The Legislature is scheduled to finish the bulk of its work this week, with the Fiscal Year 2015 budget being the major focus of discussion. Revenue estimates were presented to the Appropriations committee on Monday morning. Generally, state economists expect moderate economic growth, tempered by concern over lower crop prices.
On Tuesday, the House passed SB 46, the felony animal cruelty bill, on a vote of 54-15. The bill now goes to the governor’s desk. It is the result of many meetings the State Veterinarian held over the past year with livestock groups, local animal shelters, law enforcement, and others. The bill clearly defines “willful, intentional, malicious” cruelty toward an animal as separate from neglect, abandonment, and mistreatment. The most egregious cases of animal cruelty could be charged as a Class 6 felony, punishable by up to a $4,000 fine and up to two years in prison. It is widely supported by agriculture, local humane societies, and others interested in good animal care.
The House and Senate passed different versions of a statewide ban on texting while driving. It was sent to a conference committee to resolve differences about whether it should be a secondary or primary offense, the amount of penalty, and the ability of municipalities to pass their own version of a texting ban. Update! The conference committee reached an agreement and the texting ban bill has now passed both houses.
After the Senate Commerce and Energy Committee tabled the bill dealing with insurance coverage for treatment of autism spectrum disorders, the House amended a bill to establish a workgroup to study the impact of autism spectrum disorder on children in the state and to make recommendations to next year’s Legislature on the issue. The legislature also is requesting a study on the impact of sexual abuse of children. In addition, the Ag Land Tax Assessment Oversight Task Force will continue its work on ways to improve the method for determining the taxable value of agricultural land, and the Watershed Advisory task force will meet for another year to come up with recommendations on the role and functioning of local watershed districts.