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!

 

GOPC Staff Speaks at MORPC Summit on Sustainability and the Environment

October 25th, 2016

By Jon Honeck, Ph.D., GOPC Senior Policy Fellow

Overview

On Friday, October 21, I had the privilege of being a panelist at the MORPC Summit on Sustainability and the Environment, held at the Columbus Hilton Downtown.  The panel’s title was “Looking Ahead, What Are the Important Sustainability Policy Issues?”  The other panelists included Kent Scarrett of the Ohio Municipal League, Jack Shaner of the Ohio Environmental Council, and Holly Nagle of the Columbus Chamber.  Panelists were asked to speak about upcoming issues in the lame duck state legislative session and the 2017 state budget process.  In the short run, panelists agreed that Ohio’s renewable portfolio energy standards are likely to be a top priority of the General Assembly when it returns after the 2016 election.  For the 2017 budget process, I focused my presentation on transportation, water and sewer infrastructure, brownfield remediation, and application of public nuisance statutes to commercial and industrial property. 

Transportation

GOPC is trying to improve state funding for public transit and advocate that the state make progress in an “active transportation” strategy that makes roadways safe for all users, including bicyclists and pedestrians.   The Ohio Department of Transportation budget is considered separately from the state main operating budget bill.  The budget scenario for public transit funding is difficult.   Currently the state only provides about 3 percent of overall public transit funding, with local and federal funds providing the largest shares.  On a per capita basis, Ohio ranks 38th highest in the nation in its support for public transit.  GOPC has proposed some ways to provide dedicated funding from the state, but progress is complicated by the need to replace Ohio’s Medicaid managed care sales tax.  Seven local transit authorities rely on a local sales tax and collectively they received $33.6 million from the sales tax on Medicaid premiums. If this funding goes away without a replacement, significant service cuts will result.

Water and Sewer

Many cities across the state are facing a dual challenge of upgrading aging infrastructure and complying with EPA regulations to fix combined sewer overflows that lead to raw sewage being discharged into waterways during major storms.   Over the next 20 years, the EPA estimates that Ohio utilities will need $14.1 billion for wastewater treatment upgrades and $12.1 billion for drinking water infrastructure.  GOPC’s analysis of the problems facing Ohio legacy cities and the need for additional funding can be found here.  These estimates do not include any potential costs of lead service line replacement that may be needed in the wake of public reaction to the situation in Flint, MI.  Under Ohio House Bill 512, Ohio utilities must complete a map of all lead service water supply lines by March, 2017, a date that is in the midst of the state budget process.  The availability of this information may influence public opinion.   

With the Kasich Administration proposing its final budget, sustainability issues will have to hold their own against education, taxation, criminal justice, and other high profile issues.  GOPC will ensure that advocates are informed and can make the case for sustainability during the budget process.  For more information, please sign up for our email updates. 

 

Don’t Miss GOPC’s Upcoming Webinar on Ohio’s Small and Mid-Sized Legacy Cities

October 12th, 2016

In conjunction with the Ohio CDC Association, GOPC will co-host a Webinar on October 27th, 2016 from 10:00-11:30am that will examine how smaller legacy cities, from Akron to Zanesville, have 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 practitioners can catalyze and implement.

GOPC recently presented on its latest work on small and mid-sized legacy cities at the Reclaiming Vacant Properties Conference in Baltimore. To learn more about this, please check out our October 2016 Newsletter.

 

We hope you join us for the Webinar on October 27th – click here to sign up!

 

Ohio CDC

 

 

Exciting Opportunity: GOPC accepting applications for Executive Director position

July 15th, 2016

The Greater Ohio Policy Center seeks qualified candidates to fill the Executive Director position. The description below is also available on the Job Opportunities page in PDF format.

This position will remain open until filled. Thank you for your interest in GOPC.

