The legislature continued its wrap up of several weeks of flurried activity this week. Wednesday saw the House pass 23 pieces of legislation while the Senate considered 16. As the activity begins to draw down the League is has been involved with amending, testifying, and making recommendations on dozens of bills. The following is a quick rundown of legislative activities the league has been involved in this week:
SENATE PASSES BILLS AFFECTING MUNICIPALITIES
The Ohio Senate passed three bills that the League has been tracking. First was HB 5, introduced by Representative Stephanie Kunze (R-Hilliard) and Kyle Koehler (R-Springfield) which would allow the Auditor of State to conduct business case studies regarding the efficiency of local public offices and state agencies. The bill received support and proponent testimony from multiple municipal officials. The bill has already passed the House but underwent amendments in the Senate, so it will go to the House for consideration of a concurrent vote and likely the Governor for his consideration.
Second, the Senate passed HB 187 which would authorize a first responder, emergency medical technician-basic, emergency medical technician-intermediate, emergency medical technician-paramedic, or volunteer firefighter to stabilize an injured animal in an emergency. The bill passed unanimously in both chambers and will now go to the Governor for consideration.
Third, the Senate passed HB 166 which would extend the deadline for filing an application for the homestead exemption or 2 1/2% property tax rollback to the end of the tax year, would require that auditors certify Local Government Fund allocations to subdivisions by regular or electronic, rather than certified mail, and would repeal laws requiring county auditors to issue permits for traveling shows, issue licenses for new merchandise public auctions, certify the annual state tax interest rate to local courts, and provide certain certifications related to the repealed personal property tax. The bill will now go to the House for consideration of a concurrent vote and likely the Governor for his consideration.
We reported last week about how an amendment was added to this bill (HB 166) that addresses allowable sources of animals for pet stores. The amendment would have usurped local Home Rule authorities by preempting all local ordinances that regulate pet stores and by declaring that the regulation of pet stores to be a matter of statewide interest. HB 166 was passed without that amendment. However, the Chairman of the committee that this bill was assigned to (Senate Ways and Means Committee) Senator Bob Peterson (R-Washington Court House) introduced SB 331 this week, which is similar to the amendment. A companion bill was introduced in the House by Representative Gary Scherer (R-Circleville), HB 573. The League will be communicating with Chair to express our concerns with this legislation, as expressed in last week’s bulletin regarding the amendment.
HOUSE PASSES BILLS AFFECTING MUNICIPALITIES
The Ohio House passed six bills that the League has been tracking. First, the House passed HB 130, introduced by Representatives Mike Duffey (R-Worthington) and Christina Hagan (R-Alliance). The bill would create the “DataOhio Board,” which would specify requirements for posting public records online, would require the Auditor of State to adopt rules regarding a uniform accounting system for public offices, would establish an online catalog of public data at data.Ohio.gov, and would establish the Local Government Information Exchange Grant Program.
The bill received reserved support from the League after a long process of negotiation with the sponsors. The League worked to ensure that, not only would every element of the bill be voluntary, but that it would be difficult to make it involuntary in the future. To do so, we ensured that the League would have appointments to the new DataOhio Board and successfully lobbied for multiple provisions in the bill. We will continue to monitor the bill as it goes to the Senate and have made the sponsors aware that the League’s acquiescence is conditioned on the provisions we have agreed upon. Meanwhile, we greatly appreciate the many hours that the sponsors dedicated to addressing our concerns.
Secondly, the House passed HB 341, introduced by Representatives Ron Young (R-Leroy Township) and Martin Sweeny (D-Cleveland) which would require the Public Utilities Commission to raise the existing statutorily designated towing and storage fees annually by the percentage increase in the consumer price index, would establish a $35 fee for the retrieval of nonmedical personal items from a motor vehicle, would modify the civil penalties applicable to violations of the towing law, would modify the calculation of the value of an abandoned vehicle to which a towing service or storage facility seeks to take title, and would make other changes to the towing law. The League is an interested party on this bill and is working with several of our members and the sponsors to continue amending the bill. We expect several amendments once this bill goes to the Senate.
Third, the House passed HB 435, introduced by Representative Jeffrey McClain (R-Upper Sandusky) which would authorize the Treasurer of State to issue revenue obligations of the state for the purpose of making loans to qualifying public entities for their acquisition of permanent improvements through the Treasurer of State's purchase of public obligations of those qualifying entities. This new bond bank will make this system available to permanent improvement projects as defined under ORC 133.01(CC).
The League was involved in the vetting of this legislation and believes that it will be helpful to municipalities in several ways. First, it will offer an option that would lower the cost of bonds for municipalities. The bill would create an optional system by which a municipality’s bonds would be issued through a pooled system, managed by the State Treasurer, rather than directly from the municipality itself. The State of Ohio would also avail municipalities of a state-payment intercept system that will reduce costs. This would make the bond more secure and provides for outsourcing of many administrative requirements, and hence, less expensive.
