Gov. Jay Nixon’s vetoes of tax cut and gun bills stand in Missouri

09/11/2013 2:38 PM

09/12/2013 8:37 AM

JGov. Jay Nixon saw a historic number of his vetoes go down Wednesday at the hands of a Republican-dominated General Assembly.

But in the end, he was able to claim victory on the year’s two most high-profile issues — a $700 million tax cut and a bill aimed at criminalizing enforcement of federal gun laws.

Fifteen Republicans joined with every Democrat in the Missouri House to put the final nail in the coffin of a tax cut bill that many Republicans pointed to as the marquee achievement of the 2013 legislative session. The override came up 15 votes short of the two-thirds majority required.

And while the House mustered the two-thirds majority needed to override Nixon’s veto of the gun bill, it eventually died in the Senate.

The tax vote wasn’t a surprise. Supporters had long ago admitted they faced a steep, uphill battle on the issue.

But while momentum in the gun debate had swung in recent weeks in Nixon’s favor, its defeat in the Senate still came as a surprise to many.

In the end, the chamber’s Republican leaders — President Pro Tem Tom Dempsey and Majority Leader Ron Richard — joined with Democrats and voted against an override.

“I just didn’t have the level of certainty I believe we need to have when we’re overriding the governor of the state of Missouri,” Dempsey said after the vote.

Dubbed the Second Amendment Preservation Act, the legislation had garnered national attention. It declared invalid any federal policies that “infringe on the people’s right to keep and bear arms.” Federal authorities who attempt to enforce those laws could have faced state misdemeanor charges punishable by up to a year in jail and a $1,000 fine.

Similar penalties would have applied to anyone who published identifying information about gun owners.

Nixon vetoed the bill because he said it infringed on First Amendment free-speech rights and violated the supremacy clause of the U.S. Constitution, which gives precedence to federal laws over conflicting state ones.

Sen. Brian Nieves, a Washington Republican and the bill’s sponsor, said an override seemed inevitable just a few weeks ago. But that quickly changed after Attorney General Chris Koster, the Missouri Fraternal Order of Police, the Missouri Sheriffs’ Association and chiefs of police in Kansas City and St. Louis came out in opposition.

Dempsey said the criticism of the bill by law enforcement ultimately changed his mind. The legislation had originally passed earlier this year with bipartisan support.

While Nixon celebrated the defeat of the gun bill, it was the victory on tax cuts that he considered the biggest of the day.

The Democratic governor had spent the better part of his summer campaigning across the state building opposition. When the override vote in the House failed, Nixon declared it a “defining moment for our state and a victory for all Missourians.”

“I applaud the legislators from both parties who came together to sustain my veto of this fiscally irresponsible bill, which would have defunded our schools and weakened our economy,” Nixon said.

Proponents of the bill insisted it was needed as a response to massive tax cuts passed last year in Kansas. They warned of an exodus of businesses into the Sunflower State if lawmakers did nothing.

House Speaker Tim Jones, a Eureka Republican, called the defeat “only a temporary setback,” vowing that tax cuts would be a priority when lawmakers return to the Capitol in January.

As of press time, the General Assembly had overridden eight of Nixon’s 33 vetoes.

Since 1976, there had previously been only eight veto overrides. The previous yearly record came in 2003, when then-Gov. Bob Holden saw three of his vetoes go down.

Other legislative action:

Vetoes overridden, meaning these bills will become law:

• A bill prohibiting any state or local government entity from banning or restricting the practice, mention, celebration or discussion of a federal holiday.

• A bill prohibiting uninsured drivers from collecting non-economic damages in lawsuits against insured drivers alleged to be at fault for an accident.

• A bill allowing up to 1 percent of Missouri agriculture land to be foreign-owned.

• A bill authorizing cities to annex neighboring unincorporated areas without a vote of the residents of the area or a judgment by a court.

• A bill restricting punitive damages against the lead mining company Doe Run Resources Corp. in lawsuits alleging lead contamination.

• A bill doubling the maximum fees that payday, title and consumer installment lenders can charge customers.

• A line-item veto that struck $1 million from the state’s budget that will be used for the reconstruction of Pike-Lincoln Technical Center.

• A bill establishing procedures to follow in child custody and visitation cases for military personnel.

Other major vetoes sustained, meaning these measures will not become law:

• A bill requiring certain public employee labor unions to get annual authorization from members to use dues and fees for political contributions, and requiring annual consent for withholding earnings from paychecks.

• A bill that makes it harder for workers to claim unemployment benefits by redefining “misconduct” and “good cause.”

• A bill changing the laws regarding certain sexual offenses and sexually violent offenders. It would have relaxed registry requirements for hundreds of people convicted of sex offenses as juveniles.

• A bill requiring the Division of Workers’ Compensation to develop and maintain a workers’ compensation database.

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