The Senate unanimously approved legislation that would require defendants to pay court costs without the need for a court order.

Senate Bill 1169 would require judges to impose court costs, but even if the judge fails to do so, the costs would still be imposed.  No court order would be required.

The bill would also require the county clerk of courts to transmit copies of paperwork related to court costs to the Department of Probation and to the correctional facility where the offender has been sentenced.

The bill is now in the House.

The Senate unanimously passed Senate Bill 828, which would allow non-profit groups to sell food that has been prepared in private homes that are not licensed or inspected by the Department of Health.

Currently, food offered for sale must be from an approved source.  Under this bill, an organization that uses or offers the food would have to inform consumers that the food has been prepared in a private home not licensed or inspected by the Department of Health.

The bill was prompted after state health inspectors threatened to take action against an unlicensed church bake sale.

The bill is now in the House.

The Senate unanimously passed Senate Bill 298. This bill would amend the language of the Clean and Green program to address uniformity in how it is interpreted by counties due to the increase in oil and gas leasing and drilling activity throughout the state.

This bill would make land enrolled in the Clean and Green program eligible to lease for exploration of oil and gas, coal bed methane extraction, and commercial wind energy production elements.

Under the bill, a roll-back tax would be levied only on the portion of land filed under the Department of Environmental Protection’s Well Site Restoration Report and land that is incapable of being immediately used for agricultural use, agricultural reserve or forest reserve.  Land devoted to subsurface transmission or gathering lines would be exempt from roll-back taxes.

Fair Market value would be applied to the portions subject to the activity; if mineral rights were previously served and a third-party has the right to extract the resource (common with coal bed methane), the surface owner would not be liable for the roll-back tax.

Also, preferential assessment would continue with respect to the remainder of the property if it continued to meet size and use requirements.

The bill is now in the House.