Fate of bills passed rests with governor

Tuesday, May 21, 2002

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- Missouri lawmakers proposed more than 2,000 pieces of legislation and passed about 10 percent of those during their recently concluded 2002 session.

So now what?

After lawmakers spent five months, countless hours in hearings and lengthy debate on the legislation, the fate of most those measures now rests with Gov. Bob Holden.

Three of the 216 measures passed by lawmakers will go straight to the ballot, letting voters decide their final fates. But all other bills must pass muster with the governor to become law.

"Ultimately, the final decision on whether something is signed or not lands with the governor himself," said Jerry Nachtigal, Holden's spokesman. "People take a deep breath after getting a very tumultuous session over with and now begin what is really an equally arduous task of reviewing 200-plus bills."

A few bills already been signed into law, including a supplemental spending bill for the fiscal year ending June 30 and revisions to the state's statute of limitations for rape and sodomy charges.

Decision by July 14

Those bills were passed early in the session. But for most legislation, Holden has until July 14 to decide whether to veto, sign or let a bill become law without his signature.

The majority of bills would take effect Aug. 28, but 12 would become law immediately upon Holden's signature, including two designed to supply money for Missouri's otherwise underfunded state budget.

Before Holden decides whether to sign bills, they are reviewed by state agencies, the state budget office and various staffers within the governor's office.

The governor's office does not have a chief legal counsel.

Glenn Norton, Holden's former chief legal adviser, left his position earlier this year after the governor appointed him to the Eastern District state Court of Appeals in St. Louis. In his place, assistant chief counsel Chris Bauman will perform the legal reviews, Nachtigal said.

Last year, Holden vetoed eight bills. Holden also vetoed portions of Missouri's budget, reducing the spending amounts authorized by lawmakers. Holden has until July 1 -- the beginning of the 2003 fiscal year -- to sign or veto the bills that make up next fiscal year's nearly $18.9 billion operating budget.

The governor could veto expenditures he opposes, or he could trim dollar amounts if he believes it is necessary to balance the budget. Among the measures that will bypass Holden's desk is one asking voters this August to approve sales and fuel tax increases for transportation.

The measure is expected to raise $511 million.

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