OML UPDATE AT-A-GLANCE
Here are the top 6 things you need to know from this past week:
· This week, the League testified before the House Ways and Means Committee on HB 157, which would repeal Section 29 of HB 197, 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. You can read Executive Director Kent Scarrett’s testimony in full HERE. If any League members are interested in adopting a resolution opposing HB 157 or the Senate companion bill SB 97, you can find a sample resolution HERE. Read more about the committee hearing in the article below.
· Budget Watch: Also this week, the League testified before the House Finance Committee in support of HB 110, the state operating budget bill. The testimony urged the committee’s support of the Governor’s $450 million investment in Ohio’s local communities. The League also requested dedicated funding for law enforcement training, the elimination of public notice requirements and the full restoration of the Local Government Fund (LGF) to pre-2011 levels among other requests impactful to Ohio cities and villages. You can read Executive Director Scarrett’s testimony in full HERE and read more in the article below.
· This week, Congress passed and President Biden signed into law H.R. 1315, the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan allocating COVID-19 pandemic relief. The final package allocates $130 billion for local governments across the country, with $65.1 billion dedicated for cities, towns and villages nationwide. Ohio municipalities have been allocated $5.4 billion in federal aid and the state will receive $5.7 billion. The bill also contains economic impact payments of up to $1,400 per person and a Child Tax Credit of up to $3,000 per child from ages 6 to 17 and $3,600 per child under the age of 6 for the families earning up to $75,000 each year or couples earning $150,000 each year. Additionally, Ohio K-12 schools will receive $4.5 billion in relief assistance. More information on the bill and the local government relief funds is available in a OML Member Alert that went out earlier today.
· NLC “American Rescue Plan” Overview Panel: On Friday, March 23 at 1 p.m., the National League of Cities (NLC) is hosting a panel session with Clarence Anthony, CEO and Executive Director for the NLC, for a conversation on the American Rescue Plan and funding for cities. The panel discussion will cover how to prioritize community needs to immediately address COVID-19-related challenges such as struggling small businesses, real estate vacancies in town centers and downtowns, and understanding community market conditions in order to enhance community vitality. The panel is geared toward city leaders from communities both large and small. Attendees will be able to submit questions ahead of the event. To learn more and to register, click HERE
· The Biden Administration has announced an effort to invest $250 million to encourage COVID-19 safety and vaccination among underserved populations through health
literacy grants to localities, who will partner with community-based organizations, to reach racial and ethnic minority, rural and other vulnerable populations. Click HERE to apply for the grants and read more in the article below.
· The U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) announced it is seeking applicants for the FY21 round of the Infrastructure for Rebuilding America (INFRA) grant program to fund transportation projects of national and regional significance. The funding available for this year’s grants totals approximately $889 million. You can find out more about these grants HERE.
LEAGUE TESTIFIES ON BUDGET BILL AND LEGISLATION TO REPEAL COVID-19 MUNICIPAL INCOME TAX WITHHOLDING PROVISION
This week, the League testified on two major bills that would impact municipalities. The first was 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 Ohio House Ways and Means Committee held two hearings on HB 157, one for sponsor testimony and another for “all testimony” allowing proponents and opponents to testify. During the second hearing, Executive Director Kent Scarrett outlined the League’s opposition to 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.
Dublin Mayor Chris Amorose-Groomes also testified in person against HB 175. Mayor Amorose-Groomes detailed the impact the bill would have on major Ohio job centers like Dublin, which would potentially see a drop of $25.3 million in tax revenues. “These cities engage in detailed master planning and invest in infrastructure, services, and amenities to attract companies often from outside the state to locate and grow their businesses,” she stated. “Significant changes to the municipal income tax structure would put job centers like Dublin in jeopardy as well as the region and state.”
Lima Mayor David Berger, who also testified in person, explained that taxpayers that work in the city but live outside the city make up an estimated 60% of the revenue generated by the city’s income tax, which is $20 million of the city’s $34 million general revenue fund. He stated that Lima’s “police and fire departments combined personnel and capital budgets consume the entirety of that income tax. Any loses represent fundamental threats to our frontline safety divisions.”
