While some legislative committees have been meeting the past couple of weeks, the legislature is still not fully back to their normal legislative schedule. There have been a series of resignations and appointments to fill legislative seats, slowing down the legislative process and causing the cancellation of several committee hearings and full legislative sessions. We will continue to keep our members apprised as the legislature eases back into their normal legislative calendar.
OML UPDATE AT-A-GLANCE
Here are the top three things you need to know from this past week:
- The City of Sidney has set a new Guinness World Record when 2,344 people gathered in Sidney Memorial Stadium on Wednesday, Sept. 25th and opened a drink can simultaneously.
- Former Speaker of the House Rep. Ryan Smith (R - Bidwell) will resign from the Ohio House of Representatives on Oct. 3rd to accept a position leading Rio Grande Community College as well as the private Rio Grande University. Rep. Smith represents the 93rd Ohio House District, which encompasses Vinton, Jackson, Gallia and Lawrence counties.
- The Ohio Supreme Court dismissed an appeal from the City of Alliance in a case that would decide if municipalities have an exclusive right over settlements and the distribution of funds when companies break tax exemption agreements. The appeal was dismissed because the city missed the deadline to file its merit brief and has filed a motion for reconsideration.
LEAGUE LEGISLATIVE ADVOCATE THOMAS WETMORE WELCOMES BABY BOY
The League's Legislative Advocate Thomas Wetmore and his family have welcomed a new addition, Thomas Wetmore III. Baby Thomas was born at 9:50 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 26 at 9 pounds, 20 inches. Everyone at the League wants to congratulate the Wetmore family on the arrival of their baby boy.
LOCAL GOVERNMENTS TESTIFY IN OPPOSITION TO EMINENT DOMAIN PREEMPTION BILL
The League would like to thank all of the local leaders who came to the Statehouse this Wednesday to testify before the House Civil Justice Committee in opposition to HB 288, which would preempt municipal authority to use eminent domain to acquire land for the purpose of a recreational trail. (Link: https://bit.ly/2MjkCEY)
The voices of municipal leaders are influential at the Ohio Statehouse and are an important part of the legislative process in Columbus. We also appreciate our members' additional efforts to speak directly with their member of the House on this important matter.
The League submitted written opponent testimony, which you can read HERE. "We believe HB 288 is a violation of municipal Home Rule authority," Dir. Scarrett shared with the committee, "continuing the disturbing trend of Ohio state government growing in scope and influence and eclipsing the constitutional powers granted to Ohio's cities and villages though the principles of local control."
The cities of Upper Arlington, Cincinnati, Akron and Dublin, as well as the Ohio Mayors Alliance and the Ohio Parks and Recreation Association, among others, submitted written testimony opposing the bill. Leaders from the Cleveland Metroparks and the Cleveland Zoo, the Columbus and Franklin County Metropolitan Park District, Lucas County and others testified in person, explaining that eminent domain is only rarely used by local governments and only as a last-case scenario.
During his testimony, Village of Yellow Springs Council President Brian Housh explained to the committee that a mechanism already exists in Ohio law that allows a landowner who challenges the application of eminent domain on a parcel of their land to appeal to the locally-elected body where the parcel of land is located. That body of elected officials has the authority to veto the action to acquire the land.
Additionally, those testifying told the committee that the matter in Mahoning County, which prompted the introduction of the bill, is a local matter and should be dealt with at the local level. They also explained that the bill could jeopardize current and future trail construction projects to the detriment of those local communities.
The League will alert our members when the bill is scheduled for another hearing.
BILL PREEMPTING MUNICIPAL CONTROL OF WATER SYSTEMS RECEIVES HEARING, AMENDMENTS
HB 163, sponsored by Rep. Brinkman (R - Cincinnati), would create a process for withholding local government funds and state water and sewer assistance from municipal corporations that engage in certain water and sewer practices with respect to extraterritorial service. (Link: https://bit.ly/2MjkCEY).
