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Written by: Ellen Essman, Law Fellow, OSU Agricultural & Resource Law Program
The Board of Trustees of the Des Moines Water Works (DMWW) brought a lawsuit against thirteen Iowa drainage districts. DMWW is the biggest water provider in Iowa, serving the largest city, Des Moines, and the surrounding area. Drainage districts were first created in Iowa in the 1800s to drain wetlands and allow for agriculture in those areas. In Iowa, the counties are in charge of drainage districts. Individual landowners can tile their land so that it drains water to the ditches, pipes, etc. that make up the counties’ drainage districts. Eventually, that water ends up in Iowa’s rivers. The thirteen drainage districts being sued by DMWW are located in the Raccoon River watershed in Buena Vista, Sac, and Calhoun counties. DMWW is located downstream from the drainage districts in question.
Background of the Lawsuit
On March 16, 2015, the Board of Trustees for the DMWW filed a complaint against the thirteen drainage districts in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Iowa, Western Division. DMWW alleged that the drainage districts did not act in accordance with the federal Clean Water Act (CWA) and provisions of the Iowa Code because they did not secure the applicable permits to discharge nitrates into the Raccoon River. In order to serve its customers, DMWW uses the Raccoon River as part of its water supply.
DMWW has to meet maximum contaminant levels prescribed under the federal Safe Drinking Water Act. Nitrate is a contaminant with a maximum allowable level of 10 mg/L. In its complaint, DMWW cited record levels of nitrate in water from the Raccoon River watershed in recent years. DMWW alleged that the nitrate problem is exacerbated by the “artificial subsurface drainage system infrastructure…created, managed, maintained, owned and operated by” the thirteen drainage districts. DMWW alleged that the drainage district infrastructure—“pipes, ditches, and other conduits”—are point sources. DMWW points to agriculture—row crops, livestock production, and spreading of manure, as a major source of nitrate pollution.
DMWW also cited a number of costs associated with dealing with nitrates, including the construction of facilities that remove nitrates, the operation of those facilities, and the cost associated with acquiring permits to discharge the removed waste. In their complaint, they generally asked the court to make the drainage districts reimburse them for their cleanup costs, and to make the drainage districts stop discharging pollutants without permits.
All together, DMWW filed ten counts against the drainage districts. In addition to their claim that the drainage districts had violated the CWA and similarly, Iowa’s Chapter 455B, DMWW also alleged that the continued nitrate pollution violated a number of other state and federal laws. DMWW maintained that the pollution was a public, statutory, and private nuisance, trespassing, negligence, a taking without just compensation, and a violation of due process and equal protection under the U.S. and Iowa Constitutions. Finally, DMWW sought injunctive relief from the court to enjoin the drainage districts to lessen the amount of nitrates in the water. In many of the counts, DMWW asked the court for damages to reimburse them for their costs of dealing with the pollution.
On May 22, 2015, the defendants, the thirteen drainage districts, filed their amended answer with the court. On January 11, 2016, the district court filed an order certifying questions to the Iowa Supreme Court. In other words, the district court judge submitted four questions of state law to the Iowa Supreme Court to be answered before commencing the federal trial. The idea behind this move was that the highest court in Iowa would be better equipped to answer questions of state law than the district court.
Iowa Supreme Court Decision
The Iowa Supreme Court filed its opinion containing the answers to the four state law questions on January 27, 2017. All of the questions were decided in favor of the drainage districts. The court answered two questions related to whether the drainage districts had unqualified immunity (complete protection) from the money damages and equitable remedies (actions ordered by the court to be taken or avoided in order to make amends for the harm caused) requested by DMWW. Both were answered in the affirmative—the court said that Iowa legislation and court decisions have, throughout history, given drainage districts immunity. Iowa law has long found the service drainage districts provide—draining swampy land so that it could be farmed—to be of great value to the citizens of the state. To that end, the law has been “liberally construed” to promote the actions of drainage districts. What is more, judicial precedent in the state has repeatedly found that drainage districts are not entities that can be sued for money damages because they are not corporations, and they have such a limited purpose—to drain land and provide upkeep for that drainage. The law has further prohibited receiving injunctive relief (obtaining a court order to require an action to be taken or stopped), from drainage districts. Instead, the only remedy available to those “claim[ing] that a drainage district is violating a duty imposed by an Iowa statute” is mandamus. Mandamus allows the court to compel a party to carry out actions that are required by the law. In this case, those requirements would be draining land and the upkeep of the drainage system.
The second two questions considered by the court dealt with the Iowa Constitution. The court determined whether or not DMWW could claim the constitutional protections of due process, equal protection, and takings. They also answered whether DMWW’s property interest in the water could even be “the subject of a claim under...[the] takings clause.” The court answered “no” to both questions, and therefore against DMWW. Their reasoning was that both DMWW and the drainage districts are subdivisions of state government, and based on numerous decisions in Iowa courts, “one subdivision of state government cannot sue another…under these clauses.” Additionally, the court found that “political subdivisions, as creatures of statute, cannot sue to challenge the constitutionality of state statutes.” Consequently, they reasoned that the pollution of the water and the resulting need to remove that pollution did “not amount to a constitutional violation” under Iowa law. The court also found that since the water in question was not private property, the takings claim was not valid. A takings claim only applies to when the government takes private property. What is more, the court added that regardless of its status as a public or private body, DMWW was not actually deprived of any property—they still had the ability to use the water. Therefore, the Iowa Supreme Court answered all four state law questions in the drainage districts’ favor, and against DMWW.
