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Missouri Family E-News December 14, 2009
Governor Nixon Seeks Crackdown on Drunk Drivers
Missouri Governor Jay Nixon is proposing legislation for the coming session of the General Assembly which would increase penalties for drunk drivers.  The key feature of the proposal would involve moving many DWI (driving while intoxicated) cases into the state court system.
Under the bill, drivers who registered a blood alcohol content in excess of 0.15 would no longer be prosecuted in municipal courts, where penalties are often weaker.  All such cases would now be prosecuted in the local circuit court, where enhanced state criminal sanctions would apply.  All repeat DWI offenders would also be prosecuted in state court.
"More and more science shows us that the folks with a blood-alcohol level above 0.15 are the folks who are repeat offenders or problem drinkers," Nixon says.  "Not to mention that they're significantly impaired."
Nixon's legislation would also make it a crime to refuse to submit to a breathalyzer test.   Currently, drivers who refuse such tests face a one-year suspension of their license.  Yet such cases are often pleaded down to avoid not only suspension of the license but any DWI charge.
"We wanted to take away any legal incentive to refuse," Nixon states.  "By criminalizing refusal, we don't reward those who refuse but actually punish them."
The bill also eliminates the provision in the current law that allows DWI offenders to have their records expunged after ten years if they have committed no further offenses.
Michael Boland, public policy liaison for Mothers Against Drunk Driving, says the Nixon proposal is an important step forward for highway safety.  He says the bill will help close what he calls "horrific" loopholes that let drunk drivers off the hook with minor infractions or fail to record their offenses in statewide databases."
Nixon says his goal is "airtight laws, aggressive prosecution, tough sentencing, and strict accountability."  Senator Matt Bartle of Lee's Summit will be sponsoring Nixon's bill in the Senate.  Representative Bryan Stevenson of Joplin will be handling Nixon's bill in the House.
Alcohol played a role in 7300 traffic accidents on Missouri roadways last year.  262 people were killed by motorists driving under the influence of alcohol, and another 4511 were injured. 
Missouri Roundtable for Life Sues State Auditor, Secretary of State
The Missouri Roundtable for Life has filed suit in federal court against Missouri's Secretary of State and State Auditor, claiming a violation of the organization's constitutional rights.  The group claims that Robin Carnahan and Susan Montee have abused their power in manipulating the ballot summaries for constitutional amendments they have proposed.
Missouri Roundtable for Life has submitted a number of initiative petitions in recent years in efforts to reverse or limit the impact of Amendment 2, passed by Missouri voters in November 2006.  That constitutional amendment, falsely promoted as the "Stem Cell Research and Cures Initiative," made human cloning and embryonic stem cell research constitutionally protected activities in our state.
Each time the Missouri Roundtable has filed an initiative petition for circulation for signatures to Missouri voters, Secretary of State Carnahan has drafted a ballot summary which completely distorted the proposal in politically charged fashion.  In many instances, the ballot summaries her office has written read like issue statements from the defenders of human cloning.
The suit alleges that Carnahan and Montee "intentionally engaged in a systematic, persistent, and continuous campaign of unlawfully and inaccurately manipulating initiative petition language so as to mislead and confuse Missouri voters and create prejudice against [Missouri Roundtable's] proposed constitutional amendments."  The suit claims that such actions deprived Missouri Roundtable of its rights under the U.S Constitution to free speech, due process, and equal protection under the law.
"This lawsuit is an attempt by Missouri Roundtable for Life to hold Carnahan and Montee accountable for their flagrant abuse of their responsibility to fairly and impartially handle citizen groups' initiative petitions,"  says Matt Hearne, attorney for the group.  "Missouri Roundtable has done everything it can to follow the law, yet Carnahan and Montee have so manipulated the process...that it is impossible for them to exercise their constitutional rights."
The suit has been filed in the Eastern District of the United States District Court in St. Louis.
