2018-19 Budget Review: Replacing the Medicare Managed Care Organization (MCO) Tax

February 23rd, 2017

By Jason Warner, GOPC Manager of Government Affairs

This is the first 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.

Last year, the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) issued a ruling that stated that after July 1, 2017, Ohio’s sales tax on Medicaid Managed Care Organizations (MCO’s) would no longer be a permissible source for state funds to draw down federal matching dollars for Medicaid. This represents a significant challenge for both the state, but also local governments and transit authorities which rely on sales tax receipts to support a wide range of services.

The Governor’s proposed budget would replace the MCO sales tax with a new Health Insuring Corporation (HIC) assessment which is similar to a plan that was instituted in California and was approved by CMS last year.

While this new assessment will assist the state in continuing to draw down federal Medicaid matching funds, it is not a sales tax. As a result, local governments and transit authorities will not have any local revenue generated as a result of the new HIC assessment.

House Bill 49 proposes a transitional aid fund for local governments and transit authorities to be paid out in a single lump sum in October of 2017. All 88 counties and eight transit authorities will receive a calculated 4th Quarter 2017 replacement aid amount based on what they would have received in revenue for that three month period. In addition, the transit authorities and 80 counties are to receive an amount based on the size of their sales tax revenue the Medicaid tax collections were, and how their overall sales tax collections compare to the state average. The remaining eight counties will not receive a payment from this calculation because the receipts from the tax represented too small a proportion of the overall revenue derived from the sales tax. (Those eight counties are Delaware, Erie, Geauga, Hancock, Holmes, Medina, Union and Warren counties.)

In total, the state will appropriate nearly $207 million to these local government entities as a part of the transition away from the MCO sales tax. However, in testimony to the House Finance Committee, Office of Budget and Management Director Tim Keen stated that the administration did not believe that long-term or permanent replacement of the revenue was in order as the MCO sales tax had only existed since 2010.

The full list of proposed transitional aid amounts can be found here.

 

GOPC Testifies on Transportation Budget in House Subcommittee

February 16th, 2017

Recently, Greater Ohio’s Manager of Government Affairs, Jason Warner, had the opportunity to testify before the House Finance Subcommittee on Transportation regarding House Bill 26, the state transportation budget for FY2018-2019. The subcommittee held hearings throughout the week on the proposed budget, which provides appropriations for programs funded with motor vehicle fuel taxes and registration fees (primarily in the Departments of Transportation and Public Safety.

GOPC full testimony is below and can also be found in PDF format here. You may also review all the testimony which the subcommittee heard on the committee’s website.

 

House Finance – Transportation Subcommittee
House Bill 26: State Transportation Budget | Interested Party Testimony
Jason Warner, Greater Ohio Policy Center
February 9, 2017

Chairman McColley, Ranking Member Reece and members of the Transportation Subcommittee, I want to thank you for providing me this opportunity to speak to you today about transportation in Ohio and the state’s transportation budget for FY2018-19.

My name is Jason Warner and I am the Manager of Government Affairs at the Greater Ohio Policy Center. Greater Ohio is a nonprofit nonpartisan organization that is valued for its data-driven research. Our mission is to champion revitalization in Ohio to create economically competitive communities.

As I am sure you are aware, Ohio is a cornerstone of our nation’s transportation infrastructure. I would like to focus my testimony today on what Greater Ohio sees as a policy platform to support a robust, competitive transportation system that will continue to keep Ohio at the forefront of meeting the increasing demands for a 21st Century transportation system for a 21st Century economy. We do not consider these to be aspirational goals, but rather a blueprint and effective strategic plan.

I would like to begin my remarks today with an overview of public transportation in Ohio. Ohio boasts a strong and productive public transportation network, which includes 28 urban and 33 rural systems. ODOT data shows that over 115.1 million passenger trips were provided by the state’s transit systems in 2013, the most recent year statistics are available.

Yet, 27 counties in Ohio feature no form of public transportation (either fixed route or on-demand service) and the state spends only 63 cents per capita for public transit. That is why Ohio ranked 38th in the nation in terms of state investment in public transportation, below North Dakota. It’s worth noting, that among Ohio’s neighboring states, the state ranks ahead of only Kentucky:

  • Pennsylvania – 9th ($85.55 per capita) 
  • Michigan – 15th ($24.33 per capita) 
  • Indiana – 19th ($8.57 per capita) 
  • West Virginia – 32nd ($1.50 per capita) 
  • Ohio – 38th ($0.63 per capita) 
  • Kentucky – 42nd ($0.34 per capita) 

Only 2% of ODOT’s budget is dedicated to public transportation, which is why the department’s own 2014 Transit Needs Study found that current service does not meet demand. Ohio’s peer states dedicate between 10-20% of their state transportation budgets to transit and the state needs to do much to make up for this deficiency. Public transportation is critical to a number of sectors in Ohio, including the elderly, disabled, and is a key component in successfully supporting the state’s priority of job creation, job growth, and workforce development.

