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Weekly News 4.23.12

Posted By John Dorka, Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Weekly News 4.23.12

  • AEP Rate Issue. Last week, OFA met with the Ohio Construction Energy Coalition (CMEC – 4 trade group coalition) to discuss our strategy to file a motion for intervention in the AEP ESP Rate Case with PUCO. The group intends to file a motion and in the process will monitor motions filed by other trade groups and interested parties. I should mention that there is another "AEP Capacity Case” pending before PUCO but the CEMC does not intend to file a motion in the case. The day following our meeting, the Columbus Dispatch had an article that mentioned the Construction Materials Coalition and quoted the attorney who has been retained to represent our interests. The article mentions that the Ohio Farm Bureau has also filed a motion for intervention. Finally, PUCO established a schedule for public hearings to allow PUCO to gather additional information on the AEP Rate Case. Information on the date, time, and locations for the public hearings can be found at the end of the article just mentioned. There are 4 public hearings scheduled in Canton (April 26), Columbus (April 30), Chillicothe (May1), and Lima (May 3). All are at 6 PM in the evening.

  • Workers Compensation Legislative News. There are several new bills introduced in the legislature last week dealing with Worker Compensation Issues. House Bills 516, 517, and 518 are all proposals to make numerous changes to the Worker Compensation Law. Among the number of changes are proposals to require injured workers to use a health care provider within the managed care organizations network after 45 days, to require a workers' compensation claimant that refuses or unreasonably delays treatment without good cause to forfeit compensation and benefits during the time period of refusal or delay, and to summarily suspend a provider's certification to participate in the Health Partnership Program, including specifying procedures for that suspension, and to exempt documents, reports, and evidence pertaining to a workers' compensation fraud investigation from the Public Records Law. At introduction, there was significant opposition to the proposals from the Democratic side of the house as well as labor organizations, particularly with the loss of injured employee choice on doctor and treatment, an arrangement that some argued was a compromise between business and labor when the original Worker Compensation System was created.

  • Other Ohio Legislative Activity:
    1. HB 18 Business Tax Credit. This bill would authorize grants to an employer that moves operations into a previously vacant facility and increases payroll by hiring and employing employees at the facility. The bill describes how companies and facilities can qualify to receive grants. The bill authorizes up to $2 million of funding to pay for grants. Grants will amount to $500 per employee for businesses that create new jobs in vacant facilities.
    2. HB 522 Establishes a Test to Determine whether an individual providing services for or on behalf of certain motor transportation companies is considered an employee under Ohio’s Overtime, Workers’ Compensation, and Unemployment Compensation Laws. The title is self-explanatory but the bill proposes 8 criteria for establishing whether or not a person who provides services to a motor transportation company is in fact an employee of that company (i.e. not an employee if the person owns the vehicle being driven, provides the maintenance, is responsible for the operating costs, provides the personal services to operate the vehicle, compensation is based on work performed, substantially controls the manner services are provided, and the individual enters into a written contract that describes the relationship. Here is an excerpt from the bill that outlines the 8 criteria for determining an employee.
    3. SB 315 Energy Policy. The Senate is considering a number of changes to the state energy and natural resource laws. To that end a question recently came up on woody biomass to which OFA provided some insight. It is not yet clear if any changes will be made to existing law regarding biomass.

  • United Regional Purchasing Cooperative (URPC) Meeting. OFA attended a meeting of members of the United Regional Purchasing Cooperative, a group of 16 businesses and associations that have pooled interest to enter into a purchasing cooperative through BizUnite. I hope that OFA members have been receiving information from BizUnite on opportunities to purchase goods and services at reduced rates. I know that some members have had a chance to take advantage of the opportunities. The meeting was called to discuss the overall effectiveness of the coop and whether the URPC should continue in operation. Although some members indicated minimal involvement, OFA advised that the arrangement has proved beneficial to OFA members, and we will continue promoting the service as long as URPC stays active. The group agreed to maintain the purchasing coop and ideas were discussed how to get better involvement from all members, as well as recruit new members.

