Democrats stand by their governor and prevent Republicans from overturning Governor Nixon’s veto of a bill that would increase financial accountability as well as give state legislators the key to the Capitol dome.
Sponsor Jason Smith, a Republican from Salem, made the motion and pressed for a vote. HB 544 passed the Senate 33-to-0 during the regular session. It passed the House 143-10. But Democrats, not wanting to embarrass their governor, switch sides during the Veto Session and vote "No". With that, support drops to 86-to-71, well short of the two-thirds majority needed.
Rep. Jason Kander, a Democrat from Kansas City, argued during House floor debate Wednesday that the accountability measures in the bill are already in place.
"We already have this. It’s a duplicative committee. We don’t need it. It’s not fiscal responsibility," Kander told colleagues. "This is an excuse the throw the word ‘fiscal responsibility’ around. Fiscal responsibility is what’s come out of the actions the governor has actually taken."
Smith argued that the additional financial accountability measures were needed The bill would have expanded the Missouri Accountability Portal to require the governor’s office to give a daily account of the budget appropriations being withheld. It also would have created the Joint Committee on Recovery, Accountability and Transparency to oversee the spending of federal economic stimulus money. Missouri is receiving $4 billion from the $787 billion dollar economic stimulus package approved by Congress earlier this year.
Smith told colleagues that it’s too hard for citizens to track how the state is spending the stimulus money it has received.
"For the last few days, I’ve been trying to figure out how much stimulus money the state’s political subdivisions are getting that’s bypassing the legislative body and no one can give me a number," Smith countered. "That’s why we need oversight."
Democrats didn’t just argue that the financial accountability measures had been passed in other legislation or fell within the authority of other committees. They also latched on to a provision the Senate added to the bill: an amendment that would have given all 197 state legislators a key to the Capitol Dome.
In his veto statement , Gov. Nixon, a Democrat, singled out the key issue, stating it could "pose potential harm to legislators, their constituents and our historic capitol building."
Nixon stated that the Capitol Police expressed serious concerns with that requirement.
"My concern is not with the legislators who would receive these keys, but simply with the increased access to more than a hundred additional keys which could be stolen and misplaced. The concerns of those responsible for the safety and security of our capitol building and its occupants and visitors are very serious and range from the inaccessibility of the capitol dome area in the event of a medical emergency to the potential for security threats," the governor said in his veto message.
Smith argued in vain during House floor debate that the key exchange wouldn’t pose the security risks the governor feared. Smith got no support from Democrats and his motion failed.
Other objections were made during House floor debate on Wednesday. State representatives who made those motions withdrew them after having their say. The legislature didn’t override any of the 23 vetoes the governor issued this year or restore any of the budget cuts he made in line-item vetoes of 11 budget bills.