The Missouri Conservation Commission works for Missouri, and we don’t see any reason for lawmakers to meddle with it. What lawmakers are proposing will make matters worse. Much worse. They are attempting a takeover of the commission.
Created more than 80 years ago, the commission currently has four members appointed by the governor, with no more than two from the same political party. The result has been a nonpartisan commission that is removed one step from legislative pressure.
But earlier this month, Missouri House members took some rather unusual steps to undo that.
They are proposing sending to the voters an amendment to the Missouri Constitution that would allow for a nine-member commission, one from each region of the state, but applications for eight of those positions will have go through the Missouri House, which will have a special committee tasked with screening five nominees for each position, and the governor would have to choose one of those five.
The bill advanced out of the 13-member Missouri House Conservation and National Resources Committee, but only after House Speaker Rob Vescovo, R-Arnold, added eight more members to that committee to get the needed result. You need look no further than than to understand just how political commission appointments will be if this goes any further.
Why do House lawmakers want this?
Because the Missouri Department of Conservation and its budget are beyond their reach. That’s the way the system was designed — and for good reason.
What’s more, it works. The Missouri Department of Conservation is the envy of most other states, because it is independent, because it is funded by citizens, because it can be driven by science instead of politicians.
State Rep. Bruce Sassman, R-Bland, has rightly pointed out: “If we have an unequal number of members, we will never again have another bipartisan commission because we could have more than 50% from one party.”
Proponents say it would make the agency more responsive.
But responsive to whom?
MDC goes to great lengths to survey Missourians for their input on everything from fishing and hunting regulations to managing its public lands.
This change would make the commission more responsive to legislators.
That is not what Missourians want or need.
Advancing this proposal would be a colossal conservation blunder.