Squandered Stimulus Money Will Be Main Topic of Missouri Legislative Veto Session

The St. Louis Beacon reports that the awarding of almost $100,000 by the Department of Social Services, Family Support Division will be the main topic of  the legislative veto session today.  The student newspaper at the University of Central Missouri provides a an account of the issue as well.  The fact that just over the weekend, legislators received over 1,000 e-mails about this issue speaks to the concern and consternation their constituents have about this issue! (Take your opportunity to participate in identifying issues like this at our Paul Revere page!)

I traveled around mid-Missouri yesterday and attended a large gathering last night.  During those travels, no one supported the use of the stimulus money for this film festival.  Almost to the person, they said the same thing “What were they thinking spending our money on that?!”.

The House and Senate convene today for the Constitutionally mandated Veto session.  As the name suggests, the legislative bodies will be offered the opportunity to have a motion made to override any veto of legislation or budget line items submitted by the Governor.  Every veto is read and any legislator can make a motion to override it.  Vetoes are seldom overridden even when the bill in question received huge margins.  House Bill (HB 1903) is a perfect example of what is likely to happen in this regard.

HB 1903 “Creates the Federal Budget Stabilization Extension Fund and the Race to the Top Fund to receive moneys from any legislation enacted by the 111th United States Congress”. The final version passed the House by a vote of 149 Ayes and only 3 Noes.  It passed the Senate 29-0.  If one didn’t know better, one might think that a veto override is a no-brainer since it only takes 109 votes in the House and 23 in the Senate. However, anyone who thinks that would be wrong.

From the Beacon article,

In his July 14 veto letter , Nixon (right) said the new funds duplicated two funds set up by the Legislature in 2009 to handle stimulus money. The governor also asserted that the vetoed measure set up legislative approval requirements, in connection with Race to the Top money, that he said unconstitutionally intruded on the powers of the executive branch.

Traditionally, if the Governor vetoes a bill, no matter what the vote outcome was originally, the Governor’s party will support the Governor’s veto.  The last Governor to have any veto override was Governor Holden who had at least five overrides.

In order to sustain the veto, legislators will have to change their minds and their votes to support the veto.  Of course they will have learned something new or hadn’t fully considered the reason the Governor gave for vetoing the bill but having now done so, agree.  You can decide if that is good, bad or indifferent.

So the fate of HB 1903 will rest principally on partisan issues.  Would HB 1903 have prevented the wasteful spending on the film festival? Probably not as that money came from the original stimulus funding not the “new” batch that HB 1903 would have addressed.  However, it does appear to be a good check and balance measure, not an intrusion on executive branch powers as the Governor contends.

The veto discussion aside, it is important to remember that the discovery and subsequent backtracking by the department of Social Services occurred because one grassroots activist decided to get engaged and was determined to see if she could make a difference.  She did and so can you!

If you haven’t yet contacted your legislator, you can still do so by participating in the Action Alert. It’s up to us to help our elected officials hold the department accountable and keep their word about getting OUR money back!

If you have an issue about a local or state issue like the wasteful stimulus money expenditure, got our our Paul Revere page and let us know about it! Who knows, you may uncover the next big issue the state is talking about!

Carl Bearden
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