 

Executive Director

Greater Ohio Policy Center

Candidate Position Description

The Greater Ohio Policy Center (GOPC) seeks applicants to fill the position of the organization’s Executive Director. GOPC, a statewide non-profit organization based in Columbus and launched in 2008, has established itself as the lead policy, research and advocacy voice in the state advancing revitalization and sustainable development in communities and regions across Ohio.  The GOPC ED operates in a strictly bipartisan manner and leverages GOPC’s reputation and role as a highly respected resource on these issues.  Candidates for this position should have a deep passion for the organization’s mission as well as the ambition, leadership capacity and vision to continue to advance this highly effective organization. A GOPC ED candidate should be a strategic thinker with the ability to be entrepreneurial and opportunistic, while also being thoughtful and analytical about new policy needs and development. 

The ED leads an organization focused on developing and advancing policies at the state level that align with local needs for economic and community regrowth. The GOPC ED is expected to identify policy gaps and to lead the development of new policies and tools that enable local leaders to undertake more effective economic and community revitalization activities.  The GOPC ED will lead and manage a multi-talented staff whose skills represent the range of the organization’s effectiveness as a thought-leader, policy advocate, and partner in piloting new local practices.  As such, the ED does not need expertise in all of these areas but should have the ability to manage individuals that are highly skilled in areas such as legislative affairs, research and data collection, communications, stakeholder outreach, and report writing. It is critical for the ED to be capable of aligning the organization’s research and report writing functions with its advocacy, outreach and education efforts.  The ED should be highly collaborative by nature and be creative about forming new partnerships and building coalitions around the state to achieve policy goals. 

Candidates should possess the following attributes:

  • minimum of 5 to 8 years’ experience leading and managing a non-profit organization
  • ability to inspire and be an effective leader
  • an understanding and passion for the organization’s mission
  • proven ability to conduct mission-driven fund development  from a variety of private and non-profit sources, including grants and fee-for-service based contracts
  • excellent communications and writing skills, including experience with public speaking, communicating with board and staff, and educating stakeholders, partners, and media
  • ability to oversee and guide research projects aligned with policy outcomes and objectives, in collaboration with staff
  • address and manage day-to-day organizational operations

Additional preferred attributes include:

  • subject-matter expertise in one or more of the following areas: economic development, transportation, infrastructure, community and neighborhood redevelopment, and/or regional governance
  • understanding of policy development and/or experience working with policymakers, preferably at the state level
  • experience building and sustaining relationships with a wide range of stakeholders, including funders, local leaders and elected officials, non-profit partners, private sector parties and reporters
  • experience in shaping, convening and leading stakeholder meetings, small roundtables and larger conferences tied to policy development and education to advance GOPC projects and organizational goals
  • a sense of humor and ability to inspire and mentor staff
  • an advanced degree in a related field, such as urban and regional planning, policy, or law.

The Executive Director is based in Columbus and works out of the GOPC Columbus office. Regular travel by car around the state is expected, with some work occasionally occurring after normal business hours.  Greater Ohio Policy Center is an Equal Opportunity Employer. 

Required Application Materials

Please include a resume and a cover letter that describes your qualifications for the job and why you are the best candidate to lead the Greater Ohio Policy Center.

Salary and Benefits

Greater Ohio Policy Center offers competitive salary, medical, dental, and life insurance benefits, a retirement plan, parking stipend, and highly competitive paid time off to employees.  

About the Organization

The Mission of the Greater Ohio Policy Center is to champion revitalization and sustainable growth in Ohio.

Greater Ohio Policy Center (GOPC) is a mission-driven non-profit, non-partisan organization based in Columbus and operating statewide.  GOPC develops and advances policies and practices that value our urban cores and metropolitan regions as economic drivers and preserve Ohio’s open space and farmland. 

Through education, research and outreach, GOPC strives to create a political and policy climate that advances economic growth through urban revitalization, modernized transportation options, improvements to infrastructure, and talent development and retention within the state.

Application Deadline: position will remain open until filled.

