DOAG: 2007 Legislative Session Summary

2007 Legislative Session Summary

 
The 2007 regular legislative session adjourned on June 6th, 2007. Special Sessions were called to complete the state budget and bonding authorizations. A special session was called on October 30th, 2007 to complete the following bonding bill:
 

Public Act 07-7 - An Act Authorizing and Adjusting Bonds of the State for Capital Improvements and for Transportation Infrastructure Improvements and Concerning the Connecticut State University Infrastructure Act – Sections 13 and 32 authorize for the Department of Agriculture for fiscal years ’08 and ’09 as follows, for farmland preservation $5 million for ’08 and $5 million for ’09;  for the Farm Reinvestment Program $500,000 for ’08 and $500,000 for ’09; grants-in-aid to farmers for environmental compliance $2 million for ’08 and $2.5 million for ’09; and for Biofuel Crops Program grants-in-aid to farmers, agricultural nonprofit organizations and agricultural cooperatives for the cultivation and production of crops used to generate biofuels ’08 $2 million and for ’09 $2.5 million.  Totals for the fiscal year of ’08-’09 are $8.5 million and fiscal year ’09-’10, $10 million. (Section 13, effective upon passage; Section 32, effective July 1, 2008)
 
The Public and Special Acts below, passed this legislative session, are pertinent to the agricultural community or to subject matter under the purview of the Department of Agriculture (DOAG). For the specific language for each Act you may use the Connecticut General Assembly website as a resource at http://www.cga.ct.gov or call Melanie Attwater-Young, Legislative Liaison, Department of Agriculture at (860) 713-2509 for assistance.
 
Public Act 07-1 – An Act Concerning the State Budget for the Biennium Ending June 30th, 2009 – The biennial budget for the Department of Agriculture for the period beginning July 1st, 2007 and ending June 30th, 2009 remained essentially the same as the budget the Governor proposed in February with the exception of the following changes: increase in the form of additional dollars in ’07-’08 and ’08-’09 of $400,000 each fiscal year for the Senior Farmers’ Market coupon program, these monies are in addition to the existing  $110,000 for each fiscal year; in ’07-’08 and ’08-’09, an increase of $47,500 for the Connecticut Seafood Council; in ’07-’08 and ’08-’09, an increase of $25,000 for the Food Council; in ’07-’08 and ’08-’09, an increase of $47,500 for the Connecticut Wine Council; and in Section 21, for fiscal year ending June 30th, 2007, $4 million for assistance to dairy farmers. There is additional money for invasive species control for the Department of Environmental Protection totaling $1 million and, in the Department of Education’s budget, an increase of $650 in the state’s contribution per high school student attending vocational agriculture school (from existing $700 per student to $1,350). (Effective from passage).
 
Public Act 07-4 - An Act Implementing the Provisions of Budget Concerning General Government – Section 8 establishes the non-lapsing “invasive species detection and control account” to be expended by the Commissioner of Environmental Protection for the purposes of controlling invasive species, educating the public about such species, awarding grants to municipalities for the control of invasives on public lands and waters funding for inspectors from Department of Agriculture and Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station for the control of invasive species; Section 58 requires the Department of Agriculture’s Farm Link Program to make reasonable efforts to facilitate contact between parties that are interested in the growing and processing of crops that can be used to produce biodiesel; it requires the Program to publish educational materials on the subject of growing and processing crops that can be used in the production of biodiesel; Section 61 establishes a “fuel diversification grant program” within the Department of Economic and Community Development which will provide research dollars to fund Connecticut institutions of higher education or Connecticut institutions of agricultural for the purposes of researching and promoting biofuel production using agricultural products, algae and waste grease as well as biofuel quality testing. (Effective July 1, 2007).

Public Act 07-11 – An Act Concerning the Evacuation of Pets and Service Animals and Approval of the Local Emergency Plan of Operations – This act adds to the definition of “civil preparedness”. This addition includes discretionary nonmilitary evacuation of pets and service animals in local emergency operations plans. Under the 2006 federal Pets Evacuation and Transportation Standards Act, local and state emergency plans of state that accept funds for emergency assistance and disaster relief must “take into account the needs of individuals with household pets and service animals, prior to, during, and following a major disaster or emergency.” The Commissioner of Emergency Management and Homeland Security will not approve any municipal emergency plan of operations unless the evacuation of pets and service animals has been addressed. (Effective October 1, 2007)

Public Act 07-42 – An Act Establishing An Equine Advisory Council - This Act establishes an Equine Advisory Council to help the Department of Environmental Protection study state horse trail preservation. The Connecticut Horse Council president, a member of the Connecticut Forests and Parks Association and various legislators and citizens representing each state Congressional district compose the Council. (Effective upon passage)
 
