dealing with the sale of alcohol in the Capitol, people will fill the House chamber Monday night to take part in a wine tasting.

The event costs $500 per person and includes wine seminar and an "after-hours art experience."

As of Monday afternoon, the desks of House members were outfitted with five wine glasses.

The event occurs less than two days before the legislature attempts to override Nixon's veto of a bill giving the Capitol Commission sole authority to enter into contracts for the sale of alcohol in the Capitol.

The bill also allows for alcohol sales at events at the Missouri state penitentiary.

The House website indicates the resolution authorizing the use of the House chamber for the event was offered on June 26 when the House was not in session.

If Nixon's veto is overridden, the bill would be in effect until December 31, 2024.

Last Week

Dairy farmers claim a decision facing the Missouri legislature could raise the price of dairy products, depending on what happens during the September veto session beginning Wednesday.

The measure would subsidize some costs for state dairy farmers using $3.2 million out of the state's general revenue fund. The state subsidy would focus on allowing farmers to participate in a federal insurance program created by the massive overhaul of federal agriculture programs. The measure was vetoed because of a separate provision, which changes the classification of Missouri's deer population.

In his veto letter, Nixon wrote that the bill also contained a separate provision that shifted the regulation of deer farms, especially those with white-tailed deer, from the Conservation Department to the Agriculture Department. Nixon argued the shift would "be at odds with the longstanding successful conservation practices [of white-tailed deer] and would violate the Missouri Constitution."

Missouri Dairy Association Executive Director Dave Drennan said providing farmers with the ability to partake in the insurance program would be vital to the dairy industry and reduce the cost of dairy for the consumer.

"Agriculture is a price taker not a price maker," Drennan said. "When [the 2012] drought came, the feed price went up, but the price of milk stayed down. Also, a dairy farmer only makes 26 cents for every dollar you spend on dairy."

A month after the police shooting in Ferguson, gun rights and firearms safety will be among the vetoed bills that come before the Missouri legislature's Wednesday veto session.

The measure would make several modifications to Missouri gun laws.

The main section of the bill would authorize school districts to empower teachers to carry concealed weapons on school grounds.

Another provision would prohibit local government from banning open carry for persons with a concealed weapons permit.

The bill would extend the wait time from twenty-four to seventy-two hours between contacting a physician and getting an abortion.

The measure passed the House with more than the two-thirds needed to override. It fell one vote short in the Senate, but an absent Republican member said he will vote to override.

House speaker Tim Jones said the override of the veto is a likely outcome.

"Missouri continues to be a state that very much is on the side of being pro-child, of being pro-life, of promoting life, of standing up to life."

In his veto letter, Jay Nixon cited the failure to exclude rape and incest as one of his reasons for his veto.

Gov. Jay Nixon claimed the Missouri legislature is "writing checks we can't cash" Thursday, with next week's veto session looming.

In response to what Nixon calls an $800 million over-budget spending plan, Nixon stressed living within our means to lawmakers and told them to think about Missouri families when making decisions about how to best spend money.

"State government must live within its means. Missouri taxpayers deserve it and the Missouri Constitution requires it," Nixon said. "Writing checks we can't cash is attempting to live beyond our means does not reflect our values or the fiscal realities that we face."

Nixon said the money needs to be invested into schools and the higher education system, and not into earmarked programs.

"And since there is only so much revenue coming in, balancing budgets requires setting priorities and making tough choices," Nixon said. "That's why, when a General Assembly passes a budget that grows government spending, without the revenue to support it, it's the governor's responsibility to stop it."

Lawmakers return to the Capitol for the veto session on Wednesday, Sept. 10.

The bill on payday loans will not be brought to the floor during the upcoming veto session.

Gov. Nixon vetoed the bill due to its lack of support for payday loan borrowers.

Sen. Mike Cunningham sponsored the bill and concedes the veto will not be overturned.

"The votes apparently are not there to override the veto, so it will not be brought up," Cunningham said. "The governor's going to get his way with it."

Without the two-third majority vote in the Senate, the governor's veto will stand.

Ten bills giving sales tax exemptions to things such as manufactured homes, data processing centers, and dry cleaners are a central issue heading into next week's veto session.

Gov. Nixon vetoed the tax breaks in June and said the bills would "pick winners and losers and shift a great proportion of the tax burden to the majority of Missourians unable to utilize such loopholes."

Senate President Pro Tem Tom Dempsey, R-St. Charles, disagreed.

"We have done our due diligence as legislators to protect Missouri taxpayers and provide the tools necessary to attract jobs to the state," Dempsey said back in June.

Nixon used the bills to withhold many budget items, mostly from education.

Lawmakers return to the Capitol for the veto session on Wednesday, Sept. 10.

The case involves the conviction appeal of a St. Charles County deputy sheriff for excessive force in a drug bust.

Christopher Hunt was convicted of burglary, property damage and assault as a result of actions against the suspect.

Before the court were arguments as to whether Hunt needed a search warrant.

Hunt broke down the door of a trailer in Montgomery County looking for Phil Alberternst, who was wanted for manufacturing and producing methamphetamines.

Hunt entered the trailer, which was not owned by Alberternst, and struck him, according to a court statement.

Hunt was part of the St. Charles County Regional Drug Task Force, which was helping the East Central Missouri Drug Task Force, whose jurisdiction includes Montgomery County.

"Where is the evidence that when he entered he intended to assault him as opposed to arrest him?" asked Judge Paul Wilson.

Hunt's attorney said the assault charge should be retried and asked for the burglary and property damage decisions to be overturned.

The state attorney general's office argued on behalf of the law enforcement officer's conviction.

The attorney general's office normally represents the prosecution when convictions are appealed.

Gov. Jay Nixon lifted the state of emergency Wednesday that he declared August 16 after violence broke out following the shooting death of Michael Brown in Ferguson.

Nixon said the following in a press statement: “Over the past week, we’ve seen students getting back to school, businesses reopening their doors and folks getting back to their normal routines. This progress is a testament to the efforts of community and faith leaders, working alongside state and local law enforcement officers, to bring peace to the streets of Ferguson and much-needed stability to its citizens.”

The governor's action ends two executive orders. The order issued August 16 established a state of emergency due to civil unrest in Ferguson. The order issued August 18 sent the Missouri National Guard to Ferguson for the limited mission of providing security at the unified command center.

The National Guard left Ferguson August 26. The unified command center closed August 27.