On the issue of life, Gov. Nixon has flip-flopped for three decades. As a state senator in a relatively rural district, he declared himself pro-life. Two years later, in a run for the U.S. Senate, he continued to stand for the unborn. Then, when he decided to run for Attorney General, he evolved. As Governor, he has abstained – thrice refusing to veto pro-life legislation and instead letting the bills become law without his signature. Last week Gov. Nixon abstained no longer when he vetoed House Bill 1307, which would extend the waiting period for an elective abortion in Missouri from 24 to 72 hours. Increasingly his custom, Gov. Nixon sent an angry veto message to the legislature.
Like trains passing on a moonless night, the opposing sides of the life issue travel on parallel tracks. For those who are pro-choice, abortion is an act of freedom often because either they do not recognize the existence of a human soul inside the would-be mother or they substitute the would-be mother’s beliefs about the moral value of that life for God’s. To the pro-choicer, there’s only one person involved – and that is why the issue is often framed solely as one of women’s rights.
For those who are pro-life, of course, there’s much more to it than that. We believe that a human soul is created at conception — and that the moral value of that human soul is not dependent on anything other than its very existence. In an abortion, there’s not just one soul at risk, but two. And one of those souls is defenseless.
The Supreme Court has made it clear that states can enact abortion regulations to encourage citizens to choose life – so long as they do not impose an “undue burden” on abortions. Courts have upheld 24 hour waiting periods, and I believe they will uphold a 72 hour waiting period as well.
House Bill 1307 addresses our moral obligation to protect the vulnerable and innocent by building additional reflection time into the process before deciding to go through with an abortion. The change is grounded in the hope that a little extra time may save lives of the unborn. In regular session, the bill passed in the Senate with one vote short of a veto override (with one Republican absent) and with a few extra votes in the House. It’s going to be close, but it presently appears that an override is likely.
Food Pantry, Pregnancy Resource Center, and Maternity Tax Credit Overrides
On Wednesday, Gov. Nixon vetoed House Bill 1132, a bill that would increase the tax credits available to food pantries, pregnancy resource centers, and maternity homes by $1.5 million per year. These tax credits help charitable organizations like the Samaritan Center and the Pregnancy Help Center here in Jefferson City serve food and provide maternity services to Missourians in need. Better yet, its structure as a public-private partnership increases fundraising and makes success more likely because these organizations have deeper community support than straight government spending. The bill passed by wide bi-partisan margins of 30 to 1 in the Senate and 121 to 25 in the House. This bill will be overridden.
Are Deer Livestock or Game?
On Tuesday, Gov. Nixon vetoed two bills designed to transfer authority for regulating captive deer from the Department of Conservation to the Department of Agriculture under the theory that captive deer are livestock not wildlife. This is a complicated controversy years in the making.
For years, Conservation has been concerned about the spread of chronic wasting disease (CWD) in Missouri’s deer herd. The Department’s biologists believe captive deer and, more precisely, the frequent influx of out-of-state deer to these facilities, is a prime cause of the disease. On the other side, Missouri deer-breeders vigorously dispute that their operations cause or spread CWD.
In their efforts to prevent further incidents of CWD, the Conservation Commission proposed a set of stringent rules for captive deer. Some of these rules are likely unconstitutional, in danger of being struck by courts as arbitrary and capricious, or because they amount to a regulatory taking of private property without just compensation.
Every action has a reaction. Before those rules were published, a few bills started moving in the legislature. After the rule, the bills really grew legs.
I voted no because Article IV, Section 40(a) of the Missouri Constitution grants the Conservation Commission the exclusive authority to control, manage, restore, conserve, and regulate “bird, fish, game, forestry, and all wildlife resources of the state.”
Are deer game, wildlife, or livestock?
Missouri’s deer-breeders claim they are just livestock because they’re kept in an enclosed space, raised from birth, and tame. They argue, “How can they be wildlife when they’ve never been outside captivity?” But there are two responses to this. First, an originalist response – that, for purposes of Article IV, Section 40(a), “wildlife” means those animal species that were wildlife in Missouri in 1936, when the provision was added to the Constitution. Second, “wildlife” is not all that Conservation has exclusive authority to regulate. Conservation’s constitutional mandate extends to “game” as well. Many deer-breeders in Missouri run their operations for hunters to shoot deer on their ranches. When a word is not defined in the Constitution or a statute, courts look next to the dictionary for a definition. Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary defines “game” as “animals under pursuit or taken in hunting.” I believe this common sense definition is fatal to the deer-breeders constitutional argument for those breeders who market their ranches for hunting and who raise deer to be sold to hunting ranches.
Unfortunately, the bills that passed also included several other non-controversial and important provisions for Missouri agriculture. The bills had 107 votes in the House – two shy of the magic veto override number. I am confident that the deer-breeders will sue to invalidate Conservation’s regulations, and I hope they are successful for those that are arguably arbitrary and capricious. In the legislature, I predict a tough fight for an override, but one that will ultimately come up short.