April 24, 2014

Supreme Court hears arguments on MOSIRA law

The fate of MOSIRA legislation is now in the hands of six judges on the state Supreme Court.

The state legislature passed Senate Bill 7 in last year’s special session enacting the Missouri Science and Innovation Reinvestment Act but only if Senate Bill 8 also became law, which it didn’t.  The Court must decide whether such a contingency clause is valid, and whether it would give the legislature more power than the Governor in lawmaking.

Attorney for the state, James Layton, says the provision should be thrown out but not the bill. He says such contingencies would allow a legislature to tie the hands of governors.

Layton told the court, “I’m going to pose this hypothetical: January, 2013. The general assembly begins passing bills in January, and from January until May every bill the general assembly passes says, ‘The effectiveness of this bill is contingent on the enactment of SB 1000.’ Every one.

“The Governor, all through that term, has to sign every bill without knowing whether SB 1000 passes or what it consists of. Then at the very end of the legislative session, the legislature gets to say, ‘Okay, are we going to pass SB 1000 or not, and if we pass it, what’s it going to have in it?’

“Well the plaintiffs’ argument here is that the general assembly has the power to do precisely that. To make not just this bill, but every bill contingent on a bill that we don’t even know what it is.”

Layton says that would give the legislature more power than the governor in the lawmaking process.

“I ask this court to say that this is on the side of a line that at the very least says that the general assembly cannot make an entire bill’s effectiveness conditional on the enactment of another bill that is still pending before that same general assembly, and then present that bill to the governor at the same time that they hold in their hands the ability to decide whether the governor’s signature has any impact at all.”

Missouri Roundtable for Life brought the suit. It and other pro-life organizations oppose MOSIRA because they fear it could open the doors for things like harvesting tissues from unborn children.

Attorney for Roundtable for Life, Steve Clark, says the contingency should be upheld, which would keep the MOSIRA language from being enacted.

“The legislative intent couldn’t have been more clearly expressed in the language of Senate Bill 7 itself. The legislature made very clear … that it did not intend (the MOSIRA language) to become effective unless and until Senate Bill 8 passed and was signed by the Governor.”

See the case summary. 

The Court will issue its ruling later.