Current Legislative Bulletin
OML UPDATES: AT-A-GLANCE
October 13, 2017
BILL REGULATING MUNICIPAL USE OF CREDIT CARDS HEARS PROPONENT TESTIMONY
The House Government Accountability and Oversight Committee held a second hearing on HB 312, legislation that would regulate the use of credit and debit cards by political subdivisions. Sponsored by Rep. Schuring (R - Canton) and Rep. Greenspan (R - Westlake), the bill received proponent testimony from State Auditor David Yost who shared with the committee that the legislation was proposed to address the use of credit cards by local governments which has become more prevalent in recent years. Auditor Yost commented, "Unfortunately, the incidence of credit card fraud by local government officials has become more prevalent as the use has increased. There is no uniformity among the different statutes governing how local governments may use credit cards, let alone guidance on controls for proper use of the cards. It is high time for the State to provide additional safeguards to protect taxpayer dollars from credit card abuse." Auditor Yost's testimony can be found HERE.
Key issues addressed in the bill include:
During committee, a substitute bill was adopted (making the bill Sub. HB 312). The changes are relatively minor, the most significant one being the decrease of the penalty of misuse to a misdemeanor of the first degree.
We would bring to the attention of our members issues related to Article XVIII of the Ohio Constitution and the municipal Home Rule authorities provided Ohio cities and villages that are related to the legislation. As reflected in the Comment section of the bill's Legislative Service Commission (LSC) analysis:
Under the Ohio Constitution, a municipal corporation may regulate all matters of local self-government, but the General Assembly may limit or restrict the power of a municipality to incur debt. Credit or debit card usage by a municipal corporation is likely a matter of local self-government, and although the General Assembly may limit a municipality's aggregate indebtedness, the Ohio Supreme Court has held the General Assembly "may not . . . prescribe the manner and method which a municipal corporation must follow" in incurring debt.
However, this case was decided before the Court made a distinction between procedural and substantive matters of local self-government; chartered municipalities may deviate from state law on both procedural and substantive matters while nonchartered municipal corporations may deviate only on substantive matters. In other words, nonchartered municipal corporations must follow state laws that establish procedures for self-government. A court may decide the bill's requirements are procedural rather than substantive, in which case they will apply to nonchartered municipal corporations. Or, a court may decide that municipal use and regulation of credit and debit cards is substantive, and therefore a valid exercise of municipal home rule by all municipal corporations. In either case, chartered municipal corporations probably may deviate from the bill's requirements.
League staff will be monitoring the bill as it moves through the legislative process. If you have any questions regarding the bill or would like to testify, please contact Ed Albright at firstname.lastname@example.org.
HOUSE PASSES BILL LEGALIZING FIREWORKS
A bill that would legalize the ownership and use of fireworks within the state of Ohio was passed by the Ohio House this week. HB 266, sponsored by Rep. Seitz (R - Cincinnati) and Rep. Sweeney (D - Cleveland), passed the full House 77-12. If it clears the Senate and is signed by the Governor, fireworks would be legal in Ohio effecting 2020.
It is important to note that the bill as passed allows local governments to regulate the sale and use of fireworks within their jurisdictions. The bill also creates the Fireworks Study group, prohibits people from setting off fireworks while drinking alcohol or using drugs, and requires fireworks sellers to distribute safety information.
League staff will be tracking this bill as it heads to the Senate, and will update our members accordingly.
MUNICIPAL LEGISLATION INTRODUCED
Two bills that would have impact on municipalities were introduced in the House this week.
Neither bill has been referred to a committee yet, but League staff will track their progress and inform our members of their progress.
COMMITTEE HEARINGS FOR BILLS OF MUNICIPAL INTEREST
The following bills received committee hearings this past week:
HB 251, sponsored by Rep. Greenspan, was reported out of the House Financial Institutions, Housing and Urban Development committee on Tuesday. The bill increases the maturity period of other political subdivision's bonds and obligations from five to ten years. The bill will now move before the full House for a vote.
HB 276, sponsored by Rep. Rezabek (R - Clayton) and Rep. Greenspan heard sponsor testimony during its second hearing in the House Criminal Justice Committee from Dayton Power & Light, along with other supportive organizations. The bill expands the offense of aggravated menacing to prohibit threatening a utility worker with intent to obstruct the operation of a utility. OML is a proponent of the bill, as municipalities employ utility workers.
