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 March 22, 2019

OML UPDATE AT-A-GLANCE
Here are the top three things you need to know from this past week:
  • Gov. DeWine declared a state of emergency for 37 counties due to severe weather damage on Ohio's roads and bridges. This declaration will give the state access to federal funds for much needed repairs.
  • The city of Columbus has filed a lawsuit against the state of Ohio to stop the enactment of HB228, Ohio's new "stand your ground" legislation from the previous General Assembly. The lawsuit asks the court to decide whether or not specific provision of the law violates the Ohio Constitution and specifically municipal Home Rule authority. Columbus is challenging the ability of the state to preempt the ability of Ohio municipalities from enacting local gun ordinances.
  • The League will be holding our Lobbying Day on Wednesday, March 27 at the Statehouse in Columbus. If you are interested in attending, contact Zoë Wade at zwade@omlohio.org. You can also register on our website by clicking HERE.
 
SENATE PASSES TRANSPORTATION BUDGET WITH 6 CENT GAS TAX INCREASE 
Last night, the Senate passed their version of the Sub. HB 62, the Transportation Budget, by a vote of 24-6. It is important to note that this is not the final outcome of this issue. The Senate will send their version of the bill to the Ohio House for concurrence, where it will not be accepted and thus it will be sent to a conference committee. In conference committee, the differences between the proposals offered by the Governor, Ohio House and Ohio Senate can be worked out. The bill has a constitutional deadline for passage set at March 31 st.  Click HERE for a comparison document between the House and the Senate-passed version of Sub. HB 62.
Here are the changes made by the Senate that impact municipalities:
  • Reduced the gas tax increase proposed by the Ohio House from 10.7 cents to 6 cents for both motor fuel and diesel. Municipalities would split $77.53 million a year in new gas tax revenue.
  • Retained the change in distribution of new revenue between the state and local governments at 55% to the state and 45% to local governments. Current law provides for a 60/40 split between state and locals.
  • Reduced public transit funding from $100 million to $46.5 million each year.
  • Added back provisions allowing municipalities to levy an additional $5 licensing fee. (This had been removed in a previous omnibus amendment.)
  • Decreases fees from $200 to $175 and fees for hybrid vehicles from $100 to $74 and delaying the effective date until Jan. 1, 2020. The fees will be distributed via the motor fuel tax (MFT) formula.
  • Removes the provisions transferring $5 million each year from the Oil and Gas well fund to various political subdivisions.
  • Eliminates the proposed $250,000 Catastrophic Snowfall Fund.
  • Reverts the appropriations for the 629 Roadwork Development Fund to the as-introduced amount of $15.2 million per fiscal year.
  • Removes provisions of the bill related to low-speed scooters.
  • Removes all provisions regarding traffic cameras and other associated language.
  • Removes the provision that changes the MFT distribution of any new revenues for townships.
 
During Tuesday morning's hearing, the Senate Transportation Committee received testimony from the League's Board President and Sidney Mayor Mike Barhorst, Riverside Mayor Bill Flaute, President of the League's Ohio Mayors Association and Executive Director Kent Scarrett. You can read each of their testimonies HERE. Each League representative testified in support of the Governor's as-introduced provisions, in particular the 18-cent gas tax increase.
The League thanks the Senate for the work they have done on the issues that have concerned our members. As stated previously, the bill will be assigned to a conference committee, where leadership in both the House and the Senate will determine what the final version of the Transportation Budget looks like. The League urges leadership in the House and the Senate to reinstate the Governor's proposed 18-cent gas tax increase. Each cent of the gas tax increase brings the state and local governments closer to being able to repair potholes in roads, reinforce dangerous bridges and invest in new and necessary infrastructure projects.
The League encourages our members to reach out to their legislative delegation in both the Senate the House and voice their support of the 18-cent gas tax increase. The final version of the Transportation Budget will be voted on next week, so it is imperative to act quickly.
 
