April 2017 Legislative Update: Latest News from the Ohio Statehouse

April 18th, 2017

By Jason Warner, GOPC Manager of Government Affairs

With the legislature wrapping up spring break, now seems like a good time to provide the first status update on a number of bills currently pending before the 132nd Ohio General Assembly.

GOPC has compiled a comprehensive recap of legislation, which is available here

A number of bills have been introduced since the new general assembly began in January, but most of the work continues to concentrate on the various budget bills which must be enacted by July 1, 2017 when the new state fiscal year begins. Already, one of those bills has already been passed and signed into law; the state transportation budget was signed by Governor Kasich on March 31 and will provide funding for Ohio Department of Transportation, among other agencies, for the next two state fiscal years, which begin on July 1, 2017 and end on June 30, 2019. HB26 includes a significant boost in funding for public transit fleet replacement, increasing funding for this program by $10 million per year and is primarily derived from the state motor fuel tax and federal transportation funding.

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The main operating budget, HB49 is still pending in the House Finance Committee. This bill provides funding for state government operations for the next two state fiscal years, which begin on July 1, 2017 and end on June 30, 2019. Also known as the general revenue fund (GRF) budget, this is the primary source of funding for state government operations for the next two years. The House is expected to pass a version of the budget by May 3, 2017; the Senate has begun informal hearings on the budget and will undertake formal hearings following the passage of the House version next month. Final passage is expected by June 30, 2017.

During the spring break, Governor Kasich was joined by House Speaker Cliff Rosenberger and Senate President Larry Obhof at a press conference to announced that, due to declining state tax receipts, it would be necessary to cut $400 million per year over the next two years from the current budget proposal. It is not yet known what areas will be targeted for cuts in the budget proposal, but state budget director Tim Keen has indicated that the new budget will essentially be flat funded; meaning that funding for state programs will remain equal to what they have been for the past two years.

For more information about all bills GOPC is currently tracking, please read the full legislative update, which is available for you here

 

Budget Update No. 4: Transportation Budget in the books; Main Operating inches along

April 3rd, 2017

By Jason Warner, GOPC Manager of Government Affairs

This is the fourth in a series of articles taking a closer look as specific items contained in the Governor’s proposed budget for FY2018-19, which the legislature must pass by June 30, 2017The third article is available here

The Ohio House of Representatives and Ohio Senate sent the final version of the State Transportation Budget (HB26) to Governor John Kasich on March 29, which he then approved on March 31.  The transportation budget will take effect on July 1 and will fund transportation operations and other transportation-related functions through June 30, 2019.

Highlights of the final budget include an increase in federal flex funding for purposes of replacing Ohio’s aging public transportation fleet. Flexing federal highway dollars reallocates funding Ohio already receives. At present, the state flexes around $23 million per year for public transportation purposes. House Bill 26 increases this amount by $10 million per year, to $33 million annually. This is a significant increase in funding which will help support the purchase of new rural transit vans and full sized buses.

The conference report removed Senate provisions adding $48 million to the Ohio Public Works Commission’s Local Transportation Improvement Program (LTIP) and requiring $30 million of the forthcoming Volkswagen Emissions Mitigation Trust Fund to be sent to public transit authorities for rolling stock. Conferees also agreed to allow county commissioners to approve a $5 motor vehicle license (MVL) fee increase by resolution, but specifies that any increase must take effect after 30 days. This will allow local voters an opportunity to subject the increase to a referendum. If a referendum is approved, the increase would only take effect if it is approved by voters.

The removal of the $30 million in funding from the Volkswagen settlement came at the request of the Ohio EPA and Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine. They indicated to the conference committee there were still issues around the settlement which needed to be worked out and cautioned that allocating money from the settlement was premature. The chair of the Senate Transportation, Commerce and Workforce Committee, Frank LaRose (R-Copley), has indicated that he wants to see the settlement money appropriated for this purpose and will work to do so either through an amendment to the main operating budget (HB49) or through stand-alone legislation. GOPC will work with the senator to ensure that this does happen.

