On July 16, the House and Senate enacted the final version of the Mosquito Control Reform bill and today the Governor signed the bill into law. I wanted to provide a summary of the bill and how you may be affected.
We were able to make some improvements to this bill as it made its way through the legislative process. The original bill filed by the Governor would have allowed the state, upon making a determination that there is an elevated risk of arbovirus, to spray pesticides anywhere in the state, with no advance notice, and no requirement to allow an opt-out process. There was also no sunset for these expanded authorities once a declaration of elevated risk was made.
The bill was assigned to the Public Health Committee, which I co-chair. As with all bills, the process required consideration by the Joint Committee, both the House and Senate Ways and Means Committees, the top leadership of each branch, and the Administration. All of their input was considered as the bill made its way through the process. I want to extend my thanks especially to my team’s Legislative Director, Brian Rosman, who did a deep dive into this issue on a very short timeline. Our work was also aided by Representatives Mindy Domb and Natalie Blais, who added important strengthening amendments on the House floor.
Though many cooks had a hand in the process, the resulting final bill was strengthened by advocates like you who raised your voices in favor of balancing environmental protections with concerns about EEE. I’m pleased that we were able to build in strong protections for both the environment and human health.
Under the final bill:
- The state is given expanded authority to engage in mosquito control, only after the Department of Public Health declares that there is an elevated risk of arbovirus. DPH must publicly publish the data supporting this declaration.
- Under that authority, the State Reclamation and Mosquito Control Board can then be active throughout the state. This includes public education, standing water drainage, ground larvicide application, and other steps in addition to aerial pesticide spraying.
- Before any spraying, there must be at least 48 hours advance notice to the public, including notice to local boards of health, property owners who have opted out of spraying, and farms, including beekeepers and certified organic farms. Anyone can use an online form if they want to be informed of aerial spraying in their region. The notice will include a process for people to opt-out of spraying.
- Cities and towns can also opt-out entirely from pesticide spraying. If they wish to opt-out, however, they must have an approved alternative mosquito management plan.
- There is an overall directive in the bill that, “All actions taken under the authority of this section shall be designed to protect public health while minimizing, to the extent feasible, any adverse impact to the environment.”
I am most proud that the bill establishes a Mosquito Control for the Twenty-First Century Task Force. Our current mosquito management system is a relic from the 1950s, and I am hopeful that the Task Force recommendations will lead to a more modern system that recognizes the latest evidence about effective mosquito management and environmental protection.
The Task Force includes several scientific experts and representatives from organizations concerned about land conservation, river protection, wildlife protection, agriculture, organic agriculture, and an organization representing bee keepers or groups concerned about pollinators. I am pleased that we were able to include so many people on the Task Force who will be the voice of a balanced understanding of the most effective ways to manage mosquitoes. All of their meetings must be open to the public, and they are required to hold a public listening session.
If you want to read the final bill right now, you need to piece it together, using H.4851 as the base, and then make the changes specified in Senate amendment 1 to S. 2757. (I apologize for how complicated this is.)
The bill sunsets after two years and by then we hopefully will have enacted new legislation that reflects the recommendations of the Task Force. So the hard part comes next. Implementation of this legislation and the Task Force’s eventual recommendations will require careful monitoring and attention to the actions of the action of the Mosquito Control Board, and active participation with the Task Force. This will set our course on this issue for the next decades.
Please let me know if you have further thoughts on the bill and its implementation.