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BILL AS INTRODUCED 2007-2008

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H.857

Introduced by Representative Masland of Thetford

Referred to Committee on

Date:

Subject:  Conservation; tax; forests and parks; heavy cutting; audit

Statement of purpose:  This bill proposes that the department of forests, parks and recreation, in consultation with the department of taxes, investigate compliance with the state heavy cutting law and land gains tax requirements for timber harvests and report its results to the general assembly.  It also proposes to provide that if the secretary of natural resources determines that there has been a violation of the heavy cutting law, the secretary may not issue a potable water and wastewater permit until five years have elapsed from the date the landowner under whose ownership the harvest occurred acquired the parcel.  This shall apply only to situations in which timberland is being converted to nontimberland in a manner that involves 100 acres or more.

AN ACT RELATING TO HEAVY CUTTING, ENFORCEMENT OF THE HEAVY CUTTING LAW, AND THE LAND GAINS TAX FOR TIMBER HARVESTS

It is hereby enacted by the General Assembly of the State of Vermont:


Sec. 1.  HEAVY CUTTING AND LAND GAINS TAX AUDIT

(a)  The department of forests, parks and recreation, in consultation with the department of taxes, shall investigate compliance by foresters of the state with the requirements of the heavy cutting law under section 2625 of Title 10 and the land gains tax under chapter 236 of Title 32.  In each county of the state, the department of forests, parks and recreation randomly shall select 20 properties from which 35 acres or more of timber has been harvested and sold within seven years of the purchase of the property.  The investigation required by this subsection shall include, where authorized by law, visits to and stump cruises of the selected properties.

(b)  The department of forests, parks and recreation shall report the results of its investigation to the general assembly by January 15, 2008.  The report shall include:

(1)  The number of properties for which a land gains claim was filed as required under chapter 236 of Title 32.

(2)  The number of properties for which a heavy cut permit was obtained as required by section 2625 of Title 10.

(3)  A determination of whether the proposed timber harvest identified in a heavy cut permit application is consistent with a department of forests, parks and recreation stumpage estimate of the relevant site.

(4)  After consultation with the department of taxes and subject to limitations on the disclosure of tax returns and related documents under subdivision 317(c)(6) of Title 1, whether there are discrepancies between the stumpage figures reported in relevant land gains tax claims and the department of forests, parks and recreation stumpage estimates.

Sec. 2. 10 V.S.A. § 1973(j) is added to read:

(j)  If the secretary determines that timber on the parcel that is the subject of an application for a permit under this section has been harvested in a manner that constitutes a violation of section 2625 of this title, relating to the regulation of heavy cutting, or the rules adopted under that section, or in a manner that constitutes noncompliance with a harvesting plan or management plan that constitutes an exemption to that section, the secretary must determine prior to granting the permit that five years have elapsed from the date the landowner under whose ownership the harvest occurred acquired the parcel; provided that the secretary finds all of the following:

(1)  Within five years prior to the date of the permit application, the land to which the permit application pertains was used primarily as a timberland.

(2)  Within five years prior to the date of the subdivision application, the land proposed for subdivision changed ownership.  For purposes of this subdivision, a “change in ownership” shall be deemed not to occur if the transferor is related in business to the transferee or the transfer is incidental to a merger, consolidation, acquisition, or reorganization of a business as long as, subsequent to the transfer, the transferee is related in business to the transferor.  Any of the following business relationships between a transferor and a transferee shall be deemed to constitute being “related in business”:

(A)  The transferor owns a controlling interest in the transferee.

(B)  The transferee owns a controlling interest in the transferor.

(C)  A third entity owns a controlling interest in both the transferor and the transferee.

(3)  The use contemplated by the application would convert the primary use of the land from timberland to nontimberland.

(4)  The lot that is the subject of the permit application exceeds 100 acres by itself or in conjunction with other lots that were created out of the same parcel of record within five years prior to the date of the permit application, and that resulted in the conversion of the primary use of the lots from timberland to nontimberland use.

Sec. 3.  10 V.S.A. § 2625(j) is amended to read:

(j)  Enforcement.  A violation of the provisions of this section or the rules adopted under this section, false certification under this section, and noncompliance with a harvesting plan or a management plan that constitutes an exemption to this section shall each constitute a violation as defined under chapter 201 of this title and shall be subject to enforcement under that chapter and under chapter 211 of this title.  In addition, the secretary of natural resources may not approve an application for a permit under the provisions of chapter 64 of this title if the secretary determines that timber on the parcel that is the subject of the application for a permit has been harvested in a manner that constitutes such a violation.  If a violation has occurred, the secretary must determine prior to granting the permit, in accordance with the provisions of subsection 1973(j) of this title, that five years have elapsed from the date the landowner under whose ownership the harvest occurred acquired the parcel.

Sec. 4.  APPROPRIATION

There is appropriated $100,000.00 from the general fund during fiscal year 2008 to the department of forests, parks and recreation for the inspection and report required under Sec. 1 of this act.

Sec. 5.  EFFECTIVE DATE

This act shall take effect on passage.



Published by:

The Vermont General Assembly
115 State Street
Montpelier, Vermont


www.leg.state.vt.us