Texas Beekeepers Association Board Backs Away from House Bill 1293

The following is taken from the Texas Beekeepers Association Website.
To View original post, goto website -> http://texasbeekeepers.org/cancellation-hb-1293/

Cancellation of HB 1293

TBA members and fellow beekeepers,

Your TBA board and others have worked diligently for the last months, and in some cases years, to draft legislation to update the beekeeping laws in Texas. We want to inform all of you of the status of HB 1293, the bill proposing changes to Chapter 131 of the Texas Agricultural Code.

After much discussion, the TBA board chose to not proceed with HB 1293 for this legislative session. This was not an easy decision to make. TBA is still committed to updating the bee laws in Texas, but that update will have to wait until the 2019 legislative session.

There are three main reasons that the TBA board decided to not proceed with the legislation this year:

  1. Communication/Involvement – TBA has worked on HB 1293, and its predecessor, for 4 years. We communicated to our members the reasons for writing the legislation as we did and invited TBA members to participate in the development of the proposed legislation. However, we did not communicate our message clearly enough to all Texas beekeepers. Some individuals reported feeling that TBA had poorly communicated to them, or did not solicit their input, so they opposed the bill on those grounds. It is a daunting task to gather input and to communicate with thousands of beekeepers across the state to the extent that everyone feels involved, represented, and routinely updated.
  1. Wording – Some individuals, both inside and outside of our membership, opposed the bill because of the way specific sections were worded. Many individuals offered good suggestions. TBA absolutely heard all of the input, and much will be incorporated into the development process for the 2019 legislative session. However, the time required to communicate, incorporate, and then legislatively write the changes to HB 1293 would have put us beyond the deadlines for the 2017 legislative session, so we stopped the process.
  1. Oversight – Opinions on what bee laws should look like in Texas vary greatly. HB 1293, as written, is an improvement over the existing Section 131 laws. It would have given Texas beekeepers an appeal process if they disagreed with the Chief Apiary Inspector on quarantines. The main issue here was whether the Texas Apiary Inspection Service needed a legislatively appointed oversight board to review their decisions. A change of this magnitude to HB 1293, without knowing all the details and ramifications of such a change, could not be properly handled in the short time remaining in this legislative session. Hence, we stopped the process so that all beekeepers could properly consider whether to incorporate an oversight board into the Section 131 laws and if yes, what its powers and oversight of the Chief Apiary Inspector would be.

TBA’s desire and the only reason for TBA suggesting changes to Section 131 is to improve the beekeeping industry in Texas, and thus protect our industry and our bees. Unfortunately, HB 1293, in its current form, is not the right change. We know that our current law is not working well for us and that it could be very oppressive to all scales of beekeepers if the letter of the law were strictly enforced. We highly encourage all of you to read the Texas Agriculture Code Chapter 131 to understand what the current requirements are and then to comply with them. Continue your involvement with TBA. Watch your inbox, read the TBA Journal, and attend TBA meetings as, together, we communicate about the next steps in this process.

We are determined to update the beekeeping laws in Texas. We will use the time between now and the next legislative session to address the issues listed above and any others you want to bring forth. You have our commitment to do so.

Thank you so much for your support. We wish you a fantastic year of beekeeping as the honey flow begins in Texas!

Best regards,
The TBA Board

Should an Enforcement Agency Define What a Violation Is?

Imagine you are pulled over by a police officer for speeding and that police officer is allowed to decide what the speed limit is between the time he gets out of his car and issues you a citation.  Whether or not this was the intention of  Texas Beekeepers Association in their proposals to amend Chapter 131 of the Agriculture Code,  it’s analogous to a scenario allowed under House Bill 1293.

Section 25 of House Bill 1293 changes Section 131.121  of Chapter 131 to read, “A person commits an offense (Class C Misdemeanor) if the person fails to report reportable diseases, reportable pests, or unwanted species of bees,……. sells, offers for sale, barters, gives away, ships, or distributes honey or pollen taken from a colony of bees that has a reportable disease or a colony of bees that contains a reportable pest;”  Further language is changed under HB 1293 that allows the Chief Apiary Inspector, the person that enforces Chapter 131, sole discretion in determining what is a “reportable pest”.

Section 10 of House Bill 1293 changes Section 131.023 to read, “…. a person may not sell or offer for sale a queen bee and attendant bees, package bees, colonies, nuclei, or queen cells in this state unless the bees are accompanied by a certificate of inspection that certifies that the bees are apparently free from disease and pests based on an actual inspection conducted not more than 12 months before the date of the sale.  Again in HB1293 language is changed under HB 1293 that allows the Chief Apiary Inspector sole discretion in determining what is a reportable pest.

