Omnibus bills have been a common occurrence in the history of the Missouri legislature. With this practice, a bill that is perceived as being likely to pass in both houses of our legislature is used as a vehicle on which other bills "take a ride." Sometimes these amendments are beneficial and appropriate and are welcome additions. However, the opposite can occur, as well. These unwelcome additions are often referred to as "poison pills." Placement of the captive deer management amendment on the agriculture bill has been fraught with confusion, misinformation, and emotion. The amendment would have moved oversight of the captive deer industry from the Department of Conservation to The Department of Agriculture.
Section 40(a) of our constitution states, "the control, management, restoration, conservation, and regulation of the bird, fish, game, forestry and all wildlife resources of the state, including hatcheries, sanctuaries, refuges, reservations and all other property owned, acquired or used for such purposes and the establishment thereof, and the administration of all pertaining thereto, shall be vested in a conservation commission....."
Section 35 of our Constitution directs the General assembly to provide the Department of Agriculture with funds and enact such laws to protect, foster, and develop the agricultural resources of the state. Their website states that their mission is "To serve, promote, and protect the agricultural producers, processors, and consumers of Missouri's food, fuel and fiber products."
Captive deer farms are businesses that offer hunting within a fenced area. They are not agricultural producers or processors that provide "food, fuel or fiber products." Therefore, this raises a question of constitutionality. In addition, there is a public health concern relating to chronic wasting disease.
Passing a bill that contains a provision that is questionably constitutional and has a public health concern is not good government. Our hard-working dairy farmers and cattlemen in our state deserve the passage of a constitutional bill pertaining to their industry, not one weighted down by a controversial amendment that may send the bill to our court system. Such a bill could and should be passed without delay, either in a special session or in January.
A responsibility of the General Assembly is to introduce and pass well-thought, single-subject, constitutional legislation. Anything less is unacceptable.