A controversial bill that would protect hog farms from citizen lawsuits nearly cleared the state House on Thursday without discussion or debate, catching a number of legislators unaware.
At the last moment the brakes were put on House Bill 467 when an objection was made to the final vote, which will now likely be moved to Monday.
The bill proposes to limit the amount of damages that could be awarded in lawsuits against agricultural operations by neighbors complaining of odor and pollution. It would affect 26 lawsuits that are pending against Murphy-Brown, a hog-producing subsidiary of Smithfield Foods. The lawsuits were filed by more than 500 people, many of them African-Americans, who live within a mile of the farms.
HB 467 cleared a committee on Wednesday and was placed near the bottom of Thursday’s House calendar. House Speaker Tim Moore announced the bill out of order and quickly called for a vote. The measure passed mostly along party lines.
Rep. Garland Pierce, a Democrat from Wagram, asked Moore about the lack of discussion. Moore replied that no legislator had turned on their light indicating they wanted to speak.
Rep. Larry Pittman, a Republican from Concord, moved to reconsider the vote, saying lots of legislators didn’t know what they were voting on. The motion failed.
After several lawmakers changed their votes, the final tally was 64-48.