FORESTRY 411
LEGISLATIVE UPDATE
Session countdown: two weeks down, seven to go!

Lobbyist Jim Spratt reports:

As the second week closes on the Florida legislative session, you might presume things are going up in "smoke!" The legislature sent to the Governor a bill which would allow smokable marijuana if prescribed by a physician. This bill is a direct response to a 2016 Constitutional amendment which was overwhelmingly approved by Florida voters.
 
In other news, the major focus of the Association this session revolves around relief for Hurricane Michael. Residents and landowners in the areas impacted by the storm understand first hand the monumental challenges which our industry faces. Quite frankly, the numbers and overall impact are daunting. We are working in lockstep with legislators and cabinet officers trying to determine the best mechanism(s) for relief to our forest landowners. One thing is certain, as our elected officials work to balance the state budget and fund the various programs, the size and scope of any hurricane relief package will dictate how the final budget is constructed. We remain optimistic that the state of Florida will provide meaningful relief in the form of programs, loans and other tax, permit and fee relief to assist our industry on the long road to recovery.
 
As we head into week three and continue to work on hurricane relief, there are other bills on our radar screen as well. One filed bill worthy of note is SB 1648 Florida Building Codes. As filed, this legislation would require the entire envelope of a building be impact resistant as well as the use of high wind-resistant and non-combustible construction material. Without question this legislation would have devastating impacts on Florida's timber industry. At this point, there is no House companion to the Senate measure and the Senate measure has not been place onto an agenda. The Association will continue to watch this legislation closely.


In addition, Florida Forest Service Director and State Forester Jim Karels addressed the Governor and Cabinet on the major wildfire threat and other risks created by the lasting effects of Hurricane Michael's devastation of forests in the impacted areas. Learn more.


On the federal level, Senate Appropriations Chair Richard Shelby (R-AL) and Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) are working on a bipartisan spending bill that would provide aid for those impacted by recent hurricanes and wildfires. The leaders' hope to see movement before next week's recess did not come to pass, but quick action is anticipated after their return.

The House passed its own package, HR 268, in January. Shelby is said to believe that the House bill isn't broad enough or deep enough.

In other federal matters, during a recent Ways & Means Committee hearing on U.S.-China Trade Relations, Rep. Vern Buchanan (R-FL) urged Ambassador Robert Lighthizer, the U.S. trade representative, to make sure the forest sectors interests are included in the agreement currently being negotiated. In doing so, he spoke of the industry's importance to Florida. See the video here. (Forestry comments begin at 3:02.)

Retaliatory tariffs on forest products, as high as 25% on Southern Yellow Pine, have had a significant impact on exports. Before their introduction, China had become a growth market for timber and forest products over the past decade.

MEMBERSHIP MEETINGS
It's not too late to RSVP for our 2019 membership meetings!

Contact Whitney Hough ( Whitney@ForestFla.org or 850.222.5646) to claim your seat today!
FLORIDA FORESTRY TEACHERS’ TOUR: SPONSORS NEEDED 
The Florida Forestry Teachers’ Tour is an annual event that gives the Florida Forest Service and the forest industry the opportunity to share forestry’s story with educators from around the state. Teachers take back the information and insights they learn in this four-day hands-on experience and incorporate them into their curriculum during the school year. This year’s tour will be held June 18-21, based in Fernandina Beach, FL.

Sponsors are vital to the success of this program! Each $500 sponsorship allows one teacher to participate at no cost to him/herself beyond travel to and from Fernandina Beach. To become a sponsor, contact Christina Sabo ( Christina@ForestFla.org or 850.222.5646) or simply send your check, payable to the Florida Forestry Foundation, to P.O. Box 1696, Tallahassee, FL 32302. 

WANT TO GOBBLE UP SOME SAVINGS?
 Partnering with Outdoor Underwriters, Inc., the Association offers our members special reduced rates for liability insurance for hunting leases and timberland.
 
Click here for details  or contact Mike Branch (850.222.5646 or  Mike@ForestFla.org ).
CALENDAR OF EVENTS
Thursday, March 21
11:30 AM-1:30 AM (EST)
Membership Meeting/Lunch
Nutrien
White Springs, FL

Monday, March 25
11:30 AM-1:30 PM (EST)
Membership Meeting/Lunch
Coastal Plywood Company’s Magnolia Lodge 
Quincy, FL

April 30, 2019
10 AM EST
Executive Committee Meeting
Association Office
Tallahassee, FL

June 5-6, 2019
8 AM (EST)
Master Logger 2-Day Training
Lake City, FL

July 18, 2019
8 AM (CST)
Master Logger CLE Training
DeFuniak Springs, FL

August 20-22, 2019
Annual Meeting
Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort
Sandestin, FL


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