Current Legislative Bulletin
June 14, 2019
With the first term of the 133rd General Assembly fast coming to a close and with summer recess getting closer, committees in both the House and the Senate will start holding a lot of hearings and many bills impacting municipalities will start to move quickly through the legislative process. It is imperative for our members to be sure to get on our website and check the committee schedule regularly for opportunities to testify or contact their legislative delegation on bills that could either harm or help our cities and villages.
OML UPDATE AT-AT-GLANCE
Here are the top three things you need to know from this past week:
Cincinnati has filed a lawsuit over HB 228 from the previous General Assembly, which allows lawsuits to be filed against a municipality if they pass a gun ordinance preempted by the state. Columbus previously filed a similar lawsuit.
Total state revenue collected for the month of May have exceeded projections by 3.1%, or $64.7 million. Total revenue collected for the fiscal year to date currently stand 3.3% above projections, or $616.8 million.
Cincinnati has passed an ordinance decriminalizing the possession of up to 100 grams of marijuana that becomes effective next month.
MAYOR'S ASSOCIATION OF OHIO CONFERENCE A SUCCESS
This week, mayors from across the state came to downtown Columbus for a three-day conference dedicated to workshops, networking and special guest speakers. Attendees attended sessions and workshops covering topics such as legislative advocacy, crisis communication and autonomous vehicles.
Our mayors were also able to take a tour of the Ohio Statehouse, where they met with Senate President Larry Obhof. Many members took the opportunity to meet with their legislators, while other sat in on the HB 242 "bag tax" preemption bill hearing. During the Thursday luncheon, Lt. Governor Jon Husted came and spoke to our mayors about the DeWine administration and its relationship with Ohio's local leaders. We are grateful for these two state leaders' time with our members.
We want to thank all of the mayors who attended this year's annual conference and contributed to making it a success. We hope to see everyone again next year!
OPPONENTS TESTIFY AGAINST "BAG TAX" PREEMPTION BILL
This week, the House State and Local Government Committee heard opponent testimony on HB 242, legislation preempting municipalities and other Home Rue political subdivisions from placing a tax or fee on single-use plastic containers, among other things.
The League's Executive Director Kent Scarrett offered opponent testimony, explaining that this bill is another in a long line of preemptions previously passed by former legislators. "HB 242 is a bill that keeps the preemption train rolling in Ohio," he said. "This current legislative body has the opportunity to change this and stop the preemption train. This General Assembly can create a new chapter in the partnership between the state and its municipalities, and it can begin by opposing HB 242." You can read his June testimony in full HERE.
Bexley Mayor Ben Kessler also testified along with Steve Grossman of the Bexley Environmental Sustainability Advisory Committee and Bexley city council member Tony Martham. They explained that the recently-enacted plastic bag ban was not the sole product of local leaders, but was the constituents of their community who wanted the policy enacted. "They wanted us to work with businesses, and we did," Martham explained. "We spent hours meeting with our business owners to craft legislation that was thoughtful to their needs and helpful to everyone in the community. The resulting legislation was acceptable to all and passed with great enthusiasm in our community." You can read their June 12 testimony in full HERE.
Other opponent testimony was either given or submitted by the Ohio Mayors Alliance, Ohio Township Association and the County Commissioners Association of Ohio among many others. We are grateful to the local leaders who testified before the committee and for all of our members who contacted their legislative delegation and expressed their opposition to this legislation. We will continue to keep our members apprised as this bill moves through the legislative process.
LEAGUE TESTIFIES ON SENATE BUDGET CHANGES
This week, the Senate Finance Committee, released its substitute bill for the State Operating Budget bill, Sub. HB 166. The substitute bill, of course, contains changes to several items in the budget concerning municipalities.
On Thursday, League Executive Director Kent Scarrett testified before the Senate Finance Committee on the changes supported by the League, such as the increase of the Local Government Fund (LFG) to 1.68%, which is a 0.02% increase, additional funding for the local government fee offset for MARCS radios, the restoration of the previously redirected Supplemental Municipal LGF Distribution fund and additional funding for the H2Ohio water quality fund.
Dir. Scarrett also spoke to several requests the League has regarding provisions benefitting municipalities that should be included in the upcoming omnibus amendment. These requests include changes that would make the administration of the centrally-collected municipal net profit business filings better for both municipalities and business, reinstating a provision extending TIFs to an additional 30 years for high-impact projects and a provision authorizing all municipalities providing garbage collection to have unpaid garbage fees charged as a lien against real property. You can read his testimony in full HERE.
The League is grateful to the Senate for the work they have done to invest in Ohio's cities and villages. We are also grateful to all of our members who reached out to their senators or traveled to the Statehouse to testify in order to convey the importance of enabling municipalities to provide basic services to the 8.5 million Ohioans living in a city or village. We look forward to continuing the reinvestment in the partnership between the state and its cities and villages, and we will continue to keep our members apprised as the budget bill continues its journey through the legislative process.
OHIO CONGRESSMEN INTRODUCE LEGISLATION HELPING MUNICIPAL INFRASTRUCTURE
Both Congressman Stivers (R-OH) and Congressman Portman (R-OH) have sponsored recent legislation that aims to invest in infrastructure in states and their local communities across the nation.
Congressman Stivers introduced the "Investing in Our Communities Act" (H.R. 2772), which would reverse changes made in the tax reform law in 2017 and would restore tax-exempt status for advance refunding bonds used by municipalities to pay off other outstanding bonds. This allows municipalities to take advantage of lower interest rates, saving taxpayer money. These bonds are key tools in financing infrastructure projects from new roads to capital improvements.
