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Senate Republicans row over tradition, rules in veto session showdown

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Conservative senators derailed the typically lackluster veto session for several hours Wednesday in protest of a “tradition” of just who can bring up the vetoed bills on the floor. 

It was a katzenjammer about rules, traditions, and the powers of the executive branch that further divided an already fracturing Republican Senate

It all began when Sen. Mike Moon attempted to bring up a $150,000 portion of an appropriations bill but was stifled when Kehoe, who presides over the Senate, refused to recognize him for the motion. (The House had overridden this veto earlier in the day.) 

Kehoe said the longstanding tradition was for the bill handler to bring his or her own legislation before the body for reconsideration, but Moon stepped in when Sen. Dan Hegeman, the Appropriations chairman, remained seated when the floor opened. 

Conservative members quickly backed Moon’s motion with many grandstanding speeches on the floor. Sen. Bill Eigel raised a point of order to object to Kehoe’s decision which Senate President Pro Tem Dave Schatz fairly quickly ruled against. 

“My understanding of the constitution and the rules of this chamber is the lieutenant governor has no authority to do what he has done,” Eigel said. “It is unprecedented that the lieutenant governor would exceed his authority and refuse to recognize you for that. I’ve never seen anything like this.”

Senate Majority Leader Caleb Rowden and Sen. Bob Onder faced off over Senate rules and traditions on the floor on Sept. 15, 2021. (THE MISSOURI TIMES/CAMERON GERBER)

The showdown culminated in an impassioned speech by Majority Floor Leader Caleb Rowden who decried the “ignorance” and “clown show” he said occurred on the floor. 

The measure on the line was a section of HB 4 to earmark $150,000 to compensate taxpayers who contested the Department of Revenue’s sales tax determination. Moon said wedding venues in his district have reached out to him about their legal battles. The lower chamber voted to override the veto earlier Wednesday in a 105-2 vote.

Parson had said in his veto letter the money was covered in other areas of the budget. 

“The practice and procedures of this body, historically, have never allowed somebody to make a motion to override a veto when the sponsor of the bill denied to make that motion,” Schatz said. “We would be plowing new ground that would open the door for anyone to stand up on any bill.”

Eventually, Hegeman brought forth the veto override motion on the House which the Senate struck down in a narrow 15-13 vote (no/yes) after more than three hours of debate. Present Democrats voted alongside Sens. Eigel, Onder, Moon, Andrew Koenig, Eric Burlison, and Denny Hoskins on that motion. 

Prior to the vote, Hegeman and Rowden both decried the “disrespectful” actions of their conservative colleagues in the upper chamber throughout the day. 

“Never before in the history of this state has a senator been disrespected the way I have been today,” Hegeman said. 

“It’s clear a lot of people in this building are running for higher office. The magnitude of ignorance of things I’ve heard on the floor today is mind-boggling,” Rowden quipped, commending Hegeman for attempting to “appease children.” 

Other veto session business 

The House voted to override the veto of a section of HB 12 to create a Crimes Against Children Program in Lincoln County. Rep. Randy Pietzman, who brought the bill back to the floor in the House, said the community was overwhelmed with crimes against children and the $300,000 fund would help with the response. 

Gov. Mike Parson vetoed the measure due to its single-county earmark. Hegeman said he was “reluctant” to bring up the motion for a vote, noting a federal grant had already been secured since the end of session. Sen. Jeanie Riddle, who represents the county, said the money from the grant would be available sooner than a veto override. 

The override motion failed in the Senate with a 16-13 vote (yes/no) because it did not receive a two-thirds majority. 

The other measure passed by the House, a section from HB 11 to earmark $2 million for a 3 percent raise across the board for employees of the Children’s Division. Despite bipartisan support in the House, the upper chamber did not take it up. 

The House also overrode a veto on a section of HB 19 that would have earmarked $700,000 to create a community improvement district in Boone County, but the Senate did not take the measure up.