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Politics, Elections and Government

Missouri Legislators Will Try To Override Governor's Vetoes Of Child Welfare Funding

The members of the Missouri legislature meet for the final day of the session at the Missouri State Capitol Building on Friday, May 14, 2021, in Jefferson City.
The members of the Missouri legislature meet for the final day of the session at the Missouri State Capitol Building on Friday, May 14, 2021, in Jefferson City.

While Gov. Mike Parson vetoed fewer than 20 bills during the 2021 legislative session, House members are expected to take action against at least two appropriation vetoes. 

Missouri lawmakers will have their annual opportunity Wednesday to override vetoes issued by Gov. Mike Parson over bills passed during the 2021 legislative session.

While lawmakers are anticipating a fairly quiet veto session, the House is slated to attempt to overturn two line-item, budget-related vetoes.

Parson issued a total of 16 vetoes against legislation passed during the session. Four are against bills that change policy, while the remaining line-item vetoes apply to sections of 12 different appropriation bills.

While it isn’t common for the legislature to overrule decisions from a governor who's in the same party as the majority, that doesn’t mean attempted overrides don’t happen. During the 2020 veto session, the Republican-led House overrode one budget-related veto, though the Senate did not take further action on it.

Comparatively, during the 2016 veto session, the Republican-led legislature overrode over a dozen of Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon’s vetoes.

For this year’s veto session, House members will consider overriding at least two line-item appropriation vetoes. Though one is expected to be brought up by House Republicans and the other by House Democrats, both concern child welfare in the state.

House Minority Leader Crystal Quade, D-Springfield, said she tends to see greater cooperation with budget related issues.

“That is a place where legislators seem to have a lot more ownership over it. Of course that is the only thing that we’re constitutionally mandated to do and often the budget is where you’ll see both sides of the aisle working on something,” Quade said.

According to Quade, House Republicans, with Democratic support, will attempt to overturn a line-item veto of $300,000 in House Bill 12 for a Lincoln County program that focuses on crimes against children.

Democrats themselves will try to override Parson’s veto of 3% raises to caseworkers and supervisors in the Department of Social Services’ children’s division, an amount that could total over $2 million.

“Making sure that our children’s division workers are ready to protect children against crimes really makes a lot of sense for us,” Quade said. “And that has been a topic of discussion for quite some time, the layoffs and the lack of individuals that they have working in the children’s division, how they can’t retain staff.”

Because budget bills originate in the House, only House members have the ability to initiate the override process for appropriation related vetoes, including line-item vetoes. Regardless of who begins the veto process, both chambers must ultimately approve of the override with a two-thirds vote.

On whether the Senate will approve of the possible House overrides, Quade said while she has heard support from the Senate concerning the override of the line item in HB 12, she is not sure if the votes are there.

Senate Majority Leader Caleb Rowden, R-Columbia, said some of this year’s budget vetoes are better candidates for overrides, as opposed to the vetoes over policy bills.

“The policy bills that got vetoed, I would assume all have, probably don’t have much of a pact to be overridden. I think all of those had legitimate reasons why they were vetoed,” Rowden said.

However, one policy bill that could see an override attempt is Senate Bill 226, the only Senate bill Parson vetoed this session. The Republican-sponsored legislation would have provided tax relief to businesses that were negatively impacted by health restrictions implemented due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a letter explaining his veto, Parson called the language of the bill “severely problematic.”

“As a result of ‘restrictive orders’ being defined so broadly, nearly anyone living in a city or county could claim a property tax credit under the language of the bill,” Parson said.

Rowden says while Sen. Andrew Koenig, R-Manchester, the bill’s sponsor, has expressed interest in overriding the veto, as far as he knows a final decision regarding the bill hasn’t been made. Koenig could not be immediately reached for comment.

The veto session will begin at noon Wednesday.

Follow Sarah Kellogg on Twitter: @sarahkkellogg

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