GOVERNOR DEWINE RELEASES STATE BUDGET PROPOSAL BLUEPRINT
Last Friday, Governor DeWine released his State Operating Budget proposal for FY 20-FY 21.  You can access the "Blue Book" HERE to see details regarding the proposals in the governor's plan.
It is important to note the Local Government Fund (LGF) did not receive a new appropriation to replenish cuts from previous General Assemblies. Although the specific language is not available yet and will most likely be released next week, it currently appears that unlike the past two state operating budgets, the direct LGF municipal distribution was not raided or diverted for other purposes or other political subdivisions in Ohio.
Here are some of provisions related to local governments in the current budget proposal:
  • Authorizes local government to extend Tax Increment Financing (TIFs) terms up to 30 years if the project is a larger, high-impact development.
  • Establishes Opportunity Zones for economically-distressed communities to attract private investments and revitalize communities.
  • The Ohio Business Gateway will receive a 295% increase in funding for FY 20.
  • Invests in effective drug task force models made up of local, state and federal authorities aimed at arresting drug traffickers and intercepting deadly drugs.
  • Provides local libraries with an additional $8.5 million over the biennium.
  • Increases the state's child protective allocation by $30 million per year.
  • Increasing state support for indigent defense by $60 million per year.
  • Allocates funding to create probation departments in courts that do not have one.
The League will alert out members when the language for the Governor's proposal for the State Operating Budget has been released. We anticipate the language will be released sometime next week. We look forward to working with the DeWine administration and both legislative chambers to ensure the biennial budget properly invests in Ohio's local cities and villages.
 
BILL TO ELIMINATE SOVEREIGN IMMUNITY RECEIVES OPPONENT TESTIMONY
This week, representatives from local government entities across the state testified in opposition to HB 27. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Ingram (D - Cincinnati), would modify political subdivision liability for an employee's negligent operation of a motor vehicle. The bill as written would virtually eliminate sovereign immunity for political subdivisions except in the instance of a motor vehicle collisions that occurs during a police car chase.
Witnesses objecting to the legislation included Rod Davidson, Obetz Village Administrator who testified on behalf of the League. Davidson spoke of his personal experiences to confirm that the bill would negatively impact emergency response times. Also testifying on behalf of the League was Ashley Brewster, OML Director of Communications and Garry Hunter, the League's general counsel submitted written testimony. Others who provided testimony include Andrew Miler, assistant city attorney for Columbus, OTA Executive Director Matt DeTemple and Pleasant Valley Joint Fire District Chief Mark Kidd on behalf of the Ohio Fire Chiefs Association. You can read all of the March 19, 2019 the testimonies HERE.
HB 27 would open municipalities up to copious amounts of frivolous lawsuits on the grounds of negligence. The witnesses during Tuesday's hearing outlined how current statue already fulfills the core intent of the bill by holding municipalities accountable for paying damages when the driver of the emergency vehicle acts in a "willful or wanton" manner. The law as written protects first responders while holding local governments accountable without opening municipalities up to large numbers of lawsuits for negligence.
If political subdivisions lost sovereign immunity, the lives of Ohioans would be endangered as response times would substantially increase. It would also increase the financial burden on many already struggling municipalities, particularly smaller villages. Taxpayers would bear the burden of paying municipal court costs or damages. Taxpayers would also suffer as municipal insurance premiums would rise, forcing many municipalities to increase local taxes to help make ends meet.
 
COMMITTEE RECAP: BILLS OF MUNICIPAL INTEREST
Here are the bills impacting municipalities that received committee hearings this week:
  • SB 12 - TRAFFIC CAMERAS. Sponsored by Sen. Craig (D - Columbus), would make changes to the laws governing traffic law photo-monitoring devices, other civil traffic violations, and related fines and fees. During its first hearing before the Senate Local Government, Public Safety and Veterans Affairs Committee, the bill's sponsor explained that the bill would cap fines, fees and other charges that are in excess of or not included in a municipal or count court fines and costs. The League is neutral on this legislation.
  • HB 75 - PROPERTY VALUES. Sponsored by Rep. Merrin (R - Monclova Township), would require local governments that contest property values to formally pass an authorizing resolution for each contest and to notify property owners. During its second hearing before the House Ways and Means Committee, proponents of the bill included the Ohio Real Estate Investor Association, the Ohio Apartment Association and the Ohio Chamber of Congress. The League does not support 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 second hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee, proponents of the bill included the Ohio Chemistry Technology Council, the Coalition of Ohio Regional Districts and the Ohio Chamber of Commerce. The League is neutral on this legislation.
 