Congressman Portman also recently introduced S. 1517, currently titled "Building U.S. Infrastructure by Leveraging Demands for Skills". This bill would require the U.S. Secretary of Labor to award grants that promote industry or sector partnerships in infrastructure that encourage industry growth and competitiveness. These grants would also be used to improve infrastructure worker training, retention and advancement. The grants would accomplish this by promoting those industry partnerships that collaborate regarding planning, resource alignment and training efforts across multiple businesses for workers currently or potentially employed by the infrastructure industry.
The League applauds these bills and is grateful that both Congressman Portman and Congressman Stivers recognize the importance of investing in infrastructure and are working on a national level to facilitate that investment. We hope to see similar legislation introduced on the federal level that will in turn invest in the growth and prosperity of our local communities.
HOTEL RESERVATION FOR TAX SEMINAR TO CLOSE
It is important for those attending the League's annual Tax Seminar in July to register for the conference and to reserve a room in the hotel before space runs out. It is important to register with the room block in order to guarantee you have a room at the Renaissance hotel where the conference will be taking place and to take advantage of the discounted room rate. The cutoff date for room reservations is Wednesday, June 19th. Please also note there are only 30 rooms remaining. To reserve your room, click HERE.
OPPORTUNITY ZONE WEBSITE UPDATED
In April, Lt. Governor Jon Husted unveiled the new Opportunity Zone online platform designed to connect local governments with the businesses interested in investing in their communities. The website, which you can access HERE, allows local communities to share information on their area and gives investors the opportunity to search for and find the communities best suited for their investment. Visit the platform and discover how you can attract investors to the areas in your communities that are ready for revitalization.
EPA ISSUES GUIDANCE FOR CLEAN WATER ACT WATER QUALITY CERTIFICATION
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released guidance on Section 401 of the Clean Water Act (CWA) that provides recommendations to clarify and streamline the 401 certification process and to promote greater investment in and certainty for national infrastructure projects while continuing to protect local water quality.
This guide, entitled the "Clean Water Act Section 401 Certification Guidance for Federal Agencies, States, and Authorized Tribes" provides clarification and recommendations on CWA Section 401 certifications in the following specific areas:
Statutory and regulatory timelines for review and action on a CWA Section 401 certification;
The appropriate scope of CWA Section 401 certification conditions; and
Information within the scope of a state or authorized tribe's CWA Section 401 review.
To read the guidance and to learn about the CWA Section 401 water quality certification process, please visit https://www.epa.gov/cwa-401.
ETHICS TRAINING FOR PUBLIC SERVICE OPEN FOR REGISTRATION
Susan Willeke of the Ohio Ethics Commission will be presenting on ethics training for those in public service at theOho University Zanesville and Zane State College Campus on Thursday, August 29 from 10 a.m. to noon. Willeke, who is an in-demand speaker on ethics and ethics training, will cover topics such as preventing nepotism in the hiring process, how to identify conflicts of interest, accepting goods from vendors and other practical and common ethics dilemmas facing those working in government encounter. This training is important for all public officials. To find out more about this event and to register, click HERE.
BILL IMPACTING MUNICIPALITIES PASSED BY SENATE
SB 95 - STATE AND LOCAL TAX INDUCEMENTS. Sponsored by Sen. Kunze (R - Hillard) and Sen. Peterson (R - Sabina), would enhance state and local tax inducements for businesses making substantial fixed asset and employment investments and their suppliers. This bill was unanimously passed out of the Senate. The League is neutral on this legislation.
HB 10 - OFFICE OF DRUG POLICY. Sponsored by Rep. Brown (D - Canal Winchester) and Rep. Stoltzfus (R - Minerva), would establish the Governor's Office of Drug Policy and make an appropriation. The bill was passed unanimously out of the House. The League is supportive of this legislation.
COMMITTEE RECAP: BILLS OF MUNICIPAL INTEREST
Here are the bills impacting municipalities that received committee hearings this week:
SB 52 - CYBER SECURITY. Sponsored by Sen. Gavarone (R - Bowling Green), would create the civilian cyber security reserve forces, to 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. During its first hearing before the House Finance Committee, the bill's sponsor explained that the volunteer Ohio Cyber Reserve created by the bill would respond to cyber attacks much like the Ohio National Guard responds to natural disasters. The League is supportive of this legislation.
HB 220 - LEDGER TECHNOLOGY. Sponsored by Rep. Carfagna (R - Genoa Township), would allow a governmental entity to utilize distributed ledger technology, including blockchain technology. During its third hearing before the House Commerce and Labor Committee, the bill was amended to expand the types of government entities that could use the technology. The bill was then voted unanimously out of committee. The League is supportive of this legislation. You can read our joint proponent testimony with the Ohio Township Association and the County commissioners Association of Ohio HERE.
HB 219 - ALCOHOL SALES. Sponsored by Rep. Becker (R - Union Township) and Rep. Hoops (R - Napoleon), would alter the law relative to Sunday sales of beer and intoxicating liquor and to name the act the "Sunday Alcohol, Liquor, and Especially Spirits Act" or "SALES Act." During its second hearing before the House Commerce and Labor Committee, proponents from the Ohio Licensed Beverage Association, the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States, the Ohio Spirits Association and the Hocking Hills Tourism Association testified. The League is still looking into to this legislation.