OML UPDATE AT-A-GLANCE
Here are the top seven things you need to know from this past week:
· Franklin County Court of Common Pleas Judge Karen Phillips has ordered the State of Ohio to refund to municipalities, with interest, the 0.5% administration fee for the centralized collection of municipal net profit filings. You can read the ruling HERE.
· This week, the Ohio Department of Taxation announced that Ohio is following the federal government and the IRS in extending the deadline for Ohio taxpayers to file and pay individual and school district income tax to May 17, 2021 for tax year 2020. The first quarter estimated payment for tax year 2021 is still due on April 15, 2021. You can read the full announcement HERE.
· The House will be recessed next week for spring break and is currently scheduled to return the week of April 12. The Senate has a few committees scheduled for next week but cancelled all Senate sessions. They are currently scheduled to begin spring break on April 1 and return the week of April 19. We will update our members on any changes to the legislature’s schedule.
· Budget Watch: The Ohio Senate unanimously passed Sub. HB 74, the Transportation Budget for fiscal years 2022-2023. Earlier in committee, an omnibus amendment was adopted that, among other changes, added an automatic increase in force account thresholds for local governments every two years and created a Joint Committee on Force Accounts. You can access the full omnibus amendment HERE. Prior to the adoption of the omnibus, the League submitted proponent testimony supporting the provisions in the bill that invested in municipalities, including increased force account limits. You can read the testimony in full HERE and read more about the bill in the article below.
· In a 5-3 decision in Torres v. Madrid, the U.S. Supreme Court held that a person may be “seized” by a police officer per the Fourth Amendment even if the person gets away. This ruling creates more situations in which municipalities will be exposed to monetary liability because it expands the definition of "seized" in use of force cases where it is alleged there was excessive force used in violation of the Fourth Amendment’s prohibition against “unreasonable searches and seizures”. Read more about the case and the ruling in an article by the State and Local Legal Center HERE.
· Both the Ohio House and Senate voted to override Governor DeWine’s veto of SB 22 earlier this week. The bill allows lawmakers to overturn state health orders. The Senate voted in favor of the override 23-10 and the House voted 62-15, reaching the required three-fifths majority to overturn the governor’s veto. Unless there is any intervention by the courts, the bill will now become law in 90 days.
· The National League of Cities (NLC) is asking local leaders across the country to complete a survey assessing how municipal conditions have changed over the past year and how funding from the American Rescue Plan will be used to address these challenges. The results are a part of NLC's research efforts to showcase local leadership during the pandemic and will shape strategies and programs NLC is developing to help communities leverage newly available funds. To complete the survey, click HERE. The survey deadline is Tuesday, March 30.
OHIO SENATE PASSES FY22-23 TRANSPORTATION BUDGET
This week, the Ohio Senate unanimously passed Sub. HB 74, the Transportation Budget for fiscal years 2022-2023. The bill allocates over $8 billion in transportation spending over the biennium. In its current form, the bill appropriates $193.7 million over the biennium for public transit, plus an additional $13.85 million in General Revenue Fund (GRF) revenues each year of the biennium.
The bill also increases the capital appropriation for the Public Works Commission’s Local Public Infrastructure to a total of $14 million for emergency road-slip remediation projects.
$357 million is allocated each fiscal year to local programs, and local governments would receive $126 million in federal aid to cover some of the gas tax revenue lost due to the COVID-19 pandemic’s travel restrictions.
Prior to the vote by the full Senate, the Senate Transportation Committee adopted an omnibus amendment was adopted that, among other changes, added an automatic increase of 3% over the biennium in force account thresholds for local governments every two years.
The amendment also created a Joint Committee on Force Accounts, which would include a member approved by the Ohio Municipal League, the Ohio County Engineer’s Association, the Ohio County Commissioners Association of Ohio and the Ohio Township Association. This committee would be directed under the bill to study, hear testimony and discuss issues regarding force account limits for local governments. These issues include increased construction costs and the impact the current force account thresholds have on the kinds of projects local governments can complete under force account. The committee would then submit a report of its findings by May 15, 2021, and then dissolve.
Prior to the adoption of the omnibus amendment, in written testimony to the Senate Transportation Committee, League Executive Director Kent Scarrett explained that increased force account limits would enable municipalities to defray the expense of these projects due to the increased cost of road maintenance. “This is a permissive tool that enables cities and villages to utilize their own resources for smaller projects,” wrote Scarrett. “Providing this increase in the force account threshold will relieve municipalities of the requirement to engage in the competitive bidding process for those projects, which lowers overall cost and enables projects to be completed more quickly.”
