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February 15, 2019

OML UPDATE AT-A-GLANCE
Here are the top three things you need to know from this past week:
  • Late last Friday, both the House and the Senate announced committee assignments for the 133rd General Assembly. You can read the full list of assignments HERE.
  • The Ohio EPA has announced the awarding of $188 million in loans across the state in the fourth quarter of 2018. These loans have been awarded to projects in Northeast Ohio aimed at improving surface water quality as well as the reliability and quality of drinking water systems across the state. The loans are projected to save these communities over $15 million.
  • This week, Lt. Governor Jon Husted announced that a Google affiliate will be opening a $600 million data center in the City of New Albany. The Lt. Governor said this is further evidence that Ohio "is becoming the tech capital of the Midwest."
 
HOUSE FINANCE COMMITTEE HEARS TESTIMONY ON TRANSPORTATION INFRASTRUCTURE FUNDING NEEDS

On Wednesday, the House Finance Committee met to hear Ohio Department of Transportation Director Jack Marchbanks and State Highway Patrol Col. Paul Pride testify on HB 62, the transportation budget, and to speak on the urgent need to properly fund Ohio's transportation infrastructure. During his testimony, Dir. Marchbanks described Ohio's transportation infrastructure funding situation as an "impending crisis", saying the state is facing a future where maintaining the quality of current transportation infrastructure will not be possible, endangering the lives of drivers on Ohio's roads and bridges.
According to Dir. Marchbank's testimony, which you can read HERE, Ohio needs $1 billion in additional revenues to fund needed bridge and road repairs. This figure only applies to the funding the state needs - it does not include local governments. No funding for new projects will be available after July 1st of this year. Poor road conditions, he said, contribute to approximately a third of all highway crash fatalities. Road deterioration of just 25% sees roadway crashes double.
The limited revenues of the state and local governments to maintain transportation infrastructure is stretched to its limits when those funds must go towards fixing emergencies, such as landslides in Southeastern Ohio due to the substantial rainfall in 2018. Both the state and local governments are being forced to choose between delaying needed projects or keeping unsafe roads closed. The same goes for bridges, the majority of which are maintained by local governments.
Dir. Marchbanks spent a substantial portion of his testimony detailing the difficulties local governments face in trying to maintain and invest in transportation infrastructure. Often, he said, locally-maintained bridges and roadways are in worse shape than state highways. While ODOT has been able to borrow revenue from transportation infrastructure - a practice Dr. Marchbanks says is only making a bad financial situation worse - local governments have not benefitted from that borrowing. Municipal shares of the current gas tax are not going as far as they use to. 2003 was the last time the gas tax was raised. Dir. Marchbanks said that a dollar in 2003 is equivalent to only 58 cents in 2019.
His testimony went on to explain that after July 1st of this year, municipalities and counties will experience further reductions in some of their revenue sources. These revenue sources are used to fund critical municipal and county transportation infrastructure funding. "I am not exaggerating," said Dir. Marchbanks, "when I tell you that additional delayed maintenance of these already poor roads and bridges could quickly create a situation from which county and municipal governments may never financially recover."
The director took questions after his testimony, including one from Rep. Skindell (D - Lakewood) regarding how much the state's current 28 cents per gallon gas tax would need increased to bridge ODOT's $1 billion shortfall. Dir. Marchbanks said each additional cent generates $67 million: $44 million remains with the state while the rest is distributed to local governments in a 6-%-40% spilt. He then said the method by which transportation funding will be accomplished is up to the legislature and the DeWine administration.
Rep. Carfagna (R - Westerville) inquired about the inflationary increases in the cost of materials used for transportation infrastructure maintenance and improvements. The director said in the period from July 2005 to June 2008, the price of asphalt increased 50%, drainage material now costs 60% more and aggregate base saw a cost increase of 84%. Though the director did not say this, it is important to remember that municipalities are also experiencing these increases in prices and are having to bear this increased cost as well.
The conversation regarding inadequate transportation infrastructure is far from over, and the League is grateful Dir. Marchbanks outlined not only the shortfalls the state is experiencing but also the financial burden local governments are struggling under. We look forward to testifying in the near future on HB 62 and echoing the urgent need for transportation infrastructure funding.
 