The Iowa Supreme Court found that the questions of state law favored the drainage districts, but that is not necessarily the end of this lawsuit. Now that the questions of state law are answered, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Iowa, Western Division, can decide the questions of federal law. If any of the numerous motions for summary judgment are not granted to the drainage districts, a trial to decide the remaining questions is set for June 26, 2017. The questions left for the district court to decide include a number of U.S. Constitutional issues.
One of these issues is whether the drainage districts’ discharge of nitrates into the water constitutes a “taking” of DMWW’s private property for a public use under the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments. Another issue is whether the drainage districts’ state-given immunity infringes upon DMWW’s constitutional rights of due process, equal protection, and just compensation. An important federal law question that also remains to be decided is whether the drainage districts are “point sources” that require a permit to discharge pollutants under the CWA.
How will the outcome affect other states?
Either outcome in this lawsuit will have implications for the rest of the country. For example, if the district court sides with DMWW on all of the questions, it could open the floodgates to potential lawsuits against drainage districts and other similar entities around the country for polluting water. Municipal and other users of the water could assert an infringement of their constitutional rights, including taking without just compensation. Furthermore, if drainage districts are found to be “point sources,” it could mean greater costs of permitting and cleanup for drainage districts and other state drainage entities. Those costs and additional regulations could be passed onto farmers within the watershed. As a result, farmers and water suppliers around the country will closely follow the district court’s decisions on the remaining questions in the case.
All of the court documents and decisions concerning this lawsuit, as well as additional articles and blog posts on the topic can be found here. Additional reading on the subject from the Des Moines Register can be found here and here.
Written by: Chris Hogan, Law Fellow, OSU Agricultural & Resource Law Program
The Ohio Legislature is once again considering a bill regarding Ohio’s current agricultural use valuation (CAUV) program. CAUV permits land to be valued at its agricultural value rather than the land’s market or “highest and best use” value. Senator Cliff Hite (R-Findlay) introduced SB 36 on February 7, 2017. The bill would alter the capitalization rate used to calculate agricultural land value and the valuation of land used for conservation practices or programs. The bill has yet to be assigned to a committee.
The content of SB 36 closely mirrors the language of a bill meant to address CAUV from the last legislative session: SB 246. Introduced during the 131st General Assembly, SB 246 failed to pass into law. SB 246 proposed alterations to the CAUV formula which are identical to those proposed by the current bill: SB 36. According to the Ohio Legislative Service Commission’s report on SB 246, the bill would have proposed changes that would have led to a “downward effect on the taxable value of CAUV farmland.” The likely effect for Ohio farmers enrolled in CAUV would have been a lower tax bill.
Due to the similarity between the two bills, the potential impacts of SB 36 on the CAUV program will likely be comparable to those of the previous bill. The proposed adjustment of the capitalization rate is likely to reduce the tax bill for farmers enrolled in CAUV. More specifically, the bill proposes several changes to the CAUV formula:
- States additional factors to include in the rules that prescribe CAUV calculation methods. Currently, the rules must consider the productivity of the soil under normal management practices, the average price patterns of the crops and products produced to determine the income potential to be capitalized and the market value of the land for agricultural use. The proposed legislation adds two new factors: typical cropping and land use patterns and typical production costs.
- Clarifies that when determining the capitalization rate used in the CAUV formula, the tax commissioner cannot use a method that includes the buildup of equity or appreciation.
- Requires the tax commissioner to add a tax additur to the overall capitalization rate, and that the sum of the capitalization rate and tax additur “shall represent as nearly as possible the rate of return a prudent investor would expect from an average or typical farm in this state considering only agricultural factors.”
- Requires the commissioner to annually determine the overall capitalization rate, tax additur, agricultural land capitalization rate and the individual components used in computing those amounts and to publish the amounts with the annual publication of the per-acre agricultural use values for each soil type.
To remove disincentives for landowners who engage in conservation practices yet pay CAUV taxes at the same rate as if the land was in production, the proposed legislation:
- Requires that the land in conservation practices or devoted to a land retirement or conservation program as of the first day of a tax year be valued at the lowest valued of all soil types listed in the tax commissioner’s annual publication of per-acre agricultural use values for each soil type in the state.
- Provides for recalculation of the CAUV rate if the land ceases to be used for conservation within three years of its original certification for the reduced rate, and requires the auditor to levy a charge for the difference on the landowner who ceased the conservation practice or participation in the conservation program.
