(Updated 12:15 a.m. Friday, July 11)
With more vetoes still likely, Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon already has set a record for vetoes during his tenure – with 31 amassed so far for this year’s legislative session.
Nixon’s tally already is larger than his previous record of 29, set last year. He has until Monday to sign or veto bills -- or allow them to become law without his signature.
The General Assembly will have a chance in September to attempt to override his vetoes. Last year's override tally of 10 was the most in 180 years.
Nixon's six vetoes on Thursday included two bills affecting consumer lending. Nixon said that Senate Bill 694, which restricted some payday loan rates, “provides false hope of true payday lending reform while in reality falling far short of the mark.”
The bill restricts some loans to interest rates of 35 percent – down from the 455 percent in annual interest that can be charged now. But Nixon noted that the new measure still could have allowed lenders to charge an interest rate of 912.5 percent for a 14-day loan, and “borrowers could still be offered multiple loans by multiple lenders at the same time or be encouraged to take out back-to-back loans from the same lender.”
The upshot, said Nixon, was that SB 694 “appears to be part of a coordinated effort by the payday loan industry to avoid more meaningful reform.”
The bill's chief sponsor -- Sen. Mike Cunningham, R-Rogersville -- said late Thursday that he was "very disappointed'' by Nixon's veto. While acknowledging that the bill had some shortcomings, Cunningham called it "a major first step in changing the industry."
He said the bill sought to address "the cycle of debt'' that confronts many payday-loan recipients because of the high interest rates.
Supporters of the veto include several major religious coalitions around the state, including Metropolitan Congregations United of St. Louis. In a joint statement, the groups praised Nixon for vetoing what they called a “sham’’ attempt at reform.
"Enshrining 900 percent interest rates into law is not reform, it is moral cowardice,” the groups said in their joint release.
The second bill to be vetoed also affected consumer-lending institutions. Senate Bill 866 would have created a term -- “traditional installment lender” – to describe unlicensed lenders. In his veto message, Nixon said that the bill’s new term would have negated existing local ordinances governing such lenders, such as zoning that restricted their locations. “Such an erosion of local control is unacceptable,” Nixon said.
Nixon’s other vetoes on Thursday included:
- Senate Bill 575 to “limit the requirement for an actuarial analysis of health insurance benefit mandates and repeal the MO HealthNet Oversight Committee”;
- Senate Bill 675, which would have allowed local governments to transfer administration of a police or firefighter retirement plan without a vote of the plan’s trustees;
- House Bill 1359, which would have allowed the sale of alcohol in the state Capitol on certain occasions, such as anniversaries of the state Capitol and honoring Missouri’s bicentennial. Nixon said such sales ran counter to the atmosphere created by the annual visits by “thousands of children and their families’’ to the historic Capitol.
The governor previously vetoed controversial bills that would have tripled Missouri’s waiting period for women seeking abortions to 72 hours and revamped the state's school-transfer system for students in accredited districts. He also has vetoed several bills offering tax breaks for various businesses or activities – from pregnancy resource centers to dry cleaners.
This week's vetoes included a bill that would have redefined deer as "livestock'' to help farmers who have been penning up the animals for hunters.
Still awaiting action are high-profile measures that would affect state education policy and expand gun rights – the latter lowering the concealed-carry minimum age in Missouri to 19 and allowing teachers to be armed in public schools.