Public Act 07–59 - An Act Concerning Dogs that Attack Domestic Animals or Livestock - Public Act 07-59 is modeled after current state statute that applies to dogs that have bitten people. The Act creates a process for handling instances where a dog attacks domestic animals or livestock by requiring the owner of an animal who has been attacked by a dog (complainant) to report the incident to an animal control officer (ACO) and requires the animal control officer to investigate the incident. It also allows the Commissioner of Agriculture to make any order concerning the restraint or disposal of the attacking dog after the investigation is completed. The dog must have made such attack under the following conditions in order for a restraint or disposal order to be issued: 1) the attack must have occurred while attacking dog was not on the property of the attacking dog’s owner and 2) the complainant’s animal was under complainant’s control or on the complainant’s property. The Act establishes penalties for the attacking dog’s owner or keeper for failure to comply with an ACO’s order and enables the ACO to seize such offending dog in order to ensure compliance. The Act spells out that anyone aggrieved of an order may request a hearing before the Commissioner no later than 14 days after the order is issued. It also exempts dogs that are owned by a state or local police agency from these provisions provided said dog(s) have received yearly vaccinations, are subject to routine veterinary care and are under the direct custody care and control of an assigned police officer. (Effective October 1, 2007)
 
Public Act 07-61 – An Act Concerning Dam Safety – Starting October 1, 2007, owners of property which has within its boundaries a “high” or “significant” hazard dam, must record the dam’s location and classification in the land record’s of the town within with such dam is situated. The Act also requires the Commissioner of Environmental Protection to notify a dam owner if a dam needs to be maintained or repaired in order to keep the dam safe. This Act also authorizes municipal officials to inspect dams they believe post a public safety concern and, in certain situations, tightens permit requirements for people constructing dams. (Effective October 1, 2007)

Public Act 07-74 - An Act Concerning the Identification of Harvested Shellfish - This law requires the DOA to assign the unique confidential shellfish harvest lot code for shellfish harvest tags. This code was previously allowed to be supplied by the shellfisherman. It also transfers the jurisdiction of the state owned recreational shellfish grounds in Westport known as the “Cokenoe Flats” from to the Town of Westport. It enables the Commissioner of Agriculture, upon a the request of a town, to enter into a Memorandum of Understanding in order to authorize the appropriate municipal body collect sea water samples for the purposes of monitoring water quality for shellfish harvest. The law also requires that buoys demarcating shellfish grounds meet certain specifications, thus standardizing the appearance of such buoys. It also limits the area authorized by a shellfish resource assessment permit to 100 acres or less and requires the DOA to notify abutting shellfish grounds owners or lease holders of the issuance of such permit. (Effective upon passage; buoy standardization effective July 1, 2007)

Public Act 07-78 – An Act Concerning Protection of Pets in Domestic Violence Cases - This Act permits courts to issue orders of protection for animals owned or kept by victims of family violence, stalking, or harassment. The orders may, at a minimum, prohibit respondents or defendants from injuring or threatening to injure the animals. In family violence cases, the order may be a civil restraining, or criminal protective, order. (Effective October 1, 2007)

Public Act 07-85 AAC the Aquifer Protection Area Program – This act specifies when public and private water companies must submit maps of new well fields to the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), amends aquifer protection agencies' hearing and decision schedules, authorizes municipalities to fine people who violate municipal aquifer regulations, and makes minor changes. The act authorizes a municipality to establish, by ordinance, fines of up to $1,000 for violating its aquifer protection regulations. A police officer or other person authorized by the municipality's chief executive may issue a citation to anyone violating the regulations. A municipality that adopts such an ordinance must also adopt a hearing procedure. Any fines collected must be deposited in the municipality's general fund or a special fund it designates. But the fine cannot be imposed against the state or any state employee acting within the scope of his or her employment. Sec. 5(d) of the act specifies that establishment of this ordinance, imposition of fines, and issuance of citations do not apply to agricultural uses employing best management practices . Annual gross sales from agricultural products during the preceding calendar year were at least $2,500, and (2) who submits to DEP a farm resources management plan, is not conducting a regulated activity (CGS § 22a-354m). (Effective October 1, 2007)

Public Act 07-105 – An Act Concerning the Expansion of the Animal Population Control Program – The Act expands the state's Animal Population Control Program (APCP), requiring the agriculture commissioner to establish programs to (1) sterilize and vaccinate the pets of low-income people and (2) assist registered nonprofit rescue groups with feral cat sterilization and vaccination. Under the Act, the commissioner must use APCP funds to pay for the two new programs. The Act enables the commissioner to (1) use up to 20% of APCP funds for the two new programs (up to 10% for each) and (2) seek funds for these programs. It also increases, from $ 180,000 to $ 225,000, the amount of APCP funds that the Agriculture Department may use for administrative costs. It expands the current distribution of a standardized dog licensing form to include pet shop operators, grooming facilities, municipal pounds, or dog training facilities who voluntarily agree to make such license application available to the public. (Section 1 Effective upon passage; Sections 2, 3 &4, Effective October 1, 2007).

