OML UPDATE AT-A-GLANCE
Here are the top five things you need to know from this past week:
· This week, the League hosted a Zoom meeting with the National League of Cities (NLC) to review the local government relief aid allocated in the $1.9 trillion COVID-19 federal relief package, the American Rescue Plan (ARP). We want to thank Irma Esparza Diggs, the NLC’s Senior Executive and Director of Federal Advocacy, for taking the time to present this information to our members and answer their questions. Members can watch a recording of the presentation in the members-only section of our webpage HERE, along with the slides from the presentation. Members can also access a fact sheet on the Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds in the ARP HERE. We will continue provide updated guidance as the federal government makes it available.
· Budget Watch: This week, the Senate Transportation Committee adopted a substitute bill for HB 74, the Transportation Budget for FY22-FY23. You can find a summary of the changes HERE. Among the provisions that impact municipalities, the substitute bill increases force account limits for municipalities from $30,000 per project to $150,000 per project. The League has written a letter supporting this increase, which you can read in full HERE. Read more in the article below.
· Attorney General Dave Yost has filed a federal lawsuit that seeks to block a provision in the $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package American Rescue Plan, which prevents states and local governments from using the federal funds to offset losses from tax cuts or credits. In a statement, Yost said the bill “threatens to withhold needed federal funds from Ohio in an effort to handcuff the state’s authority to make changes to its tax structure and economic policy.” We will keep our members apprised as this lawsuit progresses.
· League members are invited to participate in a free webinar regarding the electronic filing of ballot issues. The webinar will take place on Friday, April 2 at 1 p.m. and is open to all political subdivisions that submit ballot issues and questions to the boards of elections for certification. To learn more about the webinar and to register, click HERE.
· Governor DeWine’s office will be holding the next vaccine update WebEx for local government officials across the state of Ohio Friday, March 26 from 11:30 a.m. to 12 p.m. The WebEx meeting will cover a specific vaccine-related topic along with receiving a recap of the latest COVID-19 vaccine developments that local officials may have missed. These WebEx meetings are bi-weekly and are presented in collaboration with the League, the County Commissioners Association of Ohio, Ohio Mayors Alliance and Ohio Township Association. To join the event next week, click HERE.
THIRD HEARING HELD ON LEGISLATION TO REPEAL COVID-19 MUNICIPAL INCOME TAX WITHHOLDING POLICY
This week, the Ohio House Ways and Means Committee held a third hearing for all testimony on HB 157, which would repeal Section 29 of HB 197, a provision which instructs municipalities to continue withholding municipal income tax at a taxpayer’s place of work, even if the taxpayer is currently working from home in a different local jurisdiction due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Currently, the provision ends 30 days after the Governor’s declaration of emergency is lifted. The League opposes a sudden repeal of Section 29, which would not give municipalities or business enough time to adjust to permanent work-from-home policies, and urged that a future date be set that give municipalities and businesses enough runway to prepare for the changes.
Several interested parties testified on the bill, including the Ohio Chamber of Commerce and the Ohio Society of CPAs (OSCPA). The OSCPA stated in their testimony that bill should mandate that taxpayers be eligible for refunds from municipalities where they did not work but had their income tax withheld under Section 29. This issue is currently being litigated in the courts, making it unnecessary for the General Assembly to legislate on the issue.
Several opponents testified against the bill as well, including Mayor Bill Roth of the city of Fairlawn, who detailed in testimony that the city could lose over $2 million or 15% of their revenue and $1 million specifically from their JEDD agreement. The loss of this revenue stream, according to his testimony, would “decimate our budget and threaten our ability to continue to provide jobs and threaten our role as the economic engine for the region”
Tax Administrator Kevin Preslan for the city of Cleveland Central Collection Agency, wrote in testimony that “removing the certainty provided by HB 197 would still have a catastrophic effect on employers, employees, municipalities, payroll companies, and the Ohio economy overall.” Other opponents include the First Suburbs Consortium, the Columbus Chamber of Commerce, Policy Matters Ohio and the Ohio Business Roundtable. You can access all the testimony HERE.
The League greatly appreciates the contribution made by our municipal officials to the committee’s work on this important issue and encourage our member’s to contact their state representatives or senators to share with them any impacts a sudden repeal of this temporary withholding policy would have on your municipality. We will continue to keep our members apprised on this legislation.
