State legislators across the country fought back this year against a recent surge in citizen-generated ballot initiatives by modifying or scrapping voter-approved laws and passing new laws to make it harder for people to put measures on the ballot in the first place. South Dakota state legislators scrapped voter-approved campaign finance and lobbying restrictions. Maine lawmakers repealed a new tax on the wealthy. And in Florida, lawmakers decided a new law legalizing medical marijuana wouldn’t allow users to smoke it — prompting a lawsuit by one of the primary backers of the initiative. There were 76 citizen-initiated measures on the ballot in 2016, the highest number in a decade. The renewed interest in 2016 stemmed in part from legislatures’ reluctance to deal with controversial issues like marijuana legalization and minimum wage hikes.In addition, lower voter turnout in the 2014 elections meant that fewer signatures were needed to get a ballot issue before voters in some states. This year, some states took steps to make the ballot initiative process more difficult. “The intent of progressives in initiating initiatives and referenda [historically] was to circumvent legislatures that were not doing the people’s will,” Cunningham said. “Now referenda are often used by interests that can’t get something through the legislative process — hearings, amendments, debates — but can put a measure on the ballot and, by virtue of campaign spending, have a pretty good chance to get voters to pass it."
The state Commissioner of Agriculture is bringing back the West Virginia Agriculture Advisory Board with the goal of setting up a strategic plan to revitalize production in the state. Commissioner Kent Leonhardt said though the board is required to meet quarterly under state code, neither he nor his staffers can remember this going on whatsoever. The board will consist of the commissioner, the governor and the director of the cooperative extension service of West Virginia University. The board will also appoint a steering committee to further its goals.
First and foremost, I want to assist Secretary Perdue in executing his vision for creating an environment where rural communities can prosper. In that, I am specifically focused on taking action to improve the quality of life in rural America-- from greater access to broadband connectivity and medical care to distance learning. Two issues that I am particularly passionate about are leadership and capacity development in small towns and assisting rural communities in responding to the growing nightmare of opioid misuse and the many underlying challenges that have contributed to this issue. Beyond these external goals, I would like to foster greater synergy between Rural Development and the other mission areas in USDA as well as other partners focused on rural programs within the federal family. For example, how can Rural Development work more closely with other agencies to address challenges like food insecurity and child summer hunger.
Members of the Georgia House Rural Development Council said they were overwhelmed during a meeting at Bainbridge State College where they heard from rural health care leaders. Jimmy Lewis wanted a group of rural Georgia lawmakers to feel for themselves how he said rural hospital CEOs feel every day. Lewis, the CEO of a network of rural hospitals named Hometown Health, flew through slides with complicated payment formulas and national headlines about the tens of millions of people who could lose insurance under federal policy proposals."While you look at how to fix rural hospitals you need to see how overwhelming and just completely devastating the current situation is for a rural hospital simply to survive,” he said. "Sitting in on a hospital closure is worse than going to a community funeral,” As the U.S. Senate debates health care, state lawmakers are trying to figure out what they can do. Follow the example of states like Oklahoma and Texas to get more federal money, suggested Gregg Magers, who makes a living saving hospitals in states like Georgia that haven’t expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. He’s the interim CEO of Memorial Hospital and Manor in Bainbridge.
Maine has a new law that allows towns to regulate local food production without requiring state and federal rules. We’ll learn what this means for Mainers and how it ties into the national food sovereignty movement.
Motorists don’t like to pay more at the pump, and lawmakers worry that if they raise taxes on gasoline, they’ll be voted out of office. But states rely on those taxes to build and maintain roads and bridges. With revenue lagging, those structures have been falling into disrepair in many places. Despite the tough politics, 26 states have raised taxes on motor fuels in the past four years. The eight states that raised taxes this year include Tennessee and South Carolina, deep-red states dominated by fiscal conservatives.Lawmakers say the sorry condition of their state’s roads and bridges compelled them to act.
