by Brooke Widmar
House Joint Resolution 55 (HJR 55) “Modifies the conservation commission membership composition and requires the election of the commissioners.” The Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) is governed by a four-person Conservation Commission, made up of members appointed by the governor, each serving year-year terms. HJR 55 wants to change all that, bringing membership from four to nine, having those commissioners be elected instead of appointed, each representing different regions of the state. The Columbia Audubon Society board met on March 16th and voted to take a stance in opposition to this piece of legislation. MDC was created 85 years ago, and this apolitical setup has been a model for other states to either copy or envy. Each year there are a number of bills that aim to change the makeup of MDC, impact funding, or strip the constitutional authority of the commission. HJR 55 would create an imbalance on the commission with an uneven number of commissioners, eight representing the eight MDC regions, and one representing the state as a whole. The regions eight commissioners would represent are geographical regions and not organized by population, giving large regions unequal power and representation compared to the number of voters. Like many of the bills we see trying to attack MDC, they are trying to “solve” something that is not even a problem.
HJR 55 passed through the Conservation and Natural Resources committee earlier in March after the committee was packed last minute, in an unprecedented move by the Speaker of the House. It was referred to the Rules – Legislative Oversight committee, but was not heard and is currently not on any house calendar. If or when it makes it to the House floor, CAS members are encouraged to reach out to their representatives, find yours here: https://house.mo.gov/
Learn more about HJR 55:
– Conservation Federation of Missouri’s Legislative Action Center: https://www.confedmo.org/lac/#/30
– Columbia Daily Tribune: https://www.columbiatribune.com/story/news/politics/state/2021/03/12/committee-votes-increase-size-missouri-conservation-commission/6928158002/
– The Joplin Globe: https://www.joplinglobe.com/opinion/editorials/our-view-a-colossal-conservation-blunder/article_12041d54-859c-11eb-82fe-93f7118eaa0b.html