The amendment also made January 1, 2022 the new one-time registration for commercial trailers. You can read the full list of changes in the omnibus amendment HERE. The bill now heads to the House for concurrence on the amendments.
LEAGUE TESTIFIES ON TWO BROWNFIELD REVITALIZATION BILLS
This week, two bills that would invest in brownfield revitalization efforts received second hearings in the Ohio Senate Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee.
The first bill, SB 83, is sponsored by Sen. Williams (R – Cleveland) and Sen. Rulli (R – Salem) and would appropriate $150,000 from the General Revenue Fund (GRF) for the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (OEPA) to conduct a study in conjunction with Ohio public universities determining where brownfield sites are located across the state. Currently, both state and federal inventories of brownfield sites rely on voluntary reporting.
In written testimony, League Executive Director Kent Scarrett explained that the legislation would help provide greater investment opportunities for communities. “These efforts not only benefit the individual community but the entire state,” Dir. Scarrett wrote. “SB 83 recognizes gaps in current brownfield site inventory systems and will help support the partnership between the state and local governments to identify and begin remediating Ohio’s brownfields.” You can read the testimony in full HERE.
The second bill, SB 84, is also sponsored by Sen. Williams and Sen. Rulli and would fund the Clean Ohio Revitalization Fund (CORF) and add county land reutilization corporations also called county land banks) to the list of eligible applications for CORF funding.
“Municipalities across the state are financially challenged to revitalize critical areas within their communities with the widespread and persistent presence of ‘dead zones’ or ‘zombie’ properties which are unable to be redeveloped and made commercially viable due to contaminants left by previous activity on the property,” wrote Dir. Scarrett in testimony. “SB 84 recognizes that many local governments – particularly in smaller or more rural counties – lack the adequate funding to address what are often legacy challenges and will provide flexible and sustainable funding for Ohio to reinvest in itself and its communities.” You can read the testimony in full HERE.
The League appreciates the efforts of Sen. Williams and Sen. Rulli in recognizing the potential for much-needed economic development opportunities in local communities with brownfield sites and identifying means of closing the funding gaps preventing those communities from revitalizing those sites. We encourage our members to contact their Ohio statehouse delegation and express their support for this legislation.
ADVISORY MEMO ON AGREED UPON PROCEDURE (AUP) ELIGIBILITY CRITERIA FROM OHIO AUDITOR OF STATE
The following is an advisory memo from the Ohio Auditor of State Keith Faber’s office:
Ohio Revised Code Section 117.114, that originally established the eligibility requirements for Agreed Upon Procedure (AUP) engagements in the Revised Code, is rescinded effective April 12, 2021. This change will allow the Auditor of State’s (AOS) office to establish and modify the eligibility requirements for AUP engagements.
As a result, effective April 12, 2021, AOS has modified the eligibility criteria to allow entities eligible for an AUP engagement to have a 3rd cycle AUP without requesting a waiver. Any entity having 3 AUP engagements MUST have a GAGAS audit for the 4th cycle audit period. No other eligibility criteria have been modified.
Should you have any questions please feel free to reach out to our your AOS Regional office.
LOCAL LEADERS OF COASTAL MUNICIPALITIES ASKED TO PARTICIPATE IN NEW SURVEY
The Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative and its partners are assessing needs facing U.S. and Canadian local and tribal governments on the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River related to coastal management and resilience to impacts such as erosion from changing water levels, flooding, and severe storm events.
To assess these needs, the initiative and its partners are conducting a survey intended for both elected officials and staff in local units of government with authority for coastal areas along the Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence River in the United States and Canada. The survey results will guide efforts to help communities safeguard resources in coastal areas.
For more information and to begin the survey, click HERE. The deadline for the survey is Friday, April 30.
OHIO ASSOCIATION OF PUBLIC SAFETY DIRECTORS ANNOUNCES ANNUAL CONFERENCE
The Ohio Association of Public Safety Directors (OAPSD) Annual Conference will take place on Friday, May 7, 2021, at the Old Ohio State Reformatory (of Shawshank Redemption fame). Ohio Auditor Dave Yost will be giving the keynote address.
