Constitutional Law

California law banning eggs from hens kept in small cages is unconstitutional, Missouri suit says

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A California law banning the sale of eggs from hens housed in small cages violates the commerce clause, Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster alleges in a lawsuit filed on Monday.

What’s at stake, Koster says in a press release, is whether lawmakers in one state may regulate the practices of another state’s citizens who cannot vote them out of office. The Associated Press, the Wall Street Journal Law Blog, the Kansas City Star and the Washington Post covered the lawsuit.

The California law is scheduled to take effect next year. California’s initial law, passed in a 2008 ballot initiative, required state farmers to provide egg-laying hens with sufficient space to move around. Two years later, California lawmakers expanded the law to ban the sale of eggs in the state from out-of-state suppliers who don’t follow the cage law.

Koster contends the purpose of the expansion was to spare California farmers from being put at a disadvantage by the ballot initiative. “If California legislators are permitted to mandate the size of chicken coops on Missouri farms,” Koster says in the press release, “they may just as easily demand that Missouri soybeans be harvested by hand or that Missouri corn be transported by solar-powered trucks.”

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