NEW BILLS OF MUNICIPAL INTEREST INTRODUCED 
Here are the bill impacting municipalities that were introduced this week:
  • HB 152 - TAX LEVY-SUBDIVISION CREATOR. Sponsored by Rep. Brinkman (R - Cincinnati), would require certain subdivisions to obtain the approval of the body that created the subdivision before levying a tax.
  • HB 139 - PHOTO MONITORING. Sponsored by Rep. Patton (R - Strongsville) would prohibit a municipal corporation or township that does not operate either a fire department or an emergency medical services organization from utilizing traffic law photo-monitoring devices.
  • HB 140 - PHOTO MONITORING. Sponsored by Rep. Patton (R - Strongsville), would prohibit a local authority with a population of 200 or fewer from utilizing traffic law photomonitoring devices.
  • HB 141 - PHOTO MONITORING. Sponsored by Rep. Patton (R - Strongsville), would prohibit a local authority, in any year, from issuing a total number of traffic tickets based on the use of traffic law photo-monitoring devices that exceeds two times the population of the local authority.
  • HB 142 - PHOTO MONITORING. Sponsored by Rep. Patton (R - Strongsville), would prohibit a local authority from deriving more than 30 per cent of the total annual revenue of the local authority from the issuance of tickets for traffic law violations based on evidence recorded by traffic law photo-monitoring devices.
  • HB 149 - PROPERTY TAX EXEMPTION. Sponsored by Rep. Merrin (R - Monclova Township), would enact the "Affordable Homebuilding and Housing Act" to temporarily exempt from property tax the increased value of land subdivided for residential development.
  • HB 159 - PUBLIC IMPROVEMENTS. Sponsored by Rep. Blessing (R - Cincinnati), would regulate the use of indemnity provisions in professional design contracts related to public improvements

COMMITTEE SCHEDULE FOR THE WEEK OF MARCH 25, 2019
Tuesday, March 26, 2019
HOUSE WAYS AND MEANS
Tue., Mar. 26, 2019, 3:00 PM, Hearing Room 116
Rep. Schaffer: 614-466-8100
 
BALLOT LANGUAGE UNIFORMITY (MERRIN D) To enact the "Ballot Uniformity and Transparency Act" to modify the form of election notices and ballot language for property tax levies. 
 
Second Hearing, Proponent Testimony
 
Wednesday, March 27, 2019
SENATE JUDICIARY
Wed., Mar. 27, 2019, 9:15 AM, North Hearing Room
Sen. Eklund: 614-644-7718
 
PUBLIC RECORDS LAW EXEMPTION-EMERGENCY SERVICE TELECOMMUNICATORS (ROEGNER K) To include emergency service telecommunicators as individuals whose residential and familial information is exempt from disclosure under the Public Records Law. 
 
Second Hearing, Proponent Testimony, AMENDMENTS
 
 
HOUSE STATE AND LOCAL GOVERNMENT
Wed., Mar. 27, 2019, 3:00 PM, Hearing Room 122
Rep. Wiggam: 614-466-1474
OR AFTER SESSION
 
CAPITAL IMPROVEMENTS-SEWER LATERALS (HOLMES G) To expressly include, as eligible projects under the State Capital Improvements Program, water and sewer laterals located on private property. 
 
First Hearing, Sponsor Testimony
 
 
PLEASE CHECK THE OML WEBSITE ON MONDAY FOR ANY UPDATES TO THE COMMITTEE SCHEDULE

Ohio Municipal League Meetings & Trainings

OML/OMAA WEBINAR
ACA Penalty Webinar
March 28, 2019
OML/OMAA WEBINAR
Collective Bargaining
April 11, 2019

Ohio Municipal League

Legislative Inquires:
Kent Scarrett, Executive Director
Edward Albright, Deputy Director
Ashley Brewster, Director of Communications
Thomas Wetmore, Legislative Advocate

Website/Bulletin Issues:
Zoë Wade, Office Manager