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McCaskill Votes to Defeat Pro-Life Protections in Health Care Bill
Missouri Senator Claire McCaskill has joined with U.S. Senate leaders to kill a proposal which would have prohibited abortion coverage in the proposed federal health care plan.  McCaskill voted to shelve discussion of an amendment offered by Senator Ben Nelson of Nebraska and Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah which would have prevented federal health care dollars from being used to pay for abortions.
McCaskill had promised during a town hall meeting in Jefferson County over the summer that she would not vote for a health care bill that included abortion funding provisions.  Yet she now says that the pro-life amendment "goes too far," and insists that failure to pass the pro-abortion health care measure "is not an option."
McCaskill claims that the Nelson-Hatch amendment would have banned the use of "private money in a private market for any kind of health services related to abortions."  Yet that is not at all true.  The amendment clearly states that individuals can purchase separate supplemental coverage for abortions through insurance company riders.
What the Nelson-Hatch amendment does do is prohibit the inclusion of coverage of abortion services in the government-run "public option" health care plan (now called the community health insurance option).  It also prohibits coverage of abortion in any private insurance policy which is subsidized by federal tax credits under the Health Insurance Exchange created by the bill.  
However, individuals could obtain abortion coverage through supplemental insurance which is paid for entirely with their own funds.  This arrangement would be similar to a Missouri statute adopted in 1983.  That law states that no health insurance policies can be issued in the state that provide coverage for elective abortions "except by an optional rider for which there must be paid an additional premium."
The pro-life amendment would also have provided that no health benefits plan can discriminate against health care providers or facilities because of their unwillingness to provide, pay for, or refer for abortions.  There are currently no conscience protections in the Senate health care proposal.  Senator Hatch has pushed hard to establish conscience clause provisions.
The Nelson-Hatch pro-life amendment was nearly identical to the Stupak Amendment, which was adopted by the U.S. House of Representatives on their version of the health care bill.  The Nelson-Hatch Amendment was tabled by a vote of 54-45.  Missouri's other U.S. Senator, Kit Bond, voted to continue discussion of the amendment.
As things stand, the Senate bill pushed by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid authorizes the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) to include abortion coverage in the government-run plan.  This would almost assuredly happen, since HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius is an ardent supporter of abortion on demand.  Even if she were not a strong advocate of abortion, it still would almost certainly happen because her boss, President Barack Obama, promised Planned Parenthood that "reproductive health care" would be a centerpiece of his health care reform efforts.
Even if the so-called "public option" is abandoned, as seems increasingly likely, it appears that pro-abortion forces have a back-up plan.  The Senate adopted an amendment by Senator Barbara Mikulski of Maine that requires that all health insurance plans include "preventative care," and leaves it to the Obama Administration to define what that means.  Mikulski pushed a similar amendment in committee, and acknowledged that her concept of "reproductive health care" included abortion.
The Reid bill still requires that private insurance plans offer abortion coverage in every region of the country, and these plans would be subsidized by federal tax dollars.  While abortion has been legal in this country for nearly 37 years, taxpayer money has never been used to finance abortions, regardless of the political party in power.
If Senator Reid is able to win passage of some form of health care bill in his chamber, the major showdown will occur in the conference committee between the House and Senate.  Democratic leaders will have to decide whether to accept the pro-life language of the Stupak Amendment in the House or risk the entire proposal going down to defeat.
While Senator McCaskill makes no bones about the fact that she is a "pro-choice" Democrat, there was a slender of hope that she might actually stand with Missourians and the vast majority of Americans who strongly oppose federal funds being used to kill unborn children.  Instead, she has abandoned her promise to the people of Missouri and demonstrated once again her wholesale allegiance to the abortion industry and pro-abortion lobbyists.
You can let Senator McCaskill know how you feel about her vote against the pro-life amendment by sending her an e-mail through her Senate website:
You can thank Senator Bond for his vote in support of the Nelson-Hatch Amendment by contacting him through his Senate website:
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