We thank Director Wray for his leadership on this issue. Through his efforts and those of the team at the Ohio Department of Transportation, the governor’s budget proposed a substantial increase in funding for public transportation over the next two years. However, as the ODOT Transit Needs Study acknowledged, the backlog of capital needs is great and will require substantial support. There are several ways to address that gap.

Increase Federal Highway Administration Funding for Public Transportation

One option, which involves a simple reprioritization of goals and projects at the Department of Transportation is the idea of flexing Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) dollars.

Flexing FHWA dollars reallocated federal funding Ohio already receives. At present, the state flexes around $23 million per year for public transportation purposes. House Bill 26 proposes to increase this amount by $10 million per year, to $33 million annually. This is a significant increase in funding and we applaud the move by the administration to increase this support, which will help support the purchase of new rural transit vans and full sized buses.

Greater Ohio Policy Center believes that this support would be greatly enhanced with a commitment by the legislature and Department of Transportation to flex an additional $17 million annually, boosting the total amount of flexed FHWA dollars to $50 million per year of the biennium. Doing so will not adversely impact ODOT and its primary mission, as outlined recently by Director Wray in his testimony to the House Finance Committee, which is to “to take care of what we have.”

Setting aside a total of $50 million in FHWA funding to public transit will result in 7.5 fewer miles of highway expansion, or 24 miles of highway repaired per year. For perspective, ODOT paved 5,564 lane miles in 2015.

Allocating $50 million per year of FHWA fund to transit-related capital investments will have negligible impact on Ohio’s crucial highway maintenance and construction programs, while significantly improving safety, performance, and use of Ohio’s public transportation systems.

Create a Dedicated Funding Stream for Public Transportation

Flexing FHWA funding is just one option Ohio has to support Ohio’s public transportation network. Another option, which will require action on the part of the legislature, is to create a dedicated funding stream for public transportation.

Nationwide, 25 states along with the District of Columbia dedicate fees and taxes for the exclusive use of public transit. This, in turn, provides a relatively reliable source of assured funding for these systems. While local transit systems can seek support for dedicated sales tax funding from local voters, it is still not sufficient to meet all needs, and thus most systems rely on funding from the state.

There are several possible sources Ohio could dedicate to support transit-related equipment and vehicle investments; examples of potential funding sources include. At Greater Ohio, we believe Ohio should consider dedicated funding derived from the sales tax collected on rental vehicles, a revenue source that is largely paid by out-of-state visitors to Ohio. By dispersing the equivalent amount of sales tax collected on rental vehicles to fund public transportation, Ohio would take a major step forward in assisting Ohio’s existing transit systems modernize and expand to meet the growing demands for service statewide.

There are other options available beyond the rental vehicle sales tax, including a tax on motor vehicle sales or a fee on the sale of new tires, among others. Regardless of the source, dedicated funding is an important and necessary step forward if Ohio is to have a modern, competitive system.

Dedicated funding for capital improvements will increase the safety and reach of Ohio’s transit agencies. In addition, dedicated funding will help to expand Ohio’s existing transit services, including helping to reach residents in the 27 mostly rural counties that lack access to any form of public transportation.

Adopt and Implement a Statewide Active Transportation Policy

Public transportation is just one aspect of a robust transportation network which Ohioans have come to expect and rely upon. But as we near the beginning of the third decade of the 21st Century, we must look beyond four wheeled transportation as being the sole aspect of the transportation network.
Every day in Ohio, 2 pedestrians and 1 bicyclist dies or is seriously injured in roadway accidents.

Nationally, elderly people and children are at greater risk of pedestrian fatalities than other age groups. A 2015 analysis of 37 active transportation projects across the country determined the projects avoided a total of $18.1 million in collision and injury costs in one year alone. An active transportation policy that ensures state roadways and municipal streets that receive ODOT investment can be safely traveled by all users’ needs to be implemented.

