YEAS--Marshall, D.W., Orrock, Poindexter, Knight, Morefield, James--6.
Boneta Bill Update: Legislators Reject Constitutional Protections for Farmers
The Boneta Bill was designed to clarify that the Virginia Right to Farm Act protects commerce, protects constitutional rights, and provides remedies for when counties violate the Act.
The Ag Subcommittee decided to adopt an amendment in the nature of a substitute bill. The substitute bill has some good provisions such as clarifying that the right to farm includes commerce. It also has some provisions that leave farmers at the mercy of bureaucrats who do not follow the law.
The substitute bill to H.B. 1430 that was introduced by the Ag Subcommittee creates a “rebuttable presumption that a farm is presumed in compliance with local zoning ordinances.”
The Ag Subcommittee, however, decided to strike language from the substitute bill that expressly provided constitutional and evidentiary protections for farmers. The language that was struck read as follows:
“The rebuttable presumption shall not be overcome by hearsay evidence or without an onsite inspection performed in compliance with the strictest standards under the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution, which requires no warrants shall issue without probable cause supported by oath and affirmation.”
The Ag Subcommittee further struck:
“A locality that violates this chapter shall be liable to the agricultural operation for (1) the amount of fines, if any, that the locality sought to impose on the [farm] operation in defending against the action of the locality or seeking to enforce the provisions of the chapter. A local ordinance that violates any provision of this chapter or any right protected under the Constitution of Virginia or the Constitution of the United States is void.”
Besides showing its displeasure with rules of evidence and constitutional protections for farmers, the Ag Subcommittee also rejected protections for farm art and literature. "This web site officially denounces these amendments, and encourages constituents of Delegates Marshall, Orrock, Knight, Poindexter, James, Sickles, and Morefield to lean on your elected officials to support farmers' rights above the claims of greedy land and power grabbers.
Nevertheless, Delegate Lingamfelter's e-mail shows that he's comfortable with the compromise:
The Boneta Bill Passes Subcommittee
-Will be debated in full Committee this Wednesday at 8:30AM-
**Click here to sign up to receive updates on HB 1430 as it is debated in the full Agriculture, Chesapeake, & Natural Resources Committee**
Yesterday was truly a day that I will remember as a highlight of my legislative career. I didn't get a chance to update you after the long subcommittee meeting last night, but I wanted to send you a note first thing this morning to tell you the good news!
The Boneta Bill (HB 1430) passed through the Agriculture subcommittee this evening and will be heard in the full Agriculture Committee this Wednesday (January 30th) at 8:30AM!
The bill as passed last night contains key language that will protect the rights of property owners and farmers like Martha and is a leap forward in keeping government out of every aspect of our lives!
Friends, I wish you could have been there. As I came out of the elevator and headed towards the committee room, there was a massive crowd of supporters spilling out into the hallway. There were folks from all over the Commonwealth. No joke. From all over.
It was almost impossible to get into the room. Both entrances were packed.
I couldn't help but be grateful for the sacrifice that all these folks made for the sake of property rights, liberty, and free enterprise. It was humbling to see so many folks there to support Martha and my effort to move a good bill forward and we did!
And it really made a difference to the subcommittee members to see first-hand how powerful this grassroots movement really is.
The fight isn't over yet, folks, and here's where you come in. We need to show the full committee how powerful this movement is and show them that we are going to fight.
So here is your call to action: WE NEED TO PACK THE ROOM ON WEDNESDAY.
Please forward this message along and make sure that we have all of our supporters at the full committee hearing.
Here are the details:
What: Meeting of the Agriculture, Chesapeake, and Natural Resources Committee
Why: To debate The Boneta Bill (HB 1430) and vote to send the bill to the floor of the House of Delegates
When: Wednesday, January 30th, 2013 at 8:30AM
Where: House Room C of the General Assembly Building (1000 Bank Street, Richmond VA)
More Information: Email firstname.lastname@example.org
If you'd like to contact the members of the Agriculture, Chesapeake, and Natural Resources Committee, you can find their information here!