SENATE CAUCUSES INTRODUCE LEGISLATIVE PRIORITIES

This week, both the Senate Republican and Democrat caucuses announced each of their priority issues for the 133rd General Assembly.
The majority caucus said this week that the bills introduced this week largely reflect the top 10 issues they believe are the most important to the state of Ohio. One of the most important issues for the Republican caucus is deregulation, as evidenced by the first bill they introduced this General Assembly: SB 1, sponsored by Sen. McColley (R - Napoleon) and Sen. Roegner (R - Hudson), is a requirement that state agencies reduce regulations by 30%. The second bill introduced was SB 2, sponsored by Sen. Peterson (R - Sabina) and Sen. Dolan (R - Chagrin Falls), addresses the issue of protecting Ohio's waterways by funding a statewide watershed planning structure.
Another priority issue, economic development, is covered in three separate early bills. SB 7, sponsored by Sen. Lehner (R - Kettering) and Sen. Hackett (R - London), would allow military families to obtain temporary occupational licenses. SB 8, sponsored by Sen. Schuring (R - Canton), would create an extra tax advantage for Ohio taxpayers investing in qualified opportunity zones. And SB 9, sponsored by Sen. Matt Huffman (R - Lima), would allow small businesses to access certain health insurance claims data when making insurance decisions.
The issue of criminal sentencing reform has been a forthcoming issue for the General Assembly since Issue 1 was on the statewide ballot in 2018. SB 3, sponsored by Sen. Eklund (R - Chardon) and Sen. O'Brien (D - Bazetta), expresses the intent of the General Assembly to develop and enact legislation to reform Ohio's drug sentencing laws. SB 5, sponsored by Sen. Kunze (R - Hilliard) and Sen. Dolan (R - Chagrin Falls), increase penalties for promoting prostitution. And SB 10, sponsored by Sen. Wilson (R - Maineville) and detailed above, would expand penalties for theft in office.
Other top 10 issues include two bills dealing with school funding. SB 4, sponsored by Sen. Kunze (R - Hilliard) and Sen. Rulli (R - Salem), would provide an extra $100 million in funding for renovating and constructing school buildings. Separately, SB 6, sponsored by Sen. Hottinger (R - Newark) and Sen. Coley (R - Liberty Township), would create a program for parents in crisis situations to request that children temporarily live with a screened host family. Finally, legislation known as the "heartbeat bill" was introduced in SB 23 by Sen. Roegner (R - Hilliard).
The Senate minority caucus announced their priority issues as well. Senate Minority Leader Yuko (D - Richmond Heights) outlined the common theme uniting many of the priorities was support for Ohio's working people. Sen Williams (D - Cleveland) wants to push legislation regarding job-training, while Sen. O'Brien (D - Bazetta) wants to focus on employment-related issues such as worker transportation as well as attracting and retaining businesses. Sen. Sykes (D - Akron) will introduce legislation benefitting early childhood education along with increased access to childcare.
Legislators also expressed a desire to focus on a wide range of other issues. Sen. Craig (D - Columbus) is eager to work on alongside the DeWine administration to decrease infant mortality, and Sen. Fedor (D - Toledo) wants to work alongside the Republican caucus to address the issue of human trafficking. Sen. Antonio (D - Lakewood) has introduced two bills with bipartisan support; SB 11, banning discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity which has Sen. Rulli (R - Salem) as a cosponsor; and SB 43, introduced with Sen. Kunze (R - Hilliard) allowing police to seize firearms from residents in certain cases involving domestic violence or protection orders.
Other issues the minority caucus hopes to address include other firearm-related issues and criminal justice reform, according to Sen. Thomas (D - Cincinnati), and the intent of Sen. Maharath D - Canal Winchester) to expand access to mental health and addiction services. Notably, Sen. Yuko (D - Richmond Heights) said that the caucus is open to an increase in the gas tax.
The League will continue to closely track and report on legislation introduced by the 133rd General Assembly. We encourage our members to pay close attention to the progress of legislation impacting municipalities and prepare for opportunities to call their legislators or testify on behalf of policies that make Ohio's municipalities stronger, safer and more prosperous.
  
FIRST BILLS OF MUNICIPAL INTEREST INTRODUCED

Here is the legislation that would impact municipalities introduced this week:
  • SB 2 - WATERSHED PROGRAMS. Sponsored by Sen. Peterson (R - Sabina) and Sen. Dolan (R - Chagrin Falls,) would create a statewide watershed planning structure for watershed programs to be implemented by local soil and water conservation districts.
 
  • SB 8 - OPPORTUNITY ZONES. Sponsored by Sen. Schuring (R - Canton), would authorize tax credits for investments in an Ohio Opportunity Zone.
 
  • SB 10 - THEFT IN OFFICE. Sponsored by Sen. Wilson (R - Maineville), would expand the penalties for theft in office based on the amount stolen and include as restitution audit costs of the entity that suffered the loss.
 
  • SB 11 - DISCRIMINATION. Sponsored by Sen. Antonio (D - Lakewood), would enact the Ohio Fairness Act to prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity or expression, add mediation as an informal method that the Ohio Civil Rights Commission may use, and uphold existing religious exemptions under Ohio's Civil Rights Law.
 
  • SB 12 - PHOTO MONITORING. Sponsored by Sen. Craig (D - Columbus), would make changes to the laws governing traffic law photo-monitoring devices, other civil traffic violations, and related fines and fees.
 
  • SB 16 - PEACE OFFICERS. Sponsored by Sen. Williams (D - Cleveland), is regarding instruction for peace officers, students, and new or student drivers on proper interactions with peace officers.
 
  • SB 17 - SEX ASSAULT VICTIMS. Sponsored by Sen. Yuko (D - Richmond Heights) and Sen. Antonio (D - Lakewood), would prohibit law enforcement agencies from including identifying information of sexual assault victims in police reports posted online
 
  • SB 19 - PROTECTION ORDERS. Sponsored by Sen. Williams (D - Cleveland), would enact the Extreme Risk Protection Order Act to allow family members, household members, and law enforcement officers to obtain a court order that temporarily restricts a person's access to firearms if that person poses a danger to themselves or others.
 