Active transportation, by definition any human-powered transportation system such as walking or bicycling, is increasing in frequency across the state for a variety of reasons. Adoption of a policy that would be sensitive to context (rural vs. suburban vs. urban) and that would facilitate the safe and efficient movement of people and goods is key. At present, 33 states have an active transportation policy. Agencies such as ODOT and the Ohio Department of Health have been working on a policy for some time. I recently had the opportunity to share this plea with both the Joint Task Force on Transportation Issues and the Joint Education Oversight Committee, as part of its review of school transportation issues, and share it with you now in the hope that this committee will urge the department to pursue this policy on a statewide basis and ensure safe travel for all Ohioans.

Comprehensive Funding Reform of the ODOT Budget

As I have previously mentioned, Ohio is a key component in our national transportation network. Ohio’s interstate highway system is the 12th largest in the nation, and ranks 5th in overall traffic volume and 4th in truck traffic volume. Ohio boasts the 2nd largest inventory of bridges in the nation. Beyond roadways, Ohio also ranks 4th nationally in freight rail mileage, hosting 35 freight railroads and 5,305 miles of rail. Ohio’s maritime ports saw 48,267,276 short tons of cargo traded in 2013, and features 7 ports ranked in the top 100 nationally that year.

Yet, in spite of these impressive statistics, the American Society of Civil Engineers has graded Ohio’s 125,000 plus miles of roads a ‘D’, finding that 43% of the state’s roadways are in critical, poor, or fair condition. Of greater concern is a finding that 2,242 of the state’s 27,015 bridges (8% of total bridges), are ‘structurally deficient.’ The overall cost to motorists in the state, the personal cost of driving on roads in need of repair, is $3.3 billion per year, which amounts to $413 per motorist.

Adequately maintaining and upgrading all modes of transportation in Ohio is becoming a challenge, as there are not enough resources available to ensure this is done effectively. The cost of transportation materials and equipment has increased substantially in the last decade, while local, state and federal funds have flat-lined. This is not a problem that is unique to Ohio, and ODOT should be lauded for the work it has been able to accomplish in light of these challenges.

That said, Ohio needs to take a serious look at these challenges going forward, and can look close by to see an effective model that is meeting the needs of the public and private sector in a strategic manner.

In 2012, Pennsylvania had been found to have the most dire of infrastructure systems in the nation; the bridges were rated as the most structurally deficient, roadways were crumbling and there was a growing, unmet demand for public transportation. Through a comprehensive 5-year transportation budget package enacted in 2013, Pennsylvania is now producing $2.1 billion in additional funds and recalibrating resources to better support all modes of transportation. The state has now adopted a Fix-It-First Policy that focuses on funding repairs and maintenance programs on existing infrastructure, doing more to improve asset management and limiting capital expansions.

Like Ohio, Pennsylvania restricts its motor fuels tax to highways and bridges, so in order to provide for the needs of additional transportation modes like transit, rail, aviation, and maritime ports, the state instituted new fees and aggregates small increases on existing taxes and fees to provide additional funding to expand transit services, modernize ports and airports and generate additional revenue for traditional maintenance programs. Among these revenue generators were:

  • A new $1 fee on all new tires sold 
  • A higher fine for lapsed vehicle insurance in lieu of license suspension 
  • A flat $150 fine for disobeying traffic control devices 
  • A $2 per day vehicle rental fee 
  • A 3% vehicle lease tax 
  • A clear formula for assessing the gas tax on alternative fuel vehicles 
  • A switch from taxing at the pump to taxing “at the rack”

One of these elements is already included in House Bill 26. A provision in the bill moves the point at which the motor fuel tax is applied from the point when the fuel is received to, generally, the terminal or refinery rack, affecting who is required to report and pay the tax.

GOPC believes that other elements of the Pennsylvania reform package can and should be considered in Ohio, in order to ensure the state’s economic stability in the years ahead.

Conclusion

In conclusion, it is crucial that Ohio support and maintain a system supporting all modes of transportation. Such a robust, competitive system as outlined here today can serve as a blueprint for addressing our state’s critical infrastructure needs while simultaneously enhancing Ohio as a place where businesses can thrive and where people want to live.

Chairman McColley and members of the Transportation Subcommittee, thank you for your time and thoughtful consideration. I am happy to answer any questions you may have.

House Finance Committee begins work on State Budgets

February 9th, 2017

By Jason Warner, GOPC Manager of Government Affairs

The first month of the 132nd Ohio General Assembly began slowly, with mostly organizational work going on behind the scenes while new members acquainted themselves with life as a member of the state legislature. That quiet period has now come to an end, as the House Finance Committee has taken up the task of passing the next state operating budget for the next two years.

