Tuesday, March 8, 2011

POKIN AROUND: Pork producer cut a campaign slice for 2 local lawmakers in Prop B fight
In Sunday's column I scratched my head — which indicates deep thought — and wondered why two of our St. Charles County lawmakers would cosponsor bills to either repeal what's called the Puppy Mill proposition or gut it.

And they did this, they say, without reading the bills.

Sally Faith, R-15th District, of St. Charles, has withdrawn her support of any anti-Prop B measure, saying she made a mistake by trusting a fellow House member as to what the measures were about. Faith also happens to be running for mayor of the dog-lovin' city of St. Charles.

Chuck Gatschenberger, R-13th District, of Lake Saint Louis, told me Friday he never really wanted to change anything about Prop B. He just thought the two bills he cosponsored would provide a chance for the warring sides to talk rationally and intelligently about the issue.

Statewide, the measure passed with 51.6 percent of the vote on Nov. 2. Urban areas supported it and rural areas didn't.

It passed with 61 percent of the vote in St. Charles County.

And last week the House Agriculture Committee approved an anti-Prop B measure, cosponsored by Gatschenberger, that "guts" the new law, according to Bob Baker, executive director of the Missouri Alliance for Animal Legislation.

OK, maybe I'm not exactly the sharpest pencil in the pocket protector, but over the weekend it hit me like a ton of puppy chow that maybe one reason Gatschenberger and Faith were willing to disregard the sentiments of their constituents was because they received a campaign contribution from someone unhappy with Prop B.

So when I came into work Monday morning I checked. And they did.

They both received $500 from Smithfield Foods Inc., the world's largest hog producer and pork processor. The company is based in Virginia and has hog operations in Missouri — but not in St. Charles County.

In addition, Gatschenberger received $300 from a lobbyist for the Missouri Pork Association, which was front-and-center in the effort to defeat Prop B at the ballot box and, now, in Jefferson City.

Faith says the contribution had nothing to do with her cosponsorship. She says she did not know pork producers were against Prop B and only assumed Smithfield was a pork producer because, "They told me they were going to send me a ham, and they didn't."

I was unable to reach Gatschenberger for comment.

You might wonder, as I did, what the connection is between puppy mills and pork production.

Before I explain, a short digression. My column was posted on my Facebook page (www.facebook.com/PokinAround) at 5:24 p.m. Friday and 36 minutes later someone posted a remark advising me to check out the real agenda of HSUS president and CEO Wayne Pacelle.

My response was: What's the HSUS?

"HSUS" stands for the Humane Society of the United States. It was one of the sponsors of Prop B.

Let me tell you, farmers don't like Pacelle much at all.

A March 29 story in the Kansas City Star reported that at least six states have laws banning or phasing out sow-gestation crates. The HSUS helped pass those laws.

A sow gestation crate is a small pen where pregnant sows are kept immobile for years while they are bred.

In 2007 Smithfield announced it would phase out gestation crates over 10 years, but the company in 2009 said it would delay those plans for financial reasons.

The use of these crates is an international issue, as well. The European Union has required they be phased out by 2013.

"The fear is that if you can't confine a dog in a cage with only 3 inches of space that you won't be able to do the same thing with pigs," Baker says.

There is nothing in Prop B that deals with animals other than dogs. I've seen the arguments still insisting that it does. Typically, someone finds a reference to "those animals" in the legislation and leaves out what we grammarians call the antecedent — the "breeding dogs" that appeared earlier in the sentence.

Don't believe me? Think I'm a left-leaning vegan HSUS flak? Then read the words at the top of the law: "Statutory Amendment to Chapter 273, Relating to ... now this is the important part ... Dog Breeders."

Pork producers, cattlemen, those who raise chickens and the Missouri Farm Bureau fear the 'slippery slope." They argue that if you can't breed dogs however you want then, someday, the government is going to impose a crate load of laws on humane ways to treat livestock. That, they contend, will increase the price of food.

The slippery-slope rope-a-dope was used before in Missouri by those who found it hard to bid farewell to cockfighting.

In 1998 lawmakers were unwilling to take it upon themselves to ban "cockfighting, bear wrestling and other kinds of animal fighting." (FYI: Bear wrestling would be one human vs. one bear.)

So it went to a vote of the people and Prop A passed with 62.6 percent in favor.

A man named Phil Church, president of the Missouri United Gamefowl Breeders Association, told the Post-Dispatch that if the ban passed we would all soon be rolling down the slippery slope to the criminalization of baiting a hook with a live minnow.

