Capital Bill in lame duck session: As the 133rd General Assembly winds down its affairs, on Tuesday, December 8, Ohio OBM Director Kimberly Murnieks described a $2.1B state capital budget.
Interestingly, SB 310, originally intended to carry federal COVID-19 allocations through the Ohio General Assembly, has been identified as the vehicle such a fast-tracked capital budget; the capital appropriations would be inserted into SB 310 as the bill sits in conference committee.
Hearings are scheduled for the week of December 14. Be on the watch for amendments as the measure must be reconciled between the existing House and Senate versions to clear conference committee.
Virtual Public Meetings during the COVID-19 pandemic: The Ohio Senate amended HB 404, ostensibly a measure to authorize university and college trustees to participate in meetings through electronic means, to include broadly applied emergency provisions related to COVID-19, several of which were to expire. Most relevant to local economic development practitioners, the bill includes: (1) Open Meetings Act – extends until July 1, 2021 the temporary authorization for members of a public body to hold and attend meetings virtually (this authorization under HB 197 was to expire December 1); and (2) Coronavirus Relief Fund – requires any unspent payments that cannot be redistributed locally to be paid to the state treasury.
House Bill 6 repeal: more civil litigation & lame duck efforts: On October 27, Columbus and Cincinnati filed their own lawsuit in Franklin County Common Pleas Court to block HB 6’s nuclear subsidies. Named defendants in the cities’ complaint include FirstEnergy Corp., Public Utilities Commission of Ohio Chair Sam Randazzo and State Treasurer Robert Sprague. The lawsuit seeks a preliminary injunction to block end user surcharges set to begin January 1. (All ratepayers in Ohio are required to pay up to 85 cents per bill as a means to providing up to $150 million to support the two nuclear plants located in Ohio.)
Centralized collections of municipal net profits taxes: The Ohio Supreme Court on November 5 issued its decision that the state can centralize the collection of municipal net profits taxes. But in the same decision, the Court held the State cannot levy an administrative charge on municipalities for such tax collection.
Specifically, the Supreme Court held to be constitutional the General Assembly’s effort to impose on municipal corporations a process of centralized tax collection. But the Court stated the same law allowing Ohio to retain 0.5% of collected municipal net-profits taxes amounts to the imposition of a fee, and therefore exceeds the General Assembly’s constitutional authority.
House Bill 6 Repeal Effort(s), Civil Litigation & Business Groups Step Forward: Work continued in committees – the House Select Committee on Energy Policy & Oversight and the Senate Energy & Public Utilities Committee – on three bills (HB 738, HB 746 & SB 346, described below) to straight-repeal HB 6’s nuclear energy subsidy program. One issue that’s been raised in the House Select Committee hearings is HB6’s use of 2018’s peak revenue for FirstEnergy as a reference year for the company’s entitled annual revenue levels via ratepayer subsidy charges. The nuclear subsidy charges are set to appear on ratepayer bills on January 1.