DOAG: 2005 Legislative Session Summary

2005 Legislative Session Summary


The 2005 regular legislative session adjourned on June 8th, 2005, Special Sessions were held on June 23rd and June 28th.
 
The following Public and Special Acts, passed this legislative session, are pertinent to the agricultural community or to subject matter under the purview of the Department of Agriculture. 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.
 
Public Act 05-03 - An Act Concerning the Implementation of Various Budgetary Provisions - Section 63 requires the administrative costs associated with Public Act 05-228 (see below) be paid for out of the account established by section 6 of such Act. Section 84 establishes a "Geospatial Information Systems Council" which shall coordinate a uniform geospatial information system capacity for municipalities, regional planning agencies, the state and others. Members on the Council include the Commissioners of Environmental Protection, Agriculture, Public Health, Public Works, Transportation among others (Effective date July 1, 2005). Section 85 requires the Secretary of the Office of Policy and Management, in consultation with others, to prepare a report on land use training and education available to members of local land use agencies (Effective upon passage). Section 113 changes the effective date of Public Act 05-228 (see below) from July 1, 2005 to October 1, 2005 (Effective upon passage).
 
Public Act 05-05 - An Act Increasing Certain Bond Authorizations for Capital Improvements, Concerning the Collection of Costs by the Probate Court and Concerning A Housing Trust Fund - Section 9 increases the bonding authorization for the Department of Agriculture's Farmland Preservation Program. From the fiscal years July 1st, 2000 through June 30th, 2005, the total bonding authorizations for the Program totaled $6 million dollars. For the fiscal year beginning July 1st, 2005  through June 30th, 2006 the new authorization is $8 million. This reflects an increase of $6 million alone  over the authorization for fiscal year '04-'05. For fiscal year running from July 1st, 2006 through June 30th, 2007, the additional authorization is $10 million. Governor Rell has made a significant increase and commitment to the preservation of farmlands for the citizens of the state (Effective date July 1, 2005).
 
Public Act 05-32 - An Act Increasing the Minimum Wage - Increases the state's minimum hourly wage to $7.40 effective January 1, 2006 and to $7.65 effective January 1, 2007. This increase still does not apply to agricultural employees (Effective date October 1, 2005).
 
Public Act 05-124 - An Act Concerning the Preservation and Use of Agricultural Lands and Conservation and Preservation Restrictions - Requires an applicant for a building or other permit on any lands that are subject to any conservation or restriction easement to any state or local land use official prove that written notice was given to the easement holder at least 60 days prior to filing the permit application. It creates a process for disapproval of a permit if the work does not comply with the restriction and reversing permit approval when an applicant fails to provide notice. The Act extends the lease period from 7 to 10 years on state owned lands that are leased for agricultural purposes. It enables the commissioner of agriculture to enter into joint ownership agreements with nonprofit organizations to acquire the development rights to agricultural lands through the state's Farmland Preservation Program, provided those nonprofits are dedicated to the preservation of agricultural lands for active agricultural use. It also allows the State of Connecticut to remain eligible for federal farmland protection funds by granting the commissioner of agriculture the authority to adjust deed language on qualifying projects to meet changing federal requirements (Effective date October 1, 2005). And finally, enables the attorney general to bring action in Superior Court to enforce public interest in conservation and preservation restrictions (Effective date July 1, 2005).
 
Public Act 05-130 - An Act Concerning the Milk Regulation Board and A Study of the Connecticut Dairy Industry - Adds two appointees to the Milk Regulation Board one of whom must be actively engage in milk processing, and one of whom represents retailers. Currently there are six members two engaged in the selling and distribution of milk, two with no financial interest in milk production, and two milk producers in addition to the public health and agriculture commissioners. The Act requires the Board to conduct a comprehensive study of Connecticut's dairy industry and submit a report to the Environment Committee by January 1, 2006. The commissioner of agriculture must adopt regulations based upon the report's recommendations. (Effective date July 1, 2005)
 
Public Act 05-142 - An Act Concerning the Minimum Water Flow Regulations - Requires the commissioner of environmental to revise the minimum flow regulations for ALL rivers and streams where a dam impounds or diverts water flow. The revision must be completed by December 31, 2006. Requires any person or town maintaining a dam or structure to comply with the regulations once adopted upon a schedule specified by the commissioner. The regulations must be based on the "best science available". The commissioner may make a request of the attorney general to file a legal action to require persons or town to comply with the regulations. The Act requires the commissioner to consult with an advisory group in adopting such regulations. Such regulations may provide exemption for agricultural use (Effective October 1, 2005).
 