The state operates with four state budget bills: the Main Operating Budget, the State Transportation Budget, the Bureau of Workers Compensation Budget (BWC) and the Industrial Commission Budget (IC). The BWC and IC budgets are passed separately from the main operating because they are supported through the fees that businesses pay in the state. Those fees provide the operational funds for those organizations and must be passed separately as they do not use general revenue funds (GRF) for operations.

Like the BWC and IC budgets, the State Transportation Budget is funded through a combination of federal funding and revenues derived from the state motor fuel tax. The Ohio Department of Transportation and other agencies funded with state motor fuel tax revenues also receive funding in the main operating budget from the GRF, but the State Transportation Budget deals exclusively with the disbursement of funding from federal transportation dollars and motor fuel tax proceeds. 

On February 1, the House Finance Committee began hearings on the main operating budget, which concerns the funding of general government operations for the next two years. A day later, on February 2, the committee began hearings on the State Transportation Budget. Both budgets must be passed within the next 5 months so they can take effect on July 1, when the next state fiscal year (FY2018) begins (though it is worth noting that, due to a ruling of the Ohio Supreme Court, the transportation budget must have a 90 day effective date, requiring it to be passed by April 1).

Governor John Kasich introduced his proposed budget to the state legislature on January 30. The governor’s budget proposal recommends total GRF (Main Operating Budget) spending of $33.10 billion in FY2018 and $33.82 billion in FY2019. In total, the two year operating budget calls for total appropriations worth $66.92 billion. The proposed Transportation Budget calls for spending $3.96 billion in FY2018 and $3.85 billion in FY2019. This actually represents a reduction in overall spending compared to the past two years, where the transportation budgets appropriated $4.01 billion in FY2016 and FY2017.

Beyond spending, the budget also serves as a catalyst for a number of state law and policy changes, and Governor Kasich has proposed a number of initiatives through this budget proposal. Among these changes are further proposed tax cuts, with a proposal to simultaneously cut taxes across the board and reduce the number of tax brackets from 9 to 5; a freeze on public college and university tuition rates, along with a proposal that universities provide text books to students (while charging up to $300 to offset costs); improving state government through technology, including moving 100 percent of state computers to cloud computing.

On the transportation side, the proposed budget seeks to create ‘smart highways’ along existing state highways (I-270 in Columbus and I-90 near Cleveland), seeks to provide the Director of the Department of Transportation with the authority to enact variable speed limits and ‘hard shoulder running’ along highways during peak rush hours, and appropriates $45 million for expanding research capabilities at the Transportation Research Center in East Liberty to further foster research and development of autonomous vehicles and smart highway technology.

The majority of the proposed spending in the transportation budget is dedicated to maintenance on Ohio’s more than 43,000 lane miles of highway and 14,000 bridges, but does also include a proposed increase in federal ‘flex funding’ for public transportation, appropriating an additional $10 million per year towards a grant program which will assist local transit agencies in replacing their aging fleet of vehicles.

Over the next several weeks, the various subcommittees of the House Finance Committee will begin hearings on the hundreds of provisions and line items contained in the state budget and begin the process of crafting their own version of the bill, using the governor’s proposal as a framework. The House is expected to pass its version of the transportation budget by the end of February, sending it over to the Senate where it will be completed by the end of March before being sent to Governor Kasich for his approval. The Main Operating Budget will likely see passage in the House near the end of April, while the Senate will look to pass a version of the bill by mid-June. Final passage of the 2018-19 state budget is expected to occur in late June to take effect on July 1, 2017.

 

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!

 

StatehouseBirdseye

December 2016 Legislative Update: Lame Duck Session

December 6th, 2016

The following is a list of bills that GOPC is tracking in the Ohio Legislature. Status of bills is updated as warranted. If you have any questions or concerns about a particular bill, please be sure to contact Jason Warner, Manager of Government Affairs at jwarner@greaterohio.org or by calling 614-224-0187, ext. 306.

