OML UPDATE AT-A-GLANCE
 
Here are the top six things you need to know from this past week:
 
·        Next week on Thursday, May 20 from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m., the League is hosting a Zoom presentation exclusive for OML members with the National League of Cities (NLC) on the final guidance for the Coronavirus Local Fiscal Recovery Funds included in the American Rescue Plan Act. This meeting will unpack the final guidance released earlier this week by the U.S. Treasury Department and share resources and recommendations for municipal officials to utilize the funds appropriately. You can find the information on how to join the Zoom meeting HERE.
 
·        The National League of Cities (NLC) held a Federal Advocacy update call this week to break down the U.S. Treasury guidelines for the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), which you can access in full HERE. You can find the full recording of the briefing and a copy of the slides HERE. Read more about how Ohio municipalities will receive their allocation of the funds in the article below.
 
·        This week, the Ohio Senate Ways and Means Committee held a first hearing for sponsor and proponent testimony for SB 97, the bill that would repeal Sec. 29 of HB 197, which instructs municipalities to withhold income tax at an employee’s principal place of work even if the taxpayer is working remotely in another local jurisdiction due to the COVID-19 pandemic. A substitute bill was offered, but not adopted, that extends the sunsetting of Sec. 29 of HB 197 until Dec. 31, 2021, which the League supports. However, the substitute bill also makes substantial retroactive changes to the application of Sec. HB 197, as passed by the Ohio legislature last session, by including essentially the same changes made to Sub. HB 157 by the Ohio House Ways and Means Committee several weeks ago. Greater detail is provided in the article below.
                                                             
·        Governor DeWine announced this week that all health orders except those pertaining to nursing homes and assisted-living facilities will be lifted June 2. This includes the statewide mask mandate. The Governor also announced five $1 million dollar drawings for adults who have received at least one COVID-19 vaccine dose. These weekly drawings are intended to incentivize vaccinations. Read more in the Ohio coronavirus response update below.
 
·        Budget Watch: Next week on Wednesday, May 19, the Senate Finance Committee will hold hearings on local government issues in Sub. HB 110, the state operating budget bill. The League will be offering testimony on the issues in the budget affecting municipalities. You can access the League’s full list of municipal issues included in the budget HERE.
 
·        This week, Governor DeWine signed HB 167, which allocates $465 million in rent and utility assistance for lower-income Ohioans. The bill also allocates $100 million in coronavirus aid to the Ohio Department of Public Safety. There are several more bills waiting on the Governor’s signature that appropriate the state’s remaining federal relief dollars from the CARES Act.
 
 
 
OHIO SENATE COMMITTEE HOLDS FIRST HEARING ON BILL REPEALING TEMPORARY MUNICIPAL INCOME TAX WITHHOLDING PROVISION
 
This week, the Ohio Senate Ways and Means Committee held a first hearing on SB 97, which as currently drafted would repeal Sec. 29 of HB 197, which instructs municipalities withhold income tax at an employee’s principle place of work even if the taxpayer is working remotely in another local jurisdiction due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
 
During sponsor testimony, Sen. Roegner (R – Hudson) put forth a substitute bill, which you can find HERE, that was not ultimately accepted by the committee. The substitute bill, if adopted, would make two major changes to the bill. The first change would extend the sunsetting of Sec. 29 of HB 197 until Dec. 31, 2021, which is supported by the League.
 
The second change is similar to the language in Sub. HB 157, which is the companion bill to SB 97 in the Ohio House. The language states that Sec. 29 of HB 197 applied only to withholding and not liability, thus mandating that municipalities must comply with requests for refunds from taxpayers who worked from home in a local jurisdiction other than where their principle place of work is located due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
 
The substitute bill language also would no longer require the taxpayer’s employer to verify their refund claims, placing the burden to withhold correctly and prove where the work was conducted solely on the taxpayer.
 
