For those businesses in North Carolina that have something to hide, hiding it became much easier this week.
Both the state House and Senate voted Wednesday to override Gov. Pat McCrory’s veto of a bill that muzzles whistleblowers who call public attention to anything from agricultural atrocities to elder abuse.
Dubbed an “ag-gag” measure by its critics, the bill gives businesses the right to sue employees who expose trade secrets or take pictures of their workplaces.
Animal rights groups say the measure is aimed at curbing the kind of undercover investigations that have exposed brutal and abusive practices in factory farms and slaughterhouses.
But House Bill 405 (click on the link to see its final version) could curb far more than that.
Nursing home employees might be discouraged from reporting possible abuse cases. Animal shelter staff could be dissuaded from reporting horrid conditions or cruelty to dogs and cats. Even journalists could be hauled into court for simply doing their jobs.
Only government agencies would be safe to shed light on criminal corporate behavior — whether it’s stomping on chickens at poultry farms or mistreating veterans in need of medical care.
Concerns that the bill reaches too far were behind Gov. Pat McCrory’s veto of the bill.
The governor said he agreed with curbing the practice of people who get hired merely so they can film undercover or gather corporate documents, but he said the bill doesn’t protect those “honest employees who uncover criminal activity.”
The House voted 79-36 to override his veto, and the Senate quickly followed suit, voting 33-15 to override.
Among those against the bill were animal rights groups, journalism organizations, the Wounded Warrior Project and the AARP, which said the law could have a chilling effect on those who might come forward with evidence of elder abuse.
“To give one relevant example, allegations surfaced last year that employees at Veterans Affairs facilities in North Carolina had been retaliated against for whistleblowing,” wrote Steven Nardizzi, chief executive of the Wounded Warrior Project. “As an organization dedicated to honoring and empowering injured service members, we are concerned that this legislation might cause wrongdoing at hospitals and institutions to go unchecked.”
The sponsors of the house bill said critics were wrongly characterizing it, WRAL reported.
“It doesn’t stop good employees from reporting illegal activities to other authorities,” said Rep. John Szoka, R-Cumberland.
That much is true. All the bill does is make it easy for large companies and their lawyers to go after those honest employees and ensure that, when they open their mouths, they’ll be stomped on too.
Republican backers of the measure said it was important to protect businesses from bad actors.
As for who’s supposed to protect us from bad-acting businesses engaged in harmful practices, well, that’s not covered in the bill.
“Not only will this ag-gag law perpetuate animal abuse, it endangers workers’ rights, consumer health and safety, and the freedom of journalists, employees, and the public at large to share information about something as fundamental as our food supply, said Nathan Runkle, president of Mercy For Animals. “This law is bad for consumers, who want more, not less, transparency in food production.”
(Photo: Inside a North Carolina poultry plant; by Bethany Hahn / Associated Press)
Posted by John Woestendiek June 5th, 2015 under Muttsblog.
Tags: abuse, ag gag, agriculture, animal shelters, animals, business, companies, corporations, criminal, dogs, hb 405, house, lawsuits, legislature, mistreatment, neglect, north carolina, nursing homes, override, pets, poultry, senate, veto. mccrory, whistleblowers
Dogs in the state of New York could soon be joining their humans for dinner at restaurants — without it being against the law.
A bill passed by the New York Senate Wednesday — by a 60-0 vote — would change state health law to give restaurants the option of allowing pet owners to bring dogs into outdoor dining areas, the New York Times reported.
The State Assembly is now reviewing its version of the same bill.
Dogs, under the revised law, would have to be accompanied by a diner, and restaurants that decide to allow dog would have to provide an alternate entrance to their patios, so dogs don’t walk through indoor dining areas.
Dogs will have to be on leashes, and would not be allowed into outdoor areas where food is being prepared.
The bills specifically forbid communal water bowls, requiring dogs be served water in disposable containers.
And, in what is sure to be the toughest of the new law’s requirements, restaurant servers would be prohibited from playing with dogs.
