Among hundreds of bills signed into law on Sunday by Governor Jerry Brown was the rural broadband measure championed by Assemblymember Cecilia Aguiar-Curry (D — Winters), Several past efforts to increase funding to close the connectivity gap between the “haves” and the “have-nots,” known as the “Digital Divide,” were intensely opposed by the largest telecommunications and cable companies. After a three-year stalemate, this bill represents a cooperative effort between legislators of both houses and both parties, consumer advocates, and representatives from the telecommunications and cable industries to invest in broadband access and rural development.The California Advanced Services Fund (CASF) is a state program aimed at closing the Digital Divide. The CASF does not depend upon General Fund dollars, but instead is funded by a small, existing surcharge on in-state phone bills. The current goal of this program is to incentivize the expansion of broadband infrastructure to 98% of California households. AB 1665 expands this goal to 98% of households in every geographic region of the state. This new goal creates a target that cannot be achieved by serving urban and suburban areas alone; it will ensure broadband infrastructure projects funded by AB 1665 are focused in rural California.
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced $5 million is being awarded to county and youth fairs across the State through the 2017 Agricultural Fairgrounds Infrastructure Improvement Program. The funding will be divided equally among the State's 52 eligible local fairs, with each receiving an award of $96,153 to offset the cost of improvements and renovation projects, including new construction, that support New York's agricultural industry. This second round of funding approved in the New York State Budget builds on the $5 million allocated for county fairs in 2016.
The bill was passed by the Senate on May 23rd by a unanimous vote of 62-0. The Assembly version of the bill, A464B, sponsored by Assemblywoman Paulin, was passed on June 6th by a vote of 56-6, and is now set to be delivered to Governor Cuomo.
New York is working to help veterans interested in becoming farmers. The state announced a new grant program that provides financial assistance to former military service members turned farmers. The money can be used to purchase new farm equipment, machinery or supplies or pay for the cost of building or upgrading farm structures.The initiative is related to a broader $1 million grant program for new and early-stage farmers.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture has said it will override Maine’s ability to run its own meat inspection program unless the state clarifies the law. Maine’s Department of Agriculture is concerned that the law would keep it from inspecting any meat slaughtered and processed in a town that is food sovereign, negating an agreement it has with the USDA to meet federal standards. The prospect that meat-processing facilities like Bisson’s could close, even temporarily, has sent food producers across Maine into a state of near panic and confusion. The cause of the problem is the food sovereignty bill that Gov. Paul LePage signed into law in June despite opposition from his chief agricultural advisers. The bill, called “An Act to Recognize Local Control Regarding Food Systems,” endorses the right of Maine communities to declare themselves “food sovereign,” something 20 communities, including several on the Blue Hill Peninsula, already have done.In practical terms, it means consumers can buy directly from farmers and food producers in those communities who are operating outside of state and federal licensing. The legislation was intended by those who shaped it, including state Sen. Troy Jackson, D-Allagash, its sponsor, and state Rep. Craig Hickman, D-Winthrop, who has put forth numerous similar bills, as a means to encourage local food production and consumption.
State Sen. Gerald Dial of Lineville announced today he will run for commissioner of the Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries. Dial will run for the Republican nomination in hopes of succeeding Commissioner John McMillan. He said he would emphasize job creation."I have a reputation of rocking the boat, stepping on the status quo," said Dial, a retired brigadier general in the Alabama National Guard. "We need someone to carry on Commissioner McMillan's legacy, who will stand up for Alabama farmers and continue to bring more jobs to our great state."Dial had previously announced he would not run for reelection to the Senate. He is in his eighth term in the Senate and also served two terms in the House.
Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law bill A.B. 485, making it illegal for pet stores to sell dogs, cats, and rabbits from any source other than a shelter or rescue group. The law will go into effect in 2019. Thirty-six cities in California, including Los Angeles, San Diego and San Francisco, already had bans on mass breeding operations.
More and more West Virginia children are being placed in foster care because of drug-related issues, and the state is struggling to retain enough child welfare workers to keep up with demand, the head of the Bureau for Children and Families told lawmakers Tuesday. As of Oct. 1, more than 6,100 West Virginia children are in foster care, acting BCF Commissioner Linda Watts told members of the Joint Committee on Children and Families. Watts said the number of children in foster care has risen even since she last spoke to the committee in August — mainly because of opioids.
The Illinois Commerce Commission has launched an 18-month study to explore the use of emerging technologies to improve the state's electric grid. The "NextGrid: Illinois' Utility of the Future" study is the collaborative effort of the ICC, Ameren Illinois, ComEd, and the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department at the University of Illinois, the Herald-Whig reported.It's a "consumer-focused collaborative study to transform Illinois' energy landscape and economy," said ICC Chairman Brien J. Sheahan. The study was prompted by innovations in technology and energy efficiency, and the push for renewable energy sources such as wind and solar.
Republican House Speaker Shawn Jasper plans to pursue an open position as Commissioner of Agriculture, he announced Thursday, stunning lawmakers in both parties and setting off a scramble among potential suitors seeking to replace him. The decision came after Gov. Chris Sununu approached the speaker urging him to take the role, which will be vacated in November after Commissioner Lorraine Merrill retires.In a statement announcing the move, Jasper said he’s ready to take the mantle.“I am hoping that I can continue the good work of Commissioner Lorraine Merrill and to serve the people of this great state by guiding the agriculture community into the future,” the Hudson Republican said.