On Tuesday I held my monthly Child Abuse hearing. We started work on evaluating the role of Judges and Juvenile Officers. We had a very informational discussion with two Judges, one from Dunklin County and one from Cole County. It was our intent to have both urban and rural views represented and they did a great job of explaining their views. There are currently court cases questioning the constitutionality of our Juvenile Office system and I wanted to start a process whereby we could be prepared to make changes if the rulings go against us. The committee had some great questions for the judges and I think we are off to a good start.
At 9:30 on Tuesday evening, we caucused to decide what we were going to try to override. Having a super majority doesn't mean that we can always get the 109 votes necessary to override the Governor's vetoes. We identified 11 House Bills and 12 Senate Bills that we would attempt to change. All these issues had been passed with bi-partisan majorities during regular session. It was agreed that any tax bills that had large fiscal notes were probably better left until next session when we could review them better.
Wednesday morning we started the veto session off right. The first and most contentious item on the schedule for us was the 72-hour wait for an abortion. Leadership allowed an hour and a half of discussion before bringing it to a vote where it again passed by a wide bi-partisan majority. This measure does not prevent an abortion; it only allows an additional 48 hours for a woman to reflect upon ending a baby's life. Missouri becomes the third state to pass this measure. We were in session until 3:30 A.M. on Thursday and managed to override the Governor's vetoes on nearly 50 Budget items, 6 House bills and 8 Senate bills. The Governor vetoed an unprecedented 120 line items in the Budget. We identified 50 of those items that we feel are vital state services. Some of those items were education, health care, senior services, child abuse and rape victims, energy assistance for low-income seniors, and school safety grants. We overrode those items, which totaled about $54 million dollars. To put things in proper perspective, that's about 2 tenths of one percent of the State Budget! After we overrode his veto with a huge bi-partisan vote, he had the audacity on Friday to WITHHOLD the funds for these services. He and his state agencies have spent taxpayer dollars on Sirius Satellite radio, memberships to the Governor's Association and the National Goat Association, out of state travel, and even $24 million in advertising last year. This guy doesn't have a clue how to prioritize spending. In November the voters will have a chance to make their displeasure known. If approved, Amendment seven would prohibit the Governor from reducing funding passed by the general assembly without receiving legislative consent. This simple change would stop future withholds of funding for much needed programs for political and "payback" reasons and cause the general assembly and the Governor to work together for the good of the state the way the founders intended!
I was surprised on Wednesday morning with the presentation of the KidsWin award from the Missouri Children's Leadership Council for being a champion for children. The Missouri Children's Leadership Council is an alliance of organizations serving children and families. They work to improve the health, education, and well-being of children and youth. I will cherish this award!