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Mo. senator to try overriding veto on student curator vote

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- A state senator said Tuesday that he will try to override Gov. Matt Blunt's veto of legislation giving voting privileges to the student member of the University of Missouri Board of Curators.

The legislature is to convene at noon today to consider whether to override bills vetoed by the Republican governor. It takes 109 votes in the House and 23 votes in the Senate to override a veto.

The legislation allowing student curators to vote has received more attention than other bills Blunt vetoed, including several state spending items and a measure that would have allowed lawmakers to get a personal key to the Capitol's dome.

The measure in question would have given voting rights to the university governing board's student curator if Missouri loses a congressional district as a result of the 2010 census. The student member would not have been allowed to vote on hiring and firing decisions except for the president of the four-campus system.

The legislation passed the Senate 31-2, and the House 100-47, despite objections from the board of curators, which voted 7-1 to oppose the legislation. Blunt vetoed the bill in July, calling it "riddled with problems."

The board currently has nine voting members -- one from each of Missouri's congressional districts. A student serves as a 10th, nonvoting member.

Sen. Chuck Graham, the measure's sponsor, said during a news conference Tuesday that he will try to override Blunt's veto.

"They don't happen very often, so it's very difficult to do that," said Graham, D-Columbia. "But you know, it's a unique year. We have a lame-duck governor."

Blunt announced in January he would not seek re-election. Since the Republicans took control of state government in 2005, Democrats have tried several times -- unsuccessfully -- to override vetoes.

House Speaker Pro Tem Bryan Pratt, who sponsored the legislation in his chamber, was also trying to build support for overriding the veto. But Pratt, R-Blue Springs, said Tuesday evening he was not optimistic there will be enough votes.

The last time the Legislature successfully overrode a veto was in 2003, when the Republican-controlled House and Senate overrode three by Democratic Gov. Bob Holden.

Graham acknowledged it would be difficult to get support for overturning Blunt from the necessary two-thirds of the Legislature, even though he doesn't think anything has changed to lead fewer lawmakers to support allowing the student curator to vote.

Blunt spokesman Rich Chrismer said Tuesday that allowing the student representative to vote "is a controversial change that failed to win the support of the higher education community."

Blunt, in a July letter explaining the veto, identified six problems, including giving students a specific vote on the board when no other university group does.

Blunt also said that allowing the student representative to vote would have created geographic imbalances on a board that is otherwise divided by congressional district. And he noted that student representatives serve two-year terms instead of the standard six-year term for the curators.

Craig Stevenson, the chairman of a lobby group for those enrolled at University of Missouri system schools, said the bill's critics are wrong to presume that the student curator doesn't serve on the board long enough to fully understand the issues facing the universities.

Curators "vote in their first two years, so do we need to take a look at that and see if traditional curators should vote in their first two years, if the complexities are so great?" said Stevenson, who is a student at the Columbia campus.


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