The Constitution allows that when a bill is passed by both chambers of the Legislature, the Governor has the option to veto any bill. He generally does so with an explanation of what his objections are to the measure. Following that, the House and Senate convene to review the bills that have been vetoed. If both the House and Senate vote to pass the legislation “the Governor’s objections thereto not withstanding”, and if 2/3 of the members of each body are in favor of the override, then the bill becomes law in spite of the Governor’s opposition.
This year there were 29 bills that the Governor vetoed. Of those, the General Assembly enacted 10 bills, “The Governor’s objections thereto not withstanding”. Veto session is now complete and so all the legislation that was considered and passed in the spring session is now settled. Some bills remained negated by the Governor, but 10 were over ridden. There have only been 24 veto overrides in the history of the state, with 16 of those occurring when only a simple majority was required. This veto session was not only historic in scope but a real indicator of the legislature’s willingness to work together to secure numerous, significant policy victories for Missourians. This information is made available through the House Research department.
Two of the bills that got a lot of attention leading up to the Veto Session were HB 253, a tax cut bill and HB 436, a 2nd Amendment bill.
House Bill 253 would have provided tax relief to Missourians, including individuals and small businesses, to be phased in over ten years. The Governor vetoed the bill and he contended that its provisions would lead to cuts in education. I feel that a tax reduction for our citizens and for our businesses that are the source of jobs for our people is very much needed. The tax cuts were to be phased in and most of the reductions were to occur only if revenue in the state had increased at least 100 million dollars. I strongly supported HB 253 and voted to override the Governor’s veto. Missouri ranks 47th in economic growth over the last decade, and we have been lagging behind our neighboring states for many years. It is time to make our state a better environment for the engines of our economy and jobs- our small businesses. Leading up to the vote, the Governor traveled around the state, using taxpayer’s dollars to do that, to promote his point of view. He is entitled to do that, and I don’t slight him for that. However, the information he was putting out was not accurate. When he scared educators into thinking that there would be less money for the schools systems, he did all of us a disservice. In order for there to be less for education, general revenue to the state would have to decline. That is what is constitutionally required for the governor to withhold funds that have been appropriated by the Legislature. Much of the tax cuts would not take place unless revenues in fact went up by more than 100 million dollars. In addition there is evidence from Kansas and Oklahoma which have recently cut taxes as well as in states where there is no state income tax that such tax policies lead to increased overall revenue, even though the rates that people and businesses pay goes down. If we do not create an environment for small businesses to thrive, we will attract and keep fewer of them which will mean fewer jobs in our state. Fewer people working equates to diminishing tax revenue and a mentality that more needs to be extracted from those who are still in the state. That line of thinking and strategic course only leads to more exodus and therefore a downward spiral such as happened in Detroit. With declining revenues in that city, its leaders cannot simply jack up the taxes on those who remain; the people won’t stand for it, and they too will leave and business owners would just quit. Instead, you have to create the type of environment that is conducive to small business. During this debate, in the weeks leading up to the veto session, Governor Rick Perry of Texas came to Missouri to encourage us to follow their lead and the lead of a number of other prosperous states and reduce the tax burden on our citizens and businesses. Missouri’s Governor and those on the side of bigger government and higher taxes cried foul, and said that Governor Perry should not be coming here to Missouri to rob us of what jobs we have left. To that line of thought my reply is simple. Rather than fear that a Governor from another state would come here and convince businesses to relocate out of Missouri, stack the deck against the other states. Do that by creating a business environment that is superior or at least as good as the other states. The next step is then for our Governor to go to other states and inform people of all of the advantages that Missouri has to offer that make it a great place to establish or expand a business. That is the American way, and that is the way of the future. To complain about Governor Perry’s visit to Missouri is to contend that our people should be kept in the dark, no fair telling them of the advantages available in other states- keep our folks in the dark, so we can continue to extract more of their hard earned money than would be the case in a nearby state.