Interested candidates should email a cover letter and resume to:

 Peg Moertl, GOPC Board of Trustees

c/o Vanessa Bello,

vanessa.bello@pnc.com

 

 

GOPC Executive Director will depart to take position at Foundation

July 13th, 2016

 

Dear Greater Ohio Policy Center Friends:

After nearly ten years at the Greater Ohio Policy Center — eight of those years at the organization’s helm – it is with mixed emotions that I announce I will step down as the organization’s Executive Director, effective July 31st.  I have accepted a position as Vice President for Programs, an exciting opportunity at the newly established Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation.  Located in Detroit, Michigan, the Foundation will be focusing its activities and investments in Southeast Michigan (Detroit) and Western New York (Buffalo).  The Foundation’s sizeable endowment and expedited 20-year spending time frame create transformative opportunities in these two regions to stimulate growth and promote healthy communities.

I am extremely proud of the work that the Greater Ohio Policy Center has accomplished in the past decade. Filling an on-going critical need for innovative policies and practices that revitalize and promote sustainable growth in the state’s cities and regions, GOPC is in an unparalleled position to continue with cutting-edge research, policy advancement, and application of best-practices around the state. With its talented staff, highly engaged board, and well-earned reputation for high standards and bipartisan impact, GOPC is poised to continue advancing this important agenda in Ohio.  

I am deeply indebted to GOPC’s inspiring partners and dedicated funders and supporters from around the state and beyond. I am eager to continue this critical work affecting our communities from a new perspective and expect to stay in close touch with my Ohio friends and colleagues, as well as those located throughout the Midwest and the rest of the country, to advance our shared mission.

While the Board will be conducting a search for a new Executive Director, including solicitation of candidates from our family of partners and supporters, GOPC will be in the capable hands of Deputy Director Alison Goebel, who will act as Interim Executive Director.  I want to thank all of our stakeholders for the opportunity to have led GOPC and undertake this important work.

Warm Regards,

Lavea

 

Congress considers changes to EPA revolving loan formulas: Ohio may lose ground

July 6th, 2016

By Jon Honeck, GOPC Senior Policy Fellow

Background

Each year Congress appropriates funds for the U.S. EPA to provide capitalization grants for state revolving loan funds for wastewater treatment.  In Ohio, this fund is known as the Water Pollution Control Loan Fund (WPCLF).   The Ohio EPA sets priorities for the fund according to state needs and federal guidelines.  Local communities submit applications for loans to help finance wastewater treatment plant, sewer system upgrades, or conversions of septic systems to centralized sewage collection.  Ohio’s allotment of the total appropriation is set at 5.7% of the total appropriation amount; the state received $78.5 million in 2016. The annual subsidy allows the WPCLF to offer interest rates below standard market rates.  When combined with loan repayments, the fund can offer substantial amounts of financing.  In 2015, it made a record $759.6 million in loans. 

Congress orders a review

In 2014, Congress passed a major overhaul to the Clean Water Act.  This legislation, known as the Water Resources Development and Reform Act, mandated that the EPA review the allocation formula for the Clean Water Act revolving loan program.  The formula had changed little since the program was created in 1987.  At that time, the formula roughly reflected states’ share of the national population and share of the Clean Watersheds Needs Survey. 

Congress asked the US EPA to determine whether the formula addresses the water quality needs of states based on: (1) the most recent Clean Watersheds Needs Survey (CWNS); and (2) other information that the agency determined appropriate.  The CWNS takes place every four years.  In the 2012 survey, Ohio wastewater utilities identified $14.6 billion in capital projects that needed to be addressed over a 20-year period.  (Click here to access the 2012 CWNS).

Potential Revisions to the Formula

The US EPA presented its report to Congress in May, 2016.  It can be accessed here.  The agency’s main conclusion is that “the current allotment does not adequately reflect the reported water quality needs or the most recent census population for the majority of States” (emphasis in original, p. 5).    The report considers four basic factors that could be used in a revised formula:

  • Clean Watershed Needs Survey (CWNS, which the agency admits underestimates water quality needs)
  • Resident Population from the 2010 U.S. Census
  • Water Quality Impairment Component Ratio (WQICR), an existing database documenting pollution in rivers, lakes, and streams, derived from data submitted by the states; and,
  • Ratio of revolving loan fund assistance to the federal capitalization grant over the past ten years (to reward states that have increased project funding by leveraging their federal grants as much as possible);

Using these factors, the report considers three possible options for a new formula.  Each option would limit a state’s potential loss to 25% and its potential gain to 200%. 

