Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Additional Notes on the Missouri Presidential Primary Situation

FHQ has stated already that we are not nearly as pessimistic about the proposed move of the Missouri presidential primary to March as we were when the news broke last week that the special session legislation (HB 3) to actually move the primary became lodged in the state Senate. That is because there is still one escape valve that the Republican majority can use that will also move the primary to March 6: a veto override of SB 282.1

Of course, it would help if we had confirmation that this was actually an option. On that front, however, there are conflicting signals from the two chambers of the Missouri General Assembly. The House is saying on the one hand that the September 14 veto session was a one-day event and has concluded. The Senate, on the other, indicates that a veto override of SB 282 is still possible.

Which is right?

Procedurally, the legislature has a ten day window in which to consider overriding a gubernatorial veto. While the House has completed its veto override business for 2011, the Senate may yet send some more actionable bills its way. The veto session operates not unlike executive sessions in the US Senate. The Senate will basically hit the pause button on what it is working on to go into executive session to consider executive branch nominations to various posts. In listening into the session last Wednesday in the Missouri Senate, it appears that the mechanism is the same in the Missouri General Assembly. The Senate stopped off its discussion of a handful of House-passed special session bills and went into veto session for a couple of hours before returning to raise the issues that have come to the fore with the presidential primary bill (HB 3).

Technically, then, if the Senate successfully overrides Nixon's veto of SB 282 -- the seemingly only available option to move the primary to March 6 -- then the bill would presumably go over the House and that chamber could likewise enter a veto session to consider the bill. And that can take place within the ten calendar day window discussed above. In other words, since both chambers had veto sessions on September  14, each would have to act on a veto override on or before Friday, September 23 (this coming Friday).

Either the veto will be overridden by the end of the work week or the special session will or will not extend into next week to resolve the conflict over the special session legislation. One option will be off the table at the end of the week though. And the the viability of that veto override option will depend to a great degree on how ominous the passage of HB 3 is throughout the rest of this week as well. If a block of that bill is firmed up, the chances of a veto override increase. But if a deal can be cut on the primary or caucus -- via HB 3 -- then the override becomes a distant memory. The way Senate Republicans are playing this, however, makes it look like they are only giving Democrats in the legislature one escape route: the override.

The Republican majority will need four Democrats in the House to override any veto. The Democrats may feel the pressure to go along with the override if they are faced with a non-compliant presidential primary.2

1 After a rather circuitous route through the legislature (follow the path via the Missouri tag), SB 282 was vetoed by Missouri Governor Jay Nixon (D). The governor did this not to keep the Show Me state presidential primary in a non-compliant February position on the calendar, but to prevent the legislative branch from curbing executive power in the area of statewide vacancy appointments. To kill the part the governor did not like, then, he had to kill the whole bill.

2 Then again, Missouri Democrats could always lean on the already-scheduled March 29 caucuses as a means of allocating delegates to the Democratic convention. But that would mean potentially adopting a caucus/convention system long term; something with which the state party may or may not be comfortable.

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