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Timber Talk 7/3/12

Posted By Denise Brosie, Wednesday, July 3, 2013
Updated: Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Happy Fourth of July!

·        State Legislative and Policy News.

  • SB 94, Ohio Forest Products Awareness Week bill signingGovernor Kasich signed SB 94 this past week, and OFA had the opportunity to participate in the signing ceremony.  Attached is a picture of the bill-signing ceremony.   OFA President Ryan Redoutey (Redoutey Logging) and First Vice-President Rob McCarthy (ITL) were able to attend the ceremony and briefly speak with Governor Kasich.  In the picture, Senator Troy Balderson (R-20)is on the far left and his aide, Greg Bennett is second from the right.
  • Ohio’s $62 Billion Budget (HB 59) Passes.  The legislative Conference Committee agreed on terms for the Budget Bill last week and it passed both legislative chambers by the end of the week.  Governor Kasich signed the budget measure late Sunday evening.  The budget was constructed with increasing state revenues and the growth of the Budget Stabilization Fund to $1 billion, or up to the statutory limit 5% of the previous year’s revenue intake.  The budget includes over $2 billion of tax cuts over the biennium, which reduces the state income tax, raises the state sales tax, eliminates the property tax rollback on new levies, and makes a variety of other changes that is believed to move toward a more consumption-based tax system and away from an income-based tax system,  leading to economic growth in the future, according to legislative sources.  The governor vetoed 22 items with the signature of the bill, however, and among the things he vetoed were:

    • A prohibition against expanding Medicaid, which the Governor has been a proponent of the entire budget process; it appears that Medicaid reform/expansion is still slated for action later this year;
    • A gas cost recovery by utilities for cleaning up old plants;
    • A provision allowing retailers to apply sales tax to certain internet sales (the governor believes the issue should be addressed at the federal level);
    • A provision to exempt gold and bullion sales tax collection;  
  • State Reviews Housing Impacts of Oil and Gas Industry.  The Ohio Housing Finance Agency issued a series of reports last week on housing markets in areas of the state impacted by the oil and gas industry.  The studies were completed by Ohio State University,  Ohio University, the Coalition on Homelessness and Housing in Ohio, and Vogt Santer Insights.  You can see the report here.  The Executive Summary on pages 1-3 outlines the key findings of the report, which in my estimation were not significant.  The report attempts to answer questions on the availability of housing for the additional work force in the area and what increased demand will mean to prices of existing and new housing.

  • Ohio Cell Phones Outnumber Ohio Population.  It was reported last week that there are now 300,000 more cell phones in use in Ohio than there are residents, with 11.8 million cell phones and a population of 11.5 million.  This is according to a report from the Ohio Telecom Association.  The report indicates data usage has nearly doubled in the last year, with an average household consuming 52 gigabytes of data each month, which is equivalent to an amazing 5 million emails per month or 100 hours of web surfing.  The report also indicates that 90% of Ohioans have a wireless phone (guess the numbers mean that a portion of them have multiple cell phones), over 41% of households do not have land lines, there are 4.3 cell phones for every land line, and half of all mobile users have a smart phone.

·         Federal Legislative and Policy News.

