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PLNA e-News: Protecting Values In Pennsylvania

High Tunnel Bills Clear House Ag Committee Unanimously

Friday, June 14, 2013   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Gregg Robertson
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Hoop HousesHarrisburg - A set of three bills written to clarify that high tunnels are not subject to real estate taxes, were reported out of the state House Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee by unanimous votes last Tuesday.

The bills now move to the House floor, where committee chairman, John Maher (R - Allegheny) expects a vote by the full house this week.

The three bills are:

HB 1438 (Maher) – Amends the General County Assessment Law (Philadelphia and Allegheny Counties) by exempting certain agricultural structures from assessment as real estate.

HB 1439 (Hahn) – Amends Title 53 Municipalities Generally (2A through 8th class counties) by exempting certain agricultural structures from assessment as real estate.

HB 1440 (Boback) – Amends the Pennsylvania Construction Code Act by clarifying the definition of "agricultural building” to include structures used to grow agricultural and horticultural products.  Agricultural buildings are already exempt from the provisions of the Construction Code.

High tunnels or hoops houses are used extensively in the green industry for plant propagation, growing on and wintering over. Until 2006, counties had exempted them real estate taxes.

But in 2006 a Commonwealth Court decision in Custer v. Blair County Board of Assessment Appeal ruled that high tunnels could be taxed as real estate. Since then, Erie County has attempted to tax high tunnels as real property.  

This spring, PLNA has led a coalition of agricultural organizations to advocate for legislation to clarify that high tunnels are not taxable as real estate. In May, SB 638 (Vogel) passed the senate unanimously. The three bill package reported out of the House Agriculture Committee deals with the real estate tax issue, but also clarifies that high tunnels are not subject to the uniform construction code.  

Once the three bill package clears the House, the Senate and House Agriculture committees will hammer out the differences in their respective bills to come up with a final set of bills to approve and send to the governor for signature.  

PLNA appreciates the efforts of Senator Elder Vogel (R – Beaver County) and Representative John Maher and their staffs in support of this important legislation.  

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