Current Legislative Bulletin

Legislative Bulletin Logo

May 26, 2017

 

Legislators packed in another full legislative week at the statehouse in advance of the upcoming Memorial Day weekend and the shortened schedule next week. Next week, the Senate Finance Committee will reconvene with budget hearings as the sub committees conclude their review of specific subsets of the House budget language. Members have asked for an updated sample resolution to reflect the administration's latest proposal to centrally collect municipal net profits. A copy of the sample language can be found HERE. We continue to encourage members concerned about schemes by the state to create a "permissive but mandatory" centralized collection system for municipal net profits to remind their senators that local control must be preserved and that the Ohio Business Gateway (OBG) rebuild is the prudent path to take.        

 

LEAGUE OFFERS TESTIMONY ON BUDGET

This past Tuesday, the Senate Finance Subcommittee on General Government and Agency Review heard testimony from OML Executive Director Kent Scarrett and Grove City Finance Director Richard Donnelly on municipalities' opposition to the Tax Commissioner's alternative centralized collection proposal, as well as the elimination of the "throwback" provision.

Dir. Scarrett made a plea for the General Assembly to cease the continual erosion of Home Rule before outlining the ways in which the Tax Commissioner's proposal is not the alleged "win-win" for both businesses and municipalities, including the increased financial and administrative burden the proposal would place on local communities. He then spoke on the revenue losses facing many municipalities were the "throwback" provision eliminated. Being limited to five minutes to present testimony, the majority of the testimony centered on the municipal tax issues included in the substitute budget bill but the director closed his presentation of the remaining issues that the League opposes including the redirecting of $24 million from municipal LGF distributions to townships and very small villages; the local lead abatement program pre emption; language prescribing how Columbus provides water services  and "predatory annexation" language; the inclusion of municipalities in the "unitization" of mineral rights and the lowering of the signature requirements to dissolve a village.  

Finance director Donnelly followed the League with an overview of the intended and unintended consequences to the repeal of the "throwback" rule. "Poorly drafted tax law is no one's friend," said Mr. Donnelly as he detailed the ways in which the proposed loss of municipal revenue is not only bad for the local communities affected, but also negatively impacts the same businesses house by those local communities.

Copies of both testimonies can be found HERE and HERE. Please continue to contact your legislators to educate them on these issues and to express our unified opposition to both these important proposals.

 

CALL TO TESTIFY PUBLIC HEARINGS SCHEDULED FOR BUDGET BILL

Today, the Senate Finance Committee released the committee hearing schedule for the next month, as the committee resumes full hearings on the House passed two year state operating budget language . A copy of the schedule can be found HERE.

Although municipal officials who have concerns with budgets items or support current proposals are strongly encouraged to participate in the legislative process by providing testimony , we would like to target Tuesday, June 6th, as a day when we can have a concerted effort to have testimony on municipal issues. OML Executive Director Scarrett will be providing testimony along with  municipal officials who have expressed an interest to help impress upon senators the need to change some items and to preserve others. Our members are the best positioned to not only educate the Senators on these issues, but to explain why their passage would harm our local communities and, by proxy, the state.

Through our bulletins, we have presented the list of issues that the league supports and the areas we seek changes including concerns that persist with the language related to the Ohio Business Gateway (OBG) and the continued role of the Department of Taxation in distributing municipal net profit revenues and the revenue loss municipalities across the state will experience if the "throwback" provision. is repealed

Additionally, the Senate Finance Committee has heard an alternative proposal for centralized collection from the Department of Taxation, which we have detailed in previous bulletins.  A one page list of bullet points produced by the Department of taxation can be accessed HERE. The League has not been provided actual legislative language to judge what the real proposal includes. If our request to see the proposed language is granted, we will be sure to share it with our members. As we understand it from the limited information available, the proposal would wrest control away from municipalities and create a serious financial and administrative burden for local taxing authorities.

If you are interested in testifying, please contact our Legislative Advocate Ashley Brewster at abrewster@omlohio.org. Written testimony and witness slips must be sent to the Chairman's office 24 hours in advance of the committee. We will be happy to coordinate your submissions with Chairman Oleslegar's office.