OHIO SENATE TRANSPORTATION COMMITTEE AMENDS TRANSPORTATION BILL
This week, the Ohio Senate Transportation Committee adopted a substitute bill for Hb 74, the transportation budget. The substitute bill added several provisions that are beneficial to Ohio municipalities.
One of the new provisions in the substitute bill increases General Revenue Funds (GRF) for public transit by $13.85 million each year, totaling $37 million each fiscal year in addition to the flex funds and federal public transportation dollars initially included in the original bill. The substitute bill also specifies that the Department of Transportation (ODOT) can request a $13 million reduction in flex funding for public transit only if additional federal COVID-19 relief funds can be spent on non-COVID-19-related expenses.
The substitute bill also increases force account limits for highway projects undertaken by an unchartered municipal corporation from $30,000 per project to $150,000 per project. The League drafted a letter supporting the language, stated that the provision reflects the increased cost of road maintenance and enables cities and villages to utilize their own resources for smaller projects.
“Municipalities will not need to engage in the competitive bidding process for those projects, which lowers overall cost and enables projects to be completed more quickly,” wrote League Executive Director Kent Scarrett. “Municipalities will be able to employ their own workforce for these projects, enabling local leaders to keep costs down and remain good stewards of local taxpayer dollars.”
Other provisions that impact municipalities include the following:
· Increases capital appropriations for the Public Works Commission's Local Public Infrastructure by $2 million.
· Permits a regional transportation improvement project (RTIP) to levy a special assessment on real property located within the district if property owners agree to the assessment.
· Authorizes a regional transit authority that levies a property tax to allow subdivisions to join with voter approval and also put a sales tax alternative before the voters.
· Modifies existing law regarding personal delivery devises, allowing them to transport cargo and increasing weight limits from 200 to 550 pounds.
The League thanks the Senate for the additional provisions in the bill that invest in municipalities and ensure they are able to continue to provide safe, reliable transportation infrastructure to the businesses and residents they serve. Sub. HB 74 remains in the Senate Transportation Committee for more hearings. We will continue to keep our members apprised of this legislation.
OHIO SENATE PASSES THREE COVID-19 PANDEMIC RELIEF BILLS
On Wednesday, the Ohio Senate unanimously passed three bills authorizing a total of approximately $890 million in coronavirus relief. The bills allocate a mix of both federal and state funding to provide aid for small businesses, renters and others impacted by the economic fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic. Here is how each bill would distribute the funding:
· SB 108: Allocates $100 million in grants for bars and restaurants, and $25 million for lodging businesses.
· SB 109: Allocates $300 million; $150 million for a small business grant relief program; $112.2 million for childcare providers; $20 million for indoor entertainment businesses and $10 million in grants for new businesses that opened after January 1, 2020.
· SB 110: Allocates $465 million for rent and utility assistance for those who have specifically experienced hardships because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Notably for League members, SB 110 also allocates $100 million to the Department of Public Safety for public assistance programs under the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
The League applauds the Senate for the passage of legislation that will help revitalize local economies and strengthen Ohio’s communities. The bills now head to the Ohio House to begin the committee hearing process. We will continue to keep our members apprised as these bills move through the legislature.
LEGISLATION PREEMPTING LOCAL CONTROL ON ENERGY RECEIVES COMMITTEE HEARINGS
This week, two bills that would preempt local control on energy generation and use received first committee hearings before the House Energy and Natural Resources Committee.
The first bill, HB 192, is sponsored by Rep. Cutrona (R – Canfield) and would prohibit counties, townships and municipal corporations from prohibiting energy generation from fossil fuels and gas pipeline. The bill prohibits any political subdivision from either banning or limiting the use of fossil fuels to generate electricity and preempts local governments from banning or limiting the construction or use of a pipeline transportation natural gas or oil.
During the committee hearing, Rep Weinstein (D – Hudson) made the committee aware that the Legislative Service Commission (LSC) analysis of the legislation indicated the possible unconstitutionality of the bill due to Home Rule authority granted to municipalities within the Ohio constitution. The bill’s sponsor did acknowledge the possibility of litigation if the bill became law.
The second bill was HB 201, which is sponsored by Rep. Stephens (R – Kitts Hill) and would prevent local governments from limiting use of natural gas by any consumer within its local jurisdiction. The bill’s sponsor cited the possibility of one village restricting natural gas use and the company cutting off service to other villages that use the same pipeline.
