Posted By John Dorka,
Wednesday, June 05, 2013
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June 3, 2013 Issue
Legislative and Policy News
- Senate Finance Committee started hearings on the State Budget and hit it hard the week following the holiday. The big issues that were discussed included funding for education, Medicaid, and taxation. The week included testimony each day on specific issues. You can look at a summary of the proposed changes here. Be careful though, the "summary” in bullet points is still 32 pages long. (The Legislative Services Commission put together a comparison matrix of the proposed changes with the previous version and it is 671 pages long!). There were more than 300 amendments added in this proposal. Among the many amendments, this version contains a small business tax cut while eliminating cuts to personal income taxes.
- JobsOhio Accountability legislation - A group of Democratic legislators outlined proposed legislation that is being termed "JobsOhio Accountability” which would require the newly created JobsOhio non-profit corporation to abide by the same ethics, public records, and auditing requirements as other state agencies and employees. JobsOhio is funded by state liquor profits. One of the concerns from the legislators is that JobsOhio has received almost $7 million in donations from donors, but the donors are not required to be identified. The Kasich administration responded to the announcement that doing the measures as outlined in the legislation would simply return the state’s job creation efforts to old bureaucratic ways with little accomplishments. House Speaker Batchelder, when asked about the legislation said he did not want to comment about it until he had seen it, but further stated he thought that there was significant accountability and transparency build into HB 1 which created the new entity in the last legislative session.
- Amendment to Budget Bill Would Require Disclosure of Steel Pipe Sourcing by Oil and Gas Drillers - Last year, there was a legislative proposal to require oil and gas drillers in Ohio to disclose where steel pipe for drilling is sourced, in an effort to promote American and Ohio manufactured steel pipe. The proposal was shot down in the legislature, but it has resurfaced in the Senate as an amendment to the budget bill. The oil and gas industry is opposed to the amendment for reasons of excessive administrative burdens.
- School Funding for Rural Districts - School funding continues to be a hot topic in budget discussions, and some advocates are trying to increase funding for rural schools by "dialing back’ money earmarked for charter and private schools.
- Ohio Home Sales Highest Since 2007 - The Ohio Association of Realtors is reporting that home sales in April were 20.5% higher than April 2012 and represented the 22nd consecutive month of sales increases. Average sale prices also rose 3.5% from a year ago. Seventeen of 20 Ohio housing markets showed increases have increased in 2013, showing that the housing recovery in Ohio is widespread.
- BWC Board Approves $1 Billion Premium Rebate - The Ohio BWC Board of Directors, as expected, unanimously approved $1 billion in one-time premium rebates for more than 210,000 private employers and public taxing districts. The rebates equal about 56% of what companies paid in premiums last year. BWC hopes to send the bulk of the checks by late June or early July. In addition, the Board also unanimously approved a 2.1% base rate reduction for private employers. BWC is still looking into forgiving nearly $900 million of employer premiums as part of a plan to begin billing employers at the start of a coverage period as opposed to the end. The credits would be given to prevent employers having to pay a full 12 months of premiums all at once.
Siemens Corp. Invests $400 million at Youngstown State in Software and Training
It was announced last week that Youngstown State University will receive an in-kind grant of $400 million to be given to the College of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) to support YSU’s new National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Institute in downtown Youngstown to prepare a modern workforce in the Cleveland to Pittsburg "TechBelt.” The training will prepare students for careers in fields including robotics design and computer aided engineering and will support a number of industries including aerospace, automotive, defense, energy, high-tech electronics, machinery and oil and gas, among others. The new software will allow companies to manage the entire lifecycle of a product efficiently and cost-effectively, from idea development, design, and manufacture, through service and disposal.
Federal legislation and Policy Issues
- Silviculture Regulatory Consistency Act(S 971, HR 2026) - The Silviculture Regulatory Consistency Act has been introduced in both the US House and Senate. This bill would define logging roads and silvicultural activities as non-point sources of pollution in reference to the federal Clean Water Act. This is important to prevent the US EPA and any other regulatory agency from getting into mischief with their own interpretations on how the Clean Water Act would apply to forestry. In whole, the forest products industry and state and federal forestry associations and organizations are all strongly supportive of getting this bill passed. Last week, OFA asked members to contact their Senators and Representative to let them know of their support of the bill and to see if they would consider becoming a sponsor of the legislation.
- US Forest Service Woodland Owner Survey - The US Forest Service, through its Forest Inventory and Analysis (FIA) Program, annually surveys forest landowners to assess their attitudes toward their forest land on a multitude of management implications. The American Forest Foundation recently cited the latest survey and some of the implications from the results. A key finding is that there are 23 million woodland owners in the US, but only 2 million, or less than 9%, have a management plan for their woodland. Many consider that a woodland management plan is a critical tool to help landowners wisely manage their forestland. If you want to take a closer look at the recent survey information, you can go the National Woodland Owner Survey page on the FIA website.