 

Housing and Urban Revitalization Issues

greater-ohio-flagHB463 Foreclosure Actions (Dever)

Introduced: February 12, 2016

Current Status: Pending in Senate Civil Justice Committee

Last Update: November 30, 2016

Summary: The bill makes changes to the calculation of the exempt value of improved property subject to a community reinvestment area exemption, and clarifies the calculation of the exempt value of property subject to a brownfield remediation exemption, and authorizes the filing of a complaint with the county auditor challenging the assessed value of fully or partially exempt property. In addition, the bill makes modifications to the Uniform Commercial Code pertaining to the elimination of double payment obligation, unsigned and telephonically authorized checks, electronic records and signatures, and modernized suretyship rules.

Comment: HB482 (see below), which is pending in the House Ways & Means Committee, was amended into HB462 on November 30. The bill is highly likely to be approved during the final week of lame duck session, which wraps up on December 8.

 

greater-ohio-flagHB482 Exempted Property – Value Calculation (Dever)

Introduced: March 3, 2016

Current Status: Pending in House Ways & Means Committee

Last Update: November 29, 2016

Summary: The bill makes changes to the calculation of the exempt value of improved property subject to a community reinvestment area exemption, and clarifies the calculation of the exempt value of property subject to a brownfield remediation exemption, and authorizes the filing of a complaint with the county auditor challenging the assessed value of fully or partially exempt property.

Comment: The bill, which has also been amended into HB463 (see above), is highly likely to see action during lame duck session.

 

greater-ohio-flagHB126 Nuisance Law (Kunze)

Introduced: March 18, 2015

Current Status: Pending in House Judiciary Committee

Last Update: December 8, 2015

Summary: This bill expands the definition of “nuisance” for purposes of the state Nuisance Law, as well as in other sections of the Revised Code relating to nuisances including any real property, including vacant land, on which an offense of violence has occurred or is occurring.

Comment: The bill is unlikely to see additional action during lame duck session.

 

greater-ohio-flagSB201 Nuisance – Vacant Property (Hughes, Yuko)

Introduced: August 10, 2015

Current Status: Pending in Senate Civil Justice Committee

Last Update: October 14, 2015

Summary: The bill would expand nuisance laws to apply to any real property, including vacant land, on which an offense of violence has occurred or is occurring. This is a companion bill to HB126 (Kunze) (see above).

Comment: The bill is unlikely to see additional action during lame duck session.

 

Sewer and Water Infrastructure Issues

greater-ohio-flagHB512 Water System Testing – MBR (Ginter)

Introduced: April 7, 2016

Current Status: Signed by the Governor

Last Updated: September 9, 2016 (Effective Date of Legislation)

Summary: The bill establishes requirements governing lead and copper testing for community and nontransient noncommunity water systems and revises the law governing lead contamination from plumbing fixtures. In addition, it provides funding to the Facilities Construction Commission for purposes of providing grants for lead fixture replacement in eligible schools, and to revise the laws governing the Water Pollution Control Loan and Drinking Water Assistance Funds.

Comment: The bill has already become effective law as of September 9, 2016.

 

greater-ohio-flagSB333 Water Quality – MBR (Hite)

Introduced: May 18, 2016

Current Status: Pending in Senate Energy & Natural Resources Committee

Last Update: November 29, 2016

Summary: The bill would revise specific laws relating to environmental protection.

Comment: The bill is highly likely to see action during lame duck session.

 

greater-ohio-flagSJR3 Water & Sewer Capital Improvements Fund (Schiavoni)

Introduced: August 31, 2015

Current Status: Pending in Senate Finance Committee

Last Update: February 9, 2016

Summary: This joint resolution would amend the Ohio Constitution to permit the issuance of general obligation bonds to fund sewer and water capital improvements.

Comment: The bill is unlikely to see additional action during lame duck session following the November election.

 

Taxation Issues

greater-ohio-flagHB418 Senior Housing Tax Certificates (Barnes)

Introduced: December 17, 2015

Current Status: Pending in House Financial Institutions, Housing & Urban Development Committee

Last Update: May 17, 2016

Summary: This bill, entitled the “Senior Housing Relief Act,” prohibits county treasurers from selling delinquent real estate tax “certificates” for parcels owned and occupied as a homestead for the preceding 20 years by a person aged 65 or older.

Comment: The bill is unlikely to see additional action during lame duck session following the November election.

 

greater-ohio-flagHB528 Local Motor Vehicle Permissive License Taxes (Ruhl)

Introduced: April 20, 2016

Current Status: Pending in House Ways & Means Committee

Last Update: May 17, 2016

Summary: The bill would authorize additional permissive local motor vehicle license taxes by as much as $15. The current max rate that can be assessed by counties, townships and municipalities is $20; this would permit each locality to add an additional $5 in fees, for a total of $15.