The Ohio Council of Retail Merchants and the Greater Ohio Policy Center also testified against HB 157. Many others submitted written opponent or interested party testimony, including the Regional Income Tax Agency (RITA), the Ohio Chamber of Commerce, the Ohio Mayor’s Alliance and representatives of the cities of Dayton, Akron and Evendale. 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.
The League also testified in support of HB 110, the state operating budget bill, before the House Finance Committee. The League voiced support of the provisions in Governor DeWine’s “Investing in Ohio’s Future” proposal that invests in local governments by allocated $450 million for underground infrastructure projects, brownfield revitalization and broadband expansion.
Dir. Scarrett’s testimony also drew the committee’s attention to requests for other municipal issues the budget could address, such as dedicated funding for the Law Enforcement Assistance Fund to ensure that local law enforcement have access to these trainings consistently from year to year.
In addition, the committee was urged to eliminate public notice requirements mandating that summaries of all municipal ordinances, notices and other such information be published three times in the largest newspaper of general circulation in the municipal corporation. Dir. Scarrett’s testimony explained that the League believes that this requirement, which became law in 1986, is no longer necessary in the internet age, and is extremely costly.
The League also urged the committee to fully restore the LGF to pre-2011 levels of 3.68% of the General Revenue Fund (GRF). HB 110 currently only continues funding for the LGF at current statutory levels. As many municipalities are currently experiencing revenue loss resulting from the economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and reduced tax collections, fully restoring the LGF would help ensure municipalities will not be forced to pass the financial burden down to the taxpayer. “As cities and villages continue to provide the critical local services that Ohioan’s depend upon, the state and local partnership needs to be reinvigorated through a full restoration of the LGF,” said Dir. Scarrett.
Additionally, Dir. Scarrett’s testimony argued that municipalities be authorized to participate in the Treasury Offset Program (TOP), which is a federal program whereby states can have eligible debts withheld from a taxpayer’s federal income tax return. Were municipalities able to participate, they could effectively recover the municipal revenues they are owed, which in turn funds local services. Taxpayers would also benefit from this, as could be saved from paying more than what they originally owe the municipalities because of penalties and interest.
The committee was also made aware of one of the challenges municipal income tax administrators experience due to the net profit centralized collection system that was initiated in HB 49, resulting in local tax administrators being unable to review full taxpayer returns filed with the state through the Ohio Business Gateway and seriously impeding the accurate
bookkeeping of income tax revenues. The League’s testimony requested that in order to ensure this critical transparency, Ohio law should require the Tax Commissioner to share full taxpayer returns with municipal tax administrators.
Dir. Scarrett’s testimony advocated for increased funding for local public safety response and public-private partnerships in the fight against the opioid epidemic. The League also requested $3 million in each fiscal year of the biennium to fund the Multi-Agency Radio Communications System (MARCS) program’s local fee offset to ensure that many of Ohio’s local first responders can remain in the program, which enables law enforcement departments to communicate with other law enforcement departments across the state.
We will continue to keep our members apprised of the budget process as HB 110 continues to move through the legislature.
OHIO ATTORNEY GENERAL ASKS OHIO SUPREME COURT TO RULE ON RED LIGHT TRAFFIC CAMERA LANGUAGE
Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost has requested that the Ohio Supreme Court rule on language in HB 62, the Transportation Budget in the 133rd General Assembly. The bill contained a provision mandating that tickets issued by red light traffic cameras go through municipal court and that the municipality make a deposit to cover the court costs of any cases resulting from the tickets. The bill also contained a provision deducting the total revenue generated by the red light traffic cameras from that municipality’s allocation of the Local Government Fund (LGF).
After municipalities challenged those provisions, the Eight District Court of Appeals ruled that the language that mandated the deposits to cover court costs and the provision mandating the LGF deduction both violated constitutional Home Rule authority.