  • Ohio Valley Lumber Drying Association (OVLDA) Joint Spring Meeting. OFA was asked to participate in the Joint Spring Meeting of the OVLDA and the Allegheny Lumber Drying Club in Marietta last week. During the meeting, there were tours of Haessly Hardwood Lumber Co. in Marietta and Superior Hardwood of Ohio in Barlow. At the meeting, I provided an update on OFA activities. The meeting was very informative with a number of topics discussed, including a presentation by Kenya Stump, Kentucky Division of Air Quality on the new and evolving EPA Boiler rules and regulations and what they may mean for wood manufacturing facilities. There were also good presentation on Getting Your Dip Tank Ready for Spring and Summer Use by Kenny Michaels of ISK Biocide and a presentation on Uses and Hazards of Moisture Meters by Dr. Brian Bond, Virginia Tech. It appears that the next meeting will involve a Kiln Drying Seminar planned for West Virginia sometime in November. Stay tuned for details on that event.

  • Research on Better Protection for Forest Machinery Operators. Here is an article from the US Forest Service Southern Research Station on research it has been conducting regarding cab protection for forest machine operators. The station particularly looked at the capacity of heavy duty polycarbonate windows to withstand flying pieces of broken cutting heads. The principle findings were thathalf-inch monolithic polycarbonate (typical forest machine equipment) was not sufficient to stop penetration of large saw teeth at high velocity.Smaller openings were more likely to fail than curved windows and larger openings. Panel temperature, however, was the most significant factor affecting performance of polycarbonate. All tests of the material below 0°F resulted in brittle failure. "We learned that cold temperature is generally the limiting factor with polycarbonate materials. Our testing measured resistance to impact at temperatures down to 25 below zero,” according to Bob Rummer, Project Leader. Research results will be used to improve ISO standards for forest machines.

  • Farm Bill Package Released. Last week, Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Chair of the Senate Agriculture Committee, released her version of the 2012 Farm Bill. The bill is favorable toward a number of forestry interests. Priorities include strengthened funding for forest inventory and analysis, creating open markets for forest products through the USDA Biobased Markets Program (including protecting "mature markets” for forest products), broader opportunities for forest landowners to participate in landowner conservation programs, and a focus on treating invasive species. You can take a look at a brief 2-page summary of the package highlights on the Tree Farm System website.

  • American Tree Farm Program April Leadership Update. Here is a link to the latest issue of the ATF Leadership Update. The update includes information on a new VP for Family Forests and the loss of the Director of Communications, on-line tools for members to use to promote the ATFS, advocacy information on the Farm Bill and taxes affecting landowners, ATFS certification issues particularly with LEED, and other information on meetings and education and outreach sessions.

  • Postal Reform Information. AF&PA has taken a position on postal reform, which has been a hot topic over the last year as Congress wrestles with keeping the US Postal Service solvent and functioning. Last week, the Senate passed by a large margin (74-22) an amended substitute version of The 21st Century Postal Service Act of 2012 (S. 1789). AF&PA reports that it supports the key inclusions in the amended bill including a 2-year delay in the move to 5-day delivery with emphasis on downsizing rather than closing processing facilities identified for closure, overnight delivery for first class mail will be maintained for local mail, establishes a financial advisory commission to develop strategy for long-term solvency, requires USPS to consider community impact to potential closures and requires consideration of alternatives to closures like reduced hours or retail service options, the retiree health benefit payment schedule goes from 10 years to 40 years, and allows USPS to negotiate new health benefits with employees which could include removing USPS from the federal fixed health benefits program.

  • Update on Steve Brown. The latest news on Steve is that he has been released from Dodd Hall at OSU Hospital and is now convalescing at home. He will be in a back brace for 2 months, but is walking with assistance and working on coordination and balance. Local rehab will begin on May 1. He passes along that he has sincerely appreciated all the cards, good wishes, and prayers from friends and colleagues. He can start taking visitors and anyone interested in visiting should call to arrange a convenient time. For more specific information, you can contact Betsy Davidson at the Glatfelter Woodlands Office, 740-772-3836.

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).

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