Monday, September 26, 2016
Creve Couer senator critical of gun and voter ID overrides
Even though our state Constitution allows for up to 10 legislative days for veto session, once again this year, the session was over in about 8 hours. While this was really no surprise, I had held out hope that those of us representing the minority viewpoints on the two issues that garnered the most controversy and conflict would be given ample time to make our case to those listening in the Senate Gallery and online, and to our colleagues who might just take one more look...
Instead, a procedural maneuver allowed in parliamentary and Senate processes, "calling the Previous Question," allowed for an immediate vote on ending debate-which passed- forcing the vote on question of overriding the Governor's veto. This procedure was used twice during the day on arguably the most controversial bills before us.
The override of the veto of SB 656 in Missouri, the gun expansion bill, was, according to the Missouri Times, the NRA's top national priority. The bill allows for the carrying of a concealed weapon in public without any state permit, without any firearm training and without any background check required.
Sheriffs around the state were among those groups who stood in opposition to the bill and in support of the veto. Under the current system, sheriffs have been able to deny a concealed carry permit when a person is considered unfit due to mental instability,suicide concerns, or escalating domestic disturbance calls. Since no permit will be required under the new law, people who might have been denied a permit will now be able to legally conceal and carry.
Those who choose to get permits so that they have reciprocity across state lines will be able to purchase a lifetime permit. We don’t even allow that for drivers, and cars are not intended to be deadly weapons!
And the expansion of “Stand your ground” laws (no longer referred to as the “Castle Doctrine” since its application has expanded far beyond our castles…) including no obligation to reasonably retreat, creates a “Shoot first, ask questions later” mentality, the lethal realities of which will likely pit mourning families against shooters in court.
The New York Times editorial board has characterized us as “The Shoot Me State.” Every law abiding Missouri citizen, gun owner or not, should have cause for concern in this new largely-deregulated environment in our state.
Groups such as Moms Demand Action, the Police Chiefs Association, Catholic Bishops and those who provide support to victims of domestic violence worked hard to have the Governor’s veto sustained. In the end, the NRA and pro-gun expansion legislators prevailed.
The other bill that garnered more attention than most and was voted on as a result of the Previous Question being called was HB 1631, legislation that will require a government-issued photo ID for a citizen to exercise his or her right to vote at the polls. (Less regulation for access to a deadly weapon, more regulation for access to the ballot box, interesting.)
This national GOP movement has been acknowledged as a way to disenfranchise low-income and minority voters, who tend to vote democratic. The truly agreed and finally passed (TAFP) bill had a fiscal note of up to more than $2,000,000 in FY 2017; and up to over 11,000,000 in FY 2018. That estimated cost to you and me is over $13,000,000 in the first two years of implementation alone for attacking the non-existent problem of voter impersonation! We have no known cases of voter impersonation in Missouri, and very few around the country.
The problems you have read about with both alleged falsification of absentee ballots or incorrect numbers of ballots at the polls cannot and will not be resolved by this legislation. These are not voter impersonation issues.
And, while Senate Democrats had some success during session in negotiating language to minimize adverse affects of this bill in the short term, ultimately, HB 1631 will serve to silence voices and undermine the right to vote for as many as 220,000 Missourians, as estimated by the office of the Secretary of State.
The 15th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution gave black men the right to vote in 1870. Women won the right to vote 96 years ago when the 19th Amendment to the Constitution was passed. But truth be told, the use of poll taxes, literary tests, property ownership and other obstacles limited some group's access to the polls. It wasn't until the 1965 Voting Rights Act that the stumbling blocks keeping minorities and women from voting became law.
This bill has been characterized as a modern day poll tax, interfering with our fundamental Constitutional right to have our voices heard. The legislature overrode the Governor’s veto of HB 1631 during the veto session.
Some people have claimed that you need a photo ID for everything these days, so this should be no big deal. It simply isn't true. Not everyone drives. College student IDs are not government-issued, and therefore will not quality to be used to vote. Most importantly, neither driving nor going to college, nor using a credit card rises to the level of a Constitutional RIGHT. We must protect the right to vote.
So, while we passed this piece of legislation, we have an opportunity to to protect Missouri's Constitution by voting no on Amendment 6 in November.* We should be very careful about the impact of what we enshrine in our state Constitution. The problem many claim photo identification at the polls will solve, does not exist. Voter impersonation happens rarely, if at all across the entire country. Passing this constitutional amendment will move our state backward, to a time of poll taxes and voices denied. Our hard earned rights are simply too precious to undermine.
As a member of the minority party, I don’t always come out on the prevailing side. However, at this time of friction and strident disagreement in national politics and policy, being one of currently only 7 Democrats in Missouri’s Senate seems like the place I need to be. It is critical to voice a different opinion on issues where we disagree, and to look for compromise where we can. I am grateful to my constituents for allowing me to use my brain and my heart to work toward good public policy for a better Missouri.