A summary of activities important to Georgia's forestry community from Week Four of the 2017 session of the Georgia General Assembly.
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Capitol Forestry Report with Rep. Jon Burns | Feb. 2, 2017
Click the image above for a brief video message on the progress at the State Capitol and the Association's advocacy efforts.

Governor Deal Signs Executive Order to Lift Restrictions on Hauling Storm Damaged Timber

This week, with support from the Georgia Forestry Association (GFA), the Georgia Forestry Commission (GFC) worked closely with the Governor's Office to sign an Executive Order with the purpose of increasing the maximum allowable weight for log trucks hauling storm damaged timber to 95 thousand pounds.

Members of the forestry community must apply for a permit through the Georgia Department of Transportation, Oversize Permit Unit, during normal business hours from 7:00 a.m. to 4:45 p.m., Monday through Friday, by calling 1-844-837-5500. 

The Legislative Landscape

At the end of Legislative Day 12, several pieces of legislation have already been considered and passed by each chamber. The Senate Appropriations Subcommittees reviewed the FY17 amended budget which included a hearing in the Agriculture and Natural Resources Subcommittee to examine the Georgia Forestry Commission’s (GFC) funding, which contains $10 million for GFC’s firefighting equipment and maintenance account. Chairman John Wilkinson praised the great work that GFC does daily to protect our state’s forests.

Land Valuation and the Forest Land Protection Act

House Bill 85, which seeks to address the way forestland is valued under the Forest Land Protection Act (FLPA) is still in subcommittee. The Georgia Forestry Association's Fair Market Value Task Force is working closely with interested parties to develop substitute language that will be acceptable to the forestry community. Stay tuned as we expect a substitute bill to be introduced soon.  

Bill Tracker

House Resolution 51
Sponsor: Rep. Jay Powell, R-Camilla
This constitutional amendment would change the FLPA to address inequities in the formula that is used to reimburse counties for losses in tax revenue from the FLPA program.

House Bill 85
Sponsor: Rep. Jay Powell, R-Camilla
This is the enabling bill to HB 51, the FLPA constitutional amendment. In its current form, the bill has several issues that are being addressed by a GFA task force.

House Bill 4
Sponsor: Rep. Jason Spencer, R-Woodbine/Brunswick
Landowners not current on ad valorem tax payments would automatically be considered in breach of the covenant on their lands. This legislation is troubling because a landowner in the middle of an appeals process could be penalized without cause. A hearing by the Ways and Means Ad Valorem Subcommittee was held on this legislation, and many members of the subcommittee had strong concerns about this legislation.  

House Bill 55
Sponsor: Rep. Rick Williams, R-Milledgeville
This legislation would establish term limits on individuals serving on professional license boards. No individual would be allowed to serve more than eight consecutive years. This bill would impact Georgia’s State Board of Registration for Foresters.

House Bill 76
Sponsor: Rep. Rick Jasperse, R-Jasper
This legislation would change provisions relating to the information and certifications provided by land surveyors on certain documents. The House Judiciary Committee held a hearing and favorably reported on this legislation out of committee.

Senate Resolution 152: Stream Buffer Study Committee
Sponsored by: Sen. Frank Ginn, Sen. Rick Jeffares, Sen. Steve Gooch, Sen. William Ligon, Sen. Butch Miller, and Sen. Blake Tillery
This resolution will establish a 17 member Joint Study Committee on Stream Buffers in Georgia to evaluate existing data, challenges, and the current practices surrounding stream buffers. The committee will consist of 5 members of the House, 5 of the Senate, the EPD Director, and 6 private sector appointees by the House and Senate. (Source: Georgia Farm Bureau)

On the Horizon (No Legislation)

River Trails 
A draft text for a resolution has been written that would encourage the use of “river trails.” While there is nothing inherently wrong with Georgians enjoying the outdoors on a river trail, this must not come at the expense of private property rights.

Container Ban Restriction
The Senate last year passed a bill to prohibit local governments from banning paper and plastic containers. That bill failed on the House floor, but proponents hope to revive the measure this year. (Source: Georgia Paper & Forest Products Association)

Petroleum Pipelines
More than one bill is expected soon that will begin to address several of the concerns identified by the Petroleum Pipeline Study Committee as outlined in their report that was released earlier this week.

Advocacy News

Beer deal allowing direct sales from breweries advances in Georgia

Legislation advanced Monday that would allow beer lovers to buy directly from Georgia’s craft breweries and brew pubs.

Senate Bill 85, sponsored by state Sen. Rick Jeffares, R-McDonough, represents a compromise that would end a decades-old stand-off between the brewers and the state’s beer wholesalers who for years have fought to protect their position as middleman between beer manufacturers and retailers.

Read more →

A House Republican’s plan to fix Georgia’s rural hospital crisis

A House Republican will introduce a measure this week that would create as many as 100 new healthcare centers geared to low-income residents in some of the state’s poorest areas.

State Rep. Geoff Duncan, a Cumming health executive with an eye on higher office, said his measure would amount to a “tectonic shift” in Georgia’s healthcare policy that was partly prompted by the collapse of rural hospitals. At least eight have shuttered since 2001 and more than a dozen others are on the verge of failing.

Read more →

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