Oklahoma rolled out the red carpet to the growing wind industry two decades ago with the promise of generous state tax incentives and a steady stream of wind sweeping down the Central Plains. But with budget shortfalls that have persisted for several years, lawmakers have already scaled back almost all of the incentives and are now looking to impose a new production tax on the industry.
At a time when farming is making spectacular economic strides in Alaska, the industry is pushing a pair of bills in the Legislature that would reduce the information that can be disclosed to the public about animal and crop diseases and imports. Farmers say they need the bills to prevent unscrupulous competitors from using public records to unfairly learn about their business practices, or to keep animal rights activists from harassing them. The two bills under discussion now, House Bill 315 and Senate Bill 164, are identical and were submitted to the Legislature in January by Gov. Bill Walker. The House version has passed its first committee, the House Judiciary Committee, and is in the House Resources Committee. The Senate version has passed its first committee and would go to the Senate floor for a vote after Giessel’s committee has finished with it.
A “cap-and-trade” proposal to limit carbon emissions didn’t pass muster during Oregon’s 2018 legislative session, comforting critics who feared increased fuel, fertilizer and electricity costs. Several other less-prominent bills related to agriculture also died in committee when the Legislature adjourned March 3, including a proposal to link depredation funding to the size of Oregon’s wolf population.The bill was supported by ranchers, who said it made sense to increase compensation for livestock losses and preventive measures as the predators grew more common.However, the proposal was criticized by environmental groups who claimed there’s opportunity for fraud and abuse in the disbursal of existing compensation funds.A proposal to clarify that water transfers are allowable between storage reservoirs likewise died in committee, though lawmakers, irrigators and other interested parties will be negotiating the issue before the start of the 2019 legislative session. Land use bills that would allow more commercial and industrial development on farmland in Eastern Oregon and the eventual urbanization of 1,700 acres of “rural reserve” in Washington County did not gain traction.However, land use laws did receive a couple minor tweaks.Lawmakers clarified that earlier legislation easing the construction of “accessory dwelling units,” commonly called “granny flats,” only applied within urban growth boundaries.They also made clear that equine therapy activities are allowed within “exclusive farm use” zones.Statutory language related to hemp production was brought in line with the 2014 Farm Bill, which is intended to allow Oregon State University Extension agents to help hemp farmers.
Washington Lands Commissioner Hilary Franz on Tuesday sought to humanize the uncertain status of residents brought to the U.S. illegally as children.
After hearing from dozens of people over the span of two hearings lasting a combined eight hours, Idaho House ag committee members have approved a bill that would strengthen and consolidate the state’s trespassing laws. The House Agricultural Affairs Committee on Feb. 14 voted 11-1 to approve a bill by Rep. Judy Boyle, a Republican rancher from Midvale, that amends the state’s trespassing laws.Boyle rewrote the bill to address concerns of sportsmen’s groups and others opposed to it. The bill requires people to get written permission slips from property owners before using their land and several committee members and people who testified questioned the practicality of that.
A month after Scott Pruitt began leading the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the former Oklahoma attorney general rejected an Obama-era recommendation from agency scientists to ban a widely used pesticide from use on food crops. That means farmers can continue to spray chlorpyrifos on crops ranging from corn to cranberries. The change was welcomed by farm groups and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which said farmers need access to the chemical to stop infestations. But environmentalists, who had been working for years to get the Obama administration to crack down on the pesticide, were outraged. And officials in several states — all led by Democrats — now say that if the federal government won’t force the pesticide off their lands, they will. Seven states have sued the EPA over Pruitt’s decision. In at least four states, legislators have filed bills to ban the product.
An emerging trend is focused on the origin of animals offered to the public by pet stores. Lawmakers in four states (Maryland, New York, Oregon, and Rhode Island) have introduced legislation that would prohibit pet stores from offering animals that do not come from an animal shelter, humane society, or other type of rescue organization. Going a step further, the Oregon bill would require a pet store to maintain records on where each animal was obtained for no less than one year, and to publicly post this information on the animal’s enclosure. Regarding crimes of animal abuse and cruelty, three states (Illinois, Maryland, and Mississippi) have seen bills introduced on animal-abuse registries aiming to strengthen criminal penalties for these kinds of offenses. And lawmakers in four states (Hawaii, Tennessee, Utah, and West Virginia) have introduced bills that would prohibit animals from being tethered or chained outside in different types of inclement weather.
Minnesota lawmakers are considering bipartisan legislation that would criminalize taking an untrained service animal out in public. Separate measures in the state House and Senate would make it a petty misdemeanor, punishable with a $100 fine, to pass off a pet as a trained assistance animal. Subsequent infractions would be considered misdemeanors under the bills. A growing number of states are cracking down on passing off pets as trained service animals. And high-profile incidents have brought public attention to the issue.
The Maryland General Assemblywill evaluate two very different proposals for the future of energy and climate policy in our state. One, The 100% Clean Renewable Energy and Equity Act, will fundamentally change the trajectory for wind and solar development, strengthen our economy and build a solid pathway to using only clean renewable electricity by 2035. The other, The Clean Energy and Jobs Act (CEJA), will accelerate the current Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) mechanisms to reach a target of 50 percent renewable electricity by 2030.
The former co-president of The League of Women Voters of Kansas says a state law requiring prospective voters to prove they are U.S. citizens devastated the organization’s registration efforts. Margaret Ahrens of Topeka testified in the second day of a lawsuit over whether Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach has the authority to implement the law’s requirements. She said the League stopped taking voter registrations immediately after the law took effect in 2013 because it didn’t want liability for handling voters’ personal information, such as birth certificates and passports. Registrations resumed before the 2014 elections but Ahrens says workers have encountered thousands of people who couldn’t vote because of the law’s requirements.