The OAPSD encourages all municipal public safety directors from around the state to attend this one-day event for valuable public safety education, updates on law-enforcement practices and networking. Non-members of the OAPSD can attend at a $50 charge, lunch included. For more information, please email OAPSD Executive Director Thomas Wetmore to email@example.com. We hope to see you there!
OHIO EPA OFFERING WEBINARS AND “ENCOURAGING ENVIRONMENTAL EXCELLENCE” PROGRAMS FOR LOCAL GOVERNMENTS
The Ohio EPA is holding two webinars for local governments. The first webinar offers assistance in order to help municipal officials keep their wastewater treatment plant in compliance with Federal National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES). The webinar will be held on April 15. Learn more and register HERE.
The second webinar is specifically geared towards community leaders and membership like yours, the webinar covers opportunities and the challenges of drinking water and wastewater regionalization in the state. This webinar will be held on April 20. Learn more and register HERE.
Additionally, the Ohio EPA’s Encouraging Environmental Excellence (E3) program recognizes an organization’s exceptional achievements in environmental stewardship. Any business, industry, trade association, professional organization, academia, or local government of Ohio can be recognized for their commitment to environmental excellence. To learn more, click HERE.
OHIO CORONAVIRUS RESPONSE UPDATE
· As of Thursday afternoon, Ohio is reporting 1,006,171 cases of coronavirus, 18,382 resident deaths, 52,539 hospitalizations and 7,369 ICU admissions.
Vaccination Appointment Booking:
· While most of Ohio's current vaccine providers are quickly filling all vaccination appointments, some locations are seeing less demand for the vaccine.
· In response, Governor DeWine announced that local health departments and hospitals that are having a hard time filling appointments with individuals who are currently eligible for the vaccine may book appointments with anyone 16 years old and older.
· Currently, anyone age 40 or older is eligible to receive the vaccine.
· Eligibility will drop to any Ohioan age 16 and up beginning on March 29.
Cleveland Mass Vaccination Update:
· As of Wednesday, more than 46,000 people have been vaccinated at the state-federal mass vaccination clinic at Cleveland State University's Wolstein Center.
o Next week will be the final segment of first doses vaccines.
· Starting April 6, second doses will begin to be administered.
Nursing Home/Assisted Living Visitation:
· The Ohio Department of Health will issue an updated order related to assisted living facilities and nursing homes.
· The general visitation requirements will remain the same, including the requirement that visitors schedule appointments in advance, are screened at the door, and wear masks.
· Changes to the order include:
o Ohio is requiring that visitation be permitted whenever safety protocols can be met. Previously, visitation was permitted, not required;
o Vaccinated residents may have physical touch with their visitor while wearing a mask. Previously, touch was discouraged;
o Visits may occur in a resident’s private room, as opposed to the previous requirement of a separate visitation area;
o 30 minutes should serve as the minimum amount of time for a visit. Previously, 30 minutes was the maximum time to visit.
· The order will also expand the circumstances in which compassionate care visits should be granted.
· In addition, the order will update nursing home and assisted living testing requirements to require the facilities to test vaccinated staff once per week and unvaccinated staff twice per week.
· The previous order made no distinction between vaccinated or unvaccinated staff.
· Certain circumstances, such as a facility outbreak, may necessitate that visitation be restricted on a case-by-case basis.
· Nursing homes must also continue following federal regulations from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.
Regional Mass Vaccination Sites:
· Next week, Ohio will open 11 stationary mass vaccination sites and four mobile clinics that will travel throughout specific regions of the state.
· The stationary mass vaccination sites will be held at:
o The Knights of Columbus, Lima, Ohio
o The Lucas County Rec Center, Maumee, Ohio
o Dayton-Montgomery County Convention Center, Dayton, Ohio
o The Celeste Center, Columbus, Ohio
o The Summit County Fairgrounds, Akron, Ohio
o The site of the former Dillard's at Southern Park Mall, Youngstown, Ohio
o The Cintas Center, Cincinnati, Ohio
o The Wilmington Airpark, Wilmington, Ohio
o Adena Medical Education Center, Chillicothe, Ohio
o Wayne Street Medical Campus, Marietta, Ohio
o Colony Square Mall, Zanesville, Ohio
· Additionally, an Ohio Northern University mobile clinic will start next week and travel between Wyandot, Marion, Union, Logan, Crawford and Hardin counties.