Page 2 of 8 - The second bill deals with the second amendment, the right to keep and bear arms. HB 436 was a strong assertion of the 10th amendment. I firmly believe that the federal government, with all three branches is not authorized to be the sole and final arbiter of which laws that it creates are constitutional and which are not. The federal government has a conflict of interest in that regard. The states gave the federal government its limited powers and retained all other powers. The Supremacy clause is at the heart of this dispute between those who believe in the constitution as written and strictly interpreted and those who believe it is just a general set of guidelines that can be ignored when it suits their purpose. I happen to believe that the constitution was specifically constructed to protect against abuses that the founding fathers knew were likely to recur. They envisioned that the Constitution and laws made “in the pursuance thereof” would be the supreme law of the land. Some think that means the federal government shall reign supreme in all matters once a law is on the books. However, when a law is made that is not in the pursuance of the constitution then it is of no effect and is null and void. Who decides this? The states! The states are the parents in the relationship; it is the states that created the federal government and not the other way around. Therefore if a law is enacted by the legislative branch of the federal government and upheld by the judicial branch of that same government that is not the end of the story. Nowhere does it say that the federal government gets to be the final judge of which laws are made in the pursuance of the constitution. If a power is not explicitly given to the federal government then that power is retained by the states or by the people. The states retain the authority to determine if a law is made in the pursuance of the constitution and if it is not in the pursuance of the constitution, then that the law in question is null and void.
Therefore, when it comes to the second amendment, the state of Missouri shall have the final say as to whether laws made restricting the use of firearms by its citizens is in pursuance of the constitution or not. HB 436 does quite a number of things, but chief among them is to declare that the state of Missouri will be the judge of what laws are constitutional and which are not when it concerns the second amendment. Those of you who followed these Capitol Reports each week during the spring session are aware that HB 436 has a great many more provisions that make sense and protect our second amendment rights. Included in its provisions is my bill that helps to prevent the federal (or state) government from using our electronic medical records as a back door to establish a gun registry. It also provided for a school safety officer program that in my view would be the most effective deterrent to the mass killing of innocent students in schools. In past shootings when the shooter is first confronted by an armed individual, he generally takes his own life as a way out of this confrontation. The provisions of the school safety officer program which provides for extensive training in addition to concealed carry permit training to willing teachers, or administrators in our schools. In this way, the time from brandishing a gun to confrontation by another armed individual is made much shorter and therefore the number of deaths or injuries will be reduced substantially. There was a problem with a part of the bill which prevented the publication of lists of gun owners which I was made aware of during the spring session but after HB 436 was passed. The unintended consequences of this provision were that any publication of gun ownership would have potentially been a violation of the law. When this was discovered, I met with a Senator and sought legal opinions and proceeded to amend SB 75 to include language that was more focused and did not involve the unintended consequences of restricting gun ownership publication such as with a photo of a father and son who just bagged his first turkey in youth season. With the language of SB 75 in place, I was comfortable moving forward with HB 436 since the less restrictive language was sitting in statute and could be used until the unintended problem in HB 436 could be corrected in January. In the end, the House passed HB 436 with a super majority, but it failed in the House by a vote of 22 to 12.
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Overview of Vetoed Bills Soon to be Law
The legislature fell short in its efforts to override the governor’s veto of the income tax cut bill and the Second Amendment Preservation Act, but the House and Senate were able to put several other bills of substance on the path to becoming law. These pieces of legislation will go into effect as the law of the land in 30 days. Overviews of some of the bills are provided below.
HB 19 (Appropriations Bill)
We overrode the governor’s line item veto in HB 19 to authorize the appropriation of $1 million for the reconstruction of the Pike-Lincoln Technical Center in Northeast Missouri that was gutted by a fire in 2011. The facility provides critical vocational-technical services to the young people and adults who are trying to obtain the skills necessary to land the jobs of today and tomorrow. While the facility was insured, it does not have the financial resources to repair and construct facilities to serve the needs of the many people in the area who want vo-tech training. Specifically, the bill will help provide the additional funding to equip the building with computers and to make it accessible to people with disabilities. We believe in training our young people for the jobs they will need to sustain and support a family and for that reason we overrode the governor’s veto in a bipartisan fashion to appropriate this money for an extremely worthy cause. Unfortunately, the governor immediately withheld this money from the budget despite our override. We will do our best in the coming weeks to convince the governor that releasing these dollars is the right thing to do.
HB278 (Federal Holidays Bill)
The legislature came together to stand in defense of our rights to publicly celebrate federal holidays such as Independence Day, Thanksgiving and Christmas by overriding the governor’s veto of HB 278. It’s unfortunate that we have reached the point where legislation is necessary to protect these rights, but we have seen in recent years a continued assault on the public celebration of Christmas and other holidays. In fact, some parents have dealt with situations where their children are prohibited from singing Christmas carols at school. We passed HB 278 during the regular session to defend our rights to celebrate these holidays openly. The bill makes it clear that any state or local governmental entity; public building, park, or school; or public setting or place is not allowed to ban or restrict the practice, mention, celebration, or discussion of any federal holiday. It is a change to our state statutes that would protect everyone’s right to practice a federally deemed holiday in a public place.
