Wayne Pacelle, the president and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States, is back in Missouri, pushing his book and a potential new ballot initiative.
Pacelle, like his organization, is spoken of darkly by agricultural groups and many legislators as the man out to destroy animal agriculture in Missouri. That’s a big leap from the national Humane Society’s actual mission in the state — humane breeding conditions for dogs.
Without rehashing the sorry saga of Proposition B and its dismantling by the legislature and the governor, let’s just say Pacelle remains unimpressed by Nixon’s “Missouri Compromise,” which the governor touted this very week during a visit to the Humane Society of Missouri in St. Louis. Nixon and Attorney General Chris Koster pledged stepped-up enforcement of licensed and unlicensed breeders.
“Enforcement is great, but the governor needed to be the backstop,” Pacelle said. By backstop, he means the last person able to protect the wishes of the majority of voters who approved the tougher regulations on dog breeders in November. That’s water under the bridge now — the most the Humane Society can do is pledge to monitor the writing and enforcement of the new rules. But Pacelle isn’t done with ballot initiatives.
The Humane Society is gathering a consortium of groups to back an initiative for a constitutional amendment that would make the legislature meet a higher bar for tampering with or dismantling voter-approved statutes.
Only a majority vote was needed to vastly alter the Proposition B statute. The legislature this year also undid a 2008 voter initiative that required Missouri to move toward using 15 percent renewable energy. And the House voted to revoke a 2006 voter-approved law setting a minimum wage threshold, though that measure didn’t clear the Senate.
The Humane Society and other groups plan to push an initiative that would require a three-quarters vote of the legislature to undo or change a voter initiative. Pacelle said he favors that threshold, as opposed to, say, a two-thirds majority requirement, because 75 percent limit would require bipartisan support. The Missouri legislature’s GOP contingent is so large that Republicans potentially could unilaterally overturn a voter initiative.
My guess is this idea will gain a lot of traction. I can see an unlikely alliance of conservative groups, labor backers, environmentalists and others.
Interestingly, Pacelle is working with former Democratic Lieutenant Gov. Joe Maxwell, who now has a law practice in Mexico, Mo., and also raises antibiotic-free pigs. Maxwell is helping line up a coalition for the prospective ballot initiative and also helping the Humane Society form an advisory council of farmers and ranchers.
If you’re in the Kansas City area and can’t get enough of this stuff, stop by Barnes & Noble on the Plaza at 7 p.m. today. Pacelle will be speaking and signing books.
I’ve read parts of his book, “The Bond,” and it’s an interesting blend of stories and perspective on the animal welfare movement. Pacelle is combative, and he pulls no punches when discussing his opinions of groups like the American Farm Bureau, the National Rifle Association and, most prominently, the American Kennel Club. He also discusses his unlikely friendship with NFL quarterback and (presumably) reformed dog fighter Michael Vick.