Third veto of Holden passed by legislature

Saturday, September 13, 2003

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- The House of Representatives capped the Missouri Legislature's three-day veto session Friday by overruling Gov. Bob Holden's rejection of a bill designed to derail St. Louis city's lawsuit against gun manufacturers.

On a 116-36 vote supporting an override, the House achieved the required two-thirds majority with seven votes to spare. A day earlier, the Senate provided the minimum needed support for override on a 23-10 vote.

Republicans run both legislative chambers. Holden is a Democrat.

The bill, which takes effect Oct. 12, will bar city and county governments and the state itself from suing firearms manufacturers and dealers over the social costs of gun violence.

Senate President Pro Tem Peter Kinder, R-Cape Girardeau, has sponsored the bill for several years in an attempt to stop such a lawsuit filed St. Louis city in 1999. That case has bounced from state court to federal court and back again over the years but hasn't gone to trial.

"I think it's great that the elected representatives of the people in this extraordinary act of overriding the governor's veto have put on our statute books a statement that says this far and no further when it comes to the abuse of our court system with frivolous lawsuits," Kinder said.

St. Louis city counselor Patti Hageman told The Associated Press the city would challenge the new law.

"The legislature can't just come in and pass a retroactive law to apply to pending suits," Hageman said.

When he vetoed the measure in July, Holden said it is the responsibility of the judicial branch, not the legislature, to determine the merits of a case.

Although Holden appeared in the chamber just before the issue was taken up for debate, he said he wasn't putting any last-minute pressure on House Democrats to sustain his veto.

"These members of the General Assembly should vote on these issues and vote their conscience," Holden said.

The gun lawsuits bill was the third the legislature enacted into law this year over Holden's objections, giving the Democrat a place in history as the only Missouri governor ever overruled by lawmakers on more than one issue.

On Thursday, lawmakers overrode the governor on one bill allowing residents to obtain permits to carry concealed weapons and another imposing a 24-hour waiting period on women seeking an abortion.

All of Southeast Missouri's senators and representatives -- including three Democrats -- voted to override on each of the three issues.

During debate on Kinder's bill, state Rep. Larry Crawford, R-California, compared holding the gun industry responsible for violent acts illegally committed with their products to saying an ink pen producer causes bad checks to be written.

"This is a common-sense piece of legislation," said Crawford, the bill's House handler.

Opponents claimed the bill would give the gun industry a lawsuit-exempt status that other interest groups will soon demand.

"Protections for a special industry is really against our public interest," said state Rep. Russ Carnahan, D-St. Louis.

The measure specifically states that state resident lawsuits over defective firearms or ammunition won't be affected by the law.

The bill is SB 13.

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List of veteo overrides

2003: Democratic Gov. Bob Holden overridden on banning the state and its cities and counties from suing the firearms industry over the social costs of gun violence.

2003: Holden overridden on imposing a 24-hour waiting period on abortions.

2003: Holden overridden on allowing law-abiding citizens to obtain permits to carry concealed weapons.

1999: Democratic Gov. Mel Carnahan overridden on banning a certain late-term abortion procedure.

1980: Democratic Gov. Joe Teasdale overridden on an appropriation for construction of the Truman State Office Building.

1976: Republican Gov. Kit Bond overridden on a nursing practices act.

1855: Democratic Gov. Sterling Price overridden on two private bills relating to railroad construction.

1839: Democratic Gov. Lilbourn Boggs overridden on establishing a criminal court in St. Louis County.

1833: Democratic Gov. Daniel Dunklin overridden on 12 private bills granting divorces. (At the time, an act of the legislature was required to get divorced.)

1820: Democratic-Republican Gov. Alexander McNair, Missouri's first chief executive, overridden on legislative pay.

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