- Environmental Appeal of Treated Utility Poles Fails. It was reported last week that the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals denied a petition from the Ecological Rights Foundation to re-hear an original claim that treated utility poles require a NPDES Clean Water Act Permit. According to the attached brief decision, the judges elected not to hear the petition. Those forest products industry organizations that worked on this case believe that this action terminates this case.
DOF Forest Stewardship Committee
The Forest Stewardship Committee, hosted by the Division of Forestry, met last week to discuss several issues and provide updates on programs including the Forest Legacy, Service Forestry, NRCS Cost-Share, the Ohio Forest Tax Law, Northwest Ohio Windbreak, invasive species, particularly the Hemlock Wooly Adelgid, and the Forest Inventory and Analysis Program (FIA):
- Assistant Chief Dan Balser reported that DOF continues to move ahead, albeit with limited funds. The Service Forestry Program currently operates with 17 Service Foresters. A Southern Ohio Service Forestry Coordinator to be located in Chillicothe is in the process of being hired.
- The Forest Legacy Program, a forest conservation easement program, is operating with restricted funding, but is staff is still identifying key properties for project submission. USFS will review the program this year.
- EQIP (Environmental Quality Incentives Program) which has been good for encouraging forest practices on private lands in Ohio in the past, is operating with half the funding it had previously received and thus accomplishments are reduced.
- CRP (Conservation Reserve Program) is in the middle of a sign-up; this year contracts for 55,000 acres expire, the largest annual amount since the program began.
- Staff working on the Ohio Forest Tax Law Program have developed an annual newsletter for program participants, to keep them apprised of what is happening with the program. Oil and gas activities in eastern Ohio can affect landowner eligibility in the program, depending on the amount of surface impact on the property.
- Northwest Ohio Windbreak is in its 37 year. Activity this year is down from previous years; a decline started in 2010 due to a number of factors but the most important of which may be declining commodity prices and less farmer interest in taking land out of production.
- Hemlock Wooly Adelgid is now established in Ohio. Although not expected to impact an important forest product, the pest may have significant impact on recreation interest in the Hocking Hills and Mohican regions. The pest has been identified in the Cantwell Cliffs area of Hocking Hills State Park and work has been earnest in trying to eradicate it from this area. The Adelgid first showed up in Ohio in the Marietta/Belpre area.
- FIA, which is a long-standing and very critical US Forest Service program to maintain forest inventory information in every state, may also be hit by budget restrictions. It was reported that USFS is considering delaying the 5 year reporting cycle to 10 years if funding cannot be maintained.
Asian Longhorned Beetle (ALB) Update
You can read the latest ALB update on the on the APHIS website. It contains status for all three infestations in Ohio, Massachusetts and New York. In Ohio, to date more than 436,000 trees have been surveyed with 9,805 infested trees identified. Most of them (9,387) have already been removed.
Expanding and New Wood Markets Help Working Forests
Here is a brief news release from the National Alliance of Forest Owners that talks about the connection between new and expanding wood markets and working forests. As there is more demand for wood, there is more demand and need for working forests. The article presents some key facts on rising population and housing demand during the 20th century and what they meant to wood markets. Rising wood demand helps to sustain forests, contrary to popular views on wood use.
Upcoming Events: Please note that some deadlines are quickly approaching!
- OFA Forestry and Wildlife Conservation Camp, June 9-14, 2013; FFA Camp Muskingum, Carroll County; http://www.ohioforest.org/?page=ForestryCamp. Camp is next week, but campers can register through this week if they are interested in attending. Please contact Gayla at OFA as soon as possible, 614-497-9580, ext. 5.
- Lumber Grading Short Course, June 10-13, 2013, Yoder Lumber Company, Millersburg, OH (Buckhorn Mill); register on-line. There are still a few spaces left for registration. Contact OFA as soon as possible to register, 614-497-9580.
- OWIN Summer Meeting, July 24-25, 2013, Christopher Conference Center, Chillicothe, OH. OFA welcomes sponsors for the OWIN Summer Meeting. Those wishing to sponsor can have their company name on the registration flyer if we get the information in time. Please contact Gayla at 614-497-9580, ext. 5 by June 10 to be included on the registration flyer.
- Thousand Canker Disease (TCD) Training, July 31, 2013, Butler County Extension Office, Hamilton, OH. This is a cooperative effort between Ohio and Indian Extension Service. It is a day-long seminar designed for foresters, land managers and anyone who has an interest in what TCD means to our walnut resource. Register on-line at the Ohio Woodland Stewards website. There is a $20 registration fee which includes a lunch. The seminar runs from 9:30 am to 3:45 pm and includes a field visit.
- OFA Lumberman’s Outing Golf and Clay Shoot, September 11, 2013; The Pines Golf Course, Orrville and Lost Bird Clay Shooting, Fredericktown.
- Paul Bunyan Show, October 4-6, 2013, Guernsey County Fairgrounds.
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