OPTION FACTORS and FORMULA WEIGHTS
1 2012 Clean Watersheds Needs Survey (70%), 2010 population (30%)
2 2012 CWNS (50%), 2010 population (30%), WQICR (20%)
3 2012 CWNS (50%), 2010 population (30%), WQICR (10%), Ratio of assistance to federal grant (10%)

Ohio’s allocation would decline

Ohio fares poorly in all three scenarios, mostly because its share of the national population has fallen by over a full percentage point in the last 30 years, to about 3.7% of the national total.  Interestingly, Ohio’s share of the Clean Watersheds Needs Survey has fallen only slightly, reflecting the large amount of EPA-mandated combined sewer overflow work that must be done.   All three scenarios would yield double-digit declines in Ohio’s allotment, with option 1 creating an 18.2% decline, and options 2 and 3 at the maximum reduction of 25%.   In Program Year 2016, a 25% reduction would have meant a loss of nearly $20 million in federal funding. 

What happens now?

The scenarios in the report are only suggestions.  Congress would have to pass legislation to modify the current formula.  Formulas that did not have a “stop-loss” rule of 25% could have even greater effects on Ohio’s allocation.  Significant federal funding cuts would make it more difficult for the WPCLF to provide low interest rate loans to Ohio communities at a time when sewer rates are rising and affordability is becoming an issue.  It would become especially difficult to offer principal forgiveness options to Ohio’s poorest communities.  These communities already face reduced federal funding options from cuts to the Community Development Block Grant program.  Between 2000 and 2014, average Ohio sewer charges increased by 85 percent, more than twice the rate of consumer inflation.[1]  In a 2015 report on infrastructure needs, GOPC identified replacement and upgrades to water and sewer infrastructure as critical needs that span Ohio’s cities and villages of all population sizes.  Key stakeholders in the area should make every effort to inform Congress about the importance of maintaining Clean Water Act revolving loan program funding. 

[1] Author’s analysis of average user charges from Ohio EPA, 2014 Water and Sewer Rate Survey.  Consumer Price Inflation increased by 37 percent.

One Water Summit Showcases Innovative Solutions to 21st Century Water Challenges

June 20th, 2016

By Jon Honeck, GOPC Senior Policy Fellow

The U.S. Water Alliance is a coalition of water utilities, environmental engineering organizations, nonprofits, academics, and other groups interested in raising public awareness of challenges facing the U.S. water supply.  The group held its “One Water Summit 2016” in Atlanta, GA, in June, attended by GOPC Senior Policy Fellow Jon Honeck.  GOPC is engaged in a multi-year project to address water and sewer infrastructure needs in Ohio. 

Conference programming reflected the diversity of water-related challenges across the country.  Panelists at the opening plenary session discussed Atlanta’s attempt to address water supply and water quality issues brought about by decades of population growth, sprawl, and more recently, climate change.  The Atlanta metropolitan planning commission took the lead by integrating water with land use and transportation planning.  With changes in water pricing to promote conservation, the Atlanta metro region achieved a 10% water consumption decline in spite of population growth.   Water audits are now required for buildings with 25,000 ft2.  The Atlanta PACE program (Property Assessed Clean Energy) can provide commercial loans for water and clean energy efficiency that are paid back through property tax assessments.  Current efforts are aimed at improving water quality through green infrastructure.  The Turner Foundation is a major driver of this effort and a regional green infrastructure strategy is in the planning stages. 

