Richardson wants to exempt MDC from oversight
To the Editor:
In its 2/26/14 article the Daily American Republic wrote extensively about new efforts in the Missouri General Assembly to promote proper oversight of our state's executive agencies. Unfortunately the article may leave some readers with the impression that I am in some way leading efforts to undo the fundamental way our conservation system has operated for the last 75 years. I want to be clear that is not the case. I am opposed to any changes that would negatively impact the operations of our Missouri Department of Conservation. While I believe the legislature is on the right track with HJR 57 as it works to emphasize proper checks and balances between the branches of government, I also think we must tread very carefully to ensure we in no way impair our citizen-driven conservation department that has become a model for other states to emulate.
For those who aren't aware, HJR 57, sponsored by Representative Jay Barnes is a proposed constitutional amendment that would require any new rule or regulation adopted by a state agency to be reviewed by the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules (JCAR). JCAR is a body made up of five state representatives and five state senators who are responsible for ensuring that our state agency rules are compliant with our laws.
That process is currently under attack by radical environmentalists who believe that our state agencies should have the same heavy handed power that federal agencies like the EPA and the National Park Service exercise. If approved by voters HJR 57 would stop those attacks by placing a process in our constitution to allow some review and oversight of new rules and regulations.
This is a change I believe is in the best interests of all Missourians as it applies to all of our agencies with the sole exception of the Missouri Department of Conservation. It was a citizen-led movement that created the department in 1937. I may not agree with every decision the Department makes, but the four-member citizen commission that oversees the department continues, overall, to do an outstanding job today. The Department of Conservation has a track record of success that we want to preserve and protect with any action we take in the legislature.
For that reason I have been working with my colleagues, for the last several weeks, to create an exception for Conservation in HJR 57, as well as in its Senate companion bill, SJR 42. I know the sponsors of both pieces of legislation never intended for their change to impair the ability of the conservation department to do its job, and I will work with them to clarify that intent when the legislation moves to the House floor for discussion.
We are lucky here in Missouri to have abundant fish and wildlife and we are lucky to have many opportunities to enjoy the great outdoors. I know my colleagues agree with me when I say we will not do anything that would interfere with the department's authority, or its mission to protect those resources and the opportunity to enjoy those resources for years to come.
State Representative 152nd District
Editor's Note: Repeated calls to Sen. Doug Libla's office were unanswered at press time Saturday. He would not affirm his support of Rep. Richardson's amendment to HJR 57 and SJR 42.