DOAG: 2009 Legislative Session Summary

2009 Legislative Session Summary

 
(as of June 22nd, 2009)
 
The 2009 regular legislative session adjourned, as scheduled, on June 3rd. As of the writing of this document (June 22, 2009) no budget, tax package or bonding have been passed. However, there has been several mitigation plans to stop the current gap for the Fiscal Year ending June 30th, 2009. 
 
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 (DOA). 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 contact the Department of Agriculture at (860) 713-2500 for assistance.
 

Public Act 09-2, An Act Concerning Deficit Mitigation Measures for the Fiscal Year Ending June 30, 2009 – (was passed by the General Assembly and signed by Governor Rell on February 25, 2009)
 
Section 1 reduces the DOA’s category of “Other Expenses” by $3,518 and also reduces by $619, the shellfish monitoring program for the bacterial disease known as “Vibrio”. This Public Act reduces the DOA’s budget reductions by a total of $4,137.
 
Section 24 of the Act appropriates $4 million dollars to the dairy farmers of Connecticut for a one-time grant to support Connecticut’s ailing dairy industry (Effective date: April 1, 2000). (See Public Act 09-229 below for companion implementing legislation)
 
Public Act 09-9, An Act Renaming the State’s Shellfish Research Vessel the “John H. Volk” - This Act renames the vessel used by the Department of Agriculture for research that helps maintain a strong shellfish industry in Long Island Sound. This vessel docks at the Bureau of Aquaculture office in Milford. For at least 20 years, the existing vessel (previously called the “Yankee Oyster”) and any subsequent vessel that meets the same description must be name the “John H. Volk. ” (Volk was Bureau of Aquaculture Director for 21 years.) If the current vessel is removed from state service, the next most prominent vessel by size and use must also be named the “John H. Volk” until the state acquires a larger and more prominent research and surveying vessel (Effective date: upon passage).
 
Public Act 09-52, An Act Implementing the Recommendations of the Invasive Plant Council - Prior to the enactment of this law, a previous ban on adoption of municipal ordinances expired on October 1, 2005. This law reinstates said ban by prohibiting, from July 1, 2009 to October 1, 2014, municipalities from adopting ordinances regulating the retail sale or purchase of invasive plants. It allows such plants to be moved for specific purposes and makes other changes in invasive plant laws.

Current law bars people from importing, moving, selling, buying, transplanting, cultivating, or distributing any of 81 invasive plants. The changes in current law enacted removes water lettuce (Pistia stratiotes) from the existing list of invasive plants. It allows people to (1) move any of the remaining 80 plants for research, eradication, or educational purposes and (2) cultivate them only for research. It also bars anyone from moving (except for eradication, research, or educational purposes) importing, selling, transplanting, buying, cultivating (except for research purposes), or distributing any of the reproductive portions of a listed invasive species, including seeds, flowers, roots, and tubers. 

The Act also essentially prohibits state agencies, departments, and institutions from buying an invasive or potentially invasive plant, but allows state agencies to transport these plants for educational, research and eradication purposes.

Under current law, director of the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station may prohibit or regulate the transportation of plants and plant material liable to carry dangerous pests and enforce other provisions of the law concerning plant and insect disease and infestation. The Act additionally authorizes the director or his designee to inspect nurseries and nursery stock for violations of the invasive plant laws. It also authorizes the agriculture commissioner to inspect pet shops for violations of the invasive plant laws. By law, the commissioner may issue orders to correct unsatisfactory conditions (Effective date: July 1, 2009).

Public Act 09-173, An Act Authorizing Districts to Maintain Water Quality in Lakes, State Land Where Hunting is Permitted, the Establishment of A Marine Waters Fishing License and the Taking of Shellfish in Westport – This Act does the following: 1) creates a recreational saltwater sport fishing license (Effective date: June 15, 2009) and established associated fees for such license; 2) requires the funds generated from this new license to be used strictly for fish and game preservation and related activities (Effective date: upon passage); 3) prohibits the Department of Environmental Protection from reducing the amount of state land available for hunting without providing for an equal amount of land for hunting elsewhere in the state (Effective: upon passage); 4) allows towns, by vote of residents to establish a special taxation “district” with the ultimate goal of maintaining water quality in lakes, current law allows for the establishment of various “special districts” for the purposes of taxation, this Act adds lake water quality maintenance to the list of others reasons to establish such districts (Effective: October 1, 2009); and 5) eliminates prison as a potential penalty for illegally taking shellfish from the shores, beaches and flats at “Saugatuck Shores” in Westport an increases the fine for such illegal activity from $25 to $75 (Effective date: upon passage).
 
Public Act 09-180, An Act Preserving Certain Horse Trails – Requires the Department of Environmental Protection to allow or continue to allow equine use of 7 trails located in certain state parks and forests. The Act does not prohibit other recreational uses of said trails. The trails are located in: Larkin State Park, Airline State Park, Hop River State Park, Moosup Valley State Park, Huntington State Park, Natchaug State Forest, and Cockaponset State Forest (Effective date: upon passage).
 
Public Act 09-195, An Act Concerning Local Shellfish Commissions – Current law requires local shellfish commissions to prepare and periodically update a shellfish management plan which must be submitted to the Department of Agriculture (DOA). This Act clarifies current law by requiring such updates be made in writing to the DOA. As such, this change to current law makes updates to local shellfish management plans subject to the Freedom of Information Act. Current law allows for towns, cities or boroughs to establish a shellfish commission or join with other towns in establishing such a commission (Effective date: July 1, 2009). The Act also makes very specific changes regarding the transfer of an active commercial fishing license issued by the DEP (Effective date: upon passage).
 

