At the work session on Thursday March 9th 2015 the Joint Standing Committee on Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry listened to their committee analyst regarding the two raw milk bills under consideration this session and then adjourned to party caucuses without any discussion of the bills. They reconvened and, with the Republican half of the committee refusing to table the bill, voted them both out of committee “ought not to pass” on a straight party line vote with one Republican Senator absent. Thus the vote was tied and the bills will move forward to a full legislative vote on a divided committee report. What this means is that the Republicans successfully thwarted any effort to discuss this bill. Civil discussion of our differences of opinion, a bedrock principle of any participatory form of government, denied.
Representative Saucier and Representative Chapman did attempt to start the discussion but they were mostly ignored and the votes were called.
At the public hearings the week before there was testimony presented on both sided of the issue. Last year, the governor pledged support for a direct sales raw milk bill so long as farmers’ markets weren’t included. The fact that the vote was straight party line, and that there was much arm twisting going on in the hallway by a former member of the committee, proves this is not the case. This particular former committee member has stated publicly that it is his mission to block anything we try to do this year. He has established himself as the Governor’s mouthpiece on these issues thus dashing any hope of there not being a veto if either bill gets through the legislature.
And so we move on to other more hopeful bills. Including Representative Chapman’s bill LD 925 An Act To Promote Small Diversified Farms and Small Food Producers. No public hearing has been scheduled for this bill yet. Stay tuned.