Other highlights from HB26 include:

  • Requires the Registrar of Motor Vehicles, within 9 months after the effective date of the bill, to establish by rule the service fee that is paid to a deputy registrar, a limited authority deputy registrar, or the Registrar, as applicable, for specified services at a rate that is not more than $5.25.  The current rate is $3.75. 
  • Requires the Registrar or Motor Vehicles to conduct a study of the benefits and detriments of lowering the permanent registration fee for commercial trailers and semitrailers and streamlining the registration process. A pilot program will be conducted between January 1, 2018 and December 31, 2019 with the fees being reduced from $30 to $15 for vehicle registrations in Clinton, Franklin, Lucas, Mahoning, Montgomery and Stark counties.
  • Limits the proposal to permit the ODOT director to establish variable speed limits to a pilot program to be limited to all or part of I-670 (Franklin County), all or part of I-275 (Hamilton County) and the portion of I-90 between I-71 and the Pennsylvania border.

At the same time, the Ohio House continues its work on the Main Operating Budget (HB49). This week, the bill resumed hearings in the full House Finance Committee following a month of hearings in five subcommittees and the House Ways and Means Committee. Various interest groups and members of the public shared their views on the budget in multiple hearings during the past week, and will continue sharing their thoughts this week before the legislature goes on recess for the next two weeks to observe Easter. Also last week, the Ohio Senate Finance Committee began holding informal hearings receiving background testimony from state agencies in advance of beginning formal hearings after the House approves their version of the state budget. That is expected to occur sometime in early May.

Visit GOPC’s Transportation Modernization page to learn more about this important issue area

 

GOPC’s Recommendation to Boost Public Transit Included in 2018-19 Ohio Senate Transportation Budget

March 27th, 2017

By Jason Warner, GOPC Manager of Government Affairs

This is the third in a series of articles taking a closer look as specific items contained in the Governor’s proposed budget for FY2018-19, which the legislature must pass by June 30, 2017. The second article is available here.

Greater Ohio Policy Center (GOPC) would like to thank the Ohio Senate for approving a transportation budget that would allocate an additional $15 million over two years to public transportation. In alignment with GOPC’s recommendations that Ohio repower its ailing bus fleet, the Senate’s budget would support a new grant program using funds from the Volkswagen Mitigation Trust Fund to support public transit.

In a strong bipartisan effort, the Ohio Senate unanimously approved Am. Sub. HB 26, the state transportation budget for fiscal years 2018 and 2019 on March 22nd. All 24 Republican members and the 9 Democratic members of the chamber voted to support passage of the budget. Over the course of eight hearings, Senators heard testimony from a number of organizations, including GOPC, who advocated for an increase in funding for public transportation.

As GOPC noted in testimony before the Transportation, Commerce and Workforce Committee last week, Ohio appropriates only 2% of the state transportation budget to public transportation, while peer states spend between 10-20% of their transportation funds on transit-related needs and services. Governor Kasich’s proposed budget recommended spending an additional roughly $33 million annually in federal highway “flex” funds for public transit capital appropriations (purchasing new “rolling stock”, or buses), which was an increase of $10 million per year over the current budget.

GOPC thanks the members of the Ohio Senate for recognizing the need for additional support for public transit in the state and encourages the Ohio House of Representatives to support this Senate-backed provision in the budget.

In testimony, GOPC encouraged the legislature to spend an additional $17 million per year, boosting overall funding in public transportation to $50 million annually. The Senate-approved budget plan to strengthen public transportation using Volkswagen Mitigation Trust Funds would support a grant program that assists local transit agencies in purchasing new buses and transit vans across the state.

Later that same day, the Ohio House, which was the first to pass the transportation budget on March 1, voted to reject the full slate of Senate-approved changes 88-0. The bill now moves to a conference committee which will settle the differences between the two bills. Final passage of the budget bill will occur later this week, as state law requires Governor Kasich to sign the transportation budget by April 1.  

