The Missouri General Assembly is seriously considering a bill that would prohibit local governments from banning horse-drawn carriages.
Apparently, lawmakers have nothing better to do than interfere in even small-bore local decisions.
Sure, lawmakers haven’t passed a budget. The state’s roads are crumbling, with no clear plan to fix them. Schools and public places may be unsafe. Colleges and universities are running out of money. The state’s opioid problem continues. Oh, and the governor is under felony indictment and may be impeached.
All of those issues fade, though, when compared to the crisis in St. Louis, where some citizens had the temerity to suggest a city ban on horse-drawn carriages.
Missouri state Sen. Brian Munzlinger jumped into action, offering a bill that forbids local governments — including Kansas City’s — from prohibiting working animals on their streets “unless such use poses a reasonable threat to public health, safety, or welfare, or to the health and welfare of the working animal.”
Cities would be allowed to regulate working animals but could not ban them outright. The Senate has given initial approval to the measure.
Why the need for such interference? “They’re trying to outlaw an industry that has been there for years,” Munzlinger said in January. “As humans, we’ve utilized the animal throughout history.”
Reasonable people can disagree over whether horse-drawn carriages should operate on urban streets. But almost every Missourian should agree that such rules ought to be set by locally-elected officials and city residents.
“This is basically big government prohibiting little government from prohibiting things,” said Sen. Jason Holsman of Kansas City.
Indeed, the General Assembly’s appalling habit of usurping local decisions is well-established. Lawmakers have prohibited cities from raising their minimum wages or enacting stricter gun measures. State legislators also prohibited local governments from banning or taxing grocery bags.
The hypocrisy is stunning. Whenever Congress tries to regulate state behavior, lawmakers mutter about secession. When state legislators overrule local decisions, though, it’s a shining example of democracy at work.
And rural legislators erupt when cities tell farmers and ranchers how to act. When urban voters helped approve tougher rules for Missouri puppy mills, the legislature tossed out the people’s decision like day-old bread.
State lawmakers should stop this nonsense. There are far more important issues to address.
There is simply no argument that the state has a significant stake in what St. Louis or Kansas City does with horse-drawn carriages. Unless Missouri plans to eliminate all cars in favor of horse-based transportation — admittedly a possibility, given the condition of the state’s roads — local governments are fully equipped to decide these issues for themselves.
State lawmakers who doubt this fact should quit and run for a city council or board of aldermen.