Veto Session Sees Several Bills Enacted into Law
Tue, 09/22/2015 - 15:14 admin
Greetings Friends! I hope this report finds you and your family well.
The annual Veto Session began Wednesday, September 16 at noon and by the time it was finished 12 hours later the House and Senate had combined to override the governor’s vetoes on 10 pieces of legislation. Heading into the day, the legislature had successfully completed 94 veto overrides in the history of the state. Seventy-two of the overrides had occurred under the watch of the current governor. With Wednesday’s total added to the tally, the legislature has now successfully approved 104 overrides and Gov. Nixon has seen 82 of his vetoes overridden.
The annual Veto Session is required by Article III, Section 32 of the Missouri Constitution, which calls for the General Assembly to convene each September to consider vetoed bills. Overrides have typically been rare in the state’s history because a successful motion requires two-thirds majorities in both legislative chambers – 23 votes in the Senate and 109 in the House of Representatives. Override efforts begin in a given bill’s chamber of origin. If the originating chamber fails to override, the other chamber can take no action on it.
The House entered the day with 10 vetoed bills and one vetoed budget line-item to consider. The Senate began deliberations with six vetoed Senate bills to consider, as well as one override motion on HB 150 that had already been approved by the House during the regular session. When their work was done shortly after midnight Thursday morning, the two chambers had combined to override vetoes on six House bills and four Senate bills.
House Fails to Override Veto of Right to Work Bill (HB 116)
During the 2015 regular session the House and Senate had worked together to send Right to Work legislation to the governor’s desk for the first time in the history of the state. The governor then vetoed the bill, which set up a much-discussed and much-anticipated vote to enact the bill into law despite the governor’s objections.
Wednesday afternoon the House spent nearly two hours debating the bill before finally attempting the override motion. In front of packed galleries filled with both supporters and opponents of the bill, the House failed to approve the override motion by a vote of 96-63. The 96 votes fell 13 short of the number needed to override.
In effect, the bill would have given workers in Missouri the right to decide whether to join a union. Specifically, it would have prohibited an employer from requiring a person to become a member of a labor organization as a condition or continuation of employment.
Supporters of the idea say it is meant to make Missouri a more attractive location for new and existing job creators. They say it preserves the rights and freedoms of the individual to choose whether to join a union. Opponents say it is an attack on organized labor and a move that would lead to lower wages for workers.
General Assembly Overrides Governor’s Veto of Unemployment Reform Bill (HB 150)
During the 2015 regular session the Missouri House successfully completed an override motion on the governor’s veto of legislation that supporters say will keep Missouri’s system of unemployment financially stable. Because of a filibuster, the Senate was shut down in the final week of session and was unable to complete the override motion. Wednesday evening, members of the Senate finally completed the override to enact into a law a bill that will link unemployment benefits to the rate of unemployment, and ensure the state keeps more money in the unemployment trust fund.
Supporters of the bill say it is meant to protect the state’s unemployment system from insolvency in the event there is another economic downturn. Missouri is the only state that has been forced to borrow money from the federal government to pay for unemployment benefits during each of the last five economic downturns. Borrowing federal dollars has the added negative impact of taking away a portion of a federal tax credit businesses normally receive.
Opponents say the change will make it even more difficult for unemployed Missourians to obtain the financial support they need to pay their bills and keep food on the table. They say it will make the length of Missouri’s unemployment benefits one of the shortest in the nation.
The legislation is designed to make sure the state has enough money in its unemployment trust fund so that businesses don’t have to pay a penalty. Specifically, it will increase the minimum amount of money in the fund before employers’ contribution rates decrease. For example, Missouri businesses would see their contribution rates decrease by 12 percent if the fund has a balance greater than $870 million.
The bill also ties unemployment benefits to the average unemployment rate so that more benefits are available when unemployment is high. If the state were in a position of high unemployment (9 percent or higher) benefits would be available for 20 weeks. In periods of low unemployment (lower than 6 percent) benefits would be available for 13 weeks. Supporters noted that a similar system is already in place in states like Georgia and Florida. They call the change an important step toward ensuring Missouri can afford to help its citizens during times when they are without work.
House and Senate Override Bill to Prevent Undocumented Immigrants from Receiving A+ Scholarships (SB 224)
Another bill now set to become law is meant to ensure scholarship benefits through the state’s A+ Schools Program are received only by young people who are legal residents of the United States. Specifically, the bill requires a student to be a United States citizen or a permanent resident in order to receive benefits.
The impetus for the legislation was a decision by the Missouri Department of Higher Education to allow students who are lawfully present, but not legal residents, to receive A+ scholarships. The decision applies directly to students who are part of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program that allows children who were brought to the United States illegally by their parents to stay and legally live, work and study.
Supporters of SB 224 say the bill ensures the limited amount of scholarship money in the A+ program will be reserved for legal Missouri residents. They say it is unfair to Missouri families to see diminished scholarship amounts for their children because the dollars are instead going to young people who are not legal residents. Opponents of the idea say it is an attack on young people who are in the country illegally through no fault of their own. They say the legislature should work to increase funding for the A+ program so all children can benefit.
The A+ Scholarship program allows Missouri high school students who have met certain requirements to receive state-funded assistance to attend participating public community college or vocational/technical school, or certain private two-year vocational/technical schools. The program allows thousands of Missouri students to pursue a college degree each year.
General Assembly Acts to Ensure Uniform Minimum Wage (HB 722)
The House and Senate also collaborated Wednesday to overturn the governor’s veto of legislation meant to keep minimum wages in municipalities throughout Missouri at a rate that does not exceed the state standard.
Supporters of the bill have said a uniform minimum wage is important to provide a level playing field for employers and employees around the state. They say the bill is simply a clarification of existing law, which prohibits cities from raising the minimum wage. Opponents say the bill is an attack on local control and an infringement on the rights of municipalities. They also say higher wages for Missourians can only have a positive impact on the economy.
In addition, the bill that will now become law ensures Missourians will continue to have the choice of paper or plastic bags at the grocery store. The bill specifies that all merchants doing business in this state must have the option to provide customers with a paper or plastic bag for any item or good purchased. The bill also makes it clear that a political subdivision cannot impose any ban, fee, or tax upon the use of paper or plastic bags.
Other Bills Now Set to Become Law
HB 618 - Changes the laws regarding the disposition of human remains. Expands the types of medical professionals who can attest to a cause of death, to include physicians’ assistants, assistant physicians and advance practice registered nurses.
HB 878 - Specifies that the Department of Public Safety must have the authority to commission corporate security advisors and establishes procedures to do so.
HB 1022 - Authorizes a return of premiums paid by insureds.
HB 1098 - Changes the laws regarding trust companies.
SB 20 - Creates a state and local sales and use tax exemption for material, machinery, and energy used by commercial laundries in treating or cleaning textiles.
SB 142 - Requires the Department of Natural Resources, when developing a state implementation plan, state plan, or non-point source management plan for submission to the Environmental Protection Agency, to prepare an implementation impact report in lieu of a regulatory impact report in collaboration with certain other state entities. The report will be delivered to the Governor, Joint Committee on Government Accountability, President Pro Tempore of the Senate, and the Speaker of the House of Representatives along with the proposed plan 45 calendar days prior to submission to the Environmental Protection Agency.
SB 345 - Increases the fee that banks can charge consumers for loans of 30 days or more, to a maximum of $100. Limit now is $75.