OML UPDATE AT-A-GLANCE
 
Here are the top five things you need to know from the past week:
 
·        On Tuesday, the Ohio Senate released their proposed changes to sub. HB 110, the two-year, state operating budget bill which includes several very concerning changes detrimental to Ohio cities and villages including adding retroactive changes to the temporary municipal tax withholding policy providing for taxpayer refunds included in sub. HB 157 (OML’s June 2nd Member Call to Action is HERE), making permanent the Bag Tax preemption, removing the extension allowing the continuation of public meetings to be held virtually and defunding broadband expansion. Greater detail is provided in the article below. 
·        On Wednesday, Governor DeWine announced the rescinding of seven of the COVID-19 related health orders including the order for retail and business compliance for facial coverings through- out the state of Ohio. The press release detailing the actions by the Governor and the health orders that remain in place is below.
·        The Ohio Department of Health (ODH) announced that this week's Vax-a-Million drawing included 3,225,789 adult entries in the drawing for $1 million, and 132,903 Ohioans age 12 to 17 in the drawing for a college scholarship. That marks an increase of 467,320 adult entries and 28,518 scholarship entries from the previous week. There are still approximately 2.1 million Ohioans eligible to enter the drawing who have not.
·        More than 50% OF Ohio’s adult population or 5.3 million Ohioans have received their first vaccinations and 4.6 million have completed the vaccination series. An individual is considered fully vaccinated two weeks after their second dose of Pfizer or Moderna COVID-19 vaccines or two weeks after the single dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. Ohioans can find the vaccination site nearest them at gettheshot.coronavirus.ohio.gov.
·        The Ohio legislature was running at half speed this week as the Ohio House extended their Memorial Day break through this week, returning next week with a full agenda of committee activity and a voting session on Wednesday. 

 
OHIO SENATE UNVIELS STATE TWO-YEAR BUDGET PLAN ADDING/DELETING/PRESERVING MUNICIPAL ISSUES
 
On Tuesday afternoon, the Ohio Senate Finance Committee released their proposed changes to sub. HB 110, the state’s two-year state operating budget bill. The LSC comparison document is HERE. The committee held hearings on their substitute version, providing two hearings after its release late in the afternoon for individuals and impacted interested parties to review, digest and respond to the unforeseen changes. The committee hearing process for the Senate Finance Committee ended Thursday but there remains roughly three weeks for the details and differences between the competing versions to be worked out before the constitutional deadline is reached for a balanced budget and the Governor’s signature before July 1st.
 
The League is greatly disappointed that the Ohio Senate made the decision to include the language included in sub. HB 157 and its counterpart, sub. SB 97 which would retroactively allow individuals working remotely in a different jurisdiction from their traditional principal place of employment to file refunds for withholdings that were granted via sec. 29 of HB 197 in the previous General Assembly. The Senate increased the potential financial loss to municipalities across the state by allowing for refunds to be requested all the way back to March 9, 2020, when HB 197 was enacted, impacting the closed tax year’s revenue collections. The language added to the budget bill making these changes is HERE.
 
Municipalities across the state expressed their opposition to this revisionist approach to the intent and application of legislation passed and enacted over a year ago. This legislative maneuver will have potentially devastating consequences to the ability of Ohio cities and villages to support first responder services and other critical functions of municipal government.

Although the language includes an extension of the continuation of the temporary withholding policy until December 30, 2021, the language added to the budget bill will fundamentally alter the purpose of the emergency authority provided by the Ohio legislature which was intended to shield municipalities from the potential significant loss in municipal tax revenues due to emergency orders directing individuals to work from home.    
 
Since the opportunity to provide testimony to the members of the Senate Finance Committee on this critical issue, to which this issue has been completely unvetted, was severely restricted by cutting off the hearing schedule, we encourage League members to immediately communicate their opposition to this drastic change in the temporary application of the municipal income tax withholding procedure with their members of the Ohio House and Ohio Senate.
 
There are other changes to the proposed two year spending bill that will negatively impact Ohio municipalities that we have been able to quickly identify which include language to make permanent pre-emption on Ohio’s political subdivisions including municipalities to imposing a tax, fee, assessment or other charge on auxiliary containers (aka Bag Tax), and the sale or consumption of auxiliary containers. H.B. 242 of the 133rd General Assembly, put in place a temporary pre-emption on communities instituting a Bag Tax but that provision was set to expire on January 15, 2022. This new maneuver by the legislature will make the Home Rule violation permanent.
 