The bill is similar to one passed in California last year. As with that one, restaurants remain free to ban dogs from their outside areas if they so choose.
“With a large percentage of New Yorkers being dog owners, many restaurants would like to accommodate their guests and permit canine companions to join them,” said Senate Health Committee Chairman Kemp Hannon (R-Nassau County), a sponsor of the Senate measure.
In the Assembly, Linda B. Rosenthal (D-Manhattan) is the sponsor of the similar bill.
“People consider dogs and other animals to be just another member of the family,” said Rosenthal. “When you sit down to dinner, it’s your husband, your partner, your wife, your kids and your dog.”
“An overwhelming number of New Yorkers who have dogs take them everywhere they go,” she added. “So this is just another option for them to take their animals with them when they dine out.”
(Photo: New York Daily News)
Posted by John Woestendiek May 15th, 2015 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animals, assembly, bill, dining, dining with dogs, dog, dogs, dogs in restaurants, law, legislature, new york, outdoor, patio, pets, restaurants, senate
Backers of increased restrictions on dog breeders in North Carolina recorded a conversation with a state Senator who opposes the bill at a meeting earlier this month and, as a result, some Republican leaders say there will be no vote on a proposed puppy mill law this year.
Senate Rules Committee Chairman Tom Apodaca said Sen. Bill Rabon, R-Brunswick, was recorded without his knowledge during a private meeting, and that those who taped him planned to use the recording to “force” senators into passing the bill.
“It is wrong to secretly record private conversations with members of the General Assembly and then threaten to expose those conversations to the media to force legislators to meet specific demands,” Apodaca said. “That is nothing short of political extortion and represents a new low in lobbying for legislative action. To dignify those actions by moving ahead on this issue would set a dangerous precedent while condoning and encouraging these unethical tactics.”
Janie Withers, the community activist who recorded the Jan. 16 meeting with Rabon, said the recording wasn’t a secret. She said she routinely tapes meetings, and that the tape recorder was sitting in plain view to all, including Rabon.
The bill passed the House last year, and has been pushed by both Gov. Pat McCrory and his wife, Ann.
In the recording, Rabon, using more than a few expletives, criticized the McCrorys for publicly supporting the bill.
“It was bullied out of committee by the executive branch,” Rabon (pictured at left) says in the tape recording, obtained by WRAL-TV . “The executive branch had absolutely, absolutely no business sticking its nose in the legislature on that sort of issue.”
He said Ann McCrory’s advocacy, including a visit to the House chamber to watch the May 9 vote, was “against all laws. … There is a strong line between opinion and lobbying. When you pick up the phone and you are in a position of power and call individual legislators and offer advice or praise or this or that, you are, under the law, lobbying, and you must be a registered lobbyist in this state to do that.”
Coming across as a bit of an Alpha dog, Rabon makes it clear that he is against the bill, and that it would be unable to pass without his support.
“That bill is not going to pass,” Rabon, a veterinarian, told the group. “Angels in heaven cannot make that bill pass.”
He said he planned to introduce a “stronger” bill that he said would not negatively impact on hunters and livestock owners: ” … When I do it, it will be done at the right time, and it will pass,” he said. “I’m in the top five members in power in the Senate. The best shot you folks have ever had, you’re talking to.”
Gov. Pat McCrory and his wife, Ann, have both pushed for the legislation, which is designed to set minimum standards for people who keep at least 10 female dogs primarily to breed and sell the offspring as pets. McCrory urged its passage again on Monday.
“Just because someone uses foolish tactics, there is no reason to stop good legislation which needs to be passed here in North Carolina,” McCrory said.
(Top photo: From a 2012 puppy mill raid in NC, courtesy of Humane Society)
Posted by John Woestendiek January 28th, 2014 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animal welfare, animals, ann mccrory, apodaca, bill, bill rabon, breeders, breeding, dog, governor, humane, janie withers, law, legislation, meeting, north carolina, pat mccrory, pets, politics, proposal, puppy mill, rabon, recording, republican, restrictions, secret, senate, senator, tape recording, taped, wral
At the end of the 2011 session of the Maryland General Assembly, animal welfare advocates are celebrating passage of five major animal protection bills, and the defeat of two that they say would have had an adverse impact on animal welfare.
