Amendment 1

Bowersville mentioned that we’re not discussing the upcoming constitutional amendments.  I’ll put up one a day.  Here’s the first.  Discuss:

Amendment 1

To encourage the preservation of Georgia’s forests through a conservation use property tax reduction program.

House Resolution No. 1276
Resolution Act No. 702
Ga. L. 2008, p. 1209

“Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended so as to provide that the General Assembly by general law shall encourage the preservation, conservation, and protection of the state’s forests through the special assessment and taxation of certain forest lands and assistance grants to local government?”( ) YES ( ) NO

This proposal directs the General Assembly to provide for a new method of ad valorem tax assessment of forest land conservation use property. Such property will include only tracts of forest land which exceed 200 acres except where the General Assembly has provided by general law for exceptions to the 200 acre limit under certain circumstances. Subject to certain qualifications, an owner of such property will be able to enter into a covenant to restrict the use of the land to current use; and the land will then be taxed according to a formula based on current use, annual productivity, and real property sales data. A breach of the covenant will result in a government recapturing the tax savings and may result in other appropriate penalties.

The General Assembly is directed to appropriate funds to local government to partially offset any loss of local revenue.

The General Assembly has enacted a law to implement this constitutional amendment. This law will become effective only if the constitutional amendment is ratified by the voters. This law is 2008 HB 1211; Act No. 464, found at Ga. Laws 2008, p. 297.

A copy of this entire proposed constitutional amendment is on file in the office of the judge of the probate court and is available for public inspection.

31 comments

  1. My kin folks call me Nick says:

    I already voted against this one.

    “encourage” & “certain forrest lands” did not strike me as the type language that would restrain the gov. from straying from the goal.

  2. Tea Party says:

    This part gives me angina as well:

    ” …Such property will include only tracts of forest land which exceed 200 acres except where the General Assembly has provided by general law for exceptions to the 200 acre limit under certain circumstances…”

  3. Tinkerhell says:

    I don’t like that they have a 200 acre limit in it – what’s wrong with someone with 5 or 50 or 100 acres that uses that land as “forest conservation land”? Why not encourage that at all levels.

    I’d still be inclined to vote yes for it, but I would like a clarification on this bit:

    “Subject to certain qualifications, an owner of such property will be able to enter into a covenant to restrict the use of the land to current use”

    What does this mean? What is the required covenant? Is it something that is going to be a 12 month term & ends up just being a tax break for someone’s friends that have huge tracts of land until such time as they decide to turn them into a new housing division? Or is this something that landowners must agree to use the land as such for 10 – 20 years to get the break?

    a bit vague.

  4. Bucky Plyler says:

    I wonder if this would change property tax provisions that are already in place for land conservation?

  5. Game Fan says:

    Actually no real opinion on this one but did read a disturbing piece on some 1000 year old cypress that was recently cut down because the property owner had to pay his property taxes. (less than $1000) something is wrong with this picture. Hey I’m Libertarian LEANING. Doesn’t mean I’m on the Libertarian plantation. (if there is one)

  6. bowersville says:

    The current conservation set aside starts at 10+ acres for ten years (I think). Also the restriction or covenant would mean once entered into by the property owner and the state the use of the property could not change for ten years.

    It doesn’t seem to me that it would change property currently in a conservation set aside until the contract expires. Then if this Amendment passes, no property under 200 acres will qualify for renewal.

    Property that is currently in a conservation set aside receives a property tax break. So by voting yes on this amendment, property under 200 acres that are currently in conservation set aside will re-enter the tax digest at assessed market value.

    Can’t wait to see how property evals are done over the next 3-4 years as the bottom keeps falling out of the home market.

  7. Bill Simon says:

    Lewis Black has a great line that inspires me to apply it to this Amendment.

    Black said (in response to the Enron crap years ago) that the new law to be written to prevent another Enron-like disaster should be: If you cannot describe in ONE sentence what a company does, the company is engaging in illegal practices.

    SO…if you cannot write an Amendment that can be explained in ONE sentence, it’s a bad Amendment.

    Whether it’s this Amendment or the crap that the US Senate just passed…I am fed-up with legislators engaging in bullsh*t legal language to screw us over.

  8. bowersville says:

    You are right. Here is the sentence that fully explains the intent of this Amendment.

    “This proposal directs the General Assembly to provide for a new method…except where the General Assembly has provided by general law for exceptions…”

    Does that help clear it up?

  9. rightofcenter says:

    I happen to be an expert on this amendment. All I can say is, if you all are as ignorant on other things that I am not an expert on as you are on this, I am going to stop reading this blog because it’s populated by a bunch of know nothings. This amendment is designed to help out the state’s largest industry (forestry) that is getting screwed big-time by our current taxing system. Currently, corporations and those individuals with more than 2,000 acres are not allowed to use the existing CUVA legislation that smaller landowners can use to have their land valued at “current use” value as opposed to market value. As a result, these landowners have seen their ad valorem tax bills go up a multiple of 5 just since 2000. Faced with lower revenues from their land and an astronomical increase in taxes, many of our state’s largest landowners have thrown in the towel and sold out to developers. If this amendment is defeated, you will see many more do so. That’s why all of the state’s environmental groups are in favor of this amendment. It’s why it passed the house unanimously and got only one no vote in the Senate (Regina Thomas). Georgia is the only southeastern state that values timberland at market value.

