By Susan Redden
JOPLIN, Mo. —
This year’s veto session of the Missouri Legislature is shaping up to be a barnburner.
With a week to go until a July 14 deadline, Gov. Jay Nixon, a Democrat, thus far has vetoed about two dozen bills among those passed by the House and Senate, where Republican lawmakers hold majorities. A session during which the Legislature can consider overriding the vetoes will be conducted in September.
Add to that, he’s withholding the expenditure of $400 million in the budget approved last session, waiting to see if lawmakers will override his veto of a bill that would have cut corporate and personal income taxes, Nixon has said, to the point of endangering state funding in core areas such as public education.
State Rep. Tom Flanigan, R-Carthage, vice chairman of the House Budget Committee, is among several lawmakers who have pointed out that the governor’s action will hurt vulnerable groups and is unnecessary because state revenues are running $600 million ahead of estimates.
Progress Missouri, a liberal advocacy group, has upped the ante by announcing a contest in which a House member who votes to override the governor’s veto will be advertised as voting “against local schools” on an aerial banner flown over a high school or college football game in his or her home district. The “winning” legislator will be selected by lottery from those who vote for the override, the group says.
The same group on Friday hailed a decision by Nixon to veto a House bill that would have nullified federal gun laws in Missouri.
The governor also vetoed two bills containing an amendment that would have eliminated the ban on foreign ownership of farmland. He said the provision was added to the bill without a public hearing and was publicly opposed by leading Missouri agricultural groups.
State Rep. Casey Guernsey, R-Bethany, who added the amendment, said it was aimed at capping the amount of Missouri farmland that can be in foreign ownership at 1 percent.
“The governor knows without a doubt that Missouri’s statutes are being curtailed and farmland can and is being bought and owned by foreign interests,” he said. “Both of these bills would have capped the amount of land foreign interests could own and also added accountability to the process foreign entities utilize to acquire Missouri land.”
Guernsey, who is chairman of the House Committee on Agribusiness, said more than 90,000 acres were owned by foreign interests as of December 2011.
Officials of the Missouri Rural Crisis Center said Guernsey’s amendments would have opened nearly 300,000 acres of Missouri farmland to foreign ownership.
One of the largest food processors in China recently announced it had agreed to buy Smithfield Foods Inc., the largest hog operation in the United Sates and owner of Premium Standard Farms Inc., the largest hog producer in Missouri. Guernsey has said he did not know about the acquisition.
State Reps. Charlie Davis, R-Webb City, and Bill Reiboldt, R-Neosho, have been named to a interim House committee that will look at ways to improve educational outcomes for Missouri students.
House Speaker Tim Jones has named two retired educators — Reps. Steve Cookson of Poplar Bluff and Lyle Rowland of Cedarcreekstet — as chairmen of the panel. Jones said he wants the committee to look at ways the state can help failing districts to better serve the educational needs of students and to develop policy solutions that can empower the best districts to do an even better job.
He said he hopes the committee will “develop common-sense, bipartisan solutions that will de-emphasize the educational bureaucracy and re-establish the focus on providing our children with the highest-quality education possible.”
The group is to hold an organizational meeting Thursday at the Capitol.