Attorney General Yost has said the court got the decision wrong and asked that the Ohio Supreme Court resolve the dispute over the language. However, according to League General Counsel Garry Hunter, “Home Rule for municipalities is created in the Ohio Constitution and therefore, legislative action attempting to limit the right of Home Rule is not a power the legislature has. The Eighth District Court of Appeal ruling on the deposits and LGF deductions is consistent with municipal rights of Home Rule.”
We will keep our members apprised of this issue.
LOCAL GOVERNMENTS ELIGIBLE FOR GRANTS TO FUND COVID-19 SAFETY AND VACCINATIONS FOR UNDERSERVED POPULATIONS
The Biden Administration has announced an effort to invest $250 million to encourage COVID-19 safety and vaccination among underserved populations through health literacy grants to localities, who will partner with community-based organizations, to reach racial and ethnic minorities, rural and other vulnerable populations
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of Minority Health (OMH) is offering health literacy grants to localities, who will partner with community-based organizations, to reach racial and ethnic minority, rural and other vulnerable populations. The new initiative – Advancing Health Literacy to Enhance Equitable Community Responses to COVID-19 – is expected to fund approximately 30 projects in urban communities and 43 projects in rural communities for two years.
Local governments are eligible to apply for the funding. OMH will be accepting applications through April 20, 2021. For more information, click HERE.
OHIO OFFICE OF BUDGET AND MANAGEMENT (OBM) CORONAVIRUS RELIEF FUND REPORTING REQUIREMENTS
The following is a communication from Ohio Office of Budget and Management (OBM) Director Kim Murnieks to our members:
As the prime recipient of the Coronavirus Relief Funds from the U.S. Treasury, the Office of Budget and Management (OBM) is required by the federal uniform guidance (2 CFR 200.331) to conduct monitoring activities to ensure compliance with subsection 601(d) by subrecipients.
OBM will be reviewing expenditure activities from the reporting submitted and comparing that information with the U.S. Treasury guidance, and assisting local governments, as subrecipients, with any concerns that may be noted. These monitoring activities are not considered an audit, and do not take the place of or substitute for an audit. Entities expending more the $750,000 of federal funds in a fiscal year are expected to have a Single Audit performed, while those under this threshold may be subject to other auditing procedures.
In the next few weeks, the Ohio Grants Partnership team will start reaching out to local governments that have been selected for virtual monitoring visits (which will be virtual “visits” at least for now). This is anticipated to be a rolling process that will continue through December 31, 2021 and potentially beyond. These visits will begin with an initial call to talk through the process and to answer any questions. Their main priority is to assist everyone and work through any concerns while the federal period is still open.
ODOT ACCEPTING APPLICATIONS FOR OHIO BRIDGE PARTNERSHIP GRANT PROGRAM
The Ohio Bridge Partnership Program will begin accepting applications on March 1 through April 15, 2021 for the FY25 program year.
This program provides federal funds to counties and municipalities for roadway bridge replacement projects utilizing either the typical design-bid-build or design-build methods. A funding limit of $1 million per project has been established.
The Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) will provide 100% of eligible costs for construction only (including construction engineering, i.e. testing and inspection), up to the specified funding limit. The local entity is responsible for all costs associated with preliminary engineering, environmental studies and documents, final design and right of way.
To be eligible for the Ohio Bridge Partnership Program, bridges must have a Sufficiency Rating of 80 or less, a General Appraisal rating of 4 or less, be structurally deficient, be owned by a municipality or county and must be open to vehicular traffic. It must also be non-historic, and meet the federal definition of a bridge, i.e. have an NBIS bridge length greater than 20 feet.
For more information, click HERE.
OHIO CORONAVIRUS RESPONSE UPDATE
· As of Thursday afternoon, Ohio is reporting 984,934 cases of coronavirus, 17,662 Ohio resident deaths, 51,323 hospitalizations and 7,255 ICU admissions.
Phase 1D and Phase 2B Vaccination Eligibility:
· In response to significant increase in the amount of vaccine coming into Ohio, Governor DeWine outlined the individuals who are included in Phase 1D and Phase 2B of Ohio's vaccination plan, which went into effect on Thursday, March 11.
