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Can Prop B be fixed?

February 28, 2011 at 8:07 a.m. | Updated February 28, 2011 at 8:07 a.m.

Nearly 1 million Missourians voted in November to change the state's puppy mill laws and make them tougher, bringing more than 61,000 more supporters to the polls than those who cast ballots against that proposal.

As a result, 51.6 percent of Missouri voters approved Proposition B, limiting to 50 the number of breeding animals a breeder can have, and imposing numerous controls on how those breeders can operate.

Opponents of the measure, sponsored by several groups, including the St. Louis-based Missouri Humane Society and the Humane Society of the United States, quickly marshaled legislative supporters who introduced a variety of bills to change or gut the voter-passed law.

"We're not trying to repeal Proposition B," said Karen Strange, Eldon, president of the Missouri Federation of Animal Owners - a group that actively worked against Proposition B and now is in the Capitol seeking to rewrite parts of it.

"We're trying to make it where it can, actually, be enacted legally."

That lobbying effort prompted billboards and one lobbying effort by supporters wanting to encourage the Legislature to keep its hands off the new law.

"I feel very strongly that the legislators - our senators and representatives - should abide by the vote of the people," said Judy Baumgartner, Holts Summit, after seeking to talk with lawmakers nearly two weeks ago.

But Senate President Pro Tem Rob Mayer, R-Dexter, said lawmakers should be involved in reviewing the law, even though voters okayed it just a few months ago.

"Just because some organization had an attorney or two draft out a piece of language doesn't necessarily mean that they didn't make a mistake or overlook something," he said.

Proposition B went to last November's ballot as an initiative petition.

Senate Floor Leader Tom Dempsey, R-St. Charles, said: "We need to be very careful, whenever we infringe upon that (initiative petition) process."

Still, he noted, "One of the things that was not in the proposition was a funding mechanism for enforcement.

"And you can have whatever you want to have in law, but if you don't have an enforcement measure, then it's just words on a page."

Strange agreed.

"What we are trying to do is clarify what appeared on the ballot summary and, we believe, that those who voted for it actually believed they were helping - so that we can actually help animals," she explained. "And we're trying to clarify that so that we can, actually, do something about the substandard facilities who are doing it wrong."

But in his blog last Wednesday, Wayne Pacelle - CEO and president of The Humane Society of the United States - said: "A goodly number of lawmakers in Missouri have told the press and their constituents that they have no interest or desire in repealing Prop B, the Puppy Mill Cruelty Prevention Act, and only want to "fix' Prop B.

"But "fix' in this instance seems to be a synonym for "gut,' and the whole ham-handed effort unfolding in the Show-Me State is an insult to the 997,870 Missouri citizens who voted "yes.'"

Dempsey rejects Pacelle's view.

"Any member of this Legislature has the ability to file whatever legislation they care about," he told reporters last week. "In this situation, Sen. Mike Parson and some others from outstate believe they are representing their constituents" who voted strongly against the ballot measure.

He said Parson, R-Bolivar, has been talking with supporters and opponents of Proposition B to see "if there's actually some agreement they can come up with where they have a funding mechanism for enforcement and they have a strong law that puts unlicensed breeders out of business."

Mayer said Parson is working on a bill that "will provide the protections that the voters wanted for dogs."

Not so, Pacelle said, arguing Parson's plan "would strip Prop B of all of its core provisions. ... There's no fix going on, but a wholesale repeal. It's the equivalent of going to the doctor to remove a mole, and he takes out your heart, lungs and kidneys."


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