Mo. Lawmakers Face Big Decisions In Veto Overrides
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JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) Missouri lawmakers face some big decisions this week: Do they override Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon’s veto of legislation expanding the state’s religious and moral exemption for health insurance policies, and should
they rebuff the governor’s objections to another measure dealing with taxes on vehicle purchases.
The election-year tangle awaits legislators, who return Wednesday to the state Capitol to consider overriding gubernatorial
vetoes. Nixon has given them plenty of work this year by rejecting about a dozen bills, but attention is focused on two measures.
One would allow individuals, employers and insurers to cite a religious or moral exemption from mandatory insurance coverage for abortion, contraception and sterilization. Another seeks to reverse a state Supreme Court ruling that local sales taxes
cannot be levied for vehicles purchased outside Missouri. It also has been applied to instances when an individual sells a vehicle. Instead, the high court said a local “use tax” could be charged if approved by local voters.
Nixon contends the vehicle tax legislation seeks to raise taxes without a vote by the people and would affect 122,702 vehicle purchases made since the court ruling became effective March 21. This past week, Republican Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder said he does not support overriding the veto.
Just over 90 communities and 41 of 114 counties have a local use tax. Many of the counties in northwestern Missouri have a use tax, as does St. Charles County and St. Louis city. Kansas City has a use tax while Jackson County does not. St. Louis County does not have the tax while several communities in the county do.
Fearing a financial hit for cities and counties and an exodus of car-buyers heading to dealerships in neighboring states, lawmakers passed a bill intended to reverse the high court’s ruling. It passed with no opposition in the Senate and 21 “no” votes in the House.
However, it’s unclear whether that support will hold amid executive branch opposition. Overriding Nixon’s veto requires a two-thirds vote in the House and Senate. The GOP controls more than two-thirds of the Senate, but House leaders would need six Democratic votes.
Legislation starts in the chamber where the bill was introduced, so the veto override on the vehicle tax measure would start in the House, where Republican leader Tim Jones said the chamber planned to move forward. Jones, of Eureka, said the bill is not a tax increase and called Nixon’s premise “completely and utterly off-base.”
Jones said he hopes Nixon will “join with us in standing with Missouri’s small business owners and with Missouri’s first-responders the police and firemen who work for municipalities and counties around the state all of whom are very threatened by the governor’s veto.”
Senate President Pro Tem Rob Mayer said there is uncertainty about whether an override ultimately will succeed.
Republican Sen. Mike Kehoe, who previously operated a dealership, said in a letter that overcoming Nixon’s veto is necessary to protect Missouri jobs.
“As neighboring states continue their aggressive marketing the amount of business handed across our borders, for purely political reasons, will only increase,” wrote Kehoe, who represents Jefferson City. “Every single one of these out-of-state purchases represents a part of a Missouri job that is lost.”
The Missouri Budget Project has warned that Nixon’s veto puts auto dealers at a competitive disadvantage and threatens local governments with millions of dollars in lost revenue. Meanwhile, a recent political mail piece targets a Democratic House member stating the Legislature approved “a new car tax without a vote of the people.” The Kansas City Star reported mailers also keyed on
several Republicans and were paid for by a nonprofit organization funded by the Democratic Governors Association.
Although much of the recent political jockeying has focused on the tax legislation, the health insurance bill generated an intense public lobbying effort several months ago. Nixon’s office had received more than 10,000 messages earlier this year urging him to sign or veto the insurance legislation.
Nixon vetoed the bill and stated that he supported the religious and ethical exemptions for health insurance policies in place under Missouri law. He said the new measure would have extended that to insurance companies and allowed them to deny birth control coverage to women who want it. The legislation’s supporters had vowed to attempt to override and previously called the governor’s explanation “silly” and “strained.”
Mayer, of Dexter, said the health legislation probably is the only bill starting in the Senate for which they will try to override the governor’s veto. The health insurance legislation cleared the Senate by more than a two-thirds vote earlier this year but was slightly short of that margin in the House when 25 members were absent.
The most recent veto override in Missouri came last year over the state’s new congressional districts.
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