June 30. It seems like an insignificant date year after year. For many, it simply means……
- half of 2014 is already over!
- summer is officially here!
- Little League All-Stars are under way!
- State 4-H camp is over until next year!
- the DE State Fair is less than 20 days away!
- the 4th of July holiday is just around the corner!
But in DE state government, it is significant. It’s the end of our state’s legislative session (no exclamation point). This means late nights for many state employees and legislators as they try to wrap another year’s budget and policy making. This will mark the end of the 147th General Assembly. It ran from January 2013 to present. Any bills left in limbo are forever gone. All legislation must be introduced as new in the next session, which will begin in January 2015.
This year’s session was plagued by low revenues, a proposed gas and water tax, e-cigarette laws, and another potential casino bailout. There wasn’t much room for anything else; therefore agriculture took a normal backseat. Here’s a roundup of ag-related legislation from this past session (click on the link for more info):
- HB 385 w/ HA 1– Industrial Hemp
- This is Rep. Dave Wilson’s bill to allow DDA and/or any higher education institution in DE to create and operate the pilot programs to study the growth, cultivation and marketing of industrial hemp. According to NCSL, 15 other states currently have laws allowing for hemp production. So far it has only passed the House. Time may run out.
- SB 245 w/ SA 1 – Dangerous Dogs & Animal Fighting
- I don’t really consider this an agricultural bill but it comes through on my RSS feed. It pertains to the treatment of animals when seized for criminal activity, etc. It passed the Senate and just came out of the House Health & Human Development Committee.
- SB 201 w/ SA 1 – Humane Killing, Authority of DDA
- This is an interesting bill but needed, in my opinion. It clarifies the duties of the newly established Office of Animal Welfare within Public Health to oversee “companion animal” programs as well as shelter standards, previously managed by DDA. It also updates DDA’s role to focus on poultry and livestock species. It passed both chambers and is awaiting the Governor’s signature.
- HB 122 w/ HA 1, HA 2, & SA 2 – Amending Registration of Farm Vehicles
- This bill requires farmers to register their farm vehicle with DMV and display an official “FV” tag, which replaces the former white, plastic Farm Vehicle Use tag. This stemmed from rampant illegal abuse of the white plastic tag. The new tag is only available through DMV. The cost is $10 with a signed affidavit, confirming that they meet requirements for being a farmer. For more specifics see this blog post from the DE Farm Bureau. I need to print this for Farmer Dan and my Grandfather. They love going to DMV (no exclamation point).
- HB 150 w/HA 1, HA 2 – Raw Milk Bill
- Sponsored by Rep. Outten (my district), this bill sought to legalize raw milk for public consumption within Delaware state lines even though the FDA does not support. It was defeated in the House last June (2013). But a May 2014 House of Representatives e-newsletter highlighted this bill again, touting a “far more tightly focused bill” and stated it would be circulated for sponsorship soon. Haven’t heard anything since. There are some audio cuts on the House of Reps website.
- HB 63 – Freedom to Farm
- Sad to see this bill sit on House Ready List for more than a year. Perhaps it got complicated because it was a constitutional amendment? Or no one advocated? I sent an email to the Secretary of Ag and my legislators in support. Maybe something bigger and better is planned for next session?
A few other semi-related ag bills:
- HS 1 for HB 60 w/ HA 1, HA 2, HA 3 – Direct Shipment of Wine to DE Consumers (for those in the grape business)
- SCR 64 – Establishing the DE Waterways Management and Financing Advisory Committee (for DE Watermen)
Keep in mind, the session isn’t over yet. Interesting things can happen in the wee hours of June 30 (no exclamation point).