Public Act 05-160 An Act Concerning the Definition of Agricultural Operations Allows the Commissioner of Agriculture to provide an advisory opinion as to what constitutes agriculture or farming, pursuant to subsection (q) of Section 1-1, and regarding the classification of land as farm land or open space pursuant to Sections 12-107b to 12-107f. The Commissioner may provide such an advisory opinion at the request of a municipality, state agency, assessor or landowner.
 

Public Act 05-164 - An Act Concerning Custom Slaughter Houses - Requires the commissioner of agriculture to adopt regulations, including, but not limited to, sanitation standards, for slaughterhouses that provide custom slaughter services. Animals slaughtered at custom slaughterhouses must be returned to the owner of such animal for the owner's personal consumption. The Act does not apply to slaughterhouses currently inspected by the USDA (Effective date October 1, 2005).
 
Public Act 05-174 - An Act Concerning Flood Management and Stream Channel Encroachment - Limits existing authority of the commissioner of environmental protection to regulating, coordinating, monitoring, and analyzing state actions and proposed actions on state lands. The Act exempts certain activities/operations from stream channel encroachment law as of right including the erection of temporary greenhouses or hoophouses built without permanent foundations and anchored according to code (Effective date October 1, 2005).
 
Public Act 05-175 - An Act Concerning the Revision and Modernization of Milk Regulation Statutes and the Licensing of Poultry Dealers - Updates antiquated statutes by making changes to the Milk Regulation Board and the regulation of milk and milk products. Requires the commissioner to regulate raw milk producers. Transfers oversight of milk laboratories from the Department of Public Health to the Department of Agriculture. Requires those involved in retail raw milk production or manufacture of retail raw milk cheese to register with the commissioner of agriculture when these products will be used or disposed of off the premises where they are produced. (Effective date October 1, 2005) Changes certain fees, modifies and eliminates certain definitions. Replaces the current licensing procedure for and regulation of poultry dealers with new language that focuses on poultry disease control and biosecurity issues of importance to Connecticut's substantial poultry industry (Effective date January 1, 2006). Eliminates a requirement that the commissioner adopt regulations to provide for an expedited appeal and hearing process regarding the restraint or disposal dogs that have bitten a person (Effective date upon passage).
 
Public Act 05-190 - An Act Concerning Buffers to Inland Wetlands Areas and Concerning Application of the Conveyance Tax to Land Classified as Farm Land, Forest Land or Open Space Land - Requires that if a municipal inland wetland agency requires that land serve as a buffer that the municipality must assess the land at wetland value (Effective upon passage). The Act also makes many changes to the "490" land taxation program, for instance, it makes a distinction that the classification of land under the 490 program is specific to the owner of the land, not the land itself. It adds a requirement that if the land is transferred, that the classification terminates and a new application must be filed with the town. Currently if the land is sold or there is a use change of the land, the classification terminates. It also requires that applications to classify property as forestland be submitted to the assessor by October 1st (Effective July 1, 2005).
 
Public Act 05-218 An Act Amending Certain Motor Vehicle Statutes Sec. 18 makes it illegal to transport a dog in the back of a pick-up truck unless the dog is secured in a cage or other container or otherwise secured to prevent dog from being thrown, falling or jumping from the pick-up truck (Effective October 1, 2005).
 