Public Act 07-127 An Act Preserving Maritime Heritage Land – This Act provides a property tax relief for certain commercial lobstermen by allowing such lobstermen to apply for property tax assessment of their land that is used in commercial lobstering (excluding buildings not exclusively used in commercial lobstering) to be assessed at its “use value” rather than its market value similar to farmland, forestland and open space under Public Act 490 (Sections 12-107a through 12-107f of the Connecticut General Statutes) (Effective July 1, 2007)

Public Act 07-131 - An Act Concerning the Face of Connecticut – Section 3 requires the DOAG commissioner to administer a program that provides eligible municipalities with loans to purchase agricultural land. The Act provides that municipalities (1) are eligible for the loan if they provide at least 20% of the purchase price for the land and (2) may apply for it on a form the DOAG commissioner prescribes. The loan term cannot exceed five years and is not subject to interest. It establishes a separate, non-lapsing “municipal purchasing of agricultural land account”. The DOAG commissioner must use the account funds to provide municipalities the interest-free agricultural land acquisition loans and authorizes the DOAG commissioner to adopt regulations that establish the criteria for the agricultural land acquisition loans and the terms governing the loans. (Effective July 1, 2007)

Public Act 07-162 - An Act Concerning the Creation of a Farmland Preservation Advisory Board, A State Building Code for Agriculture, and Zoning Regulation of Farming – Creates a 12 member Farmland Preservation Advisory Board to advise the Department of Agriculture on its Farmland Preservation Program. It spells out the responsibilities of the Board and requires quarterly meetings. It also requires the State Bond Commission to vote to on whether to authorize, when available, the issuance of bonds of at least $5 million dollars in the August and February bond meetings each year, or the following bond meeting upon cancellation of said meetings.  (Effective July 1, 2007)

Public Act 07-230 - An Act Concerning Seizure and Custody of Neglected or Cruelly Treated Animals – The Act clarifies existing language regarding the court’s process in animal cruelty seizure cases and existing authority that an animal control officer has in such cases. It also adds a provision that an animal control officer may take physical custody of animals that are in imminent harm due to cruelty or neglect. The officer must file with the court within 96 hours of such “imminent harm” seizure. The Act also enables an animal control officer, in animal cruelty cases, to file petition to obtain custody and ownership and provide for its care without physically removing such animal from the property of its owner or “keeper”, thus maintaining and caring for the animal in place until such time ownership may be awarded. The reason for this section is to allow animal control officers to care for cruelly treated or neglected animals in certain instances where removal may not be practical. It also eliminates language that establishes the “Connecticut Farm Fresh Schools” program as the language duplicates language that was passed in 2006. It does not eliminate Connecticut’s “Farm to School” Program.  (Effective October 1, 2007)
 
Public Act 07-239 – An Act Concerning Responsible Growth – The Commissioner of Agriculture will serve on the “Responsible Growth Task Force”. The Task Force is charged with identifying responsible growth criteria to help guide the state’s future investment decisions, study land use laws, policies and programs, including laws policies and programs concerning the transfer of development rights. The Task Force shall submit a report of its recommendations to the Governor by February 15th, 2008. The Task Force terminates on that date. (Effective upon passage).

Public Act 07-240 – An Act Concerning Geothermal Heat Systems – Section 2 of this Act extends to farms a property tax exemption for Class I renewable energy and certain other hydropower facilities when they are used to generate electricity for the farm. Current law exempts such facilities when used to generate electricity for single-family dwellings or multifamily dwellings containing no more than four units. As under existing law, the exemption is subject to a municipality's authorizing ordinance. The Act also requires the Renewable Energy Investments Advisory Committee to study and file a legislative report on geothermal heat systems.  (Effective October 1, 2007)

Public Act 07-252 – An Act Concerning Revisions to Statutes Pertaining to the Departments of Public Health and Social Services and Town Clerks – Section 59 of this Act allows farmers’ markets to sell fresh produce to food establishments and requires the purchasing food establishment to request an invoice from the seller and requires the seller to provide such invoice to the purchaser. (Effective upon passage)
 
Last edit 1/3/08