Conflict-Ridden Session Could Lead to More Nixon Vetoes

By Virginia Young; Elizabeth Crisp | St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO), May 19, 2013 | Go to article overview

Conflict-Ridden Session Could Lead to More Nixon Vetoes


Virginia Young; Elizabeth Crisp, St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)


JEFFERSON CITY * Gov. Jay Nixon, a Democrat, likes to portray his relationship with the Republican-dominated Legislature as one where they work toward common goals.

But Friday's conclusion of the Legislature's four-and-a-half month session magnified their differences and is likely to result in more vetoes than usual.

Nixon has signaled that he is likely to veto a $700 million corporate and personal income tax cut that Republicans called one of their biggest accomplishments. The governor said Friday that the plan's price tag raises "red flags" for the state budget.

At a post-session news conference, he expressed reservations about a bill declaring federal gun laws unenforceable and one capping punitive damages that injured people could win for exposure to lead contamination in St. Francois County.

The governor also made note of two bills that he called "unnecessary." One would nullify court rulings based on foreign laws and another would bar the implementation of Agenda 21, a nonbinding United Nations action plan that promotes sustainable development.

Other bills that could tempt his veto pen include one making it harder for some public employee unions to deduct members' dues from their paychecks and one creating restrictions on the use of abortion- inducing drugs.

Nixon declined to speculate on the number of bills he would veto, but he said: "I'm sure I'll find some that either I don't think is the right policy for the state or mistakes were made."

George Connor, head of the political science department at Missouri State University in Springfield, said both political parties try to emphasize issues that appeal to their supporters.

"Ultimately, it's about being able to go back home and say, 'We have further restricted abortion rights' or 'prevented President Obama from taking away your guns.' It seems to me the electoral priorities are coming to overtake the policy needs of the state," he said.

A large number of vetoes could lead legislators to test their new veto-proof majorities. Republicans hold two-thirds of the seats in both the House and Senate, enough to override vetoes if they stick together. The veto session takes place in September.

Senate President Pro Tem Tom Dempsey, R-St. Charles, said the tax cut has enough votes to override a veto in the Senate, though the House would be tighter, because Republicans will hold the minimum needed there if they lose one member to a congressional election this summer.

Dempsey called the tax cut a modest, carefully crafted plan that won't bust the state budget because the cuts are phased in slowly over time, and only if state revenue grows by at least $100 million a year.

Sen. Joe Keaveny, D-St. Louis, opposed the tax cut.

"Why, when we finally get to the point where we've got a surplus, why a tax cut? Why not restore some cuts" in mental health programs? "People don't realize the toll" the last few years' cuts have taken, he said.

CAMPAIGN LIMITS

In his first term as governor, Nixon's vetoes were overridden twice: on a congressional redistricting plan in 2011 and a bill letting employers and insurance companies opt out of providing contraception coverage in 2012.

Asked if he expects more activity at this year's veto session, Nixon predicted that legislators will "have some things on the docket other than the social activities that occur."

The governor also said he will make good on the promise he made in his State of the State speech in January that if legislators didn't reinstate campaign contribution limits, he would help lead an initiative petition drive to put such a proposal on the November 2014 ballot.

Missouri remains one of only four states with no limits on campaign contributions. The state also has no limits on what lobbyists can legally give to lawmakers.

House Minority Leader Jake Hummel, D-St. Louis, said Nixon would have plenty of help on the ethics petition drive from Democratic groups. …

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