· Phase 1D includes approximately 197,000 eligible Ohioans with certain medical conditions not addressed in previous phases, including type 2 diabetes and end-stage renal disease.
· Phase 2B will open vaccinations based on age for Ohioans ages 50 and older.
o This group includes approximately 1.2 million eligible Ohioans.
Vaccination Scheduling Tool:
· Governor DeWine announced that Ohio's centralized scheduling website is now available at gettheshot.coronavirus.ohio.gov.
· The website will serve as a singular location for Ohioans to confirm that they are eligible to be vaccinated, identify nearby providers, and schedule their vaccine appointments.
· The Ohio Department of Health will continue to work directly with vaccine providers to integrate their current systems into the statewide system.
· Providers will be expected to use this system or another electronic scheduling system that interfaces with this portal.
· The centralized scheduling website will also be used for scheduling appointments at the mass vaccination clinics, including the FEMA site in Cleveland, that were announced last week.
· Outside partners, including the Area Agencies on Aging, will be available to help Ohioans who do not have access to the internet with appointment scheduling.
· Governor DeWine announced the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS) has signed a contract with IBM to improve the unemployment call center.
· ODJFS has additionally signed a contract with LexisNexis to assist the department with on-going efforts to keep fraud out of the system.
Cleveland Mass Vaccination Site:
· The Cleveland mass vaccination site, in partnership with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), will launch on Wednesday, March 17, at Cleveland State University's Wolstein Center in downtown Cleveland.
o As of today, more than 17,000 Ohioans have registered to receive their vaccine at the site.
· Additional appointments will become available throughout the coming days.
o To schedule an appointment at the Cleveland mass vaccination site, or with a vaccination provider, visit gettheshot.coronavirus.ohio.gov.
Nursing Home Visitation:
· Governor DeWine discussed the new federal regulations for nursing home visitation, as well as Ohio’s Vaccine Maintenance Program.
o The visitation guidelines, issued by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) indicate visitation should be happening in nursing homes.
o There are a few specific exceptions that would limit visitation, such as outbreaks in the facility or an extreme number of cases in the community.
o Full information on the federal nursing home visitation guidance is available at cms.gov.
· Additionally, Governor DeWine highlighted the progress being made by Ohio’s Vaccine Maintenance Program for nursing homes and assisted living facilities.
o Ohio’s Vaccine Maintenance Program ensures new nursing home residents and employees, and established residents and employees who previously decided not to receive a vaccine, can still choose to receive one.
o Governor DeWine emphasized the importance of every nursing home resident receiving a vaccine.
· Long-term care facility visitation status is available on the dashboard at coronavirus.ohio.gov.
Governor DeWine detailed four initiatives that are making rapid COVID-19 tests more accessible to Ohioans:
· Federal Qualified Health Centers
o The state's ongoing partnership with federally qualified health centers has led to the availability of over 150,000 rapid tests at community health centers. These centers have professionals on-hand to administer the tests free of charge.
· Local Health Departments
o Local health departments have partnered with their communities to make at-home testing available to schools, nonprofit organizations, and first responders.
· Public Libraries
o The state has recently partnered with public libraries to make at-home tests available to more Ohio communities. During the first two weeks, Ohio has partnering with 120 libraries.
· K-12 Schools
o A new partnership launched today will bring 200,000 at-home tests to Educational Service Centers. To increase confidence and safety in schools, Governor DeWine encourages school districts to take advantage of this resource and develop aggressive testing plans.
· Between libraries and local health departments, at-home testing is accessible in 76 of Ohio's 88 counties.
o Some of these areas had disproportionate access to testing earlier in the COVID-19 pandemic.
Guidance on Fairs:
· Governor DeWine announced that the Ohio Department of Health issued a revised order that allows for the reopening of all fair activities if certain health conditions are met.
o The updated order includes compliance with the statewide mask order and social distancing.
o Additionally, there will be a 25 percent maximum for indoor grandstand capacity and a 30 percent maximum for outdoor grandstand capacity.
