Don’t get caught wrestling with a bear – and other things that are illegal in Missouri
By: Marcia Guckes
Missouri legislators, led by West County Rep. Cole McNary (R-Chesterfield), have been working to clean out the state statute book of its obsolete and redundant laws, yet there are still some on the books that seem out-of-date or unnecessary.
For example, it is illegal to:
• Let an unaltered male mule run wild. The owner is subject to a $3 fine for the first offense and $10 for every subsequent offense.
• Let a large animal that is deformed, blind, infirm or old run wild because anyone who catches it would not be able to find a buyer. The fine for this offense is $5 to $20 or up to 10 days in county jail.
• Have anything to do with bear wrestling. Offenders can be charged with a Class A misdemeanor or a Class D felony.
• Use obscene, profane or vulgar language on a bus. The bus driver can stop the bus and require the offender to get off.
• Pretend to be blind in order to get something valuable.
• Sell cars on Sunday. But this only applies to auto dealers. It’s OK for recreational vehicle and manufactured home dealers to sell their wares on Sunday.
• Throw, drop or expel an object from an amusement park ride.
• Get off an amusement park ride in the wrong spot.
• Keep as a pet any lion, tiger, leopard, ocelot, jaguar, cheetah, margay, mountain lion, Canada lynx, bobcat, jaguarundi, hyena, wolf, bear, nonhuman primate, coyote, any deadly, dangerous, or poisonous reptile, or any deadly or dangerous reptile over eight feet long.
On the other hand, Missouri House Bill 1965 which was sponsored by McNary and signed into law July 1, 2010, repealed about 300 laws that were either redundant or obsolete. Some of them dated back to 1909. For example, there were laws in that cleanup that:
• Allowed local authorities to set business hours for barbers and beauty shops.
• Dictated the yellowness of imitation butter.
• Allowed county officials to require a license for any table “upon which balls or cues are used.”
• Required steam locomotives to stop operation from October to April unless the engine was equipped to protect the engineer from the weather. Locomotives were required to have heat and curtains or windows that could stop the snow, wind and rain.
• Made it unlawful, effective as of August 1913, to operate a steam railroad that did not have a very specific seating arrangement. Missouri statute 389.890 required that a locomotive must be “equipped with a seat on each side of the cab thereof, which seats shall consist of a series of spiral, coil or elastic springs, on the top of which shall be constructed a padding or cushion consisting of leather or a suitable substitute thereof, stuffed or packed with hair, moss or other suitable material commonly used for such purpose, which said seat, including the springs thereof, shall not be greater than six nor less than four inches in thickness.”
McNary said HB 1965 also eliminated about 35 boards and commissions, which either were duplicated by other state government agencies, had already served their purposes, or never met.
In addition, the new law eliminated the mandates requiring printed copies of the Official Missouri Manual – often called the Blue Book – and free printed copies of the Revised Statutes of Missouri.
According to a news release from Gov. Jay Nixon’s office, that change saved state taxpayers almost $2 million.
Both the Blue Book and Missouri’s statutes now can be found online at mo.gov.
McNary said he got the idea to rid the state of its old laws when he was campaigning door-to-door.
“People had the sense that government was too big,” McNary said. “So we wanted to do something that was trying to get rid of laws.”
According to McNary there were four volumes of Missouri statutes in the 1980s and now there are about 25 volumes.
“Every law that we have is basically government telling you what you can do and can’t do. They chip away bit by bit at your freedoms,” McNary said. “My sense is that here in America people want to comply. They want to do things legally and they get along pretty well even without government.”
McNary said he would like to create a culture of government efficiency that goes beyond his term in the legislature.
“We’re trying to create a government that’s more efficient, and we’re also trying to reverse the dominant trend of government just expanding,” McNary said. “If 50 years from now I come back with my walker and tour the capitol and they still have the Committee on Downsizing State Government, I’ll be rather proud of that.”