ACEC Ohio Legislative Update-December 17, 2021
The Ohio General Assembly ended their Fall session this week and will return on January 15, 2022. Of note, the Ohio General Assembly (GA) completed the appropriation of their first traunch of ARPA funding, sending House Bill 169 to the Governor for the final disbursement of the remaining $4 billion the state was allotted. As with prior disbursements, the GA focused on one-time funding allocations for items such as education, first-responders, and programs dealing with mental health programs. The GA will have to determine next year how they will disburse the second traunch of funding they will receive under ARPA which may include more towards water and sewer grants. Ohio elected to take their allocation over two-years rather than one lump sum. Just this week, there was a surprise bill introduced which would temporarily reduce motor excise fuel tax and registration fees, Senate Bill 277.
SB 277-(Huffman, S) would reduce the user fee to 28 cents per gallon which basically removes the recent user fee increase achieved in 2019. In addition, the bill would suspend the registration fees for electric and hybrid vehicles for five years. It is our understanding that the Senate is trying to give the citizens of Ohio a break in taxes to offset some of the inflation and high gas prices currently happening. The Governor has asked ODOT for the full impact of this bill to their funding. ACEC Ohio opposes this bill and is working on strategy with the FOR Ohio coalition. We will keep you posted.
HB 169 (Cutrona/Swearingen) make appropriations related to recovery of the COVID pandemic of $250 million in American Rescue Plan Act dollars available to first responders across the state. The bulk of the money, $175 million, will be earmarked for law enforcement agencies to fight crime and $75 million to first responder agencies that can be used for wellness initiatives, recruitment and retainment efforts and technology.
SB 56: Indemnification Bill (Blessing) the bill passed out of the Ohio House Civil Justice Committee on November 11, 2021 with two amendments not related to the indemnification language. The bill is waiting in House Rules Committee for a floor vote and is among over 60 bills waiting to be moved. It is our goal to get the bill moved out of the Ohio House and concurred with in the Ohio Senate in January.
Congressional Update from Linda Bauer Darr, President ACEC:
Passage of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act was an enormous accomplishment for the industry and the nation, and ACEC was poised to deliver a second big accomplishment in fixing the PPP loan challenge facing many of our member firms. ACEC had language inserted in the National Defense Authorization Act to fix the PPP/FAR credits clause problem, and we had strong bipartisan support in the House and the Senate.
Unfortunately, despite the bipartisan support and strong support from various House and Senate committees of jurisdiction it appears the defense bill moved forward to final passage without ACEC’s language. This is a frustrating setback but we hope a temporary one, as we’re coordinating with our Capitol Hill allies and outside advocates to identify additional legislative vehicles early in 2022 to carry our legislation.
ACEC is also staying closely engaged on the federal vaccine mandates affecting the industry, and there have been significant developments in recent days:
Here’s the current status:
- **The OSHA Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) has been halted by the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals and that ruling was reaffirmed by the 6th Circuit, where it stands today. There were so many cases opposing this ETS that the judges used a little-known lottery procedure to combine the cases into one. As expected, the Biden Administration is appealing this ruling, but in the meantime, they have extended their public comment period for affected groups to provide input.
- The courts have also stalled the federal contractor mandate under Executive Order 14042. Initially, the states of Kentucky, Ohio, and Tennessee won a reprieve from the mandate, but then a federal court in Georgia issued a nationwide injunction after two major universities successfully presented evidence that the thousands of employees are classified as federal contractors.
We have made it clear to the Biden Administration that we support the role of vaccinations in ensuring safe workplaces and facilitating a path forward to returning to normal, but that more flexibility is needed. Too many of our members have told us they feared losing key employees because of these mandates.
Looking forward, the January dates for implementation are no longer viable. With multiple federal courts ruling against these mandates, they would need to be convinced by OSHA and the Biden Administration of their necessity. We can also count on the losing side bringing the case all the way to the Supreme Court for a final ruling.
For all things on the Federal Infrastructure Bill, click here for the ACEC Resource Page.
**UPDATE DECEMBER 18**
The Sixth Circuit overturned the Fifth Circuit’s temporary injunction to halt the OSHA emergency temporary standard (ETS), which requires businesses employing 100 or more to require proof of full vaccination or test employees weekly. That decision is attached. As we have been reporting, the temporary stay could be overturned by a higher court, and as is expected the state attorneys general that are opposing the ETS, have filed their appeal to the Supreme Court. Below is a brief statement and published guidance for enforcement, barring the Supreme Court does not intervene. OSHA has set February 9 as the beginning of requirements to regular test or to provide proof of full vaccination.