A summary of activities important to Georgia's forestry community from Week Six of the 2017 session of the Georgia General Assembly, including Forestry Day at the Capitol. 
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Capitol Forestry Report with Lynn Smith | February 16, 2017
Click the image above for a brief video with Director of Government Affairs Tom Beyer and Rep. Lynn Smith, Chair of the Natural Resources Committee.  

The Legislative Landscape

We have reached Legislative Day 20, marking the official midpoint of the 2017 session. This week we saw legislation introduced addressing eminent domain and petroleum pipeline permitting, trespassing and boundary markers, deer hunting and river recreation. The Georgia Forestry Association’s (GFA) Government Affairs Team continues to be on the ground at the Capitol every day. We are engaging our state’s lawmakers on important issues impacting Georgia’s working forests as defined in our core principles, focusing on private property rights, sensible taxes and regulations and healthy markets.

Water Wars Update

Georgia scored an enormous victory this week in the tri-state “water wars.”  The Special Master who was appointed by the U.S. Supreme Court decided that Florida’s arguments against Georgia did not merit new restrictions on withdrawals. While this decision by the Special Master does not put this debate fully to rest, it still represents a major victory for Georgia’s agriculture and forestry sectors and the state’s economy. To learn more, click here.  

GFA is providing an opportunity for all members to connect with political leaders through the FORT - or Forest Resource Teams. The goal of the program will be to ultimately connect every legislator to a FORT member, further increasing the reach of our legislative activities. Our collective success depends on your engagement and getting started is easy! To learn more and sign up, visit →

Bill Tracker

Timber Tax

House Resolution 51
Sponsor: Rep. Jay Powell, R-Camilla
This constitutional amendment would change the Forest Land Protection Act (FLPA) to address inequities in the formula used to reimburse counties for losses in tax revenue from the FLPA program. Status: Ways & Means Ad Valorem Subcommittee.

House Bill 85
Sponsor: Rep. Jay Powell, R-Camilla
Substitute language, incorporating input from GFA’s Fair Market Value Task Force, is expected to be formally introduced next week in subcommittee. This is the enabling bill to HB 51, the FLPA constitutional amendment. Status: Ways & Means Ad Valorem Subcommittee.

House Bill 238
Sponsor: Rep. Matt Hatchett, R-Dublin
Legislation allowing portions of the Conservation Use Valuation Assessment (CUVA) and FLPA lands to be removed from covenant for solar energy production without breach of the entire covenant passed the full House Ways and Means Committee. It will now move to the House Rules Committee for consideration of a full vote by the House of Representatives. Status: House Rules Committee.

House Bill 204
Sponsor: Rep. Brett Harrell, R-Snellville
HB 204 passed the full House Ways and Means Committee. This legislation would prohibit the fees that tax commissioners can include on property tax bills. It also highlights the disparity between the tax base in urban and rural counties. It is concerning because of its potential to encourage increases in ad valorem taxes in rural counties. Status: House Rules Committee.

House Bill 4
Sponsor: Rep. Jason Spencer, R-Woodbine/Brunswick
Under this legislation, landowners not current on ad valorem tax payments would automatically be considered in breach of the covenant on their lands, opening the door for a landowner in the middle of an appeals process to be penalized without cause. Status: Held in House Ways and Means Ad Valorem Subcommittee.

Natural Resources 

Senate Resolution 152 
Sponsored by: Sen. Frank Ginn, R-Danielsville
The creation of a 17-member joint study committee to analyze the definition of stream buffers was passed out of the Senate Natural Resources Committee this week. With many of Georgia’s 68,000 miles of streams running through our state’s 24 million acres of forests, the definition of stream buffers has an enormous impact on the forestry, private property and water quality. GFA will be very involved in this legislation and the subsequent study committee. Status: Senate Rules Committee.

Senate Bill 191
Sponsored by: Sen. Rick Jeffares, R-McDonough
This bill attempts to address the recommendations from the 2016 Joint Study Committee on Petroleum Pipelines. The language clearly requires any petroleum pipeline company to secure a permit from the Environmental Protection Division and a certificate of need from the Georgia Environmental Finance Authority for use of eminent domain. It also increases the voice of affected landowners in the petitioning process during the Environmental Protection Division’s permitting process. It creates an exclusion zone for any pipeline project that is within 50 miles of a salt marsh. The bill in its current form raises concerns regarding private property rights and sound policy that is in the long term interest of the forestry community. The bill is being reviewed by the GFA Environmental Committee. Status: Awaiting assignment to committee.

Senate Bill 122
Sponsor: Sen. Michael Williams, R-Cumming
This is a pro-sportsman piece of legislation that would expand the deer hunting season. Status: Tabled in the Senate Natural Resources and Environment Committee.

Other Bills of Interest

Senate Bill 115
Sponsor: Sen. Frank Ginn, R- Danielsville
The Senate Agriculture and Consumer Affairs Committee discussed this bill that would prohibit the use of ethanol in any fuel products sold in the State of Georgia. Status: Tabled in the Senate Agriculture Committee.

House Bill 55
Sponsor: Rep. Rick Williams, R-Milledgeville
This legislation would establish term limits on individuals serving on professional license boards. GFA is supporting substitute language to stagger the terms and also limit the number of terms served (rather than years served). Status: House Regulated Industries Committee.

House Bill 76
Sponsor: Rep. Rick Jasperse, R-Jasper
This bill passed the House last week and awaits consideration in the Senate. The bill changes provisions relating to the information and certifications provided by land surveyors on certain documents and allows for electronic submission and signature of plat documents. Status: Awaiting a committee hearing in the Senate, has been assigned to Senate Judiciary Committee.

House Resolution 281
Sponsor: Rep. Spencer Frye, D-Athens
This is a resolution with no force of law the supports the use and enjoyment of river trails in the State of Georgia. GFA has engaged with the bill’s author, Rep. Spencer Frye, who is very supportive of private property rights for forest landowners in Georgia. Status: House Natural Resources and Environment Committee.

Senate Bill 159
Sponsor: Sen. Lee Anderson, R-Grovetown
This legislation would amend Georgia’s trespassing laws to include purple paint marks on forested land placed at 100 foot intervals to be adequate marking for trespassing. GFA has heard from many members with concerns regarding this bill, and we are working to address those concerns. 

On the Horizon (No Legislation)

Container Ban Restriction
The Senate last year passed a bill to prohibit local governments from banning paper and plastic containers. Despite a lot of work from supporters, a bill is not expected this session.  

Advocacy News

Georgia Congressman Buddy Carter Recognizes the Carbon Benefits of Working Forests

During a House Committee on Energy and Commerce hearing on Feb. 16, Congressman Buddy Carter (GA-01), a newly appointed member of the committee, championed the carbon benefits of forest biomass and the importance of markets for small diameter trees to the sustainability of Georgia's working forests. 

Following the hearing, Rep. Carter released a statement on Twitter: "I'm proud to fight for the 46,000 Georgians who work in forestry as well as their families and the communities they support."

Watch Rep. Carter's statement here →

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