Veto session: General Assembly expands gun rights, mandates photo ID for voters
Updated 11:30 p.m. - The Missouri General Assembly has acted to ease restrictions on guns and add more requirements for voters.
That’s the upshot of Wednesday’s veto session, where lawmakers overrode most of Gov. Jay Nixon’s vetoes of various bills.
The Missouri House arguably cast the climatic decision of the day, when it voted 112-41 late Wednesday to resurrect SB656, a pro-gun bill that in effect does away with Missouri’s permit system for concealed weapons and expands “stand your ground’’ provisions and legal use of the “castle doctrine.”
The Senate earlier approved the override of Nixon’s veto, 24-6.
Wednesday afternoon, both chambers voted to restore a bill that would put in place a photo ID mandate for voters who go to the polls. The Senate's 24-7 action came after a mini-filibuster by some Democratic dissidents, notably Sen. Maria Chappelle-Nadal of University City. The state House had voted 114-43 in favor of the override, several hours earlier.
The bill — which is estimated to cost the state $17 million a year — is an implementation measure that would go into effect only if Missouri voters in November approve a proposed constitutional amendment to allow the state to require voters to show a photo ID at the polls. The state Supreme Court ruled in 2006 that the state constitution currently bars such a mandate.
House Speaker Todd Richardson, R-Poplar Bluff, told reporters after the House had adjourned that Wednesday's overrides — especially in the case of the gun and photo ID bills — "will resonate in this election in a positive way for our members."
Senate President Pro Tem Ron Richard, R-Joplin, defended his decision to curb Senate debate Wednesday on both measures, when Democrats appeared to attempt filibusters. He said the two bills had been debated enough during the regular session.
Some of the overrides of other bills, he said, reflected the lack of dialogue during the regular session between Nixon's administration and the measures' sponsors.
Meanwhile, Democratic leaders in both chambers predicted there will likely be court fights over the photo ID and gun bills, because of some of the provisions.
And the overrides will have financial implications. Democrats contend that the resurrected bills add spending or tax breaks that will cost the state at least $65 million more during this fiscal year. Nixon was planning to announce Thursday afternoon what changes he would have to make in the budget.
Gun bill prevents 'liberty steal' or allows murder?
The House debate over the gun bill got particularly passionate, with state Rep. Paul Curtman, R-Union, contending that the override was needed to fight against “liberty stealing’’ when it comes to gun rights.
“This bill needs to pass just so the state of Missouri can be 100 percent compliant with the United States Constitution," Curtman said.
State Rep. Brandon Ellington, D-Kansas City — who was openly carrying his concealed weapon around the Capitol grounds Wednesday — repeated his earlier assertion that the bill was legalizing murder.
The stand-your-ground provision “allows me to proactively kill somebody,’’ Ellington said, because the wording is so broad.
Ellington, who is African-American, also predicted that the new law will prompt more minorities to openly carry firearms — which he asserted may not be what some of the backers intended.
Rep. Rick Brattin, R-Harrisonville, replied that other state laws already bar unlimited use of deadly force. Any assertions that Missouri “is going to be the wild, wild west is absolutely erroneous,’’ he said.
Rep. Kim Gardner, D-St. Louis, noted that she’s soon to be the city’s new circuit attorney and warned that the bill is “creating the perfect storm’’ by ending gun-training requirements while expanding access to firearms.
Photo ID: Focus on cost and Koster support
In the override fight over the photo ID bill, the Democrats' case appeared hurt by their party's nominee for governor, Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster, who supports the implementation bill. His favorable comments, made over the summer, were highlighted repeatedly by House Republicans.
A spokesman for Koster reaffirmed that he remains opposed to the proposed constitutional amendment that also must pass before the state can impose a photo ID mandate for voters. But if the amendment passes, Koster sees the implementation bill as a satisfactory compromise, the spokesman said.
During the House debate, Democrats repeatedly contended that Koster's view didn't change their objections.
In the Senate, Democratic leader Gina Walsh, D-St. Louis County, observed that under the photo ID bill, her own grandmother "would not be able to vote because she lived somewhere where the courthouse had burnt down; she would have no physical means of getting a birth certificate or anything, if she were alive, to say that she’s who she is ..."
Backers noted that the photo ID requirement's annual cost to the state pertains to assistance for people who do not have the documents, such as a birth certificate or marriage license, required to verify their identity so that they can obtain a government-issued ID. Such documents can be costly to get, especially if they need to be obtained from another state.
House sponsor Jason Alferman, R-Hermann, contended that the photo-ID requirement would help guard against vote fraud. State Rep. Stacey Newman, D-Richmond Heights, was among the opponents who said the mandate does nothing to protect against absentee or voter-registration fraud — the two prime sources of fraud — but could prevent tens of thousands of legitimate Missouri voters from casting ballots.
Backers of the override pointed to a provision that will allow people without the required government-issued ID to cast a regular ballot after signing an affidavit swearing to their identity.
The backers also cited the current court fight in St. Louis that is prompting a redo of the Democratic primary in the 78th House District and allegations of vote fraud. State Rep. Mike Colona, D-St. Louis and one of the lawyers in the case, emphasized that a judge had ruled that no vote fraud had been committed, but that some absentee-ballot procedures had not been followed.
In the Senate, Chappelle-Nadal called the implementation bill "a definite step backward. What we should be promoting is inclusion and activism for all people, so that people do not feel as though their government is turning their back on them, or their parties.”
Republicans used a parliamentary procedure, called “moving the previous question,” to cut off debate. The Senate then voted 24-7, along party lines, to override Nixon’s veto.
Sponsor Will Kraus, R-Lee's Summit, contended, “I think it’s only common sense for us to positively identify a person when they come to vote. You can’t go in and buy alcohol without a photo ID; you can’t buy tobacco (or other) smoking products … I think it’s common sense when we see these injustices happening in our election cycle to verify who a person is when they show up to vote, and the best way for us to do that is with a photo ID.”
Critics say they may go to court to challenge the bill, but it's unclear if such action would take place before the November vote on the proposed constitutional amendment.
Among the other bills overridden was SB608, which among other things would require Medicaid recipients to make a small co-pay for their care. They also would be charged if they missed doctors' appointments. Backers say the requirement would force Medicaid patients to be more responsible about their government-provided healthcare. Critics noted that the federal government, which provides most of the money for Missouri's Medicaid program, is objecting to such charges. Richardson said he hoped the state can obtain a waiver from the federal government to implement the requirements.
Nixon 's other overridden vetoes include:
SB641 Creates an income tax deduction for payments received as part of a program that compensates agricultural producers for losses from disaster or emergency
SB656 Modifies provisions relating to county sheriffs, self-defense, unlawful use of weapons, and concealed carry permits
SB844 Modifies provisions relating to livestock trespass liability
SB994 Modifies provisions relating to liquor licenses and alcohol
SB1025 Exempts instructional classes from sales tax
HB1414 Exempts data collected by state agencies under the federal Animal Disease Traceability Program from disclosure under Missouri's sunshine law
HB1432 Requires a hearing to be held within 60 days if a state employee is placed on administrative leave
HB1631 Requires a person to submit a specified form of photo identification in order to vote in a public election with specified exemptions
HB1713 Requires the Department of Natural Resources to provide information regarding advanced technologies to upgrade existing lagoon-based wastewater systems to meet any new or existing discharge requirements
HB1763 Changes the laws regarding workers' compensation large deductible policies issued by an insurer
HB1976 Changes the laws regarding service contracts
HB2030 Authorizes a tax deduction equal to 50 percent of the capital gain resulting from the sale of employer securities to a certain Missouri stock ownership plan.