This refund language in the substitute bill disregards the recent dismissal of the Buckeye Institutes lawsuit against the City of Columbus on the constitutionality of Sec. 29 of HB 197 and the issue of refunds. The Franklin County Court of Common Pleas stated in the decision that, “Section 29 of HB 197 treated remote work performed under the Stay-at Home Order as if it had occurred at the employee's principal place of business.” The court dismissed the case with prejudice. The Buckeye Institute has stated that it will appeal the decision to the Tenth District. The Buckeye Institute also has other lawsuits pending in Cuyahoga, Hamilton and Lucas county courts.
 
The Ohio Chamber of Commerce and the Ohio Society of CPAs testified in support of the substitute bill. During the hearing, members of the committee raised points regarding that the legislature did discuss the initial intent that Sec. 29 of HB 197 apply to liability and that a municipality must still supply emergency services to a company’s building, even if all employees are working from home.
 
It was shared with the witnesses that the legislature was expressly interested in protecting the well-being of municipalities by adopting Sec. 29. The point was also made that many local Chamber of Commerce groups around the state have expressed their opposition to changes made to Sub. HB 157 by the Ohio House of Representatives that the Ohio Chamber is supporting, and that these local Chamber of Commerce groups do not support the changes being considered to SB 97 relative to retroactively changing the exposure to municipal budgets. Committee members also raised concerns about both the substitute bill’s fiscal impacts and the additional administrative burdens to municipalities the changes would create.
 
The League thanks Senate Ways and Means Committee Chair Bill Blessing for his thoughtful approach to this important issue and his recognition of the challenges faced by municipalities and employers due to the pending expiration of the temporary withholding policy set to end August 23 without legislative action. You can watch the hearing in full HERE. We will continue to keep our members updated on this bill.
 
 
 
 
 
U.S. TREASURY ISSUES FINAL RULES FOR RECEIVING AND USING AMERICAN RESCUE PLAN ACT (ARPA) FUNDS
 
As we announced previously this week, the U.S. Treasury Department has released final guidance for how states and local governments can access and use the financial relief assistance provided by the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), which you can find HERE.
 
The following are the steps Metro cities and non-entitlement municipalities must take to receive the ARPA assistance:
 
Metro cities, which are municipalities with a population above 50,000, must request their funds through the Treasury Submission Portal HERE in order to receive their allocation. The allocation amounts for Metro cities can be found HERE
 
In order to submit their request, Metro cities should ensure they have taken the following steps first:
 
1. Ensure the entity has a valid DUNS number. A DUNS number is a unique nine-character number used to identify an organization and is issued by Dun & Bradstreet. The federal government uses the DUNS number to track how federal money is allocated. A DUNS number is required prior to registering with the SAM database, which is outlined below. Registering for a DUNS number is free of charge.
 
If an entity does not have a valid DUNS number, please visit https://fedgov.dnb.com/webform/ or call 1-866-705-5711 to begin the registration process.
 
2. Ensure the entity has an active SAM registration. SAM is the official government-wide database to register with in order to do business with the U.S. government. All Federal financial assistance recipients must register on SAM.gov and renew their SAM registration annually to maintain an active status to be eligible to receive Federal financial assistance. There is no charge to register or maintain your entity SAM registration.
 
If an entity does not have an active SAM registration, please visit, SAM.gov to begin the entity registration or renewal process. Please note that SAM registration can take up to three weeks; delay in registering in SAM could impact timely payment of funds.
 
3. Gather the entity's payment information, including:
  • Entity Identification Number (EIN), name, and contact information
  • Name and title of an authorized representative of the entity
  • Financial institution information (e.g., routing and account number, financial institution name and contact information)
 
4. Once these steps have been taken, the entity can then submit their request through the Treasury Submission Portal HERE. Municipalities will be asked to provide the following information in their request:
  • Jurisdiction name, taxpayer ID number, DUNS Number, and address
  • Authorized representative name, title, and email
  • Contact person name, title, phone, and email
  • Funds transfer information, including recipient’s financial institution, address, phone, and routing number and account number
  • Completed certification document (to be signed by the authorized representative)
 
Non-entitlement municipalities, which are municipalities with a population below 50,000, will receive a distribution of funds from their respective state government. Treasury is expected to release the final allocation amounts for non-entitlement municipalities at any time. We will immediately alert our members when those allocation amounts are released.
 