And as we all know, our state prisons are teeming today with live-bait fishermen.

Steve Pokin is a columnist for the Suburban Journals. He can be reached at spokin@yourjournal.com or by phone at 636-946-6111, ext. 239. His column is on Facebook at www.facebook.com/PokinAround.



POKIN AROUND: Prop B repeal? Shouldn't you read the bill first?

State Rep. Chuck Gatschenberger, R-13th District, of Lake Saint Louis, says that maybe things have gone a bit beyond what he had in mind when he cosponsored a couple of bills regarding Proposition B.
Do ya think?

One simply puts a bracket in front of the first word of the legal changes made by Prop B to more humanely treat dogs and another bracket after the final word.

Meaning, the entire Prop B measure would be repealed.

Maybe a bit too far?

Voters approved Prop B, dubbed the puppy mill proposition, in November. It requires dog breeders in the state to treat dogs more humanely.

Please don't call to tell me it also affects chicken production and limits what you can feed your cat. The official ballot language states, "Relating to Dog Breeders" and the measure deals with dogs, and only dogs.

The other measure Gatschenberger has cosponsored, House Bill 131, was approved Tuesday by the House Agriculture Committee. How would this measure — now considered a House and Senate compromise bill — affect Prop B?

"It pretty much guts it," says Bob Baker, executive director of the Missouri Alliance for Animal Legislation. Baker, who lives in South County, attended the committee's hearing Tuesday in Jefferson City.

The bill, as it stands after's Tuesday's action, would remove many Prop B provisions, including the ones that called for the prohibition of wire flooring for dog cages and the stacking of cages. The stacking ban is intended to keep waste from one dog dropping onto another.

Gatschenberger told me Friday he cosponsored the bills involving Prop B simply because he wanted the two sides — pro-Prop B and anti-Prop B — to discuss the matter in an intelligent, reasonable manner.

That dialogue, he says, might include: "Hey, let's talk this out. Show me where it says anything about pigs."

Gatschenberger says, "I wanted to get the experts on both sides of the issue and get them to sit down and talk. I am not in favor of changing much of anything."

Prop B passed statewide with 51.6 percent of the vote. Urban areas favored it and rural areas didn't.

If you don't really want to change it, I asked Gatschenberger, why cosponsor a bill that would either (A) repeal it or (B) gut it?

Gatschenberger hasn't read the bills. He signed on to encourage greater dialogue. And all he's gotten for his statesmanship is an earful from constituents who support Prop B, he says.

You might recall that Gatschenberger is not the only state lawmaker from St. Charles County who has cosponsored a bill to roll back Prop B.

Sally Faith, R-15th District, cosponsored the same bills. But Faith, who is running for St. Charles mayor, has withdrawn that support, regrets it and also admitted she didn't really read the bills.

"I'm not perfect, but I'm human," Faith told the Journal's Russell Korando.

Why this need for a re-do of Prop B? Were we all that confused? Were we similarly confused on the people we voted into office? Can we get a re-do of that, too?

Prop B passed in St. Charles County with 61 percent of the vote.

In Gatschenberger's district it passed with 53.3 percent. That figure does not include the sliver of his district that includes the portion of Foristell that is in Warren County.

I have to wonder: How often do lawmakers in Jefferson City cosponsor bills they don't read?

How often does a lawmaker slap a colleague on the back in the House cloak room and ask for a little help, a little cosponsorship love?

How often is the reply, "Sure George, but only if you cosponsor my bill in return?"

Only to find out later you're calling for Missouri to re-form the Confederacy?

It would be like me putting my byline on something I've neither written nor read.

Or stepping outside of Schnucks and signing a petition without reading the part about making German the official language of St. Charles County.

Obviously, now that I think about it, it must happen more than I ever imagined.

Patti York fact checking

Contrary to what you might have read in a campaign flier sent in January by St. Charles Mayor Patti York, Money magazine did not name St. Charles one of the Top Ten cities in which to live in 2009.

York told me this week that — oops! — she meant to say top 100.

For the record: In 2008, not 2009, Money magazine named St. Charles the 82nd best place to live in the nation. St. Peters was 60th and O'Fallon 68th.

Steve Pokin is a columnist for the Suburban Journals. He can be reached at spokin@yourjournal.com or by phone at 636-946-6111, ext. 239. His column is on Facebook at www.facebook.com/PokinAround.


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