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February 14, 2013

Va. Senate panel kills “Boneta Bill” on 11-4 vote

By Jessica Dahlberg
Capital News Service

RICHMOND – A Senate committee on Thursday killed the “Boneta Bill,” which championed farmers’ rights and would have expanded the definition of agricultural operations.

The Senate Agricultural, Conservation and Natural Resources Committee voted, 11-4, to “pass by indefinitely” House Bill 1430. That means the bill is dead for this legislative session.

The legislation’s sponsor, Del. Scott Lingamfelter (R-Woodbridge), who represents the New Baltimore area of Fauquier, named the bill after Martha Boneta, who owns a small farm at Paris.

Ms. Boneta got into a dispute with county officials last summer because she sold handicrafts and held events at her farm without having the proper permits. The county threatened her with up to $5,000 in fines, Ms. Boneta said.

The county’s actions inspired property-rights activists and farmers from around Virginia to take up pitchforks in protest and rally behind Ms. Boneta. The protesters called themselves “Martha’s Army” and demonstrated at the Capitol.

Del. Lingamfelter introduced HB 1430 with a press conference at the beginning of the session in January. It sought to expand Virginia’s 1981 Right to Farm Act.

The House Agricultural, Chesapeake and Natural Resource Committee changed the bill to include a re-enactment clause. That meant the bill would have been required to come back up for consideration during the 2014 General Assembly session.

The full House passed the amended bill, 77-22.

But, the legislation died quickly in the Senate committee, where opponents argued that local government should make land-use decisions.

"If you don't like what's going on locally, you ought to be sitting at your board of supervisors meeting," Sen. Philllip P. Puckett (D-Tazewell) said, according to an Associated Press report.

The Fauquier County Board of Supervisors had work sessions and its monthly meeting Thursday, so its members and county officials couldn't attend the hearing in Richmond. Board members lobbied against the bill and had testified at hearings in the House.

How they voted

Here is how the Senate Agriculture, Conservation and Natural Resources Committee voted Thursday on a motion to “pass indefinitely” on HB 1430 (“Right to Farm Act; expands definition of agricultural operations, etc.”):

• 11 YEAS – Hanger, Watkins, Puckett, Ruff, Blevins, McEachin, Petersen, Northam, Marsden, Miller, Ebbin.

• NAYS – Obenshain, Stuart, Stanley, Black.
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T Chris Jenkins · February 15, 2013 at 8:49 am
Del S.L. should concern himself with Woodbridge matters and leave Fauquier business alone. Another reason Fauquier officials should try to get one delegate for Fauquier alone. We have too many citizens to be spilt up with three delegates. It's time for a change for us to have someone to represent the whole of Fauquier and who understands our needs an wants.
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