02/15/09 — Freshmen legislators introduce first bills, including puppy mill legislation

View Archive

Freshmen legislators introduce first bills, including puppy mill legislation

By Matthew Whittle
Published in News on February 15, 2009 2:00 AM

With committee assignments made and a couple weeks of organization under their belts, Wayne County's freshmen legislators have begun to introduce their first bills for consideration.

Tops among those, though, are two that haven't been finished yet, both dealing with the issue of puppy mills in North Carolina.

Rep. Efton Sager, R-Wayne, and Sen. Don Davis, D-Greene, are both introducing bills that would place tighter controls on large-scale breeding operations that operate for the purpose of selling dogs to individuals.

Already, Davis explained, there are regulations on dealers -- those breeders who sell to pet shops -- but nothing governing other commercial operations.

His bill, he explained, would define what constitutes a commercial breeding operation, set standards for operation and care and provide for inspections.

The details of all that, though, are still being worked out, including how the standards of care will compare to animal shelters, whether state or local officials will do the inspections and who will collect any associated fees.

"What this bill will do is make it clear who can go in, assess and enforce the law under the new definition," Davis said. "What this is not going to do is go after hunters and hobby breeders. It's only going after those who have the pure interest of selling, and making sure they're adhering to a standard of practice."

Sager's bill also is expected to do much the same thing.

"We've been talking. I think we're going to work together to come to a compromise and basically introduce the same type of bill if we can agree," Sager said. "We don't want to overstep, but we want to put enough in that we can bring this under control. "

Among the groups helping the legislators are the Wayne County Humane Society and Wayne County Animal Control. They're also using examples from other states as guides to help write the new law, which they hope to introduce as early as next week.

"This should get us started," Davis said. "I'm optimistic we'll get something passed this year."

But going through the bill writing process is something both have had to learn.

The first bill Sager introduced was one to add Pikeville to the list of municipalities with the ability to allow and regulate the use of golf carts on city streets.

Davis' first bill was one to continue allowing students under the age of 16 to attend community college with the permission of school and college officials -- a provision that had been set to expire.

A simple bill -- a matter of taking existing legislation and including Pikeville -- Sager said he took the time to "walk it through so I would know what to do."

Basically, he explained, to introduce a bill, a legislator takes a basic outline and any necessary information to the bill drafting department. There, a team of lawyers and others employed by the state actually put the bill in the appropriate legal language.

Then a draft is returned to the legislator for review before being written in its final form.

At that point, the legislator then takes the bill to either the House or the Senate principal clerk's office where a number is assigned to it and it's placed on the agenda.

It is, the two men said, a relatively simple process.

"That's one thing I've been pleasantly surprised about," Sager said.

For Davis it's been an "enlightening" and "enjoyable" process.

"It's like you're really working for the people and able to be responsive to their voices," he said. "There's a lot of background work that goes into it. To me that's why it's important to be in the district.

"The whole intent is not to just introduce a bill, but to introduce something that can hopefully get support. That's a good feeling."