Divorce

The legislative veto session lasted all of about an hour of accumulated time this week. Fourteen bills that Governor Nixon had vetoed were up for possible override this time (we listed them the other day). Nobody made a move to override any of them. The legislature overrode his veto of the congressional redistricting bill before it ended the regular session in the spring.

Veto overrides are rare. In the 191 years Missouri has had a state governor and legislature, fewer than two dozen vetoes have been overridden.

Whenever a veto session comes along that seems to offer opportunities for overrides, one friend of ours or another provides a history of legislative veto overrides. On the bulletin board of our studio at the capitol is a list done a year or two ago by King Marc of Arcania. This time, Farrah Fite, the press person for the senate majority party, provided the press corps with a list. The lists show some interesting changes in Missouri legal history.

Alexander McNair, our first governor (and some day we might tell you about the intriguing history his “governor’s mansion” in St. Charles), issued the first veto and was the first governor to have a veto overridden. The issue was a pretty basic one: the salaries of members of the legislature. The first legislature established the salaries of lawmakers at four dollars a day with an additional dollar for presiding officers. Lawmakers also granted themselves three dollars for each 25 miles “they must necessarily travel.” Not approved, said McNair. Overridden, said the House, on a vote in the House of 28-7 with six members absent and two seats vacant. Agreed, said the 17-member Senate on a 9-3 vote.

At the time, only a simple majority was needed for an override.

No governor has been overridden more often than Daniel Dunklin. His topic of contention with the legislature was divorce. Dunklin was overridden for his vetoes of 47 divorces granted by the legislature. Divorces were handled by the courts or the legislature from 1809 until they cam under the sole jurisdiction of the courts in 1853. For a brief period, 1820-1822, Missouri levied a one dollar BACHELOR TAX on all single white males 21-50 years old. Anyway, Dunklin vetoed a dozen bills granting divorces including one bill that granted 35 of them and all 12 bills were overridden.

The 1875 constitution increased the override vote necessary to two-thirds of the elected members of each house instead of a simple majority.

Decades went by without a veto override. Then in 1976, Governor Bond vetoed a nursing practices bill and the legislature overrode him. Joe Teasdale vetoed an appropriation for the Truman Office Building and was overridden during the regular session in 1980.

No other governor was overridden until Mel Carnahan vetoed an infanticide bill. Governor Holden got overridden three times in 2003 on guns and abortions issues.

The last time an override was attempted was in 2008 after Governor Blunt vetoed a student curator bill. Lawmakers could not get the necessary two-thirds.

The override earlier this year of Nixon’s veto of the congressional redistricting bill was the first time in since the Teasdale override that a bill was overridden during the regular session.

We’ve seen every override in modern times, starting with Bond and the nurses.

Are we ever glad divorces are not issues for the legislature anymore—

Although it might be kind of interesting (for a while) to hear the “family values” lawmakers debating the divorce bills.

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