HB 263, sponsored by Rep. Lanese (R - Grove City), had proponent testimony during its second hearing in the House Economic Development, Commerce and Labor Committee. The bill allows restaurants to allow dogs onto their patios, even if a municipality's health department prohibits it.
HB 303, sponsored by Rep. Lipps (R - Franklin) and Rep. Kelly (D - Cincinnati), had its first hearing in the same committee. The bill's sponsored offered testimony on the bill, which would prohibit places of public accommodation from preventing the use of a service animal. The legislators said the bill would clarify the difference between an "assistance animal" and a "service animal."
HB 69, sponsored by Rep. Cupp (R - Lima), had its fifth hearing in the Senate Ways and Means Committee on Wednesday. The bill mandates a municipality reimburse a township for fire and EMS services if the municipality is in a TIF with a township that is the sole provider of fire and EMS services for that TIF. The bill was amended during committee to allow for amendments to Joint Economic Development Zones so residents of a township aren't subject to double income taxation.
HB 342, sponsored by Rep. Merrin (R - Monclova Township), had its first hearing in the House Government Accountability and Oversight Committee. The bill would restrict local tax-related proposals, only allowing them to appear general and primary election ballots - not on an August special election ballot. The bill also modifies the information conveyed in election notices and ballot language for property tax levies. Its important municipalities can put levies on special election ballots, as special elections are usually not crowded with candidates or other issues, making it the best time to thoroughly educate voters on the levy. OML opposes the preemption this bill creates, and will invite members to testify should the bill continue to receive hearings.
HB 269 and HB 268, both sponsored by Rep. Henne (R - Clayton), had second hearings in the House Insurance Committee. HB 269 is a general Worker's Compensation overhaul, dealing mainly with safety incentives and return-to-work plans, which HB 268 deals with self-insurers. HB 268 had a substitute bill adopted allowing the BWC to require additional security, such as a a line of credit or a bond, from certain employers.
OHIO SUPREME COURT TO HEAR SECOND CASE ON MUNICIPAL RED-LIGHT TRAFFIC CAMERAS
This week, the Ohio Supreme Court elected to decide whether or not cities who collected fines from red light traffic cameras while their right to do so was being litigated in court will have their Local Government Fund (LGF) dollars withheld.
The decision came from Attorney General Mike DeWine's appeal after the lower courts struck down the state's ability to withhold LGF dollars equal to the amount in civil fines they collected in red light traffic camera citations. The specific city at the center of the litigation is Toledo.
The situation is stemming from a specific provision within the budget bill, HB 49, that called for the state to withhold LGF revenues from cities - such as Toledo - that were awarded court orders allowing them to keep their traffic cameras while they challenged the law that banned the use of red light traffic cameras, which they argued infringed upon Home Rule authority.
That separate litigation, which dealt specifically with the city of Dayton, was ruled in favor of Dayton and found the restrictions of red light traffic cameras unconstitutional. That decision has yet to be extended to the cases in Toledo and Springfield, who held their appeals while the Dayton case was decided.
In the case that the Ohio Supreme Court decides the General Assembly has the right to withhold LGF dollars from cities who collected fines during Dayton's litigation could stand to lose substantial amounts of revenue they have already budgeted. League staff will be monitoring the Court's decision closely and we will let our members know how the high court chooses to rule.
OML CHIEF LEGAL COUNSEL RECOGNIZED TWICE AT IMLA AWARDS
OML is proud to report that our Chief Legal Counsel Garry Hunter is the recipient of not one, but two awards at the International Municipal Lawyers Association (IMLA) 82nd Annual Conference. Mr. Hunter was awarded both the James H. Epps III Award for Longevity of Service to a Community Award and the Charles S. Rhyne Lifetime Achievement in Municipal Law Award during the conference, which was held in Niagara Falls in Ontario, Canada.
Mr. Hunter, who has served as the Law Director of the City of Athens, has over thirty-seven years of municipal experience. He serves as Executive Director of OML's Ohio Municipal Attorneys Association and is a past president of the Athens County Bar Association. Congratulations, Garry, on your well-deserved recognition!