From a recent finding of unconstitutionality in Iowa, to an award of attorney’s fees in Idaho, to a new legal challenge in Kansas, “ag gag” laws have continued to be in the news recently. “Ag gag” laws are generally designed to prohibit a person from entering an agricultural operation without permission or by fraudulent means and obtaining video or photographs of the operation. Although nearly half of the states have attempted to pass this type of provision, only eight have done so. Those states are: IA, ID, KS, MO, MT, NC, ND, and UT.Although each state’s law differs, generally, two types of provisions are present. First, most laws prohibit entering an ag operation and obtaining unauthorized video or photographs of the operation. Second, some laws prohibit an applicant from making false statements on a job application in order to gain entry to an agricultural operation with the intent to video or photograph.Just this month, an Iowa federal court held the Iowa statute unconstitutional. The court took a three-step approach to analyzing this legal challenge.First, the judge held that this statute did apply to “speech.” Because the statute requires speech–either false or misleading statements–it falls within the definition of speech. Next, the court considered whether the false statements prohibited by the statute are protected speech. Not all falsehoods are protected; only those that do not cause a “legally cognizable harm” or provide “material gain” to the speaker fall within the protections of the First Amendment. The court found the falsehoods at issue under the statute do neither, meaning the First Amendment is applicable.
Governor Larry Hogan has announced several items in the administration’s Fiscal Year 2020 budget. Included is level funding support for the Rural Maryland Council (RMC), Rural Maryland Prosperity Investment Fund (RMPIF) and the Maryland Agricultural Education and Rural Development Assistance Fund (MAERDAF). The Rural Maryland Prosperity Investment Fund is included in the budget for $ 6 million for targeted investment to promote economic prosperity in Maryland’s traditionally disadvantaged and underserved rural communities by sustaining efforts to promote rural regional cooperation, facilitating entrepreneurial activities and supporting key community colleges and nonprofit providers.In Fiscal Year 2019, RMPIF also received $6 million in funding. Since Fiscal Year 2017, funds for RMPIF have been included in the State’s Operating budget.For Fiscal Year 2019, 36 grants were distributed to 33 organizations throughout the State.
About a week after Iowa's ag-gag law was struck down over free speech violations, a national animal rights group is advertising for an investigator to work undercover in Iowa livestock and meat processing facilities. Mercy For Animals, a Los Angeles animal welfare group, is advertising online for an Iowa-based undercover investigator to work at "factory farms, hatcheries, livestock markets and slaughterhouses" to catch possible animal abuse.The California group said it routinely advertises for undercover investigators, and didn't target Iowa because of the federal court ruling last week.
A decision this week by a federal court to block the U.S. government’s plan to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census is more than a political setback for Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross and President Donald Trump. It also represents a strong vote of confidence in the U.S. statistical community and the value of research. On 15 January, U.S. District Court Judge Jesse Furman of the Southern District of New York declared that Ross had been “arbitrary and capricious” in deciding last year to add the citizenship question. He also ruled that the question would most likely result in leaving millions of noncitizens and Hispanic residents out of the decennial head count.The plaintiffs in the case, some 33 state and local officials as well as numerous civil rights organizations, argued successfully that Ross had violated a federal law governing how to make changes in the census. They also convinced the judge that their jurisdictions would likely suffer politically and economically from an undercount.
Four environmental groups have won a lawsuit to overturn part of a settlement between the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and a dairy organization.The 2017 settlement ended a legal challenge from the Dairy Business Association over new state guidance for how concentrated animal feeding operations, or CAFOs, can manage runoff. The groups, including Midwest Environmental Advocates and the Clean Water Action Council, among others, said changes made in the settlement didn’t follow the agency’s rulemaking process.On Friday, a judge in the Milwaukee County Circuit Court agreed and decided to overturn the settlement.MEA attorney Sarah Geers said the latest ruling doesn’t reinstate the guidance that caused the first legal challenge from the Dairy Business Association.“We hope that what this decision will do will just put the law back to the way it was before any of these issues arose,” Geers said.
Veterinary technicians and technologists would be able to perform their services away from the physical presence of a veterinarian under a bill that a House committee on Wednesday recommended for approval. House Bill 1124 -- sponsored by Reps. DeAnn Vaught, R-Horatio, and David Hillman, R-Almyra, and Sen. Bruce Maloch, D-Magnolia -- would create certifications for veterinary technologist and technician specialist; the state now has a certification for veterinary technician. The House Committee on Agriculture, Forestry and Economic Development recommended approval of HB1124, which now goes to the House.Under the legislation, the licensed veterinarian need not be physically present but can give written or oral instructions for the treatment of the animal and must be "readily available" either in person or through electronic and communication technology."This is the best way to help rural Arkansas with our vet problem," Vaught said.Currently, no Arkansas college or university offers a doctor of veterinary medicine degree, and only Arkansas State University at Beebe offers the veterinary technology certification.
Gov. Ron DeSantis announced Thursday that he has asked the Legislature to change Florida law to allow smoking medical marijuana. If lawmakers don’t comply by mid March, he’ll drop the state’s appeal of a court decision that says banning it violates a constitutional amendment. Against a backdrop of lush green in Winter Park — the hometown of attorney and medical marijuana champion John Morgan — he added that he plans to drop appeals in several other cases regarding limited licensing and vertical integration, which requires medical marijuana companies to grow, manufacture, sell and market their own product.
Moving swiftly, a federal judge on Thursday struck down limits on early voting that Republican lawmakers approved last month in a lame-duck session. In a five-page ruling, U.S. District Judge James Peterson concluded the new limits on early voting are invalid because they so closely mirror ones he struck down as unconstitutional in 2016. His decision also threw out parts of the lame-duck laws affecting IDs and other credentials that can be used for voting. "This is not a close question: the three challenged provisions are clearly inconsistent with the (2016) injunctions that the court has issued in this case," Peterson wrote.
College will be free for virtually all Cleveland school district graduates starting with this year’s senior class, after the much-anticipated launch today of the Say Yes to Education college scholarship and student support program in the city. A team of city, county, philanthropic and Say Yes leaders announced the scholarships at a rally at John Marshall High School to cheering students this morning, pledging that the ever-increasing cost of tuition will no longer block Cleveland school district graduates from attending college. Officials have already raised more than 70 percent of the $125 million they need to pay for scholarships for the next 25 years.
Gov. Ralph Northam announced Thursday the recipients of fiscal year 2019 farmland preservation grants. Six localities have been awarded a total of $633,831 from the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services’ Office of Farmland Preservation. The funds will be used to permanently preserve working farmland through local Purchase of Development Rights (PDR) programs. PDR programs compensate landowners who work with localities to preserve their land permanently by voluntarily securing a perpetual conservation easement.