Learn more about GOPC’s policy research and advocacy to modernize Ohio’s transportation system

 

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Miss the Webinar? Watch Preserving Our Neighborhoods: An Educational Webinar on Ohio’s Recently Passed HB463

February 8th, 2017
Thank you to all panelists and attendees who participated in GOPC’s Webinar, Preserving Our Neighborhoods: An Educational Webinar on Ohio’s Recently Passed HB463.

If you missed the Webinar, you can watch it in full here:

View the recording of the Webinar

PowerPoint Slides are available here

February 21, 2017

In January 2017, Governor Kasich signed HB463, a bill that contains new provisions that will help Ohio’s communities mitigate and prevent blight.

During the Webinar, panelists discussed new provisions enacted by HB463 and what they mean for neighborhood stabilization and economic development. Hosted by: Alison Goebel, Executive Director, Greater Ohio Policy Center Panelists: Jason Warner, Manager of Government Affairs, Greater Ohio Policy Center Adam Hewit, President, Government Solutions Group Robert Klein, Founder & Chairman, Community Blight Solutions Aaron Klein, former United States Treasury Department Deputy Assistant Secretary for Economic Policy Josh Harmon, Chief Environmental Specialist, Franklin County Municipal Court and President, Ohio Code Enforcement Officials Association                                                                    .

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GOPC Updates Analysis on Challenges Facing Ohio’s Smaller Legacy Cities; Presents Findings at CMC

January 17th, 2017

Greater Ohio Policy Center has released an update to its 2016 report From Akron to Zanesville: How Are Ohio’s Small and Mid-Sized Legacy Cities Faring? The report examined the economic health of Ohio’s older industrial cities over the last 15 years and recommends proactive state policy solutions to strengthen these places. Newly released 2015 data confirms the general downward trajectory of many key economic indicators in these communities.

  • Ohio’s mid-sized legacy cities – Akron, Canton, Dayton, Toledo, and Youngstown – resemble their larger neighbors in many ways, including their challenges with entrenched poverty, low household incomes, and substantial rates of housing vacancy and abandonment. But the signs of recovery continuing to emerge in Cleveland and Cincinnati are not apparent in the economic health data of the mid-sized cities.
  • The proportion of adults working or looking for a job – a key indicator of economic health – declined significantly between 2000 and 2015 in small and mid-sized legacy cities.
  • Unemployment rates ticked down in all city types between 2014 and 2015. By 2015, Columbus and the state as a whole recovered their unemployment rates to 2009 levels. Mid-sized legacy cities also approached their unemployment levels at the end of the Recession. However, unemployment levels in all city types and the state as a whole continue to exceed 2000 levels.

GOPC’s research has confirmed that cities that are rebounding invest in place-based assets to revitalize.  To help Ohio’s smaller legacy cities stabilize and thrive, in 2017, GOPC will continue to lead advocacy on a slate of policies that support community redevelopment as routes to economic stability.

As part of GOPC’s recently launched smaller legacy city initiative, Executive Director, Alison D. Goebel, discussed the 2015 findings and GOPC’s policy recommendations at a Columbus Metropolitan Club forum, Big City Problems in Ohio’s Small Towns, which over 140 people attended earlier this week. During the panel, Goebel discussed ongoing challenges, such as economic and population decline, that Ohio’s smaller legacy cities face. To enable these cities to rebound, Goebel emphasized the importance of local civic capacity and the need to invest in both people and place-based assets.

GOPC was joined by Tara Britton, director of public policy and advocacy at the Center for Community Solutions and John Begala, retired executive director of the Center for Community Solutions, and the session was moderated by Karen Kasler of the Ohio Public Radio Statehouse News Bureau. If you missed the CMC forum, a Video of the whole event has been made available on CMC’s YouTube channel, which can be viewed online for free!

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GOPC’s Executive Director Alison Goebel (right) speaking at the Columbus Metropolitan Club about recent data on smaller legacy cities and strategies for regrowth.

