AL Attorney General Luther Strange played chicken with California & lost. He extended his losing streak in federal court yesterday when a federal judge threw out a lawsuit Strange & 5 other Attorneys General filed against California – over chickens. What's significant is that the judge didn't even consider the merits of the case. Instead, she rebuked the states “because they were representing only the economic interests of egg farmers rather than “a substantial segment of their populations.”
At issue was Proposition 2, a California animal welfare law passed by California voters in 2008. It mandated that commercial chickens live in more humane conditions:
Today, commercial egg-layers are crammed four, six, eight to a cage, depending on the size, each bird with less space than an 8-1/2-by-11-inch piece of paper. No perching. No dust bathing. That's the bad.
The aim of Proposition 2 is to corral all egg-laying hens into barns that, although crowded, leave enough room to turn “in a complete circle without any impediment.” That means not having to touch another bird.
Wow. Talk about the “bare minimum” in humane conditions – “the right to turn around.”
Prop 2 is slated to take effect in 2015. In 2010, the state's poultry farmers supported legislation to require that all eggs sold in California meet these new requirements. Otherwise, the state could be flooded with cheaper eggs from miserable hens.
That ruffled some feathers, so Luther Strange & his buddies sprang into action! Alabama, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Kentucky, and Iowa all sued in federal court, charging that egg producers in these states would lose millions if they couldn't sell eggs in California.
Hilariously, the plaintiffs presented this as a “States' Rights” issue:
Hilburn with the Poultry and Egg Association says a single state doesn't have the right to make regulations that could affect a state's agricultural policies or economy.
Egg producers worry that they won't be able to sell their eggs in California with the new regulations. Except that they can: they only have to meet the state's requirements.
So with no apparent sense of irony, Alabama claimed the right to interfere with laws passed by California voters & legislators.
This is the same state that requires catfish to be labeled. And the same state that proudly touts its almost non-existent gun laws in order to lure gun manufacturers to the state. We're the state with no state-mandated minimum-wage law, and just this past session the Legislature passed the “give your boss the flu” anti-sick leave law.
Strange & the GOP supermajority believe that this is the state's right. Although I disagree in many cases with the policies, they are correct that states have a great deal of autonomy in these matters. They can rightly claim that voters have put them in office & this is what residents want.
But here's the question: don't they recognize that California voters have the same rights?
Imagine Strange & company's reaction if states with higher minimum wages and better worker & consumer protection laws sued Alabama on behalf of an industries in their states that are put at an “unfair disadvantage” by Alabama's almost-third-world wage & benefit laws.
This isn't the first time that Strange has cost the state money tilting at federal windmills. His crusade against women's healthcare in Alabama costs hundreds of thousands – with much of the money going to a bunch of shady “professional witnesses.”
In November, voters have an opportunity to elect an Attorney General who is more interested in protecting the people of this state than in protecting the “economic interests” of contributors.