One of the panels discussed the possibilities for implementing green infrastructure on a larger scale.  Green infrastructure has become a nationwide phenomenon with cities learning and sharing their experiences with each other.  Federal rules now require EPA-funded Clean Water state revolving funds to set aside an amount equal to 10 percent of their annual capitalization grant for green infrastructure projects.  Philadelphia has been considered a leader in this area as it implemented a plan to address combined sewer overflows under an EPA consent decree.   Atlanta has completed its CSO projects, but wants to continue to make progress in water quality to protect drinking water sources and to enhance recreational opportunities in urban areas.  Atlanta sent a large delegation to Philadelphia to learn from their experience.  The delegation included a multiple city departments and private sector groups, illustrating the breadth of the partnerships needed to carry out its goal of reducing runoff by 225 million gallons per year.   Panelists discussed the new mindset needed to implement green infrastructure, including treating natural vegetation as a capital asset and tracking long-term maintenance.  Philadelphia has no ROI information yet on its extensive green infrastructure installations because it is too soon to understand long-term maintenance costs, but green infrastructure is receiving about 3.5% of its annual capital budget.  In the Q&A session, other examples were brought up of cities moving ahead with green infrastructure, including the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District grants program, which provides assistance to private landowners with large surface parking lots (and large amounts of stormwater runoff), and the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewage District, which aggressively pursuing green infrastructure for flood control and watershed management. 

One of many interesting panels discussed “Building a New Business Model for Water.”  Unlike most other countries, the U.S. water and wastewater industry is very fragmented, with 69,000 individual utilities nationwide.  David St. Pierre, CEO of the Chicago Water Reclamation District, discussed opportunities to think about larger structures through mergers, including the potential for cross-state mergers of public utilities.  This would entail putting in place a new regulatory structure that does not exist at present, but it would allow utilities to reap the benefits of economies of scale and learning that at present are only available to large international companies.  Often times, drinking water and wastewater utilities remain separate even in the same municipality.  Tony Parrot of the Louisville Metropolitan Sewer District discussed an inter-agency agreement to tie the operations of the MSD with the local drinking water utility, and how this led to the implementation of a new common billing system that will save operational costs.  The next step is to move to a full merger of the two systems.   Increasingly, some systems are turning to private companies to build or operate their facilities, and representatives of Veolia Water and MVP Capital discussed their experiences in partnering with public utilities. 

It is clear from the One Water Summit that there is tremendous energy and creativity in addressing water-related issues, and that the formerly sedate world of water utilities is changing fast.  Ohio cities have much that they can learn from their peers.  Other legacy cities, such as Louisville, are facing that challenges brought about by managing an infrastructure built for higher levels of water use.  Ohio’s capital city could also learn from growing cities like Atlanta that have combined land use and water infrastructure planning.  The issue of aging infrastructure, which is GOPC’s main concern, was brought up repeatedly by conference participants in panels and in informal conversation.  We are hopeful that GOPC’s forthcoming recommendations on financing mechanisms will not only be of use for Ohio but for other states across the nation. 

 

GOPC is Hiring: Seeking Government Affairs Manager

May 25th, 2016

GOPC seeks qualified applicants for the Government Affairs Manager position.  This posting will close June 17, 2016. Find out more about this position on our Job Opportunities page.

 

Managing Stormwater: GOPC Attends Great Water Cities Conference

May 16th, 2016

By Jon Honeck, GOPC Senior Policy Fellow

Introduction

On May 12, 2016, the Water Environment Federation (www.wef.org) held its “Great Water Cities 2016: Rainfall to Results in Action” conference in Chicago, IL.  The focus of the conference was creating a holistic approach to managing stormwater in the 21st Century, and the panel discussions were organized around recommendations from WEF’s Rainfall to Results report.  Attendees included water utility water leaders and industry representatives from across the country and as far away as Australia.  GOPC’s Jon Honeck, Senior Policy Fellow, attended as part of our ongoing water and sewer infrastructure project to find new strategies to modernize Ohio’s aging infrastructure. 

Background

Stormwater management is an issue that accompanies growing urbanization. Urbanization creates thousands of acres of impervious surfaces and removes the ability of the natural landscape to absorb water when it rains.  Unfortunately, many U.S. cities in the early 20th century constructed “combined” sewer systems that mixed rain water and sewage water in the same tunnels, causing raw sewage to discharge into waterways during heavy rains.  In recent decades, EPA enforcement of the Clean Water Act has forced cities around the country, including many in Ohio, to separate their combined sewer systems and find ways to hold millions of gallons of rainwater temporarily out of the sewer system.  This is often accomplished by building deep storage tunnels, which are extremely expensive capital projects that take years to complete.  New approaches, such as using “green infrastructure” that restores that ability of the landscape to capture stormwater runoff, are now taking center stage as cities look for ways to lower costs and provide more effective solutions.

