In just a few weeks my colleagues and I will return to the State Capitol for what should be a very eventful veto session. The veto session is mandated by the Missouri Constitution and is held each year to give the legislature an opportunity to consider bills approved by the General Assembly but vetoed by the governor.
In many years the session is a short one as there are few vetoed bills that legislators would consider. That’s not the case this year as we have several bills that may be brought up for an override attempt. A veto override requires a two-thirds majority, or 109 votes in the House and 23 in the Senate, in order to undo the action of the governor and put the bill into law.
Because such overwhelming support is necessary, overrides rarely happen. Of course, the last time an override was successfully attempted was in 2011 when we overrode the governor’s veto of the congressional redistricting map. That override relied on votes from both parties, which any other overrides we attempt will require as well. On Wednesday, September 12 we will find out whether we have the support to override any of the 14 bills vetoed by Governor Nixon.
One piece of legislation that will almost certainly be discussed during the annual veto session was passed by the General Assembly to protect employers who have a religious or moral objection to providing a health plan that offers coverage for abortion, contraception or sterilization. Governor Nixon chose to veto the bill that would have protected religious-affiliated institutions such as hospitals and colleges from being forced by the federal Affordable Care Act to offer coverage for contraception.
Because the bill originated in the Senate, the override attempt will have to start there and be approved before it moves to the House. During the regular session the bill received 26 votes in the Senate, which is more than enough to support an override. In the House, the bill received 105 votes during the regular session, or four short of what is needed for an override. However, more than 20 legislators missed the vote on this important bill and most of them support the measure. We’re confident the House will have the votes to sustain an override motion.
I look forward to voting with my colleagues in September to override the governor’s veto so that we can put this important protection into law. By enacting this measure we can reaffirm that neither employers nor health plan providers in Missouri will be forced to cover services that contradict their religious or moral convictions.