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SARL Members and Alumni News

Reluctant States Raise Gas Taxes to Repair Roads

Pew Charitable Trust | Posted on July 27, 2017

Motorists don’t like to pay more at the pump, and lawmakers worry that if they raise taxes on gasoline, they’ll be voted out of office. But states rely on those taxes to build and maintain roads and bridges. With revenue lagging, those structures have been falling into disrepair in many places. Despite the tough politics, 26 states have raised taxes on motor fuels in the past four years. The eight states that raised taxes this year include Tennessee and South Carolina, deep-red states dominated by fiscal conservatives.Lawmakers say the sorry condition of their state’s roads and bridges compelled them to act.

NJ Telemedicine Law Delayed By Concerns About Veterinarian Use

mHealth Intelligence | Posted on July 27, 2017

New Jersey’s new telemedicine regulations are being held up as state officials try to determine whether they pertain to veterinarians. Gov. Chris Christie met this week with healthcare and veterinary officials to discuss the ramifications of S.291, which awaits his signature after unanimous passage last month by state legislators.The bill would, among other things, enable healthcare providers to use telehealth to establish a doctor-patient relationship, ensure the same standards of care as an in-person visit, and ensure coverage and payment parity for private payers, state Medicaid and some other health plans.While those guidelines are important for healthcare providers, they pose problems for veterinarians. And the issue could crop up in other states where telemedicine legislation doesn’t clearly define a difference between those practicing healthcare on humans and those treating animals."They never thought of veterinarians when they wrote this bill," Rick Alampi, executive director of the New Jersey Veterinary Medical Association, told the Veterinary Information Network . “The bill, which authorizes ‘the provision of health care services through telemedicine and telehealth’ governs such services provided by veterinarians, as ‘[h]ealth care providers,’ fails to acknowledge or provide for issues specific to veterinary medicine,” Nancy Halpern, an attorney with Fox Rothschild, LLP, recently wrote in JD Supra. “For example, several provisions require the ‘patient’s request’ before providing health care services through telemedicine. Clearly animal patients cannot request treatment or provide consent. The bill fails to distinguish a ‘patient’ from a ‘client’ or ‘animal owner’ or to permit such services at the request of a client/owner for the patient which is the fundamental way in which services are provided in a veterinary practice.”

California milk quota proposal nears finish line

Capital Press | Posted on July 27, 2017

California dairy farmers are eager to abandon the state’s milk marketing order and join the federal marketing order system, hoping to increase the price they receive for their milk. They have, however, been adamant that loss of the state’s quota program would be a deal breaker.That program pays quota certificate holders $1.70 per hundredweight above the state blend price for the amount of milk covered by their certificate. Those certificates are together worth $1.2 billion, and are an asset that can be transferred or sold.USDA would allow the quota program to continue in the proposed federal order as a stand-alone program run by the California Department of Food and Agriculture. And a producer review board established by CDFA has been at work figuring out how the program would operate.The main issue was what milk would be assessed and how the assessment would be collected. Under the state order nearly all milk is pooled and CDFA deducts $12 million to $13 million a month from the pool to fund the quota program. Under a federal order, however, only Class I fluid milk is require to be pooled, and milk for other uses can move in and out of the pool.

Overview of Texas Amendments to Use of Unmanned Aircraft Statute

Texas Agriculture Law Blog | Posted on July 26, 2017

The 85th Legislative Session brought an amendment to the law related to use of unmanned aircraft in Texas.  Importantly for agriculture, the amendment adds confined animal feeding operations (“CAFOs”) to the list of “critical infrastructure” facilities to which additional flight limitations apply for many drone operators.  The amendment will go into effect on September 1, 2017. This post will review, in detail, the current Use of Unmanned Aircraft statute and discuss the most recent amendment.  For those of you not concerned with the specific details, the “Take Away Points” sections at the end of the post will summarize the key points of the post and save you some time. As of September 1, 2017, House Bill 1643 will make three key changes to the Use of Unmanned Aircraft statute.First, there will be modifications to the “critical infrastructure” definition.Of interest for agriculture, the definition will now include “a concentrated animal feeding operation.”  This is defined as “a concentrated, confined livestock or poultry facility that is operated for meat, milk, or egg production or for growing, stabling, or housing livestock or poultry in pens or houses, in which livestock or poultry are fed at the place of confinement and crop or forage growth or feed is not produced in the confinement area.”Another addition that could be important for rural landowners with oil or gas production on their property is that the definition will include an oil or gas drilling site, a group of tanks used to store crude oil, an oil, gas or chemical production facility, an oil or gas wellhead, or any oil or gas facility with an active flare so long as enclosed by a fence or other physical barrier obviously designed to exclude intruders.Additionally, “any structure used as part of a system to provide wired or wireless telecommunications services” is added to the critical infrastructure definition.