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HB339 (Auto Insurance Reform Bill)
By overriding the veto on HB 339 we sent a strong message to Missourians that they should abide by our laws and obtain automobile insurance before getting behind the wheel. Right now we know some 22 percent of Missouri drivers are uninsured. Under this bill, drivers who lack insurance will give up their ability to sue and collect for noneconomic damages in an accident that involves an insured driver even if the insured driver is at fault.
We were careful to make certain there are some exceptions to this provision. For example, if the insured driver was under the influence of drugs or alcohol or guilty of a serious crime, the limitations on lawsuits would not apply. In addition, uninsured motorists who lost coverage within the last six months would not be restricted under this law.
Keep in mind also that the bill only limits damages for pain and suffering, which were not traditional categories of relief under the common law. We believe this is a positive step forward and a new law that will encourage people to comply with the insurance requirement, limit lawsuits against law-abiding citizens, and prevent those without insurance from driving up costs for the system.
HB650 (Tort Reform Bill)
We overrode the governor’s veto of HB 650 to protect more than 1,500 family-supporting jobs in the mining industry right here in Missouri. In addition, the bill will help save more than 6,000 supporting jobs. Right now the Doe Run Company is exposed to heavy liability because of a large number of lawsuits that were filed in 2005 before a law capping punitive damages in all lawsuits took effect. Keep in mind, the company has been a good steward of the environment here in Missouri. In fact, the company has already spent more than $60 million in remediation and cleanup efforts and also has developed new technology to reduce emissions in lead smelting by 99 percent.
The bill we approved bars awards of punitive damages related to property where mining ceased before 1975 if the owner can show "good faith" efforts to clean it up. It also caps punitive damage awards at $2.5 million. By protecting this important Missouri business we can save important jobs that would otherwise be lost and preserve a company that has worked in good faith to remediate this issue since it obtained the property in 1994.
HB1035 (Political Subdivisions Bill)
Page 5 of 8 - Another vetoed bill overridden by the legislature is a good government bill that makes several important changes that will now go into effect despite the governor’s efforts.
Under current law, when a county clerk makes a mistake on a form submitted to the State Auditor's Office by simply putting a number in the wrong box, it can cause the tax rate ceiling to be lowered for that taxing district. The bill allows an amended form to fix a mistake or clerical error. The bill gives the State Auditor’s Office control of when amended returns can be done and provides the opportunity to go back and fix a mistake. Third classification counties are on a four year audit cycle so a mistake can affect several years.
One county imposed a sales tax and was required to rollback its property tax. The clerk marked the voluntary rollback by mistake and thereby lowered the tax rate ceiling for the county. The bill will allow a change to a required rollback which is what the voters passed.
SB 9 (Agriculture Omnibus Bill)
The bill protects our state’s number one industry – agriculture – by making important changes on our laws regarding animal abuse and neglect. Right now, under Missouri law, a livestock owner who has animals that break through a fence and are unconfined for any period of time can be charged with the crime of animal abuse or neglect. While it is hard to believe, a livestock owner who has cows that get loose could actually be jailed for the “offense”.
The bill we passed will give livestock owners a reasonable amount of time to get their animals back under control and allow the state to avoid needlessly punishing responsible animal owners.In addition, the bill places harsher penalties on cattle rustling and cattle theft, which has been a major problem in southwest Missouri.
The bill also contains provisions to develop a comprehensive long-range strategic plan for career and technical education in Missouri.
In addition, the governor vetoed SB 9 in part because of his concerns with a provision regarding foreign ownership of Missouri agricultural land. Right now our state prohibits foreign ownership of farmland and yet we have seen thousands of acres owned by those from outside our country who have found a way around the law. SB 9 is meant to grandfather in some of the foreign individuals and entities who already own Missouri land and have been responsible and productive in doing so. It also gives some teeth to our laws on this issue by giving the director of agriculture some say in future purchases of our land, and by putting a cap on those purchases.
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Child Custody and Visitation Rights for Active Duty Military Members (SB 110)
The legislature came together to override the governor’s veto of SB 110 to establish the child custody and visitation rights of a deploying military parent. The bill is meant to protect deployed military members from having their custody orders changed while they are unavailable to respond to any court actions brought by the other parent.
