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December 8, 2017

Here are the top three things you need to know from this week:
  • Taxes collected in November have totaled at approximately $1.9 billion. That's   $8.7 million, or 0.5%, above predicted revenues. The total tax intake for the year so far is of the state's $9 billion in revenues collected is roughly $29 million (0.3%) in the black.
  • Both the House and the Senate have announced the session days for the first half of 2018. The house has 32 session days scheduled, including "if needed", while the Senate has 24 session days schedules, also including "if needed."
  • Infrastructure: The average American's combined water and wastewater bill has increased 18.5% since 2012. The number of U.S. households who will find water bills unaffordable could triple from 11.9% to 35.6% in the next five years. You can find the sources for this data HERE.
An amendment exempting Supplemental Executive Retirement Plan (SERP) from municipal income tax is being considered for HB 69 before the Senate Ways and Means Committee. 

As many of you will recall, SERP exemptions were excluded from HB 5 on the basis that pending court cases would rule on whether or not municipalities could tax SERPs within the municipal income tax. The proposed amendment violates that agreement. This is because the court cases in questions ruled the treatment of SERPs regarding municipal income taxation. The language in the amendment extend municipal tax exemptions far beyond non-qualified SERP plans.

The amendment language extends the exemption to "defined contribution" plans such as IRAs, profit-sharing plans, stock bonus plans, money purchase plans and benefit plans. Clearly, the amendment language is sheltering millions of dollars from municipal taxation that are not SERP dollars. 

This is a continuation of the erosion of local government revenue sources that cripple the ability of our municipalities to provide safety and sustainable services to Ohio citizens. 

It is imperative you call your Senator immediately and express your opposition to this proposed amendment, which will be considered before the Senate Ways and Means Committee this Wednesday. The Senate must be informed that the language extends far beyond SERPs. If you are able, we ask that you come testify before the committee in opposition to this amendment. If you are interested in testifying, please contact the League's Director of Communications Ashley Brewster at or 614-221-4349 ext. 15.
HB 391 The bill, sponsored by Rep. Greenspan (R -Westlake) would increase the time within which boards of revision must decide property tax complaints. The original bill increased the timeframe from 90 calendar days to 90 business days, except for larger counties. Those were given a 180 business-day timeframe. During previous committee hearings, the bill was amended to extend that 180 business day timeframe to all counties, large and small. During its fourth hearing in the House Government Accountability and Oversight Committee, the bill was passed unanimously out of committee. 

Kent Scarrett, the League's Executive Director, submitted written testimony in support of the bill, part of which reads, "It is important that we ensure local governments can process these complaints fairly and accurately increasing the timeframe to 180 days gives those governing bodies adequate time to properly assess and decide complaints, rather than rushing through them in an attempt to avoid pileups or delays." You can read the testimony in its entirety HERE.
Last week, just days after he announced he was dropping his bid for governor and would run as Mike DeWine's Lt. Governor, Secretary of State Jon Husted came and spoke at last week's OML Board Meeting. Secretary Husted spoke to the largest issues facing Ohio and explained that he and Attorney General DeWine see eye-to-eye on how to approach those challenges. Both candidates, he explained, decided they could be more effective in fighting for Ohio if they ran together.

Secretary Husted addressed Ohio's growing opioid epidemic, particularly how it relates to Ohio's workforce. While traveling around the state, he's spoken with more than one factory who wants to employ more people, but most candidates cannot pass a drug test. Husted also took questions from the Board, acknowledging the need for a stronger, healthier partnership between the State and its municipalities. We appreciate Secretary Husted's time and we thank him for hearing our Board's concerns and addressing many of our most important issues.

