November 29, 2011Charlie Sheen and communism rate higher in popularity now than our U.S. Congress, according to recent opinion polls. I would wager that our Missouri Legislature is held in similar esteem these days.
Our state legislature has really worked at stinking up the place – literally. Lawmakers passed a bill this year that would allow factory farms to stink up the state with immunity. The vote was 110-45 in the House to bar neighbors from suing factory farms that pollute and emit nauseous odors.
To his credit, Gov. Jay Nixon used his veto pen to clean up behind this statehouse stench. It's a pretty sad affair when the best thing about state government these days is the guv's busy veto pen, but there you have it. Nixon used his pen to nullify such appalling items as:
•Voter Photo ID – more accurately described as a voter suppression act.
•Digital Billboards Act – designed to prevent cities from regulating obnoxious digital billboards.
•Special Elections – taxpayers would be liable for election costs to fill vacancies regardless of time left before the next regular election.
•Discrimination Immunization – among other affronts, SB188 peeled away discrimination protections in the workplace for disabled employees.
Gov. Nixon vetoed SB188 in front of the Old Courthouse in downtown St. Louis – an appropriate, symbolic backdrop for his action. With veto pen in hand, he said:
"We fight today, so thousands more people with disabilities can take the 'next big step' into the workplace, where their skills and talents can shine...
"Making it easier for Missouri companies to discriminate against people with disabilities or cancer, against women, older workers and minorities, against those of different faiths and ethnicities, will not help us create jobs or be more competitive in the global economy."
Two Local Legislators
Two local legislators who are on board with Nixon's use of his veto pen are Rep. Rory Ellinger, D-University City and Rep. Stacey Newman, D-Richmond Heights. Ellinger said he has not always been happy with Nixon's state budget cuts and his reluctance to find new revenue, but he applauds the use of his veto pen.
"I've called Nixon a few names because of my frustration with his budget cuts," said Ellinger. "But on SB188, his veto had me calling him 'the human dignity governor.' That was a bad bill that would sanction discrimination. We do not need to regress back to the pre-1960s in Missouri, before the civil rights era."
Newman described SB188 as "one more anti-worker bill" that merited a veto. She also applauded Nixon's veto of the Voter ID Bill, which she said would disenfranchise more than 200,000 Missourians, particularly the elderly and the poor.
"The Voter ID Bill isn't any home-grown thing," said Newman. "It's a national assault on voter rights that was introduced in 38 states. Those who push it never mention how much it will cost the state in litigation, nor that it would cost at least $20 million to implement in tough budget times."
While Gov. Nixon has used his duly authorized veto pen to nix odious statehouse bills, the legislature has done a little vetoing of its own over the years. Legislators have nullified measures passed by the voters, from puppy mill restrictions, to election campaign finance reform, to sensible restraints on toting guns.
Your Vote Counts
A lot of voters feel crossed by all the legislative vetoes of their will at the ballot box. They will no doubt be signing "Your Vote Counts" petitions in the months ahead to put a measure to protect their voting on the ballot in November 2012.
The "Your Vote Counts" law would make it necessary for a three-fourths majority of the legislature to overturn initiatives that have originated with Missouri citizens and then been voted upon by the people.
The right of the governor to veto bills is enshrined in the Missouri Constitution. The right of lawmakers to flaunt the will of the people is chimerical, and not enumerated in the Missouri Constitution.
Here is something that actually is enshrined on one of the marble walls of our Jefferson City state Capitol building: "The Will of the People Shall Reign Supreme."