The annual veto session starting Wednesday in Jefferson City will be a lively one, especially regarding Missouri’s gun laws, voter ID and clean water.
Gov. Jay Nixon has vetoed bills that deal with those three issues. The Republican-dominated General Assembly should sustain all of them.
Those are, of course, fighting words for GOP leaders who are proud they have overridden so many of Nixon’s decisions in the past few years.
In 2016, though, it appears at least some Republican lawmakers may be wavering on the most crucial and reasonable veto of the session.
Never miss a local story.
▪ Nixon forcefully rejected the legislature’s move to make it possible to carry concealed weapons without training, a background check and a permit.
Supporters claim they are merely upholding the Second Amendment with this action.
But give credit to Nixon, Kansas City Mayor Sly James as well as top police officials across the state who have come out in force to oppose this further loosening of weapons laws, as endorsed by the usual suspects in the National Rifle Association and the U.S. gun industry.
Critics offer compelling reasons to sustain the governor’s decision.
As Nixon noted in his veto message, local sheriffs under the new bill no longer could deny concealed carry permits to persons even if background checks might have revealed “criminal offenses or caused the sheriff to believe they posed a danger” to the community.
Jackson County Sheriff Mike Sharp said Tuesday that his county “has declined over 900 requests for a conceal and carry permit since the existing law has been in effect.... If overridden, SB 656 would give those rejected 900 people the ability to own a gun.”
This measure is another erosion of the rights of local authorities to enforce laws that best protect their cities and counties.
James pressed home the point that the bill would make it easier for people who commit domestic abuse to carry concealed weapons.
Perhaps the strongest arguments to sustain the veto are being offered by law enforcement officials around Missouri.
“Police are very concerned that if this law goes into effect, it will make it easier for many more people to perpetrate gun violence, which is a considerable problem in Kansas City,” Deputy Police Chief Cheryl Rose said Tuesday.
And Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker said overriding the veto “is asking this community, already overburdened with gun violence, to shoulder even more.”
The objections from police and prosecutors fortunately are causing some Republicans to waver on the veto override. That’s a good thing to see, because the police and prosecutors are the experts who — along with victims of shootings — have to deal with the fallout from looser gun laws.
At least three GOP state representatives — Kathy Swan of Cape Girardeau, Donna Lichtenegger of Jackson and Caleb Jones of Columbia — recently expressed concerns about the bill. “I have a problem with no training,” Lichtenegger said, a rather commonsense response to one of the measure’s flaws.
House and Senate lawmakers should acknowledge reality — that removing requirements for training, background checks and permits is not a responsible way to make Missouri safer.
▪ The General Assembly’s poorly conceived action to make it more difficult to vote should be pushed aside, too.
Nixon issued a veto message saying that a bill to establish a government-issued photo ID requirement for access to the ballot box is “an affront to Missourians’ fundamental right to vote.”
He’s right, primarily because Republican and even a few Democratic supporters couldn’t point to any voter fraud under current laws.
GOP legislators have tried for years to throw up obstacles to poor people, minorities, elderly residents and others who don’t have government-issued photo IDs.
If lawmakers could offer any proof that the new rules are warranted, they might be able to make a case for this new requirement. In reality, these bills purport to solve a problem that does not exist.
▪ Lawmakers should uphold Nixon’s proper veto of a late-session bill that would give agricultural and mining industries more power to control the Clean Water Commission’s activities.
This is an unreasonable attack on the public’s oversight when it comes to enforcing water and pollution standards.
The measure would change current law — which requires at least four members of the general public on the seven-member board — to essentially allow it to have no one from the public. In the future, all but one seat could be filled by representatives of the agriculture and mining industries that sometimes oppose and violate the state’s clean water laws.
As we noted earlier this year, “The Clean Water Commission is responsible for protecting water quality for all Missouri citizens.”
Wresting that power from public board members and handing it over to the agricultural and mining interests that cause water-related problems is not in the best interests of Missourians.
The General Assembly should sustain Nixon’s veto regarding the Clean Water Commission — and on bills dealing with irresponsible gun and voter ID laws.