Update: The final rule concerning the listing of the rusty patched bumble bee as endangered was originally slated to go into effect on February 10, 2017, as is described below. On February 9, the Fish and Wildlife Service published a notice in the Federal Register explaining that they would abide by the Trump Administration’s 60-day regulatory freeze and delay the effective date until March 21, 2017. The Federal Register entry is available here.
Will the bee's ESA listing stand, and how might it affect agriculture?
Written by: Ellen Essman, Law Fellow, OSU Agricultural & Resource Law Program
On January 11, 2017, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) published a final rule designating the rusty patched bumble bee (scientific name Bombus affinis) as an endangered species, the first bee in the continental U.S. to receive this status. The rule was originally slated to go into effect on February 10, 2017. If the rule is allowed to stand, it will have a number of implications for federal agencies, farmers, and other private entities.
The final rule, found in the Federal Register at 50 CFR Part 17, includes a lengthy description of the rusty patched bumble bee. The bees have black heads, and the worker bees, as well as the male bees, have a “rusty reddish patch centrally located on the abdomen,” giving them their common name. Necessities for the species include “areas that support sufficient food (nectar and pollen from diverse and abundant flowers), undisturbed nesting sites in proximity to floral resources, and overwintering sights for hibernating queens.” Additionally, the bees prefer temperate areas. The rusty patched bumble bee was found in 31 states and provinces in the 1990s. From the year 2000 and on, the bumble bee has only been found in a diminished range of 14 states and provinces. The bumble bee has been found in Ohio since 2000, but following the overall trend, at much lower rates.
Possible reversal of the rule
Since the publishing of the final rule, the Trump Administration has instituted a regulatory freeze on administrative agencies which could push back effective dates for those regulations that have not yet gone into effect by at least 60 days. In the meantime, the Congressional Review Act (CRA) may also affect the final rule. The CRA gives Congress 60 legislative days from either the date a rule is published in the Federal Register, or the date Congress receives a report on the rule, to pass a joint resolution disapproving the rule. A signature by the President is the final step required to invalidate the rule. What is more, an agency cannot submit a rule after these steps are taken that is “substantially in the same form” as the overturned rule. Historically, the CRA has not been frequently used, as success is typically only possible when a number of events align:
- There is a new presidential administration;
- Congress and the President are members of the same party;
- The previous President was a member of the opposing party; and
- The timing of rule publication or rule reporting and Congressional calendars allow for a joint resolution within the 60-day limit.
The text of the CRA is available here. With the regulatory freeze and the possible use of the CRA, it is not clear when or even if the new rule will actually go into effect.
Importance of the rusty patched bumble bee
The rusty patched bumble bee is a pollinator species, meaning they, along with other pollinators, assist with the reproduction of flowers, crops, and grasses. According to a FWS fact sheet, in the United States, the rusty patched bumble bee and other insects’ pollination is worth $3 billion annually.
The Endangered Species Act
What exactly is the process for listing a species as “endangered?” The Endangered Species Act’s (ESA) definition of an endangered species is: “any species which is in danger of extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its range.” Accordingly, the ESA allows the FWS to designate species as endangered or threatened as long as one (or more) of five factors apply:
- (A) The present or threatened destruction, modification or curtailment of its habitat or range;
- (B) Overutilization for commercial, recreational, scientific, or educational purposes;
- (C) Disease or predation;
- (D) The inadequacy of existing regulatory mechanisms; or
- (E) Other natural or manmade factors affecting its continued existence. 16 USC 1533.
In the case of the rusty patched bumble bee, the FWS found that factors (A), (C), and (E) applied. For factor (A), which concerns loss of habitat and range, the FWS cited past encroachment by residential, commercial, and agricultural development. Additionally, agriculture has contributed to the replacement of plant diversity with monocultures, which has resulted in loss of food for the bees. What is more, the range of the rusty patched bumble bee has faced an 87% reduction, as well as an 88% drop in the number of recognized populations.
Concerning factor (C), FWS pointed to a number of diseases and parasites that have afflicted the rusty patched bumble bee. Finally, for factor (E), the FWS identified more numerous hot and dry periods, pesticide and herbicide use, and reproductive issues that have contributed to the reduction of the species. Due to its findings and the factors discussed, the FWS determined that the rusty patched bumble bee is “in danger of extinction throughout its range,” and therefore designated it as endangered.
Significance of ESA listing
After a species is labeled “endangered,” what happens next? In order to facilitate recovery of a species, the ESA also calls for, to the “maximum extent prudent and determinable,” a critical habitat designation to be made for the species. The term “critical habitat” does not apply to everywhere the species is found. Instead, “critical habitat” can be certain places both inside and outside the overall “geographical area occupied by the species” that are found to be “essential” to its preservation. In the case of the rusty patched bumble bee, the FWS has not yet determined its critical habitat.
Implications for agriculture
Under the ESA, federal agencies and private entities have different responsibilities. Federal agencies generally must make sure that any action they are involved in will not do harm to an endangered species or its critical habitat. For the most part, private entities are not affected by critical habitat unless financial aid or approval is sought from a federal agency.