We will be hosting a smaller legacy cities panel along with a whole array of exciting topics during our 2017 Summit: Investing in Ohio’s Future March 7th and 8th! We hope you join us; Register today!

 

End-of-Year Legislative Update: 131st General Assembly adjourns amid a flurry of activity

December 19th, 2016

At the conclusion of the 131st Ohio General Assembly, lawmakers worked late into the night of December 8th, passing remaining legislative priorities before adjourning for the year. In the final day of session alone, the legislature passed over 30 bills, all of which will be sent to Governor Kasich for his review and approval. Below is a brief review of approved bills that GOPC has been tracking throughout the legislative process:

  • greater-ohio-flag HB463(Dever) revises the law related to real property foreclosure and escrow transactions and certain partial property tax exemptions. The bill was approved by the Ohio Senate 26-5 and the Ohio House 72-21
  • greater-ohio-flag SB232 (Bacon) makes changes to transfer on death designation deeds and affidavits and also makes changes in the probate and trust laws regarding the inheritance and beneficial rights of afterborn or pretermitted children or heirs. The bill was approved by the Ohio Senate 33-0 and the Ohio House 94-1, and signed into law by Governor Kasich on December 13 (and becomes effective in 90 days)
  • greater-ohio-flag SB235 (Beagle, Coley) permits political subdivisions to exempt from property taxation the increased value of property on which industrial or commercial development is planned for up to six years. The bill was approved by the Ohio Senate 29-2 and the Ohio House 89-1
  • greater-ohio-flag HB554 (Amstutz) revises the requirements for renewable energy, energy efficiency, and peak demand reduction. The bill was approved by the Ohio Senate 18-13 and the Ohio House 55-34
  • greater-ohio-flag HB154 (Henne) establishes a requirement that motor vehicles passing a bicycle must do so on the left at a distance of three feet or more. The bill was approved by the Ohio Senate 30-1 and the Ohio House 88-4

Keep an eye out in GOPC’s January Newsletter for a more detailed review of these bills, along with a preview of the 132nd Ohio General Assembly!

 

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GOPC Testifies on Active Transportation’s Cost Savings, Safety Benefits, and Range of Choice at the Ohio Statehouse

November 28th, 2016

By Jason Warner, GOPC Manager of Government Affairs

During two hearings before the Joint Task Force for Transportation Issues and the Joint Education Oversight Committee last week, GOPC promoted the need for, and benefits of, an Active Transportation policy being adopted for both Ohio’s transportation infrastructure plan, as well as a means to reduce costs around school transportation in the state.

Active Transportation, by definition any human-power transportation system such as walking or bicycling, is increasing in frequency across the state for a variety of reasons. Currently, 33 other states have a statewide active transportation policy. GOPC advocates for an Ohio Active Transportation policy that is sensitive to context (rural vs. suburban vs. urban) and that would facilitate the safe and efficient movement of people and goods. GOPC is involved with ODOT and Department of Health’s working group devoted to creating an effective statewide Active Transportation policy that enables safe, convenient, and comfortable travel and access across transportation modes for users of all ages and abilities.

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GOPC Manager of Government Affairs Jason Warner

Nationally, the number of fatalities resulting from traffic collisions involving motor vehicles, pedestrians and bicyclists is rising. Statistics provided by the Governors Highway Safety Association show a 10% increase during the first half of 2015 over the same time period of the previous year. Sadly, Ohio led all other states, with an increase of 124% in pedestrian fatalities during that period. To boost safety, policymakers should look to implement policies that accommodate more types of users, such as bikers and pedestrians. Encouragingly, a 2015 analysis of 37 Active Transportation projects across the country determined that the projects avoided a total of $18.1 million in collision and injury costs in one year alone.

Active Transportation policies that support and promote multimodal usage result in safer streets, minimize the flow of cars, and often increase economic activity along the modified route.  GOPC’s full testimony before the Joint Transportation Task Force on November 15 is available here, while the Joint Education Oversight Committee testimony from November 17 is available here.

Go here to learn more about GOPC’s research and advocacy on this important issue!

