Missouri Prepares For Veto Session

By John Celock

Missouri lawmakers are headed back to Jefferson City for veto session this week rooted in abortion, guns and the state budget.

Lawmakers are on track to overturn the largest number of vetoes in state history, including Gov. Jay Nixon’s (D) vetoes of controversial gun and abortion legislation. The package of veto overrides being given to the GOP-controlled Legislature includes attempting to put in place dozens of budget related vetoes Nixon made after lawmakers left the Capitol this spring. While last year’s veto session lasted one day, lawmakers have been warned to prepare for a three-day session that commences on Wednesday morning.

Among the items on the agenda is a bill to override local laws that prohibit the open carrying of guns and to allow teachers to carry guns to school without having to receive local school district permission. Another bill would put in place a 72-hour waiting period in order to receive an abortion in Missouri.

State Rep. Stacey Newman (D-St. Louis) told The Celock Report that she easily expects the state House to override Nixon’s vetoes, noting that 109 House members are needed to override and conservatives Republicans control 110 seats. She pointed to the Senate as where most of the action will occur, noting that the GOP needs all 23 of their senators to vote to override Nixon.

While the state Senate last year voted to override Nixon’s veto of a bill that would have nullified federal gun laws in the state, she said the context of this year’s bill along with it being a legislative election year will change the entire debate in Jefferson City.

“This year is a whole different ball game and now it’s an election year,” Newman said. “Some of these outstate conservatives want to hang their hats on the NRA and right to life. If they allow us to speak we will be pretty hot and heavy.”

Newman, who has routinely led fights against anti-abortion and pro-gun bills, noted that this year’s veto session environment differs from previous years. With many in state government, in particular Nixon and St. Louis area lawmakers, along with the media focused on the aftermath of the deadly police shooting of an unarmed teenager in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson, many have not thought of the gun and abortion bills.

Newman said that an override is needed of the gun bill, since local communities want to be able regulate open carry of guns, and school districts want control over if teachers can carry guns, along with knowing which teachers are armed.

“Superintendents across the land are against secretly arming teachers,” she said. “No one can find out which teachers are armed, only law enforcement would know.”

Newman said she finds it ironic that conservatives want to put in place a statewide open carry law when they have argued against Washington setting policy for the entire country. She said it is important that local governments have this control.

“The idea that people that people could walk around with long arms. There are not restrictions,” Newman said. “People can walk around with assault rifles. Missouri will be shocked. This is not what these suburban communities want.”

Guns in schools has become a priority for conservative lawmakers nationally since the Dec. 2012 school shooting in Newtown, Conn. Supporters have noted that it would allow teachers and other school employees to become first responders and combat armed suspects in schools before law enforcement can arrive.

While the odds are stacked against Democrats, Newman said that she is planning to use communication in an attempt to override the vetoes. She noted that she plans to speak up on several of the bills in order to get the opposition voice out. Newman said that the budget vetoes need to be addressed in order to allow the state to have a balanced budget.

On the abortion issue, Missouri would be in place to become the third state in the nation to have a 72-hour waiting period in place to receive an abortion. Activists have said that the waiting period is needed to allow women to understand the consequences of an abortion. Opponents have argued that women have done research into an abortion and that a 72-hour wait would harm poor and rural women because they would need a place to stay during the wait.

Missouri’s only abortion clinics are in the St. Louis area, with the only in the Kansas City area being across the state line in Kansas. Opponents of the waiting period have noted that women from rural Missouri would have to either add a hotel bill to the cost of receiving an abortion or two round trips to St. Louis, along with time off from work.

Newman said the bill would “shame and degrade women” and noted that it does not contain exceptions for rape and incest, which the Utah law includes.

“This is does nothing to prevent abortion,” she said. “Women who have pregnancies that go horribly wrong it would impose a three day delay. This is big government at its worst. This is telling physicians that the Legislature knows better.”