The state of Ohio has 30 days to distribute those funds to non-entitlement municipalities, but they can also request one extension if unable to meet the initial 30-day deadline. It is expected that this action to distribute the dollars through the state will require legislation. We will keep our members updated as soon as more information becomes available from the Ohio legislature on the process and estimated timelines for distributions.
 
Non-entitlement units must have a valid DUNS number to meet reporting requirements under the program. If an entity does not have a valid DUNS number, please visit https://fedgov.dnb.com/webform/ or call 1-866-705-5711 to begin the registration process.
 
Non-entitlement units must also have an active SAM registration and must gather the entity’s payment information. Please see steps 2 and 3 above for information on how to do this.
 
We will continue keep our members apprised as more information is made available.
 
 
 
 
 
OHIO SENATE COMMITTEE HOLDS FIRST HEARING ON BILL PREEMPTING MUNICIPAL AUTHORITY OVER NATURAL GAS
 
This week, the Senate Energy and Public Utilities Committee held a first hearing on SB 127, which is sponsored by Sen. Lang (R – West Chester) and would preempt local governments from limiting the use of natural gas. The bill would bar political subdivisions from limiting, preventing or prohibiting any consumer within its local jurisdiction from obtaining distribution services or retail natural gas service. You can find the bill analysis HERE.
 
SB 127 would unconstitutionally preempt municipal Home Rule authority. The League has offered opponent testimony on the companion bill to SB 127 in the House, HB 210. HB 201 is sponsored by Rep. Stephens (R – Kitts Hill) and was passed by the House earlier this month.
 
In that testimony, OML Legal Counsel Garry Hunter explained, “The utilization of natural gas within a municipality is not the same in every municipality. For instance, some municipalities may have readily available alternative sources of energy which are cost effective, while others may not. This means the regulation of gas emissions are different for each municipality. This is a classic home rule issue.” You can read that testimony in full HERE.
 
The League will continue to oppose this bill and all other pending legislation that would preempt municipal authority.
 
 
 
 
OHIO HOUSE COMMITTEE HOLDS FIRST HEARING ON BILL ADDRESSING FREIGHT TRAIN BLOCKAGE OF EMERGENCY VEHICLES 
 
This week, the Ohio House Transportation and Public Safety Committee held a first hearing on HB 195, which is regarding rail yard walkway safety and illumination, as well as public roadway obstruction delaying emergency vehicles.
 
“If stopped, a train of this length can block every major crossing in many Ohio towns and villages, preventing movement across the tracks of all vehicular traffic,” bill sponsor Rep. Sheehy (D – Oregon) stated. He explained that if a freight train is only manned by a crew of one, complying with Ohio law and separating the train so emergency vehicles can pass is extremely difficult.
 
HB 195 would prohibit a railroad company from obstructing a public road with a railroad car for any amount of time if the obstruction delays an emergency vehicle that is assisting or attempting to assist a person or property in danger. The bill also imposes a $5,000 civil penalty on violators. You can read the bill analysis HERE.
 
In committee, the bill’s sponsor explained that while a municipality can currently issue a fine of $100 for blocking a road for two hours, a fine of $100 to a major corporation “doesn’t get their attention.”
 
The League appreciates the bill’s sponsors Rep. Sheehy and Rep. Lepore-Hagan (D – Youngstown) for recognizing the need for this legislation and is supportive of this bill. We will keep our members apprised as it moves through the legislative process.
 
 
 
 
PENDING LEGISLATION WOULD REQUIRE THE STATE TO MAINTAIN AND REPAIR STATE HIGHWAYS IN VILLAGES
 
The Ohio House Transportation and Public Safety Committee has held three hearings on a bill that would require the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) to maintain and repair state highways that run through Ohio villages. The bill, HB 16, is sponsored by Rep. Stephens (R – Kitts Hill) and Rep. Baldridge (R – Winchester) and would also eliminate the current requirement that a village request and approve work on those state highways. The bill would also mandate that ODOT maintain traffic signals and vegetation along the highway within the village’s jurisdiction. You can find the bill analysis HERE.
 
