Missouri legislators to reconvene to discuss federal funding bill
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Missouri legislators to reconvene to discuss federal funding bill

Date: September 14, 2010
By: Alysha Love
State Capitol Bureau

JEFFERSON CITY - On his last day presiding as the Missouri House speaker, Ron Richard will seek to override the governor's veto on a bill that sponsor Allen Icet called "a perfunctory bill that creates a fund."

Richard will preside over a veto session at the Capitol on Wednesday. A veto can be overridden with a two-thirds vote of both the state House and the Senate. 

The bill that will be brought before the House would create two separate treasury accounts for new federal funding: One for money from the Race to the Top education program and one for extra funds from the Medicaid Federal Medical Assistance Percentage program.

However, the state isn't receiving any money from Race to the Top this year, Icet said. Gov. Jay Nixon said in his veto statement that he created appropriate accounts for the Medicaid funds in 2009.

Richard said that overriding Nixon's veto on the bill is his top priority for Wednesday's veto session.

"We just think we ought to have some transparency oversight with that federal money," Richard said Tuesday.

Richard said he also wanted to send a message to the governor.

"We keep reminding institutions in this building that there is a third branch of government called the House of Representatives and we think we're very important to the budget process, and we'll still flex our muscles when we have to," Richard said.

Lawmakers overwhelmingly passed the bill during this year's legislative session. However, Nixon vetoed it in July, saying in a statement it was "needlessly creating duplicative funds in the state treasury" and that transferring the education funds "would violate federal law."

"I feel that issue has already been covered and I indicated that in the letter I sent the legislature after they passed this new measure," Nixon said in a telephone conference call with reporters the day before the veto session. "...We have a system of accounting, a system that has worked well, a system that has provided transparency."

Nixon created those accounts when the state began receiving federal money from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.

Budget Chairman Allen Icet, who sponsored the bill, said those accounts aren't adequate for the new federal funding.

"It makes sense not to co-mingle this new money with old money for transparency, so there's a paper trail, which is always good accounting," Icet said. "If (the money) flows into a unique fund and we appropriate, it's clear to everyone that Missouri got 'X' dollars and they spent 'X' dollars on these various programs."

Richard said he expects the veto override to pass through both chambers.

"I see no reason why it shouldn't," he said. "We only lost two votes before. We'll see."

House Democratic Leader Paul LeVota said Nixon hasn't directly communicated with him about defending his veto. LeVota supports the governor's decision to veto the bill.

"I'm not sure why the Speaker is going to fight over the constitutionality of something when in truth he could change that legislation, make it constitutional and have the same effect next time around," LeVota said. "I would hope that most of the members, regardless of party, won't vote for it because they'll know now that it's unconstitutional."

Icet said after the bill passed through the House, the Senate created an account for any federal funds the state might get from Race to the Top education program. They stipulated that any leftover money would revert to the general revenue fund Ô014 a transfer Nixon said was illegal in his veto statement.

"(That's something) which I would have heartburn over," Icet said. "But the state has not received nor will we receive any money from Race to the Top, so that section is moot. The General Assembly can take that part out next year if they want."

Icet said he didn't think the moot section should stop anyone from overriding the veto.

"It's not a partisan bill, it's not Republican or Democrat, it's clearly not a controversial bill. It's a perfunctory bill that creates a fund," Icet said. "It's really about good government and that's why Republicans and Democrats voted overwhelmingly in favor of it (in the spring)."