Public Act 09-228, An Act Concerning A Pet Lemon Law and the Release of Rabies Vaccination Records to Animal Control Officers – Current state law allows for any consumer who purchases a dog or cat from a pet shop, if, within 15 days of the purchase of such animal, the animal dies or becomes ill that consumer may be eligible for, in the case of death of the animal, replacement of the animal or reimbursement of the full cost of such animal. In the case of illness, the consumer, under current law, may be reimbursed for up to $200.00 in costs associated and with such illness. Such illness or death caused by an illness must be documented by a licensed veterinarian as being present at the time of sale. The Act extends time frame within which a consumer may act in the case of death caused by an illness or an illness that existed at the time of sale, from 15 days to 20 days, increases the medical costs from $200.00 to $500.00 and also spells out that the veterinarian may be a veterinarian of the consumer’s choosing.
 
The Act also adds a provision that, if, within six months of sale, any such dog or cat is diagnosed with a “congenital defect” that adversely affects or will adversely affect the health of such dog or cat, at the option of the consumer, replace the dog or cat or refund in full the purchase price of such dog or cat. The Act does not define “congenital defect”. The medical costs provision for congenital defects is also set at $500.00. However, the length of time for a consumer to act upon the congenital defect provision is 6 months rather than a limit of 20 days. The new law also adds a provision that a pet shop licensee shall not be subject to the obligations imposed by this act for the sale of a cat where such cat has been spayed or neutered prior to its sale.
 
Finally, the new law adds a requirement for a “certificate of origin” of any dog or cat offered for sale by a pet shop. The certificate must contain specific information that is to be included in the document and which must be conspicuously posted not more than 10 feed from the location where a dog is displayed. This certificate must also be submitted by the pet shop licensee, to the DOA not later than two days after the sale of the animal. The Act also prohibits pet shop licensees from purchasing a dog or cat for resale from anyone located outside of Connecticut who does not have a current USDA license and any applicable state agency license. The Act establishes a maximum fine of $100 for each violation by a pet shop licensee or imprisonment for not more than 30 days fore each violation (Effective date: July 1, 2009).
 
Public Act 09-229, An Act Concerning Milk Producers, Milk and Milk Products, Agricultural Not-For-Profit Organizations and the Modernization of Connecticut Fertilizer Law - The Act updates fertilizer law by replacing current law's provisions, which are based on a 1965 recommended model law from the Association of American Plant Food Control Officials (AAPFCO), with the most recent AAPFCO recommended version (Effective date: July 1, 2009).
 
The Act also creates an account to assist milk producers and funds it by temporarily increasing from the Act's effective date until July 1, 2011 the fee people pay, from $ 30 to $ 40, when filing documents with town clerks. It temporarily decreases the percentage from the total pool of funds generated by this fee that the DEP, the Connecticut Housing Finance Authority and Connecticut Commission on Culture & Tourism will receive that goes to certain programs and temporarily increases the percentage from the same pool amount the DOA receives for various agricultural programs. It requires DOA to use the majority of the funds for the milk producer grant program (Effective date: upon passage).
 
The Act removes nonprofit agriculture organizations as eligible for DOA's farm transition grant program. By law, the program provides matching grants for diversification of existing farm operations, transitioning 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. It adds these entities to those eligible for DOA's farm viability matching grant program. Under current law, farm viability matching grants may be used for (1) local capital projects that foster agricultural viability, including, processing facilities and farmers' markets, and (2) the development and implementation of agriculturally friendly land use regulations and local farmland protection strategies that sustain and promote local agriculture (Effective date: upon passage).
 
The Act also adds to the viability matching grant's purposes the development of new marketing programs and venues through or in which a majority of products sold are state grown (Effective date: upon passage).
 
This Act explicitly prohibits selling, offering to sell, bartering, or exchanging adulterated milk, milk products, or cheese (i. e. dairy products), and related activities. A first violation is an infraction and a second violation within one year is a class A misdemeanor. It exempts production of dairy products for personal consumption or consumption by immediate family members from its prohibitions.
 
The Act eliminates the DOA commissioner's option to adopt regulations that incorporate by reference the federal Pasteurized Milk Ordinance. It requires instead that all milk dealers processing, handling, storing, distributing, transporting, selling, offering for sale, bartering, or exchanging any dairy product comply with the sanitation, handling, storage, and processing requirements of relevant state milk and milk product laws and regulations (Effective date: October 1, 2009).
 
Special Act 09-8, An Act Concerning the Preservation of State-Owned Agricultural Land - This Special Act requires the Farmland Preservation Advisory Board to review any state-owned agricultural land, excluding Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) land, to evaluate permanent preservation methods and make recommendations for further preservation action. This includes recommendations for (1) a conservation easement or possible transfer of the property's interest and (2) the identification of potential recipients of any resulting conservation easement.
 
Under the Act, the board may consider preservation methods that would result in an increase in state revenue. The board must consult with the agency that controls the applicable parcel when undertaking its land review. It may consult with (1) the Attorney General's Office to review legal options for permanently preserving each parcel or (2) DEP or federal agencies to help calculate the conservation values for each parcel.
 
The board must submit its recommendations to the DOA commissioner and the Environment Committee by January 15, 2010 (Effective date: upon passage).
 
Last edit - 6/22/09 bulletin/web version