This author prefers a system whereby there is a division between those that write regulations and those that enforce them.

HB1293 Opponents Deliver a List of Issues and Solutions to Bill Sponsor’s Office

HB 1293 – Issues and Solutions

The Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance has been in discussions with its members and other beekeepers to identify the core concerns with HB 1293, and possible solutions to those concerns.

While everyone agrees that Chapter 131 needs to be revised, several of the provision of HB 1293 will create new problems or exacerbate existing ones.

Issue #1: Accountability. The CAI has broad powers, and HB 1293 expands those. Yet despite having essentially regulatory powers, the CAI is not a regulatory officer nor within the jurisdiction of a regulator agency. Decisions to define unwanted pests and disease, or to order a quarantine or destruction of hives, need review by experts and stakeholders. Even absent abuse, the current structure does not provide representation for the wide range of people affected by the bee industry.

  • Recommendation #1a: Create a Honey Bee Advisory Board with 7-9 members, including representatives of large-scale commercial beekeepers, small-scale commercial beekeepers, hobby beekeepers, farming, wildlife, and academia. This board would meet at least annually to set TAIS policy and regulatory objectives and initiate rule-making, recommend or endorse specific TAIS actions in response to the detection of new pests or disease, and approve extraordinary actions (seize and destroy, order implementation of colony management practices, quarantine, etc.). The Board would thus set boundaries on the CAI’s discretion.
  • Recommendation #1b: Expand appeal procedures to cover not just quarantines, but also other decisions or actions affecting property rights, such as seizure, destruction, or required treatment.
  • Recommendation #1c: Direct the new Board to include consideration of the feral honey bee population, and the impact of that population on the probable efficacy of pest or disease control, eradication or mitigation measures.
  • Recommendation #1e: Remove any provisions in HB 1293 that refer to the CAI determining what diseases or pests are subject to regulation of penalties. Change all references to “pests” or “diseases” to “reportable pests” or “reportable diseases” as designated by the new Board. If the new Board is not established in 2017 legislation, then the designations could be linked to USDA APHIS determinations.

Issue #2: Negative impact on small to medium scale operations: The ability of the CAI to require inspections, combined with the directive to recover costs, are likely to result in competitive disadvantage.

  • Recommendation #2a: Establish a tiered or sliding scale structure for fees based on colony count or other equitable measure.
  • Recommendation #2b: Retain the option to self-certify via affidavit.

Issue #3: The bill places all bees, both native and domestic, including bumble bees, under the authority of the CAI.

  • Recommendation #3: Change the definition of bee so as not to extend authority to native bee species. (If no one believes that the CAI would declare native bees as unwanted, then there should be no objection to removing that power.)

Issue #4: Mandatory registration will not be acceptable to many people, and the requirement will lead to widespread noncompliance. In addition, to try to avoid impacting micro-beekeepers with the new mandatory requirement, the bill changed the provision for registration to 25 hives; but this could have an unintended impact on property tax valuation because many county appraisal districts have used the current apiary registration definition of 6 hives as a starting point for their guidelines.

  • Recommendation #4: Remove the mandatory registration requirement and maintain the current definitions of apiary and beekeeper. A voluntary registration could be established that would allow notification of beekeepers when there is an issue of concern (disease, pests, or pesticide overspray) in their areas, providing benefits that would encourage registration.

Issue #5: The bill expands the failure of a beekeeper to report endemic diseases and pests in any colony that he is aware of, to be a Class C Misdemeanor. If read strictly, this requires reporting on fellow beekeepers. Whether the CAI enforces it this way or not, the possibility of it will discourage beekeepers, especially newcomers, from seeking help and advice from more experienced people.

  • Recommendation #5: Clarify the language so as to require people to notify the CAI of reportable diseases in their own hives. Change the failure to do so to a civil penalty only.

Issue #6: The bill requires Texas queen and package bee suppliers to pay for certificate of inspection, though out-of-state bee suppliers have no such requirement.

  • Recommendation #6: Remove the requirement of certificate of inspection for intrastate sales and delivery.

Issue #7: The regulations on “equipment” do not specify used equipment, yet there is no risk of spreading disease through new equipment.

  • Recommendation #7: Amend the definition of “equipment” to “used equipment,” and then amend the requirements to apply to used equipment. Proposed definition: “’Used Beekeeping Equipment’ means hives, supers, frames, veils, gloves, tools, machines, vacuums, or other devices for the handling and manipulation of bees, honey, pollen, wax, or hives, including storage or transporting containers for pollen, honey, or wax or other apiary supplies used in the operation of an apiary or honey house and that have previously been used to contain, manipulate, transport, house or process colonies, hives, bees, bee colonies, bee products or their unpasteurized by products.”

