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Legislature May Address Bills Governor Signed Then Vetoed

September 09, 2002
By: Jason McLure
State Capital Bureau

JEFFERSON CITY - When Missouri's legislature convenes its veto session Wednesday, one of the questions will be whether lawmakers will go along with the secretary of state's decision to accept the governor's veto of two bills he first had signed.

Although there has been some debate about the legality of the governor's action on those two bills, no lawmaker has announced any intention to override any of the seven bills vetoed by Gov. Bob Holden this spring.

But any member of the Senate could raise a question about the two signed-then-vetoed bills during Wednesday's veto session.

The governor blamed statehouse staffers for the mix-up, saying they mistakenly placed the two bills in a pile of bills he was signing into law. He later retrieved them from the secretary of state's office and vetoed them.

Secretary of State Matt Blunt said that he had no opinion on whether or not the signed bills had technically become law given that there is no legal precedent in Missouri for such a case.

"These are not pieces of legislation that I had strong opinions on," said Blunt. "When the governor asked for the bills back I didn't see any cause to be needlessly adversarial."

Blunt added that he did advise the governor to keep copies of both the signed and vetoed pieces of legislation in the event of a legal challenge.

Holden maintains that even though he signed the bills, they should not technically become law because there was no "intent" to approve the legislation.

Chris Kelly, a spokesperson for the governor, argued that since the bills were retrieved from the secretary of state's office before 11:59 p.m. the following day, they had not yet become law.

"The real issue is that [the bills] were bad legislation," said Kelly.

Sen. Mike Gibbons, R-St. Louis County, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said Missouri's judiciary may have to intervene.

"From a legal perspective, I would think someone could contest it in the courts," he said.

Sen. John Schneider, D-St. Louis County and the ranking Democrat on the committee, declined to comment on whether he will raise the issue.

Neither bill is considered very controversial. The first would relax licensing requirements for out-of-state physical therapists. The second was a procedural bill setting an effective date for a bill vetoed by the governor and then overridden by the legislature.