It is important to note that no local government in Ohio is trying to stop consumers from using natural gas through the passage of local ordinances. These bills would unconstitutionally preempt municipal Home Rule authority in order to solve a problem that does not exist. The League opposes these bills and all other legislation that seeks to restrict local control. We will continue to keep our members apprised of this legislation.
OHIO CORONAVIRUS RESPONSE UPDATE
· As of Friday afternoon, Ohio is reporting 997,336 cases of coronavirus, 18,340 resident deaths, 52,049 hospitalizations and 7,319 ICU admissions.
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: Ashtabula, Carroll, Fayette, Jackson, Morrow, and Tuscarawas.
· Dropping from Alert Level 2 to Alert Level 1: Auglaize, Mercer, Shelby, and Vinton.
Nursing Home Update:
· This week, Ohio’s long-term care facilities reported just 70 new COVID-19 cases, compared to 157 new cases reported the previous week and 2,832 new cases reported at the peak of the pandemic in December.
· A total of 93 percent of Ohio’s nursing homes and 77 percent of assisted living facilities have signed up to get additional vaccine for new staff and new residents through Ohio’s COVID-19 Vaccine Maintenance Program.
o Governor DeWine urged the 243 facilities in Ohio that have not requested additional vaccine for new staff and residents to alert the state to its process to offer the vaccine by filling out the survey at aging.ohio.gov/COVIDvaccine.
Indoor Air Quality Assistance Program:
· The Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation has expanded the eligibility of the COVID-19 Indoor Air Quality Assistance Program, which provides reimbursements to eligible applicants to help cover the costs of inspections, assessments, maintenance, and improvements to indoor heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems to control the spread of COVID-19.
o The program also provides reimbursement for secondary devices designed to destroy bacteria, mold, and viruses.
· Launched in December, this $28 million federally-funded program targeted nursing homes, assisted living centers, and adult day centers that invested in HVAC improvements that weaken COVID-19’s spread.
· The expanded eligibility extends to:
o Intermediate care facilities;
o Senior centers;
o Adult care facilities;
o Waiver settings (group homes); and
o Substance use treatment centers.
· More information, including the application, can be found at BWC.ohio.gov.
· Governor DeWine announced special election dates for the 11th Congressional District to fill the vacancy left by former Rep. Marcia Fudge.
· The vacancy opened after the United States Senate confirmed now-Secretary Marcia Fudge on March 10 to serve as the head of the Department of Housing & Urban Development, and her subsequent resignation of her congressional seat.
o A Writ of Election may only be issued upon the resignation of a member of Congress.
· Important Dates:
o May 5: Declaration of candidacies for partisan candidates must be filed with the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections
o May 24: Declaration of candidacies for write-in candidates must be filed with the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections
o May 25: The county board of elections must certify the names of the candidates that will appear on the special primary ballot
o July 6: Eligible Ohioans who want to cast a ballot in the Special Congressional Primary Election must register to vote by this date
o August 3: The Special Election Congressional Primary takes place
o October 4: Eligible Ohioans who want to cast a ballot in the Special Congressional General Election must register to vote by this date
o November 2: The Special Congressional General Election
o November 23: Boards must complete and certify official canvass
· The amount of time between the governor’s Writ of Election announcement and the Special Congressional Primary and General Elections are very similar compared to the previous two special elections.
· Ohioans interested in registering to vote or signing up to be a poll worker should visit VoteOhio.gov for more information.
Case Data and Vaccine Information:
Mass Vaccination Clinic Announcement:
· Ohio Governor Mike DeWine and representatives from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), City of Cleveland, Cuyahoga County, and Cleveland State University (CSU) welcomed the first members of the general public to be vaccinated at Ohio's mass vaccination clinic at CSU's Wolstein Center in Cleveland.
· The eight-week mass vaccination clinic is vaccinating approximately 1,500 Ohioans today and will ultimately bring vaccine doses to 210,000 people in Ohio.
· Similar to mass vaccination sites in other states, the site will incrementally increase the number of vaccines administered, and up to 6,000 doses per day are expected to be available by next week.
· The Wolstein Center location was recommended by Ohio and selected by FEMA based on its proximity to a large number of Ohio’s high-risk citizens and medically underserved populations.
· To ensure equitable access to the vaccine for underserved and socially vulnerable populations, more than 300 local community groups are partnering with the state to help schedule appointments for those who face vaccination barriers. Translators will be on-site to assist those who speak other languages, and free transportation is available for those who need help getting to and from the clinic.
