If you are trying to get a bill passed, having it “left pending in committee” after a big public hearing cannot be good thing.
That’s exactly where House Bill 75 finds itself in the Texas Legislature. The bill to legalize direct sales of raw milk got a big hearing on April 20, but did not get out of the House Public Health Committee.
Rep. Dan Flynn (no relation) could not have been more excited about the public hearing had his political hero Karl Rove agreed to have another picture taken with him. (The first photo is prominently displayed on Flynn’s Texas House website.)
Here what the Van, Texas Republican said happened at the public hearing on his raw milk bill:
“State Representative Dan Flynn (Van) received an ovation after a very long evening of testimony that went almost to midnight. The committee hearing saw approximately 100 witnesses (speak out in favor of) the Raw Milk Bill (HB 75); against little opposition from entrenched special interests and over regulating bureaucrats.”
Representative Flynn stated … “That this bill does not legalize raw milk because raw milk is already legal. It has been legal in Texas for decades. HB 75 is a very simple bill that only removes the restriction that raw milk must be sold on the farm, and allows licensed producers to sell directly to consumers at locations such as county fairs and farmers markets.
“The bill benefits ‘mom and pop’ small businesses who comply with the law by removing unnecessary barriers that are entirely economic, with no health or safety benefits. Early negotiation clarified that limitations on place of sale do not include supermarkets and adds a reasonable labeling requirement.
“This is an important piece of legislation as it allows a mechanism to provide an improvement in safety and promotion of commerce and potentially increases jobs and income for the Citizens of Texas.
“Despite the extensive safety regulations, sales of raw milk have been limited by agency regulation to ‘the point of production, i.e. at the farm.’ Much testimony was received by the committee on safety and the vast majority expressed the safety of raw milk from Grade A Dairies and when pressed for data the opposition had little if any offering only that there had been 2 cases involving raw milk in 20 years.
Testimony was also offered that the Department of State Health Services (DSHS) and Centers for Disease Control’s (CDC) own data suggested more problems with strawberries, macaroni salad and oysters. Most likely this is because currently, producers go through an extensive process to receive a ‘Grade A Raw for Retail’ license, which permits them to sell raw milk directly to consumers.
“The Department of State Health Services’ regulations govern testing for animal diseases, the structure of the milk barn, sanitation measures at every step, and regular testing of the milk. The regulatory standards for raw milk meet or exceed the state’s regulatory standards for pasteurized milk. When and if there is a problem, the DSHS has proven that they can handle it quickly and appropriately based upon Texas law.”
Right now, Texas DSHS is handling the case of Mary Chiles, a customer of Lavon Farms in Plano Texas whose sickness from consuming its raw milk has brought an order against Lavon’s further distribution of raw milk products pending test results.
Chiles’s illness and a number of other recent raw milk illnesses have prompted the Texas Medical Association and the Dallas County Health Department to speak out about the pending legislation.
“We’re going to go with the CDC recommendations that individuals not partake of this milk,” said Zachary Thompson, the director of the Dallas County Health Department.
Although Rep. Flynn is excited about the bill’s prospects, the Public Health Committee considered an alternative to his bill, but has not yet opted to send any legislative vehicle forward to the floor of the Texas House.
Flynn has another month to work on getting his bill out of the Public Health Committee and onto the floor.