Heartened by Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon’s troubles of late, Missouri Republicans are approaching this week’s veto session like sharks circling in the water. The more ambitious among them talk dreamily about a record number of overrides.
That’s not out of the question. Nixon vetoed 33 bills — a record for him and the largest number for any Missouri governor since 1961. In addition, for the first time, he vetoed dozens of line items in the state budget.
Even some members of Nixon’s party, angry over his handling of the aftermath of a police shooting of an unarmed teenager in Ferguson, are reported to be threatening override votes.
But most of Nixon’s vetoes were imposed because of drafting errors or because the bills represented bad public policy. Vengeful lawmakers must keep in mind that looking out for the long-term good of Missouri is more important than scoring points against the governor.
Some of the bills that potentially could come up for an override vote would have severe consequences if they became law. Among the worst:
A mandate that would require women to wait 72 hours after consulting with a physician to obtain an abortion.
While many of Missouri’s numerous anti-abortion laws target providers, this one is intended to harass patients. With only one abortion clinic in the state, many women would either have to make two long-distance trips or spend money on lodging. The onerous provision is made worse by the legislature’s refusal to make exceptions for victims of rape and incest. House Bill 1307 is insulting, cruel and possibly unconstitutional.
A move to make Missouri’s gun laws even more reckless.
Senate Bill 656 would, among other things, enable schools to designate teachers and staffers as armed “protection officers.” It lowers the age for obtaining a concealed carry permit from 21 to 19. And it would invalidate ordinances in Kansas City and elsewhere that prohibit the open carrying of firearms.
This is another instance of the legislature stomping on local control. After the strife in Ferguson, it is astounding that many lawmakers are still pushing for a bill that would make it lawful for people to appear in the streets openly displaying weapons.
A sneaky piece of legislation intended to help tobacco companies.
Senate Bill 841 bans the sale of electronic cigarettes to minors. No problem there; in fact the federal government is expected to do the same thing in the near future. But the bill also says that electronic cigarettes and related products “shall not be taxed or otherwise regulated as tobacco products.”
Ah, ha. So that’s why Reynolds American Tobacco lobbied hard for the bill, handing donations as high as $12,000 to key legislative leaders to grease the path. They want to sell a tobacco-like product that may very well encourage people to take up the real thing, and act as though they are peddling candy bars.
This is cookie-cutter legislation being pushed in multiple states by tobacco companies. The health effects of electronic cigarettes require much more study. It is much too early to exempt them from regulations.
The “Friday favors.”
Legislators passed 10 bills on the final day of the session giving tax breaks to a range of businesses, including marinas, fast-food restaurants, grocery stores and dry cleaners. Together, they would drain more than $200 million from the current year’s budget, Nixon has said.
Lawmakers dispute that number, but the giveaways were unwise. The legislature needs to take a close look at its runaway tax credit programs, which are impairing the state’s ability to provide basic services. Handing out more favors is going in the wrong direction.