The following bills impacting municipalities received hearings this past week:
  • HB 343 - PROPERTY VALUES. Sponsored by Rep. Merrin (R - Monclova Township), the bill would require local governments that contest property values to formally pass an authorizing resolution for each contest and to notify property owners. During its fourth hearing in the House Ways and Means Committee, three amendments were introduced; one changes the notification requirements on ownership, the second allows notifications by certified or regular mail, the third allows for valuation challenges to continue where property owners were misidentified. Interested parties (including the League) are still working on potential amendment language to see if they can be moved to either a neutral or supportive position on the bill.
  • HB 371 - PROPERTY TAX. The bill, also sponsored by Rep. Merrin (R - Monclova Township) would exempt from property taxation the increased value of land subdivided for residential development until construction commences or the land is sold. During its fourth hearing in the House Ways and Means Committee, amendments were introduced. One places a 10-year cap on the exemption and another clarifies development property owners pay taxes on market values instead of CAUV. The League opposes the legislation as it is written.
  • HB 410 - TRAFFIC VIOLATIONS. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Seitz (R Cincinnati) and Rep. Butler (R - Oakwood) would grant municipal and county courts original and exclusive jurisdiction over any civil action concerning a traffic law violation, specify that the court require an advance deposit for the filing of specified civil actions by the local authority bringing the civil action, and modify the reporting requirements and LGF withholding that apply to subdivisions that operate traffic law photo-monitoring devices. During his sponsor testimony before the House Government Accountability and Oversight Committee, Rep. Seitz said that while the bill doesn't ban or regulate traffic cameras, it prevents local governments from hearing citations in administrative hearings before they are heard before a municipal court. Additionally, it would deduct from a municipality's Local Government Funds the gross amount of revenues collected from traffic cameras. The League is opposed to this bill.
  • HB 164 - ROOFING CONTRACTORS Sponsored by Rep. Patton (R - Strongsville), the bill would require commercial roofing contractors to have a license. During it second hearing before the House Economic Development, Commerce and Labor Committee, proponents argued that licensing for commercial roofing contractors was important as the work is getting more technical. The League will be monitoring this bill as it moves through the legislative process.
  • HB 392 - APIARY DAMAGES. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Stein (R - Norwalk), the bill would grant specified apiary owners immunity in personal injury or property damage cases. During its second hearing before the House Economic Development, Commerce and Labor Committee, proponents testified as to the need for apiary owners to be protected from expensive lawsuits when it is very difficult to determine who owned the bee that did the stinging. The legislation as it is written stipulates an apiary owner is only eligible for immunity if they are in compliance with local zoning ordinances. The League will be monitoring this bill as it moves through the legislative process.
  • HB 323 - GARBAGE FEES. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Patterson (D - Jefferson), would authorize all municipal corporations that charge a garbage collection fee to certify unpaid amounts to the county auditor, who must enter the fees on the property tax list to be collected in the same manner as real property taxes. As you may remember from last week's bulletin, the League offered proponent testimony in support of the bill. It was passed unanimously out of the House State and Local Government Committee during its third hearing.
  • HB 415 - ROAD IMPROVEMENTS. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Ryan (R - Granville) and Rep. Greenspan (R - Westlake), allocates one-half of any surplus revenue to a new Local Government Road Improvement Fund, from which money will be distributed directly to local governments to fund road improvements. During sponsor testimony before the House State and Local Government Committee, the sponsors explained that the funds would be distributed via a formula calculation based on lane miles and the number of participating local governments. They also spoke of adding an amendment mandating local governments collect and report information on lane miles. Rep. Ryan emphasized the bill's aim of partnering the state with local governments. The League supports this bill.
  • HB 422 - WATER SEWER ACQUISITIONS. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Ginter (R -Salem) and Rep. Rogers (Mentor-on-the-Lake), governs acquisitions of municipal water-works and sewage disposal system companies by certain larger nonmunicipal water-works or sewage disposal system companies. During sponsor testimony before the House Energy and Natural Resources Committee, Rep. Rogers spoke to the estimated $26 billion in projected water and wastewater infrastructure costs over the next two decades, which would be addressed by the bill's allowing a regulated public utility to fund needed replacements or improvements for a participating municipality. The League supports this bill.
  • HB 419 - EMERGENCY LIABILITY. Sponsored by Rep. Henne (R - Clayton), the bill would modify the defense to the liability of a member of a police or fire department or emergency medical service of a political subdivision for the negligent operation of a motor vehicle in response to an emergency by requiring that the vehicle has its lights and sirens simultaneously activated. During sponsor testimony before the House Civil Justice Committee, Rep. Henne said that while the bill as written does no prohibit emergency responders from operating without lights and sirens, it would remove their ability to claim sovereign immunity if they are in accident where they did not have on their lights and sirens. Th League is working with Rep. Henne on language to define "emergency" to better encompass the situations emergency responders encounter.
Here are the bills impacting municipalities that were introduced this week:
  • HB 426 - TRAFFIC SIGNS. Sponsored by Rep. Boggs (D - Columbus) and Rep. Leland (D - Columbus), the bill would permit a local resident, neighborhood association, or neighborhood organization to request the erection of a stop sign at an intersection and to support a request for a lower prima facie speed limit on certain streets and highways.
  • SB 239 - REGIONAL GOVERNMENT COUNCILS. Sponsored by Rep. Dolan (R - Chagrin Falls), the bill would modify the law concerning regional councils of governments.

Longtime OML Field Representative Stan Umpleby announced last Friday that he will be retiring. Mr. Umpleby brought years of municipal experience to the League.  He served for 2 years as the mayor of Brunswick, and served a total of 8 years on Brunswick city council. Before his election to municipal service, he had been a state highway patrolman. We appreciate all Stan has done for the League over the years, and we wish him all the best in retirement!