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General Assembly enacts several major changes in political contribution laws

Local government contracts under $10,000 exempted

Just when you thought you had a handle on the new political contribution restrictions adopted by the Ohio General Assembly late last year, the law gets changed.

Lawmakers included several important amendments to campaign finance statutes in the state general fund budget bill (House Bill 119), which was passed by the legislature and signed into law by Governor Ted Strickland on June 30.

The original legislation, House Bill 694, put new restrictions on the ability of some business owners to make political contributions to government officials from whom they have received contracts or may seek contracts from in the future.

Generally, the law provides that a company is ineligible to receive a contract from a government official if any owner holding more than 20 percent interest in the company made political contributions exceeding $1,000, or if any combination of such owners, their spouses and children contributed more than $2,000, to that official in the preceding two calendar years. Existing contracts could also be lost if the contribution limits are exceeded.

Those who own less than 20 percent of a company's shares are totally exempt from the limits.

The most significant amendments adopted in the budget bill:

  • Clarifies, even though a court ruling already has, that restrictions in the original law apply only to contributions made on or after April 4, 2007;
  • Changes the "look-back" period from two calendar years to a rolling 24 month period prior to award of the contract;
  • Specifies that only local government contracts exceeding $10,000 are subject to the limits.
  • Allows a contractor to avoid having a contract rescinded or being fined for violations of contribution limits if the contribution is refunded within a certain period of time.

The amendments become effective on or about September 30.

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