A few Missouri politicians are busy trying to repeal or dismantle Proposition B, the voter-approved Puppy Mill Cruelty Prevention Act, which sets humane standards for large-scale dog breeding operations. Prop B passed in a statewide vote -- and won majorities in most state Senate and state House districts. But a handful of legislators want to substitute their own judgment for the wisdom of 997,870 Missouri voters who favored the new law. While this attempted power grab is coming from the state capitol building, more reasonable voices around the state are calling on lawmakers to respect the will of the people.
State Rep. Sally Faith, R-St. Charles, had signed on as cosponsor of two repeal bills, even though more than 65 percent of voters in her district favored Prop B. She told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that she got more than 200 phone calls and e-mails from constituents who questioned her on the issue. She has rightly changed her mind, after hearing from her district, and said she will now oppose efforts to repeal Prop B. "I'm not perfect, but I'm human," Rep. Faith told the St. Charles Suburban Journals. "When we're in Jeff City the legislators that we know, you figure out who you can trust, and the first bill put in front of me (in 2011) was Prop B. I signed on it. That's not something I normally do, but I trusted the bill handler. I could have said, 'Let me look at this. Let's talk about this.' That's where I shot myself in the foot. I love animals."
Let's hope other state lawmakers get the message as well, and take the time to find out how their own districts voted on Prop B. If every senator and representative votes with his or her own district, the measures to roll back dog protection standards will fail in both chambers. Newspaper editorials, cartoonists, and columnists, even some that opposed Prop B during the election campaign, are weighing in and saying the people's vote should stand. Here's a rundown of what some across the state are saying:
Our legislators cannot have it both ways. In any number of areas, they have chosen not to govern, leaving it to special interests -- the gambling industry, animal lovers, gun enthusiasts, clean-energy advocates just to name recent examples -- to use the initiative process to put policy questions directly to the voters. It's costly and cumbersome, and it's not terribly easy to go back to the voters to change policies when facts or public sentiment change. But that's the way it is. Having chosen not to act in the first place, it's outrageous for legislators to substitute their judgment for that of the voters after the fact. -- Editorial, Independence Examiner, Feb. 3, 2011
Let's start with Proposition B, the 2010 doggy mill initiative. It was approved by the voters, requiring dog breeders in Missouri to treat their animals more humanely. I did not support this in 2010, but the majority of the state did. I care about that. Yet it seems the Republican-heavy legislature does not. They think you were foolish to pass such a law and they want to gut it or kill it. -- David Rosman, Columbia Missourian, Feb. 2, 2011
A basic issue is whether the legislature should so quickly amend the will of the voters. It's legal for lawmakers to second-guess initiative voters, but usually after a decent interval when the paucity of their decision is clear. Perhaps a case can be made for changing Prop B, but only after we know more about the efficacy of the existing law. -- Henry J. Waters III, Columbia Tribune, Feb. 1, 2011
With the coveted title of Puppy Mill Capital of America at stake, a House committee this week has been considering ways to cancel the election results. One proposal simply would repeal the law. Another would exempt existing breeders. A third course, warmly received by many committee members on Tuesday, would eliminate such pesky provisions of the law as prohibiting dangerous overcrowding in cages, protecting dogs from bad weather and providing them veterinary care when needed... [T]he Missouri Legislature prefers to defy the will of the people, trash duly enacted voter initiatives and bow to the will of special interests more to their liking. -- Editorial, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Jan. 27, 2011
Rural lawmakers want to either repeal outright or substantially amend the statute that was Proposition B on the November statewide ballot. It requires dog breeders to treat their animals humanely. One of the bills, sponsored by Rep. Stanley Cox, a Sedalia Republican, would modify the ballot measure by:
- Removing the provisions requiring owners to provide adequate shelter from the elements, sufficient housing, sufficient space to turn and stretch freely, necessary veterinary care and adequate rest between breeding cycles.
- Removing the provisions requiring water for dogs to be free of debris, feces, algae and other contaminants.
With his proposed changes, Cox has soundly validated the wisdom of voters in passing the puppy mill cruelty act. -- Editorial, Kansas City Star, Jan. 29, 2011
Proposition B passed by a narrow margin, but pass it did. Animal welfare groups sought the public vote because the legislature for years shirked its responsibility to require decent treatment of dogs. Lawmakers who have filed bills seeking to overturn Proposition B are demonstrating their contempt for the wishes of the people. They would be far wiser to help breeders comply with the new law. -- Editorial, Kansas City Star, Dec. 29, 2010
Before the election, we took a strong stance against passage of the ballot proposition pitched as a protective measure for puppies. Here, we take a strong stance to try to protect the main tenets of the proposition. Contradictory? No. Voters have made the call on this one. We accept that. We support the process that allows a voter initiative to create law in Missouri. Those who are now trying to repeal Proposition B should back off. -- Editorial, Springfield News-Leader, Dec. 19, 2010
Proposition B was among the most discussed and debated issues on the November ballot. To contend the voters were misled undermines their intelligence. It doesn't matter whether we--or other newspapers--opposed it, whether a vast majority of counties rejected it or whether legislators are happy with the outcome. The initiative petition process, used to launch Proposition B, empowers people to propose public policy when their elected representatives fail to do so. The proposition exemplifies the phrase "of the people and by the people." And our state motto reminds us to respect the welfare and the people, including their ability to determine what that is. With regard to Proposition B, let it be. -- Editorial, Jefferson City News Tribune, Dec. 4, 2010
Here in Missouri, voters have decided to let voters decide. Unless, of course, we decide we want to curb abuses in puppy mills, something a number of our state lawmakers have decided we didn't have the right to decide. They're talking about amending or throwing out the statute that passed at the polls on Nov. 2. -- Barbara Shelly, Kansas City Star, Nov. 12, 2010
This would never have gone to the ballot at all if state legislators at some point could have bestirred themselves to enact at least some of these reforms, but, as with other issues, they took a pass. They've had their chances. It's a little late now to suddenly show concern because an election went the wrong way. -- Editorial, Independence Examiner, Nov. 10, 2010
Missouri lawmakers should respect the will of the voters on puppy mills, even if they disagree with what voters had to say. Anything less damages democracy and insults voters. -- Editorial, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Nov. 8, 2010
During the campaign, a preposterous story line took hold that the move to regulate dog breeding operations was the first step in a calculated attempt to drive animal agriculture out of Missouri. Legislators would be very deceitful to use such unfounded fears as a basis to repeal Proposition B. -- Editorial, Kansas City Star, Nov. 6, 2010