Tracked House Bills – June 2020

Jun 19, 2020 | Advocacy

Chris Schmenk
Bricker & Eckler LLP

 

Federal News:

Unemployment Numbers Improve: As reflected in numbers released Friday June 5, the U.S. economy gained 2.5 million jobs in May as some states reopened.  The   unemployment rate dropped to 13.3 percent from April’s number of 14.7 percent. The positive news was complicated by the fact that the Bureau of Labor Statistics said it had misclassified data in May, as it had in April and March. Without the error, the unemployment rate in April would have been higher at 19.7 percent, and May’s rate would have been 16.3 percent.

HEROES Act: On May 15, the House approved a fifth aid bill dubbed the “HEROES Act” (Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions Act) that would authorize additional COVID assistance totaling $3 Trillion.  The bill is now under consideration by the Senate.  It includes another round of direct cash payments to individuals, extends unemployment benefits to the end of January, adds hazard pay for front-line workers and includes aid to state and local governments. It also expands virus-testing efforts and contact tracing and treatment.  The bill also includes some changes to programs that were approved in the CARES Act, including an expansion of the IRS payment program.  In addition, the plan sets aside $3.6 billion to protect federal elections, $25 billion to support the U.S. Postal Service, $100 billion for low-income rent support, $75 billion for a homeowner assistance fund and $100 million for the Violence Against Women Prevention and Prosecution Programs.  It also would expand funding for small-business loans, enhance an employee-retention tax credit program and boost worker protections.

State News:

ODJFS Employment and Training Grant: Lt. Governor Husted announced June 11 that the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS) will receive an $8.5 million federal Employment Recovery National Dislocated Worker Grant to help reemploy individuals who lost their jobs as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and to help employers rebuild their workforces. ODJFS will work with the Governor’s Office of Workforce Transformation to facilitate the grant program through local OhioMeansJobs centers and will distribute the funding to Ohio’s local workforce areas. ODJFS will also provide outreach to employers and services to individuals who were laid off, either permanently or temporarily, as a result of the pandemic.

New COVID-Recovery Programs Announced by Lt. Gov. Husted and ODSA:  Lt. Governor Husted and ODSA recently announced three new programs to help businesses recover, which include:

  • Ohio PPE Retooling and Reshoring Grant Program: This Program provides funds to help businesses innovate and create solutions to the PPE shortage. Small and medium-sized manufacturers that retool existing facilities to make PPE or reshore PPE production to Ohio are eligible. The funding provides up to $500,000 per facility.  Click here for program guidelines: https://development.ohio.gov/bs/bs_ppe-rrgpg.htm
  • Ohio Minority Micro-Enterprise Grant Program: The Ohio Minority Micro-Enterprise Grant Program provides $10,000 in funding to help these companies through the current crisis. To be eligible, businesses must have been certified as a Minority Business Enterprise or woman-owned EDGE-certified business as of Feb. 29, 2020; have 10 or fewer employees and up to $500,000 in annual revenue; and must have not received funding under the federal CARES Act. To qualify, businesses must be current on all taxes and private or public loans. Grants will be awarded on first-come, first-served basis.  For more information, click on: https://development.ohio.gov/bs/bs_mmegp.htm
  • Appalachian Region Loan Program: This new loan program provides funding to the Appalachian Growth Capital LLC, which is a U.S. Treasury-Certified Community Development Financial Institution that provides small business financing in the 32-county Appalachian region of eastern and southern Ohio. Businesses located in the 32-county region with less than $40 million of revenue in the most recently completed tax year are eligible. Appalachian Growth Capital will offer loans to small businesses at 2 percent interest. The maximum loan amount is $500,000, and businesses will have the ability to defer payment for up to six months. Businesses can apply at https://appcap.org/

Shortfall in Ohio’s Unemployment Fund: Ohio’s unemployment compensation fund experienced a shortfall June 16, forcing the state to request $3.1 billion in borrowing authority (at 0% interest) from the federal government to continue paying benefits to jobless workers.  Other states such as Texas and California are also facing similar shortfalls.

