APPEALS JUDGES SEND CAPTIVE DEER CASE TO HIGH COURT
A three-judge panel of the Missouri Court of Appeals Western District on Oct. 10 said it believes the state Conservation Commission has the constitutional authority to regulate captive deer breeding and hunting facilities. However, instead of reversing a lower court’s ruling to the contrary, the appellate judges transferred the case to the Missouri Supreme Court for a definitive decision.
The case involves a challenge brought by operators of captive deer facilities to regulations the Missouri Conservation Commission, the independent governing authority of the state Department of Conservation, is seeking to impose on such operations, including a ban on the importation of captive deer from other states. The department maintains the regulations are necessary to prevent the spread of chronic wasting disease, a fatal affliction that affects the central nervous system in deer.
The regulations have been on hold since August 2015 when Osage County Associate Circuit Judge Robert Schollmeyer originally issued a temporary injunction blocking their enforcement. In making the injunction permanent in September 2016, Schollmeyer ruled the commission’s claim to constitutional authority over “all wildlife resources of the state” doesn’t extend to privately owned deer held as livestock. Schollmeyer also said the conservation regulations were overly restrictive in violation of a constitutional amendment Missouri voters narrowly ratified in 2014 establishing the right “to engage in farming and ranching practices.”
The Court of Appeals disagreed with Schollmeyer’s rationale on both counts, declaring he interpreted the conservation commission’s constitutional authority too narrowly and the right-to-farm provision too broadly. Since the appellate judges didn’t actually reverse Shollmeyer’s ruling, the commission’s captive deer regulations will remain on hold pending a decision by the Supreme Court.
SUPREME COURT REFUSES TO HEAR RIGHT-TO-WORK CASE
A Republican attempt to block voters from deciding whether Missouri should become a so-called right-to-work state came to an end Oct. 5 when the Missouri Supreme Court declined to hear the appeal of a lawsuit challenging the measure’s ballot language. As a result, the issue is still slated to go on the November 2018 statewide ballot.
The Republican-controlled General Assembly enacted the right-to-work measure, Senate Bill 19, in early February and Gov. Eric Greitens quickly signed it into law. It was supposed to take effect Aug. 28, but right-to-work opponents pursued a rarely used referendum petition to force a statewide vote on the bill. So, instead of taking effect as scheduled, SB 19 will remain on hold until and unless it is approved by voters.
A Republican-backed lawsuit sought to derail the petition by challenging the ballot language prepared for the measure by Secretary of State John Ashcroft, a Republican. Cole County Circuit Judge Circuit Dan Green, also Republican, declared Ashcroft’s ballot language “unfair and insufficient” in June, a ruling that likely would have derailed the initiative petition drive if it had stood.
However, a three-judge panel Missouri Court of Appeals Western District overruled Green in July, allowing the petition drive to continue. Organized labor groups opposed to SB 19 submitted petitions on Aug. 18 with 310,567 signatures from registered Missouri voters, more than triple the amount needed to put the measure on the ballot.
Since the Supreme Court refused to hear the appeal from the Western District, the ballot language challenge is over. However, Republicans are expected to attempt to pursue various other legal challenges aimed at stopping voters from having a say on right to work. Under SB 19, business owners would be subject to criminal prosecution and possible jail time for negotiating labor contracts that require employees to pay dues for the union representation they receive, a currently common practice.
LAWSUIT FILED CHALLENGING PART OF NEW ABORTION LAW
As had been expected, Planned Parenthood and the American Civil Liberties Union on Oct. 9 filed a lawsuit seeking to block parts of a bill imposing abortion regulations lawmakers enacted this summer following a special legislative session according to The Associated Press. The measure, Senate Bill 5, is scheduled to take effect Oct. 24.
The provision of the SB 5 targeted by the lawsuit involves Missouri’s mandatory 72-hour waiting period to obtain an abortion. Under the previous version of the law, a nurse, counselor or other medical professional is allowed to provide certain information pertaining to abortion at least 72 hours before the procedure. SB 5 requires that only the doctor who will perform the procedure can provide the mandatory information. The lawsuit contends the requirement imposes an unnecessary burden that doctors might not be able to meet and delay abortions for weeks.