woman was removed from the West Virginia House of Delegates on Friday after she used her testimony about a fossil fuel-sponsored piece of legislation to list industry donations to state lawmakers.Lissa Lucas ventured to Charleston to voice her objections to the proposed bill, HB 4268, which would give oil and gas companies the right to drill on private land with the consent of just 75 percent of the landowners. Current law mandates energy companies obtain 100 percent approval before they can develop land, allowing a single person to hold up drilling.Lucas, also a Democratic candidate for West Virginia’s seventh district, used her testimony to read a list of donations that lawmakers had received from oil and gas companies, information that was publicly available. But shortly into her allotted time, Lucas was ordered to refrain from making “personal comments” about members of the House Judiciary Committee.
Colorado’s Republican-led Senate gave initial approval Wednesday to a bill that would expedite the construction of high-speed broadband service in rural areas by taking money from a state fund that has long subsidized rural telephone service. Rural broadband is a top session priority for lawmakers and for Gov. John Hickenlooper, who acknowledge that Colorado’s eastern plains, western slope and many mountain towns have missed out on the economic boom that is centered in metropolitan Denver.Republican Sens. Don Coram of Montrose and Jerry Sonnenberg of Sterling argue their bill will boost economic development and curb depopulation of rural Colorado by providing jobs in an economy that runs on broadband. Also co-sponsoring the bill are Democratic House Speaker Crisanta Duran and House Majority Leader KC Becker.
A new bill in the Legislature aims to seal Alaskans' convictions for low-level marijuana possession — nearly four years after voters approved a citizens initiative to legalize the drug's commercial sale.Anchorage Democratic Rep. Harriet Drummond, who introduced House Bill 316 last week, said authorities in other places are doing the same thing. San Francisco's district attorney recently announced he would move to dismiss and seal more than 3,000 marijuana-related misdemeanors after Californians' 2016 vote to legalize the drug, which took effect last month.Drummond, in a phone interview Tuesday from Juneau, said her proposal would make it easier for Alaskans with marijuana possession convictions to get jobs and find places to live."To continue to punish people who did something before February of 2015 that is now legal and that people are making money off of just isn't right," said Drummond, referring to the date that Alaska's legalization initiative went into effect.
Safety net hospitals could see their state Medicaid payments decrease by $170 million under a proposal in the budget that the Florida Senate is poised to approve Thursday. The proposal, which targets about $318 million in payments that currently go to 28 hospitals with a higher percentage of Medicaid patients, would funnel those funds into the base rates paid to all hospitals instead. The reshuffling would largely affect safety net hospitals, which include public and teaching hospitals, while for-profit hospitals could gain more than $63 million, according to the Safety Net Hospital Alliance of Florida.
A newly redesigned water website from the University of Nebraska–Lincoln offers quick access to information from the university’s water experts. The site was redesigned to better meet the needs of the public and their use of mobile devices. Water experts plan to add information to the website regularly on agricultural water, manure management, residential water and water resources. At the conclusion of each month, a water newsletter will be published, delivering the latest articles directly into the email inboxes of its subscribers.
In 2016, a Washington Supreme Court ruling put the brakes on rural homebuilding in several areas across the state. The so-called Hirst decision required counties to prove that new household wells wouldn’t drain needed water from nearby streams before they issued building permits. But last month, state legislators, under pressure from landowners and building and realtors’ associations, passed a bill that, with some caveats, allows new wells. The challenge of balancing rural growth with the needs of other water users and the environment extends far beyond Washington state. How it plays out here and across the region will determine how many more people can join the ranks of the millions of rural Westerners who rely on domestic water wells.
A state congressional delegation from Montana has sent a second request to USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service asking for an investigation into the actions of federal inspectors overseeing meat plants in that state. The lawmakers first sent a letter in December to the agency’s Inspector General Phyllis K. Fong expressing concern that small meat processors in the state were “intimidated, coerced and tormented” by federal inspectors in incidences dating back to 2005. The stories detail complaints that a Butte, Mont., processor and others made about a federal inspector who routinely required expensive upgrades that were not required by federal regulation, and allegedly issued unfounded non-compliance reports in retaliation for complaints made to the agency.
But this isn’t a column about rural neglect and decay. It’s about the new — the surprisingly vibrant business community in this tiny town of 230 people whose downtown anchor is a 154-year-old retail store. Speck can step outside his front door, glance in every direction and see a business district full of young talent: Ali in her flower shop, Blake with sawdust billowing out of his wood shop and a roadside sign down the street for Slade’s seed dealership.Believe it or not, Speck is one of a half-dozen entrepreneurs in their 20s and 30s who in recent years have forged a millennial business backbone for New Providence. "We share a lot of the same ideas, the same passions," said Faris, who lives just outside of town on the family farm that was home to his father and grandfather. "We want to grow things. We want to change things."That shared passion includes their preference for a rural lifestyle that emphasizes close ties with neighbors.In their own way, each of these young entrepreneurs has seen examples through their families or through mentors of how independent local business in a small town — if you can navigate rampant economic perils — can lead to a clientele that feels more like an extended family.
A federal judge on Monday dismissed a lawsuit brought against Wisconsin officials last year by an Ohio dairy no longer allowed to sell its butter in Wisconsin unless it complies with a state law requiring it to be graded.U.S. District Judge James Peterson wrote Monday that a state law requiring that butter sold in Wisconsin be state or federally graded does not violate the constitutional rights of Minerva Dairy, of Minerva, Ohio. The dairy had sold artisanal butter in Wisconsin until February 2017, when state inspectors discovered, after receiving an anonymous complaint, that the butter was ungraded and ordered the company to comply with the law.
State regulators are ordering Massachusetts utilities to lower their rates to reflect the reduction in the federal corporate tax rate approved by Congress. The Department of Public Utilities on Friday instructed the utilities to account for any revenues associated with the difference between the previous and current federal corporate tax rates.