Fourth, the House passed HB 447, introduced by Representatives Kirk Schuring (R-Canton) and Stephen Slesnick (D-Canton) which would prohibit a person from intentionally killing a police dog in the line of duty.
Fifth, the House passed HB 455, introduced by Representatives John Patterson (D-Jefferson) and Kristina Roegner (R-Hudson) which would authorize a municipal corporation or township to establish a boarding school zone and a special speed limit within that zone.
Sixth, the House passed HB 423, introduced by Representative Rick Perales (R-Beavercreek) which would specify that an order for active military service or other documentation regarding the call to order of an individual in the Armed Forces of the United States or the Ohio organized militia is not a public record. The League submitted proponent testimony for the bill.
GOVERNOR SIGNS BILLS AFFECTING MUNICIPALITIES
The Governor signed two bills into law this week that will affect municipalities. First, SB 75, introduced by Senators Shannon Jones (R-Springboro) and Bob Peterson (R-Washington Court House) which is the “agritourism” bill. The bill would limit the authority of a board of county commissioners or board of township trustees to prohibit agritourism through zoning, to apply current agricultural use valuation to land used for agritourism for property tax purposes, and to establish immunity in a civil action for agritourism providers. Secondly, the Governor signed the Capital Appropriations bill, SB 310, introduced by Senator Scott Oleslager (R-Canton).
SENATE HEARS BILL ON POLICE CHIEF TRAINING
The Senate State and Local Government Committee held a first hearing on SB 322, introduced by Senator Cliff Hite (R-Findlay) which would require the Ohio peace officer training commission to develop and conduct a chief of police training course for newly appointed chiefs of police appointed on or after January 1, 2017, and to require newly appointed chiefs of police of villages, cities, and townships to attend the training course within six months of appointment as a chief of police. The OML is tracking this bill closely and will be making some amendment requests.
HOUSE HEARS BILL TO RAISE TRANSPORTATION DOLLARS
The House Ways and Means Committee held a first hearing on HB 528, introduced by Representative Margaret Ann Ruhl (R-Mt. Vernon) which would authorize additional permissive local motor vehicle license taxes up to a total of $15. This is similar to proposals made by many local government organizations several months ago. The bill would be a solution to the problems arising from declining gas tax revenue and extraordinary infrastructure needs of local governments. We urge members to contact their representatives to discuss these issues in detail and advocate for this legislation.
HOUSE COMMITTEE HEARS POLICY BODY CAMERA LEGISLATION
The House Local Government Committee held a fifth hearing on HB 407, introduced by Representatives Cheryl Grossman (R-Grove City) and Kevin Boyce (D-Columbus). The bill creates a basic framework for police departments that implement a police body camera program. The League has reviewed the legislation and has not found any substantial problems with it. The bill could provide needed guidance for local departments in developing their policies. A Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) requested amendment was considered this week that would allow a police officer to review the recordings that he/she makes before it is released to the public. That amendment was tabled but is expected to resurface again. After consultation with membership, the League is strongly supporting some version of this amendment, although we agree that the tabled amendment was not acceptable because it allowed the officer to amend his incident report after reviewing the video.
SENATE COMMITTEE HEARS 911 BILL
The Senate Finance Committee held a second hearing on HB 277, introduced by Representative Andrew Brenner (R-Powell) which would authorize a county, township, or municipal corporation to impose a 9-1-1 system levy in only the portion of the subdivision that would be served by the 9-1-1 system. The only witness was Jeff Wilson, Chief of the BST&G Fire Department and President of the Delaware County 9-1-1 Advisory Board. Wilson testified that a Delaware County 911 levy does not exclude Westerville, Dublin, and Columbus from the tax, even though those jurisdictions do not utilize the service. He explained how the bill would fix this problem.
CIVIL ASSETT FORFEITURE BILL PASSES
The House Judiciary Committee held a seventh hearing and passed HB 347, introduced by Representative Rob McColley (R-Napoleon) and Tom Brinkman (R-Cincinnati) that would eliminate civil asset forfeiture proceedings and modify the law governing criminal asset forfeitures. The prosecutors and police chiefs associations have vigorously opposed the bill. The bill was favorably voted out of Committee this week, with dissenting votes from Representatives Greta Johnson (D-Akron), Kristin Boggs (D-Columbus), and Bob Cupp (R-Lima).
