JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – Tempers flared between Republicans in the Senate override attempt of Sen. Mike Parson’s SB 844. The bill eventually moved onto the House with a 24-7 vote to override the governor’s veto, but not before Sen. Rob Schaaf and Sen. Dave Schatz got into a shouting match on the Senate floor.
The bill would would ensure that livestock owners only become liable for damages if they are found to be negligent in ensuring their cattle, pigs, chickens, etc. do not escape their enclosures.
Schaaf said he rarely agreed with Gov. Jay Nixon on any issue, but he urged legislators to read from the letter, even reading a portion of it during the debate.
“Regardless of the underlying reason for escape, Missouri law properly renders liability for damages to the owner of the animal,” he read, adding that the owners of the animals who trespass should be held responsible for their property’s actions.
Parson responded that the current statutory language was too broad in condemning farmers who had done nothing wrong. He believed negligence was a more just standard.
The debate became a bit more hectic after that exchange. Parson then argued that Schaaf knew little about agriculture and cattle farming, saying that Schaaf probably did not know enough about cattle to tell the difference between a Hereford and an Angus.
Schaaf took offense to that statement, raising his voice when he said that a corn farmer would not care about a cattle’s breed if that cow broke into their field.
“It doesn’t matter if it’s a Hereford or an Angus,” Schaaf said. “The corn is just as flat.”
Schatz then inquired of Schaaf, which turned heated. Schatz backed Parson’s ideas and noted that farmers should not become a go-to respondent for civil lawsuits regarding liability. Instead, he believes the blame should rest on anyone who damaged farm property that would allow for livestock to leave an enclosure.
Sen. Scott Sifton, D-St. Louis, was the only Democrat to cross the aisle and vote in favor of the legislation. He said that victims of livestock trespass still had legal recourse.
“We have insurance to cover these liabilities that arise sometimes due to the negligence of people or sometimes because they just happen,” Sifton said.
Schaaf, however, had the second to last word aside from Parson naming various agriculture associations that had endorsed the bill.
“This isn’t a pro-farm bill,” Schaaf said. “This is a pro-cattleman bill. They’re doing this to save themselves money. Doing it at the expense of everyone else is just wrong.”
The bill now moves onto the House.