Franklin Circuit Court judge struck down Kentucky’s pension reform law on Wednesday, saying the rapid manner in which it was passed was unconstitutional. Judge Phillip Shepherd said the process, which took six hours after the pension language was substituted into an unrelated sewer bill on March 29, violated safeguards to ensure "legislators and the public" can know the content of bills under consideration. Democrats and advocates for teachers and public employees hailed the decision.
The Arkansas Senate approved an overhaul of its rules to create a committee on ethics, prohibit senators from certain activities involving conflicts of interest and require more disclosure of other conflicts and their personal finances. With Sen. Alan Clark, R-Lonsdale, as the only audible dissenter, Senate President Pro Tempore Jonathan Dismang, R-Searcy, ruled that two-thirds of the body voted by voice to approve changes to its code of ethics.
The Kentucky Department of Education and Department of Agriculture is partnering to give high school students the chance to become certified agricultural pesticide applicators. The partnership plans to offer pesticide applicator certifications in agriculture, forest, ornamental and lawn care, golf course turf care, interior plantscape care and sports turf care.
For almost 25 years, we have been working to eradicate bovine tuberculosis (TB) from Michigan’s northeastern Lower Peninsula (LP). While bovine TB remains a worldwide issue, the U.S. has seen very little bovine TB since the late 1970s, apart from Michigan’s northeastern LP. It has infected more than 60 cattle herds in this area, where the disease has a natural reservoir in free-ranging white-tailed deer. Unfortunately, the disease still exists, despite much work by agency staff, farmers, hunters, and others. In fact, in 2016 and 2017, Michigan exceeded the number of infected cattle herds permitted by our agreement with the USDA. This caused the USDA to call into question the effectiveness of Michigan’s TB Program and propose downgrading our status. A downgrade in status would decimate the cattle industry in the northeastern LP, impacting the entire state, and costing the industry and taxpayers millions of dollars. If Michigan is fortunate, we may escape a downgrade this time; however, USDA may take more drastic steps in the future. With that said, MDARD, with the support of the DNR, recently approved a new zoning order, updating Michigan’s cattle regulations. These updates create new wildlife biosecurity strategies that farmers will have to implement to minimize the risk of bovine TB affecting their herds.
The Missouri Dept. of Natural Resources recently issued a permit for Valley Oaks Steak Co. to increase the number of cattle it can maintain to 6,999 in its Missouri animal feedlot operation. Currently, the facility outside of Lone Jack, Missouri, has a limit of 999 head of cattle. Missouri DNR granted a Class IB NPDES permit to Valley Oaks Steak at the Lone Jack facility, which makes it subject to concentrated animal feeding operations regulations and permit requirements. The government agency also said that their staff reviewed the application for completeness and compliance with the Missouri Clean Water Law and the Missouri Clean Water Commission regulations. Valley Oaks expects the expansion to create more than 50 jobs. According to its permit request, Valley Oak Steaks plans to blend the feedlot's manure with wood chips and stored in a warehouse to be processed into fertilizer.
A controversial measure that would make it more difficult to sue hog producers for allegedly being a nuisance and dragging down neighbors’ property rights has been finalized by the state’s lawmakers, according to media reports. Versions of the bill, Farm Act Senate Bill 711, were approved by the state’s Senate and House earlier this week. On Thursday the Senate approved the House’s proposed changes. The final version of the bill moves to the desk of Gov. Roy Cooper, who could sign it, veto it, or allow it to become state law without his signature. The second of what could be a host of nuisance suits is being heard in federal court now. In April, a jury awarded $50 million to 10 neighbors of a large hog farmer raising the animals for the Murphy-Brown unit of Smithfield; the residents had sued the processor, rather than the farmer himself. The award was later reduced in compliance with an existing North Carolina law that caps damages.
State lawmakers failed to comply with a voter-approved constitutional amendment to buy and preserve environmentally sensitive lands, a judge ruled. Leon Circuit Judge Charles Dodson sided with environmental groups in the lawsuit centered on whether lawmakers defied the 2014 Florida Water and Land Conservation Initiative by improperly diverting portions of the money to such expenses as staffing. Legislative leaders have repeatedly disputed such allegations as they continued to make such budget allocations. Attorney David Guest — representing the Florida Wildlife Federation, the St. Johns Riverkeeper, the Environmental Confederation of Southwest Florida, the Sierra Club and Florida Wildlife Federation President Manley Fuller — called Dodson’s Friday bench ruling a “100 percent victory.” “The people of Florida voted with a firm, clear voice. And the court said today that counts,” Guest said after the hearing. “The Legislature has to comply with the law like everybody else.”
The world's system for allocating fish stocks is being outpaced by the movement of fish species in response to climate change, according to a study undertaken by an international team of marine ecologists, fisheries and social scientists, and lawyers.
Michigan began enforcing the nation's strictest rules for lead in drinking water, a plan that eventually will result in replacing all 500,000 lead service pipes statewide in the wake of the contamination of Flint's supply.The lead and copper rules will drop the "action level" for lead from 15 parts per billion, the federal limit, to 12 in 2025. Underground lead service lines connecting water mains to houses and other buildings will be replaced by 2040, unless a utility can show regulators it will take longer under a broader plan to repair and replace its water infrastructure. The rules also will prohibit the partial replacement of lead service pipes except for emergency repairs; require preliminary and final inventories of the lines and other components of a water supply by 2020 and 2025; and ensure samples are taken at the highest-risk sites and with methods designed to more accurately detect lead.
Amid sharply rising rates of teen suicide and adolescent mental illness, two states have enacted laws that for the first time require public schools to include mental health education in their basic curriculum.Most states require health education in all public schools, and state laws have been enacted in many states to require health teachers to include lessons on tobacco, drugs and alcohol, cancer detection and safe sex.Two states are going further: New York’s new law adds mental health instruction to the list in kindergarten through 12th grade; Virginia requires it in ninth and 10th grades.Nationwide, cities and states have been adopting a variety of initiatives over the past decade to address the rising need for mental health care in schools.But until this year, mandated mental health education had not been part of the trend.