|Controversy is spreading regarding SB 615 (aka the 2006 Photo Ban bill) introduced by Senator Bill Stouffer (R-21). SB615 is now in the hands of the Republican-controlled Judicial and Civil & Criminal Jurisprudence Committee of the Missouri Legislature whose members include: Matt Bartle, R-8, Chair; Rob Mayer, R-25, Vice-Chair; Bill Alter, R-22; Jason Crowell, R-27; Jack Goodman,R-29; Chris Koster, R-31; Victor Callahan, D-11; Chuck Graham, D-19 and Charles Wheeler, D-10.
A summary of the bill follows:
SB 615 - The act extends the "Animal Research and Production Facilities Protection Act" so that its provisions apply to all agricultural research and production facilities. For example, the act covers agricultural production involving forestry products, horticulture products, and tobacco as well as products derived from livestock and other farm animals [CAFOS!].
The act adds to the list of punishable offenses perpetrated against such facilities. The act states that arson in both the first and second degree resulting in damage to any such research and production facility, breaking and entering, and knowingly possessing and distributing illegally obtained materials pertaining to agricultural research and production facilities are crimes subject to the penalties prescribed in the statute. The act broadens the scope of punishable offenses; new language makes it illegal to commit these offenses, attempt to commit them, conspire or knowingly allow another individual to commit them. Anyone providing material support, which can be for example, financial support, housing or transportation, shall also be liable in the event that a crime is committed against a facility. (MEGAN WORD, SENATE BILL SUMMARY WRITER)
"The extraordinarily broad scope of this bill is staggering," commented Mark Adams, a spokesperson for SWMCALME, the group fighting the CAFO abuses of MoArk, LLC and calling for better laws protecting the environment and community health. Adams has issued a plea for constituents to fax their senators over the weekend or Monday and ask them to submit their letters of opposition to the committee for the record.
The Photo Ban bill, labeled "notorious" by many environmentalists and animal rights leaders, has been introduced and defeated during several sessions of the Missouri legislature. In 2005 HB 666, introduced by Rep. Jim Guest, (R-5 King City), would have made it a felony to take a photograph of an animal facility and/or property without the express written constent of the owner. Founded in 1990, the Alliance for Animal Legislation, that opposes the current bill, has worked diligently each year to educate legislators to the serious problems this type of bill would pose, as was the case in 2005, to legitimate law enforcement efforts to investigate illegal activities and cases of animal abuse or neglect.
In the past decade members associated with People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PeTa), the activist animal rights group, have used arson as a viable tactic for promoting their philosophy. The specific mention of dealing with arson in the bill might not be conincidental.
Had this type of legislation been enacted prior to August 22, 2005, Rick Bussey's videotaping of live chickens being dumped by MoArk at their Neosho facility would have been considered a crime. Instead of MoArk being charged with misdemeanor cruelty to animals, Bussey would have been found guilty and punished accordingly. There wouldn't have been a new facility for the New-Mac Regional Humane Society located in Neosho without the $100,000 check received from MoArk as settlement with the office of the Newton County prosecuting attorney. [See comments below.]
Senator Gary Nodler, at left, confers with Senator Bill Stouffer in chambers. (Photo from Sen. Stouffer's archives)
What is the background of Senator Stouffer?
"As a farmer, I drive everything from a tractor to a semi," Stouffer once commented in referring to his need for good roads and bridges for transporting bulk commodities. After taking office in January 2005, in one year this farmer/small business owner from Napton, a corn-soybean growing area in Saline County, was named chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee.
He is a member of the Missouri Conservation Commission and was appointed by Gov. Matt Blunt and confirmed by the Senate to be responsible for setting overall policy goals for the Conservation Department. He is chairman of the Board of Directors of MFA, Inc., vice chairman of the Agriculture, Conservation, Parks and Natural Resources committee, and represents the Agriculture and Rural Development Commission at the National Council of State Legislatures.
So far, this session Stouffer has submitted at least a dozen bills for consideration, none considered by his opponents as more positive for big business and potentially detrimental to the environment and animal care as SB 615.