And to top it all off, as of July, dogs can legally dine in the outside seating areas of restaurants that opt to permit them.
“In the past animal protection laws in Maryland have been weaker than other states. But now we are making huge progress to improve the treatment of Maryland’s animals,” said Carolyn Kilborn, chair of Maryland Votes for Animals.
Kilborn attributes the gains to animal welfare advocates being better organized and more outspoken.
The General Assembly passed the following bills during the 2011 session:
- Senate Bill 839, sponsored by Sen. Lisa Gladden, D-Baltimore City, which requires commercial dog breeders to be licensed by the county in which they operate, and requires counties to report basic information about these commercial breeders once a year to the Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation. This bill will provide critical information to understand the impact of puppy mills in the state. Companion legislation, HB 990, was sponsored by Del. Tom Hucker, D-Montgomery County.
- Senate Bill 639, sponsored by Sen. Joanne Benson, D-Prince George’s County, which will set up a task force to study the need for funding of spay and neuter programs in Maryland. An estimated 48,000 homeless dogs and cats are euthanized in Maryland shelters annually. Affordable, accessible spay/neuter programs can help prevent this tragedy. Thirty-four states and the District of Columbia have a public funding mechanism to subsidize the cost of spay/neuter surgeries for those who cannot afford it. The task force will be comprised of representatives from animal control, humane societies, non-profit spay/neuter organizations, the Maryland Veterinary Medical Association, the Department of Agriculture and others. Companion legislation, HB 339, was sponsored by Del. Barbara Frush, D-Prince George’s County.
- House Bill 227 sponsored by Del. Jeff Waldstreicher, D-Montgomery County, which will allow courts to prohibit someone convicted of animal cruelty from owning animals as a term of probation. This legislation had strong backing from organizations addressing the issue of domestic violence. Companion legislation, SB 115, was co-sponsored by Sen. James Robey, D-Howard County.
- Senate Bill 747 sponsored by Sen. Norman Stone, D-Baltimore County, which allows courts to include protections for pets in domestic violence protective orders. Research has repeatedly shown a link between animal abuse and domestic violence. Children and animals in the family are often threatened, or actually harmed, as a way to manipulate and coerce others in the family. Victims of domestic violence often delay leaving abusive situations because they fear for the safety of their companion animals. This legislation benefits both people and animals and had strong support for organizations which address the problem of domestic violence. Companion legislation, HB 407, was sponsored by Del. Susan McComas, R-Harford County.
- House Bill 897, sponsored by Del. Peter Murphy, D-Charles County, to require the addition of a bittering agent to antifreeze. Ethylene glycol, the main ingredient in most major antifreeze brands, has an aroma and a sweet flavor which can tempt animals to drink the highly toxic substance. Adding a bittering agent makes it less attractive to companion animals and wildlife.
- House Bill 941, sponsored by Del. Dan Morhaim, D- Baltimore County, which permits restaurants to allow dogs in outdoor seating areas.
Maryland Votes for Animals (MVFA) works to create an ever-growing voting bloc of animal advocates who will elect representatives willing to champion and vote for animal protection legislation.
Posted by John Woestendiek April 16th, 2011 under Muttsblog.
Tags: 2011, advocacy, animal, animal cruelty, animal welfare, animals, antifreeze, bills, breeders, breeding, commercial, dining with dogs, dogs, domestic violence, general assembly, house, laws, legislation, legislature, maryland, maryland votes for animals, neuter, outdoor, pets, protection, senate, spay
Maryland’s House of Delegates has approved a proposal that would allow dogs in the outdoor dining areas of restaurants in Frederick County.
An identical measure passed the Senate, but one of the bills still has to be approved by the other chamber before landing on the governor’s desk.
