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Nixon vetoes contraception coverage bill

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Updated 5:06 p.m. with comments from Mo. House Speaker Pro-tem Shane Schoeller and from Planned Parenthood.

Updated 12:38 p.m. with response from Archdiocese of St. Louis

Updated 11:58 a.m. with full remarks from Nixon.

Governor Jay Nixon (D) has vetoed a bill designed to thwart President Obama’s contraceptive mandate in Missouri.

Senate Bill 749 would have given employers the right to refuse contraceptive coverage, if providing such coverage violated the employer’s religious beliefs.  In vetoing the bill, Governor Nixon said that Missouri law already provides that right, making the bill unnecessary.  He also said that a provision in the bill made it necessary for him to veto it.

“This bill would allow insurance companies to impose their will and deny contraceptive coverage to women, even if women and their employers wanted it included," Nixon told reporters in his State Capitol office.

Planned Parenthood officials are applauding Nixon’s veto, stating in part that “birth control is a pocketbook issue and should be fully covered by insurance.”  

Republican House Speaker Pro-tem Shane Schoeller disagrees with the governor's assertion that current law provides religious protections.

"The bill was put forth because clearly, based upon the new federal law that the Obama Administration passed, there was a sense that that would probably be an issue," Schoeller said.  "That’s why we needed to make sure and protect our citizens through passing this state law.”

Schoeller, who is also running for Secretary of State, is calling on the legislature to override the governor’s veto when they convene in September for their annual veto session.     

Nixon had received more than 10,000 messages urging him to sign or veto the legislation.

Here is a response to Nixon's action from the Archdiocese of St. Louis:

The Archdiocese of St. Louis expresses deep sadness today, following Governor Nixon’s decision to veto SB 749. His failure to sign this critically important legislation weakens the rights of Missouri citizens leaving them without full protection of their religious liberties. SB 749 would have required insurance companies to let people know up front whether a proposed policy included coverage for abortions or contraceptives. It would have allowed those with objections on moral grounds to have insurers exclude these items from employee’s health plans. This is a profound missed opportunity to assert conscience rights for Missouri citizens when those rights are in jeopardy from the federal HHS mandate.At this time, we encourage Missouri legislators to override Governor Nixon’s veto during the veto session in September. We encourage Catholics and people of all faith to continue to pray for religious liberty in our state and in our nation.

Here are Gov. Nixon's full remarks from this morning's press conference, as provided by his office, detailing his thoughts on his veto on the contraception measure and other pieces of legislation: 

Good morning.  Over the past six weeks, members of my administration and I have been carefully reviewing every piece of legislation passed by the General Assembly this year. Some of these bills were well-crafted and addressed matters of significant importance – like providing a tax deduction to help small businesses grow; revitalizing the heart of Kansas City; protecting seniors from financial exploitation; funding our veterans homes; and training our veterans for civilian careers. But other bills fell short of these high standards, and I have vetoed them on technical, constitutional or policy grounds. Today, I am signing several more bills passed by the General Assembly during the 2012 session.  I am also making my final vetoes for this year. Let me give you an overview of today’s actions. First, I am pleased to sign a number of significant pieces of legislation, including House Bill 1563. Two years ago, we passed a landmark bill that required state-regulated insurance policies to cover the diagnosis and treatment of autism, including coverage for Applied Behavioral Analysis.  As parents and autism specialists can tell you, ABA has been shown to be one of the most effective therapies for children with autism. Today, more than 1.4 million Missourians are covered by policies that provide for ABA and other autism therapies. This year, I asked the General Assembly to pass legislation to help us increase the number of trained professionals working with Missouri children with autism. Members of both parties came together to pass House Bill 1563 – which will do just that. I appreciate Rep. David Sater, Sen. Jay Wasson, and all those members of the General Assembly who worked hard to send this bill to my desk. I am also signing a number of other bills concerning public safety; transportation; the judiciary; real estate; insurance; securities; and elections. My office has provided that list to you. While I am pleased to sign these bills into law, I am also vetoing 10 bills today. This brings the total number of bills I have vetoed this session to 14. Among other bills, I am vetoing Senate Bill 749. As a person of faith, I cherish the freedom we all have to worship in accordance with our own beliefs.  Our churches should be free from the encroachment of government and politics. For more than a decade, Missouri law has provided strong religious and moral protections to safeguard the beliefs of employees and employers regarding contraceptive coverage. Those protections apply whether the employer is a church or religious organization, or not. Either way, religious and moral beliefs are protected. These protections are strong. They’re effective. And they have my support. Under our existing law, employees and employers can already opt out of providing or receiving contraceptive coverage if doing so conflicts with their religious or moral convictions.  At the same time, our existing law also acknowledges the rights of women and families who want to access contraception. For employees whose companies have chosen to invoke our religious or moral protections, current law also ensures that women and families who want contraceptive coverage can get it – a right that I also support. Our existing law protects religious liberties – and it respects individual rights. The current law was passed overwhelmingly. It’s been on the books for years. And it works. The additional provisions included in Senate Bill 749 – such as the notice requirement for individual policies – are worthwhile ideas that deserve continued discussion. But one significant – and negative – change within Senate Bill 749 requires my veto today. For the first time, this bill would allow insurance companies to impose their will, and deny contraceptive coverage to women – even if women and their employers want it included. This bill would allow insurance companies to override the rights and beliefs of employees and employers. By doing so, the bill would shift authority to make decisions about access to contraceptive coverage away from Missouri women, families and employers – and put that power in the hands of insurance companies. That would be a step backward for Missouri. This could also set a dangerous precedent for the future and other types of health care services, such as end-of-life care or cancer screenings. We want families making these decisions – not insurance companies. For that reason, I am vetoing this bill. Again, Missouri law already provides strong religious and moral protections. Missouri law also respects the rights of women and families to access contraception. And insurance companies should not have the power to overrule that right. If the legislature were to pass a bill that includes the additional notice requirement for insurance policies, without limiting access to contraception or shifting authority to insurance companies, I would give that bill serious consideration. And I’m certainly open to discussions about what that bill would need to look like. Today, I am also vetoing House Bill 1329, which would have imposed a new car tax on Missourians – without a vote of the people. As the Missouri Supreme Court ruled unanimously earlier this year, voters have the right to decide whether local jurisdictions impose a use tax on vehicles purchased out-of-state. More than 90 cities – and 40 counties – in Missouri have voted to enact such a tax. This bill directly conflicts with the court’s ruling, and attempts to impose a new tax without a vote of the people. In fact, in jurisdictions that have voted against such a tax, this bill would impose a new tax in direct conflict with the will of the voters. I am vetoing this tax increase to protect the rights of Missouri voters. I am committed to continuing to work with local governments, legislators and Missouri’s auto dealers to craft a practical solution on this issue, but I cannot support imposing a new tax without a vote of the people. I have vetoed several other bills as well, and my office has provided that full list to you. As Governor, I am committed to continuing to work with the legislature to find common ground on important issues for our state.  We did that on many issues this year – from small-business growth; to autism treatment; to supporting our veterans. I look forward to completing the bill-review process this week, and continuing to work with the General Assembly to move Missouri forward.

Marshal was a political reporter for St. Louis Public Radio until 2018.

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