agriculture, Environment

Live blogging the House vote on hog bill, H467

Yet another of Rep. Jimmy Dixon’s Greatest Hits: “The plaintiffs suing the hog industry are being prostituted for money.” (Photo: NCGA)

T he prayer just started, followed by the pledge. The Speaker is recognizing Marcia Morey, the new representative from House 30 in Durham. She’s a former judge.

We’re warming up with a couple of other bills, 265 and 293, and there seems to be some question of whether Speaker Moore has a hearing problem during the voice votes. Thus, he’s called for a roll call vote on HB 293 — and it passes.

We’re one bill away from the main event. Will Speaker Moore actually read the title? Will lawmakers know what they’re voting on? Stay tuned!

Here we go … tah-dah! House Bill 467.

Rep. Jimmy Dixon is speaking: Colleagues this has been one of the bills that gives us some degree of anxiety. I think we have a good bill. The bill is simply trying to clarify the existing law. We think that we do that, as many of you know I use as few words as possible. This is not a courtroom. Most of us in this chamber are not lawyers. Most of us have knowledge of what’s right and good. My six years in the GA it’s been my experience to see that our good friends who are lawyers and very skilled at what they practice in their profession and for that I’m grateful.

It’s the smell of freedom. It’s the smell of food. God bless our farmers. — Rep. McElrath

For those of us not lawyers we have to rely on common sense and that’s a trait too often overlooked in the GA. If passed this bill will clarify and indicate an intent of the GA. I would propose there are occasions in the GA where the spirit of the law, the proposition is stronger than the letter of the law. Our hard working farm families who have labored diligently for generations to achieve the status they currently have. Occasionally in our world economy now there comes a time when entities are bought and sold. One of the focuses of attention on this issue revolves around whether or not this GA can craft legislation that has an affect on a pending case.

My children and grandchildren have walked gleefully through my hog and turkey houses. — Rep. Jimmy Dixon, bill sponsor

I’m 72 years old lived on a farm all my life. My children and granchildren have walked gleefully through my hog and turkey houses. I’ve been permitted to dispose of my waste in a specified matter. These allegations are at best exaggerations and at worst outright lies. Spraying effluent on people’s houses and cars, that does not exist. I’ve been down there. I’ve lived it. I’ve been involved. I beat Moses. He was in the wilderness 40 years, I’ve raised turkeys 41 years. When the final chapter is written on these cases. We’ll see the people being represented are being prostituted for money.

People get on their Lear jets in Texas and go around with people sitting on front porch and go up to my neighbor and saying are you’re tired of seeing the flies coming from Jimmy Dixon’s farm. My children and grandchildren have played near our lagoons we’ve sprayed our effluent responsibly. There are times, there are adversities. but when you get ready to cast your vote, we should get down on our knees and thank our heavenly father, people put up with production to enjoy the benefits of consumptions. the ability to supply a good safe economical product for us to consume. make no mistake there are entities out there getting people to sign contracts taking 40% upfront. there will be legal people in here saying that’s not the issue.

We should get down on our knees and thank our heavenly Father. People can put up with production to enjoy the benefits of consumption. — Rep. Dixon

If we talk about these as factory or industrial farms, we should talk about industry or factory law firms. There are enemies to livestock agriculture not friendly. animal rights people. extreme environmentalists have joined and become allies and taken advantage of those monetarily they claim to represent.

Rep. Davis: So much information misleading. This has to do with nusiance lawsuits. They can bring an environmental claim, a trespass claim, a negligence claim, personal injury claim, injunctive relief — they didn’t do this. Punitive damages, they didn’t do this. there are all these avenues related to the activity takes place on hog farms, but what was pursued was a nuisance claim. You can have a temporary or permanent nuisance. this is a temp nuisance claim. 26 cases represent 541 plaintiffs.

The cases are on hold because no precedent. Only one thing can give him guidance– we can. We can give him statutory authority. The question is whether or not we can pass legislation to affect pending cases. There are two ways statute can be done that can apply to pending litigation. One is if the statutory law is clarified. It doesn’t change the law but gives further insight into the intent of the GA. We will be deciding what damages can be assessed in a nuisance claim.

The other way is if the legislation is a remedial statute. Doesn’t take away rights. HB 467 is both clarifying and remedial. It will resolve the uncertainty that Judge Britt stated. There could be an amendment to take out pending, that may come up tonight. If not allowed to apply to pending cases, how’s he going to rule? What’s going to happen to those cases? Flounder? All dismissed? This is constitutionally allowable and it makes sense.