· The Ohio University Mobile Clinic will travel between Lawrence, Meigs, Vinton, Washington, Morgan and Perry counties.
· Additional details about the stationary and mobile clinics will be available at coronavirus.ohio.gov.
· Appointments will be available for Ohioans ages 16 years and older.
Vaccine Maintenance Program:
· The Ohio Department of Aging has created the Vaccine Maintenance Program to ensure new residents and employees, and established residents and employees who previously decided not to receive a vaccine, can still choose to receive one.
· The list of facilities includes nursing homes and assisted living facilities who have not indicated their willingness to participate in the Vaccine Maintenance Program or how they would make vaccinations available to their residents and staff.
Ohio Public Health Advisory System:
· New health data compiled by the Ohio Department of Health shows declining rates of COVID-19 exposure and spread in ten counties.
· Dropping from Alert Level 3 to Alert Level 2: Brown, Columbiana, Coshocton, Fulton, Lawrence, and Logan.
· Dropping from Alert Level 2 to Alert Level 1: Holmes and Van Wert.
Job and Family Services Update:
· Governor DeWine announced a new agreement between the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services and Google to conduct data analytics on all outstanding claims.
· Google will review claims for markers and patterns of fraud. This will allow the department to prioritize and quickly process legitimate, outstanding claims.
· Additionally, Governor DeWine announced that David DeVillers, former United States Attorney for the Southern District of Ohio, will join the Public-Private Partnership Team (P3) as the law enforcement subject matter expert.
o He will serve as a liaison between the department and local, state and federal law enforcement.
Case Data and Vaccine Information:
NEW BILLS OF MUNICIPAL INTEREST
· HB 228 – Municipal Corporation Tax (Roemer (R – Richfield), would make changes related to state-administered municipal net profits taxes. The League is still looking into this legislation.
· HB 225 – Income Tax. Sponsored by Rep. Edwards (R – Nelsonville) and Rep. Hall (R – Middletown), would grant income tax credits to persons who serve as volunteer peace officers, firefighters, or emergency medical service technicians.
COMMITTEE RECAP: BILLS OF MUNICIPAL INTEREST
· HB 192 – Energy Generation. Sponsored by Rep. Cutrona (R – Canfield), would prohibit counties, townships, and municipal corporations from prohibiting energy generation from fossil fuels and gas pipelines. During its second hearing before the House Energy and Natural Resources Committee, the Ohio Oil and Gas Association, the Ohio Coal Association and the Ohio Propane Gas Association testified in support of the bill. The League opposes this unnecessary preemption on municipal Home Rule authority.
· HB 201 – Natural Gas. Sponsored by Rep. Stephens (R – Kitts Hill), would prevent local governments from limiting use of natural gas. During its second hearing before the House Energy and Natural Resources Committee, proponents including the Consumer Energy Alliance, the Ohio Propane Gas Association, Ohio Oil and Gas Association and API Ohio testified in support of the bill. The League opposes this unnecessary preemption on municipal Home Rule authority.
· HB 2 – Broadband Services. Sponsored by Rep. Carfagna (R – Genoa Twp.) and Rep. Stewart (R – Ashville), is regarding broadband expansion, including access to electric cooperative easements and facilities, make an appropriation, and declare an emergency. During its fourth hearing before the Senate Financial Institutions and Technology Committee, AEP Ohio, AARP and the Ohio Economic Development Association asked that the committee to consider ensuring government entities are eligible for the proposed broadband expansion grant program. The League is supportive of this legislation.
· SB 113 – Fireworks Sponsored by Sen. Rulli (R – Salem) and Sen. Johnson (R – McDermott), would revise the Fireworks Law. During its second hearing before the Senate Veterans and Public Safety Committee, proponents including Phantom Fireworks and the Ohio Pyrotechnic Arts Guild testified in support of the bill. The League is neutral on this legislation.
· HB 172 – Fireworks. Sponsored by Rep. Baldridge (R - Winchester), would revise the Fireworks Law. During its second hearing before the House Commerce and Labor Committee, TNT Fireworks and Phantom Fireworks testified in support of the bill. The League is neutral on this legislation.
· HB 126 – Property Values. Sponsored by Rep. Merrin (R – Monclova Twp.), 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 before the House Ways and Means Committee, the Ohio Real Estate Investors Association and the Coalition for Fair Property Tax Valuations testified in support of the bill. The bill was then reported out of committee The League is neutral on this legislation.