There are a number of amendments that were added by the Ohio House that has our attention but one particular amendment has garnered extra scrutiny by our members and staff. Representative Derrek Merrin (R-Waterville) has proposed an amendment to the budget that would give the Ohio Department of Health "sole and exclusive authority to compel, prohibit, license, or regulate lead abatement activities within the state, including the licensing of lead abatement professionals and excepting only those activities for which oversight has been delegated by the Revised Code to boards of health." This language has been included in the state operating budget bill specifically to overrule multiple local ordinances that direct local authorities to inspect and order remediation of unsafe living conditions participially related to lead-based paint issues. We appreciate the efforts of our members to communicate to members of the General Assembly their positions on important issues such as this, either through resolutions or other communication tools.

As a resource to our members who have expressed an interest in language addressing this particular preemption of local authorities, we are happy to share a resolution the City of Cincinnati recently adopted expressing opposition to the proposal in HB49 that would remove the authority of Ohio local governments to abate lead hazards. A copy of the resolution can be found HERE

We urge our members to constantly be vigilant and voice their concerns to the legislature and we greatly appreciate the efforts of our members to lead in this regard.

 

COMMITTEE HEARS TESTIMONY ON BUILDING INSPECTORS BILL

On Tuesday, the Ohio House Economic Development, Commerce, and Labor Committee heard opponent testimony on House Bill 128, which was introduced by Representative Kristina Roegner (R-Hudson), which would permit a general contractor or owner of specified buildings to enter into a contract with a third-party private inspector or a certified building department for building inspection and to make other changes relating to building inspections.

First, we would like to thank the many OML members that helped arrange for opponent testimony. Also, we would like to thank the Ohio Building Officials Association (OBOA), which helped get nearly two dozen officials, inspectors, and other experts to the Committee to testify. The Committee also heard testimony from the Ohio Fire Chiefs Association, which provided excellent testimony from their President, Chief Jonathan Westendorf. Also, the Committee heard great testimony from the International Association of Electrical Inspectors. We would also like to thank the Committee members, most of whom stayed for the nearly four hours of testimony we collectively provided.

The League started off the day by providing an overview of the arguments against the bill. Our testimony can be viewed HERE. We stressed that these official are law enforcement officers whose duty is to protect the safety of the public. We also argued that the bill would infringe on the home rule authority of municipalities, the need to keep local inspections local, and the very comprehensive accountability measures that are already in place. The League suggested an expedited process to help deal with problems related to the speed of accountability measures. That was accepted into the bill, but in addition to the offending parts, rather than in lieu of them. Testimony was then given by the OBOA, which went into more detail about the current system and their recommendations. Testimony was then offered by nearly two dozen individuals, both oral and written, that went into details and anecdotes that reinforced our message.

If there are League members who have stories of opposition they would like to share concerning this bill, we can still submit them to the Committee for review. Please send any thoughts or concerns to OML Director of Communications, Josh Brown at jbrown@omlohio.org.

 

SPONSOR TESTIMONY GIVEN AGAINST TRAFFIC TECHNOLOGY

Sponsor testimony was heard by the Ohio House State and Local Government Committee on four bills that are interrelated: House Bills 207, 208, 209, and 210. Each was introduced by Rep. Tom Patton (R-Strongsville). Each bill will do the following respectively:

HB 207: To prohibit a municipal corporation or township that does not operate either a fire department or an emergency medical services organization from utilizing traffic law photo-monitoring devices.

HB 208: To prohibit a local authority with a population of 200 or fewer from utilizing traffic law photo monitoring devices.

HB 209: To prohibit a local authority, in any year, from issuing a total number of traffic tickets based on the use of traffic law photo-monitoring devices that exceeds two times the population of the local authority.

HB 210: To prohibit a local authority from deriving more than 30 per cent of the total annual revenue of the local authority from the issuance of tickets for traffic law violations based on evidence recorded by traffic law photo-monitoring devices.

Representative Patton essentially presented all four bills at once. Representative Patton focused much of his testimony on one municipality, the Village of Linndale, which is located just outside of Cleveland and near where Patton himself lives. He stressed that the Village issues a large number of tickets, relative to its population and geographic area. However, he also mentioned that Linndale has a major thoroughfare running through it and has a large population of traffic moving through it.

Patton also complained that 80% of Linndale's revenue allegedly comes from traffic cameras but failed to address the added challenges and costs to a small village associated with having a heavily-trafficked thoroughfare running through it, which are extensive.

