Lake Erie Executive Order: Controversy continues about Governor Kasich’s Lake Erie Executive Order signed July 11, which attempted to mandate limits on nonpoint source phosphorus, such as that from agricultural operations, which may fuel harmful algal blooms in Lake Erie. Feedback was recently sought by the Ohio Department of Agriculture on proposed rules promulgated under the Order, and concerns were expressed by key legislators as well as the Ohio Soil and Water Conservation Commission. The Legislature plans to form a Study Committee to gather additional constituent input, although members of the Committee have not yet been appointed. The Governor’s Administration has signaled that it still intends to advance the rules through the rulemaking process via the Common Sense Initiative and the Joint Committee on Agency Rule Review. The rules would then return to the commission for final approval.
State Political Activity:
Political: Although the results of the August 7 special election to replace U.S. Congressman Pat Tiberi for the remainder of his term in the 12th Congressional District was initially too close to call, it now appears that the winner will be Republican candidate Troy Balderson. As of August 21, Balderson leads Democratic candidate Danny O’Connor by about 1781 votes. All absentee and provisional ballots must be counted and certified by August 24. If the final results show a margin of 0.5 percent or less, state election officials will hold an automatic recount. The race was the subject of intense local and national interest, as it was heralded as a possible predictor of other races on the November ballot. The same two candidates will face each other again in November for a full term representing the 12th District.
State Legislative Activity:
Legislative: In response to a Governor’s Executive Order containing proposed farm regulations to combat Lake Erie’s harmful algae blooms issued earlier this summer but put on hold , Ohio legislators have formed a bi-partisan panel called “Toward A Cleaner Lake Erie”. The panel will be chaired by two Republicans who lead agriculture committees in the legislature, State Senator Bob Hackett from London and State Representative Brian Hill from Zanesville. Others Senators on the panel include Bob Peterson, R-Washington Court House; Matt Dolan, R-Chagrin Falls; Rob McColley, R-Napoleon; Edna Brown, D-Toledo, and Michael Skindell, D-Lakewood. House members, in addition to Hill, are Steve Arndt, R-Sandusky; Kyle Koehler, R-Springfield; Jim Hoops, R-Napoleon; Riordan McClain, R-Upper Sandusky; John Patterson, D-Jefferson, and Michael Sheehy, D-Oregon. The panel will meet for the first time next week and hold meetings throughout the fall.
Update on Opportunity Zones: On June 14, the Treasury Department made its final designations of opportunity zones (OZs). With this final round, OZs have been designated in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and five U.S. possessions. Much is still to be determined, however before the program can become operational. In late June, the Opportunity Zones Coalition (46 interested organizations) sent a letter to the Internal Revenue Service requesting guidance from the IRS and Treasury Department on important issues such as technical definitions of qualified opportunity fund, qualified opportunity zones business and qualified opportunity zones property, as well as guidance on partnerships and the use of the OZ incentive with various tax credit programs. The letter also asks for confirmation from Treasury of the signatories’ understanding of several issues in the OZ incentive. Additional information on OZs can be found at: https://www.irs.gov/newsroom/opportunity-zones-frequently-asked-questions.
State Legal and Legislative Activity:
132nd General Assembly Completes First Half of 2018: After a lull caused by the vacancy in the Ohio House Speaker position, legislative activity resumed with a vengeance in June. The House and Senate both worked through numerous bills on June 27, and the Senate returned July 10 for session. Priorities included a Payday Lending Bill (HB 123) and Renewable Energy (HB 114). Both chambers have now completed legislative activity for the first half of 2018.
Second Half Schedule Announced: The Senate has scheduled “if needed” sessions for August 22, September 20 and September 25, and regular session is scheduled for September 26. The House has “if needed” sessions scheduled for September 19 and 20. No further sessions are scheduled until after the November General Election so that members may campaign.