Missouri Legislature Overturns Veto, Massachusetts, Wisconsin Minus Budget
By Joseph Giordono, Staff Writer
Democratic Gov. Mel Carnahan became only the third Missouri governor this century to have a veto overridden after the state's House voted 127-34 and the Senate 27-7 to override his veto of a controversial abortion bill. Carnahan's veto of the Infant Protection Act created the most bitter political fight in the state in years.
Supporters of the act say it bans abortion at the latter stages of pregnancy. Opponents charge that it outlaws abortion at the beginning of pregnancy and endangers doctors and pregnant women. The ambiguity of the bill was the major reason for Carnahan's veto, he said.
The bill also outlawed abortions in cases of rape, incest or when the life and health of the mother is threatened.
Wednesday and Thursday's votes marked a major loss for the second term governor, who after a summer of arm-twisting could get only two lawmakers to change their votes. In a news conference after the House vote, Carnahan had promised to call a special session to enact a constitutional ban on "partial birth abortion" if the Senate override push is abandoned.
But the Senate voted to override the veto anyway, making the law take effect immediately. Abortion rights groups gained a temporary court injunction late Friday, delaying the law for 10 days. At that time, a federal judge will set a trial date for a lawsuit brought today by Planned Parenthood.
The veto session has not been all bad news for Carnahan, as the House refused to join the Senate in overriding his veto of a crime bill designed to reduce prison overcrowding.
The bill encouraged judges to send fewer non-violent offenders to prison, thereby freeing space for violent prisoners. Carnahan supported that part of the bill, but vetoed it because of a section that would have allowed some criminals to avoid jail by paying into special county law enforcement funds.
In other state legislative action, lawmakers in Massachusetts and Wisconsin marked Day 75 of their respective budget deadlocks in slightly different ways.
Wisconsin legislators finally bowed to pressure from Governor Tommy Thompson and agreed to resume negotiations that were broken off two months ago. Although no definite time-frame was set, the eight-member Senate and House budget conference committee was expected to begin meeting again by week's end.
Meanwhile, the first casualty from Massachusetts' budget battle surfaced this week. Fire departments statewide are being forced to abandon their annual Student Awareness Fire Education program, which teaches elementary students what to do in case of a fire.
The Massachusetts budget remains stuck in negotiations between Democratic legislative leaders with diverging fiscal priorities.