In cooperation with:
Bruce Bonnett
Ryan Giesecke
Dennis Gray
Tanya Phillips
Chuck Reburn

HB1293: TRUTH versus FICTION

It’s clear from the February 5th POST on the Texas Beekeepers Association website, that there is a difference between what H.B. 1293 says and what certain members of the TBA hope that it says.

Below illustrates the differences between the hope and the reality

TBA POST February 5th, 2017

REALITY

“The bill seems to be mostly housekeeping. Is that correct?”

There are many housekeeping changes to the existing beekeeping laws, last updated in 1983, to bring it up to the state of beekeeping in 2017. One example is that of “reportable pests.” In the existing law, ANY pest or disease of honeybees is to be reported to the Chief Apiary Inspector. This would include varroa mites, which we all have! The real intent is to make the Chief Apiary Inspector aware of pests and diseases which will have a real impact on beekeeping, such as the Foulbrood diseases or the most recently discussed Australian Sap Beetle, which is now in California.

POSTER OF FEB 5th is misinformed

Chapter 131 was last updated in 2011. Other updates were in 1985, 1989. 1991, 1993 &1997.

Beekeepers are required to rat on their fellow beekeeper.

HB1293 continues to make it a violation of Chapter 131 if a beekeeper does not report a pest or disease that that beekeeper is aware of that his fellow beekeeper’s colony has. So much for beekeepers helping beekeepers.

 

“Will there be a mandate to treat hives if this legislation passes?”
– The only requirement to treat a hive would be if a quarantine is enacted by the Chief Apiary Inspector. This can only be done when the Chief Apiary Inspector has done their due diligence with regard to identification of the pest or disease to be treated. Unlike in the existing law, HB 1293 will give beekeepers the right to appeal any proposed quarantine.

It is assumed that the wording in red italics in
the left hand column was intended to have been written:

“This can only be done when the Chief Apiary Inspector has done his or her due diligence with regard to identification of the pest or disease to be treated.”

NO DUE DILIGENCE REQUIRED

HB1293 does not require any minimum amount of due diligence on the part of the Chief Apiary Inspector. That power to define a deleterious pest and order its destruction is given to a single individual without requiring proof it is deleterious. Further, HB1293 allows this list created by a single individual can be changed and altered on a daily basis at the discretion.

“What are some examples of unwanted species of bees?” The real threat here is from bees that are very different from the bees we keep, Apis mellifera mellifera. An example of unwanted bee species would be Apis mellifera capensis, or the South African Cape bee. These Cape bees can quickly parasitize an Apis mellifera mellifera colony causing great economic harm for the beekeeper. Once established in a colony of another Apis mellifera subspecies, Cape laying workers behave like cancer cells; rapidly reproducing and draining colony resources while offering no benefit to the host. Infected colonies eventually dwindle and die at which point the remaining Cape workers disperse to parasitize new host colonies.

This explanation fails to explain why the wording “Unwanted species of bees” means a species of bees, including a non-Apis species of bees” is needed.

Apis mellifera capensis is Sub-species of Apis mellifera.  Including the term non-Apis species of bees allows the Chief Apiary Inspector to declare native pollinators in competition with Apis mellifera to be declared deleterious.
Examples of non-apis species of bees are bumble bees & mason bees.

“Why are we just now hearing about this
legislation?”
– A subgroup of TBA members have been at work since the November 2015 annual meeting to draft proposed legislation. The work began in earnest in early 2016 when 60 TBA members who volunteered at the 2015 annual meeting, met to begin deliberations. By June of 2016 the group completed a draft of the legislation, however it still remained for legislative counsel to vet the draft and convert it to a form that could be submitted to the 2017 Texas legislature. Legislative counsel completed their work in late 2016 and the bill was finally filed and could be openly discussed in January 2017. Before then there was nothing that could be formally discussed. This was the issue at the November 2016 TBA Annual meeting; the bill was in draft form, awaiting final approval from legislative counsel.

This explanation to the left is written as if though the TBA would have you believe they were under some restraining order
or were disallowed by law from disclosing proposals submitted to legislative counsel.

While it is true that TBA wouldn’t discuss the proposals and even refused to do so at the 2016 TBA conference, this author
can’t help but wonder if the TBA was trying to hide what they knew would be controversial changes.