Even though critical habitat concerns do not explicitly apply to private entities, the ESA does contain provisions that prohibit the importing, exporting, possession, sale, delivery, transport, shipping, receiving, or carrying of an endangered species in the United States or in foreign commerce. What is more, the ESA prohibits the “taking” of endangered species within the United States or in the ocean. “Take” is defined as “to harass, harm, pursue, hunt, shoot, wound, kill, trap, capture, or collect,” an endangered species, or to attempt to do so (emphasis added). It is important to note that “harm” is defined as “an act which actually kills or injures fish or wildlife…includ[ing] significant habitat modification or degradation which actually kills or injures fish or wildlife by significantly impairing essential behavior patterns, including, breeding, spawning, rearing, migrating, feeding or sheltering.” Thus, even though the designation of an endangered species and its critical habitat does not explicitly affect private entities, the definitions of “take” and “harm,” when read together, implicitly prohibit actions that are damaging to the species or its habitat. The FWS rule defining “harm” can be found here. The government can assess penalties against those who violate these provisions.
Farmers and other private entities should be aware of the designation of a species as endangered. In the case of the rusty patched bumble bee, if the rule is allowed to stand, private landowners, including farmers, would not be allowed to “take” or “harm” the bee or destroy its critical habitat. Given the important role pollinators like the rusty patched bumble bee play in making agriculture possible, we can assume that agriculture will want to protect the species. But due to the nature of this species, it will be difficult to ascertain when a farmer’s actions do “take” or “harm” a rusty patched bumble bee. The nature of the species and the future status of the rule create much uncertainty on how agriculture will address the rusty patched bumble bee going forward.
Senate President Larry Obhof and Speaker of the House Cliff Rosenberger have made committee assignments for the new session of Ohio’s 132nd General Assembly. While there are no major changes to committee structure or leadership, the committees contain many new members, including several legislators serving their first terms as legislators.
Sen. Cliff Hite (R-Findlay) will again chair the Senate’s Agriculture Committee, with newly elected Sen. Frank Hoagland (R-Mingo Junction) serving as vice chair and first Senate termer Sen. Sean O’Brien (D-Bazetta) appointed as the ranking minority member. O’Brien previously served three terms in the House of Representatives, which included a term on its Agriculture and Rural Development Committee.
- Returning from last session’s Agriculture Committee are Senators Bill Beagle (R-Tipp City), Bob Peterson (R-Washington Court House) and Michael Skindell (D-Lakewood).
- New to the committee are Senators Bob Hackett (R-London), previous House member Stephanie Kunze (R-Hilliard), Frank Larose (R-Hudson), Charleta Tavares (D-Columbus) and Joe Uecker (R-Miami Township).
Rep. Brian Hill (R-Zanesville) will again lead the House Agriculture and Rural Development Committee with Rep. Kyle Koehler (R-Springfield) serving as vice chair for the first time and Rep. John Patterson (D-Jefferson) returning as the ranking minority member.
- Representatives Jack Cera (D-Bellaire), Christina Hagan (R-Marlboro Township), Michael O’Brien (D-Warren), Bill Patmon (D-Cleveland), Jeff Rezabek (R-Clayton), Michael Sheehy (D-Toledo) and Andy Thompson (R-Marietta) will return to the committee.
- New to both the House of Representatives and the committee are Representatives Rick Carfagna (R-Genoa Township), Jay Edwards (R-Nelsonville), Darrell Kick (R-Loudonville), Scott Lipps (R-Franklin) and Dick Stein (R-Norwalk).
- New to the committee are Representatives Candice Keller (R-Middletown), David Leland (R-Columbus) and Derek Merrin (R-Monclova Township), along with Former Senate President Keith Faber (R-Celina).
Neither committee has a meeting scheduled at this time. Follow the committees' work in the new legislative session at https://www.legislature.ohio.gov/.
Beginning January 22, 2017, employers must use a new version of Form I-9 for employment eligibility verification of new hires. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) revised Form I-9 last November and gave employers a short grace period for making the conversion to the new form, dated 11/14/16. The new form is available on the USCIS website at https://www.uscis.gov/i-9.
Employers will notice several improvements to the new I-9:
- The instructions are now separate from the form and include specific guidance on each section.
- The form is much more computer-friendly, with drop-down lists, calendars, on screen prompts and instructions for each field, a "start over" button and easy access to full instructions.
- The employer may now list more than one preparer and translator who assisted in completion of the form.
- In the first section, the employer must list only "other last names used" rather than "other names used."
- A new "additional information" box provides space for the employer to note important information for the employer's purposes such as additional documents presented, employee termination dates or form retention dates.
Employers must complete a Form I-9 to verify the identity and employment authorization of every individual hired for employment. For more information, see our previous post on Form I-9, and visit the USCIS's "I-9 Central" at https://www.uscis.gov/i-9-central.
Written by: Chris Hogan, Law Fellow, OSU Agricultural & Resource Law Program
Update: On January 25, 2017, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals granted a motion to hold the WOTUS litigation in the Sixth Circuit in abeyance (putting an issue on hold) while the Supreme Court reviews whether the Sixth Circuit has proper jurisdiction to hear the WOTUS litigation.
