Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Ag Gag comes to Iowa

The Des Moines Register reports that the Iowa Legislature (which, while I was in college there, after a debate about whether permanent press sheets could be used in hotels and motels, compromised and said the sheets could be used, but they had to be ironed, anyway) has enacted a so called "ag gag" bill that would prohibit the entering a of facility (by getting a job or whatever) for the purpose of reporting on, or photographing or videoing of, animal cruelty and unsanitary conditions in Iowa meat processing facilities.

Swell. The bill is on its way to governor, but since the governor is Tim Pawlenty's little brother, there is little doubt that he will sign it.

The bill attempts to skirt the serious First Amendment problems in a bill like the one authored by Minnesota's pork princess, Sen. Julie Rosen, last session. Here's what is prohibited by the law headed for the Iowa governor's desk:
A person who obtained access to a facility by false pretenses or lies on a job application with the intent to commit an act not authorized by the owner could be found guilty and face serious or aggravated misdemeanor charges. [probably similar to gross misdemeanor charges in Minnesota, which can get you a fine of several thousand dollars and up to a year in the clink].
But this clunker will almost certainly fail the Near v. Minnesota prior restraint test, just as Julie Rosen's bill would have. (Rosen did have the good sense to remove herself as a chief author from her bill when it was pointed out that the bill was a constitutional dud.)

In the meantime, however, one would do well to consider these words:
Critics such as Dem. Herman Quirmbach, D-Ames, said the new version is less onerous but still a mistake. 
“Passing this bill will put a big red question mark stamped on every pork chop, every, chicken wing, every steak, and every egg produced in this state because it will raise the question of what do you got to hide,” Quirmbach said.
You should, in fact, ask the butcher where the chops come from, and pass regretfully on the stuff from Iowa.

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