Lawmakers Clash with Nixon, Plan Historic Veto Session
JEFFERSON CITY - Missouri lawmakers have expressed interest in overriding a number of Gov. Jay Nixon's record-number of vetoes during this year's veto session, which begins Wednesday.
Nixon vetoed 29 bills and used a line-item veto on four budget bills. House Speaker Tim Jones, R-Eureka, leads the Republican-led statehouse and anticipates a "historic" number of overrides.
Nixon, lawmakers and interest groups used social media to make their cases on why various vetoes should be sustained or overridden.
KOMU 8 News has been following the debate on Facebook and Twitter.
Long day tomorrow of mtg w/ people to help w/ their private legal issues...& then total gearshift: prepping for a historic veto session.— Tim W. Jones (@SpeakerTimJones) September 9, 2013
To override the governor, a two-thirds majority of members in both chambers have to vote in affirmation of the originally passed bill. Republicans have their largest legislative majorities since the 1800s. The GOP has a veto-proof majority, but this assumes the entire party would vote in the same way. In the House, 109 members of the chamber have to vote in favor of the bill to override a veto.
The veto session will likely feature debate on hot topics gaining national attention, such as a massive tax cut bill and a bill to make some federal gun laws unenforceable in the Show-Me State.
TAX CUT BILL
Both chambers passed House Bill 253, known as the "Broad-Based Tax Relief Act," which would phase in cuts to the state's income tax rates. Republican proponents of the bill have stood behind it, saying it is the first major tax reform measure in the state to pass since 1921.
All Missouri taxpayers making more than $9,000 a year currently pay the top individual income tax rate of 6 percent. The bill would lower the top individual income tax rate to 5.5 percent over ten years, and would lower the corporate income tax rate from 6.25 percent to 3.25 percent in the same period.
In five years, small business owners who file business income on their personal returns would be able to deduct 50 percent of their business income. For the next set of cuts to go into effect, state revenue collections would have to grow by more than $100 million from the previous year.
Nixon issued a ten-part veto letter when he vetoed the bill on June 5. He said he had several qualms with the tax cut bill, calling it "reckless." It would drain funding for education and other vital public services, he said.
Republican lawmakers said the bill would grow a sluggish private sector. They use the Twitter hashtag #since1921, to argue the state has not seen a tax cut since that year.
Gov. Nixon has toured the state urging lawmakers to sustain his veto of the bill, claiming it takes money away from schools.
This #LaborDay the choice is clear: lawmakers can support investing in workers & students or they can support HB 253, but they can't do both— Governor Jay Nixon (@GovJayNixon) September 2, 2013
Not all lawmakers agree, though.
Completely lost in #HB253 debate-developing our economy and investing in education aren't & can't be mutually exclusive. Must do both well!— Caleb Rowden (@calebrowden44) September 10, 2013
The Missouri National Education Association's legislative action Twitter account supports Nixon's veto, and has tweeted what different school districts across the state could lose if legislators successfully override.
Rep. Holly Rehder, R-Sikeston, compared Nixon's campaign against the veto to Hilter propoganda in one of her weekly Capitol Reports, although she has since apologized.
Republican Texas Gov. Rick Perry came to the St. Louis area to talk tax cuts at a Grow Missouri rally, and on the same day, Missouri's Attorney General Chris Koster released a legal opinion on the tax cut bill.
Koster agreed with Nixon, stating an override could cost Missouri $1.2 billion because the income tax cuts would apply retroactively for three years. But, this is contigent on whether the U.S. Congress passes the Federal Marketplace Fairness Act. That bill deals with state tax collections on Internet sales.
Speaker Jones asked for Koster to prepare this analysis of the bill earlier in the year. After the legal opinion was released, he criticized Koster.
Many other lawmakers have been active and commented on Twitter, including Sen. Ryan Silvey, R-Kansas City.
I get that not everyone likes HB253, but fact is the Dems & Nixon won't even engage in discussing alternatives. Just fear & finger pointing.— Ryan Silvey (@RyanSilvey) August 24, 2013
Another bill would make the enforcement of some federal gun laws illegal. The bill was originally intended to protect the Second Amendment and the state's rights, and eventually expanded to include provisions to allow teachers to carry guns in school and prohibit the publication of gun owner's names or personal information.
Nixon vetoed HB 436, saying it violates the U.S. Constitution and freedom of speech. An attorney for the Missouri Press Association sent a memo in September warning members of the press of possible suits if lawmakers override the veto. Journalists could face fines for publishing the names of gun owners in stories.
In response to the veto, Sen. Brian Nieves, R-Washington, created a Facebook event to raise funds for his next campaign and celebrate the Second Amendment.
Attorney General Chris Koster released a legal opinion on the bill, writing he could not support the entire bill because parts would restrict local police and federal agents from working together. Speaker Jones called the opinion politically motivated.
Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have fired off at each other about whether the bill violates the Constitution, and whether it is the court's job to say so.
This possible override has received national press attention. A writer from a conservative think tank wrote a column in the New York Times saying there were limitations on nullification laws.
SEX OFFENDER BILL
Nixon vetoed HB 301, which would prevent any individual who commits a sex offense as a juvenile from being placed on either the state or county sexual offender notification website. It would also remove nearly 600 sex offenders who are currently listed on the state and county sexual offender websites. The bill's sponsor, Rep. Kevin Engler, R-Farmington, told the Riverfront Times there are serious consequences for those named on the lists, and those who commit minor offenses should not be listed in the same place as those who commit serious crimes.