The Supreme Court of the United States has accepted a petition to hear an appeal from a Waters of the United States (WOTUS) ruling from the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals. As discussed in our February 2016 blog post (available here), the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that it had jurisdiction to hear challenges to the Clean Water Rule (WOTUS Rule). Proposed by the U.S. EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers, the controversial WOTUS Rule attempts to expand the geographic extent of waterways considered to be “waters of the United States” that are subject to the Clean Water Act.
A background on the WOTUS Rule in the Sixth Circuit
On April 21, 2016, the Cincinnati-based Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals determined that federal courts of appeal, and not federal district courts, have proper jurisdiction to hear cases involving the WOTUS Rule. In that case, numerous states argued that federal district courts should have jurisdiction to hear WOTUS Rule cases. However, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals held that federal appeals courts had exclusive jurisdiction over the review of the WOTUS Rule. Now that ruling is being challenged before the Supreme Court of the United States.
Challenging the ruling by the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals
A private manufacturing association—the National Association of Manufacturers, is bringing the case before the Supreme Court. The association previously challenged the WOTUS Rule in federal district court and in the court of appeals. The question presented to the Supreme Court by the National Association of Manufacturers is whether the Sixth Circuit incorrectly decided that the federal courts of appeal have the exclusive jurisdiction under federal law to review the WOTUS Rule. The Supreme Court could decide that the federal appeals courts do not have exclusive jurisdiction to hear cases involving the WOTUS Rule, in which case the WOTUS Rule could be challenged in federal district courts instead of only in federal courts of appeal.
The upcoming change of administration may lead to uncertainty for the future of the WOTUS Rule. The incoming Trump Administration has proposed eliminating the WOTUS Rule altogether. The U.S. EPA and U.S Army Corps of Engineers may be directed to dismantle the WOTUS Rule if the executive branch chooses to eliminate it. That would cause the question before the Supreme Court to become a moot point. The Supreme Court may not even rule on the jurisdictional issue brought by the National Association of Manufacturers, if the incoming administration eliminates the WOTUS Rule quickly.
Some legislators in Washington agree with the incoming Trump administration’s position on the WOTUS Rule. Members of the Senate introduced Senate Resolution 12 (SR 12) on January 12, 2017. SR 12 expresses the position that the U.S. Senate formally requests that the Administrator of the EPA and the Chief of Engineers of the Army Corps of Engineers eliminate the WOTUS Rule altogether. However, SR 12 has not passed in the U.S. Senate and is currently pending. While SR 12 may not force any official action to repeal the WOTUS Rule, it shows support for the incoming administration’s plans to repeal the rule. We can expect WOTUS issues to remain hotly debated in 2017 as either the executive or the judicial branch addresses the WOTUS Rule.
U.S. Senate Resolution 12 is available here. Read the Sixth Circuit’s opinion issued February 22, 2016: U.S. Dep’t of Defense & U.S. Envtl. Protection Agency Final Rule: Clean Water Rule at http://www.ca6.uscourts.gov/opinions.pdf/16a0045p-06.pdf.
Written by: Ellen Essman and Chris Hogan, Law Fellows, OSU Agricultural & Resource Law Program
Below is the second of our two-part series regarding bills related to agriculture that failed to pass during Ohio’s 2015-2016 legislative session.
Requirements for Humane Society Agents and House Bill 45
House Bill 45 was introduced February 10, 2015 and would have amended existing law to impose additional requirements upon those people hoping to be appointed as humane society agents. A number of changes and additions would have been implemented through the passage of HB 45. The bulk of the proposed legislation concerned training for humane society agents and filing evidence of completing that training with the county recorder. HB 45 would have required county recorders to record “[p]roof of successful completion of training by humane society agents,” as well as “notices of revocation of agents’ appointment” in the official records (emphasis added). According to the bill, proof of completion of training would have had to been signed by the CEO of the organization that provided training, the chief officer of the county humane society, and either the mayor or probate judge in the county.
House Bill 45 was referred to the Local Government Committee on February 11, 2015. No further action was taken, rendering the proposed legislation dead when the 131st General Assembly ended.
Tethering Animals and House Bill 94
House Bill 94 was introduced March 2, 2015 and would have enacted language that would have made it illegal to negligently tether an animal outside in certain situations. The bill would have imposed time limits on tethering and a prohibition on tethering animals in certain weather conditions. Furthermore, a prohibition on tethering would have been imposed if the tethers were unsafe, under a certain length, allowed the animal to touch fences or cross property lines, or were inappropriate for the animal’s size. HB 94 also would have prohibited tethering if the surrounding area was unsanitary, or if the owner of the premises was not present. Finally, the bill would have amended the current law to include punishment for violating the proposed tethering language. The bill, however, was referred to the House Agriculture and Rural Development Committee and afterwards, no action was taken on it.
