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Columbia Missourian

DEAR READER: Let the lobbying commence on repealing Prop B

By Tom Warhover
December 31, 2010 | 12:00 p.m. CST

Dear Reader,

I wish there was a way to re-frame the debate over Proposition B. I’m not optimistic. I can do something about mean-spirited name-calling on the newspaper website.

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On Dec. 1, Missouri Sen. Bill Stouffer pre-filed a bill to repeal the dog breeder rules approved in November by the state’s voters.

This week, news organizations noted that the group Missourians for the Protection of Dogs has spent $20,000 on billboards around Jefferson City. They say: “Missouri voters have spoken. Will you listen?”

State Rep. Chris Kelly appealed for moderation on Monday in a guest column on ColumbiaMissourian.com.  “There is room for reasonable compromise,” he wrote. “It will require that we get past the name calling, each respect the other side and be willing to accept middle ground even when we do not agree completely.”

“Both sides have reason to get it right.”

The comments posted on Kelly's column quickly devolved. Accusations of lies and liars were made. References to Kelly’s original column – which contained plenty of blunt statements worth challenge – soon were as rare as a morel mushroom in August.

Didn’t we just go through this in September and October?

Other editors and I should have invoked the comments policy earlier and more often in the 24 hours that followed Kelly’s comments. (It’s a rule: No personal attacks.) It’s a reminder to me to keep a weather eye out on Prop B articles.

And there will be more.

To reset the table, here’s the synopsis that ran before Kelly’s column:

“Proposition B passed in the November 2010 election with a 51.6 percent vote. It amended Missouri law to require large-scale dog breeding operations to provide each dog under their care with sufficient food, clean water, housing and space, necessary veterinary care, regular exercise and adequate rest between breeding cycles. The amendment further prohibits any breeder from having more than 50 breeding dogs for the purpose of selling their puppies as pets. The amendment also creates a misdemeanor crime of ‘puppy mill cruelty’ for any violations.’’

The intensity and interest of the issue is evident in the list of most viewed on ColumbiaMissourian.com. In 2010, two of the top 10 articles were Prop B related.

The Missourian probably devoted more coverage to it than any other issue or candidate on the ballot. The mantra among the staff: Spread light amid all the heat.

Next week, the 96th General Assembly convenes. Senate Bill 4, Stouffer’s repeal, will be in play then.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch’s Jake Wagman predicts there won’t be enough political capital, including a veto override, for a repeal.

What will we learn – about the laws and about ourselves – along the way?

Tom