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Weekly News 2.4.13

Posted By Gayla Fleming, Monday, February 04, 2013
Ohio Forestry Association

Weekly News 2.4.13

  • Ohio House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee Sets Agenda - Rep. Dave Hall (R-Millersburg), Chairman of the House Ag and Natural Resources Committee said last week that he expects the committee to deal with a number of issues during this session, including fracking, water quality, Lake Erie algal bloom, solid waste districts rule streamlining, and animals. He advised that the committee will go "on the road" to talk with constituents directly about agriculture and natural resource issues. Chairman Hall said that five of the committee members are new to the House and not so familiar with agriculture and natural resource issues, and he would like to get them more familiar with direct hands on issues. This committee is one of the committees more likely to deal with forestry issues and is one that OFA and our members will want to get to know better. You can find the Agriculture and Natural Resource Committee members here. Here is a link to the Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee make-up.

  • Other Legislative News
    • The first ten bills were introduced into the House last week. Among the bills introduced:
      • HB 2, Unemployment Compensation (Derickson) would require an unemployment compensation claimant to register with OhioMeansJobs to be eligible for unemployment compensation benefits and to require the claimant to contact a one-stop, local office beginning with the 8th week of the filing to continue with the benefits;
      • HB 5, Municipal Tax Collections (Grossman), would revise state laws governing municipal income tax collections to create greater uniformity among cities and towns throughout the state.
    • House Transportation Committee could hear bills on gun control, license plates (requiring only rear plates), and auto insurance.
    • House Insurance Committee Chairman Rep. Hackett (R-London) is talking about legislation to overhaul Ohio's Workers Compensation program. Several bills to that end were dropped last year when labor unions and some Democrats criticized proposals as an attack on the middle class.
    • Rep. Terrence Blair (R-Washington Twp.), Chairman of the State and Local Government Committee said he expects to see bills in this session concerning local government efficiency and shared services. Talks started in the last session on related issues but went nowhere.
    • The Senate Public Utilities Chairman Bill Seitz (R-Cincinnati, District 8) indicated that he is going to revisit Ohio’s renewable and energy efficiency requirements, which were put into place in 2008 with SB 221, the Energy Bill. Among the things he wants to look at are whether the 3% cost cap on complying with the renewable energy portfolio should be revised; how much it cost utilities to comply; whether energy efficiency targets should be frozen in place; and if the benchmarks are abolished, should existing contracts be preserved. Chairman Seitz said that he has been a "skeptic” of some of the standards, but he said that he believes this 5-year review is an important part of the process.
    • Governor Kasich will unveil his budget plan the week of Feb. 4. Here are some things it is expected to include:
      • The plan is expected to entail across-the-board reductions in personal income tax rates with reductions offset by loophole closures and a broadening of the sales tax base, all of which are expected to get significant push-back from the legislature.
      • The proposal will also include a separate reduction targeting small businesses. Over 3 years, tax cuts for individuals will amount to $2.1 billion and $1.9 billion for businesses, according to the administration.
      • There will be a controversial increase in oil and gas severance taxes that the oil and gas industry has vigorously opposed so far.
      • The budget proposal may include a proposal to alter the payment structure for the property tax on oil and gas reserves (ad valorem tax). The "zero interest loan” proposal is designed to make sure local governments, which receive the proceeds of the ad valorem tax, get the revenue in time to address infrastructure impacts from drilling operations. Right now it can take up to 2.5 years for local governments to receive the revenues. The proposal involves early up-front payments.
      • The budget proposal includes the federally-funded expansion of Medicaid, bucking the trend from many other states headed by GOP governors.
      • The budget plan is based on a projected 4% growth in tax revenues. It appears that the "rainy day fund” reserve, which not so long ago was less than $1, will finish the year with $1 billion.
      • As part of the school funding plans, no district will see a funding decrease over the next 2 years, and overall spending will is expected to increase 6.7% and 4.1% in respective years of the biennium.
      • Budget hearings start the week of February 4. The separate Transportation Budget. One of the things it is expected to include is $1.5 billion in turnpike toll-backed bonds for overall transportation spending.
      • JUST RELEASED: Here is a link to the Budget "Blue Book” which outlines the 2014-2015 Ohio Operating Budget Proposal from the Kasich administration.

