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  • January 24th, 2015

Like Head Lice–Hard To Get Rid Of

By Joel M. Vance
Sen. Brian Munzinger, Republican from Northeast Missouri, is a pestilent carbuncle on the grimy butt that is the Legislature. He is the latest shambling incompetent to try to destroy Missouri’s conservation program, widely considered the nation’s most advanced and all around best.
In one of the most ludicrous and brain-dead proposals ever offered (and there have been plenty of them in the nearly 80 years of the Conservation Department’s existence), Munzinger (who , my friend Bill Clark calls “Mudslinger”) would abolish permit fees, claiming it is double taxation, since the Department also is heavily-funded by a one-eighth cent sales tax, in place since 1977 (and voted in place by initiative petition—no thanks to the Legislature which has tried ever since to find a way to get its grubby hands on the money which is dedicated to fish, wildlife and forestry).
No matter that the outdoors is a major source of income for Missourians who would see their business crippled if Mudslinger’s stupid idea prevails. True, it’s a Constitutional amendment which would require approval by a vote of the people—but voters have been known to vote against their self interest, especially when the dreaded word “tax” is mentioned and when the issue is fanned into flame by demagogues, misinformation and outright lies.
If hunting and fishing permits are double taxation, why not eliminate fees for renewing a driver’s license. Let’s eliminate the tax on gasoline and see what happens to the state’s roads and bridges, already starved for maintenance funding.
The Conservation Federation, a citizen group founded in the 1930s to pull wildlife, fisheries and forestry out of the avaricious hands of politicians, says this about the newest attempts to destroy Missouri’s non-political conservation system: “For the past 80 years, the Conservation Federation of Missouri has fought against legislative attacks aimed at diminishing the authority and funding of MDC. This year will be no different. CFM will do everything in our power to ensure MDC remains the agency our founders fought to establish based on the belief that science, not politics, should govern the forest, fish and wildlife of our state.
“In 1976, the citizens of Missouri voted to self-impose a sales tax for the benefit of conservation. Today, because of this tax, we have flourishing game and fish populations, top resource professionals, hundreds-of-thousands of acres of public land, nature centers, private lands programs and so much more. If Missouri is to remain a national leader of conservation, our Federation, comprised of the diverse conservation community of Missouri, must band together like never before and make our message heard loud and clear – “Enough is enough, leave conservation and the millions of Missourians who enjoy our natural resources alone”.
If eliminating permit fees weren’t enough to satisfy Mudslinger’s lust for chaos, he also would change the composition of the Conservation Commission from the present four bi-partisan members who represent the entire state to eight regional representatives which almost certainly would lead to factionalism and regional infighting. My late and revered boss Jim Keefe once told me that Conservation Commissioners sometimes come with an agenda, “but they get educated quickly.” I saw it happen repeatedly over my 21 years with the Department. The already seated commissioners would take the newcomer in hand and begin the process of purging politics from his or her mindset.
It was impossible for a commissioner to spend time with the staff and not be awed by the professionalism and expertise. I knew commissioners who were political animals when appointed who became not only a-political, but among the most effective and dedicated members of the Commission ever.
Mudslinger’s vendetta would be more understandable (he tried the same thing unsuccessfully in the last legislative session) if it weren’t for the fact that he represents my home turf. He’s the senatorial mouth for Chariton and Linn counties. I went to high school in Keytesville, lived in Dalton, hunted ducks on the Dalton Cutoff. Swan Lake National Refuge is in Chariton County, as is the state’s first public waterfowl hunting area, Fountain Grove. My father owned a farm near Bynumville. I grew up around men who loved to quail hunt behind lean pointers. Chariton is a large and outdoor oriented county.
There is a road south of Dalton named Joel Vance Avenue. I’m proud to have a road named after me even if it’s gravel and dead ends at the Cutoff, but ashamed to have such a mean spirited piece of human tripe in the Legislature associated with Chariton County. I’m thinking of requesting that the county change the name of my road to Mudslinger Alley in hopes that the slimy pol will drive it, get mired in Chariton County gumbo and never be found.
Mudslinger has company in his campaign to destroy conservation and the Conservation Department. Rep. Craig Redmon of Canton has proposed a constitutional provision repealing the Conservation sales and use tax. That would eliminate two thirds of Missouri’s conservation funding and essentially destroy nearly 80 years of progressive wildlife, fisheries and forestry programs.
Missouri tourism, a major business, would be flushed down the same toilet.
Redmon is not the only miscreant in this cabal of House lowlifes. Bryan Spencer, mostly from St. Charles has introduced two crippling proposals. One reduces the sales tax from 1/8 of a cent to 1/16 of a cent and the other would require the conservation sales tax to be approved by voters every 10 years. That would hammer long range planning, making it impossible to set goals reaching beyond a few years. Spencer, not surprisingly, has flunked the Vote Smart political courage test by simply not answering any questions on his positions and why he takes them.
Then there’s Wanda Brown of Benton County who has introduced a trio of goofy proposals. One would require the Conservation Department to test dead deer on state highways for chronic wasting disease. One suspects her brain of chronic wasting, only there’s not much to waste. She also would require Conservation Commissioners to register as lobbyists and to follow all lobbyist rules and regulations. Is she auditioning for a part in the sequel to “Dumb and Dumber” to be titled, “Dumb, Dumber and Dumbest”? Guess which role Brown is best suited for.
Brown also wants the Conservation Department to pay automobile owners up to $500 for damages inflicted upon their vehicles by deer. That is a measure that sounds good on the surface, especially to anyone who has hit a deer, but it also opens the door to “takings” laws which would require payment for any claim of wildlife damage (i.e. raccoons eating your sweet corn, geese grazing on wheat, etc.). Such claims would quickly exhaust conservation funds and cripple money for all conservation programs.
The best that can be said for Wanda (wasn’t that the name of the wicked witch of the west?—she isn’t named by L. Frank Baum, but it would be interesting to see how she’d react to a splash of water) is that she’ll be term limited out in a year.
All these proposals have but one aim—to cripple a state department, rated the best of its kind in the nation, one that was founded and funded by the people of Missouri who justly don’t trust their Legislature to do the right thing. These are the schemes of petty men and one woman, ever grasping for money they haven’t been able to get their grubby hands on and hungry for power so far insulated from their covetous reach.
One can only hope that the citizens who started, supported and have paid for this exemplary program will emulate the old joke about the guy who whacks the Missouri mule between the eyes with a two-by-four, explaining, “First you have to get their attention.”
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2 Comments

  1. Joe & Marilyn Davis

    January 24th, 2015 at 1:31 pm

    Reply

    A GREAT article!

  2. John Heitkamp

    January 28th, 2015 at 8:47 am

    Reply

    Thanks for a great blog that tells it as it is.My biggest fear is that the younger generations have no idea or interest in how poorly we as a nation are taking care of our enviroment.I am sure Mr Munzinger and all like him have no problem supporting a farm bill that insures the american small farmer stands no chance in surviving and pays for the destruction of the small fraction of Habitat that is still remaining.Being a long time quail hunter for over 45yrs and seeing what is igoing on by big farm interest saddens me completely.I am not in any way against farmers but have a hard time with the fact they would not be in the great shape they are now without monetary support from the american taxpayer .Yet we are supposed to accept it is not fair to ask that practices be applied to protect our waterways and wildlife habitat as a requirement to get these monies.I pray the young people of this country wake up and see what is happening.
    I believe I met you years ago in Memphis Mo on one of my quail hunts at a resturant at hwy 15 and 136 .Have always been a fan of your writings.Thanks John Heitkamp.



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