  • President’s Climate Action Plan.  Last week, the President announced a climate action plan that is expected to add even more regulatory burden on the forest products industry and will be in addition to already added clean air regulatory burdens that the industry is currently facing.  The plan has 3 portions: (1) reduce carbon pollution in American; (2) prepare the US for climate change impacts; and (3) lead international efforts to combat climate change.  Cutting carbon pollution, the first part of the plan will include such actions as more regulation for cutting carbon emissions from new and existing power plants; more renewable energy projects on federal lands; new energy efficiency standards for appliances and federal buildings; and identifying new approaches to protect and restore forests to preserve their role in mitigating climate change.  As would be expected with the announcement, there were groups vocally opposed to the plan and in favor of it.  Most vocally opposed were members of Ohio’s GOP delegation who are concerned with the impact on Ohio’s economy and its coal production.  Senator Rob Portman said that Ohio is already closing 8 coal-fired power plants that will result in the loss of nearly 1,000 jobs, millions in tax revenue, and the loss of nearly 6,000 megawatts of energy production.  Rep. Bill Johnson (OH-6, eastern Ohio) also raised concerns about the administration’s "war on coal.”  On the other side of the ledger, a number of environmental groups, including the Wildlife Federation of Ohio, Ohio Sierra Club, and Audubon-Ohio, applauded the announcement.
  • Report Says Current Energy Tax Provisions Have Little Real Effect on Greenhouse Gas Emissions.  As the administration has announced a new climate action plan, a report from National Research Council of the National Academy of Sciences commissioned by Congress has concluded that the entire current tax code influences only one percent of greenhouse gas emissions, according to Editor William Nordhaus, Yale University economist, and one of the authors of the report.  Attached is a statement from the Energy and Environmental Policy News on the report.  The study was commissioned in 2008 by Congress to "undertake a comprehensive review of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to identify the types of and specific tax provisions that have the largest effects on carbon and other greenhouse gas emissions and to estimate the magnitude of those effects.”  The report does say however that tax policy can substantially affect greenhouse gas emissions by directly targeting emissions, either through carbon taxes or tradable allowances.
  • Farm Bill Not Moving.  As you know, the Senate had passed their version of the Farm Bill, but the US House failed to get the bill voted out.  As a result, it is unclear when any action will take place.  A coalition of national and state forestry organizations and trade groups have sent a letter to Speaker Boehner asking that the bill be picked up again and moved forward, particularly to address the forestry and forest products industry issues.  Several issues affecting forestry, including those addressed by the Forest Products Fairness Act as well as the Silviculture Regulatory Consistency Act, both of which OFA has supported and helped push, were included in the House version of the bill.  We will continue to advocate for both of those bills, regardless of action within the Farm Bill.
  • Comprehensive Tax Reform.   Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-MT) and Ranking Member Orrin Hatch (R-UT) sent out a "Dear Colleague” letter (attached) to all Senators last week asking them for their ideas on tax reform.  According to the letter, it appears that for the most part there is interest in starting with a "blank slate” and coming up with a new tax code, although it appears that they believe some provisions will be retained to achieve specific policy objectives.  The Senate Finance Committee has been working on reform for several years, but it appears they are interested in moving this along to some resolution.
National Alliance of Forest Owners (NAFO) Report on Value of Privately Owned Forests to US Economy.  NAFO released a report recently that talks about the value of private forest lands and the economic impact of their products on the US economy.  The report indicates that the forests support 2.4 million jobs, $87 billion in payroll, $223 billion in sales, and 5.7% of all US manufacturing.  In addition, the report highlights that the US grows more trees than it harvests, and contrary to popular belief, the amount of forest land during the last century has remained stable.  You can find more information in a press release from NAFO at their website.

Columbia Forest Products Introduces New Corporate Brand and Identity
Columbia Forest Products (CFP) announced a new corporate identity last week at the opening of a new veneer production facility in Boardman, Oregon.   Columbia is North America’s leader in hardwood plywood and veneer.  The new branding initiative includes a new logo (maple leaf) and tag line (Innovating Responsibly).  You can read more about Columbia’s actions in this press release issued by the company with its announcement on June 19.  Among a list of company accomplishments, the release indicates that Columbia was

Company Ships World’s First Commercial Volume of Cellulosic Diesel Fuel.  Not long ago, we reported on the new plant in Mississippi owned by KiOR that was operated to produce oil from cellulosic fuels, primarily wood.  Here is an article in National Geographic that talks about what is understood to be the world’s first commercial production of diesel fuel.

Upcoming Events:

  • OWIN Summer Meeting, July 24-25, 2013, Chillicothe, OH.  You can register on-line at the OFA website.  Those wishing to sponsor any of the activities for the tour and activities may do so and can contact Gayla at the OFA office, 614-497-9580.
  • OFA Lumberman’s Outing, September 11, 2013, Orrville, OH
  • Paul Bunyan Show, October 4-6, 2013, Guernsey County Fairgrounds.

Quote of the Week: "Proclaim Liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof.”   This quote is inscribed on the United States Liberty Bell, a powerful symbol of American independence.  The Liberty Bell now hangs in a visitor center adjacent to Independence Hall in Philadelphia where it was first located.  The inscription is from the Old Testament, Leviticus 25:10.   As we today debate many issues in our society, the inclusion of this inscription on the most iconic example of American liberty is to me and I hope to many of us a reminder of the centrality of religious freedom and that civil authority is subservient to a higher power.  To all in OFA, enjoy and celebrate a wonderful Independence Day and especially remember the sacrifices our forefathers endured to make ours the greatest country in the world.

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