Legislature passes Nixon's compromise on Prop B restrictions on dog breeding
This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, April 28, 2011 - Following a whirlwind mix of legislative and executive action, Gov. Jay Nixon signed into law significant alterations to a ballot initiative strengthening regulations on dog breeding.
The compromise keeps intact some of Prop B's provisions, but it eliminates limits on how many dogs a breeder can keep and how often they can be bred. It also provides time for breeders to comply with space and exercise requirements and provides guidelines for veterinarian care.
Nixon, D-Mo., signed the measure Wednesday night at a press conference only a couple hours after the Missouri General Assembly finalized a compromise brokered last week between Nixon, agriculture groups, some animal welfare groups and Missouri legislators. That only went forward after Nixon signed legislation that weakened the initiative -- known as Proposition B -- early Wednesday afternoon.
Nixon said the compromise provided a balance between protecting dogs and protecting the state's agriculture. He said the move didn't mitigate the wishes of Missouri's voters. "The bottom line is but for the people of this state voting on this, we wouldn't be here today," Nixon said, when asked about whether the move signals antipathy to the voters.
"Their votes did matter. Their votes fundamentally changed a discussion on what's on going with our state and played a vital role getting this to the finish line."
The measure included an emergency clause, which would put the measure into effect immediately. It could prevent groups opposed to the new language from using the referendum process to bring the bill up for a public vote.
But one of the groups that pushed initial ballot item signaled that the fight may not be over. Said Humane Society of the United States president Wayne Pacelle in a statement: "The agribusiness industry may temporarily get its way in state legislatures in some states in the Midwest. But by defending puppy mills, subverting democratic decision-making by overturning citizen initiatives, and trying to prevent the public from seeing what goes on at factory farms, it's hardly building its capital with the American people. You can be sure we won't relent in our efforts to call out animal cruelty to dogs, cats, or animals raised for food. And we'll remind consumers and voters about Big Ag's efforts to subvert the protection of animals, the environment, food safety, and democratic rights."
Republican legislative leaders said last week they would not pass the so-called "Missouri solution" until Nixon signed Sen. Mike Parson's bill weakening portions of Proposition B. Nixon signed that bill early Wednesday morning, prompting the Missouri House to bring up a wide-ranging agriculture bill.
How Area Legislators Voted
Sue Allen, R-Town and Country
Kurt Bahr, R-O'Fallon
Cloria Brown, R-St. Louis
Kathie Conway, R-St. Charles
Paul Curtman, R-Pacific
John Diehl, R-Town and Country
Gary Fuhr, R-St. Louis
Chuck Gatschenberger, R-Lake St. Louis
Don Gosen, R-Chesterfield
Marsha Haefner, R-Oakville
Tim Jones, R-Eureka
Andrew Koenig, R-Ballwin
Cole McNary, R-Chesterfield
Jamilah Nasheed, D-St. Louis City
Mark Parkinson, R-St. Charles
Ed Schieffer, D-Troy
Vicki Schneider, R-O'Fallon
Rick Stream, R-Kirkwood
Anne Zerr, R-St. Charles
Rory Ellinger, D-University City
Doug Funderburk, R-St. Peters
Ben Harris, D-Hillsboro
Penny Hubbard, D-St. Louis
Jacob Hummel, D-St. Louis City
Tishaura Jones, D-St. Louis City
Jeanne Kirkton, D-St. Louis County
Michele Kratky, D-St. Louis City
Mike Leara, R-St. Louis County
Karla May, D-St. Louis City
Margo McNeil, D-Florissant
Tim Meadows, D-Imperial
Genise Montecillo, D-St. Louis County
Stacey Newman, D-St. Louis County
Mary Nichols, D-Maryland Heights
Jeanette Mott Oxford, D-St. Louis City
Sharon Pace, D-St. Louis County
Tommie Pierson, D-St. Louis County
Jill Schupp, D-Creve Coeur
Scott Sifton, D-Afton
Clem Smith, D-Velda Village Hills
Churie Spreng, D-Florissant
Sylvester Taylor, D-Florissant
Rochelle Walton Gray, D-Florissant
Steve Webb, D-Florissant
Joe Keaveny, D-St. Louis City
Brian Nieves, R-Washington
Scott Rupp, R-Wentzville
Maria Chappelle-Nadal, D-University City
Jane Cunningham, R-Chesterfield
Tom Dempsey, R-St. Charles
Tim Green, D-Spanish Lake
Will Kraus, R-Lee's Summit
John Lamping, R-Ladue
Jim Lembke, R-Lemay
Ryan McKenna, D-Crystal City
Eric Schmitt, R-Glendale
Robin Wright-Jones, D-St. Louis City
*also compiled by the AP.