Also, the Senate version of the budget bill deletes language added by the Ohio House of Representatives that extended the temporary authorization for public bodies to meet via electronic technology until December 31, 2021. The current authority will expire on July 1, without an extension. 
 
The League is also very concerned about the Senate’s plan to defund the initiatives proposed by the Governor and the Ohio House to provide greater broadband infrastructure to the areas of Ohio that are without internet capabilities. The Senate budget does not include the Ohio Residential Broadband Expansion Grant Program which would have provided roughly $200 million in grant funding to expand broadband service, which the League strongly supports. 
 
Although there are significant challenges presented in the version of the legislation presented Tuesday, the League appreciates the preservation of a number of issues that we supported being kept in the budget which include:
 
·        Multi-Agency Radio Communications System (MARCS) appropriation towards the fee offset of $1.5 million per fiscal year.
·        Continued funding of the Local Government Fund
·        Providing municipalities to participate in the Federal Treasury Offset Program administered through the Ohio Attorney General’s Office to resolve tax delinquencies.
·        House funding levels for the ICAC Task Force and the Law Enforcement Reimbursement Training Pilot Program; Recovery Ohio Law Enforcement Program; Justice Program Services; Community Police Relations.
·        Restoration of the H2Ohio fund at $20 million over the biennium.   
    
The highlights of the budget changes being proposed by the Ohio Senate, at this point include:
·        5% personal income tax cut; the proposed $874 million in reduced tax revenue is deeper than the Ohio House’s suggested 2% income tax cut at $380 million over the biennium.
·        Removed the Ohio Fair School Funding Plan (aka Cupp-Patterson Plan) and replaced with the Senate model, increasing K-12 education funding by adding $223 million over House funding levels using a base annual figure of $6,110 per student; charter schools and the private school voucher program (EdChoice) would be funded by the state.    
·        Increase funding to veteran’s services by providing $750,000 for 13 Ohio veteran organizations; $400,000 towards Cleveland’s Homeless Shelter for female veterans.
 
In addition to the issues covered in the budget above, there were many other changes made to the bill listed below:

·        Prohibit local governments from imposing a tax or fee based on the gross receipts of medical marijuana businesses unless explicitly authorized in the Ohio Revised Code.
·        Increase the share of GRF tax revenue going to the Public Library Fund from 1.66% to 1.7%, boosting the PLF by about $11 million per year
·        Restore an executive proposal, removed by the House, to allow combined health districts to levy property taxes and eliminates a provision providing funding for health department mergers.
·        More aid in FY22 for bars and restaurants ($100 million), the lodging industry ($25 million), entertainment venues ($20 million) and new businesses ($10 million).
·        Repeal the prohibition on the Office of the Consumers' Counsel operating a call center for consumer complaints.
·        Eliminate the Tax Expenditure Review Committee.
·        Exempt memberships to nonprofit physical fitness, recreational and sports club facilities from the sales and use tax.
·        Exempt Bureau of Workers' Compensation dividends from the commercial activity tax starting in 2022.
·        Eliminate a House-added provision creating an income tax deduction starting in 2026 for capital gains received by investors in certain Ohio-based venture capital operating companies.
·        Require candidates for Chief Justice, Justice of the Ohio Supreme Court or judge of a court of appeals nominated at a primary election to appear with a political party designation on the ballot.
·        Remove an exemption to the public records law for the telephone number of a victim of crime, witness to a crime or party to a motor vehicle accident, making it a public record 30 days after the crime or accident.
·        Eliminate an executive proposal requiring investment earnings from the Budget Stabilization Fund to be credited to the BSF instead of the GRF.
·        Cut House-added legislative oversight committees of federal COVID relief aid and career pathways and workforce training programs.
·        Require health insurers or pharmacy benefit managers to release information about drug costs upon request.
·        Eliminate a provision expanding the offense of illegal distribution of tobacco products to prohibit businesses from permitting an employee under 18 years old to sell tobacco products.
·        Transfer the Ohio Family and Children First Council from the Department of Mental Health & Addiction Services to the Department of Job and Family Services.
·        Provide authority for repackaging of beer, wine or mixed beverages by certain permit holders.
·        Cut a House-added provision requiring Controlling Board agenda to be posted 14 days in advance.
·        Create a process for the Court of Claims to handle allegations of Open Meetings Law violations.
·        Require the Ohio History Connection to designate Poindexter Village in Columbus as a state historic site.
·        Repeals the campaign contribution tax credit starting in tax year 2021.
·        Medicaid postpartum coverage for women would be extended to one year, instead of the current 60-day limit. A total of $23 million is appropriated to cover this change.
·        Increases rates by 4 percent (2 percent per fiscal year) for services in intermediate care facilities for individuals with intellectual disabilities, adult day services and residential services provided under a developmental disabilities-administered waiver.
·        For PASSPORT, Ohio Home Care, MyCare and Assisted Living, provides a 6 percent rate increase (4 percent in FY22 and 2 percent in FY23) for private duty nursing, nursing, personal care, home care attendant/homemaker, assisted living, speech therapy and physical therapy.