The measure lets Frederick County Commissioners create an exception to silly state health regulations that ban dogs — except service dogs — from dining areas, both indoors and out.
Allowing dogs at restaurants has been touted as a way to increase tourism in downtown Frederick, especially at the Downtown Frederick Partnership’s event, Dog Days of Summer, according to the Frederick News-Post.
If the bill becomes law, county commissioners would need to enact an ordinance or regulation to allow dogs in outdoor dining areas.
The bill passed the House of Delegates 130-3 with delegates Charles Jenkins of Frederick County, Emmett Burns and Stephen Lafferty opposed.
Posted by John Woestendiek March 30th, 2010 under Muttsblog.
Tags: allowed, animals, delegates, dining, dining areas, dog, dogs, exception, frederick, frederick county, health, maryland, news, ohmidog!, outdoor, outdoors, pets, regulations, restaurants, rules, senate, state, tourism
Sen. Al Franken’s first piece of legislation — aimed at increasing the supply of service dogs for veterans — has been passed and is headed to the White House for approval.
Under the legislation, the Veterans Administration would develop partnerships with organizations that provide disabled veterans with service dogs. Franken said the measure will cost about $5 million and is designed not to interfere with non-profit organizations providing service dogs.
“The government is going to pay for essentially every other dog. What I didn’t want to happen was to dry up the funding for the organizations like Hearing and Service Dogs in Minneapolis and all of these non-profits who have been providing dogs to some vets.”
Franken said about 200 veterans will get dogs as a result of the legislation. The legislation was passed yesterday as apart of the Defense Authorization bill, according to Minnesota Public Radio.
Franken introduced the legislation after meeting Luis Carlos Montalvan, a veteran who said his service dog improved his quality of life.
Posted by John Woestendiek October 24th, 2009 under Muttsblog.
Tags: act, al franken, approved, authorization, defense, dog, dogs, law, luis carlos montalvan, minnesota, passed, passes, sen., senate, senator, service, soldiers, veterans, vets, white house
Three of the most likable, least argumentative occupants of the Russell Senate Office Building in Washington D.C. are no longer around, and some say their absence constitutes the end of an era.
Splash, Sunny and Cappy, Sen. Ted Kennedy’s three Portuguese water dogs, had become a fixture in the halls of the Russell building, committee rooms and in the office of the senator, which was always equipped with water bowls and tennis balls, Politico reports.
“It’s like the end of an era,” said Kennedy’s former judiciary committee general council David Sutphen. “I find it hard to believe you’ll have another senator with a dog who comes to meetings all over the Capitol. It’s kind of the closing of a chapter.”
Except for the Senate floor, there were few places Splash, Sunny and Cappy didn’t have access
Kennedy often used his dogs to break the ice with Republican lawmakers, relax nervous visitors and to “put political personalities to the sniff test,” the Politico article says.
“They were part of the landscape,” said former Bush senior education adviser Sandy Kress, who partnered with Kennedy’s office to develop the mammoth education bill No Child Left Behind. “I had no problem patting the dog while talking about Section 10.32. … It just created a pleasant environment,” said Kress, who often watched the senator toss tennis balls to the dogs in the office.
Studies have shown that pets in the workplace can boost productivity and raise employee morale and Kennedy was walking proof, animal experts say. But Kennedy’s dogs could be disruptful as well. Splash has been known to bark impatiently during long meetings, and dig in the shrubs, but it was rare that anyone complained.
Today, the Kennedy offices are quiet and the dogs are residing at the family compound on Cape Cod with the late senator’s wife, Vicki.
“He showed that animals are intimately involved in our lives, and there is an implicit reminder of our responsibility to them,” said Wayne Pacelle, CEO of the Humane Society of the United States. “So many more people are treating their dogs like members of the family. You may see other members handle their dogs in a similar way.”
Posted by John Woestendiek August 31st, 2009 under Muttsblog.
Tags: cappy, dogs, edward, kennedy, politico, portuguese water dogs, russell building, senate, senator, splash, sunny, ted, washington