JEFFERSON CITY - Two of the most divisive bills in Missouri in the last decade lie in the hands of the Missouri Senate today. Much of the action depends on the presence or absence of an officer in the Misssouri Army National Guard stationed in Cuba.
Sen. Jon Dolan, R-Lake St. Louis, has quickly become the key player in Senate Republicans' effort to override Gov. Bob Holden's vetoes of a 24-hour waiting period for abortions and the right of Missourians to carry concealed weapons after they passed in the House.
"There is no possibility of an override of the concealed weapons bill without him," Republican Floor Leader Michael Gibbons said.
On Wednesday, the first day of the veto session, the Senator's office said he was doing what he could to get back, although the Republican leadership said they had not heard from Dolan.
"I don't know what his status is," Gibbons said. "I'm sure he was waiting to see what the House did before he irritated his superior officers."
Even if Dolan returns in time for the second day of the veto session, Republicans may face a filibuster from the Democratic opposition. Minority Floor Leader Ken Jacob said, "If he's going to be here for a short time, we may take advantage of that."
President Pro-Tem Peter Kinder said that he remains confident that the Senate will override the abortion bill veto without Dolan.
On the House side, onlookers watched from the packed visitor galleries as legislators voted Wednesday to override two of Gov. Bob Holden's most controversial vetoes. Despite the crowded atmosphere, debate among lawmakers was relatively dispassionate, absent of any fiery rhetoric or animated gestures.
Holden's vetoes on the abortion and concealed weapons legislation were overturned by wide margins.
"It's always a disappointment to see legislation you disagree with pass," said Vicky Riback-Wilson, D-Columbia, "but their were no real surprises."
Two-thirds of the chamber, 109 votes, is required to overturn vetoes. The abortion and concealed weapon overrides passed with 120 and 115 votes, respectively. Wilson and Chuck Graham, D-Columbia, both voted to uphold the vetoes. Jeff Harris, D-Columbia, was absent from voting.
Despite the significant margins, there was debate on the floor before the final votes.
"Twenty-four hours is worth the life of a child," Tom Self, R-Cole Camp, said.
Wilson responded that because of the shortage of abortion providers in Missouri, 24 hours turns into several weeks. As a result, abortions are moved back, which decreases the safety of the procedure.
"We are not reducing the number of abortions with this legislation," Wilson said. "What we are doing is putting women at greater risk."
Six other vetoes were voted on today, none of which were successfully overridden. The most highly debated was a bill involving child abuse and foster care. The bill would extend background checks for potential court-appointed guardians and open records of abused children to the General Assembly.
Senators voted along party lines during their veto session, causing the first round of veto overrides to fail. The bills addressed reworking workman's compensation, creation of a small business regulatory agency, and changes in agri-business tax law.
Gibbons showed little surprise over the outcome. "I don't think even the sponsors had any reasonable belief the bills would pass."
The Senate will also take up bills to limit lawsuit liability damages, banning local governments from suing gun manufacturers, and raising assessed valuation levels to move to first or second class counties.