Federal Policy Issues

Policy Overview

Coalition of Ohio Land Trusts (COLT) work to advance critical state and federal land conservation policy initiatives and legislation, such as property tax reform, and renewal of the Clean Ohio Fund, in partnership with other statewide groups such as Ohio League of Conservation Voters and Mainstream Green Coalition.

 

For detailed information on key federal policy and legislative initiatives and ways to advocate on important issues, visit: www.landtrustalliance.org/policy

Chagrin River in October  Photo provided by: Gates Mills Land Conservancy

Chagrin River in October 
Photo provided by: Gates Mills Land Conservancy

 

LEGISLATIVE AND POLICY REPORT

APRIL 2014

 

FEDERAL

Due to a two-week spring recess, Congress met for 10 working days this month but both the House and Senate conducted hearings on the 2015 federal budget. 

 

Tax:   The Senate Finance Committee marked up an “extenders” bill,” which addresses many provisions of tax law that are not permanent and have expired or about to expire.  Included is a provision to reinstate and extend for two years (from December 31, 2013) the enhanced tax deductions from donations of conservation easements.  The House’s version would allow the enhanced deduction to become permanent tax law if the major reform bill sponsored by Rep. Dave Camp (R-MI) becomes law.  Rep. Camp is the chair of the House Ways and Means Committee.  It is unlikely that either bill will be considered by either chamber prior to the November election.  And, post-midterm elections, it is more likely that the Senate bill would move rather than Chairman Camp’s version. 

 

Odds and Ends:

Senators Sherrod Brown and Rob Portman and Representatives Marcy Kaptur, Marcia Fudge, David Joyce, and Bob Gibbs sent a letter to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) requesting they develop a contingency plan to dumping dredge material from local bodies of water into Lake Erie.  The USACE submitted a request for the Cuyahoga River and Cleveland Harbor but its proposal to dump the dredge material into Lake Erie has raised concerns from environmental groups and the OH EPA.

 

STATE OF OHIO

The General Assembly spent the first 10 days of the month in a flurry of legislative activity and recessed on April 10 through early May.  Members are spending the next few weeks campaigning for the May 6 primary elections.  

 

Agriculture:  The Ohio House of Representatives passed SB 150, which requires state certification for all commercial fertilizer applicators in the state.  The Nature Conservancy supported the legislation publicly by giving testimony before the Senate Agriculture and House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee and offered suggestions for improving the bill.  Several recommendations were incorporated into the final legislation.  Because the House amended the bill, the Senate will need to vote on accepting the amended bill prior to it being sent to the Governor for signature. 

 

Energy Development:  The Department of Natural Resources announced a policy change that it will enforce more stringent permits for horizontal drilling within three miles of a known fault or area of seismic activity greater than a 2.0 magnitude.  The agency will require companies to install sensitive seismic monitors and if the monitors detect a seismic event in excess of 1.0 magnitude, activities would pause while the cause is investigated.  If the investigation determines a probably connection to the hydraulic fracturing process all well completion operations will be suspended.  The agency will develop new criteria and permit conditions for new applications based on the policy change, and will review previously issued permits that have not been drilled.  

 

Ohio EPA:  The agency approved a request from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) to dredge Cleveland Harbor and the Cuyahoga River but denied the Corps’ request for open lake disposal of the dredge material. 

 

May Elections: Ohio’s primary elections will be held on Tuesday, May 6.  Candidates will be chosen for all Congressional and Ohio House of Representatives’ seats, all statewide offices, and half of the Ohio Senate seats, as well as many local and county offices.  State Issue 1, a constitutional amendment, is also on the ballot.  If approved, it would authorize the state of Ohio to issue $1.875 billion in general obligation bonds to support public infrastructure projects over the next 10 years. 

 

Odds and Ends:

·         The Ohio Senate has added “as needed” Senate Session days on June 3, 4, 10, and 11 to its spring calendar. 

 

·         Rep. Ross McGregor (R-Springfield) introduced HB 515, which would establish requirements governing contracts for harvesting of timber and enforcement procedures and penalties for timber theft.  The bill was referred to the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee. 

 

·         Bob Boyles has been named Deputy Director at the Ohio Department of Natural Resources  overseeing  the Departments of Wildlife, Mineral Resources Management, and Forestry.  He will continue to serve as Chief, Division of Forestry, and State Forester, positions he has held since 2011.    

 

 

Federal Policy Links

Public Land Conservation Funding

The 2008 Farm Bill and recent appropriations cycles have provided dramatic funding increases for Farm Bill conservation programs, the Land and Water Conservation Fund and other federal conservation programs. Now the America's Great Outdoors Initiative provides a promising opportunity to do even more, but cuts to Farm Bill conservation programs in the FY11 budget show that we must remain vigilant. 
To learn more, click to visit the Land Trust Alliance website. 

Become a Land Trust Advocate

Every year, the federal government makes key decisions on the tax incentives for land or conservation easements; on the rules that 501(c)(3) organizations must follow; on funding for a host of federal and state land protections; and about grant programs that can help you protect lands in your community.

Members of Congress and other public officials rely on their constituents for informed opinions on proposed legislation, policy issues and regulations. The Land Trust Alliance can tell them what the issues are, but only YOU can make them care! Advocates Alerts provide the information you need to make a difference with policymakers.
To learn more, click to visit the Land Trust Alliance website.