Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Bailing Out Moyle Mink

Update 3.31.11: The Idaho Senate passed SB 1197 unanimously under a suspension of the rules yesterday. For what it's worth, 90% of the visitors to this post have been located in Alaska.

Monday when the Idaho Senate ran through their agenda prior to voting on the brutal cuts to Idaho's Medicaid program, a bill on first reading caught my attention. The bill, SB 1197 introduced in the State Affairs Committee, is described as follows:
S 1197 by STATE AFFAIRS COMMITTEE - TAXIDERMISTS AND FUR BUYERS - Amends existing law relating to Taxidermists and Fur Buyers to provide for recordkeeping requirements for commercial tanneries; and to provide that compliance with certain record requirements shall constitute satisfactory record of lawful origin and proof of ownership requirements.
For anyone following this blog, you are surely aware of a situation involving Moyle Mink & Tannery in Heyburn, Idaho, and a recent raid of their property by Fish & Game officials from Idaho and Alaska, as well as ICE agents. The raid, described best here, involved illegally attained animals that were then sent to Moyle Mink for tanning. What can be pieced together from the various sources that are actually talking about what happened at Moyle Mink, is that the furs/hides in the possession of Moyle Mink did not have the proper tags and paperwork, therefore illegal under the Lacey Act. The Lacey Act does give the states the right to determine their own laws regarding the illegal taking, possessing, selling and transporting of animals and plants. It isn't clear which of those laws Moyle Mink was evading, however, those laws as a whole are being amended by SB 1197.

The provision being inserted in Idaho Code by SB 1197 reads:
(2) Provided however, a commercial tannery receiving wildlife from a licensed taxidermist or fur buyer, shall satisfy all record keeping requirements by recording the license numbers of such taxidermist or fur buyer, and recording tag numbers of any attached tags required by law. This provision shall not apply in the event a commercial tannery receives wildlife from a taxidermist or fur buyer from a state other than the state of Idaho, and the taxidermist or fur buyer is not required to be licensed in that state, in which case the tannery shall record, the date received, the name, address and telephone number of the individual the wildlife was received from, and tag numbers of any attached tags required by law in the state of origin, the name and number of species received and the approximate date killed. Information so recorded shall be retained for a period of two (2) years.
This provision codifies a procedure that has been at the forefront of the Moyle Mink & Tannery saga. Established law, both state and federal, regarding the records kept on furs, skins or hides used in interstate commerce is what resulted in search warrants being served at Moyle Mink in Heyburn. This new provision goes on to note that "compliance with records requirements [as described in this new provision]...shall constitute satisfactory record of lawful origin and proof of ownership requirements." We can reasonably assume that the "satisfactory record" portion being added will include whatever record keeping was taking place at Moyle Mink.

SB 1197 also also includes an emergency clause that would put the law into "full force and effect" with its passage. Because the U.S. Attorney for the District of Idaho is playing the case against Moyle Mink close to the vest, we cannot be 100% certain that SB 1197 has come about specifically in response to the search warrants served at Moyle Mink, but the timing of the bill is suspicious and other pieces of legislation that have incorporated protections of the fur and mink industry this session allow us to make a number of assumptions. How we can assume that the new provision being proposed by SB 1197 would include whatever record keeping was taking place at Moyle Mink prior to search warrants being served and that the bill itself came into being because of the situation at Moyle Mink comes down to this:
  1. Rep. Mike Moyle (R-Star), House Majority Leader and relative of Lee and Ryan Moyle of Moyle Mink & Tannery, has had no reservations about introducing legislation that would directly help the Moyle mink farm in their legal battles. Right-to-Farm legislation already introduced by the unscrupulous Rep. Moyle suggests he is responding to the legal trouble of his family at Moyle Mink & Tannery through his position in leadership. Passage of right-to-farm legislation helps Moyle Mink in their battle with the City of Heyburn. If right-to-farm helps Moyle Mink, why not SB 1197?
  2. Magic Valley dairyman and hunter pilots decry the tactics of GOP leadership, particularly Rep. Moyle, in passing bills favorable to their own interests and the interests of their elite friends. If Moyle is willing to do as the hunter pilots suggest, why wouldn't he be willing to protect the legal interests of his own family with the help of his friend Sen. Pearce and the Senate State Affairs Committee? It would appear that Moyle wasn't pushing it, something he might be hesitant to do after the hunters cried cronyism, but could be passed quickly.
  3. The Senate State Affairs Committee operates in ways similar to the House Ways & Means Committee in that GOP leadership controls the committee. The Senate State Affairs Committee consists of powerful members who can kill legislation as well as rush it through, completely at their discretion. Introducing legislation that can bypass committees or be sent on to the floor without hearing.
  4. Prior to this session, there had never been a push for this section of code to include language specific to the fur/mink industry. Can it really be simply a coincidence that this legislation came about after the raid at Moyle Mink & Tannery? The timing is suspect. Moyle Mink & Tannery was served search warrants on Monday, February 28, 2011; SB 1197 was introduced on Monday, March 28, 2011. If there was a need for this addition to Idaho Code, why wasn't it introduced prior to March 1st and earlier in the session when it could be heard in committee, receive a hearing and go forward at the pace of other legislation?
The assumptions made here are supported by the situational politics of Representative Moyle. A juggernaut of mink farms in Idaho are held by the Moyle family, dating back to the Great Depression. Up until recently, Rep. Moyle had his own mink operation in Star. In the Magic Valley there are at least three mink operations owned and operated by a member of the Moyle family. Clearly, the Moyle family has a stake in legislation that serves to protect mink farms and taxidermists from legal action when they haven't properly documented the furs/hides coming into their businesses.

Like the right-to-farm legislation and the bill prohibiting hunting within 24 hours of landing on dry lake beds on state or federal lands, SB 1197 serves only one purpose--protecting the family and friends of Mike Moyle and GOP leadership. Instead of questioning the motive behind SB 1197 and actually uttering the word 'corruption,' SB 1197 will pass on the floor of the Idaho Senate, move to the floor of the House (maybe sponsored by Moyle himself), Moyle will invoke Rule 38 without a challenge from a single member of the legislature or the press, and the bill will sail to the governor's desk for his signature. The only thing remaining will be the case against Lee and Ryan Moyle at Moyle Mink & Tannery, undermined by new state law, enacted with an emergency clause. If this isn't cronyism and corruption, what is?


Serephin said...

In other words, the old laws against receiving illegally gotten or stolen property (i.e., in this case, mink pelts) no longer count. Especially if your last name happens to be Moyle. Got it.

duane said...

I think the legislation is appropriate and rightfully supports the business interests of Moyle Mink & Tannery and their customer base which is largely from out of state. Very similar to the standards in my home state.

northfork said...

I have sent my furs from another state to Moyle Mink and Tannery for several years. When I send in my order form, I have to enter my State Trappers License Number, and tag numbers of species that require tagging in my state. All the hides of animals that must be tagged in my state have their tags permanently attached by Fish and Game. I don't know how the tannery can be held responsible for illegal taking, reporting, or tagging done by others in another state. Their paperwork is very clear, requiring license numbers and tag numbers.
My furs have come back very professionally done, and in good time.