Comment: The bill is unlikely to see additional action during lame duck session following the November election.

 

greater-ohio-flagSB41 New Markets Tax Credit Qualifications (Beagle, Tavares)

Introduced: February 10, 2015

Current Status: Pending in Senate Ways & Means Committee

Last Update: June 3, 2015

Summary: The bill would modify the qualifications for the New Market Tax Credit and the schedule for receiving the credit.

Comment: The bill is unlikely to see additional action during lame duck session following the November election.

 

greater-ohio-flagSB305 Tax Certificate Sale Prohibition (Williams)

Introduced: April 4, 2016

Current Status: Pending in Senate Ways & Means Committee

Last Update: April 12, 2016

Summary: The bill would prohibit the sale of tax certificates for parcels owned by a person sixty-five years of age or older and that include the primary residence of the owner.

Comment: The bill is unlikely to see additional action during lame duck session following the November election.

 

greater-ohio-flagSB40 Economic Development Tax Credit (Beagle)

Introduced: February 10, 2015

Current Status: Pending in Senate Ways & Means Committee

Last Update: June 10, 2015

Summary: The bill authorizes tax credits for contributions of money to economic and infrastructure development projects undertaken by local governments and non-profit corporations.

Comment: The bill is unlikely to see additional action during lame duck session following the November election.

 

Miscellaneous Issues

greater-ohio-flagSB232 Death Designation Deeds (Bacon)

Introduced: October 27, 2015

Current Status: Sent to the Governor for Signature

Last Update: December 2, 2016

Summary: The bill would amend the law related and will revoke a transfer on death designation affidavit or transfer on death deed that was executed by an individual who is subsequently divorced, obtains a dissolution of the marriage, or obtains an annulment.

Comment: The bill has been approved by the Ohio Senate (33-0) and the Ohio House (94-1), and will become effective 90 days after the governor approves the law.

 

greater-ohio-flagHB130 DataOhio Board (C. Hagan, Duffey)

Introduced: March 24, 2015

Current Status: Pending in Senate Finance Committee

Last Update: September 28, 2016

Summary: This bill will create the DataOhio Board, which will be required to make recommendations to the General Assembly regarding online access to public records and data sets of public records, and to recommend other standards for data.

Comment: The bill is unlikely to see additional action during lame duck session following the November election.

 

 

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.

JW cropped

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!

 

Ohio General Assembly: 2016 Election Review, Lame Duck, and Upcoming Budget

November 16th, 2016

 By Jason Warner, GOPC Manager of Government Affairs

While much of the focus of the 2016 elections has been at the national level, voters across Ohio cast ballots last Tuesday on down ticket races to elect members of the 132nd Ohio General Assembly. Now that the dust has settled, we can look ahead to the new General Assembly, which will take office on January 3, 2017. The new legislative session will include Governor John Kasich’s final state budget and will prelude the 2018 statewide election when Ohioans will elect Mr. Kasich’s successor and other statewide executive officers.

Prior to the election, Republicans in the state legislature enjoyed a majority of 65/34 in the Ohio House and 23/10 in the Ohio Senate. Defying expectations, Republicans in the state legislature gained one seat each in the Ohio House and Ohio Senate, increasing their majorities to 66/33 in the House and 24/9 in the Senate. Both majorities are now large enough to override any vetoes which may be issued by Governor Kasich and to pass legislation as emergency measures (allowing them to take effect immediately as opposed to 90 days after executive approval), without the necessary support of legislative Democrats.

  StatehouseBirdseye

  Ohio Statehouse

The short term impact of the election at this stage is hard to determine. GOPC will be attentive to leadership changes and will continue working with members on both sides of the aisle to advance policies on urban and neighborhood revitalization, development of a diverse transportation system and modernization of the state’s water and sewer infrastructure. GOPC has already been reaching out to members of the General Assembly to highlight policy initiatives and will be working with members to ensure these issues are emphasized in budget meetings and other legislative conversations.

Before the new General Assembly is seated in January, the current session will wrap up with lame duck session, when any remaining bills that are poised for legislative passage will be completed and sent to Governor Kasich for his approval. Since political upheaval in the state legislature did not occur, most observers expect that any lingering issues that are not in need of immediate action will be held off until the start of the new session. However, Senate President Keith Faber said recently, “If you have any bills out there…pay attention. Anything can happen.”

