AFA Releases Analysis of SB411- The Forestry Commission Merger Bill

The Alabama Forestry Association has evaluated SB411 and that analysis can be found here: http://www.alaforestry.org/associations/13323/files/SB411 Analysis.pdf  The text of the bill (in its current form) can be found here: http://www.alaforestry.org/associations/13323/files/SB0411 SFandTG SUB.pdf

AFA’s position on this bill is currently to “monitor” the legislation with the intent to ensure that the legislation and ultimate merger does nothing to dilute the mission of the AFC and to ensure that the current funding mechanisms and levels are protected.

The legislation as it stands today does change the method in which the state forester is engaged.  Currently, the Alabama Forestry Commissioners (whom are selected by the Governor and subject to senate confirmation) chooses the State Forester and the Governor has veto authority over the selection.  SB411 sets out a three person committee that requires a majority for the selection.  The three member committee includes the Governor, The Commissioner of Ag & Industries and the President of the Forestry Association.  This selection methodology was included in the legislation as it is consistent with how the State Veterinarian is selected.

AFA intends to offer an amendment that puts the selection authority back with the Alabama Forestry Commissioners, with a new three person committee composed of the Governor, the Commissioner of Ag & Industries and the Chairman of the Commission ratifying by majority the selection.  Stay tuned…..

Representative Henry Moves HB350 to the Floor

OK here is your quiz today.  True or false; the audit function for state agencies, some counties and some educational entities is housed in Alabama’s Office of State Auditor.  If you answered true….you are wrong.  This important function of state governance and accountability is currently maintained in the Office of Examiners of Public Accounts which is an agency under the control of the State Legislative branch.

On January 22nd, Representative Ed Henry (R-Hartselle) introduced HB350 which would return this function back to the constitutional office of the State Auditor.  HB350 has moved out of the House Ways & Means General Fund committee and is expected to be considered on the floor of the House this week.

Testimony provided in committee indicates that the Examiners are over 3 years behind in their audits.  FY2015 funding for the office is $6.2 million in the ETF Appropriations bill and $6.9 million in the GF Appropriations bill, so over $13 million.  Since the office is not controlled by the state’s Personnel Board, there has been little oversight over compensation.

Consolidating this office with the State Auditor’s Office has been part of the Legislative Leadership’s ongoing efforts to streamline and increase efficiencies in state government.  Supposedly, this function originally existed in the State Auditor’s office but was moved by the legislature in the 1930’s…something to do with the State Auditor at that time getting caught embezzling state monies…..

AFA supports HB350

 

 

SB411 Emerges from Committee in Senate

SB411, merging the AFC into Ag & Industries passed out of the Senate’s Finance & Taxation General Fund Committee (sponsored by Chairman Orr) with an amended substitute on March 5th.

The amendment approved in committee places the employees of the Division of Forestry under the state’s merit system.

The bill now moves to the floor of the Senate.

 

Orr Introduces Bill Consolidating the Alabama Forestry Commission and the Alabama Department of Agriculture & Industries

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As part of the ongoing effort by the Legislative Leadership to drive efficiencies in state government, Senator Arthur Orr (R-Decatur) has introduced SB411 that would merge the Alabama Forestry Commission into the Department of Agriculture & Industries, forming a newly named Department of Agriculture, Forestry & Industries.

The legislation maintains the Alabama Forestry Commission and its commissioners, keeps intact the statutory mission of the Commission and includes safeguards to ensure funding for the Commission will not be affected by the merger.

Of note, the legislation does change the method for selecting the state forester, but also sets forth that the existing state forester will remain in place.

The bill transfers the duties, responsibilities, papers, funds, property and other effects of the State Forestry Commission to the Division of State Forestry within the Department.  The effective date of the legislation in its current form is October 1, 2014.

If you will recall, the police function of the Commission had been previously transferred to the Department of Public Safety through another consolidation effort passed by the legislature in 2012.  The transfer of these officers was to occur January 1, 2015, so this will be a little confusing as they will move from the Commission to the Department for three months at the end of the year and then on to their new home at the first of next year.

AFA is monitoring the legislation