Nixon vetoes bills on holidays, Agenda 21

Gov. Jay Nixon vetoed a pair of bills Monday that he said targeted imaginary problems pertaining to federal holidays and United Nation’s policies, but which he said could have been costly to local communities.

One of the vetoed bills would have banned public entities from restricting celebrations or discussions of federal holidays.

The other would have forbidden governments from enacting policies traceable to Agenda 21 — a nonbinding resolution adopted in 1992 by the United Nations that encouraged sustainable development.

“While the problems these bills ostensibly aim to fight are only imaginary, the headaches they could create for local governments would be very real and costly,” Nixon, a Democrat, said in a news release announcing the vetoes. “The new and unnecessary mandates imposed by these bills would have infringed on the rights of local communities and prompted a flood of frivolous litigation.”

State Rep. Rick Brattin said his bill barring restrictions on the “practice, mention, celebration or discussion” of federal holidays was meant to protect Christmas and Thanksgiving, although neither were explicitly mentioned in the legislation. He said Christmas has particularly come under criticism from groups seeking to wipe out public references to religion.

“In schools, especially, they’re not even allowed to mention the word,” said Brattin, R-Harrisonville.

Nixon expressed concern about the measure’s potential effect on Independence Day. He said it amounted to “a direct assault on local government authority” to enforce fireworks ordinances.

The governor said the bill was worded so broadly that it also could have allowed state employees to demand time off to celebrate federal holidays — potentially causing staff shortages at 24-hour institutions such as nursing homes for veterans, mental health facilities and jails.

Nixon said the other vetoed bill, addressing Agenda 21, could have forced city councils and other governmental entities to undertake a “bizarre and burdensome analysis” to determine if a zoning ordinance or local policy was traceable to the U.N. resolution.

Agenda 21, which got its title by a reference to the 21st century, was signed by 178 nations and encourages changes in global consumption, management and conservation practices. But Nixon said it doesn’t mandate anything “and not a single pejorative action in Missouri has been tied to it.”

“It is fundamentally misguided and unnecessary to require local government officials to become international law experts in order to perform their duties,” Nixon wrote in his veto message.

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