The bill was amended in several ways this week, including amendments that: permit civil forfeiture after three months instead of a year, except for a fugitive running from the law; requires the filing of a civil forfeiture action that merges with the associated criminal action; requires hearings not sooner than 21 days after a motion is filed, rather than 14 days in several parts of the bill; allows for forfeiture funds to be spent on a longer list of items; excludes drug buy money from the definition of "proceeds" if it is used by a law enforcement agency; changes the burden of proof for a third party; creates an independent civil cause of action for illegal proceeds corresponding to the criminal charge, and for two years after the violation of the criminal charge there could be a civil suit filed, whereby the proceeds would go into escrow (the amount needs to exceed $25,000 to be eligible); and, lastly, provides a two-year statute of limitations and one-year requirement that the case be completed.
SENATE COMMITTEES HEAR BILLS RELATED TO MUNICIPALITIES
Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee held hearings on two bills the League is tracking. First, it held a first hearing on HB 512, introduced by Representative Tim Ginter (R-Salem) which would establish requirements governing lead and copper testing for community and nontransient noncommunity water systems, would revise the law governing lead contamination from plumbing fixtures, would make appropriations to the Facilities Construction Commission for purposes of providing grants for lead fixture replacement in eligible schools, and would revise the laws governing the Water Pollution Control Loan and Drinking Water Assistance Funds. We have reported extensively on this bill in previous bulletins and continue to monitor the bill’s process. The issue of contention continues to be the time frames involved. There is a fundamental disagreement between several water systems and the state on how long certain notices should take. The Committee also asked questions to ensure that the corrosion issues that Flint, Michigan experienced are adequately addressed.
Second, the Committee held a fifth hearing on SB 185, introduced by Senator Bill Seitz, which would revise the law governing special improvement districts created for the purpose of developing and implementing plans for special energy improvement projects. The bill would allow one or more property owners to petition a municipality to create a special energy improvement district and creates laws to govern such districts.
The Senate Government Oversight and Reform Committee held a third hearing on SB 270, introduced by Senator John Eklund (R-Munson Township) which makes changes to laws regulating pawnbrokers. The Police Chiefs Association, Columbus Public Safety Director George Speaks, and Columbus Deputy Police Chief Richard Bash all testified against the bill, citing numerous problems with the bill. Each testified that the bill makes it easier for thieves to sell stolen goods quickly.
The Senate Ways and Means Committee held hearings on three bills that the League is tracking. First, HB 182, introduced by Representative Kirk Schuring (R-Canton) would revise the law governing the creation and operation of joint economic development districts (JEDDs) and enterprise zones. The Township Association testified that the bill should revert back to the House-passed version, which restricted area businesses from opting out of a JEDD. They feel that the business will benefit from the JEDD because it is still located in the JEDD zone and should therefore have to contribute to it. Afterwards, several amendments were added to the bill. Those amendments: changed the income tax check-off thresholds, dealt with municipal exemption authority, dealt with procedures for exemption complaint notifications, dealt with township authority, made changes regarding a property tax exemption for the Columbus Convention Center, and moved the municipal net operating losses reporting deadline to Dec. 31, 2016.
Second, the Committee held a second hearing on HB 390, introduced by Representatives Tim Schaffer (R-Lancaster) and Wes Retherford (R-Hamilton), which exempt the sale of natural gas by a municipal gas company from the sales and use tax. The bill is intended to give relief to certain municipalities that acquired natural gas tax debts. The bill was amended to the prohibit counties from imposing a utility service tax. Otherwise, there was no testimony or other action.
Third, the Committee held a sixth hearing and favorably voted out HB 166. The Senate also passed this bill on the floor this week, so the details related to this bill are reported on in the section dealing with Senate-passed bills (above).
STATE OF OHIO SEEKING PARTNERS TO HELP OHIO SMALL BUSINESSES
The Ohio Development Services Agency (DSA) is seeking partners to help develop and grow Ohio small businesses and entrepreneurs through the Small Business Development Centers (SBDC) Program. This program supports small businesses by offering free counseling, workshops and trainings focused on creating jobs, increasing sales and gaining access to capital.
In order to maintain the highest quality services for Ohio small businesses, DSA will be conducting an open competition to select the Ohio SBDC regional partners. Non-profit organizations, economic development organizations and educational institutions with strong experience in business and economic development will be eligible for the program.
The Ohio Development Services Agency (DSA) currently administers the Ohio SBDC program in collaboration with the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) through 27 regional partners. The request for proposals is now open till June 6, 2016, with awards planned for July 6, 2016. To apply, visit: www.sbdc.development.ohio.gov . The Ohio SBDC program is managed by DSA’s Office of Small Business and Entrepreneurship and is a state and federal initiative to develop and grow Ohio’s small businesses.
COMMITTEE SCHEDULE FOR WEEK OF MAY 23rd, 2016
Below is the committee schedule for next week. You may notice that the Ohio Senate has not released their schedule of committee activity for next week, but they will be in session. When the additions to the schedule are released, we will post those to our website Monday.
Have a safe weekend~