Veto session ends with no action, plenty of memories

Friday, September 17, 2004

By David A. Lieb ~ The Associated Press

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- Teary-eyed Missouri legislators adjourned their annual veto session Thursday -- saddened not for failing to override any vetoes but because some of them will never cast another vote due to term limits.

Perhaps no one was more heartbroken than Sen. Jim Mathewson, a 30-year lawmaker who served a record eight years as president pro tem of the Senate.

With no official work to do, Mathewson rose several times to speak Thursday, extending just a little bit longer what he mournfully described as "the last time I'll ever stand on this floor."

"This isn't a happy day for me -- it's the end of 30 years of my life," said Mathewson, D-Sedalia. "People ask me almost every day, 'What are you going to do?' I don't have a clue. You know why? Because I don't accept that I can't be here. I haven't accepted it."

A ballot measure approved by voters in 1992 limited politicians to roughly eight years in each the House and Senate. The clock started ticking with the 1994 election, making 2002 the first year that many longtime lawmakers were prohibited from seeking re-election.

Because senators serve four-year terms, the term-limits clock did not start until 1996 for a handful of them, including Mathewson, whose time ran out this year.

Senators spent about three hours Wednesday honoring their departing colleagues.

But Mathewson still wasn't ready to go.

"To stay in the Senate -- that's what I want," he said Thursday. "Unfortunately, I can't do that."

Legislators' terms officially end in January, when a new batch of elected officials are sworn into office. But the legislature is not scheduled to be in session again before then.

The veto session lasted just two days, and senators failed Wednesday in their only attempt to override one Gov. Bob Holden's vetoes, on a bill that would have set up a resolution process for disputes between homebuilders and buyers. The House of Representatives made no attempt to override any vetoes.

Because there was little controversy this year, some lawmakers spent a good chunk of time attending parties and fund raisers. Senators on Thursday also dedicated the back gallery of the chamber -- restricted for use by senators only -- in honor of former Senate administrator Ron Kirchoff, who died in April.

Last year, legislators overrode three of Holden's vetoes -- matching the total number of veto overrides that had occurred since the Civil War. Included were the overrides of two especially contentious bills legalizing concealed guns and restricting abortions.

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