That measure eliminated a cap of 50 on the number of breeding dogs allowed. It also removed a requirement limiting a dog's breeding cycle to no more than twice every 18 months. Additionally, the bill loosened requirements for veterinarian care, food and water, cage size and exercise.
Soon after the governor signed that bill, the House took up a wide ranging agricultural bill -- Senate Bill 161. The House placed the compromise language on that bill and took out every other aspect not related to dog breeding regulations. Among other things, the compromise would phase in the requirement for bigger cages over several years and modify the type of required veterinarian care needed for dogs.
Proponents of Parson's bill praised the compromise, with state Rep. Casey Guernsey, R-Bethany, stating that the measure was a "good faith movement" after the governor signed Parson's legislation. And state Rep. Tom Loehner, R-Koetlztown, who handled Parson's bill on the House floor, said the new language made Parson's bill better.
Opponents -- such as Rep. Margo McNeil, D-Florissant -- said she was still voting against the measure, because it undid some of what the voters approved last year. "Now what we have done ...¦ is going to improve the situation," McNeil said. "However, I have made a commitment to the voters that I will not overturn the will of the voters."
The underlying bill subsequently passed 108-42. Later in the day, the Missouri Senate took up the legislation and passed it by a 24-10 margin. That sent the compromise to Nixon, who signed the measure into law at the news conference.
One point of contention with the compromise was implementing an "emergency clause," which would place the measure into effect immediately. That ended up passing in the House by a 111-40 margin and subsequently passing the Senate 32-1.
According to Missouri's Constitution, a referendum may be ordered on a bill if a group gathers petitions signed by 5 percent of the legal voters in two-thirds of the state's congressional districts. Proponents of an initiative would have 90 days after the final adjournment of the General Assembly to submit signatures.
But the state's Constitution provides an exception to the referendum process for "laws necessary for the immediate preservation of the public peace, health or safety." Barbara Schmitz of the Humane Society of the United States said it's her group's understanding that a referendum would not be possible with an emergency clause in effect.
"The Constitution in this state I thought actually meant something," said House Minority Leader Mike Talboy, D-Kansas City. "We wave it around like a flag. But in certain instances, when it fits our agenda, we use it as toilet paper. I have some real heartburn about shutting down the constitutionally protected rights of people, of citizens of this state through the legislative process."
Loehner said the emergency clause was aimed at letting the measure go into effect and giving breeders certainty. "These people have been out here in limbo, not knowing whether it's going to pass or not," he said.
Is It Over?
Schmitz said her group was looking a multitude of options. Those options could be legal -- such as possibly challenging the emergency clause. She also said the group could push for an initiative petition on the issue and will be supporting a constitutional amendment to make it harder for the legislature to overturn ballot initiatives.
Even Loehner said the battle over the dog breeding issue is likely not over. "Sure it's going to be in court," Loehner said. "How many bills that we pass here go to court? This is probably a good candidate."
Nixon, however, said the move was the best move for the state's agriculture climate. "I think this is a dramatic, important, significant step," Nixon said. "And I think it will now hopefully kind of lessen the debate and increase the action."
Jason Rosenbaum, a freelane writer in St. Louis, covers state government and politics.