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Stormwater Utilities

There is an emerging consensus among water industry experts that the field needs a new paradigm, called a “stormwater utility,” and that governmental regulatory frameworks and planning approaches need to change to support this.  Traditional municipal utilities have been organized around drinking water or sewer systems, each with their own user charges, infrastructure, and performance expectations.  Stormwater management in its own right was usually an afterthought, except insofar as it was needed for basic flood control.  A stormwater utility could take many forms, depending on the state and local regulations and needs, but the basic concept is an entity that can work on a large scale, across individual municipalities in a metro area, and even across an entire watershed, to plan and implement stormwater management. 

One of the keys to the paradigm shift is the concept of stormwater runoff as a commodity that has a price.  Districts around the country are implementing dedicated stormwater fees to create an ongoing revenue source for operation and maintenance.  Afternoon speaker Howard Neukrug (Senior Fellow at the U.S. Water Alliance) who implemented Philadelphia’s nationally renowned green infrastructure program, noted that the foundation of the city’s program was a parcel-based stormwater fee and redevelopment regulations that require capture of the first 1.5 inches of rainfall from new or renovated buildings.  Sometimes existing regulatory arrangements make it difficult for utilities to work on scale commensurate with the need.  Morning panelist Karen Sands, Director of Sustainability for the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District, related that MMSD has an aggressive green infrastructure program, but in order to meet its stormwater capture targets by 2035, the district would have to spend at an annual rate 18 times higher than its current level.  MMSD is now looking at other public private partnerships as a potential solution. 

In other areas of the country, federal and state regulatory frameworks create an urgent need for local governments to cooperate.  As explained by panelist L. Preston Bryant, Senior V.P. of McGuireWoods Consulting and former Secretary of the Virginia Department of Natural Resources, Virginia law treats the US EPA’s Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) regulation for Chesapeake Bay as a joint responsibility between the state and local governments and this has spurred regional collaboration.  The state of Virginia also has a Stormwater Local Assistance Fund as part of its EPA clean water revolving loan program that will pay for up to 50% of the costs of local projects.  The state of Maryland also has a stormwater law to help protect the Chesapeake.  Prince George’s County, MD, is an example of a county that moved ahead with a stormwater fee that is being used to fund a public-private partnership that is aggressively creating green infrastructure. 

Asset Management

Asset management for both capital projects and human resources was another theme of the conference.  It is obvious that there are a variety of approaches to maintaining green infrastructure and that there is no agreement on best, or even standard, practice. David St. Pierre, Executive Director of the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago, explained that MWRD shares the initial installation costs with local governments and then maintains agreements in which the local governments are responsible for long-term maintenance.  In Baltimore, Randy Chow, Director of the Baltimore Department of Public Works explained that the department wants neighborhood organizations to play a role in maintaining green infrastructure. Korey Gray, Business Development Officer of DC Water, described how the city public works department helps to maintain green infrastructure in Washington.  

Several of the afternoon panelists presented visions of both optimism and pessimism about the future adaptability of water utilities in general.  On an optimistic note, Marcus Quigley, CEO and Founder of Opti, a data analysis firm, noted that rapid advances in the field of sensor technology were making it possible to have real time monitoring and control of individual assets, leading to the potential for huge gains in efficiencies from existing infrastructure.  On a more pessimistic note, William Stowe, CEO and General Manager of Des Moines Water Works discussed his organization’s decision to file suite against upstream quasi-governmental water management organizations for allowing agricultural runoff (excessive nitrates) to pollute the Des Moines River.  In his view, as long as industrial agriculture remains outside of the EPA stormwater and pollution control framework, agricultural areas in the Midwest will have to invest heavily in equipment to clean excessive nitrates from their drinking water, leading to excessive financial burdens on urban residents.