The schedule for the budget bill that remains includes a final hearing in the Senate Finance Committee to receive and accept an omnibus amendment which may or may not include issues related to Ohio municipal government. The omnibus amendment will be the final action by the committee to alter the Ohio Senate’s priorities for the next fiscal biennium spending plan before the bill is sent to the full Senate for a vote. We anticipate those legislative actions will take place next week. Once the Senate passes their version of sub. HB 110, it will then be returned to the Ohio House of Representatives via message from the Senate announcing the Senate’s passage of the budget bill. As tradition has it, at that point, the Ohio House will not concur on the changes made by the Ohio Senate to sub. HB 110 and a Conference Committee will be called to negotiate the differences between the versions presented by the Administration, Ohio House, and Ohio Senate. The legislature has until June 30th to get the agreed upon budget to the Governor’s desk so that it can be signed into law by July 1st.   

 
OHIO SENATE PASSES LEAGUE SUPPORTED LEGISLATION PROVIDING GREATER PROTECTIONS FOR FIRST RESPONDERS AND LOCAL CONTROL OVER FIREWORK DISPLAYS
 
In response to concerns surrounding first responders being the target of increasing menacing, intimidation, and assault, and that these incidents have caused many to leave the career in increasing numbers, SB 16 was introduced by Sen. Tim Schaffer (R-Lancaster) to shield Emergency Service Responders from civil action.
Specifically, the bill would allow for a fourth-degree felony charge for any assault on a first responder – or their family, household members or co-workers – as they act in an official capacity if the perpetrator knows or should have reasonably known that status and intended to commit the offense. The legislation also makes the offense of menacing against a responder a fourth-degree misdemeanor, and creates a first-degree misdemeanor offense of unlawfully impeding public passage of a first responder. The League is a supporter of this proposal and it was approved by the Ohio Senate 33-0. We thank Sen. Schaffer for efforts and are hopeful the Ohio House acts quickly on this measure.
 
The Senate also passed SB 113 introduced by Senators Rulli and Johnson, giving Ohioans more opportunities to legally set off fireworks in the state, by a bipartisan vote of 26-7.

The legislation permits local governments to restrict the dates and times that individuals may discharge consumer-grade fireworks or to impose a complete ban on the use of consumer-grade fireworks. Although the legislation allows for more use of fireworks by the general public, the bill prohibits discharging fireworks while in possession of, or under the influence of, alcohol or a controlled substance, or on the property of another without the property owner’s permission.
 
As passed by the Ohio Senate this week, the bill would:
·        Require the State Fire Marshal to:
o  adopt rules regulating the time, manner, and location of consumer fireworks use
o  establishes the Ohio Fire Code Rule Recommendation Committee to review the Fireworks Law and make recommendations to the State Fire Marshal.
o  adopt rules for and enforce the new provisions for ground-based or hand-held sparklers called “fountain devices” retailers and create a new license allowing retailers to sell fountain devices.

·        Imposes a 4% fee on the retail sale of consumer grade fireworks, beginning 100 days after the bill’s effective date and increases from 5,000 to 10,000 square feet the maximum floor area of a retail sales showroom that a licensed fireworks manufacturer or wholesaler uses to sell consumer grade fireworks.
 
·        Effective 351 days after filed with Secretary of State:
o  Allows individuals to possess consumer-grade fireworks in Ohio, eliminating a requirement that purchasers transport consumer-grade fireworks out of the state within 48 hours of purchase.
o  Allows any person authorized to possess consumer grade fireworks to discharge them on their own property or on another person’s property with permission on the following days:

§ New Year’s Day
§ Chinese New Year
§ Cinco de Mayo
§ Memorial Day weekend
§ Juneteenth
§ July 3, 4, and 5, and the Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays preceding and following
§ Labor Day weekend
§ Diwali
§ New Year’s Eve.

The LSC legislative analysis can be found HERE. The bill will head to the Ohio House of Representative to begin the committee process there. We will keep our members updated on the progress of the legislation.
 