I can't thank you enough for all of your support. Like I said, I will not soon forget this day. But we've got a long ways to go before we can celebrate. The opponents of property rights are going to come out fast and hard against this bill but I know that we will outwork them.
I hope to see you Wednesday!
PS: Click here to sign up to receive updates on HB 1430 as it is debated in the full Agriculture, Chesapeake, & Natural Resources Committee.
Paid for and Authorized by Lingamfelter for Lt. Governor"
If you can be in Richmond tomorrow morning, this web site recommends turning out to show support...here's what the Northern Virginia Tea Party (which is running buses from the suburbs) has to say about the Boneta Bill:
Keeping Farmers (and Children) Safe from Bureaucratic Bullies
Why the Remedies in the Boneta Bill Are Fair, Appropriate and Needed
The Boneta Bill, H.B. 1430, amends the Virginia Right to Farm Act. It includes remedies that add “teeth” to protecting farmers’ rights. The remedies are no more than the amount of fines that counties may impose on farmers plus attorneys’ fees if the counties (1) are sued by farmers, which is not likely, and (2) are found to have violated the Right to Farm Act. If anything, the remedies in the Boneta Bill are not strong enough.
Martha Boneta was threatened by Fauquier County with fines of $5,000 per violation under charges that she held a birthday party for eight 10-year-old girls without a permit and a “site plan,” advertised one wine tasting, sold postcards with pictures of her rescued farm animals, sold wool fiber products from her sheep and alpacas, and sold organic tea from herbs grown in her garden even though she had a business license. She paid $500 to appeal these unjust administrative charges and threats. The county zoning administrator said at her hearing that Martha was “out of line” for appealing these charges. Martha’s farm store that was open just seven hours per week is now closed because of the uncertain, unlawful and unscrupulous actions of the county.
1. Counties have litigation liability insurance; farmers do not. County officials will not go out of pocket on legal fees when they violate farmers’ rights. Farmers go out of pocket on legal fees to defend against overreaching and unlawful actions by county officials against them.
2. Frivolous lawsuits against counties will be quickly dismissed. Bureaucratic administrative zoning actions against small farmers do not follow rules of evidence, can violate farmers’ rights without due process, and can shut down lawful farm activities.
3. Sovereign immunity. This is the doctrine that “the King can do no wrong.” Ask Martha Boneta whether county officials can do no wrong.
The doctrine of sovereign immunity is itself limited to good faith violations of law and mistakes, not intentional acts beyond the duties of government officials, and may be limited by the legislature at any time. Not long ago the Virginia legislature limited sovereign immunity under the Virginia Tort Claims Act, § 8.01-195.3.
Police departments are subject to lawsuits, damages and attorney’s fees under 42 U.S.C. 1983 and 1988 for violating constitutional rights under color of state law, yet this does nothing to impede strong enforcement of the law. Clerks of Virginia county courts have personal liability for certain acts, such as violations of fiduciary duties for funds and wrongful discharge (VanBuren v. Grubb).
This provision of the Boneta Bill may be the most popular of all. County officials should be required to do what is expected of all citizens, which is to respect and follow the law. The remedies provision is a prophylactic way to help prevent violations of rights and the Right to Farm Act, and will not impede good and lawful enforcement.
Boneta Bill supporters stand shoulder to shoulder with county officials who may be their friends, neighbors, relatives, church members, etc., who are conscientious and law abiding in their conduct.
The Boneta Bill remedies provision:
A. Any county that violates any provision of this chapter shall be liable to aggrieved persons in the amounts equal to the fines and penalties that the county seeks to impose on such aggrieved persons, plus attorney fees.
B. Any official or employee of a county who violates any provision of this chapter, or whose interpretation or enforcement of duties operates contrary to this chapter, shall be personally liable to aggrieved persons in the amount equal to the fines and penalties that such county official or employee seeks to impose on such aggrieved persons, plus attorney fees, and shall otherwise be subject to the penalties that the official or employee seeks to impose, whether civil or criminal. Such official or employee shall not be protected by sovereign immunity for causes of action in trespass or tort.