Missouri's recent veto session was another chapter in a long and fascinating legislative history.
Until the 1970s, there were no veto sessions.
Instead, prior versions of the state Constitution allowed the legislature to take up a veto override effort anytime the General Assembly was in session.
But for many years, the General Assembly met only once every two years. So, if the governor vetoed a bill after the legislature adjourned, it was game over for an override.
That's part of the reason why not a single gubernatorial veto suffered a legislative override for more than a century.
That changed in the early 1970s when Missouri voters approved two constitutional amendments -- one establishing annual legislative sessions and the other created a short veto session a few months after each regular session.
Gov. Kit Bond became the first victim of this new schedule in 1976 when the Democratic-controlled legislature overrode the Republican governor's veto of a bill on nurse licensing vetoed the prior year.
As for veto sessions, they've become almost meaningless if the party that controlled the legislature also held the governor's office.
This year, for example, there was only one motion made in the Republican-controlled legislature to override the Republican governor's vetoes. Although overwhelmingly passed in the House, it was not even taken up by the Republican-controlled Senate.
The mid-September veto session is held only if the governor vetoes a bill during or after the final five days the regular session can consider bills.
Disregarding that provision cost Republicans a major legislative victory in 2015.
It involved a GOP priority to reduce unemployment compensation during periods of low unemployment when supporters argued it would be easier to get a job.
Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon vetoed the bill on May 5, ten days before the last day for the legislature to act on bills.
The House quickly voted to override Nixon's veto.
But the Senate put off an override vote until the September veto session.
It might have been to avoid a guaranteed Democratic filibuster during the closing days of the legislative session.
But a top Senate staffer suggested to me delaying an override vote would raise a fascinating legal case involving legislative authority over its own affairs.
Whatever the reason, the Senate Republican leadership's decision to delay the override vote until the veto session cost them dearly.
The Missouri Supreme Court struck down the veto-session override vote for being too late because a veto session can act only on bills vetoed in the regular session's final five days or after.
No subsequent effort for the unemployment reduction has cleared the Republican-controlled legislature, although it did pass a tougher requirement that an unemployment recipient engage in job-search efforts.
These fall veto sessions have provided a cash-cow opportunity for legislators.
When the veto session meets in an even-numbered year with less than two months before the general election, there's a near explosion in Jefferson City of fund-raising activities by legislators whose meals and travel to the Capital are financed by taxpayers for the day or two the legislature meets for its veto session.
What makes the opportunity so tremendous is the large number of lobbyists expected to attend who are based in the Jefferson City area and who represent special interests throughout the state.
The Clean Missouri ballot issue limits lobbyist gifts, but independent organizations often funded by special interests can spend unlimited amounts of money for candidates, including legislators.
Reporting on these veto-session fund raisers has become routine for many statehouse reporters.
A related campaign issue is the opportunity for legislators to use the veto session for politically inspired chamber speeches that often do not even relate to vetoes.
Legislative and campaign staffers then can spread their chamber presentations across internet.
Another unintended consequence as been the attraction for governors to call a special session in conjunction with the fall veto session since legislators already will be in town for a few days.
[Phill Brooks has been a Missouri statehouse reporter since 1970, making him dean of the statehouse press corps. He is the statehouse correspondent for KMOX Radio, director of MDN and an emeritus faculty member of the Missouri School of Journalism. He has covered every governor since the late Warren Hearnes.]
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