The Legislative Landscape
Jan. 11 marked the first of 40 legislative days in the 2016 session of the 153rd Georgia General Assembly. With legislators convening in Atlanta, your Georgia Forestry Association (GFA) legislative team is prepared to once again protect and promote the interests of the state’s working forests, forest-based businesses and forest product manufacturers.
With most of the state’s 236 lawmakers facing re-election this year, legislative leaders will keep the session on a fast-track. They will aim to adjourn the session in mid-March in order to return home to resume campaigning and raising support in advance of the May 24 primaries.
In addition to the only constitutionally required action – a balanced state budget – legislative proposals addressing religious liberty, casino gambling, education funding, transit and medical marijuana, will be among the high-profile issues this year.
Throughout the session, GFA’s legislative team – GFA President Andres Villegas, former GFA President Steve McWilliams and former State Representative and Chair of the House Ways & Means Committee Richard Royal – will monitor legislative activity of significance to the forestry community and will weigh in to support, oppose or change legislative proposals when necessary.
- Private Property Rights
While no legislative action has been discussed or introduced at this point, GFA continues to monitor private property rights for forest landowners and will actively oppose any action that erodes landowner rights under threat of eminent domain.
- Truck Weights
In its current form, House Bill 411 would increase allowable truck weights for unfinished wood products to 84,000 lbs. from the current 80,000 lbs. with a purchase of a permit of $250 per vehicle per year from the Georgia Department of Transportation. A 5 percent variance would allow weights of 88,200 lbs. without penalty. The legislation is in the House Transportation Committee and is sponsored by Rep. Sam Watson (R-Moultrie), Rep. Dominic LaRiccia (R-Douglas), Rep. Jason Shaw (R-Lakeland), Rep. John Corbett (R-Lake Park), and GFA members Rep. Chuck Williams (R-Watkinsville) and Rep. Chad Nimmer (R-Blackshear).
The environmental community plans to pursue discussions to strengthen regulation of fresh water buffers, an important issue to many forest landowners.
- Land Conservation
Land conservation interests will seek a reauthorization of a state income tax credit to serve as a financial incentive for landowners to place their property in permanent conservation status, such as conservation easements. While not appropriate for every landowner, GFA recognizes that the tax credit program can serve as a tool for landowners seeking perpetual protection for their working farms and forests.
GFA will keep you informed via our regular Capitol Forestry Reports about the progress of these and other issues that arise. If you have any questions during the session, please contact Andres Villegas at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Capitol Forestry Reports are distributed weekly during the session of the Georgia General Assembly. This report was sent via email on Jan. 15, 2016. Click here to view the full report →