Several bills GOPC has been tracking could see action during lame duck. HB482 (Dever) makes changes to the calculation of the exempt value of improved property subject to a community reinvestment area exemption. The bill clarifies the calculation of the exempt value of property subject to a brownfield remediation exemption while authorizing the filing of a complaint with the county auditor challenging the assessed value of fully or partially exempt property. GOPC has worked with Representative Dever on this bill and the measure is highly likely to see action during the next month.

SB333 (Hite) makes changes to laws relating to environmental protection and could also move during lame duck. While SB333 has yet to receive a hearing, the bill was a priority for Governor Kasich earlier this year. The bill complements HB512 (Ginter), which passed earlier in 2016 and established requirements governing lead and copper testing for community water systems and revised the law governing lead contamination from plumbing fixtures. Both bills emerged in response to recent water crises in Flint, Michigan and Sebring, Ohio.

SB235 (Coley/Beagle) offers an incentive to property owners to enhance land sites for future business and development, and ultimately encourage job growth throughout the state. GOPC testified on SB235 while the bill was pending in the Senate Ways & Means Committee in April, expressing support for the bill’s intent to spur economic development. However, GOPC believes a statewide “automation” of offering tax incentives could result in negative side effects. GOPC will seek to modify the bill, which passed the Senate and should see action in the House during lame duck.

 

*Names listed in parentheses are the legislators who are chief bill sponsors

 

Update on Recently Passed Bills by Ohio General Assembly

June 28th, 2016

May 2016 was a busy month at the Ohio General Assembly with a number of bills passed, including several that GOPC has been tracking.  The bills described will assist neighborhood and community revitalization efforts around the state.

  • HB390-fast track mortgage foreclosure on blighted residential properties.  This bill became the vehicle for HB463 (and the earlier iteration of HB134).  The portion of the bill GOPC was closely following provides path to expedite mortgage foreclosure on blighted residential property.  The bill requires properties for sale through the sheriff or a private auctioneer to be offered through a website as well as in person.  This bill is on the way to Governor for signature.
  • HB 233-Downtown Redevelopment Districts.  This act authorizes municipal corporations to create DRDs and Innovation Districts, which are essentially TIF districts.  The DRD TIF and the Innovation District TIF can be used for a range of activities, including funding downtown managers (i.e. operating costs) and investing in building rehabilitation.  This act has been signed and will go into effect August 6, 2016.
  • HB 182-Joint Economic Development Districts.  This bill expands eligible uses of JEDD income tax to include redevelopment; allows retail businesses to apply for property tax exemption in Enterprise Zones; adjusts Ohio’s New Market Tax Credit to allow more businesses to apply; requires federal NMTC commitment to access state NMTC.  The bill is on its way to the Governor for signature.
  • HB 303- D.O.L.L.A.R. Deed Program.  The bill creates a voluntary program whereby homeowner facing foreclosure can quit-claim deed their home to their lender (deed in lieu of foreclosure) and then lease back the property for a set period of time with the option to rebuy. The bill is on its way to the Governor for signature.

A Great Year and a Heartfelt Farewell to Greater Ohio Policy Center

June 6th, 2016

By Lindsey Gardiner

At the beginning of April last year I embarked on a journey with GOPC, as Manager of Government Affairs, that would challenge me to think outside the box and learn about policies that would address issues communities face on a day-to-day basis. From foreclosure to abandoned gas stations, I never knew and truly understood the rippling effect they had on the overall health of a neighborhood and impact on business growth. In a little over a year’s time I have had the privilege to see a significant amount of development of economic development and revitalization policy within the Ohio Legislature. I have come to know numerous legislators who are just as passionate as GOPC in bringing Ohio communities back to pre-great recession levels, and I cannot wait to see the progress that is made over the next year. Unfortunately, the upcoming work that GOPC and the State accomplish together must be made from afar as I have accepted a position that is closer to my family in northeast Ohio. Nevertheless, I will most certainly cherish the relationships I’ve made and carry the lessons I’ve learned about community revitalization and economic development with me wherever my family and I go in Ohio and beyond.

You may have already observed the many legislative developments this month after browsing our May Legislative Update, and in that you might have noticed that the foreclosure reform bill (HB 463) made its way across the legislative “finish line” just before the House and Senate made a much-deserved return to their home districts for the Summer Recess. Like any bill, HB 463 was no easy task and required a lot of negotiation, compromise, and of course patience. A little over a year ago when I began working with GOPC I was invited to serve, per the Ohio State Bar Association, as one of the voices that would help craft legislation aimed at fixing Ohio’s deeply flawed foreclosure policy. Learning about foreclosure was quite the learning process, but as a former legislative staffer, lobbyist, and appointed local government official, I personally believe that Ohio has a lot of serious progress to be proud of.

