Posted By John Dorka,
Tuesday, June 05, 2012
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- Ohio Legislative and Policy News. Here are a few highlights from last week in and
around the statehouse:
- ODOT is cutting administrative costs and raising new
revenues to improve its large scale road project schedule, contrary to
earlier reports of major budget shortfalls that would significantly delay
road construction projects. ODOT expects to free up $150 million
per year by taking a number of actions including
- Saving $34 million per year by eliminating 400
- Using "zero-based” budgeting, which eliminates past
practice of carrying funds forward for future years, saving nearly $60
- Reducing its underutilized vehicle fleet by nearly
40%. (It will start a similar assessment on large equipment)
- Reviewing plans to convert 59 rest areas to privately
operated service plazas could generate $50 million per year
- Selling corporate sponsorships and naming rights for
infrastructure like bridges, interchanges, etc. could generate $25
million per year.
- The legislature is considering implementing a system
with more income tax uniformity among Ohio’s hundreds of local taxing
jurisdictions. The legislature is taking input from many interested
parties to see if it makes sense to pursue legislation, which at the
earliest would take place next year. According to Tom Zaino, former
Ohio Tax Commissioner, Ohio is apparently one of only 10 states where
municipalities assess and collect income taxes, and the only state that
gives municipalities tremendously broad authority to create their own
definition of income, set their own rules and regulations, mandate use of
their own form, and assess varied amounts of penalties and
interest. He said international site selectors have identified Ohio’s complex local tax structure as one of the
top barriers to economic development in Ohio.
- The Small Business Advisory Council told the Kasich
Administration last week that the Unemployment Compensation benefits
determination system needs to be overhauled and suggested that it may
need a legislative fix. The announcement came after news that the
system may be unfairly weighted toward discharged employees.
- The Ohio Supreme Court ruled that Townships do not
have authority to charge "impact fees” on new commercial and residential
projects to pay for roads, parks, police and fire services, etc. because
they constitute "taxes” that townships do not have authority to
collect. The determination was based on case with Hamilton Township
in Warrant County. Hamilton Township
is one of 26 limited "home rule” townships in Ohio that have broader authority than
- National and Ohio Home Sales Numbers Showing Promise. On May 18, the National Association of Realtors
issued a report indicating "promise” for American home sales. In
April, previously owned home sales rose 3.4% from March, going beyond
economists predictions. In addition, the Department of Commerce
reported that new sales increased 3.3% from March to April, again surpassing
economists’ predictions. Compared to the same period in 2011, new
home sales are up 9.9%. American Trucking Association reports of
increased hauling of building materials is supporting these
statistics. Finally, the National Association of Homebuilders is
reporting builder confidence is at a 5-year high. Concerning
numbers, April home sales posted the 10th straight month of
positive activity. New and existing home sales grew by 11.3% during
the first 4 months of 2012 compared to the same period a year ago.
- Wood Resource Quarterly News Brief: Global Lumber Trade
Up. In a news
brief of The Wood Resource Quarterly from Wood Resource International
LLC, it says that over the last 2 years, global softwood lumber trade is
up 25% from the sharp 2008-2009 decline, but still remains well below
"pre-financial crisis” levels. Some countries showed sharp increases
in imports (China, Japan, Spain,
and South Korea) while
other countries showed drops (US, UK,
Italy, France, and Egypt.)
- More on the Logging
Road Court Issue. Last week I mentioned that the US Solicitor General, if the logging
road case is heard by the US Supreme Court, would not argue the case
against using NPDES permits on logging roads. However, now more
information on the issue indicates that the White House, via the Solicitor
General, has gone farther and asked the Supreme Court NOT to hear the
case. Why? It is easy to think that the administration
believes the EPA could lose regulatory authority depending on how the
Supreme Court rules. The move certainly seems like a calculated
effort by the administration to encourage the Supreme Court not to hear
the case, and the Court is expected to decide on whether it will hear the
case by the end of June. In the meantime, forestry interests
continue to believe that the issue needs to be locked down by legislation.
There is already a moratorium on NPDES permits for logging roads that runs
through September. If the Court hears the case, forestry interests
will ask for another moratorium. If the case is not heard, the same
interests will go full bore on legislation. OFA has been involved
and will continue to be part of the legislative effort.
- ALB Update.
Attached is the regular update on ALB activities in Clermont County. Everything is pretty
much the same, except it mentions that there will be a public meeting on
June 19 at the Clermont County Fairgrounds to explain the proposed actions
outlined in the Environmental Assessment. One of the options was to
remove un-infested host trees which caused significant push-back by local
landowners with the original plans.