The conference made it clear that stormwater management is a dynamic, emerging field in which information-sharing across geographies and across professional boundaries is essential.   There is a real desire for innovation and experimentation as local utilities try different approaches.  The need for creativity will become even more important as the 21st Century matures and the effects of climate change are felt more acutely. 

GOPC Legislative Update: April 2016

May 9th, 2016

By Lindsey Gardiner, Manager of Government Affairs

The following grid is designed to provide you with insight into the likelihood of passage of the legislation we are monitoring. Please note that due to the fluid nature of the legislative process, the color coding of bills is subject to change at any time. GOPC will be regularly updating the legislative update the last Thursday of every month and when major developments arise. If you have any concerns about a particular bill, please let us know.

April Leg. Update (2)

Bills Available Online at www.legislature.ohio.gov

Updates on Key Bills:

greater-ohio-flagHB 130 UPDATE: On April 12th, HB 130 received another hearing in the House Finance Committee. HB 130, which proposes to create the DataOhio Board, specify requirements for posting public records online, require the Auditor of State to adopt rules regarding a uniform accounting system for public offices, and establish an online catalog to establish the Local Government Information Exchange Grant Program, was amended by Representative Mike Duffey to remove an appropriation. There were numerous proponents, who offered testimony on behalf of the bill including The Ohio Newspaper Association, and The Ohio State University’s John Glenn College of Public Affairs. Written proponent testimony was submitted by the office of Auditor Dave Yost, the Ohio Society of CPAs, the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission, the Federal Reserve Bank, the Ohio Municipal League, and various local government officials. On April 20th, GOPC submitted written testimony as an interested party for HB 130 and the bill was subsequently passed by the Committee. The next step for this bill in the legislation process is for the bill to be referred to the Speaker’s office, where he will decide when or if the bill will receive a vote on by the House.

greater-ohio-flagHB 134 UPDATE: Activity for HB 134 has been picking up since its referral to the Senate Government Oversight and Reform Committee in early December. The bill, which proposes to establish summary actions to foreclose mortgages on vacant and abandoned residential properties received its first hearing April 13th. Co-sponsors of the bill, Representatives Cheryl Grossman (R-Grove City) and Mike Curtin (D-Marble Cliff) offered testimony on behalf of the bill. Various members of the Committee voiced their concerns for property owners within the legislation. Final comments by the Committee members and co-sponsors included continuing an open dialogue to address better protection for property owners with regards to the inspection process contained within the bill.  So far HB 134 has received one hearing in the Senate; however, we anticipate the bill may be able to gain more traction with the continuing efforts to improve the legislation.

greater-ohio-flagHB 182 UPDATE: HB 182 continues to move smoothly through the legislative process. HB 182 proposes to allow local governments to establish Joint Economic Development Districts (JEDDS) for development purposes. On April 27th, the bill received its first hearing within the Senate Ways and Means Committee. The bill sponsor, Representative Kirk Schuring (R-Canton), offered sponsor testimony and reported to the Committee that he is working with various stakeholders with the hopes of coming up with a final version that everyone can agree on in the near future.

greater-ohio-flagHB 233 UPDATE: HB 233, which proposes to authorize municipal corporations to create downtown redevelopment districts (DRDs) and innovation districts for the purposes of promoting the rehabilitation of historic buildings and encourage economic development, had several witnesses attend committee to offer support. Proponents of HB 233 included The Cincinnati Museum Center and the Ohio Environmental Council. Members of the Committee accepted two amendments without objection. One, from Chairman Peterson, would extend the charitable use tax exemption to children’s, science, history, and natural history museums open to the general public, and the second, from Sen. Eklund, which provided clarifying language for bonding purposes. HB 233 was voted out of the Senate on April 13th, and the House unanimously granted final approval of the bill on April 20th. The final step in the legislative process for HB 233 is for the Governor to sign the bill into law. (HB 233 was signed into law by Governor Kasich May, 6 2016.)

