Missouri Editorials

Written by Muleskinner Staff

The Associated Press
The St. Joseph News-Press, July 14

Humane option needed
At first, the idea of horse slaughter seems distasteful. When considering the bigger picture, however, it becomes apparent the practice actually is a needed option.
Northwest Missouri is in the midst of this ongoing controversy. Rains Natural Meats of Gallatin, Mo., is working with the U.S. Department of Agriculture in preparation to receive regulatory approval to slaughter horses.
Powered by emotion, Congress banned slaughter in 2007. However, the results proved disastrous for horses and horse lovers. Few humane options remained for animals that became old or sick.
Local owners had to try to find a buyer who would transport the animals to Mexico or Canada. The next-best alternative was to kill them at home, creating an environmental problem of disposing of large carcasses. Authorities reported an increase in abandoned and neglected horses.
Congress reversed course in 2011, voting to permit slaughter as a humane end-of-life option. Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., provided a key vote for the move, noting a need in Missouri.
The USDA finally approved the opening of a slaughter plant in New Mexico this summer, followed by another plant opening in Iowa. Daviess County may seem like an unlikely place for horse slaughter, until you consider it is home to Missouri’s largest Amish settlement, where horses are common in everyday life.
The Rains family has dealt in specialty meats in the past, including antibiotic-free and hormone-free pork and beef. The plant is a small, family operation so only a limited number of horses would pass through. Most of the meat is expected to be exported and some may be directed to alternative markets, such as zoos.
Thorough inspection and adherence to regulations related to product safety and slaughter practices are essential for this project. The opening of the two other plants means there is no immediate rush to approve the Gallatin facility.
We urge the Rains family to be upfront about the process and keep the public informed. Once that happens, we believe the region will be receptive to a facility that will add economic activity in a rural community while providing a humane option for horse owners.
The Springfield News-Leader, July 13
Vetoes remedy bills’ ills
Gov. Jay Nixon’s more than 30 vetoes are evidence of the value of having a politically split General Assembly and administration.
Those vetoes also appear to be evidence of a legislature that has spent too much time cooking up bills to satisfy a right-wing fringe and too little time studying the ramifications of their actions.
The veto list ranges from the highly controversial, such as the Second Amendment Preservation Act and the Tax Relief Act, to the largely overlooked, such as a bill that, in part, modifies provisions relating to motorcycle brake lights.
Fortunately for Missouri, the governor and his staff have spent more energy than the legislature making sure each bill does not include unintended consequences, unexpectedly hurt citizens or mean the state would face costly and unwinnable court challenges.
That is something the lawmakers need to spend more of their time doing. With one of the largest state legislative bodies and longest sessions in the country, it seems that they should be able to put a little more thought into the laws they put forward.
Nixon’s veto statements provide numerous examples of legislative failures.
One bill intended to deter minors from using fake IDs to get on gambling boats actually reduces the penalty instead of strengthening the law. A bill that intends to remove the requirement for foster parents to submit fingerprints every two years fails to consider the fact that fingerprints are already electronically stored — and this bill illegally includes a second purpose, relating to custody and visitation for military personnel.
A bill that seeks to prevent uninsured motorists from suing an insured motorist after an accident actually creates more problems than it solves because it fails to define “uninsured” or clearly state what kind of lawsuit it addresses. That could send the state to court, instead.
One bill includes a provision that would limit how much agricultural land in Missouri could be owned by foreign interests but failed to allow for a public hearing. And another provision creating the office of “animal trespass” inadvertently holds a farmer or pet owner accountable even if the animal never leaves its own property.
A bill addressing DWI courts conflicts with another law. Bills seeking state funds, including one for Springfield, do not comply with state law.
Some of the vetoes reflect conflicting points of view regarding the rights of the state’s citizens.
A bill that would create a lower level of sex offender, intended to protect juveniles, goes too far by not considering the level of offense or the rights of victims. …
The worst example is the so-called “Second Amendment Protection Act” that ignores another part of the U.S. Constitution — the Supremacy Clause that clearly states that federal law is the law of the land, even Missouri.
Granted, some of Nixon’s vetoes are likely to end up with some serious and legitimate debate during the veto session in September. State income tax and workers’ compensation criteria are likely candidates.
While we look forward to that healthy debate, we hope that the next General Assembly avoids another embarrassing slew of vetoes that mostly point to its own failures.
St. Louis Post-Dispatch, July 12
Legislature turns Second Amendment debate into a punch line