Members should note that abuse of traffic cameras was addressed in the 2014 with Senate Bill 342, a bill essentially written by members who wanted to ban traffic cameras altogether. The bill amended ORC 4511.092 to incorporate exhaustive accountability provisions, including:

-          Requires a law enforcement officer to be present at the location of a traffic law photo-monitoring device at all times during the operation of the device

-          Signage requirements, warning drivers of the camera usage 

-          Extensive requirements regarding appeals of tickets

-          Requires a local authority to take all of the following actions prior to deploying a traffic law photo-monitoring device :

  • o   Conduct a safety study of each location that is being considered for a traffic law photo-monitoring device;
  • o   Conduct a public information campaign;
  • o   Publish notice of the intent to utilize a traffic law photo-monitoring device, the locations at which the devices will be utilized, and the date on which the devices will become operational;
  • o   Refrain from imposing fines for violations detected by a traffic law photo monitoring device for at least 30 days after deployment of the device and send warning notices instead.
  • o

COMMITTEE HEARS SPONSOR TESTIMONY ON FIRST-RESPONDER PTSD BILL

On Wednesday, the House Insurance Committee heard sponsor testimony from Rep. Tom Patton (R-Stongsville) on House Bill 161. The legislation as proposed would:

  • make peace officers, firefighters, and emergency medical workers diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder arising from employment without an accompanying physical injury, eligible for compensation and benefits under Ohio's Workers' Compensation Law for up to one year
  • prohibit such a person from receiving a disability benefit from a state retirement system for post-traumatic stress disorder arising from employment without an accompanying physical injury during the time period the person receives compensation and benefits under the Workers' Compensation Law for the disorder.

A companion bill in the Senate has also been introduced, Senate Bill 118, introduced by Senators Frank LaRose (R-Hudson) and Edna Brown (D-Toledo).

The League has opposed previous iterations of this bill and plans on opposing this one as well. We made extensive recommendations to the sponsor concerning this subject in the last General Assembly and unfortunately they were not included in the bill this time around. In short, the League opposes the bill for multiple reasons. First, the bill would begin the process of allowing "mental-mental" claims in the workers' compensation system with no accompanying physical injury. This would change the fundamental nature of workers compensation. Secondly, the bill includes virtually no safeguards to deal with issues of fraud, abuse, or ensuring workplace causation. We anticipate the legislative process will play out and as we make these concerns known, we are optimistic that we may be able to improve the bill.

 

2017 INCOME TAX CONFERENCE AGENDA SET

 

TheOhio Municipal League is pleased to announce that registration is open for our 2017 Municipal Income Tax Conference. Click HERE to visit our brand-new website for registration, and check out our schedule and speaker line-up online as well. This year we will be addressing topics pressing for local tax authorities, discussing the changes the passage of the 2017-2019 Budget will bring, and we will also be hearing from a panel of legislators on the future of municipal income tax.

We encourage everyone who is interested to register right away!

 

MUNICIPAL POLICY GROUP BREAKFAST SUCCESS

On Wednesday, the OML Municipal Policy Group met at the Sheraton Hotel for a policy discussion with Senate President Larry Obhof. We had a great discussion that helped us understand what the Leader's thoughts were relative to the budget. Leader Obhof informed us that state revenues are down and that this is due to many factors. He sees this upcoming budget as a difficult challenge for the General Assembly, but he is confident they will be able to make necessary adjustments. We would very much like to thank Senate President Obhof and the members that joined us for breakfast and the discussion about the future of the state and Ohio's municipalities.  

 

MAYORS ASSOCIATION OF OHIO CONFERENCE WELCOMES CHIEF JUSTICE

On Wednesday June 14th to Friday June 16th, the Mayors Association of Ohio will hold its annual conference.

The group is honored to welcome Supreme Court of Ohio's Chief Justice Maureen O'Connor as key-note speaker on the first day of the conference. The Chief will share her insights about the court and discuss issues related to the municipal court system in Ohio.

Chief Justice O'Connor's biography can be viewed here: https://www.supremecourt.ohio.gov/SCO/justices/oconnor

For a full agenda for the Mayor's Conference, click HERE.

 

DRONE ADVISORY GROUP ADDRESSES WEAPON ATTACHMENTS

Work continues on the Ohio Attorney General's Advisory Group on Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) which is tasked with creating a model policy for drone use. This week the Group considered whether lethal weapons should be allowed or disallowed on drones. The  National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) issued a report about this subject, concluding that states are allowed to prohibit weapons on drones. The Federal Aviation Administration has also stated the same. Three states current prohibit weapons: Maine, North Dakota, and Virginia. The group is expected to finalize its model policy next month. If you would like to contribute to this group's discussions, contact: Dan Tierney: 614-466-3840 or Jill Del Greco: 614-466-3840.