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Governor's veto could make lawmakers' work null and void

May 15, 2003
By: Valerie C. Green
State Capital Bureau

JEFFERSON CITY - Going into the final day of the legislative session, all eyes are on the governor's office instead of the House and Senate.

Democratic Governor Bob Holden has vowed to veto most of what the Republican legislature has put on his desk this year. Bills on the governor's chopping block include measures that would require a 24-hour waiting period on aborion, allow Missourians to carry concealed weapons, cap lawsuit limits for medical malpractice cases and possibly the state's budget.

But Republicans are calling that move a mistake.

"I don't know why the governor would embarrass himself by vetoing the agenda we sent him," said Assistant Majority Floor Leader Mark Wright, R-Springfield. "But, he has to do what he has to do to keep his radical left base happy."

Most of the bills the governor is planning to shut down received enough votes in both the House and Senate to override his veto, but the governor's spokeswoman has said that will not affect the governor's decision to stop those bills.

"This is very normal when you have divided government," said Rep. Rick Johnson, D-High Ridge and a member of the Democratic leadership in the House. He charged that the Republicans passed bills they knew the governor would veto to use it against him in the next campaign.

"All they want to do is take care of their business friends and say Matt Blunt wouldn't have vetoed this if he were governor," Johnson said, refering to the current Secretary of State who is expected to make a run for the governor's office in 2004. "They could have worked with the governor to make things signable, but they don't want him to sign these bills because they don't want real solutions."

The General Assembly has until 6 p.m. today to finalize any changes in the law for this year. Bills that don't get passed by both chambers and to the governor's desk by that deadline will have to start over next year.

"We've been dealing with the same issues in different magnitudes since I came here in 1993, and we will continue to work on them until the problems are solved," said Senate Majority Leader Mike Gibbons, R-St. Louis County. "We will move the issues that we ran our campaigns on to get in the majority in the first place."

In legislative action today:

n Lawmakers gave final approval to revise the state's foster care system including a pilot privatization plan.

n Lawmakers established Emancipation Day, June 19th, a state holiday.

n Lawmakers gave final approval to establish a life science research fund.

In other legislative business, several Republican freshman reported receiving phone calls from constituents supporting an end to some tax breaks for businesses. Holden has advocated this as a source of revenue to balance the budget.

"I've had about 50-75 calls in the last few days from mostly elderly people," said Rep. Vicki Schneider, R-O'Fallon. "I don't know what these poeple think I can do in two days and it certainly won't change my mind on the budget."

It was unclear who was organizing the effort, but Republicans speculated that it came from the governor's office, the state Democratic party or a state agency.

"These people are exaggerating the problem and then asking constituents to call their representatives to complain," said House Speaker Pro Tem Rod Jetton. "It's very hard on elected officials who come under this pressure, but this is a budget that they should be proud of and shouldn't be ashamed of it."

The Republican leadership plans to finish several measures today before the legislative deadline. On the priority list are measures that would:

n require governor inauguration planners to reveal who donates money for the event

n force meth-making materials to be stored behind the store cash register

n create an independent inspector general to oversee the Transportation Department

n finalize the $150 million revenue package needed to balance the state's budget.

While there are many issues that still need legislative attention before they can become law, the Republican leadership plans to keep the final day realatively calm. House Speaker Catherine Hanaway has admitted that she wants to make the final days "boring" to make sure the work gets done in an orderly manner.