Sing me a song, Mr. veto override man

It’s six o’clock on a Tuesssdayyyy…..

The regular crowd’s wand’ring in.  

There’s a bunch of them in Jefferson Ciiiity  

Waitin’ for the session to begin.

Someone says, “Jog my memory, 

I’m not really sure how this this goes.   

But we’re here for a meet, and when it’s complete          

We might overturn some Nixon vetoes.

La la la di dada     

La la, di di da da dum.

And the lawmakers are practicing politics 

 As the businessmen plead in loud tones. 

They’re sharing a hope for an override 

But the numbers are dropping like stones.

Get me the votes, veto override man,   

Says the billionaire’s shadow in the hall.  

Raise the prescription tax on the old folks     

And help me avoid any taxes at all.

La la la di, dada    

La la, di di da da dum…

We don’t know why that tune started flowing through our mind as we strolled the legislative halls of the Capitol today, starting to feel the heartbeat of the place that returns when our legislators are there.

It’s the veto session. Starts tomorrow at noon. And it could be a doozie.

We don’t remember anything like this one and we’ve been hanging around the halls for something more than four  decades. National teevee networks are sending crews to see if Missouri’s legislators really do want to decide what parts of the U. S. Constitution will be recognized here. House Bill 456, the gun bill that will let local authorities arrest any feds with badges trying to enforce federal gun laws, is one of 29 bills from the Spring session that will be considered. Governor Nixon vetoed it with a lengthy constitutional analysis. Majority Republicans have accused him of practicing politics. One might think the National Rifle Association would love this “defense” of Second Amendment rights. Not this bill. The NRA, it laays pretty low.

And we’ll see if the legislature thinks it’s okay to cut business and income taxes but also increase taxes on the senior citizen voting bloc’s prescription drugs and the college kids’ textbooks. Govenor Nixon has spent the summer on his “Save the Veto” campaign and it seems to be working despite Republican and business interest complaints that he’s using state resources to defend his actions. His critics prefer not to talk about the hundrreds of thousands of dollars (nay, millions of dollars) funnelled by one person through the business organizations to buy radio and television commercials snidely attacking the Governor for having the temerity to fight a presumably veto-proof majority. And it appears he might win on this issue.

Veto sessions are held on the first Wednesday after the second Monday in September. They cannot last longer than ten days. It’s a part of the Missouri Constitution that legislators still honor. It has not always taken two-thirds votes in each chamber to override vetoes. That’s only been with us since the 1875 Constitution. Before that it took only a simple majority in each chamber.

While Governor Nixon’s vetoes of 29 bills and four lines in appropriations bills might seem like a prodigious effort, it pales when compared to the efforts of others in the last two decades. King Marc Powers of the Kingdom of Legislative Arcania, a small territory in the Capitol, compiled a list a couple of months ago of all veto overrides in state history and especially of the last 20 years.

Nixon’s greatest vetosplosion was in 2009 when he vetoed 23 bills and 65 lines. Governor Holden vetoed thirty bills in 2003. But that’s it. He didn’t veto anything in the budget. He is the undisputed champion of the line item veto with 236 in 2001.

Mel Carnahan’s most combative year was 1999 when he vetoed nine entire bills but drew lines through 43 parts of other bills. In ’97, he vetoed a dozen and line-itemed 19. Governor Blunt in ’05 vetoed a pair of bills but line itemed 41.

So here are the standings of combined vetoes and line items since 1993.

1. Holden 244 (2001)

2. Nixon 88 (2009

3. Carnahan 52 (1999)

4. Blunt 53 (2005)

5. Nixon 33 (2013)

5. Carnahan 31 (1997)

6. Holden 30 (2003)

The first veto overridden by the legislature came before Missouri was a state. We had permission to form a state constitution, elect a governor and legislature, and transact business as if we were a state for a year or so before we were admitted to the Union. The tone was set for Missouri contrariness even then because Missouri had a provision in its first constitution ordering the legislature created by that constitution to pass such laws as may be necessary “to prevent free negroes and mulattoes from coming to, and settling in, this state, under any pretext whatsoever.” Congress refused to accept Missouri’s Constitution until that provision was removed. Missouri, as usual, complained about being bossed around by the federal government but finally agreed to pass a law saying that part of the Constitution would not be enforced. That satisfied Washington and we became the 24th state on August 10, 1821.

Our first state governor, Alexander McNair, vetoed a bill establishing salaries for member sof the legislature. That became the first bill overridden.

Governor Daniel Dunklin became the vetoingest Governor in his time and the most vetoes overridden when he vetoed 12 bills granting 47 divorces and the bills were overridden in 1833. In those days the legislature had the authority to grant divorces. Sorry we mentioned that. It might give some of these people ideas today. But it’s history.

From 1855 until 1976 there were no veto overrides. Democrats showed young “Kid” Bond a thing or two by overriding his veto of a Nurse Practices Act. A strongly bipartisan legislature overrode Joe Teasdale’s line item veto of money to build a new state office building. The Truman building catty-corner from the Capitol went up shortly afterwards. And that was the last override until 1999 when Governor Carnahan vetoed the partial-birth abortion bill and a strong bipartisan majority overrode that one.

Is it likely that we will see a lot of vetoes overridden in the session starting tomorrow? History tells us “no.” Of the 212 full vetoes and 381 line item vetoes by the four governors since ’93, including Nixon’s numbers this year, there have been only six overrides. What seemed like a good idea in May cools off in the four months until override time in September. People who crossed the partisan line in the Spring are more likely to side with their governor in the Fall. And others, having read a veto message that points out sloppy bill-writing, decide to try to get it right next year.

La la la, di da da

La la, didi da da dum.


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One thought on “Sing me a song, Mr. veto override man

  1. Mr. Priddy, I loved this blog–it only needed a little piano music in the background. I just wanted to tell you that I really enjoyed your “history lesson” at the MRTA Fall Conference. Your book is truly remarkable (I’m the lady that bought one). Have you ever thought about using the information in the book and writing something for the fourth graders? I thought maybe a “set” with a volume for each chapter in your big book. Just one of my early morning thoughts. The pictures and history are inspiring and make me proud to be a “Missourian”.

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