Nixon cites constitutional concerns in veto

Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon vetoed legislation Wednesday that sought to discourage energy investment in Iran, increase penalties for harming service dogs and change a variety of other laws touching on everything from 911 sales taxes to disabled parking spots.

Nixon said he spiked the bill not because he objected to the merits of any particular provision, but because he believed the sheer quantity of different topics violated the state constitution. On top of that, Nixon said, the bill’s original purpose was so dramatically altered that it violated the constitution.

In a letter to lawmakers explaining his veto, the governor described the legislation as a “hodgepodge of unrelated matters” rolled into a single bill.

The bill was “a sanctuary for orphaned ideas in search of safe transport to becoming law,” Nixon said. “But it cannot be. And while my action today will unfortunately preclude the enactment of certain important provisions contained in this bill, it will preserve the constitutional safeguards for accountability in the legislative process.”

The governor said the final version of House Bill 1900 violated two sections of the Missouri Constitution dealing with legislative proceedings. One section states: “No bill shall be amended in its passage through either house as to change its original purpose.” The other states: “No bill shall contain more than one subject which shall be clearly expressed in its title.”

The legislation carries a title declaring its provisions are “for the sole purpose of restructuring statutes based on executive branch reorganizations.”

Nixon wrote in his veto message that the original bill was “a simple housekeeping measure to reconcile state statues with organizational changes” made in agencies. But he said the final version amended that original purpose and, “undeniably, the bill contains multiple subjects.”

Rep. Craig Redmon, who sponsored the legislation, acknowledged amendments from colleagues widened the scope of the bill. Yet Redmon said he was disappointed Nixon vetoed it.

“Yeah, maybe it’s not exactly germane — germane gets pretty fuzzy there at the end of the session,” said Redmon, R-Canton.

He added: “There’s going to be a whole bunch of bills that he’s going to have to veto if that’s going to be his criteria.”

The Legislature passed several other wide-ranging bills during their 2012 session that ended in May. Nixon has until July 14 to veto additional bills, or else they become law.

Redmon said his legislation contained “a lot of really good amendments.” He cited a provision that would have allowed people who intentionally kill or injure service dogs to face felony charges, punishable by up to five years in prison, instead of misdemeanor charges carrying a maximum penalty of a year in jail.

Another section of the bill would have prohibited businesses or people from getting state contracts worth more than $1 million if they had invested at least $20 million into the energy sector in Iran or provided tankers or pipeline materials for Iran to transport oil or liquefied natural gas.

Redmon said the provisions modifying requirements for disabled parking spots could have allowed Missouri to get more federal money.

Among other things, the bill also would have exempted taxes imposed for 911 emergency communications systems from being diverted to development projects in special “tax increment financing” districts.

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