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Timber Talk 6/29/15

Posted By Gayla Fleming, Monday, June 29, 2015

Ohio Legislative and Policy News
The Legislature is nearing the end of the spring session and trying to clear up business getting ready to go home for the summer. Here are a few items of interest:

  • Budget Clears Legislature; Ready for Governor’s Signature - Late last week, the Ohio House approved the final version of the $71.3 billion budget mostly along party lines with a 61-34 vote. The Senate approved the version the day before the House. The bill highlights include further personal income tax cuts of 6.3% along with an increase in education spending of nearly $1 billion. A number of Governor Kasich’s original proposals including raising the state sales tax, commercial activity tax, and oil and gas severance tax were removed by the legislature. The legislature did include an increase in the cigarette tax of $0.35 per pack. The Executive Budget had proposed a 100% deduction on small business taxes on income below $2 million, but the legislature changed that to a 75% deduction on the first $250,000 of income in FY 2016 and a 100% deduction in FY 2017. The Executive Budget had also proposed a 50% deduction on business income exceeding $2 million. The legislature changed that to a flat 3% rate on earnings above $250,000. The GRF funding level is over $9 billion higher in this budget than the previous two-year spending plan, which has generated criticism from some quarters. But the increase is due to the enhanced Medicaid spending, and it is reported that half of the GRF spending now is due solely to Medicaid, with $17.5 billion in FY 2016 of a total $34.9 billion in GRF spending. Education is the second largest spending requirement with $15.53 billion over the 2-year biennium. GRF spending for the Department of Natural Resources amounts to $197.4 million.
  • CAUV Changes Not Included in Budget - In spite of last minute efforts to get some key CAUV rate formula changes included in the budget bill, spearheaded by the Ohio Farm Bureau, no changes were included. The legislature elected to address those at some point in the future. OFA has been working with the Farm Bureau on CAUV rate changes, particularly those relating to woodland valuations. We will continue seeking remedies to inaccurate tax rate determinations currently being used by the Department of Taxation.
  • New Ohio Business Entities May Break Record in 2015 - Secretary of State John Husted reports that since January, 42,363 new businesses have been formed in Ohio which if the trend continues could be a record-breaking year for the state.
Hardwood Check-Off Order Comment Period Still Open
The comment period for the Hardwood Check-Off (Hardwood Lumber and Hardwood Plywood Promotion, Research, and Information Order)remains open through July 9, 2015. You can read the comments that have been submitted so far on the regulations.govwebsite. Since the Hardwood Check-Off was first opened for comment, more than 1,000 comments have been submitted. The revised order has generated approximately 80 new comments since its release on June 9, 2015 (as of this writing). You can easily add your comments on-line by going to this site.
HR 2647, The Resilient Federal Forests Act of 2015
The Resilient Federal Forests Act of 2015, HR 2647 was introduced in early June to the US House and referred to the House Committee on Natural Resources, where it was passed on June 11, 2015. It is expected to make it to the House floor for a vote in the near future. Although it has a largely western US interest, it is an important piece of legislation for any state that has federal lands with forest management interest. Briefly the bill has language that would assist federal forest managers with streamlined processes and procedures to get practices completed on the ground. We are familiar with the Wayne National Forest in Ohio that management proposals often get far too bogged down in federal bureaucracy with too little accomplished on the ground. OFA is being asked to support the bill through a national coalition of forestry interests. We are still completing review but it appears that there is no reason not to fully support signing on. You can read an editorial on this bill that gives a good summary of its potential benefits.

BWC News
The deadlines are essentially here but this is a quick reminder on a couple BWC items for participating employers. The first of July, 2015 is the start of the new policy year. New rates for both group-discounted programs in traditional group rating as well as for group retrospective rating programs will take effect on this date. Here you can find a summary of BWC’s Prospective Billing system. CareWorks, the OFA Group Rating Program administrator is advising that they are now preparing to release the initial wave of quotes for the 2016 group rating and group prospective rating programs.

Domtar Project Learning Curve – Encourages Cursive Writing Among Youth to Improve Learning
Domtar, an international paper and fiber product company, is a member of OFA. The company recently received a Silver Lion award at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity for its program called Project Learning Curve which promotes cursive writing among students as a way to enhance learning. According to the article, there has been considerable research that has found children learn, remember, express ideas, and perform better when writing by hand as opposed to other methods of learning. As part of the program, Domtar developed a mobile app that tracks handwriting, apparently the world’s first of its kind. Some of us may have heard some schools are opting out of teaching cursive handwriting. Research and efforts like those of Domtar are indicating that may not be such a good idea. Project Learning Curve is part of Domtar’s PAPER because campaign which focuses on the sustainability of paper.

Coming Events
  • Ohio Society of American Foresters Summer Meeting, July 8-9, 2015, Cambridge, Ohio. The Ohio SAF Summer Meeting will feature reforestation reclamation of strip mine sites and will include a tour of a number of tree planting projects. You can find an agenda and register on-line.
  • OWIN Summer Meeting, July 22-23, 2015, Marietta, Ohio.
  • Forest Heritage Festival, August 8, 2015, Tuscarawas County Fairgrounds.
  • Ohio Tree Farm of the Year Tour, September 19, 2015, Sycamore Hills Tree Farm, Harrison County.
  • Paul Bunyan Show, October 2-4, 2015, Guernsey County Fairgrounds.

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