Animal Abusers and House Bill 177
House Bill 177 was introduced on April 28, 2015. HB 177 would have required people who either were “convicted of or pleaded guilty to” a number of animal abuse violations to submit certain information, along with a fee, to the Attorney General within 30 days of “being convicted or pleading guilty.” HB 177 also tasked the Attorney General with creating and keeping a registry of animal abuse violators.
Law enforcement officers, humane society agents, and dog wardens would have been responsible for notifying the Attorney General of animal abuse violations. Animal shelters would have been prohibited from allowing a person on the registry from adopting a dog, cat, or any animal kept in a home.
The bill was referred to the Agriculture and Rural Development Committee on May 5, 2015, where no further action was taken.
To read HB 177, visit this page.
Sale of Dogs and House Bill 573
House Bill 573 was introduced on May 17, 2016. This bill focused on the sale of dogs both from pet stores and from other entities. The bill would have added or changed a number of definitions in the Ohio Revised Code. Most notably, the law would have made it illegal for a pet store to “negligently…offer for sale” or otherwise “transfer” a dog unless it came from an animal rescue, an animal shelter, a humane society, a dog retailer, or a qualified breeder, all of which were defined elsewhere in the bill.
Additionally, according to HB 573, both dog retailers and pet stores would have been forbidden from selling or otherwise transferring a dog under a number of conditions. Under the bill, they could not have sold dogs less than eight weeks old, dogs that had not been inspected by a veterinarian, and dogs without a microchip, among other conditions. However, none of these requirements would have been applicable to a dog sold or otherwise “transferred from the premises where the dog was bred and reared.” Finally, the bill included language stating that it would preempt local laws regulating the sale of dogs. House Bill 573 was referred to the Finance Committee on May 23, 2016 and no further action was taken.
Invasive Species and House Bill 396
House Bill 396 was introduced on November 16, 2015. This bill dealt with restricting and prohibiting certain species in Ohio. HB 396 would have added a number of definitions to the Ohio Revised Code, including a lengthy list of “prohibited species.” Species of birds, crayfish, fish, insects, and mollusks were included in the list. Additionally, “restricted species” was defined as including the quagga mussel, the zebra mussel, and their eggs. In addition, HB 396 would have given the Chief of the Division of Wildlife, with advice from Ohio Director of Agriculture, the power to designate other restricted and prohibited species subject to a number of considerations. One of these considerations would have been whether or not the species could cause severe harm to agricultural resources. The bill would have made it illegal to possess, introduce, sell, or offer to sell restricted and prohibited species.
The bill was referred to the Agricultural and Rural Development Committee on January 20, 2016 and ultimately did not leave the Committee.
Deer Rehabilitation and House Bill 267
House Bill 267 was introduced on June 22, 2015 and would have changed the Ohio Revised Code to allow licenses to run deer sanctuaries, permits to rehabilitate deer, and training for law enforcement. During the training, law enforcement officers were supposed to learn how to determine whether they needed to humanely euthanize injured deer or transfer them to someone permitted to rehabilitate the deer.
The bill was referred to the House Committee on Energy and Natural Resources on October 1, 2015, and was ultimately stranded there.
Labeling Nursery Stock and House Bill 566
House Bill 566 was introduced on May 12, 2016 and would have made it illegal for a person to “recklessly label or advertise nursery stock as beneficial to pollinators” if the nursery stock had been “treated with a systemic insecticide.” It would also have been illegal for a person to “recklessly label” stock as beneficial if the stock included the U.S. EPA warnings of “pollinator protection box[es]” and “pollinator, bee, or honey bee precautionary statement[s] in the environmental hazard section of an insecticide product label” on its packaging.
The bill was referred to the Agriculture and Rural Development Committee on November 11, 2016 and never made it any further.
Adjusting Current Agricultural Use Value formulas: Senate Bill 246 and House Bill 398
During the 131st General Assembly, the Senate considered Senate Bill 246. SB 246 addressed how current agricultural use value, otherwise known as CAUV, is calculated. CAUV permits land to be valued at its agricultural value rather than the land’s market or “highest and best use” value. SB 246 was a companion bill. That means that a version of the bill was introduced in both the Ohio House and the Ohio Senate. The companion house bill to SB 246 was House Bill 398.
Both bills were intended to alter the current formula used to calculate CAUV values across Ohio. According to the Ohio Legislative Service Commission, the changes proposed by the bill would “have a uniformly downward effect on the taxable value of CAUV farmland.” Thus, the likely effect would have been a lower tax bill for farmers who are taxed on a CAUV basis.
The Senate referred its bill, SB 246, to the Senate Ways and Means Committee on December 9, 2015 and HB 398 was referred to the House Government Accountability and Oversight Committee on January 20, 2016. Neither committee acted on its bill. Therefore, neither bill was passed into law during the 131st General Assembly.
To read SB 246, visit this page. The Ohio Legislative Service Commission’s analysis of SB 246 is available here. To read HB 398, visit this page. The Ohio Legislative Service Commission’s analysis of HB 398 is available here.
