Sept 10, 2015 – Weekly Capitol Update

PAIR OF ANTI-WORKER BILLS TOP VETO SESSION AGENDA

As the General Assembly prepares for its annual veto session on Sept. 16, two bills with questionable chances of becoming law that seek to restrict worker rights and benefits are generating the most discussion about possible overrides. Republicans currently hold veto-proof majorities of 24-8 in the Senate and 116-43-1 in the House of Representatives. Veto overrides require 23 Senate votes and 109 House votes.

Gov. Jay Nixon, a Democrat, vetoed 18 bills this year, but the Republican supermajorities already overrode on two of them last spring during the regular legislative session, leaving 16 bills on the veto session agenda. Nixon also issued a single line-item budget veto, but since it was to fix a minor technical issue, an override attempt isn’t expected.

Due to an extensive campaign for override largely funded by out-of-state corporate interests, so-called “right-to-work” legislation, House Bill 116, is generating the most buzz. However, the bill failed to achieve a veto-proof supermajority in either legislative chamber when it passed last May. For a successful override, at least 17 House members and two senators would need to switch their votes, and opponents of the bill are cautiously optimistic that won’t happen.

The other measure drawing a lot of attention is House Bill 150, which would cut the maximum weeks of unemployment benefits in Missouri from 20 weeks to as low as 13 weeks, depending on the statewide unemployment rate. The House voted 109-53 for an override on May 12, but the Senate took no action on it before the regular session ended.

Traditionally, HB 150 would be considered dead and not included on the veto session agenda since the Senate had the chance to override in the spring but made no attempt to do so. However, some Republican senators argue they retain the power to take up the bill in veto session. Given that a veto override procedurally straddling two legislative sessions has never been attempted, such an override likely would result in litigation, ultimately leaving it for the Missouri Supreme Court to decide if a cross-session veto override is constitutionally valid.

Other vetoed bills considered contenders for override attempts include measures restricting the authority of cities to exercise local control in enacting certain ordinances; granting corporate security officers employed by private companies the same powers as police officers, including the authority to make arrests and conduct searches; excluding undocumented immigrant students who are graduates of Missouri high schools from participating in a certain college scholarship program; and hiking or extending court fees in certain judicial circuits to pay for local construction projects.

 

SENATE TO ELECT NEW LEADER DURING VETO SESSION

The Missouri Senate is expected to elect a new leader when it convenes for the annual veto session on Sept. 16, with a legislative veteran and relative newcomer vying for the post of Senate president pro tem. The position became vacant when previous Senate President Pro Tem Tom Dempsey, R-St. Peters, resigned to take a jov with the Gate Way Group, one of the many political front organizations funded by billionaire financier and prolific Republican campaign donor Rex Sinquefield of St. Louis.

Senate Majority Leader Ron Richard, R-Joplin, and state Sen. Gary Romine, R-Farmington, both have announced their intention to seek to replace Dempsey. Richard, who currently holds the Senate’s No. 2 post, served eight years in the House of Representatives, including the last two as speaker, before winning election to the Senate in 2010. Romine is in his first legislative term, having won election to the Senate in 2012.

As the majority party, Republicans will pick the Senate’s next leader, although a vote by the full chamber is necessary to formally elect their choice.

Prior to Dempsey’s departure, it had been 35 years since a Senate president pro tem was replaced mid-term. That instance came during a 1970 special session when senators ousted Senate President Pro Tem Earl Blackwell, D-Hillsboro, and replaced him with state Sen. J.F. Patterson, D-Caruthersville.