Rep. Stephens explained in sponsor testimony that current law regarding this issue is vague and interpreted differently by ODOT Districts across the state. "Over the last two decades, the state government has made it very difficult financially for local governments, especially villages,” he stated. “Through reduced local government funding and various forms of unfunded mandates, it is very difficult for many villages to survive, much less prosper." Co-sponsor Rep. Baldrige also stated that inconsistent maintenance of four-lane, limited highways from village to village presents a safety concern.
 
The League thanks Rep. Stephens and Rep. Baldridge for recognizing the importance of addressing this issue and investing in Ohio’s villages, and for introducing this legislation. HB 16 is currently awaiting another hearing in the House Transportation and Public Safety Committee. We encourage our members to contact their state representative and express their support of HB 16.
 
 
 
 
MUNICIPAL ENGINEERS INVITED TO JOIN NEW LEAGUE ASSOCIATION
 
Municipal engineers across the state are invited to join the recently created Municipal Engineers’ Association of Ohio (MEAO).
 
MEAO, which has been created under the umbrella of the Ohio Municipal League, seeks to give municipal engineers a voice before the legislature and an opportunity to advocate for policies that will invest in Ohio’s cities and villages. The association will also be holding annual conferences so members can network, share best practices and take advantage of credited continuing educational seminars.
 
Municipal engineers should be keeping their finger on the pulse of policy changes that would impact public works in their communities. Members of MEAO will be able to review and advise on legislation, meet with their Ohio Statehouse delegation and testify directly before the Ohio General Assembly.
 
Members will also be able to meet and network with their peers, exchanges best practices and attend annual conferences that will offer credited continuing education opportunities.
 
The League urges municipal engineers across the state to join the Municipal Engineers’ Association of Ohio and take advantage of the networking, educational and advocacy opportunities they can access by becoming a member. Please email Legislative Advocate Thomas Wetmore at twetmore@omlohio.org to find out more.


 
LEAGUE TO HOST FREE WEBINAR ON LATEST VERIZON TECHNOLOGY FOR COMMUNITIES
 
On May 19 at 11 a.m., the League will be hosting a free webinar with Verizon’s Public Sector Team to detail how Verizon has leveraged technology to enhance and improve communication, local transparency and safety for Ohio’s local communities.
 
The webinar will cover how technology and communication can continue to enhance the safety of communities, how Ohio communities have leveraged technology to improve citizen communication and local transparency, and how Verizon can help improve quality of life for Ohio residents and increase city efficiency. To learn more and to register, click HERE
 
 
COMMITTEE RECAP: BILLS OF MUNICIPAL INTEREST
 
·        SB 115 – Pooled Collateral. Sponsored by Sen. Schuring (R – Canton). would make changes to the Ohio Pooled Collateral Program. During its third hearing before the Senate Financial Institutions and Technology Committee, the bill was reported out of committee. 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 third hearing before the Senate Veterans and Public Safety Committee, Prevent Blindness Ohio and other opponents testified against the bill. The League is neutral on this legislation.
 
·        SB 56 – Design Contracts. Sponsored by Rep. Blessing (R – Colerain Twp.), would regulate the use of indemnity provisions in professional design contracts related to public improvements. During its fourth hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee, the bill was reported out of committee. The League is neutral on 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 third bearing before the Senate Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee, no testimony was heard on the bill. The League is supportive of this legislation.
 
·        SB 105 – Minority Businesses. Sponsored by Sen. Sykes (D – Akron) and Sen. Schuring, (R – Canton), would require political subdivisions to recognize state certifications of minority business enterprises. During its third hearing before the Senate Small Business and Economic Opportunity Committee, the bill was amended to expand the bill to also apply to Ohio’s Women and Veteran-Friendly Business Enterprise Program. The bill was then reported out of committee. The League is neutral on this legislation.
 