· Additionally, the Ohio Department of Health will issue updated order and guidance regarding festivals, parades, proms, and spring sports.
o For spring sports, students will not be required to quarantine because they have an incidental exposure to COVID-19 in a classroom unless symptoms develop.
· These orders and guidance will be forthcoming from the Ohio Department of Health.
Letter Addressing PUA Fraud:
· Governor DeWine and Lt. Governor sent a letter to President Joe Biden urging the development of a national, coordinated response to ongoing, widespread fraud attempts being committed through the unemployment system, specifically the federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) Program.
NEW BILLS OF MUNICIPAL INTEREST
· HB 201 – Natural Gas. Sponsored by Rep. Stephens (R – Kitts Hill), would prevent local governments from limiting use of natural gas. (Link: https://bit.ly/3vmbXnt)
· HB 184 – Police and Fire Pension Disability. Sponsored by Rep. Carfagna (R – Genoa Twp.), would revise Ohio Police and Fire Pension Fund disability determination procedures. (Link: https://bit.ly/3viFE95)
· 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. (Link: https://bit.ly/3vjkNm4)
· HB 177 – Blockchain Technology. Sponsored by Rep. Carfagna (R – Genoa Twp.) and Rep. Fraizer (R – Newark), would allow a governmental entity to utilize distributed ledger technology, including blockchain technology. (Link: https://bit.ly/3coGXuC)
COMMITTEE RECAP: BILLS OF MUNICIPAL INTEREST
· HB 89 - Concealed Handguns. Sponsored by Rep. Wiggam, (R – Wooster), would modify the requirement that a concealed handgun licensee must notify a law enforcement officer that the licensee is authorized to carry a concealed handgun and is carrying a concealed handgun when stopped. During its third hearing before the House State and Local Government Committee, the bill was reported out of committee. The League is neutral on this legislation. (Link: https://bit.ly/3tj56cR)
· 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 second hearing before the Senate Financial Institutions and Technology Committee, proponents including the League and the Ohio Township Association testified in support of the bill. You can read the joint testimony HERE. (Link: https://bit.ly/30Av6Eh)
· 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. During it fourth hearing before the Senate Local Government and Elections Committee, the bill was reported out of committee. The League is supportive of this legislation. (Link: https://bit.ly/2PP54uC)
· SB 113 - Fireworks. Sponsored by Sen. Rulli (R – Salem) and Sen. Johnson (R – McDermott), would revise the Fireworks Law. During its first hearing before the Senate Veterans and Public Safety Committee, the bill’s sponsors explained that the bill legalized the safe discharge of consumer-grade fireworks. The League is still looking into this legislation. (Link: https://bit.ly/3eCqnKj)
· HB 17 – Firefighter Cancer. Sponsored by Rep. Patton (R – Strongville), is regarding charging workers' compensation experience in firefighter cancer claims. During its first hearing before the House Insurance committee, the bill’s sponsor explained that the legislation would build upon SB 27 from the 131 General Assembly, which provided workers’ compensation to firefighters with cancer incurred while performing their jobs. The bill would charge all compensation and benefits to the Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC) surplus fund. The League is still looking into this legislation. (Link: https://bit.ly/3l9hyZT)
· 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 third hearing before the house Commerce and Labor Committee, the bill was amended to move the responsibility for the training from the Attorney General’s office to the county Job and Family Services. The League is neutral on this legislation. (Link: https://bit.ly/3cv2AcN)
· HB 109 – Criminal Penalties. Sponsored by Rep. Abrams (R – Harrison) and Rep. Carruthers (R – Hamilton), would increase penalties for certain assault, vandalism, and riot offenses, allow peace officers to bring civil suits against persons participating in a riot, and prohibit bias motivated intimidation of first responders. During its first hearing before the House Criminal Justice Committee, the bills’ sponsors explained that the legislation would create a fifth-degree felony charge of riot assault, which would become a fourth-degree felony if the assault target is a law enforcement officer. The crime would become a third-degree felony if the victim of the assault sustains serious physical harm. The League is still looking into this legislation. (Link: https://bit.ly/3rJNxSC)