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PLNA e-News: Protecting Values In Pennsylvania

End of Session Legislative Update

Monday, November 14, 2016   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Gregg Robertson
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CapitolHARRISBURG – The Pennsylvania General Assembly will reach the end of its two-year session on November 30, at which time all bills not passed will die. Several bills that PLNA was watching will die with the end of session.

Exempting High Tunnels from the Storm Water Management Act

HB 1103 would exempt high tunnels from the planning and regulatory requirements of the Storm Water Management Act. Unfortunately, the bill will die at session end November 30.

The bill had passed the House and was set to be voted on in the Senate, but was opposed by township and county government associations. To appease the local and county government associations, the bill was amended in committee to require that, to be exempt from storm water management requirements, a high tunnel must be moved every two years.

This amendment would have made the bill useless to most PLNA members who generally have their high tunnels in place for many years. PLNA then withdrew its support for the amended bill and time ran out on the legislative session before a compromise could be reached.

Some townships in Lancaster County have begun requiring that high tunnels constructed within their jurisdictions be subject to storm water planning and engineering requirements. These requirements can cost the nursery or farm constructing the high tunnel thousands of dollars.

High tunnels have been receiving increasing local government scrutiny over the past several years. In 2013, PLNA and other agriculture organizations were successful in encouraging the General Assembly to pass bills exempting high tunnels from real estate taxes.

In 2014, PLNA and its agriculture partners also successfully sought legislation that clarified that high tunnels and other agricultural buildings are not subject to the building requirements of the Uniform Construction Code (UCC).

High tunnels are an inexpensive way of extending the growing season and protecting plants from harsh winter conditions. If they are taxed and subject to expensive regulatory programs, high tunnels will lose their economic advantages.

PLNA will seek to have a new version of HB 1103 introduced in the new session beginning January 2017.

The Controlled Plant and Noxious Weed Act

The Controlled Plant and Noxious Weed Act was introduced as a bill by state Senator David Argall (R-Schuylkill). The bill would regulate plants with undesirable characteristics and tendencies. This new bill expanded the noxious weed control authority that the Department of Agriculture (PDA) now has. The bill died in the Senate Appropriations Committee at the end of session.

The proposed law, Pennsylvania SB 1110, would have created two types of regulated plants: noxious weeds and controlled plants. A new Controlled Plant and Noxious Weed Committee would have the ability to classify plants into one category or the other. Noxious weeds would be banned completely or very closely regulated and controlled plants would be allowed to be grown under a permit issued by the Department.

The Pennsylvania Landscape and Nursery Association (PLNA) worked closely with the PDA in drafting the proposed law, going through some six drafts over three years before arriving at the current bill language. The green industry would have a voting representative on the Controlled Plant Committee.

PLNA expects the bill to be reintroduced in the new session come January 2017.

If you have comments on the bill, please call (717.238.2033) or email Gregg Robertson, PLNA government relations consultant.

Fertilizer Bill

The fertilizer bill that PLNA worked with PDA in drafting was never introduced. Things hung up when EPA refused to give credit to Pennsylvania in meeting Chesapeake Bay cleanup goals for the bill, essentially saying that there was no environmental benefit to the proposed regulatory structure.

Whether the bill is introduced in the new General Assembly session will depend on negotiations with EPA in obtaining Chesapeake Bay credits.

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