  10. Harry says:

    I don’t recall the details, but one big timber companies is sueing the state on this matter for redress on the basis of equal protection or nondiscrimination and if I’m not mistaken the lower court held in favor of the plaintiff. The proposed amendment is designed to forestall a unfavorable outcome for the state. Maybe some legal eagle can tell us why it takes a constitutional amendment rather than simple legislation to make this happen. Is it due to statewide override of county options? I don’t understand.

    Anecdotally, I had a large owner tell me that he would buy no more timberland in Georgia if this thing doesn’t pass.

  11. Dave Bearse says:

    The state of course will be making up the lost revenue to localities from the general fund, and very little property in metro Atlanta that could qualify.

    Passed unanimously except for a single dissenting senator, welcome to another scheme to pipe metro Atlanta tax dollars to south Georgia.

  12. Jason O says:

    In addition to the support of various environmental groups, this Amendment is also supported by the Georgia Chamber of Commerce.

    The Georgia Forestry Assocation has a page set up to promote the Amendment at http://www.forourforests.com

    I’ll let them explain it so that I don’t mess up any of the details. I think that after you read how this will work, it really will take away some of the fear that naturally arises when amending the Constitution. Please take some time to educate yourself on this before you dismiss it as sinister or unnecessary.

  13. bowersville says:

    Harry and rightofcenter both made good points IMHO.

    Harry: why can’t simple legislation make this happen?

    RoC: if you all are as ignorant on this matter as you are on other matters…

    I am ignorant on this matter and I don’t know the answer to Harry’s question.

    So I will do what I always do when I don’t know what power a constitutional amendment gives to the government.

    I’ll vote NO.

  14. In addition to the support of various environmental groups, this Amendment is also supported by the Georgia Chamber of Commerce.

    That settles it, then. I’ll be voting NO. Thank you for the info.

  15. Bill Simon says:

    ROC,

    You said this: “I happen to be an expert on this amendment. All I can say is, if you all are as ignorant on other things that I am not an expert on as you are on this, I am going to stop reading this blog because it’s populated by a bunch of know nothings.

    OOOHHH! That sounds like a threat! I’m skeered now!

  16. bowersville says:

    I wouldn’t be too worried about RoC not reading this blog anymore, he called into Boortz and said he wasn’t listening anymore.

    But I mean this, I’m taking my toys out of this sand box and I’m going home too. Now there, ppffftttt. I mean it now, you better take me serious, I’m an expert on sulking and having my way. Hear me? I mean it, I’m serious.

  17. rightofcenter says:

    Taft,
    Okay, how about this: the only group in the state that opposes amendment 1 is the Georgia School Board Association. Perhaps that will persuade you to re-consider your vote. By the way, if you vote “no” on this amendment but claim to be against raising taxes on “the rich” ala Obama, you are a hypocrite.

    I’m not a lawyer, so I can’t tell you why this has to be a constitutional amendment as opposed to legislation. But I can assure you that those who lobbied for this would be much happier if it could be changed with legislation as opposed to an amendment. It would already be law.

  18. middleman says:

    Lets See….

    I am supportive of incentives for conservation efforts..However

    This amendment is geared towards the large industrial landowners. The ones where trees are planted in rows (plantations)…similar to corn.

    The problem I see with this amendment is the 15 year timeframe and not knowing exactly what the covenants will be…

    In most cases the type of forestry practiced on these lands is short rotation harvest. The rotation between harvests is not much longer than the 15 years. In most instances it would allow the landowners to take out their current plantations till the end of the rotation and then sell the land off without having to pay any taxes.

    How does this relate to other businesses…Just imagine Wal-Mart having a tax break until they sell out all their remaining inventory.

    And yes the tax burden will be shifted to others…remember there is no such thing as a free lunch…This is not a tax break but a tax redistribution.

    In addition most of the timber planted is usually non native to the area planted, requires several herbicide treatments and in some instances increases the wildfire risk due to the lack of prescribed burning and the number of trees planted per acre.

    What would make more sense to me would be 50 year timeframe, an emphasis on restoring the forest back to it’s native condition and incentives for prescribed burning to reduce wildfire potential and severity.

  19. rightofcenter,

    No, it doesn’t persuade me. Who’s that?

    And no, I don’t claim to be against raising taxes on the rich, “ala Obama”. I claim to be against keeping taxes at the ridiculously high rate they’re at right now for everyone, and believe we need to repeal the 16th Amendment and eliminate the IRS.

    Hope that helps you.

  20. IndyInjun says:

    The existing CU exemption shifted $180 million from individual timberland owners to homeowners last year.

    This one for corps is even bigger.

Comments are closed.