“I think Maine is leading the way,” said State Senator Troy Jackson, the Maine Senate Democratic leader and original sponsor of the bill. “I think we’re really the first state to empower our local municipalities this way.” But in a special legislative session October 23 to address federal concerns about the new law, lawmakers added some clarification: When it comes to meat and poultry inspections, all farmers, regardless of where they conduct business in the state, must follow federal and state meat and poultry regulations. Moreover, they must adhere to all food safety guidelines when conducting third-party business, such as wholesale sales.When the legislature in June passed the food freedom law, it noted that the law was not declaring all local food sales free of any state or federal regulation, but that it recognized the right of local municipalities to establish their own food ordinances. The thrust, according to Jackson and other supporters, was to support the local food economy and encourage local food sales.But before Governor Paul LePage’s signature was even dry on the law, a new issue cropped up not about raw milk, but about meat and poultry processing. According to LePage, U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue informed the state that if the new food sovereignty law was not clarified to indicate how state meat-inspection programs would remain “at least equal to” federal rules, the USDA would seize control of the state’s meat and poultry operations. LePage promptly called a special legislative session to address the matter.
Clean air and water are guaranteed rights under the Massachusetts Constitution, and lawmakers and activists hope these rights will soon become law. The Legislature is considering bills to protect low-income, minority and other at-risk populations from the effects of pollution. Local activists hope the proposals will help their communities and increase awareness of this issue.Almost three years ago, then-Gov. Deval Patrick signed an executive order authorizing environmental justice, which is defined as the “right to be protected from environmental pollution and to live in and enjoy a clean and healthful environment regardless of race, income, national origin or English language proficiency.”
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo recently signed legislation that will amend state law regarding agritourism, clarifying the legal responsibilities for both farm operators and visitors. This legislation establishes limited liability protections for the inherent risks of inviting the public onto a farming operation.Agricultural tourism and outdoor recreation activities that include horseback riding, u-pick Christmas trees and fruit orchards, along with tours of wineries and maple operations, all now have a new line of defense against frivolous lawsuits. Under the legislation, farms must have proper signage to delineate pathways and buildings open to the public, adequately train employees involved in agritourism, take reasonable care to prevent foreseeable risks and post warnings to visitors about inherent risks of participating in activities on working farms.
In his book “Applied Economics: Thinking Beyond Stage One,” economist Thomas Sowell describes an insight he gained while he was an undergraduate at Harvard. After the young Sowell had enthusiastically listed the benefits of a favorite public policy proposal, his professor asked “And then what will happen?” over and over until Sowell began to see the unintended consequences that would surely follow.When lawmakers stop at stage-one thinking and don’t anticipate what happens next, the consequences are often worse than the problem the policy was intended to solve in the first place. Thus the road paved with good intentions leads to Prohibition crime syndicates, home building on flood plains backed by cheap government insurance, decrepit housing projects, and endless military involvement in faraway places.Earlier this week, Denver City Council committee members engaged in stage-one thinking when they approved a ban on cat declawing within the city limits with little exception. The full council will take up the proposed ordinance early next month. If approved, Denver would join eight cities in California with similar prohibitions on the procedure. Proponents assume that if they outlaw declawing, cat owners will simply not do it. True, some Denver residents will respond this way. Others, however, will go to a vet in the suburbs. Still others will choose not to adopt a cat or to relinquish a cat to a shelter if they are unable to control the scratching behavior. A declaw prohibition would not pose a major deterrent to cat ownership, but it would affect the lives of some cats for the worse. A cat is better off declawed and in a home than in a shelter or put down.
A Vermont legislative panel has approved a proposal that sets more strict sound limits for wind turbines.Vermont Public Radio reports the Legislative Committee on Administrative Rules voted 5-2 Thursday to keep nighttime sound levels no greater than 30 decibels inside a home.The vote did not please either side of the argument for tight sound standards. Public health advocates say the new rule is not strict enough, while business and clean energy supporters say the limits will make it difficult for future wind development.The Public Utility Commission created the proposal, and they say the 30 decibel standard will protect public health. The commission says the new rule will not completely rule out utility-scale wind energy.