·        SB 142 – Occupational Regulation. Sponsored by Schaffer (R – Lancaster), would license residential only construction contractors and to make changes to the law regulating specialty construction contractor. During its second hearing before the Senate Small Business and Economic Opportunity Committee, proponents including the Air Conditioning Contractors of Ohio and the Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors of Ohio testified in support of the bill. The League is neutral on this legislation.
 
·        HB 275 – Political Subdivision. Sponsored by Rep. Lampton (R – Fairborn), would expand political subdivision joint purchasing authority to expressly include purchases for construction services. During its first hearing before the House Commerce and Labor Committee, the bill’s sponsor explained that the legislation clarifies that local governments are authorized to use joint purchasing authority for construction services. The League is looking into this legislation.
 
·        HB 81 – Massage Therapy. Sponsored by Rep. Plummer (R – Dayton) and Rep. Manchester (R – Lakeview), would make changes to the laws governing massage establishments and massage therapy. During it second hearing before the House Commerce and Labor Committee, proponents including the American Massage Therapy Association testified in support of the bill. The League is neutral on this legislation.
 
·        SB 176 – Sports Gaming. Sponsored by Sen. Antani (R – Miamisburg) and Sen. Manning (R – N. Ridgeville), would legalize and regulate sports gaming in this state, to levy a tax on businesses that provide sports gaming, and make other changes to the Gambling Law. During it first hearing pending referral before the Select Committee on Gaming, the bill was amended with a substitute bill to requiring that those offering sports betting through a Type A license allowing for mobile wagering must have or create a substantial presence in the state. The substitute bill also removes language awarding Type B licenses allowing wagering in brick-and-mortar locations on a first-come, first-serve basis. The League is neutral on this legislation.
 
 
 
 
OHIO CORONAVIRUS RESPONSE UPDATE
 
·        As of Thursday afternoon, Ohio is reporting 1,088,343 cases of coronavirus, 19,439 resident deaths, 57,809 hospitalizations and 7,955 ICU admissions.
·        Governor DeWine announced a series of statewide drawings to provide incentives to Ohioans to get a COVID-19 vaccination. With wide access to the life-saving vaccine to help Ohioans safe, Governor DeWine also announced that most COVID-19 health orders would be removed on June 2. DeWine made the announcements during a statewide address to Ohioans Wednesday evening.
Vaccine Incentives/Statewide Drawings:
  • In an effort to increase the number of Ohioans who currently have not taken a COVID-19 vaccine to get vaccinated, Governor DeWine announced a series of statewide drawings to help incentivize vaccinations.
  • Ohioans under the age of 18 who are eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine will be entered into a drawing for a four-year full scholarship to any of Ohio's state colleges and universities, including full tuition, room, and board.
  • Ohioans aged 18 and older will be entered into a weekly drawing with a prize of up to $1 million.
  • A total of five weekly drawings for each prize will take place, with the first winners being announced on May 26. Winners must have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine by the date of the respective drawing.
  • The drawings will be administered by the Ohio Department of Health, with technical assistance from the Ohio Lottery Commission, and will be funded through existing allocations to the Ohio Department of Health of unexpended coronavirus relief funds.
  • Further details and contest rules will be announced by the Ohio Department of Health and the Ohio Lottery Commission next week during a briefing to news media.
 Expiration of Health Orders:
  • Governor DeWine also announced that he has asked the Ohio Department of Health to remove most pandemic health orders on June 2.
  • The timeline will allow any Ohioan who has not yet received a COVID-19 vaccine to obtain one to protect themselves and others before the lifting of coronavirus mitigation protocols.
  • Measures being removed will include facial covering protocols, social distancing guidelines, and capacity restrictions for indoor and outdoor events.
  • Governor DeWine announced that any pandemic health orders that would remain solely relate to either
  • 1) nursing homes and assisted living facilities, which will also to have federal safety protocols, and
  • 2) data collection related to the pandemic.
Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation:
 
·        Governor DeWine announced that the administration will inform the U.S. Department of Labor that Ohio intends to stop participation in the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) program on June 26, 2021.
 
