PA 15-121—sHB 6729

Environment Committee

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

SUMMARY: This act makes changes in the law requiring a Department of Agriculture (DoAg) permit to use a noisemaking device to deter wildlife from damaging crops. By law, these devices, known as “corn cannons,” include acetylene, carbide, or propane exploders; electronic noisemakers; and similar noisemaking devices.

The act requires permit applicants to include an estimate of potential crop loss with the information they provide in their application to the DoAg commissioner. It makes optional, rather than mandatory, on-site inspections by the commissioner or his designee before making a final decision on an application. And it allows the commissioner to consult wildlife experts when considering whether to deny or cancel a permit.

The act adds to the 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.

It restricts the circumstances in which the commissioner may exercise his authority to revoke a permit for a violation of the noisemaking device law. Instead of allowing him to revoke one for any violation, the act requires him, or his designee, to issue warning notices for the first two violations in a year, and restricts revocation to cases of three violations in a year. It creates a procedure to appeal revocation orders.

The act establishes a fine of $100 for a first offense and $300 for any subsequent offense for operating a device without a permit and allows violators to pay the fine by mail without appearing in court. It specifies that each device operated in violation of the law is a separate offense.

Lastly, the act makes technical changes.

EFFECTIVE DATE: October 1, 2015

APPLICATION REQUIREMENTS

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

Other information the law requires applicants to give includes the (1) type of device to be used; (2) locations, hours, and intervals of operation; (3) animal causing damage; (4) crop needing protection; and (5) applicant's or landowner's contact information and signature.

OPERATING REQUIREMENTS

The act 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 their use in a way that endangers the public.

PENALTIES

Permit Denial, Cancellation, or Revocation

Denial or Cancellation. By law, the commissioner may deny or cancel a permit if a municipal legislative body adopts a resolution requesting him to do so and he determines that a device causes or will cause undue hardship to nearby residents. In making this determination, the law allows him to consult with county or statewide advisory groups. The act allows him to also consult with experts in wildlife damage to crops.

Revocation. Prior law allowed the commissioner, at his discretion, to revoke a permit for a first or second violation. It required him to do so, for a period of at least one year, for a third violation. The act instead (1) requires him, or his designee, to issue warning notices for the first two violations occurring in a 12-month period and (2) limits revocation to cases where three violations occur in a 12-month period. It retains the minimum one-year duration for a revocation.

Under the act, anyone whose permit is revoked may appeal the order by making a written request for a hearing. The request must be received by the commissioner no later than 15 days after the order's date. The act allows the commissioner to appoint a hearing officer to hear an appeal and render a final decision. The officer may consider only whether the alleged violation occurred. A revocation order remains in effect during an appeal until the officer makes the final decision.

Fines

The act establishes a fine for operating a noisemaking device (1) without a permit, (2) during an appeal to revoke one, or (3) after a revocation.

It subjects violators to a $100 fine for a first offense and $300 for second and subsequent offenses. Violators may pay the fine without appearing in court, using the mail-in procedures for infractions and certain violations.

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