greater-ohio-flagHB 303 UPDATE: Throughout April HB 303—the DOLLAR Deed Program– received three hearings within the Senate Financial Institutions Committee, and is expected to have a fourth hearing in early May. Due to this increased activity, GOPC has moved this bill from the yellow column to the green, which indicates faster movement and increased likelihood of passage. The bill sponsor, Representative Jonathan Dever (R- Cincinnati), offered testimony that explained what the bill proposed and added that Ohio would be “on the cutting edge” since no other states have yet implemented anything like it. The second hearing was designated for proponents to present their perspectives and included the Ohio Real Estate Investors Association, the Ohio Housing Finance Agency, and the Ohio Credit Union League. The third hearing was held on April 26th, which provided opposing parties to bring forward their concerns with the bill; however, there were none. GOPC anticipates HB 303 will receive a fourth hearing by mid-May where GOPC and other stakeholders will be given the opportunity to offer Interested Party testimony.

greater-ohio-flagHB 418 UPDATE: Last month, HB 418 received two hearings within the House Financial Institutions, Housing and Urban Development Committee. Representative John Barnes (D- Cleveland) offered sponsor testimony and explained that his bill would help protect senior citizens, who have lived in their homes for at least 20 years, from seizure of their property if they have delinquent property taxes. One member of the Committee stated he was concerned about the potential abuse of this new policy and mentioned that safeguards should be put in place to remedy the flaw. The following week, Representative Barnes offered an amendment to HB 418, which would prohibit tax foreclosures on senior-owned homesteads if delinquent taxes, assessments, charges, penalties and interest on the property do not exceed $5,000. The amendment also requires dismissal of foreclosure proceedings against a senior-owned homestead (presumably with a tax debt greater than $5,000) if the tax bill on the homestead increased for two or more years, during which the delinquency occurred, and the property owner’s financial circumstances likely contributed to the their inability to pay the taxes due. The committee approved of the amendments to HB 418 and the sponsor is continuing to work with members to produce a bill that everyone can agree upon.

greater-ohio-flagHB 463 UPDATE: HB 463 received a total of four hearings throughout the month of April within the House Financial Institutions, Housing and Urban Development Committee, and was ultimately reported out of Committee on April 27th.  During this period various stakeholders came together to cite their support for the bill including Professor Jeff Ferriell of Capital University Law School, the Ohio Bankers League, the Ohio Mortgage Bankers Association, and attorney Tony Fiore of Kegler Brown Hill + Ritter. HB 463 received a third hearing, which provided Interested Party members the opportunity to testify. Among the three interested parties were the Ohio Judicial Conference, the City of South Euclid and Greater Ohio Policy Center. Greater Ohio’s testimony offered commentary about the positive aspects of the legislation, but also brought forward concerns regarding the Ohio Uniform Commercial Code changes involving mortgages and notes that have been lost. Witnesses that offered proponent testimony on behalf of HB 463 included former Attorney General Marc Dann, the City of Cincinnati, the Ohio Recorders Association, the Franklin County Treasurer’s Office, and the Ohio Manufactured Homes Association.

Now that the bill has been voted affirmatively out of Committee, GOPC anticipates HB 463 will make its final steps out of the House by the end of May.

New Bills & Explanation of Bill Impact on Economic Development within Ohio:

greater-ohio-flagHB 512 is sponsored by State Representative Tim Ginter (R-Salem). This bill proposes to establish requirements governing lead and copper testing for community and non-transient non-community water systems, to make appropriations to the Facilities Construction Commission for purposes of providing grants for lead fixture replacement in eligible schools, and revise the laws governing the Water Pollution Control Loan and Drinking Water Assistance Funds. Greater Ohio has been leading the charge on studying Ohio’s Water/Sewer infrastructure needs, and although HB 512 isn’t directly related to Ohio’s gray infrastructure needs, the bill is still of interest as water contamination and water infrastructure are interrelated. GOPC will continue to monitor HB 512 as it moves through the legislative process.

For more details and information on legislation that GOPC is tracking, please visit our Previous Legislative Updates.