Farm distilleries get new options under beverage law changes

Times Union | Posted on July 26, 2017

recently passed bill will allow farm distilleries to sell New York state-labeled beer, wine and cider on their premises. Such facilities were previously only allowed to sell spirits on their properties, unlike breweries, cideries and wineries. The new bill amends a section of the state's alcohol laws to change that.

Some States Look to Allow Noneconomic Damages Against Veterinarians

Veterinary Practice News | Posted on July 26, 2017

hode Island is considering a bill recently rejected by Maine that would allow owners the right to pursue noneconomic damages in civil lawsuits involving the inadvertent injury or death of a pet through medical care, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association. This could mean the state's veterinarians could be liable for damages for pain and suffering, loss of companionship and punitive damages. "Allowing for recovery of noneconomic damages would place an enormous burden on veterinarians by raising the costs of veterinary insurance, which all veterinarians need to have," wrote the AVMA in a statement. "Many veterinary clinics are small businesses with limited resources, and veterinarians can't absorb these significant cost increases. There's no doubt that higher insurance costs would have to be passed along to consumers through increased medical expenses for pets. These higher costs would hurt pets and their owners."Other states also are considering permitting noneconomic damages; nine bills related to noneconomic damages have cropped up in state legislatures around the country this spring.

Maryland County Considers Ban on Wild Animals Used in Shows

US News and World Report | Posted on July 26, 2017

 The use of elephants, primates, snakes and other wild animals by businesses that profit from their exhibition could be banned in a Maryland county outside Washington, D.C.WTOP-FM reports the Montgomery County Council held the first hearing on Tuesday about a proposal to ban the use of animals in circuses or other business that "exhibit or financially benefit" from them. The bill wouldn't apply to agricultural fairs where livestock is displayed.Humane Society of the United States vice president Nicole Paquette says the bill would focus on prohibiting the use of wildlife in traveling shows. She says the public doesn't see most of how animals are coerced with abusive training.According to the county council, the bill will be heard in a public safety committee work session on Sept. 9.

Michigan program finances first megawatt of solar, with ambitious goals ahead

Midwest Energy News | Posted on July 26, 2017

A clean energy financing program in Michigan reached a milestone last month when it helped homeowners and businesses install 1 megawatt of solar energy across the state. Michigan Saves — which was created by a $6.5 million Michigan Public Service Commission grant in 2009 — acts as a green bank by financing clean energy projects at homes and businesses. While it deals mostly in energy efficiency projects, it also removes the barrier of high upfront capital costs for solar installations.Since June 2011, the program has helped finance installations at 132 homes and nine businesses, totaling $3.5 million in solar investment. In all, Michigan Saves has been involved with roughly 8,600 projects totaling $102 million in clean energy investment.

Here are five key NAFTA battlegrounds to watch as negotiations get underway

Financial Post | Posted on July 26, 2017

 U.S.-initiated negotiations to overhaul the North American Free Trade Agreement are bound to be long and hard. Canadian officials maintain that Mexico is the real target of President Donald Trump’s determination to renegotiate what he considers to be a bad deal for America. Nevertheless, there are a number of issues bound to spark friction between Canada and the United States. Here’s a primer on five of them:Dispute resolution mechanism, Dairy, Wine, Investment, Duty Free Cross Border Shipping.

Editorial: Rural Virginia bleeds; does the state care?

The Roanoke Times | Posted on July 26, 2017

The most critical commentary came from a columnist for the Richmond Times-Dispatch. A. Barton Hinkle wondered whether state government should even bother trying to help rural communities. “If [rural residents] can improve their economic circumstances by moving to urban areas, then why not let them?” he asked.If that means rural communities depopulate themselves, so what? “You could argue that, environmentally speaking, it might be better to keep some swaths of the state unpopulated,” Hinkle wrote. These libertarian sentiments may seem shocking to many rural residents, in much the same way that Parisians were shocked by the quote often attributed to Marie Antoinette: “Let them eat cake.” They aren’t new, though. In fact, the question of whether the state and federal government should even try to save rural economies is one that’s been asked before. The conservative writer Kevin Williamson expressed the same view a year ago in a controversial piece in The National Review, in which he looked at Garbutt, a former gypsum-mining town in upstate New York. Williamson argued that efforts to save the town are “the indulgence of absurd sentimentality” — and a waste of taxpayers’ money. He went on to say that many rural communities “deserve to die.”“Economically, they are negative assets,” Williamson wrote. Residents of rural communities “need real opportunity, which means that they need real change, which means that they need U-Haul.” Ouch.Unfortunately, President Trump is effectively putting that economic policy into practice, he’s just not saying it so bluntly. His budget zeroes out the very agencies that have paid for economic development infrastructure in rural communities — starting with the Appalachian Regional Commission. Congress probably won’t go along with a lot of those proposed cuts, but Trump’s budget does underscore an important point: Struggling rural communities probably can’t count on Washington, which puts more onus on state governments to intervene.Or not.From our vantage point outside the urban crescent, we naturally disagree with Hinkle’s premise — but he does ask a very good question. Why should state government care what happens in rural Virginia?