My first job I served as a Legislative Aide and Clerk of the House Ways and Means Committee for the Ohio House of Representatives, and I have to admit I never thought I would learn so much about tax policy nor did I ever anticipate becoming so passionate about the subject. My experience at GOPC has been similar with fast-track foreclosure, but it is also the case for the remediation of brownfields. When the Clean Ohio Fund was implemented, brownfield cleanup was funded by the Clean Ohio Revitalization Fund (CORF) making our state a leader in turning these unusable eyesores into functioning pieces of communities. The return of jobs and revenue goes unmatched by other remediation programs offered by the State today, and although CORF is no longer implemented I believe Ohio is making its way back to focusing on brownfields with the recent development of the Abandoned Gas Station Cleanup Program. There is so much opportunity when it comes to brownfield cleanup and after working on this particular subject for a little over a year I have learned that job creation, attracting/retaining the millennial workforce, and revitalizing communities are all interconnected with brownfields. GOPC’s unique place-based perspective seamlessly ties these various elements together in a way that I believe will help keep the Legislature moving in the right direction in brownfields cleanup.

Overall, my experience at GOPC has been something I will never forget. GOPC has tremendous leadership and staff, who are passionate about their cause and I thank them for their dedication to revitalizing communities and creating a stronger Ohio. I look forward to seeing GOPC’s research play an instrumental role in educating community leaders and seeing those efforts applied in the policy making process. Best of luck to GOPC and thank you for everything!!!

 

Ohio General Assembly Passes House Bill 512 to Reform Water Testing Procedures

June 2nd, 2016

By Jon Honeck, GOPC Senior Policy Fellow

Before leaving on its summer break, the Ohio General Assembly passed House Bill 512, a major reform to Ohio’s drinking water regulations that will tighten lead notification and testing requirements, tighten the requirements for lead-free plumbing fixtures, and provide more flexibility to the Ohio EPA and the Ohio Water Development Authority to support public drinking water and wastewater treatment infrastructure.  The bill passed with strong bipartisan support in the wake of the well-publicized crises involving lead in drinking water supplies in Flint, MI, and Sebring, OH.  The American Water Works Association estimates that there are 6.1 million lead service drinking water supply lines still in place across the nation, including many in Ohio.  With proper corrosion control methods, many of the issues with lead pipes can be avoided, although the ultimate answer is to replace these lead lines over time.  We hope that this same bipartisan spirit will carry forward into the fall and 2017 as the state grapples with important water infrastructure and water quality issues. 

Under the bill, homeowners must be notified within two business days of lead laboratory test results received by a community water system.  If the lab results show a lead level above the applicable threshold then the water system must provide information about the availability of health screening and lead blood level testing in the area to the homeowner and notify all customers that the system has exceeded acceptable lead levels within two business days, and provide information about lead testing to all customers within 5 business days.  Within 18 months of the notification of about excessive lead levels, the system must submit a revised corrosion control treatment plan to the Ohio EPA.  A revised corrosion control plan requirement is also triggered if a system changes sources of water supply, makes substantial changes to treatment, or operates outside the limits for certain metals or chemicals. Each water system is also required to map parts of its service area that are likely to contain lead lines.

Many Ohio cities are engaged in multi-year capital projects to fix combined sewer overflows and replacing aging water infrastructure.  The Water Pollution Control Loan Fund, which is controlled by the Ohio EPA, provided over $700 million in revolving loans in 2015 for these purposes.  The Fund receives an annual capitalization grant from the U.S. EPA so it can provide below-market interest rates to projects that are a high priority for the state and local partners. House Bill 512 broadened the scope of the WPCLF’s authority to match recent changes in federal law.  New funding purposes include energy conservation and efficiency at wastewater treatment plants (which use enormous amounts of electric power), watershed management, recapture or treatment of stormwater, and decentralized sewer systems to assist smaller, more isolated rural areas.  In addition, loan terms for the WPCLF are increased from 20 to 30 years, making them more affordable for borrowers.  These changes make it easier to develop creative approaches to managing the water treatment system. 

As Greater Ohio pointed out in Phase I of its ongoing infrastructure project, the state’s needs are vast and the financial capacity of many water utilities is stretched to its limit.  We will make further policy recommendations on this point in 2016.