Its provides deployed military parents the right to attend a hearing modifying visitation rights to his or her child. Also, the bills require 30 days before such a hearing can be conducted after the affected person returns home from deployment. In addition, the bills require that communications between parent and child are maintained even during the deployment.
Volunteer Health Services Act (SB129)
By overriding the governor’s veto of SB 129 and placing the bill into law, we will eliminate an enormous barrier that has prevented many health care professionals from volunteering their services in times of need. The threat of litigation and the need for expensive medical malpractice insurance have prevented many capable health care professionals from providing their services during emergencies. This bill is designed to ensure Missourians continue to receive quality care, and that health care practitioners are not subjected to overly-burdensome regulations or frivolous litigation.
The bill will exempt a volunteer health care provider from civil liability unless they exhibit gross negligence or willful misconduct in providing their services. The bill also will allow health care professionals to provide services within their scope of practice without the need for additional licensing or certification.
Tennessee created the model for this program in the 1990s and has used it to great effect to provide free medical care to their neediest citizens. We want to encourage our doctors and nurses to volunteer their time and their expertise to provide quality care to those who need it. The Volunteer Health Services Act will remove some of the barriers currently in place to ensure that can happen.
Voting by Videoconference (SB 170)
The governor vetoed a bill sponsored by a legislator in his own party when he prevented SB 170 from becoming law. We overrode that veto in a bipartisan fashion to allow a member of a governmental body to cast a vote by videoconference. This is something that 35 other states already allow.
Current law requires members to be physically present and in attendance at the meeting to vote. But as we all know, changes to technology have made the use of videoconferencing much more prevalent. Allowing members of school boards and fire protection districts to vote in this way would ease the burdens of travel and time constraints that many public servants face. It also is important to note that the bill does not apply to members of the Missouri General Assembly.
Page 7 of 8 - SB 265 also known as Agenda 21 failed in the override attempt by a vote of 107 to 53 in the House. Legislation that was approved by the General Assembly but vetoed by the governor would have barred state or local officials from adopting policies outlined in a 1992 United Nations document that could affect private property rights. The measure was designed to take aim at "Agenda 21," a UN agreement signed by 178 nations that encourages sustainable development. The agreement encourages environmentally friendly and sustainable practices around the world, with suggestions from the international level down to cities and towns. Our concern is that the agreement will infringe on the private property rights of Missourians without due process.
In his veto letter Governor Nixon stated “It is fundamentally misguided and unnecessary to require local government officials to become international law experts in order to perform their duties. This legislation would spawn endless litigation frivolously attacking governmental action based on a belief that a two decades old United Nations resolution is somehow shaping decisions regarding such issues as health codes and road projects.”
SB 267 also known as Civil Liberties Defense Act or the Sharia Law bill was also defeated in the House attempt at an override to the Governor’s veto. This failed by a vote of 109-52. This bill would have ensured that court rulings based on laws made outside the U.S. are unenforceable in Missouri if those laws violate the state or U.S. constitutions. The bill would have prevented Missouri courts from using policies that come from outside the United States that also violate constitutional guarantees.
Governor Nixon stated in his veto letter that it would “have a chilling effect on foreign adoptions.” And that “This obstacle would complicate an already challenging process facing a Missouri couple seeking to adopt a child from another country whose legal system is deemed “inconsistent” with ours.
This Past Weekend
On Saturday, October 5, The Phelps County Republican Committee had a picnic/BBQ at Lions Club Park and had a number of speakers. The Keynote Speaker was our Lieutenant Governor, Peter Kinder, followed by Senator Dan Brown and yours truly. Local elected officials including Larry Stratman, our District 1 Commissioner, John Beger our Prosecuting Attorney, Kathy Oliver, our Phelps County Public Administrator, and Sue Brown, our Circuit Clerk gave updates to those gathered as well. Judge Bill Hickle also participated in the event. We presented our views on issues of the day and where we see things headed in our state. In addition, I was able to coordinate with Congressman Jason Smith and his staff to provide a cell phone hook-up to a sound system that I use for such events. While Congressman Smith was in Washington, D.C., he was able to address the crowd at Lions Club Park and update them on the work he has been doing on our behalf during this difficult time of federal government shutdown. All in all we had a very fine event in spite of the rain and concluded the event just before the brunt of it hit the area.
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