- APHIS Revises Enforcement and Structure of Emerald Ash
Borer Regulatory Areas.
APHIS just announced a revision to its Emerald Ash Borer enforcement and
regulatory area policy that will allow unrestricted movement of ash
products within the federal quarantine areas. You can see a map
of the quarantine areas here (note the "protected area” status in Illinois and Indiana
that require permits.) A news release explaining the new policy is attached.
The change is different from the past in that APHIS treated regulatory
areas in different states individually. Now it will look at
contiguous state areas the same.
- China Lifts Log Ban from Virginia for a 6-month Trial. China
recently announced it will allow a 6-month trial allowing hardwood and
softwood logs to be shipped from Virginia
ports to China.
More than year ago, China
banned logs shipped from Virginia and South Carolina
ports due the detection of nematodes on a single shipment of logs.
Following a year of work with Chinese trade officials, capped by a visit
of officials to Virginia
ports, a 6-month trial was agreed to. The trial starts June 1 and
runs through November 30. Port authorities and industry
representatives had taken concerted efforts to insure that good practices
were put in place to reduce the risk of pests getting into shipments.
- Endangered Species Law Revision? That’s the stance by Cong. Doc Hastings
(R-Washington), Chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee.
He wants it changed for several reasons and said so in an op-ed piece in
the Washington Times recently: to reduce ESA litigation which wastes
massive amounts of taxpayer dollars, to base decisions on proper science
(there are so many cases where no science or poor science has been used),
and to focus on people as well as species (development needs to be a part
of the complete review).
- SFI Call to Action.
The battle over forest certification programs continue, fueled by
environmental groups that only want one program (FSC) to reign over all
the others. Recently, ForestEthics sent out a news release
indicating that 7 large companies have dropped SFI certification in favor of
FSC. The 7 companies are Ruby Tuesday, Phillips Van Heusen, Pitney
Bowes, Shutterfly, Allied Electronics, Energizer, and US Airways. OFA
believes that if certification is used, all third-party verified
certification systems should be given equal footing, not one program over
another. We believe bias in support of one program will
ultimately hurt American forests and industry. To that end, we
support SFI efforts to encourage companies to give equal weight to all
programs. SFI has provided two attached document on the
issue, company contact information and message talking points. If
you support any of the companies and feel so inclined, please contact them
to let them know how you feel.
- A Working
Forest Video. Recently, a forester from New Jersey, Robert Williams,
produced a movie titled A Working Forest, its future with Fire,
People & Wildlife which is a one-hour documentary explaining
what working forests are all about, who owns them, and the type of
cultural work needed to manage them. The movie enlisted the help of
many sponsors and was hosted by Chuck Leavell, legendary Tree Farmer,
conservationist, and Rolling Stones keyboardist. OFA has acquired a
copy of the video and will make it available to members for meetings and
events or personal viewing. Attached is a news release from
the Northeastern Loggers Association on the video and their communications
award to Mr. Williams.
- Carbon Market North America. For those who may be wondering what has been
happening with carbon markets, attached is a Carbon Market North
America newsletter by Thomson Reuters. It provides a brief update on
what is going on. California
has been moving ahead with a state carbon program and fueling an emerging
North American carbon market. Forestry projects are part of the protocols
for the programs and some projects continue to be worked on, even in
- SBA International Trade Events Schedule. Attached is a schedule of workshops and events from the Small
Business Administration for international trade information. The
schedule has events from June through October, 2012.
- Spring 2012 Issue of Center Focus. Attached is a copy of the Center Focus, a newsletter from the
Center for Forest Products Business at Virginia Tech
The issue contains the Director’s Message in which he comments on his
observations of the state of the forest products industry (future smaller
domestic market with "normal” housing levels later in the decade).
There is an article titled Reducing Energy Inefficiencies in the
Forest Products Industry Using Value Stream Mapping which
describes research that the Center will conduct to determine the influence
of forest products industry value stream processes on overall energy
consumption. The research will use Energy Management Systems to
assess energy consumption among a variety of forest products
companies. The report also contains information on forest industry
workshops from May through October in Virginia.
- OWIN Summer Meeting.
We have confirmed an OWIN tour for the summer meeting. We will visit
Globe Metallurgical, Inc. in Beverly,
Metallurgical is a subsidiary of Globe Specialty Metals, one of the
world’s largest producers of metallurgical and chemical-grade silicon
metal and silicon based specialty alloys. The Beverly plant makes silicon metal,
specialty alloys, and ferroalloys and uses a tremendous amount of wood
fiber in its process. Stay tuned for details on the summer meeting.
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