Sloppy Drafting - The Missourian: Opinion

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Sloppy Drafting

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Posted: Wednesday, August 21, 2013 10:39 am

In a few weeks, legislators will convene in Jefferson City for their annual veto session.

Lawmakers will gather to consider whether to vote to override any of Gov. Jay Nixon’s 29 vetoes of bills from this past legislative session which ended in May. A two-thirds majority of legislators is required to override a veto.

The veto session is an opportunity for the Republican-controlled Legislature to flex its muscles and show Democrat Nixon who is boss in Jefferson City.

Political pundits predict the Republican-led Legislature has the votes to override several of Democrat Nixon’s vetoes. One of those is a high-profile gun bill that many lawyers and even its supporters acknowledge contain provisions that are likely unconstitutional and create unintended consequences.

How does this happen? The answer is simple: poorly drafted legislation.

When lawmakers get sloppy writing legislation — which is often done in the whirlwind rush of the last few days and even hours of the session — the bills often contain mistakes, contradictions and, in the case of HB 436, the gun bill, outright violations of the Missouri and U.S. constitutions.

Nixon has been barnstorming the state arguing in favor of his vetoes and pointing out the drafting problems that led to many of his objections.

Legislators are quick to point out that they can introduce legislation next session to fix the bills. But why were they passed in the first place when they contain obvious flaws?

It begs the question, who is vetting the legislation and are lawmakers even reading the bills before they vote on them?

The gun bill is just one example from this past session. The Springfield News-Leader pointed out a few others:

A bill intended to deter minors from using fake IDs to get on gambling boats actually reduces the penalty instead of strengthening the law.

A bill that intends to remove the requirement of foster parents to submit fingerprints every two years fails to consider that fingerprints are already electronically stored — and the bill illegally includes a second purpose, relating to custody and visitation for military personnel.

A bill that seeks to prevent uninsured motorists from suing an insured motorist after an accident actually creates more problems than it solves because it fails to define “uninsured” or clearly states what kind of law it addresses.

A provision in a law creating the office of “animal trespass” inadvertently holds a farmer or pet owner accountable even if the animal never leaves its own property.

The list of carelessly drafted legislation from this past session is embarrassingly longer. But you get the point.

We all make mistakes — including newspapers. But the problem with sloppy legislation seems to be getting worse not better. It appears to be a reoccurring theme of each session.

It’s hard to comprehend when you consider that lawmakers have the benefit of researchers and lawyers who help with the drafting process.

/opinion

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