Rep. Jackson: On page 3 of Judge’s order …

Davis: What I’m saying is that Britt could not rule on plaintiff’s request on nuisance theory because he didn’t have anything that he could make that ruling on.

Jackson: I’m not trying to be tricky.

Davis: You’re not going to trick me, Rep. Jackson.

[Sorry for the interruption; temporarily lost the feed.]

Rep Blust: Second, farmers are a romantic, sympathetic group of figures but economies of scale and equipment, these are giant hog operations that have environmental problems.

Somebody’s private property rights particularly their home, use and enjoyment of that unobstructed, is core of our freedoms. — Rep. Blust

I’ve been by them, smelled it. I’ve been around more chickens than hogs. To appeal emotionally to farmers is not fair. It affects the property rights of everyone. I’m not here for generalized discussion of agriculture. I want to take exception like … I was stunned that there was no law on these types of damages. I found many examples, though. cases that these damages exists. Allowed in nuisance actions distinct from property damage, personal discomfort, health, etc. These damages are available have been adjudicated. We don’t need to rush in and bail out a defendant. On March 23, the plaintiffs have stipulated they wouldn’t seek damages for dimunition in value. Defendants asked us to take away all other damages for these types of actions. To take away the most onerous parts of this bill involving ourselves as picking a winner in a lawsuit, I’d like to send forth an amendment.

This would make the bill prospective, not interfere in litigation. Litigants across the state will come to us and ask us to change the law. Somebody’s private property rights particularly their home, use and enjoyment of that unobstructed, is core of our freedoms. This is something legislature should not do.

Farmers are a romantic, sympathetic group of figures but economies of scale and equipment, these are giant hog operations that have environmental problems. — Rep. Blust

Dixon: Vote no on the amendment
John: What this bill does is interject this body into judicial branch. Affects substantive parts of damages. This has been pending over a four year period. There is a great danger this bill treads on very thin constitutional ice. We cannot set rules  for court.

[There is now a reading of various Articles of the state constitution, particularly Article I.]

There is now a discussion about voting on the amendment.

Rep. Reives: What will happen to these cases if we don’t pass this bill? I know what the defendants seems to think — that they will be ruled against. I want to be very very clear I’m completely supportive of farmers. The problem with this bill is the emotion it invokes. What I ask you to in supporting the amendment is to look at what we’re hear to accomplish. Judges aren’t writing law, they’re interpreting the law. The fallacy is that if you take Judge Britt’s statement there is no law on this subject — there is 200 years of law on this subject. Getting in the weeds is that the theory has been this is a temporary nuisance. I don’t know that a farm that’s been up for 20 years is temporary. There is a ton of law that applies to permanent laws.

The question is Are we changing law? Once this bill passes, depreciation of property, enjoyment. And it would be retroactive. That’s unconstitutional. If we approve the law, we’re conceding it’s unconstitutional. Vote yes on the amendment.

[They’re now way deep in the weeds citing case law. Go ahead, grab a beer out of the fridge.]

Dixon: The NC Farm Families, NC Pork Council, Farm Bureau, poultry farmers support this bill. If you support the bill, you must oppose the amendment. Let’s give a little bit of leave to folks who feed us on a daily basis.

Voting on the amendment: 59-56, amendment is adopted.

Rep. Pierce: Incident down in Fairmount, NC, there was a nuisance near the church. We worked it out with the buyer and the farmers. To say there are no problems — there are problems. Nobody is saying much about folks who live in those areas and have to put up with stench and the smell. We forget the little people. Local farmers were not sued, the big producers were sued.

Nobody is saying much about folks who live in those areas and have to put up with stench and the smell. We forget the little people. —Rep. Pierce

McElrath: In my area, we have the Marine Corps, Bogue Field across from Bogue Banks, a lot of wealthy people live, some folks who moved here after the field was built and they started complaining about the noise. We tell them this is the sound of freedom. If you don’t like where you live with the marines protecting us, you need to move. I don’t want to tell these farmers to move. The big farmer is Smithfield and a lot of these farmers work for Smithfield. We’re talking about freedom. It’s the smell of freedom. It’s the smell of food. God bless our farmers.

68-47 House Bill 467 passes Third Reading and goes to the Senate.

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