Koster pens letter critical of nullification bill up for override

20130805-161336.jpg– Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster slammed a bill backed by the General Assembly that aims to nullify some federal gun rules.

In a letter sent to House Speaker Tim Jones and other members of the body, Koster, a Democrat who was endorsed by the National Rifle Association during his reelection campaign in 2012, said some provisions of the bill would likely be deemed unconstitutional, but some of the it may stand, if it is overturned by lawmakers during veto session next week.

“Included among the provisions of HB 436 that will likely remain law are provisions that 1) call for an end to cooperative efforts between state and federal law enforcement officials, 2) grant criminals a right to sue officers for enforcing the law, and 3) create confusion in Missouri’s concealed carry law,” he wrote. Koster added later in his note that, “while state legislatures have occasionally sought to nullify various federal laws through history, the U.S. Supreme Court has shown no patience for these exercises.”

Gov. Jay Nixon vetoed the bill earlier this year, citing a line of line of federal cases going back more than 200 years — Marbury v. Madison, McCullough v. Maryland, Tennessee v. Davis — that he said solidify federal supremacy when there is a conflict with state law.

In an interview last month, Justin Dyer, an associate professor of political science at the University of Missouri in Columbia, said the question for the legal system if the veto is overridden is “what rights does the state have if the federal government violates the constitution.” More broadly, Dyer said he does “not know of any federal judge that would side with the state” on the issue of criminalizing federal law enforcement officials enforcing federal laws.

Still, a handful of Democrats had earlier indicated their wariness to voting against an override with fear that some gun rights advocates may oppose them when it comes to election year. The bill originally pulled support from 12 Democrats, seven votes more than required for an override. State Rep. Jay Barnes, R-Jefferson City, was the sole GOP dissenter in the body. (Two Democrats originally supported the bill in the Senate.)

Koster, a leading contender for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination in 2016, penned a similar letter to the General Assembly about House Bill 253, income tax legislation last week.

Read Koster’s full letter here.