Ohio General Assembly Heads Home
Lame Duck Session Overview
Report from Government Advantage Group: This week, the 133rd General Assembly finally wound down and finished their work for the year. And what a year it has been!! What started out with such promise, a strong, growing economy and good energy between the General Assembly and the Governor, quickly changed when the COVID19 pandemic forced the state to essentially shut down for 6 weeks. Slowly as the state re-opened, the General Assembly began to meet, albeit with limited activity due to operating under new Department of Health and CDC health & safety guidelines. Then the HB 6 (First Energy Nuclear Bailout Bill) scandal hit which forced the removal of Speaker Larry Householder, who was replaced by Representative Bob Cupp. Because of the magnitude of the scandal (allegedly $61 million in payments and bribes), democrat members called for repeal of HB 6, and the looming November Election, the House essentially went into an extended summer recess. When the General Assembly returned in November, it was an unusual return because of the ongoing pandemic, and an apparent lack of communication between the House, Senate, and Administration over which bills/issues would be moving forward. Below is an update on some of the main issues for ACEC Ohio.
- SB 310 (Capital Bill)- The $1.2 B bill included the following, click here for full list of Capital Bill Projects. The bill included an emergency clause which will make it effective once the Governor signs it.
- $171.4 million for community projects
- $305 million to local school construction
- $452 million to higher education facilities
- $253 million for dams, trails, waterways, wildlife and other natural resources projects
- $18 million to enhance the security of public agency websites and for the MARCS first responder communication system
- $95.6 million for mental health and addiction treatment facilities
- $287.7 million for the renovation of state & local prisons
- Direct $3 million in lottery funds to pay for school funding studies.
- Expand the Ohio Maritime Assistance Program.
- Appropriate all unspent federal CARES funds to ensure they may be approved for use by the Controlling Board if the current Dec. 30 deadline for spending is not extended by Congress.
- Earmark $5 million for the Department of Natural Resources to issue emergency grants for erosion projects along the Lake Erie shoreline.
- HB 7 (H2Ohio)-Although the bill no longer deals with legacy funding for a H2Ohio Trust Fund, recently the Director’s of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Ohio EPA all spoke of the successes to date with H2Ohio. It is anticipated the Governor will seek continuation funding of the H2Ohio program in his upcoming Executive Budget (FY 2022 - 2023).
- Removed the original provisions of HB 7 to create the H2Ohio Trust Fund
- Replaced that language with the language from SB 2 that creates the Statewide Watershed Planning & Management Program
- Requires the Director of Agriculture to categorize watersheds in Ohio and appoint at least one watershed planning and management coordinator in each region
- Rehires the Director of Agriculture to assist soil and water conservation districts in watershed planning and management
- Establishes a Watershed Pilot Program through the Department of Agriculture to assist farmers in reducing phosphorus in a watershed
- Reduces from 50% to 20% the amount of agricultural feedstock that must be used for biofuel production to retain CAUV eligibility
- HB 159 (Indemnification) - As you know, we finally reached a compromise with ODOT, OFCC, OTIC, & OML in June, however, with the HB 6 scandal, we did not get a vote on the bill out of House Civil Justice committee until Nov 17th. The House approved the bill 80:3 on December 8th, but we didn’t have sufficient time to get through the Senate committee process. Additionally, the Ohio Insurance Institute raised a last minute concern, as the bill was coming out of committee, with language in the bill referencing “automobile insurance policies” being included as one of the “other types of policies” a public authority can require. After consultation with Sen. Blessing, the OML, LSC, and ACEC Ohio’s legal counsel, it was determined this language could be removed from the bill. This change will be reflected in the new bill we will have introduced in the 134th General Assembly.
- SB 136 (Payment Assurance) - This bill had 3 hearings before the Senate Government Oversight and Reform Committee, but received no further consideration since February 25th. Proponents of the bill hope to reintroduce this measure next GA.
- HB 246 (OWDA Refinancing) - This bill, which allows OWDA to refinance existing water and sewer projects to take advantage of lower interest rates, became stalled in June after the Senate amended the bill to repeal HB 6 (First Energy Nuclear Bailout). ACEC Ohio is a proponent of this bill. The bill sat until this week as the House & Senate deliberated if the Senate provision would stay in, and/or if other bills/issues would be amended into the Conference Report in the waning days of the 133rd General Assembly. In the end, the Senate language was stripped out and the original bill was restored, which both chambers overwhelmingly approved with an emergency clause to take effect immediately after the Governor signs it.
- SB 246 (Occupational Licensing) - This bill has had 11 hearings before Senate General Government & Agency Review committee. In recent hearings, there have a number amendments offered, including one that we believes removes the concerns ACEC Ohio and others concerned about the Professional Engineers & Surveyor’s licensure requirements. The amendment allows the Ohio Professional Engineers & Surveyor’s Board to adopt standards for minimum education, work experience, and pass an examination. Essentially it codifies the minimum requirements that the board currently requires. This bill has been stuck in Senate committee and we expect it to be reintroduced next General Assembly.
- HB 263 (Occupational Licensing) - This bill makes changes to the initial occupational licensing restrictions applicable to individuals convicted of criminal offenses. The purpose of the bill is intended to help former incarcerated individuals obtain occupational licenses. HB 263 was amended by the Senate (5 year look back provision) and the House concurred. The bill will head to the Governor for signature.