 

Field Day Provides Learning Opportunity about Drinking Water, Wastewater Management Process

November 9th, 2016

By Jason Warner, GOPC Manager of Government Affairs

GOPC, with colleagues from County Commissioners Association of Ohio, Ohio Municipal League and The Ohio State University Extension, recently met with Karen Mancl, a professor at The Ohio State University College of Food, Agriculture, and Environmental Sciences to learn about drinking water and wastewater management processes in Ohio and to build on GOPC’s knowledge and expertise in this important issue area. As part of the meeting, GOPC embarked on a tour of the Westerville Water Treatment Plant to observe all of the necessary treatment steps in order to deliver clean, high-quality drinking water to homes and businesses in Ohio.

In Ohio, drinking water regulations are governed by two separate statues, the federal Safe Drinking Water Act of 1974, and Ohio Revised Code (ORC) Chapter 6109, the Safe Drinking Water statute. While the federal Safe Drinking Water Act develops national drinking water standards and establishes requirements for treatment, monitoring, and reporting by public water systems, ORC 6109 enables the state to assume and retain primary enforcement responsibilities of the state’s public water systems (by definition, any water connection that contains at least 15 connections and regularly serves an average of at least 25 people at least 60 days per year).

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Water Treatment Plant. Source: Wikicommons

Since first enactment, the number of drinking water standards public systems must meet has increased significantly, with more than 160 standards now required. These standards include primary regulations designed to protect the public health (which are enforceable and, if not met can result in criminal prosecution for officials involved) and secondary recommended standards, which regulate everything from taste, odor, and appearance and are designed to help protect the public welfare. To meet these standards, drinking water must go through several “treatment barriers” that are designed to ensure all requirements are met.

While touring the Westerville Water Treatment Facility, we observed these treatment barriers in action. Westerville’s water, which is sourced via Alum Creek, is pumped into the facility and goes through the first barrier known as “clarification.” Through clarification, the water is pre-chlorinated for algae control to remove any biological growth in the water, and coagulation via slow-sand filtration, again to remove any remaining biological growth. These phases are designed to separate any solid materials which could be in the water, and are critical to the primary regulation process designed to protect the public health.

Next, the water goes through a filtration process to remove any particles from the water. This is done by pumping the water into large storage tanks that contain carbon. The filter, which is 2 to 3 stories tall, acts in the same manner as an in-home water filter attached to a faucet. Finally, the water goes through a third and final disinfection process where it is treated with chlorine to kill any remaining bacteria or pathogens. From start to finish, the process takes roughly 14 hours and Westerville treats up to 4 million gallons of water each day for a system that serves up to 60,000 residents and daily workers in the city.

Learn more about the water treatment process and visit GOPC’s Water and Sewer Infrastructure page to access the latest news as well as GOPC research and analysis of solutions to modernizing Ohio’s water and sewer infrastructure systems.

Finally, special thanks to GOPC Board Member, Cheryl Subler with the County Commissioners Association of Ohio, for arranging this great “all access” educational session and tour.

 

GOPC Joins 1,000 Change Makers from Across the Country at the Reclaiming Vacant Properties Conference in Baltimore

October 10th, 2016

By Sheldon K. Johnson, GOPC Project Manager

Last week, Greater Ohio Policy Center staff and Board of Trustee members attended the Reclaiming Vacant Properties (RVP) Conference hosted by the Center for Community Progress. The theme of the conference was “In Service of People and Place” and aimed to take a deep look at how innovative reuse of vacant properties can improve the well-being of residents and the communities where they live.

GOPC had the opportunity to learn from local case studies and best practices from around the country that will inform our work of championing revitalization and sustainable growth in Ohio. We also were able to share our expertise with conference attendees. Board of Trustee member Ian Beniston, Executive Director of Youngstown Neighborhood Development Corporation (YNDC), sat on a panel about Community-Based Stabilization Efforts. He shared details about how YNDC organizes Neighborhood Action Teams to engage volunteers for vacant property clean ups.

