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Cast of characters to watch during veto session

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Sept. 10, 2013 - When it comes to overriding Gov. Jay Nixon's vetoes, the only numbers that matter are 109 and 23.

Those numbers, of course, represent the amount of people needed to override a veto in the Missouri House (109) and Senate (23).

But here are a few in a legislative "cast of characters" who may help determine whether those numbers are reached.

Rep. T.J. Berry, R-Kearney

The two-term lawmaker handled the tax cut legislation – also known as HB 253 – that’s consumed Missouri politics over the last few months. While the House Republican Caucus as a whole will decide whether to override the bill or not, it’s customary for the bill's sponsor to make the motion. 

Berry recently made news when he asked Nixon to call a special session to fix elements of the bill that Nixon has criticized. Whether that’s an acknowledgement that the votes aren’t there to advance HB 253 will be revealed tomorrow.

House Speaker Tim Jones, R-Eureka 

As the leader of the 109-person Republican caucus, Jones is responsible for mustering enough unity among GOP members to override Nixon’s vetoes. That’s especially the case since a number of the most controversial bills the governor objected to originated in the Missouri House.

House Republican leaders such as Jones and House Majority Leader John Diehl, R-Town and Country, will likely play the biggest roles in what gets brought up and what gets cast aside.

Rep. Jeff Roorda, D-Barnhart

Since coming back to the Missouri House for a non-consecutive fourth term, Roorda cast ‘yea’ votes on several bills that Nixon vetoed. That includes the income tax bill, the Second Amendment Preservation Act and legislation aimed at counteracting “Agenda 21.” He also supports overriding legislation curtailing punitive damages for Doe Run.

If Roorda votes to uphold any of the bills up for consideration during veto session, it may be a sign that moderate-to-conservative Democrats – such as Reps. Ed Scheiffer, D-Troy, Linda Black, D-Bonne Terre, and other Jefferson County Democratic lawmakers – will not be available to help Republicans override the governor’s objections. But if he and other House Democrats cross over, they could provide the critical support to push House bills to the Missouri Senate.

Rep. Nate Walker, R-Kirksville

Walker -- who returned to the Missouri House after an earlier stint in the 1980s -- made waves earlier this summer when he announced he wouldn’t vote to override HB 253, even though he had voted for it in May. That’s significant because Republicans have 109 members and three GOP lawmakers initially opposed the bill earlier this year.

Since that time, other House Republicans – including Reps. David Wood, R-Versailles, Don Phillips, R-Kimberling City, and Mike Thomson, R-Maryville – have expressed opposition to legislation. If lawmakers such as Walker stick with their guns, and the three Democrats that voted for HB 253 side with Nixon, then HB 253 is effectively dead. Tt may be worth watching to see what Walker and other GOP lawmakers wary about HB 253 decide on other bills up for consideration. 

Senate Majority Leader Ron Richard, R-Joplin

Besides being a key member of Senate Republican leadership, the former speaker of the House expressed some wariness to the Associated Press recently about overriding legislation removing Missourians who committed sex crimes as juveniles from the sex offender registry. He also told the Columbia Daily Tribune he was opposed to the Second Amendment Preservation Act, (HB436) which among other things seeks to "nullify" federal gun laws and bar federal officials from enforcing them.

While Richard is only one lawmaker, his decision-making on those bills could influence other legislators -- especially ones from in and around southwest Missouri.

Jason is the politics correspondent for St. Louis Public Radio.
Jo Mannies has been covering Missouri politics and government for almost four decades, much of that time as a reporter and columnist at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. She was the first woman to cover St. Louis City Hall, was the newspaper’s second woman sportswriter in its history, and spent four years in the Post-Dispatch Washington Bureau. She joined the St. Louis Beacon in 2009. She has won several local, regional and national awards, and has covered every president since Jimmy Carter. She scared fellow first-graders in the late 1950s when she showed them how close Alaska was to Russia and met Richard M. Nixon when she was in high school. She graduated from Valparaiso University in northwest Indiana, and was the daughter of a high school basketball coach. She is married and has two grown children, both lawyers. She’s a history and movie buff, cultivates a massive flower garden, and bakes banana bread regularly for her colleagues.

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