The bill would generally deem a municipality as "noncompliant" if it charges higher rates for water and sewer infrastructure built out to neighboring political subdivisions. In addition to being a violation of Home Rule authority, the bill does not take into consideration the extra cost a municipality can incur when building out and maintaining water and sewer infrastructure to a neighboring local government.
During its fourth hearing before the House Public Utilities Committee, the committee accepted three amendments to the bill:
- The first mandates a declaratory judgment, rather than a civil action, be certified to the Tax Commissioner to designate a municipal corporation as noncompliant before financial consequences are triggered.
- The second allows a municipality in an existing contract that charges higher extraterritorial water and sewer rates by the bill's effective date to continue charging those rates for the duration of the contract.
- The third creates a "safe harbor" for a municipality charging higher extraterritorial water and sewer rates so long those rates do not exceed 25% of the rates charged to similar property in the municipality.
The amendments were supported by the Ohio Township Association, which has also previously testified in support of the bill. The League continues to oppose this legislation. While the amendments provide municipalities some additional defenses as well as clarify the bill language, municipalities still have the right under Home Rule authority to freely negotiate extraterritorial water and sewer rates.
We will alert our members if the bill receives another hearing, and we ask that local leaders contact their legislative delegation and express their opposition to this bill.
OHIO SUPREME COURT RULING DELIVERS ANOTHER BLOW TO HOME RULE
This week, the Ohio Supreme Court ruled in favor of the Ohio state legislature, which passed a bill in 2016 invalidating the City of Cleveland's Fannie Lewis law.
The Fannie M. Lewis Cleveland Employment Law mandated that if a company had a contract with the city that exceeded $100,000, it had to provide at least 20 percent of the total construction hours to city residents.
In response the 132nd General Assembly passed HB 180, usurped local control and prevented Cleveland from requiring a small percentage of local workers be used on certain local projects. The city challenged the ability of the state to preempt their powers of local control and sued the state on the grounds that it violated Home Rule authority.
In a 4-3 decision, the court ruled that Article II of the Ohio Constitution grants the General Assembly the power to "protect all employees engaged in construction trades," according to Justice Sharon L. Kennedy's lead opinion. You can read a copy of the court's majority decision HERE.
LEAGUE DIRECTOR IN COLUMBUS DISPATCH OP-ED ON LEGISLATURE'S ONGOING ASSAULT ON HOME RULE
This past weekend, a column from the League's Executive Director Kent Scarrett ran in the Columbus Dispatch. The op-ed discussed the importance of Home Rule and the challenges to local control the legislature has posed in recent years. As an example, Dir. Scarrett cited HB 242, which would preempt local governments from taxing plastic bags and other containers. The op-ed discusses how this bill is another in a long line of preemptions introduced by the Ohio General Assembly and state legislatures across the country. You can read the column in full HERE.
LEAGUE FILES AMICUS BREIF FOR CENTRALIZED COLLECTION LAWSUIT
The League has filed an amicus brief in support of the coalition challenging the centralized collection provision in HB 49 and the prescriptive income tax code in HB 5 on the grounds of constitutionality. Approximately 160 municipalities have collectively filed suit challenging the authority of the Ohio Department of Taxation to centrally collect municipal net profit income tax returns.
On August 6, the Ohio Supreme Court ruled in favor of the state, then accepted an appeal from the municipal coalition. The League, along with several other municipalities, has filed an amicus brief supporting the municipal coalition in their appeal. You can read the brief HERE.
We will continue to update our members when the high court begins hearings on the appeal this winter.
MEMBERS INVITED TO LEAGUE-SPONSORED RURAL DEVELOPMENT EVENT
Rural communities face unique challenges and present incredible opportunities for growth and economic development. The League's members are invited to join economic development, business and public policy leaders at the Montrose Group, LLC's Rural Development Forum. The League is a sponsor of this event.
Ohio Lt. Governor Jon Husted will provide a keynote address on Ohio's aggressive efforts to develop rural communities. Attendees will learn about these challenges and opportunities with panel discussions on developing residential, industrial, Downtown and entrepreneurial based economic development in a rural setting.