GOPC’s former Executive Director, Lavea Brachman, spoke on a panel focused on creating state policy change to support innovative solutions to fighting blight. Brachman also joined current GOPC staff member Torey Hollingsworth to host a presentation and discussion on the report they co-authored about revitalizing small and mid-sized legacy cities. Representatives from several cities included in the study attended the presentation. Check out GOPC’s upcoming October newsletter for a more detailed summary of Hollingsworth and Brachman’s presentation. You can find the newsletter here.

In addition to a variety of informative panel sessions the Reclaiming Vacant Properties Conference also included several engaging plenary sessions. The second day of the conference opened with a breakfast keynote address by Representative Dan Kildee (D-MI). Rep. Kildee addressed the conference the day after Congress voted to provide $170 million in aid to address the Flint water crisis. Kildee, a Flint native, used his remarks to highlight the importance of water and sewer system upgrades (a key issue that GOPC focuses on in Ohio). He also discussed how landbanking and infrastructure investments are key to community revitalization.

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Dan Kildee - Photo Credit: Center for Community Progress

The RVP conference closed with a keynote address from Dr. Matthew Desmond, John L. Loeb Associate Professor of the Social Sciences at Harvard University and author of the bestselling book Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City. Desmond summarized the ethnographic study of low income renters and landlords in Milwaukee, WI that he wrote about in Evicted. He focused largely on the story of Arleen Beale and her two sons as they struggled to stay in safe and affordable housing. Desmond argued that Arleen’s story is representative of many people’s, and that concrete solutions for increasing affordable housing are needed.

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Matthew Desmond - Photo Credit: Center for Community Progress

The Reclaiming Vacant Properties Conference was a great opportunity for GOPC to connect with partners doing similar work across the country and to reinforce the importance of our work. Attending conferences like these empowers our staff to be better prepared to continue advocating for and building a Greater Ohio!

 

Check out GOPC’s Partner Conferences this Fall!

September 2nd, 2016

GOPC’s partners are hosting exciting conferences this fall. These conferences will examine different facets of community revitalization and strategies for stabilizing and rebuilding our communities.  Additionally, GOPC and long-time partner, Ohio CDC Association will be co-hosting a webinar in October. Check out the descriptions below and click on the links to register!

The Dialogue in Detroit Conference will go from September 13 to 16, 2016 in Detroit, Michigan. This Conference will bring together professionals, decision-makers and academics from America’s Legacy Cities, where long-term population loss and economic restructuring present difficult challenges for the future of astounding historic resources and significant cultural heritage.  This Conference is sponsored by the Michigan State Historic Preservation Office, the Michigan State Housing Development Authority, and Wayne State University. This conference is a follow up to one at which GOPC keynoted in Cleveland in 2015.

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From September 28-30, 2016, The Center for Community Progress will be hosting the Reclaiming Vacant Properties (RVP) Conference in Baltimore, Maryland. Themed “In Service of People and Place,” the seventh RVP will take a deep look at how work to reclaim vacant properties can improve the wellbeing of residents and the places they call home.  Former GOPC Executive Director, Lavea Brachman will be speaking on the Creating State Policy Change to Support Blight-Fighting Innovation panel and GOPC will be leading a small group workshop on small and medium sized legacy cities.

CCP

 

The Ohio CDC Association will be hosting the Passion for Progress Conference October 13-14, 2016. Taking place in Athens, Ohio, this annual conference will showcase the revitalization occurring throughout the region. GOPC will be attending and learning the latest and greatest in the community development field.

CDC Association

 

Finally, GOPC and Ohio CDC Association will co-host a Webinar on October 27, 2016 from 10:00-11:30am. This webinar will explore the findings of a recent report by Greater Ohio Policy Center that examined how smaller legacy cities, from Akron to Zanesville, fared over the last 15 years. GOPC will share best practices that smaller legacy cities throughout the Midwest and Northeast used to jumpstart revitalization and that community development and public sector leaders can put into practice in their own communities. 

Join us on October 27th here!