Lawmakers face controversial issues this veto session

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JEFFERSON CITY - Abortion, guns in schools and electronic cigarettes are some of the controversial issues on the table as lawmakers meet Wednesday to decide whether to override a record number of bills Gov. Jay Nixon vetoed from the legislative session.

Lawmakers must vote to override Nixon's vetoes by a two-thirds majority in order for the bills to become laws.

With a Republican majority in the House and Senate, many bills previously vetoed could still go into affect.

KOMU 8 News breaks down three key items here:

ABORTION BILL

A woman in Missouri currently must wait 24-hours to receive an abortion after she requests the procedure from her caregiver.

House Bill 1307 would increase this mandatory waiting period to 72-hours, two days more than is currently required.

Planned Parenthood legislative intern Dina Van Der Zalm said this waiting period poses an extra barrier to health care for women, especially those with lower incomes.

"They've made it clear there's no medical basis," she said, "So the implication here is, 24 hours isn't enough for you to make this decision, if we gave you 72 hours, you would change your mind."

She said that implies "I can't make the decision that's right for me in 24 hours."

There is only one clinic in Missouri that currently performs abortions, so women often must travel hours to receive the procedure. Transportation, lodging and childcare can be very expensive for women who choose to undergo the procedure.

Opponents of the bill said requiring the added wait time would just make abortions even more inaccessible for women from lower income brackets who often can't afford to take time off from work.

Proponents of the bill said it would give women more time to make an informed decision.

"I think the 72-hour bill is much more appropriate to a person, a mother, deciding what she's going to do about the life of her unborn child," said Rep. Ed Emery, R-Lamar, "To try to shorten that, to me, is completely wrong."

Emery said other medical operations require patients to wait weeks or months to undergo surgery so they can understand the full weight of their decisions. He said abortions should be no different.

The possibility of a 72-hour waiting period for abortions is not unique to Missouri, both Utah and South Dakota have already enacted the provision.

See Gov. Nixon's veto letter.

GUNS IN SCHOOLS

Senate Bill 656 would allow faculty to carry concealed guns in public schools.

Districts would be allowed to designate teachers or administrators as "school protection officers." The faculty members would to go through special training before they could carry the weapons in school.

Supporters of the bill argued it would help teachers protect students from intruders or student shooters, especially in light of numerous school shootings in recent years.

"It comes down to a debate of time and whether or not you feel like you have the adequate amount of time and training to be able to react in a situation like that," said Michelle Baumstark, Community Relations Director for Columbia Public Schools.

Opponents said they are worried children could gain access to a teacher's weapon, arming a student who otherwise might have not had access to a gun. Some questioned whether teachers would have sufficient training to really protect students.

See Gov. Nixon's veto letter.

ELECTRONIC CIGARETTES

Electronic cigarettes currently aren't subject to tobacco taxes and regulations in Missouri, and the bill would mean they could not be taxed in the future.

Under Senate Bill 841, e-cigarettes would not be defined as "tobacco products," despite the fact that many contain nicotine derived from tobacco.

E-cigarettes would be exempt from tobacco regulations and taxes traditional cigarettes are subject to.

The FDA proposed expanding regulations to include vapor products like e-cigarettes in April.

Stacy Reliford, with the American Cancer Society, said the bill started out as an effort to keep e-cigarettes from people under 18. However, she said the provision to make them exempt from taxes would be detrimental to public health.

"It's good intention but not good public policy," Reliford said.

James O'Shea, manager of Columbia e-cigarette shop Aqueous Vapor, said he thinks the bill is a good idea since it would keep e-cigarettes away from minors.

"I used e-cigarettes to stop smoking," he said. "While it still probably isn't beneficial to your health, I think it's a better alternative."

Dr. Lucas Buffaloe said he is against the bill, because he does not want to encourage members of the public to use e-cigarettes.

"We don't know whether it's safer," he said. "We just don't have enough information."

Buffaloe said several patients have told him they were using e-cigarettes to quite smoking or as a "safer" alternative. However, there isn't enough research that supports e-cigarettes being any safer than traditional cigarettes to come to a conclusion.

See Gov. Nixon's veto letter.

 

 

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