New Jersey’s new telemedicine regulations are being held up as state officials try to determine whether they pertain to veterinarians. Gov. Chris Christie met this week with healthcare and veterinary officials to discuss the ramifications of S.291, which awaits his signature after unanimous passage last month by state legislators.The bill would, among other things, enable healthcare providers to use telehealth to establish a doctor-patient relationship, ensure the same standards of care as an in-person visit, and ensure coverage and payment parity for private payers, state Medicaid and some other health plans.While those guidelines are important for healthcare providers, they pose problems for veterinarians. And the issue could crop up in other states where telemedicine legislation doesn’t clearly define a difference between those practicing healthcare on humans and those treating animals."They never thought of veterinarians when they wrote this bill," Rick Alampi, executive director of the New Jersey Veterinary Medical Association, told the Veterinary Information Network . “The bill, which authorizes ‘the provision of health care services through telemedicine and telehealth’ governs such services provided by veterinarians, as ‘[h]ealth care providers,’ fails to acknowledge or provide for issues specific to veterinary medicine,” Nancy Halpern, an attorney with Fox Rothschild, LLP, recently wrote in JD Supra. “For example, several provisions require the ‘patient’s request’ before providing health care services through telemedicine. Clearly animal patients cannot request treatment or provide consent. The bill fails to distinguish a ‘patient’ from a ‘client’ or ‘animal owner’ or to permit such services at the request of a client/owner for the patient which is the fundamental way in which services are provided in a veterinary practice.”
California dairy farmers are eager to abandon the state’s milk marketing order and join the federal marketing order system, hoping to increase the price they receive for their milk. They have, however, been adamant that loss of the state’s quota program would be a deal breaker.That program pays quota certificate holders $1.70 per hundredweight above the state blend price for the amount of milk covered by their certificate. Those certificates are together worth $1.2 billion, and are an asset that can be transferred or sold.USDA would allow the quota program to continue in the proposed federal order as a stand-alone program run by the California Department of Food and Agriculture. And a producer review board established by CDFA has been at work figuring out how the program would operate.The main issue was what milk would be assessed and how the assessment would be collected. Under the state order nearly all milk is pooled and CDFA deducts $12 million to $13 million a month from the pool to fund the quota program. Under a federal order, however, only Class I fluid milk is require to be pooled, and milk for other uses can move in and out of the pool.
The 85th Legislative Session brought an amendment to the law related to use of unmanned aircraft in Texas. Importantly for agriculture, the amendment adds confined animal feeding operations (“CAFOs”) to the list of “critical infrastructure” facilities to which additional flight limitations apply for many drone operators. The amendment will go into effect on September 1, 2017. This post will review, in detail, the current Use of Unmanned Aircraft statute and discuss the most recent amendment. For those of you not concerned with the specific details, the “Take Away Points” sections at the end of the post will summarize the key points of the post and save you some time. As of September 1, 2017, House Bill 1643 will make three key changes to the Use of Unmanned Aircraft statute.First, there will be modifications to the “critical infrastructure” definition.Of interest for agriculture, the definition will now include “a concentrated animal feeding operation.” This is defined as “a concentrated, confined livestock or poultry facility that is operated for meat, milk, or egg production or for growing, stabling, or housing livestock or poultry in pens or houses, in which livestock or poultry are fed at the place of confinement and crop or forage growth or feed is not produced in the confinement area.”Another addition that could be important for rural landowners with oil or gas production on their property is that the definition will include an oil or gas drilling site, a group of tanks used to store crude oil, an oil, gas or chemical production facility, an oil or gas wellhead, or any oil or gas facility with an active flare so long as enclosed by a fence or other physical barrier obviously designed to exclude intruders.Additionally, “any structure used as part of a system to provide wired or wireless telecommunications services” is added to the critical infrastructure definition.
recently passed bill will allow farm distilleries to sell New York state-labeled beer, wine and cider on their premises. Such facilities were previously only allowed to sell spirits on their properties, unlike breweries, cideries and wineries. The new bill amends a section of the state's alcohol laws to change that.