·        The FPUC program gave states funding to offer enhanced unemployment benefits, including an additional $600, and now an additional $300
Governor Announces Vaccinations Available to Youth in Ohio:
·        Governor DeWine announced COVID-19 Pfizer vaccinations will now be available to Ohio’s youth, age 12 years and older, following members of the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) recommending use of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for this age group today.
o   This follows the FDA’s update of the emergency use authorization (EUA) on Monday to include youth ages 12-15.
 
·        Additionally, Ohioans 17 and under who are eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccination will be entered into a drawing for a full, four-year scholarship to any of Ohio's state colleges and universities, including full tuition, room and board, and books. 
o   A total of five weekly drawings for a full, four-year scholarship will take place, with the first winner being announced on May 26th. A webpage will be available to register those who qualify.
  • Children under age 18 who are not emancipated must have parental consent for any vaccine.
  • A parent or legal guardian generally should accompany the minor to receive the vaccine, unless the administration of the vaccine occurs in a physician’s office, school-based or school-associated clinic setting or similar setting.
  • There are hundreds of locations at which youth ages 12-15 can be vaccinated across the state, including pediatrician’s offices, vaccine clinics, local health departments, hospitals, community health centers, and more. However, parents of 12-year-olds should be advised that due to current state law, those age 12 must have a prescription to be vaccinated at a pharmacy.
  • Youth ages 13 and older do not need a prescription and may receive their COVID-19 vaccine at a pharmacy or any other vaccine provider listed at gettheshot.coronavirus.ohio.gov. A bill has been introduced that would permit youth ages 7-12 to receive a COVID-19 or influenza vaccination at a pharmacy without a prescription.
  • Prescriptions would still be required for all other vaccinations for this age group.
  • Members of the Ohio House of Representatives and the Ohio Senate have passed the bill. Once the bill is signed by the governor, it will immediately go into effect.
  • The Ohio Department of Health has also released a Frequently Asked Questions for Parents, Guardians, and Youth Ages 12-17 Eligible for the Pfizer Vaccine.
Wolstein Center Vaccination Update”
  • Governor DeWine also announced that anyone age 12 and older can get their first Pfizer dose at the Wolstein Center Mass Vaccination Clinic in downtown Cleveland from May 18 through May 31.
  • Appointments during this time period had initially been reserved for second doses only, but the site will expand to also offer first doses to anyone who has not yet been vaccinated, including those in the expanded eligibility category.
  • Youth ages 12-17 who are not emancipated must have consent from and be accompanied by a parent or legal guardian to be vaccinated at the Wolstein Center.
  • Second dose appointments will be scheduled at the time of the first dose, but because the mass vaccination clinic at the Wolstein Center will close in early June, those vaccinated at the clinic from May 18 through May 31 will be scheduled to receive their second dose at an area Discount Drug Mart location.
  • The state-federal mass vaccination clinic at the Wolstein Center, which is located at 2000 Prospect Avenue and open 7 days a week, has administered hundreds of thousands of vaccines since launching in March.
  • Walk-ins are welcome from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. or appointments can be scheduled at gettheshot.coronavirus.ohio.gov or by calling 1-833-4-ASK-ODH (1-833-427-5634).
  • Parking is free and transportation assistance for those living in Cuyahoga County is available by calling 2-1-1.
Case Data and Vaccine Information:
·        In-depth COVID-19 data for Ohio: coronavirus.ohio.gov.
·        Ohio's central scheduling system: gettheshot.coronavirus.ohio.gov
·        Ohio mass vaccination information: coronavirus.ohio.gov/massvaccinationclinics
·        All vaccine providers: vaccine.coronavirus.ohio.gov
·        More vaccine information: coronavirus.ohio.gov/vaccine