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AFA Newsroom Archive [V9N2] [1-15-14]
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AFA Newsroom V9 No. 2, January 15, 2014

Regular Session Kicks off Tuesday; Lawmakers Want to End Session Early for Campaigning

The 2014 Regular Session of the Alabama Legislature kicks off today, Tuesday, January 14, 2014. Legislative leaders have announced that they want to end the session in early April in order to add more time to the 2014 reelection campaign clock. 

By law, each legislative session is given 105 calendar days in which to structure and expend 30 working days. So, the session could theoretically run until April 28. It remains to be seen whether the session will end on that day or earlier. 

As for the 2014 election cycle, party primaries will be held on June 3, primary runoffs will be held on July 15, and the General Election will be held on November 4, 2014. In between, municipal elections in Auburn, Bessemer, Gadsden, Huntsville, Mountain Brook and Scottsboro, will be held on August 26, 2014, according to the Secretary of State's office.

With a combined total of almost 500 bills prefiled in the House and Senate, and scores expected to be introduced today, there will be a lot of work ahead for the Legislature this year. We wish lawmakers good luck in taking care of the vital things with a minimum of controversy!    

So Far, So Good for Court Action in Lynch Case!

The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals has upheld the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Alabama, by ruling that the current property tax system in Alabama is not unconstitutional or discriminatory.

Plaintiffs in the case, styled Lynch V. Alabama, have challenged Alabama's property tax system and asked the court to throw out the whole system and either force the Legislature to draft a new one, or allow the court to draft a system itself.

But a 3-judge panel at the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with the District Court judge saying that the property tax system in Alabama was based more on economic considerations and was not designed to discriminate against minorities. 


Tuscaloosa News Editorial Right About Lynch Case Decision

The U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled in the state of Alabama’s favor, finding that its system of taxation is constitutional. That should have been readily evident before the case was heard, and it should put to rest further attempts to bypass citizens and raise Alabama’s taxes through the court system.

Read full editorial

Georgia Power Plans to Cancel Biomass Project 

ATLANTA, / PRNewswire/ -- Georgia Power announced recently that it plans to file a request in 2014 with the Georgia Public Service Commission (PSC) to decertify Unit 3 at Plant Mitchell in Albany, Ga. The company is also cancelling the previously proposed conversion of the coal-fired unit to biomass after extensive review and analysis deemed the conversion would not be cost effective for its customers.
If the request to decertify the 155 megawatt (MW) unit is approved, it will be retired by April 16, 2015 – the compliance date of the United States Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS) Rule.


ForestFund Returns $3.1 Million to Participating Members 

Checks totaling $3.15 million were mailed recently to participants in the Workers’ Compensation Insurance fund known as ForestFund.

“Checks have been mailed to 475 ForestFund participants totaling $3,150,000,” said ForestFund Administrator Boyd Kelly. “Members with loss ratios less than 75% qualified for refunds of a portion of the payments they made in 2012 for securing their Workers’ Compensation coverage through ForestFund. ForestFund has returned more than $82 million in ‘dividends’ since 1990.”

Read Full Release...

Montgomery Legislator Greg Wren says he Will Not Seek Re-election This year

State Representative Greg Wren, R-Montgomery, has announced that he will not seek re-election to his House District 75 seat this year. Wren, who has served his district for 16 out of the past 20 years, thanked his constituents for the opportunity they gave him to be their House member.
Greg is a conservative Republican with a strong pro-business voting record.

The Montgomery Rep. did not give a reason for why he is stepping aside.

Kicking Off 2014: Time to Get Our House in Order for the New Year! 

By ALC Director Ray Clifton

Our challenge in 2014 will be to continue to strengthen the ALC by increasing membership, participation, and political influence.

Since we are a member-driven organization, I need your help to serve you better. Specifically, the end of a calendar year is always a time of reflection — to look back on what we have accomplished (or failed to accomplish) and to set goals for the year to come.

Read Logger Notes... 

Alabama AG Luther Strange Joins Other States to Challenge Obama on Obamacare Changes

Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange has joined with Attorney's General of 10 other states to challenge the ability of President Barack Obama to alter the Affordable Care Act (aka, Obamacare) by executive edict as opposed to legislation passed by the U.S.  Congress. Strange joined his colleagues in a letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, writing:

"Dear Secretary Sebelius,
As the chief legal officers of our States, we are concerned that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has proposed a rule that both compounds illegal executive action and fails to protect the privacy of consumers using the health insurance exchanges. 78 Fed. Reg. 72,322 (Dec 2, 2013). First, the proposed rule includes changes intended to accommodate the President's recent "administrative fix" regarding cancelled health insurance plans. But the fix is flatly illegal under federal constitutional and statutory law. We support allowing citizens to keep their health insurance coverage, but the only way to fix this problem-ridden law is to enact changes lawfully: through congressional action.

