OLR Bill Analysis

sHB 6729

AN ACT CONCERNING THE USE OF CERTAIN NOISE-MAKING DEVICES FOR AGRICULTURAL PURPOSES.

SUMMARY:

This bill adds specific requirements and makes other changes to the law requiring Department of Agriculture (DoAg) permits for the use of noisemaking devices to deter wildlife from damaging crops. By law, these devices include acetylene, carbide, or propane exploders; electronic noisemakers; and similar noisemaking devices.

The bill expands the information a permit applicant must provide to the DoAg commissioner to include an estimate of potential crop loss. It makes optional, rather than mandatory, on-site inspections by the commissioner or his designee before making a final decision on an application.

The bill increases the commissioner's authority to address improper operation. It adds to current law's operation requirements that the devices be (1) operated according to manufacturer recommendations and any commissioner-imposed conditions and (2) labeled with the operator's contact information.

The bill allows the commissioner to consult wildlife experts when deciding to deny or cancel a permit.

It reduces his authority to revoke a permit. Instead of allowing him to revoke one for any violation, he must issue warning notices for violations, and the bill restricts revocation to cases of three violations in a year. It also establishes a procedure to appeal revocation orders.

The bill creates a fine of either $100 or $300, depending on the offense, for operating a device without a permit and allows violators to pay the fine by mail without appearing in court (see COMMENT). It specifies that each device operated in violation of the law is a separate offense.

The bill also makes technical and conforming changes.

EFFECTIVE DATE: October 1, 2015

APPLICATION REQUIREMENTS

By law, permit applicants must provide the commissioner (1) evidence of the need to protect crops and (2) a description of other methods used to prevent crop damage. The bill requires them to also give an estimate of the potential loss, as a percentage of the crop, due to wildlife damage.

The law already requires applicants to provide information about the (1) type of device to be used; (2) location and hours of operation; (3) animal causing damage; and (4) applicant or landowner.

OPERATING REQUIREMENTS

The bill requires noisemaking devices to be operated according to (1) the manufacturers' recommendations and (2) any written conditions in the permit that the commissioner or his designee deem appropriate. It requires each device to have a securely fixed, legible, weather-resistant tag with the operator's name, address, and phone number.

Existing law (1) limits the devices' decibel levels and hours of operation and (2) prohibits use in a way that may endanger the public.

PENALTIES

Permit Denial, Cancellation, or Revocation

Denial or Cancellation. By law, if a municipal legislative body adopts a resolution finding certain noisemakers cause hardship to nearby residents and requests denial or cancellation of the right to use them, the commissioner may deny or cancel a permit. But he must find there is a hardship and the law allows him to consult with county or statewide advisory groups when making the decision. The bill expands the persons with whom the commissioner may consult to include experts in wildlife damage to crops.

Revocation. Current law allows the commissioner to revoke a permit for any violation of the noisemaking device law, and requires him to do so upon a third violation. The bill reduces his authority to revoke permits by (1) requiring him, or his designee, to issue warning notices for violations and (2) limiting mandatory revocation to cases where three violations occur within a 12-month period. By law, and unchanged by the bill, a revocation must be for at least a year.

Under the bill, anyone whose permit is revoked may appeal the order, but the permittee must make a written request to the commissioner for a hearing. The request must be received by the commissioner within 15 days after the order's date.

The bill allows the commissioner to appoint a hearing officer to hear an appeal and give a final decision. The hearing officer may only consider whether the alleged violation occurred. A revocation order remains in effect during an appeal until the officer makes the final decision.

Fines

The bill establishes a fine for operating a noisemaking device (1) without a permit, (2) during a pending appeal to revoke a permit, or (3) after a permit is revoked.

It subjects violators to a $100 fine for a first offense and $300 for second and subsequent offenses. It allows violators to pay the fine without having to appear in court, using the mail-in procedures for infractions and certain violations. But the bill is unclear how the fines will be imposed as the bill requires the commissioner to issue a warning notice for any violation of the noisemaking device law.

COMMENT

Penalty Conflict

The bill contains conflicting provisions in subsections (h) and (i) regarding the penalties for violating the noisemaking device law. One subsection establishes fines for operating without a permit, including a first offense, but the other requires the commissioner to issue warning notices for all violations. Presumably a warning notice would precede a fine.

COMMITTEE ACTION

Environment Committee

Joint Favorable Substitute

Yea

27

Nay

0

(02/27/2015)