House, Senate overturn 10 vetoes
Sater, Fitzpatrick focus on right-to-work, A+ bills
The Missouri House and Senate recently completed its 2015 veto session, where local lawmakers overrode 10 of Gov. Jay Nixon's vetoes from the last legislative session.
Nixon, who has set the record of being the most overridden chief executive in state history, vetoed 33 bills last session and made 120 line-item vetoes in the budget. The legislature responded by overriding 10 of those vetoes and 47 of the line-item vetoes.
The annual veto session gives lawmakers the opportunity to override bills previously vetoed by the governor.
"To override a veto, you must have a two-thirds majority in both the House (109 votes) and the Senate (23 votes)," said State Rep. Scott Fitzpatrick, R-Shell Knob.
State Sen. David Sater, R-Cassville, said the governor had until July 1 to veto bills that passed.
"We have an official veto session every year, and the session legally can last up to 10 days, but usually we try and get it done in one day and one night," Sater said.
Sater said the veto session started Sept. 16.
"If we pass some bills early in the session, for example, we passed my welfare reform bill in April, and he vetoed it and we were able to override it," he said. "But, if the bills are passed later, like in May, he can veto them over the summer."
Sater said the biggest bills on his radar were the right to work bill, minimum wage and separating the circuit courts in Taney and Christian counties.
"We went in at noon and got out at midnight," he said. "The most important bill for me was the right-to-work bill that the governor vetoed (HB 116 and 569), which says you don't have to pay union dues to work at a company if you don't want to.
"It started in the House and did not get past it. They needed 109 votes to override the veto and it only got 96. But, it's a matter of bringing business into the state of Missouri. We're just kind of stagnating in jobs compared to other states around us that are right-to-work. I don't think we'll be able to do that until we get a Republican governor."
The 2015 session marked the first time in the history of Missouri that a right-to-work bill had cleared both chambers and made its way to the governor's desk.
The second-biggest bill on Sater's list was HB 722 concerning minimum wage or mandating certain employment benefits.
"The bill prohibits local municipalities from adopting their own minimum wage, or mandating certain employment benefits," Sater said. "It passed 114-46 in the House; 23-9 in the Senate. The bill that said minimum wage could not be more than the federal or state minimum wage in a particular city. I think Kansas City is proposing to raise their wage to $15 per hour over a period of five years. And so we felt we don't want there to be 30 or 40 different towns that have their own minimum wages. I think that would be a hamper to business.
"We want to make sure that we don't lose business out of state because of the issue. Right now, it's $7.25 per hour, which is what the state and federal minimum wage is."
The bill also had language specifying that all vendors and merchants in Missouri must have the option to provide customers with paper or plastic bags.
The third bill of concern to Sater and other lawmakers was HB 799, which would have split Christian and Taney county circuit courts, which are currently one combined circuit. Christian County has two associate circuit judges and one presiding judge that split time between the two counties, but only has three courtrooms for the judges to work in.
Nixon vetoed the proposed split, making it difficult to find room for judges and prosecutors. The bill also imposed a $10 fee on court cases and would have raised $70,000 annually for Christian County to improve space for the prosecutors's office. However, Nixon said he wants courts to avoid raising additional fees after fees were seen as a catalyst to last summer's unrest in Ferguson.
"We had a bill for the circuit court to be a separate one for Taney County and one for Christian County," Sater said. "Everyone was on board for that, but unfortunately, the bill had some other little things in it, so we couldn't override that bill. So, it's disappointing, but we'll handle that again next year."
During the legislative session next year, Sater said he plans to address ethical issues, such as lobbyists' gifts, and if legislators can start working as a lobbyists after they term out.
"I think there is lots we can do to clean up in Jeff City," he said. "I'll also be working on filing some legislation for next year, going to a lot of functions, and listening to my constituents. It's my job to try to make the best decisions for my constituents."
On the House side, Fitzpatrick focused on HB 150, regarding unemployment insurance reform.
"This year, the legislator overrode 10 of the governor's votes, including two pieces of legislation I sponsored," Fitzpatrick said. "The first of my bills to be overridden against the Governor's objections, HB 150, will stabilize our unemployment insurance system. HB 150 ties the availability of unemployment benefits to the state's average average unemployment rate.
"When unemployment is below 6 percent, benefits will be available for 13 weeks. Benefits will be available for the current 20 weeks when unemployment is above nine percent. The bill will also require the state to save more money from employers before lowering the rates they pay into our unemployment trust fund. Missouri is the only state that has run out of unemployment money in each of the last five recessions. When we run out of cash, we must borrow from the feds."
Fitzpatrick said Missouri had just finished paying back $220 million to the federal government last year for the 2008 recession.
"While making those payments, already-struggling Missouri businesses were slapped with higher federal taxes to pay off the balance," he said. "Borrowing money makes it difficult for business owners to predict costs, create new jobs, or reinvest in their employees."
The second of Fitzpatrick's vetoed bills that was successfully overridden was SB 224, which blocks giving taxpayer-funded A+ scholarships to individuals who are in the country illegally.
"When Missouri created the A+ program in the early 90s, our state government made a promise that it would pay for community college for any Missouri student who completed the program requirements and met the qualifications," Fitzpatrick said. "In 2015, for the first time ever, our state was no longer able to fully fund A+. "While students saw their first tuition bills, the governor's administration was seeking to expand A+ scholarships to include students who had entered the country illegally. As we balance the budget and prioritize resources, I felt we had an obligation to use tax dollars to take care of legal, taxpaying Missouri residents first. Other state scholarship programs already require legal citizenship status-- A+ should be no different. It is important to note that some legal Missouri residents still aren't eligible for the A+ program -- either because they are home schooled, or because they attend a high school that does not participate."
For more information about the legislation that was overridden, people may visit www.house.mo.gov/billcentral.aspx?pid=26. Constituents may also contact Fitzpatrick at 573-751-1488, or Sater at 573-751-1480.
Prior to 2013, the legislature had only overridden 12 votes since 1821. And, from 1855 to 1976, not a single veto was overridden.
Upon conclusion of the 2015 veto session, the total number of overrides in state history is 104, with 82 overrides enacting bills of budget line-items into effect as law, despite Nixon's objections.