· To book an appointment at the Wolstein Center Mass Vaccination Clinic or to find appointment information on the more than 1,300 local providers offering the vaccine statewide, visit gettheshot.coronavirus.ohio.gov. Ohioans can also schedule mass vaccination clinic appointments by calling 1-833-4-ASK-ODH (1-833-427-5634).
Vaccine Eligibility Expansion:
· While in Cleveland today, Governor DeWine also announced expanded vaccine eligibility in Ohio beginning on March 19, 2021, for phases 1E and 2C.
· Phase 1E includes those with cancer, chronic kidney disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, heart disease, and obesity.
· Phase 2C extends eligibility to Ohioans who are 40 and older. Between these two eligible groups, 1.6 million more Ohioans will have access to the vaccine.
· Beginning on March 29, eligibility will be expanded to all Ohioans ages 16 and older.
· FDA emergency use authorization only allows those ages 16 and 17 to receive the Pfizer vaccine.
Vaccination Clinic Operation:
· The Ohio Department of Health, Ohio National Guard, and Ohio Emergency Management Agency are managing the Wolstein Center clinic with support from FEMA, the U.S. Department of Defense, the City of Cleveland, the Cleveland Health Department, Cuyahoga County, the Cuyahoga County Board of Health, Cleveland State University, Cleveland Clinic, MetroHealth, and University Hospitals.
· The Wolstein Center Mass Vaccination Clinic will operate seven days a week from 8:00 a.m to 8:00 p.m. and will offer first doses of the Pfizer vaccine during the first three weeks of operations. Those vaccinated during that timeframe will be guaranteed their second Pfizer dose during the fourth, fifth, and sixth weeks of the clinic.
· The one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine will be offered at the site during the seventh and eighth weeks. There are multiple free parking options near the Wolstein Center.
· The state of Ohio is also offering two pop-up mass vaccination clinics in Columbus and Cincinnati beginning on March 18, and 15 long-term mass vaccination clinics will open regionally across Ohio in coming weeks.
BILLS OF MUNICIPAL INTEREST PASSED BY SENATE
· SB 15 – Fiscal Officers. Sponsored by Sen. Wilson (R – Maineville), would change the circumstances in which certain fiscal officers may be held liable for a loss of public funds. The bill passed the Senate unanimously and now heads to the House to begin committee hearings. The League is supportive of this legislation.
COMMITTEE RECAP: BILLS OF MUNICIPAL INTEREST
· 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, and make an appropriation. During its third hearing before the Senate Financial Institutions and Technology, a representative of Ohio 4 Safe Tech submitted opponent testimony Chair Wilson (R – Maineville) said the committee will consider amendments to the bill next week. The League is supportive of this legislation.
· SB 83 – Brownfield Sites. Sponsored by Sen. Williams (D – Cleveland) and Sen. Rulli (R – Salem), would require the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency to conduct a study to determine where brownfield sites are located in this state and make an appropriation. During its first hearing before the Senate Agriculture and Natural Resources, the bill’s sponsor explained that the legislation would appropriate $150,000 from the General Revenue Fund (GRF) for an EPA study on brownfield sites to fill current inventory gaps due to voluntary reporting. The League is supporting of this legislation.
· SB 84 – Clean Ohio Fund. Sponsored by Sen. Williams (D – Cleveland) and Sen. Rulli (R – Salem), would make changes to the law relating to the Clean Ohio Revitalization Fund. During its first hearing before the Senate Agriculture and Natural Resources, the bill’s sponsor explained that the legislation would refund the Clean Ohio Revitalization Fund for cleanup of brownfield sites. The League is supportive of this legislation.
· SB 55 – Massage Therapy. Sponsored by Sen. Brenner (R – Powell), would make changes to the laws governing massage establishments and massage therapy. During its fourth hearing before the Senate Health Committee, interested parties including the Trager Association testified on 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 first hearing before the House Commerce and Labor Committee, the bill’s sponsor explained that the legislation would allow the possession and discharge of consumer grade fireworks. The League is neutral on this legislation.
· HB 23 – EMS Personnel. Sponsored by Rep. Plummer (R – Dayton) and Rep. West (D – Canton), would require emergency medical service personnel and peace officers to undergo dementia-related training. During its fourth hearing before the House Commerce and Labor Committee, the bill was reported out of committee. The League is neutral on this legislation.