Embarrassing fact: If the Missouri Legislature overrides Gov. Jay Nixon’s veto last week of House Bill 436, then the next time the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and local police departments arrest 159 people and seize 267 guns, the agents and cops could be charged as felons for any gun-crime arrests made in St. Louis.
Surely not, you say. The Legislature couldn’t be that stupid. Wrong.
Had Mr. Nixon not vetoed it, House Bill 436 — grandly titled “The Second Amendment Preservation Act” — would have become law Aug. 28. Among the many stupid things it would have done was to make it a felony for any federal or state law enforcement officer who tried to enforce federal gun laws.
As U.S. Attorney Richard Callahan pointed out, had it been law on Wednesday, the members of the federal-local task force that cracked down on some of the area’s most hard-core criminals could have been charged with crimes.
The Legislature will have a chance to override Mr. Nixon’s veto in September. Perhaps some of the bill’s supporters will have wised up by then. But with this bunch, you never know. …
It would have nullified every federal gun law ever passed — and those that might be passed in the future. Want a machine gun in Missouri? Legal. Bazooka? Legal. Tank? No problem. Laser death beam if it’s ever invented? Legal. Even the National Rifle Association, before it went off the deep end, once supported most of the laws that this joke of a bill would have nullified.
It would have made it illegal to print the name or picture of any gun owner in the newspaper. Want your gun convention covered? Too bad. Want your local weekly to print a picture of your kid and the first deer he shot? Not gonna happen.
The folks in St. Peters represented by the bill’s sponsor, Republican Doug Funderburk, must be very proud. House Speaker Tim Jones, R-Eureka, is an attorney. Unless he slept through the law school classes that covered the numerous nullification cases outlined by Mr. Nixon in his veto message, he had to know this law would never be implemented. It wasn’t passed to protect Second Amendment rights, but to allow Mr. Jones and others to go on right-wing radio and pretend they were protecting Second Amendment rights.
The result of such cynicism is to diminish every serious discussion of the Second Amendment going on in Missouri or around the nation. …
The Kansas City Star, July 9
Nixon’s vetoes reveal sloppy work in Missouri’s Capitol
Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon has been on a veto spree. As of Tuesday afternoon (July 9), he had “disapproved” 24 bills. And he has until Sunday to consider a couple dozen or so more.
Some of the vetoes, which lawmakers will have a chance to override in a September veto session, reflect political and philosophical differences between the Democratic governor and the Republican-controlled General Assembly.
A governor more in tune with the punitive worker agenda promoted by some conservative business interests, for instance, might have signed a bill that requires the state to create a database of all Missourians who have filed workers’ compensation claims. That would be a great resource for employers seeking to preemptively blacklist potentially troublesome employees.
Nixon, who generally looks out for workers when reviewing bills, pointed out in his veto message that the bill violates workers’ privacy. It also potentially puts employers in violation of federal law.
Not all of the governor’s vetoes can be chalked up to political differences, though. Nixon’s analyses of some bills lay bare enough flaws, contradictions and unintended consequences to give Missourians pause about the competence of the people drafting the state’s laws.
Take House Bill 339, which would prohibit an “uninsured driver” from suing an insured motorist alleged to be at fault in an accident. As Nixon noted in his veto, the measure is “riddled with ambiguity,” and fails even to provide a definition of an uninsured motorist.
Another vetoed bill would remove a longtime protection banning mining operations from taking place too close to a school, but only in Cape Girardeau County.
And, as Nixon pointed out in his high-profile veto of a bill seeking to declare federal gun laws void in Missouri, not only does the legislation run afoul of the U.S. Constitution, a provision banning the publication of gun owners’ names would make criminals out of newspaper editors who “annually publish photos of proud young Missourians who harvest their first turkey or deer.”
Lawmaking is by nature a messy process, replete with last-minute amendments and changes. Still, legislators have an obligation to make their bills as clean as possible and avoid passing provisions that are likely to inadvertently penalize unwitting citizens or provoke court challenges that the state is almost certain to lose.
Still other bills on the vetoed list suggest that Missouri lawmakers simply have too much time on their hands.
There’s the bill telling local governments they can’t enforce any land-use policies that might be “traceable” to Agenda 21, a decades-old, nonbinding United Nations resolution that has become the source of many bizarre conspiracy theories. There’s a thinly veiled display of anti-Islamic hysteria that bars Missouri courts from applying foreign law. And a bill that strives to head off a non-existent “war on Christmas” and in the process restricts local governments from even regulating fireworks displays.
With 163 members, Missouri’s House is the fourth largest in the nation. The House and Senate meet for almost the entire first six months of the year. That’s way more people and time than are needed to accomplish the state’s business. A downsized House and shorter session would reduce the nonsense that comes out of the legislature each year.
Not to mention the wear and tear on the governor’s veto pen.