In his veto message, Nixon wrote the bill would weaken laws relating to sexual offenders and would remove juvenile sex offenders regardless of the offense for which they were convicted, including forcible rape, forcible sodomy and child molestation.
HB301 would erase 100s of criminals from our sex offender websites; it must not become law http://t.co/BqxIGPYiac— Governor Jay Nixon (@GovJayNixon) August 30, 2013
A national non-profit organization weighed in, questioning the governor's veto of the bill.
— National CURE (@CURENational) September 6, 2013
MORE VETOED BILLS
HB 110 would change the process for electing a lieutenant governor if the position becomes vacant. The governor would have to call for the position to be filled in the next general election. Nixon wrote he vetoed the bill because, throughout the vacancy, a "chief administrative assistant" from the office would perform its duties. Nixon contended the chief administrative assistant is not an official position and is not an elected one.
SB 43 would change the name of the area around a sandstone rock in the median of Interstate 70 in Montgomery County to "Graham's Picnic Rock Highway." The name would reference Dr. Robert Graham, who owned the land where the rock is located in the 1800s. However, Nixon said the rock is also known as "Slave Rock" because it is believed slave auctions occurred there.
"Senate Bill 43 has the effect, whether intentional or not, of elevating one history of the site above all others," Nixon wrote.
SB 240 would change laws governing what gas companies can charge to replace older infrastructure. When utility companies want to make a change to these rates, known as infrastructure system replacement surcharges, they ask for the increases at their next rate-making proceeding with the Missouri Public Service Commission. Nixon vetoed the bill because it would allow gas companies to charge 30 percent more for an ISRS and would allow companies to track uncollectible utility bills and pass the costs onto customers. Nixon wrote the increase in cost of customers' utility bills would outweigh the benefits of the legislation.
HB 650, among other provisions, seeks to limit the amount of punitive damages litigants can claim against lead mining companies as long as they are making "good faith efforts" to remediate older sites. Supporters said the bill is intended to help St. Louis based Doe Run Company, the world's largest lead producer. The bill seeks to limit punitive damages in any civil action to a maximum award of $2.5 million. In his veto message, Nixon wrote the bill had several redundant provisions already contained in other legislation. Nixon also wrote the state should not craft exemptions for a single class of entities and said the bill could impact pending litigation.
HB 278 bars state and local government from banning federal holiday celebrations in public places, schools and government offices. Nixon vetoed the bill, calling the language too broad. He wrote the broad definition of "celebrate" could allow people to get out of work on every federal holiday and could endanger public safety.
HB 329 would increase the fees that payday and title lenders can charge consumers from 5 percent of the principal to 10 percent of the principal. Nixon wrote he vetoed the bill because it would hurt borrowers already "trapped in a spiral of debt."
HB 339 would require uninsured motorists to forfeit recovery of noneconomic damages under certain circumstances. Nixon vetoed the bill because he wrote it does not adequately define who is an uninsured motorist, which he wrote "is the very crux of the bill."
HB 611 would change the laws regarding Unemployment, specifically by expanding the definition of misconduct in disallowing those who commit misconduct to collect unemployment benefits after being fired. Nixon vetoed the bill and wrote it would expand the definition of misconduct to include activities outside the workplace.
HB 1035 deals with a variety of local government issues. In Nixon's veto letter, he wrote it would deprive voters of the right to be heard before their property is annexed to the city. The bill allows a city to annex property by adopting an ordinance rather than through elections.
SB 29 would prohibit unions for government workers from withholding fees from paychecks and it would require government worker approval to use fees or dues for political purposes. It has been labeled as a so-called "paycheck protection" bill. Nixon wrote he vetoed the bill because it would impose a cumbersome process on a single group of workers.
SB 34 would require the state to maintain a public, searchable database of Workers' Compensation claims. Nixon wrote he vetoed the bill because it would violate workers' privacy, for no apparent reason.
SB 51 would increase license plate fees. Nixon wrote he vetoed the measure because license-office contractors should be able to provide adequate services with the current fee structure. Nixon wrote Missourians should not have to pay more without seeing an improvement in services.
SB 129 establishes the Volunteer Health Services Act to allow for licensed health care professionals to provide volunteer services for a sponsoring organization. The bill would reduce civil liability for those who volunteer to provide care. Nixon vetoed the measure because he wrote "it would be bad public policy to limit access to the legal system simply because the person who provided the care was a volunteer."
SB 170 would allow elected government officials to vote by video conference. Current law allows officials to attend meetings through video conference, but requires physical presence for voting. Nixon wrote he vetoed the bill because there are no safeguards to officials abusing the privilege of voting by video conference.
SB 182 would have imposed a usage tax on a car or boat registered in the state, regardless of where it was purchased. Some dealers near the border lose sales to neighboring states because the purchaser does not pay sales tax on a vehicle they purchase out of state. The tax would then always be based on the purchaser's state of residence's tax rate. The governor wrote he vetoed the bill because it would cause revenue decreases in some cities and municipalities if the tax was always based on where the purchaser lives.
SB 350 would have repealed the property tax credit provided for lower income elderly and disabled renters. Legislative staff estimated it would save the state $57 million per year in tax credits redemptions. Nixon vetoed the bill and wrote it was not part of a greater comprehensive tax credit reform package.