View from the Capitol by State Rep. Ed Schieffer

 Posted on Thursday, July 18, 2013 at 8:40 am

Ed Schieffer

Ed Schieffer

This week I will share some of the bills Governor Nixon signed and others, which he vetoed.

Gov. Jay Nixon on July 2 signed an omnibus agriculture bill into law but vetoed two other agriculture-related measures that would have allowed foreign ownership of farmland in Missouri, one of which also would have exempted Cape Girardeau County from an existing statewide law that prohibits mining operations within 1,000-feet of property where an accredited school has existed for at least five years.

HB 542, which Nixon signed, includes a provision allowing local University of Missouri Extension councils, except for the one in St. Louis County, to form regional taxing districts that, subject to local voter approval, could impose property taxes of up to 30 cents per $100 assessed valuation. The wide-ranging bill also contains provisions relating to livestock and feed loans; technical and career education; and urban agriculture zones, among other things.

A provision in one of the vetoed bills, SB 9 would have lifted a decades-old prohibition on ownership of Missouri agricultural land by foreign owners. Lawmakers enacted the land provision just weeks before Shuanghui International Holdings Ltd. of China announced its planned purchased of Smithfield Foods Inc., which owns a number of large corporate hog operations in Missouri. SB 9 would have allowed up to 1 percent of Missouri farmland to be foreign-owned.

In addition to containing the land provision, the other rejected measure, SB 342, also was an attempted legislative intervention on behalf of Heartland Materials LLC in its ongoing court dispute with Saxony Lutheran High School, which opposes the company’s attempts to open a nearby limestone mining facility in Cape Girardeau County. So far, the school has prevailed at both the circuit and appellate levels in its efforts to block the mining.

In his veto message, Nixon said lawmakers shouldn’t create special rules for one company in one county. “It is generally objectionable to excuse a select industry or company from an existing standard to which all other entities are held,” Nixon said. “It is even more offensive to suggest that school children in Cape Girardeau County should receive any less protection than children in all other parts of the state.”

Also signed into law by Gov. Nixon on July 2, was legislation that expands the definition of forcible rape and strengthening other laws punishing sex offenses. The bill, HB 215, also includes various other provisions relating to domestic violence and criminal procedures.

The next day, Nixon vetoed a separate bill that would have removed certain sex offenders, who committed their crimes while juveniles, from the state’s online sex offender registry. In his veto message, Nixon said HB 301 was overly broad and failed to “strike the appropriate balance between providing this relief to a limited class of juvenile sex offenders and the need to ensure public safety.”

On July 2, Gov. Nixon vetoed legislation that would have increased the fees that payday, title and consumer installment lenders can charge customers. Existing law limits origination fees to 5 percent of the principal up to $75. HB 329 would have doubled such fees to 10 percent.

“Missourians need payday loan reform, not the expansion and higher fees provided in House Bill No. 329, which will do nothing to help consumers trapped in a spiral of debt,” Nixon said in his veto message. HB 329 passed 34-0 in the Senate and 143-17 in the House of Representatives.

Gov. Nixon also vetoed a pair of bills that would have made it easier for companies to avoid paying unemployment benefits to fired workers. Both SB 28 and HB 611 would have greatly expanded the definition of “misconduct” for which benefits can be denied to include activities that occur outside of the workplace on an employee’s own time.

In nearly identical veto messages, Nixon said the bills go too far in denying unemployment benefits under such circumstances. “What employees do on their own time should not be used as a basis for denying unemployment benefits, except in the narrow circumstances already set forth in law,” Nixon said. “And employers should not be encouraged to adopt unreasonable rules to use as a basis for denying unemployment benefits.”

As always, I respect your trust and value your advice, comments and questions. Let me know how I may serve you and your family. Now that the Legislature is adjourned, I am home in the District. I would be available to meet with groups or individuals locally. Please call me at (573)751-9459, toll free at (855)285-3781, locally at (636)299-3270 or (636)462-7295. If you wish to fax my office, our number is (573)522-0441. You may email me at ed.schieffer@house.mo.gov or elected11thmorep@excite.com. You may also check the final outcome of legislation at http://house.mo.gov.

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