Nonrefundable Tax Credits for Rural Businesses and Senate Bill 209
The 131st General Assembly considered a nonrefundable tax credit for insurance companies that invest in certain rural business growth funds. According to the Ohio Legislative Service Commission, qualifying rural business growth funds include special purpose rural businesses that contribute capital to certain kinds of businesses with substantial operations in rural areas of Ohio.
SB 209 passed in the Ohio Senate. But, the bill did not pass the Ohio House. Therefore, the bill was not passed into law during the 131st General Assembly.
Written by: Ellen Essman and Chris Hogan, Law Fellows, OSU Agricultural & Resource Law Program
Ohio’s 131st General Assembly came to a close in December of 2016. In Ohio, a legislative session (also known as a General Assembly) lasts for two years. A bill fails to become law if that bill was introduced during a legislative session but did not pass by the end of the session. Below is a summary of bills related to agriculture that failed to pass during Ohio’s 2015-2016 legislative session. Time will tell whether our legislators will revive and reintroduce any of these proposals in the new 2017-2018 legislative session.
Application of Fertilizer and Manure and Senate Bill 16
Nutrient management remained a topic of discussion in Ohio throughout 2015 and 2016. Most notably, in July of 2015, SB 1 passed and became law. SB 1 placed restrictions on the application of nutrients in the Lake Erie Basin. For example, SB 1 placed restrictions on the application of manure under certain weather conditions.
The 131st assembly considered a similar bill, Senate Bill 16, in February of 2015. SB 16 sought to regulate many of the issues that SB 1 now regulates. SB 16 failed to pass and did not become law. Notwithstanding SB 16’s failure to pass, nutrient management was a popular topic for the 131st General Assembly.
House Bill 101 and the Response to Algal Blooms
House Bill 101 was introduced on March 4, 2015. The bill would have enacted a number of sections into the Ohio Revised Code that would have addressed algal blooms in Ohio waterways. First of all, under the language of HB 101, owners or operators of public water systems in areas at risk for harmful algal blooms, together with the directors of the Ohio EPA and ODNR, would have had the ability to develop emergency plans to combat the algal blooms. Secondly, the Directors of the Ohio EPA and the Department of Natural Resources were tasked with developing and circulating an early warning system for harmful algal blooms. Thirdly, the Ohio EPA would have had the responsibility to provide training to publicly owned treatment works and public water systems relating to monitoring and testing for “harmful algae and cyanotoxins in the water.” Finally, under HB 101, the Director of the Ohio Department of Natural resources would have had to study and report on the economic and environmental impacts of Canada geese and zebra mussels on Lake Erie.
The bill was referred to the House Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development on March 4, 2015 and was never acted upon.
Agricultural Operation and Management Plans and Senate Bill 224
Currently, operation and management plans are a voluntary measure for Ohio farmers. In Ohio, an owner or operator of agricultural land or an animal feeding operation may implement a plan which incorporates pollution abatement practices and best management practices for the operation. But, the 131st General Assembly considered a bill which would make such plans mandatory for operators who operate farms of 50 acres or more.
The proposed bill, otherwise known as Senate Bill 224, would have required operation and management plans to include certain standards for applying fertilizer or manure. The bill also gave the Ohio Director of Agriculture authority to enforce corrective actions against farm operations and to assess civil penalties for non-compliance. However, SB 224 did not pass in the Senate and was not signed into law.
Series LLCs and House Bill 581
Ohio permits the formation of Limited Liability Companies, otherwise known as LLCs. LLCs offer many attractive benefits for a farming operation. Namely, LLCs provide liability protection to the members or owners of that LLC.
Some LLC farming operations have become more complex in recent years. As a result, some farming operations choose to have multiple LLCs across an entire farming operation. For example, a farm operation may have one LLC which owns only farm property and a second and entirely separate LLC that owns only farm machinery. But, multiple LLCs create additional complexity which may complicate a farming operation.
One proposed solution is the series LLC. The 131st General Assembly proposed the introduction of series LLCs in House Bill 581. A series LLC would allow a single LLC to create multiple series within the LLC without the need to create an entirely new LLC for each series. Under HB 581, a LLC organized as a series LLC would be able to limit the power of managers or members in different series within the series LLC. A series LLC would also be able to place different assets and obligations into different series within the LLC.
Under HB 581, the debts and obligations of a particular series within an LLC would have been limited to that series only. But, HB 581 did not pass during the 131st General Assembly. Therefore, series LLCs remain non-existent in Ohio.
Donation of Food and House Bill 111
House Bill 111 was introduced on March 10, 2015. This bill would have allowed food service operations to apply for a rebate from the Director of Health if they donated the food to a nonprofit organization. The rebate would have been ten cents per pound of perishable food donated. HB 111 was referred to the House Ways and Means Committee on March 16, 2015 and no further action was taken.
Many Ohioans choose to avoid the probate process by using a transfer on death designation. Since 2000, Ohio has permitted property owners to use transfer on death designations to transfer property upon the owner’s death. In 2009, Ohio law allowed property owners to make transfer on death designations with an affidavit instead of by designation on a deed. The new Ohio law forces the automatic termination of transfer on death affidavits for changes in marital status.