Read Full Letter

Next Wave of Obamacare Pyrotechnics to Hit Employees of Small Companies Later This Year

When millions of health-insurance plans were canceled last fall, the Obama administration tried to be reassuring, saying the terminations affected only the small minority of Americans who bought individual policies.

But according to industry analysts, insurers and state regulators, the disruption will be far greater, potentially affecting millions of people who receive insurance through small employers by the end of 2014.


SFI Seeks Proposals for its Grants Program

WASHINGTON, DC – As part of its ongoing efforts toward continuous improvement in sustainable forestry, the Sustainable Forestry Initiative® (SFI®) opened its 2014 Request for Proposals (RFP) for the Conservation and Community Partnerships Grant Program.  SFI will invest in conservation research projects and collaborative partnerships that explain or inform the role of sustainable forest management in Carbon and Bioenergy; Forest Health; Water; Capacity Building; and Wildlife, Fish and Biodiversity.

Read more... 

SFI Reaches Out to Thousands to Improve Forestry Standard

WASHINGTON, D.C. and OTTAWA, ON – In one of the most expansive and inclusive processes to seek input from a resource sector, the Sustainable Forestry Initiative® (SFI®) has invited nearly 10,000 stakeholders to submit comments on the draft SFI 2015-2019 Standard in its second 60-day public comment period. This open and public comment period runs from January 6 – March 6, 2014 and provides a transparent opportunity for anybody interested in the future of our forests to provide comment. The draft SFI 2015-2019 Standard includes new performance measures to conserve biodiversity in fiber sourcing; limit conversion of one forest type to another; and expand the definition of “controversial sources,” which are not allowed in SFI-labeled products.
Read more...

Lynn Wilson Elected Executive Vice President of Forest Resources at Rayonier

JACKSONVILLE, Fla.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Jan. 13, 2014-- Rayonier (NYSE:RYN) today announced that its board of directors has elected Lynn Wilson to the position of Executive Vice President, Forest Resources.

“Since joining Rayonier, Lynn has led the successful integration of multiple acquisitions, assumed responsibility for our international forestry operations and driven our Forest Resources business to greater levels of operating efficiency,” stated Paul Boynton, Chairman, President and CEO. “This new title appropriately reflects Lynn’s recently broadened global leadership role and her sustained success in leading our forestry operations.”


Longleaf Pine Restoration Cost Share Applications Available to Landowners

The Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries Division (WFF) of the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (ADCNR) is currently accepting applications through its Landowner Incentive Program (LIP) to continue longleaf pine restoration efforts in Alabama. The grant was awarded through a partnership with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), and will be made available to qualifying landowners for longleaf pine restoration on private lands.


San Francisco Ecos want "Global Warming" Warnings on Gas Pumps

First cigarettes, now gas pumps.

A group of San Francisco environmentalists want to remind drivers that refilling their cars with gas is leading to global warming by slapping a sticker on gas pumps similar to those you find on a carton of cigarettes, The San Francisco Chronicle reported.


Molpus Buys Land in New York State

Jackson, Mississippi - The Molpus Woodlands Group, LLC (Molpus), a timberland investment management organization (TIMO) headquartered in Jackson, Mississippi, has announced today, on behalf of a client, the successful purchase of approximately 130,659 acres in New York for approximately $57,500,000.


What Happens When Green Isn't All it's Cracked up to Be?  

NEW ORLEANS | Actor Brad Pitt's Make It Right Foundation, which has built 100 energy-efficient new homes in the Hurricane Katrina-ravaged Lower 9th Ward, is considering legal action against the manufacturer of an innovative glass-infused wood that was used in some of the homes' outdoor steps and front porches.
The wood has begun rotting, despite being guaranteed for 40 years, a Make It Right spokeswoman said.


The 2014 Tax Brackets

Every year, the IRS adjusts more than forty tax provisions for inflation. This is done to prevent what is called “bracket creep.” This is the phenomenon by which people are pushed into higher income tax brackets or have reduced value from credits or deductions due to inflation instead of any increase in real income.

The IRS uses the Consumer Price Index (CPI) to calculate the past year’s inflation and adjusts income thresholds, deduction amounts, and credit values accordingly.

Read more... 

Pre-order the New Forest History Book at a 30% Discount Over Retail!

Be one of the first to own Green Gold, the new forest history book written by Dr. Jim Fickle, and enjoy a 30% discount. Download the attached flyer/pre-order form and you can receive your copy hot off the press!
The book's publisher, the University of Alabama Press, says the book will be printed and ready for distribution early next year under the title: 
Green Gold: Alabama's Forests and Forest Industries.    

If you are interested in buying advance copies of the book the publisher is offering a 30% discount for buying the book while it is still going through the process of being refined and printed. If you are interested in the comprehensive history of forestry in Alabama, go ahead and use the attached fillable PDF to place your order.

 These books make excellent gifts for friends and family! So go ahead and sign up for an early copy

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