The event will take place on October 31, from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the campus of Ohio Christian University, 1476 Lancaster Pike, Circleville, OH, 43113. You can register for this free event HERE.
OHIO DEVELOPMENT SERVICES AGENCY RELEASES SURVEYS ON HOUSING NEEDS
The Ohio Development Services Agency (DSA) is conducting surveys to determine the housing, homeless and community development needs as the state begins the planning process for the 5 Year Consolidated Plan covering the period of PY 2020 - 2024. The following are the links to the surveys:
- Community Development/Economic Development Needs Survey (HERE)
- Supportive Housing/Homelessness Needs Survey (HERE)
- Housing Needs Survey (HERE)
The surveys are open to the public and will remain anonymous. Members are permitted to complete all three surveys even if you do not administer a program in one subject. As the information received from the surveys will be used to help develop the Consolidated Plan, the DSA plans to keep the surveys open until at least the start of the Program Advisory Committee meetings in late October.
DIVISION OF INDUSTRIAL COMPLIANCE OPENS COMMENTS FOR RULE CHANGE REGARDING THE EMPLOYMENT OF DISABLED WORKERS
As a result of Executive Order 2011-01K and Senate Bill 2 of the 129th General Assembly, which require state agencies, including the Division of Industrial Compliance - Wage and Hour, to draft rules in collaboration with stakeholders, assess and justify any adverse impact on the business community, and provide opportunity for the affected public to provide input on the rules.
Pursuant to Ohio Revised Code sections 4111.05 and 4111.06, the rules set forth in Chapter 4101:9-1 et. seq. of the Ohio Administrative Code establishes the process for the employment of disabled individuals for less than the Ohio minimum wage rate. The rules permit employment in any occupation, at wages lower than the minimum wage rate under sections R.C. 4111.01 through R.C. 4111.17, of individuals whose earning capacity is impaired by physical or mental deficiencies or injuries.
The proposed no change rules and the Business Impact Analysis Report can be found HERE: http://www.com.ohio.gov/ProposedRules.aspx.
Comments regarding these proposed no change rules should be submitted by October 1, 2019. Comments may be submitted via email or U.S. Mail to the Division of Industrial Compliance, 6606 Tussing Road, Reynoldsburg, Ohio 43068, ATTN: Dawn Evarson.
To receive future notification of the Division of Industrial Compliance - Wage and Hour, Employment of Handicapped proposed rules, please visit http://business.ohio.gov/reform/.
NEW BILLS OF MUNICIPAL INTEREST INTRODUCED
Here are the bills impacting municipalities that were introduced this week:
- SB 202 - LOCAL AUTHORITY. Sponsored by Rep. Thomas (D - Cincinnati) and Rep. Craig (D - Columbus), would restore local authority to generally regulate firearms-related conduct. Am. 9.68 of the Revised Code and to repeal on December 28, 2019, the version of section 9.68.
- HB 343 - WATER AND SEWER FUNDING. Sponsored by Rep. Patterson (D - Jefferson) and Rep. Manning (R - New Middletown), would make an appropriation related to emergency water and sewer system funding.
COMMITTEE RECAP: BILLS OF MUNICIPAL INTEREST
Here are the bills impacting municipalities that received committee hearings this week:
- HB 10 - DRUG POLICY OFFICE. Sponsored by Rep. Brown (D - Canal Winchester) and Rep. Stoltzfus (D - Minerva), would establish the Governor's Office of Drug Policy and make an appropriation. During its first hearing before the Senate General Government and Agency Review Committee, the bill's sponsors cited other states that had created similar offices to ensure coordination throughout all levels of government in the fight against the opioid epidemic. The League is supportive of this legislation.
- SB 33 - CRITICAL INFRASTRUCTURE. Sponsored by Sen. Hoagland (R - Adena), would modify certain criminal offenses with respect to critical infrastructure facilities and to impose fines and civil liability for damage to a critical infrastructure facility. During its third hearing before the House Public Utilities Committee, opponents to the bill argued that it infringed upon their free-speech rights. The League is supportive of this legislation.