Ohio's Governor Has ‘Concerns’

A few days before his swearing-in, newly minted Ohio Governor John Kasich offered some remarks about the “Buckeye Compromise” negotiated between his predecessor, Ohio’s agriculture interests, and the Humane Society of the United States. And he had a few “concerns.”

Let’s look at his statement.

Kasich’s much-reported support for the part of the HSUS deal that covered “exotic” animal ownership seems predicated on the idea that we’re only talking about giraffes and enormous pythons. (In many cases, it’s the ownership of domesticated “exotic” animals that will be banned.)

We don’t want exotic animals here, where somebody’s bringing something in and, you know, and some neighbor gets hurt. So we’ll look at it. It sounds reasonable.

That sounds like an equally good reason to clamp down on dog owners, doesn’t it? It would be interesting to look at the statistics on how many dog-bite injuries Ohioans suffer every year, versus injuries caused by the “exotic” species that HSUS wants to target. If anyone out there in HumaneWatch land has those numbers, we’d be glad to have them. (Please e-mail [email protected].)

Update: A few readers pointed us to an association of exotic animal owners (naturally…), and there are a few documents on its website that seem on point, at least as far as fatalities are concerned. ( 1 | 2 | 3 ) It would be better to see reliable injury stats too, but we haven't found any.

When Kasich got to the meat of the matter—livestock agriculture—he seems to be looking at it from an economic standpoint:

My concern about the agreement, frankly, is that we’d like to build a bigger poultry industry. Now, the poultry industry is—they’re pretty restricted [under the agreement]. So what’ll happen is, the ones who are here can get bigger. But there probably aren’t many people outside of the state who want to come in.

One of the strongest arguments livestock agriculture can make for Kasich throwing HSUS’s desires out the window is that the Buckeye Compromise is a job-killer.

Just look at what happened last week after the lame-duck Illinois legislature passed a huge 11th-Hour increase on corporate and income taxes: The Governor of neighboring Indiana basically kicked up his heels and said that his state would be happy to welcome Illinois companies (and taxpayers) who didn’t want to pay the new rates.

Indiana also borders Ohio. If Governor Kasich and Agriculture Director Jim Zehringer basically stay the course, the next Ohio farmer who wants to invest in raising chickens will probably cross the border and buy land in the Hoosier State.

Finally, Kasich gets to his philosophical differences with how HSUS’s leaders operate, and it comes down to one basic thing: They’re not Ohioans. (They’re also not Nebraskans, Oregonians, Arizonans, Iowans, or … well, you get the point.)

The idea—and this is not just about this issue—that people outside the state that can spend a lot of money come in and push their values on us, and I don’t mean just this issue, it concerns me. I think [Jim] Zehringer even has a bill in the legislature to say we should somewhat restrict the ability of outsiders to dictate what goes on in Ohio. You know, I’m concerned about it.

So are we. The ballot initiative process is a fine thing. But in the states that have it, it was meant to provide the citizens of those states with the ability to legislate at the ballot box.

There’s something unseemly about laws being up for bid to anyone who wants them, including outsiders. But since it’s not all that different from HSUS (and just about every other special interest) buying lobbyist-access in state capitols, it’s hard to imagine anything about this changing—even if the result is that a group like HSUS can come in, spend a few million dollars, and wreck a big part of a state’s future economy.