JEFFERSON CITY - Missouri lawmakers are set to take up at least two hotly debated issues when they reconvene for their veto session Wednesday, just weeks before many of them are up for re-election.
Among the most hotly contested measures expected to come back before the legislature is a measure that would allow employers or insurers to refuse to provide coverage for birth control or abortions if such procedures are at odds with their religious beliefs. Coverage for sterilization procedures would also only be required if such operations are deemed medically necessary.
Sponsored by Sen. John Lamping, R-St. Louis County, the bill was the response from conservatives in the state to a rule levied by the federal Department of Health and Human Services that required employers and insurance companies to cover contraception at no additional cost to the employees.
Nixon reaffirmed his opposition to the proposal when he spoke with reporters about week before lawmakers are expected to return.
“This is a personal medical decision for a woman and her family, not something that should be dictated by an insurance company.” he said.
The legislation passed roughly along party lines in the House and Senate. Senators Maria Chappelle-Nadal and Jolie Justus, both Democrats, spoke at length against the bill during floor debate.
In an emailed statement this week, Chappelle-Nadal said her approach to a possible override vote of the legislation would not differ from her filibuster efforts earlier in the year.
"SB 749 was fated for death when it was originally written,” she said. “It was nearly the most poorly written bill I had ever seen in my entire 12 years as a public servant in Jefferson City.”
Also on tap for the session is a measure that supporters say “fixes” a state Supreme Court decision handed down earlier this year about the collection of local sales taxes on vehicles purchased at places other than Missouri car dealerships.
The court ruled that city and county sales taxes could not be collected on such purchases, a move that lawmakers said could punch a hole in annual revenues for many rural counties that are already struggling in the sputtering economy. The state stopped collecting and remitting such taxes in March.
A measure sponsored by House Budget Chairman Ryan Silvey, R-Kansas City, would restore the old taxing system and would allow the taxes to collect retroactively to March.
That position has drawn heavy criticism from Nixon in recent weeks, as he has said that it would be unfair to send vehicle owners a bill for a tax that was not in place when they made their purchase. He said the state Department of Revenue has told him that some 122,000 drivers statewide could owe taxes if his veto is overridden.
Instead Nixon has said city and county governments should put a “use tax” before their voters, which the governor said was an appropriate tax to collect on vehicles purchased out of state.
But Silvey confirmed this week that he intends to seek an override from his fellow lawmakers. And supporters including the Missouri Municipal League have continued to stress the need for revenue by municipal governments, raising the specter of huge spending cuts if they aren’t able to successfully pass a use tax before they begin drafting their budgets for next year.
At least two members of the Legislature have said they won’t be making motions to override the governor’s action on bills they sponsored.
State Sen. Dan Brown, R-Rolla, said earlier this week that he won’t seek an override on legislation he sponsored requiring pets in the state to be vaccinated. And Rep. Rodney Schad, R- Versailles said he won’t pursue a vote on legislation to allow some public school students to transfer schools if there is a school closer to their home than the one that they currently attend.
In interviews, each expressed doubts about whether they could muster the two-thirds majority in each chamber to overcome Nixon’s stand.
The House will likely also be electing a new leader to preside over both the veto session and next year’s regular legislative business. Previous Speaker Steven Tilley, R-Perryville, resigned from the post last month and Speaker Pro Tem Shane Schoeller has officially been the head of the chamber.
But with Schoeller is leaving the House to run for Secretary of State and has said that one of the first things the chamber will do next week is pick a new Speaker. Current Majority Floor Leader Tim Jones, R-St. Louis County, is widely expected to win the position .