A bipartisan group of Michigan lawmakers introduced a bill last week that aims to clear up confusion over tax collections for small-scale distributed generation projects. HB 5143 would reinstate a tax exemption for “alternative energy personal property” that was in place for 10 years under the Michigan Next Energy Authority Act of 2002. That law — signed by former Republican Gov. John Engler — granted the exemption to 13 different kinds of small-scale renewable energy systems meant to offset any portion of a property’s energy use. The latest bill was introduced by Republican Rep. Tom Barrett and has two Democrat and four Republican co-sponsors, including House Energy Policy Chairman Gary Glenn, who has said he favors incentives for solar energy over mandates. It has been referred to the House Tax Policy Committee.While it applies to all types of properties, advocates say the bill is meant to provide clarity particularly for residential property owners with solar panels. Over the past several years, Michigan has seen a patchwork of communities that assess solar installations because they are improvements and boost the value of the property.
Tesla has begun making good on its promise to help Puerto Ricorebuild its energy grid after a devastating hurricane caused massive damage on the island. On Tuesday, Tesla announced via Twitter that Hospital del Nino in Puerto Rico is "first of many" solar and storage projects going live.
Judge Tonya Parker of the 116th District Court in Dallas has dismissed a lawsuit brought against the State Fair of Texas by the Austin law firm Riggs & Ray, P.C., which appeared to be acting to further the political agenda of a party that does not want the State Fair at Fair Park in Dallas. The lawsuit alleged that the State Fair is a “governmental body” subject to the Texas Public Information Act. In fact, the State Fair of Texas is a private Texas nonprofit corporation granted tax-exempt status by the Internal Revenue Service under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code and is not supported by any governmental money. Judge Parker dismissed the lawsuit under the Texas Citizens Participation Act (Texas’ “Anti-SLAPP” law) concluding that the Fair is not a governmental body and awarded the State Fair attorney’s fees, expenses and sanctions totaling $298,206.59. The State Fair asked the judge to order that the $30,000 in sanctions be paid into the Fair’s Youth Scholarship Program, which gives money for college to graduating high school seniors around the state of Texas who have participated in competitive youth livestock events held at the State Fair, as well as from five Dallas Independent School District high schools near Fair Park, the home of the State Fair for 131 years. This lawsuit, if successful, would have paved the way for other private 501(c)(3) nonprofits in Texas to be classified as “governmental bodies” forcing them to spend their limited resources and funding to deal with the inevitable requests for what has always been understood as private information. The Fair is pleased that the judge in dismissing the case has saved these charitable organizations from this unnecessary burden.The plaintiffs have indicated that they will appeal the judge’s decision. “We are confident that the judge’s decision will be upheld at the appellate level,” Glieber said.
Cargill is offering consumers turkeys with a side of traceability. The company’s Honeysuckle White brand recently launched a pilot project that that uses blockchain technology to trace turkeys produced by family farmers. To learn more about their Thanksgiving turkey, consumers in select markets can text or enter an on-package code at HoneysuckleWhite.com to access the farm’s location by state and county, view the family farm story, see photos from the farm and read a message from the farmer.
No sense in crying over spilled milk, but what about $437,000 in legal fees? Florida’s paying that amount to the attorneys of Ocheesee Creamery, which is about 50 miles west of Tallahassee. State officials under Adam Putnam’s Department of Agriculture had pushed to label the dairy’s skim milk as imitation, because vitamins aren’t added to it, according to the Associated Press.The state defines skim milk as having Vitamin A. Ocheesee, an all-natural dairy that doesn’t add ingredients to natural products, objected.Florida taxpayers have paid more than $20 million since 2011 to cover expenses for lawyers who have sued the state.