  • Timber Severance Tax? There was an article in the January 27 Zanesville Times Recorder featuring Senator Troy Balderson (R-Zanesville, District 20) who is once again the Chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, talking about the anticipated state budget proposal to increase severance taxes on oil and gas production. The article, titled Balderson aims to help energy, agriculture industries grow, indicates the proposal on oil and gas severance tax increase, but it also surprisingly mentions "timber” in the article. To my knowledge, the Governor’s proposal is intended only for oil and gas, and I have not seen anything that indicates otherwise. I suspect that the inclusion of "timber” is a misstatement, but I will be following up to make sure of the intent of the governor’s proposal. Senator Balderson advises that the issue will not be addressed in his committee, but will likely go the Senate subcommittee on tax reform, which is part of the Ways and Means Committee, chaired by Senator Tim Schaffer (R-Lancaster, District 31). We’ll know for sure very soon once the budget proposal hits the streets. The article includes information on the committees that Senator Balderson will sit on, including the Senate Agriculture, Public Utilities, Education, Transportation and Workforce Development Committees, as well as the Finance Subcommittee on General Government. UPDATE: A quick review of the Budget Blue Book show that the severance tax proposal applies only to oil and gas production.

  • Forest Products Fairness Act - OFA joined a number of state and national forestry organizations and groups to sign-on to a letter of support for the Forest Products Fairness Act.The purpose of the letter is to support legislation (see draft here) that would allow forest products to be included in USDA’s Bio based Products Program, a Farm Bill program. Currently, the program does not allow consideration of forest products as a bio-based products because, according to USDA, forest products have "mature markets” and they believe the program is intended for new products. Such an exclusion creates a disadvantage for forest products, as forest products are arguably as "bio-based” as any product in existence. The legislation is intended to direct USDA to include forest products in the definition of "bio-based”. The bill was introduced in the previous Congressional session, but did not go anywhere. It will be reintroduced again in the next couple of weeks.
  • Ohio Forest Health News
    • Thousand Cankers Disease of Walnut – Update. APHIS advised this week that Korea has placed a quarantine on all walnut logs shipped from states with existing quarantines from known TCD incidences. According to the Ohio Department of Agriculture, Ohio is not one of the quarantined states and the new restrictions do not apply to products shipped from Ohio. Even though Walnut Twig Beetles were trapped in a southwest Ohio location, the state does not have confirmed incidence of TCD and is not quarantined.
    • Asian Longhorned Beetle. ALB Cooperative Eradication Program Environmental Assessment is out for public review. Those wishing to comment on the assessment may do so until February 16, 2013. You can find more information on the USDA APHIS website.

  • OSU Fisher College of Business - 2013 Ohio Export Internship Program The OSU Fisher College of Business and the Ohio Development Services Agency are cooperating again to present the Ohio Export Internship Program. The program is for companies looking to get into exporting for the first time or looking to improve their current efforts. The program matches companies with highly motivated students who have taken export coursework and will provide 50% reimbursement for internship wages (up to $3600). Companies can apply for participation through January 31, 2013 and the program runs through August 8, 2013. You can find more information by visiting the Ohio Development Services Agency website.

  • 2013 OFA Annual Meeting, March 5-6, 2013 - See the OFA website for registration information on the Annual Meeting.

Ohio Forestry Association is managed by Offinger Management Company, a member of the International Association of Exhibitions and Events (IAEE), "Charter-Accredited" Association Management Company member of the American Society of Association Executives (ASAE) and a member of the Association Management Company Institute (AMC Institute). www.Offinger.com

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