The new changes took effect on December 13, 2016 when the Governor signed Senate Bill 232 into law. Under Senate Bill 232, a transfer on death designation made either by a deed or by an affidavit to a spouse terminates upon a divorce, dissolution, or annulment. The new law applies to new and pre-existing transfer on death designations.
Because the law applies to pre-existing transfer on death designations, it may be a good time for property owners to revisit their estate plans. Property owners should be aware of the effect of divorce, dissolution, or annulment on their transfer on death designations.
Part 2: Rules for Operating Drones
The FAA’s long awaited rule for drones or “small unmanned aircraft systems” (sUAS) weighing less than 55 pounds will be effective on August 29, 2016. Our previous post explained the rule’s process for obtaining certification as a Remote Pilot in Command (Remote PIC) that will apply to those who operate a sUAS for commercial uses or incidental to a business, such as for farming purposes. In this post, we focus on the new rule's operational requirements and limitations. Farmers who want to use a drone in the farm operation need to understand and comply with these provisions.
- Registration. A person may not operate a sUAS over 0.55 pounds unless it is registered with FAA. An online registration is available at https://registermyuas.faa.gov/
- Pre-flight inspection. The Remote PIC must inspect the sUAS prior to a flight to ensure that it is in a condition for safe operation, which includes inspecting for equipment damage or malfunctions. The FAA advises operators to conduct the pre-flight inspection in accordance with the sUAS manufacturer’s inspection procedures and provides a list of the elements to address in a pre-flight inspection in section 7.3.4 of this guideline.
- Pre-flight information. The Remote PIC must make sure that all persons directly involved in the flight are informed about roles and responsibilities, operating conditions, emergency and contingency procedures and potential hazards.
- Flight operators. Only a Remote PIC may fly the sUAS, or someone under the direct supervision of a Remote PIC if the PIC is easily able to gain control of the sUAS. A Remote PIC may only operate or observe one drone at a time.
- Airspace. Flights of sUAS are allowed in Class G airspace, the airspace that is not controlled by Air Traffic Control (ATC) communications, which encompasses a majority of agricultural lands. A flight in Class, B, C, D and E controlled airspace requires permission from the appropriate ATC prior to flight. The FAA will establish a web portal that will allow an operator to apply for ATC permission online.
- Waiver process. The operator may apply for a “certificate of waiver” that allows deviation from some of the operational requirements if the FAA determines that the flight would be safe. The operator must receive the waiver prior to the flight, so should file the request about 90 days in advance of the proposed flight. The FAA will post the waiver applications, which are not yet available, at http://www.faa.gov/uas/.
Operating rules during flight
- Weather visibility. There must be a minimum visibility of three miles from the sUAS control station.
- Visual line of sight. The Remote PIC or the authorized person operating the drone must maintain a constant visual line of sight with the sUAS, without the aid of a device other than glasses or contact lenses. The operator may use a visual observer to help maintain the line of sight, but using an observer cannot extend the line of sight.
- See and avoid. The operator must yield the right of way and avoid collision with another use of the national air space.
- Height. The sUAS may not fly more than 400 feet above ground level.
- Time of day. Flights may occur only during daylight hours or no more than 30 minutes before official sunrise or after official sunset if the sUAS has anti-collision lighting.
- Speed. The sUAS speed may not exceed 100 miles per hour.
- People. A flight may not occur over persons who are not involved in the flight or are not under a covered structure or inside a covered stationary vehicle.
- Base of operation. Operation of the sUAs may not occur from a moving aircraft. Operation from a moving land or water vehicle is permissible if in a sparsely populated area and not transporting property for hire.
- External load and towing. A sUAS may carry or tow an external load if the load is securely attached, does not affect control of the aircraft, is not a hazardous substance and the combined weight of the sUAS and its load does not exceed the 55 pound weight limit.
- Aerial applications. Use of a sUAS for dispensing herbicides, pesticides and similar substances must also comply with the “agricultural aircraft operation” regulations in 14 CFR 137.3.
- Dropping objects. An operator may not create an undue hazard that poses a risk of injury to persons or property when dropping an object from a sUAS.
- Careless or reckless operation. A person must not operate a sUAS carelessly or recklessly. The FAA provides the example of failing to consider weather conditions when flying near structures, trees or rolling terrain in a densely populated area as an example of careless or reckless operation.
- Production of records and vehicle. If requested by FAA, a person must make the sUAS or its records available for testing or inspection.
- Accident reporting. Within 10 days of occurrence, a Remote PIC must report to the FAA a flight operation that results in loss of consciousness or serious injury to a person or creates property damage of at least $500. Reporting can occur online at www.faa.gov/uas or by telephone to the appropriate FAA field office or regional center.
Penalties for noncompliance with the rule
The FAA will have enforcement authority over the new regulations. Depending upon the type and violation, civil penalties could be up to $27,500. An operator could also be subject to criminal penalties for violations that are reckless, destroy property or threaten public safety; those penalties could be up to $250,000.
Learn more about the sUAS rule at http://www.faa.gov/uas/