JEFFERSON CITY — Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon announced several vetoes Wednesday, rejecting legislation dealing with uninsured motorists, volunteer health care providers and child care requirements.
The vetoes were the most recent of the various bills the Democratic governor has blocked so far. More legislation remains, and Nixon has until mid-July to sign or veto bills, or they will take effect automatically.
Under the motor vehicle legislation vetoed Wednesday, uninsured motorists involved in an accident would have waived the ability to have a cause of action or collect for noneconomic losses from someone who has insurance. Court awards would have been reduced by the amount representing noneconomic damages. Lawsuit restrictions would not have applied if the motorist at fault was drunk, under the influence of drugs or convicted of involuntary manslaughter or second-degree assault.
Nixon said the legislation was "riddled with ambiguity" and would have prompted excessive litigation over to whom and how to apply the legislation. He said the measure did not define "uninsured" and that there was uncertainty about whether it would have prohibited any causes of action or simply the recovery of certain damages.
When state lawmakers passed the uninsured motorist bill in May, Senate President Pro Tem Tom Dempsey, R-St. Charles, called it a "common-sense measure" that would put heft behind Missouri's requirement that motorists keep liability insurance for their vehicles.
Another bill vetoed Wednesday would have shielded volunteer health care providers from civil damages unless there was gross deviation from the ordinary standard of care or willful misconduct. Sen. David Sater, who sponsored the legislation, had said the bill would allow doctors, nurses, pharmacists and others to provide care for no compensation for a sponsoring organization with protection against frivolous lawsuits or civil damages.
"These providers, even if they are not compensated, are forced to provide their own liability insurance to protect themselves from lawsuits," said Sater, R-Cassville. "The result is that they are prevented from donating their service because of the high cost of liability protection."
Nixon said the State Legal Expense Fund provides liability coverage for volunteers at free health clinics, schools and to health professionals helping at summer camps. He said allowing coverage through the fund encourages volunteers and protects those who have been harmed and that gaps should be filled within the existing system.
"It would be bad public policy to deny individuals who receive poor medical care access to the legal system simply because the person who provided the care was a volunteer," the governor said.
Nixon also vetoed bills he said sought to create an exemption for a St. Louis organization from child care requirements and legislation that dealt with foster parents and custody and visitation for military personnel. The governor also vetoed legislation he said conflicted with a measure already signed into law and dealing with private probation services.
Lawmakers return to the state Capitol in September to decide whether to attempt to override any of Nixon's vetoes.