  • SB 31 - PUBLIC RECORDS. Sponsored by Sen. Roegner (R - Hudson), would include emergency service telecommunicators as individuals whose residential and familial information is exempt from disclosure under the Public Records Law.
 
  • SB 33 - CRITICAL INFRASTRUCTURE. Sponsored by Sen. Hoagland (R - Adena), would modify certain criminal offenses with respect to critical infrastructure facilities and impose fines and civil liability for damage to a critical infrastructure facility.
 
  • SB 35 -- HOMESTEAD EXEMPTION. Sponsored by Sen. Brenner (R - Powell), would allow an enhanced homestead exemption for surviving spouses of public safety personnel killed in the line of duty.
 
  • SB 38 - WATER SEWER FUNDS. Sponsored by Sen. Schuring (R - Canton), would revise the law governing municipal corporation use of water and sewer funds.
 
  • SB 39 - INSURANCE TAX. Sponsored by Sen. Schuring (R - Canton), would authorize an insurance premiums tax credit for capital contributions to transformational mixed-use development projects.
 
  • SB 52 - CYBER SECURITY. Sponsored by Sen. Gavarone (R - Bowling Green), would create the civilian cyber security reserve forces, make the Secretary of State a member of the Homeland Security Advisory Council, require the Secretary of State to appoint a chief information security officer, require the boards of elections to audit election results and make an appropriation.
 
  • HB 17 - HOMESTEAD EXEMPTION. Sponsored by Rep. Ginter (R - Salem), would allow an enhanced homestead exemption for surviving spouses of public safety personnel killed in the line of duty.
 
  • HB 27 - SUBDIVISION LIABILITY. Sponsored by Rep. Ingram (D - Cincinnati), would modify political subdivision liability for an employee's negligent operation of a motor vehicle.
 
  • HB 34 - MINIMUM WAGE. Sponsored by Rep. Kelly (D - Cincinnati), would increase the state minimum wage and to allow municipalities, townships and counties to establish higher minimum wage requirements.
 
  • HB 47 - PROPERTY TAX COMPLAINTS. Sponsored by Rep. Greenspan (R - Westlake), would increase the time within which property tax complaints must be decided and to change the name of the Ohio Legal Assistance Foundation.
 
  • HB 48 - ROAD IMPROVEMENT FUND. Sponsored by Rep. Greenspan (R - Westlake), would provide for a new Local Government Road Improvement Fund for local governments to fund road improvements.
 
  • HB 54 - LOCAL GOVERNMENT FUND. Sponsored by Rep. Cera (D - Bellaire), and Rep. Rogers (D - Mentor-on-the-Lake), would increase the proportion of state tax revenue allocated to the Local Government Fund from 1.66% to 3.53% beginning July 1, 2019.
 
  • HB 57 - SALES TAX EXEMPTION. Sponsored by Rep. Patterson (D - Jefferson) and Rep. Cera (D - Bellaire), would exempt certain heating sources from sales taxation and to hold local governments and libraries harmless from the revenue effect.
 
  • HB 61 - PUBLIC RECORDS. Sponsored by Rep. Lanese (R - Grove City) and Rep. Liston (D - Dublin), would include forensic mental health providers, mental health evaluation providers and regional psychiatric hospital employees as individuals whose residential and familial information is exempt from disclosure under the Public Records Law.
 
  • HB 62 - TRANSPORTAION BUDGET. Sponsored Rep. Oelslager (R - Canton), would make appropriations for programs related to transportation and public safety for the biennium beginning July 1, 2019 and ending June 30, 2021, and provide authorization and conditions for the operation of those programs.
 
  • HB 72 - CAPITAL IMPROVEMENTS. Sponsored by Rep. Rogers (D - Mentor-on-the-Lake) and Rep. Cera (D - Bellaire), would create the Supplemental State Capital Improvements Pilot Program funded by a temporary transfer from the Budget Stabilization Fund and to make an appropriation.
 
  • HB 75 - PROPERTY VALUES. Sponsored by Rep. Merrin (R - Monclova Township), would require local governments that contest property values to formally pass an authorizing resolution for each contest and to notify property owners.
 
  • HB 76 - ELECTION NOTICES. Sponsored by Rep. Merrin (R - Monclova Township), would enact the "Ballot Uniformity and Transparency Act" to modify the form of election notices and ballot language for property tax levies.
 
  • HB 78 - PREVAILING WAGE. Sponsored by Rep. Riedel (R - Defiance) and Rep. Manchester (R - Lakeview), would allow political subdivisions, special districts, and state institutions of higher education to elect to apply the Prevailing Wage Law to public improvement projects.
 
  • HB 80 - BWC BUDGET. Sponsored by Rep. Oelslager (R - Canton), would make appropriations for the Bureau of Workers' Compensation for the biennium beginning July 1, 2019, and ending June 30, 2021, and to provide authorization and conditions for the operation of the Bureau's programs.