Public Act 05-228 - An Act Concerning Farmland Preservation, Land Protection, Affordable Housing and Historic Preservation - After six hours of debate in the House, this landmark legislation was passed. Governor Rell signed the bill on July 11th, 2005. This Act does the following: prior to passage, current law only allowed the Department of Agriculture to purchase agricultural lands "outright" (on a fee simple basis) prior to July 1, 1995. Section 1 of the Act eliminates the July 1, 1995 provision thus allowing the Department to purchase such lands in this manner on an on-going basis. This adds another option allowing the DOA greater flexibility and quicker response time in cases where landowners are subject to sales pressures. The DOA plans to then preserve the development rights, and then sell the preserved land to another farmer. Section 2 of the Act establishes a matching grants program to municipalities to be administered by the DOA. The purpose of this program is to stimulate local agricultural viability through ag-related capital projects and generation of local farmland protection and land-use strategies. Section 3 establishes a "Farm Transition Program" which shall be administered by the DOA. The Farm Transition Program is a matching grants program for farmers, agricultural non-profits organizations, and agricultural cooperatives designed to assist in the "diversification of existing farm operations, transition to value added agricultural production and sales and developing farmers markets and other venues in which a majority of products sold are grown in the state." Section 4 establishes a "Connecticut Farm Link Program" to be established and administered by the DOA. Information will be maintained on the DOA's website for the purposes of linking those looking to farm but have no land base with those who are looking to sell their farm operations and or farmlands. Section 5 adds a $30 dollar additional fee for the recording of land records. After the town where the document is filed retains $4, the town clerk shall remit the remaining $26 to the State Treasurer for deposit into the "land protection, affordable housing and historic preservation account". Section 6 establishes the account, and monies are distributed every three months in the following manner: 25% to the Connecticut Commission on Culture and Tourism to supplement technical and historic preservation activities; 25% to the Connecticut Housing Finance Authority to supplement new or existing affordable housing programs; 25% to the Department of Environmental Protection for municipal open space grants and 25% to the Department of Agriculture. The 25% of the fund for the DOA is to be used as follows: $500,000 for the "Agriculture Viability Grant Program" as established in Section 2; $500,000 for the "Farm Transition Grant Program" as established in Section 3; $100,000 to encourage the sale of "Connecticut Grown" foods to schools, restaurants, retailers and other institutions and businesses in the state; $75,000 for the "Connecticut Farm Link Program" as established in Section 4; the remainder is to go to the Farmland Preservation Program. Each agency may use not more than 10% for administration the programs for which funds are provided. Section 7 enables municipalities to establish a land acquisition and development authority to assist in acquiring or developing agricultural, recreational or open space lands. Section 8 clarifies existing statute that enables municipalities to exempt taxes on farm building assessed at value up to $100,000 (Effective October 1, 2005 pursuant to Public Act 05-03).
 
It is anticipated that this act will generate a total of $6.5 million for the DOA, $4.6 million of which will go to farmland preservation. The act will also generate approximately $6.5 million for open space grants, $6.5 million for historic building preservation, $6.5 million for affordable housing, $3 million for Local Capital Improvement Program and $1 million for Town Clerks.
 
Public Act 05-274 - An Act Concerning the Shipment of Wine to State Residents - Allows Connecticut farm wineries to ship directly to Connecticut consumers and establishes certain procedures to be followed in order to do so. Packages containing wine for shipment must bear specific labeling and require a signature of a person 21 years old or older in order to be left by the delivering party. Wineries must pay all sales and alcoholic beverage taxes, and report chronologically, by individual consumer, to Department of Consumer Protection all in state shipment sales to each individual consumer in the state. Prohibits shippers from shipping more than five gallons of wine within a 60-day period to the same individual in Connecticut and shipping to any locality in Connecticut where local provisions prohibit such shipment (Effective date upon passage).
 
Special Act 05-01 - An Act Authorizing Bonds of the State for Capital Improvements and Other Purposes - For fiscal year beginning July 1st, 2005 through June 30th, 2006, Section 13 (c) contains the following for the Department of Agriculture: $500,000 for the Farm Reinvestment Program; $500,000 for state matching grants-in-aid to farmers for environmental compliance; $100,000 for state grants-in-aid to nonprofit organizations for capital improvements to urban farms or gardens; $300,000 grant-in-aid to Farmers Cow, L.L.C., for the Connecticut Dairy Entrepreneurial Initiative; and a $350,000 grant-in-aid to the town of Newington, for the purchase of development rights to Eddy Farm. For fiscal year beginning July 1, 2006, Section 32 (c) contains, for the Department of Agriculture, the following: $500,000 for the Farm Reinvestment Program; and $500,000 state matching grants-in-aid to farmers for environmental compliance.