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SARL Members and Alumni News

Lawmakers Look to Curb Foreign Influence in State Elections

Pew Trust | Posted on March 27, 2019

In an effort to stymie foreign influence in elections, several states are considering bills that would limit how businesses with some foreign ownership participate in elections.A long-standing federal statute bars noncitizens and foreign companies from donating directly to candidates or political parties at the federal, state and local levels. Another law prohibits businesses from directly donating to federal-level candidates or political parties.But the U.S. Supreme Court decision in the Citizens United case cleared the way for corporations and unions to pay for political ads made independently of candidates’ campaigns. The high court ruled that corporations and unions are associations of U.S. citizens with a First Amendment right to political expression.Hoping to take the decision a step further, proponents of bills under consideration in Massachusetts, Connecticut and Washington state would bar political spending by businesses in which non-U.S. citizens have a significant ownership stake.

Political Candidates Don’t Always Tell the Truth (And You Can’t Make Them)

Pew Trust | Posted on March 27, 2019

Say you’re a politician running for office, and you want to call out your opponent’s votes against education or guns. If you’re in Montana, a bipartisan group of lawmakers has a new demand: Prove it. Legislators in Big Sky Country want candidates or political groups who attack a voting record to back up the charge with specifics. Under legislation that has been filed repeatedly in recent years, ads would have to include the title and number of a bill or resolution referred to and the year when the vote was taken.But the bruising fight to impose a new law in Montana shows just how difficult it is for states to restrict political speech.Since 2011, Montana courts have struck down three similar attempts to require truth in political advertising, saying the laws were “unconstitutionally vague” and therefore infringed on the free speech rights of Montanans.Those crackdowns don’t come easy, though. The U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment protects free speech in most forms, and various courts have ruled that state laws restricting political speech infringed on those rights. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in the landmark 2010 Citizens United case that corporations, too, had a right to free speech and campaign donations, making some state efforts even murkier.

New Mexico governor signs landmark clean energy bill

AP News | Posted on March 26, 2019

New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham signed landmark legislation that will mandate more solar panels and wind turbines as the state sets ambitious new renewable energy goals. The measure requires that investor-owned utilities and rural electric cooperatives get at least half of their electricity from renewable sources by 2030. That would jump to 80 percent by 2040.A 100 percent carbon-free mandate would kick in five years later for utilities. Electric co-ops would have until 2050 to meet that goal.

Maine says sludge must be tested for ‘forever chemicals’ before

Portland Press Herald | Posted on March 26, 2019

State environmental regulators announced Friday that all sludge will have to be tested for the presence of an industrial chemical before being used as fertilizer or applied to land. The Maine Department of Environmental Protection announced the new testing requirement in response to growing concerns about contamination from PFAS, a group of chemicals widely used to create non-stick coatings on cookware, food packaging and fabrics, as well as in firefighting foam. An Arundel dairy farmer has blamed PFAS contamination on his farm on the treated municipal sludge he used to fertilize his hay fields for years.The per- and polyfluoroalkyl chemicals collectively known as PFAS degrade slowly and linger in the environment for long periods, leading critics to dub them “forever chemicals.” The subject of increasing scrutiny, some PFAS have been linked to cancer, liver damage, low birth weight and other health concerns.

Montana estimates GOP Medicaid expansion bill will halve number of people covered; add 84 state jobs

Missoulian | Posted on March 26, 2019

Legislators got a glimpse Friday of a state estimate showing the Republican version of a bill to continue Medicaid expansion with added work requirements would result in about half the 96,000 people on the program losing coverage.A Medicaid expansion bill must move to the state Senate by April 1 to meet transmittal deadlines.Montana expanded Medicaid to those earning up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level four years ago and put in a sunset of this summer so lawmakers would come back and review the program.  In April, the 2019 federal poverty level will be $17,236 for an individual and $29,435 for a family of three.The estimate published Friday shows about 48,000 people would be covered under the Republican bill. The fiscal note for the Democrats' bill predicts about 100,000 would be covered under their proposal.Though half the number of people are covered, the Republican bill is estimated to cost the state only $2.2 million or so a year less than the Democrats' proposal. 

CA Animal Welfare Act Could Impact Farm Practices Nationwide

Texas Agricultural Law | Posted on March 25, 2019

On its face, Proposition 12 applies only to California businesses selling pork, veal, and eggs.  However, in practice, it has the potential to impact farmers and ranchers producing beef, pork and eggs nationwide.  If a farmer in Texas, for example, does not adopt these practices, then he or she will be unable to sell his or her products in California.  These types of ballot initiatives could certainly be expanded to additional products and could have major impacts on the farm level, requiring producers to invest in new or different facilities in order to continue producing the products.  This is an issue of which everyone involved in production agriculture should be aware.

Iowa Legislature Considers Sunshine Tax on Local Private Solar Power Systems

KIOW | Posted on March 25, 2019

Iowa’s largest investor-owned utility wants to make local owners of private solar power systems pay more for generating their own electricity, while opponents warn that could cause Iowa to lose its standing as a leader in promoting renewables. House Study Bill 185 would add a yearly “sunshine tax” on private solar generators, a move MidAmerican Energy says creates more fairness for all customers who use its electric grid. But Lee Tesdell, who has solar installed at his farm, says if the bill passes, the potential savings from solar would be greatly reduced, discouraging Iowans from using it.

‘Giving dogs a fighting chance’: Florida lawmakers seek hurricane lifeline for pets

Tampa Bay Times | Posted on March 25, 2019

Senate Bill 1738 would create a first-degree misdemeanor for leaving pets restrained or unattended during a natural or manmade disaster.

Virginia Governor approves law requiring Dominion to excavate all coal ash

Utility Dive | Posted on March 25, 2019

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam, D, on Wednesday signed into law a bipartisan bill that would require Dominion Energy to excavate all the coal ash at their coal plants in the state, over 27 million cubic yards. The bill, first introduced in January, will also require that at least a quarter of the waste be recycled. The remaining ash would have to be moved into fully lined basins to prevent further groundwater contamination. Dominion Energy had originally indicated its preference for a "cap in place" closure, the favored method of most utilities, but an analysis released by Dominion in November found that it would be more cost effective to recycle a portion of the ash and sell it to interested bidders than initially reported.

Oregon bills would end "right-to-farm" protections for large dairies

Capital Press | Posted on March 25, 2019

A defunct Oregon dairy with an extensive history of wastewater problems loomed large over a legislative hearing March 21 about proposals to overhaul state dairy regulations. Proponents of changing the existing rules for "confined animal feeding operations," or CAFOs, argued that environmental violations at Lost Valley Farm of Boardman, Ore., underscored the need for increased safeguards.Opponents of several bills that would impose new restrictions on large CAFOs countered that Oregon's entire dairy industry should not be punished for the misdeeds of one bad operator.While the trouble at Lost Valley Farm constituted a "perfect storm" of regulatory difficulties, this extreme example "did reveal some weaknesses in our processes," said Sen. Mike Dembrow, D-Portland, chair of the Senate Committee on Environment and Natural Resources. Under Senate Bill 876, state regulators would have to sign off on the construction of a large “confined animal feeding operation,” or CAFO, such as a dairy with more than 700 mature cows.Before such a CAFO could begin operating, the Oregon Department of Agriculture and Department of Environmental Quality would have issue a final approval after ensuring it has secured all necessary permits and sufficient access to water.