 
NEW LEGISLATION INTRODUCED TO LIMIT QUALIFIED IMMUNUITY FOR OHIO LAW ENFORCEMENT 

This week, Reps. Thomas West (D-Canton) and Sedrick Denson (D- Cincinnati) introduced HB 332, legislation dealing with Qualified Immunity for Police, and other areas of indemnification.

Specifically, the proposed bill would provide that qualified immunity does not apply in civil actions against peace officers employed by a political subdivision who, under color of law, subject any individual to a deprivation of rights and to provide for indemnification by the political subdivision of a peace officer against whom judgment is found.

Qualified immunity is the legal doctrine that government officials, including law enforcement, cannot be held liable for wrongdoing while going about their jobs. As determined by the U.S. Supreme Court, qualified immunity applies if the government official was acting in good faith and didn’t know what they were doing was illegal.

As currently drafted, the bill would remove qualified immunity as a defense for police officers, thus allowing individuals to sue officers in state court. Additionally, officers who lose the lawsuit would be personally liable for five percent, up to a maximum $25,000, of the settlement amount.

The language of the introduced legislation can be found HERE.
We will be sure to keep our members aware of any future legislative activity associated with this proposal.

 
GOVERNOR ANNOUNCES HEALTH ORDERS RESCINDED

Governor Mike DeWine announced this week that Ohio Department of Health Director Stephanie McCloud signed an order rescinding the following COVID-19-related health orders:

  • The Director’s Order to Limit Access to Ohio’s Jails and Detention Facilities.
  • The Director’s Order to Release Protected Health Information to Ohio’s First Responders.
  • The Director’s Order Requiring the Use of Facial Coverings in Child Education Settings.
  • The Director’s Order for Retail and Business Compliance for Facial Coverings through the State of Ohio.
  • The Second Amended Director’s Order on Adult Day Support Services and Vocational Habilitation Services.
  • The Third Amended Director’s Order on the Opening of Senior Centers.
  • The Third Amended Director’s Order on the Opening of Adult Day Services Centers.

The recessions go into effect at 12:01 a.m. on June 2, 2021.
The following orders will remain in effect:

  • The Order to Require Screening for Admission to State Operated Psychiatric Hospitals or to Department of Youth Services Facilities.
  • The Director’s Order Designating The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center a Public Health Laboratory.
  • The Director’s Order to Facilities to Notify Residents, Guardians and Sponsor of Positive or Probable Cases of COVID-19.
  • The Director’s Order Requiring Reporting and Notification Regarding COVID-19 Cases in Kindergarten through Twelfth Grade.

Note: The Director’s Second Amended Order for Social Distancing, Facial Coverings, and Non-Congregating was previously set to expire at 12:01 a.m. on June 2, 2021.
 

PUBLIC ENTITY POOL OF OHIO (PEP) EMPLOYEE HANDBOOK BUILDER: CUSTOMIZE YOUR OWN MUNICIPAL EMPLOYEE HANDBOOK

Did you know that the PEP Resource eLibrary has an Employee Handbook Builder that can be customized for your agency? The Handbook Builder generates individual employment policies if you are looking to update specific policies or build an entire policy manual if your entity needs a complete employee handbook.

To access the Handbook Builder, log into the Resource eLibrary through the PEP website and click on Human Resources. 

And, to learn how to use the Employee Handbook Builder to build a fully customized Employee Handbook, please click HERE to watch Mike Boyd, PEP Risk Control Specialist, provide a short tutorial. 

 
OEPA ANNOUNCES JUNE WEBINARS AND FUNDING OPPORTUNITIES FOR MUNICIPAL LEADERS

The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (OEPA) has announced two webinars this month that will be of particular interest to League members. 
 
The first webinar is on Household Sewage Treatment Systems (HSTS) regulations and funding assistance available. Household Sewage Treatment Systems (HSTS) are common in areas of Ohio where public sewers are not available, with most located in rural and semi-urban areas. Some estimates show a universe of one million systems with nearly 30 percent failing or near failure. Learn how HSTS are regulated by local health districts, the Ohio Department of Health, and Ohio EPA as well as grant opportunities available to local health districts to assist low-income homeowners in repairing or replacing failing HSTS and connecting failing HSTS to public sewers. The webinar will be held on June 10th at 10 a.m.
 
The second webinar is also specifically geared towards community leaders and will help explain basics of environmental clean-up regulations and will provide an overview of liability, due care, land use restrictions, and will explain Brownfield funding assistance that is available. The webinar will provide local leaders with greater awareness of how contaminated sites are regulated to keep residents safe and what redevelopment opportunities exist. The webinar will be held on June 17th also at 10 a.m.
 
Find more information and registration details can be found HERE & HERE.