OLR Bill Analysis
AN ACT CONCERNING MINOR REVISIONS TO ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AND AGRICULTURE-RELATED STATUTES.
This bill does the following:
1. allows Connecticut to exchange forest fire protection and control resources with states beyond New England and New York;
2. authorizes the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) commissioner to grant a 60-day extension to renew a commercial forest practitioner certification;
3. expands the commissioner's authority to certify certain forest practitioners without examination;
4. modifies the continuing professional education requirements for certified forest practitioners;
5. decreases annual continuing education reporting requirements for forest practitioners by allowing them to attest to, rather than provide evidence of, their participation; and
6. authorizes the commissioner to renew certifications for pesticide applicators whose certifications have lapsed for less than 60 days.
The bill also makes several technical changes, including updating two references to federal law in provisions on the farmland preservation and community farms programs.
EFFECTIVE DATE: Upon passage
FOREST FIRE PROTECTION AND CONTROL RESOURCES
The bill applies the Northeastern Interstate Forest Fire Protection Compact's provisions on interstate aid with aid to or from any state that belongs to a regional forest fire protection compact, as long as the other state's legislature agrees to the provisions. In doing so, it allows Connecticut to exchange forest fire protection and control resources with up to 43 other states. Members of the northeastern compact include the New England states and New York.
By law, the compact's interstate aid provisions seek to help control, combat, or prevent forest fires and address issues such as the powers and rights of responding forces, liability, and payment for services, among others.
FOREST PRACTITIONER CERTIFICATION
60-Day Extension for Renewals
The bill allows the DEEP commissioner to grant a certified commercial forest practitioner a 60-day extension in which to submit a renewal application if he or she did not do so before the certification expired. A practitioner granted an extension must (1) submit a complete application within the 60-day period and (2) pay a fee in addition to the $235 renewal fee (Conn. Agencies Regs. § 23-65h-1(r)). The bill specifies that the practitioner is not required to retake the certification examination.
By law, there are three classifications of certified forest practitioners: forester, supervising forest products harvester, and forest products harvester. Certifications must be renewed every four years (Conn. Agencies Regs. § 23-65h-1(k)).
The bill allows the DEEP commissioner to certify a forest practitioner without examination if he or she is certified through an examination given by the Society of American Foresters, or a similar organization. The commissioner may do this only if the (1) organization's certification qualifications are substantially similar to Connecticut's and (2) practitioner can demonstrate knowledge of Connecticut's forestry laws to the commissioner's satisfaction.
The law already allows the commissioner to certify forest practitioners without examination if they are certified in another state with substantially similar certification qualifications and that state grants similar privileges to Connecticut residents.
Continuing Education for Forest Practitioners
By law, certified forest practitioners must participate in continuing education programs to improve or maintain their professional forestry skills.
Existing regulations provide that these practitioners must obtain continuing education credits, ranging from six to 12 credits depending on their level of certification, to renew their credential (Conn. Agencies Regs. § 23-65h-1(k) and (q)). The bill eliminates a requirement that practitioners participate in continuing education programs on a biennial basis, thus allowing them to fulfill their education requirements at any time during the four-year term.
The bill also requires certified forest practitioners to attest to, rather than provide evidence of, their participation in continuing education programs as part of their annual reports to DEEP on their forest practice activities. But practitioners must provide proof of participation in these programs if the commissioner requests it.
PESTICIDE APPLICATOR CERTIFICATION RENEWAL
The bill allows the DEEP commissioner to renew the certification of a pesticide applicator whose certification has lapsed for less than 60 days if the applicator (1) submits a signed renewal application and (2) pays both the renewal fee and any late fee. By law, renewal fees range from $80 to $285, depending on the level of certification. Under the bill, the late fee is equal to 10% of the renewal fee, plus 1.25% per month or part of a month for up to 60 days, dating from when the certification lapsed.
Under the bill, anyone whose certification lapses for more than 60 days must retake the examination. (The bill does not specify whether someone whose certification lapses for exactly 60 days must retake the examination.) By law, pesticide applicator certifications are valid for five years.
Joint Favorable Substitute