AFA Update- Wednesday, February 25, 2015- Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry

Public hearings on the biennial budget progressed from tax matters to issues under the purview of the Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry Committee (ACF). They joined the Appropriations Committee (AFA) in Room 228 for a full day of hearings.

Audio of today’s hearing can be found here.

While presenting his testimony Commissioner Whitcomb faced intense questioning from both committees and both parties on many issues, chiefly:

  • The proposal to remove a recently enacted surcharge on pet food to support the spaying and neutering of pets
  • The proposal to transfer control of public lands from the Bureau of Parks and Lands to a newly created Bureau of Conservation
  • The elimination of 20 Forest Ranger positions, the change of their duties and the creation of many fewer Natural Resources Law Enforcement Officers.

Part X of the budget eliminates the surcharge on pet food used to support the spay and neuter of animals. Committee members questioned the Commissioner about the need for this $75,000 elimination. The department has no plans to replace these resources and do not plan to use the funds to meet other needs in the department. They simply are opposed to the surcharge.

Rep. Saucier expressed his concerns that the transfer of public lands is part of a larger scheme to open public lands to expanded harvesting.

As the Commissioner presented the Governor’s plan to fire Forest Rangers Rep. Martin asked if the elimination was revenge.

Recently an email from the Commissioner has come to light that strikes an intimidating tone regarding efforts last year by the Rangers to obtain  the authority to carry firearms. That email is below.

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The afternoon allowed for extensive public testimony on these proposals, nearly all in opposition.

Public testimony 1

Public Testimony 2

Public Testimony 3

Schedule

Thursday afternoon AFA will again hold work sessions on LD 236, An Act To Adjust Appropriations and Allocations from the General Fund and Other Funds for the Expenditures of the Department of Health and Human Services and To Change Certain Provisions of the Law Necessary to the Proper Operations of State Government for the Fiscal Year Ending June 30, 2015 and LD 232 An Act To Adjust Appropriations and Allocations from the General Fund and Other Funds for the Expenditures of the Department of the Attorney General and the Judicial Department for the Fiscal Year Ending June 30, 2015.

The full schedule can be found here.

You can always attend hearings and work sessions in Room 228 or listen live here.

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