COVID Testing and Health News: On June 11, Governor DeWine announced that coronavirus testing in Ohio is no longer limited to people displaying symptoms or high-risk individuals.  On June 16, he announced several free, pop-up testing sites throughout the state.  The Governor also recently announced that Health Director Dr. Amy Acton is stepping down from her current role. He said she will continue to serve as his chief health advisor.

State Budget Shortfall Predicted:   On June 11, the state predicted a $2.4 billion shortfall in the amount needed to fund the state’s general revenue fund for the 2020-21 state budget due to decreases in state tax collections caused by the coronavirus pandemic and the accompanying bad economic times.

General Assembly: Ohio lawmakers engaged in a flurry of activity during the week of June 8, including a marathon House floor session on Thursday night-Friday morning, to address priority legislative items before adjourning for the summer.  While the House has finished work for the time being, the Ohio Senate scheduled several “if-needed” sessions, including committee meetings, to finish up their work on legislation.

The Senate also announced its schedule for the second half of 2020. Normally, in an election year, both chambers spend most of the summer campaigning. However, the Senate schedule includes session dates in each remaining month of the year. The House, which had previously released its schedule, has no session dates scheduled until September.

_______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Non-COVID-19 Bills (Changes from last month are noted below in bold.):
House Bills:

HB 7  WATER FUND  (Ghanbari, H., Patterson, J.)  This bill, introduced May 13, 2019 would create the H2Ohio Trust Fund for the protection and preservation of Ohio’s water quality, create the H2Ohio Advisory Council to disburse money from the Fund for water quality programs, and create the H2Ohio Endowment Board to make recommendations to the Treasurer of State regarding the issuance of securities to pay for costs related to the purposes of the Fund.  The bill was referred to the House Finance Committee where a substitute bill was approved on June 18. The revised bill passed in the House June 20 and would increase the cap on the annual disbursement of funds from $50 million to $100 million and eliminate the creation of the H2Ohio Advisory Council, instead vesting authority over the disbursements in the Ohio Water Development Authority.  It also included a provision allowing the Department of Natural Resources to establish a pilot program to study water withdrawals by using streamflow monitoring in Eastern Ohio and another provision which enables the Controlling Board to approve or deny an amount recommended by the director of the Office of Budget Management for year-end unspent balances. It was referred to the Senate Finance Committee where a first hearing with sponsor testimony occurred October 22, 2019.

HB 13 BROADBAND (Carfagna, R., O’Brian, M.) Introduced May 16, 2019, this bill is based on a proposal that passed the House last year (HB 281, 132nd GA) and would require the Development Services Agency (DSA) to establish the Residential Broadband Expansion (RBE) Program to provide grants to municipal corporations and townships (project sponsors) to help fund projects that provide broadband to any residential area within their boundaries that is without broadband (eligible area).  It excludes as an eligible area under the RBE Program, any area that has received, or is designated to receive, any other state or federally funded grants that are designed to encourage broadband deployment. The program would allow the Director of DSA to accept applications from project sponsors each fiscal year, review each application within 60 days, and fund applications on a first-come, first-served basis until all program funds for the fiscal year are awarded. Program funds, up to $2 Million per biennium, would come from currently-budgeted DSA funds.  On May 19, a substitute bill was accepted by the House Finance Committee that made changes to this proposed broadband grant program.  Under the revised bill, local governments are no longer eligible to apply; instead, only video services providers, telecommunications/satellite broadcasters/wireless service providers may apply.  The program will now be run by the Department of Commerce instead of the Development Services Agency.  Grant award decisions will be made by a Broadband Expansion Program Authority comprised of the Director of the Department of Commerce, the JobsOhio President, one Governor appointee, one Senate appointee, and one House appointee. The program would be funded by the transfer of $20 million from the Facilities Establishment Fund to the Department of Commerce. The substitute bill allows a broadband provider to share an existing easement held by an electric cooperative and requires electric cooperatives to grant broadband providers nondiscriminatory access to the cooperatives’ electric poles. On June 2, after objections by the railroad industry, the Committee removed language that would have streamlined the process to gain approvals to traverse railroad crossings by setting standardized crossing fees and establishing a uniform crossing application process. HB 13 was also adjusted to place any dispute resolution among broadband service providers and rural electric co-ops in county courts of common pleas (rather than PUCO, as originally proposed).  The House Finance Committee’s 29-2 vote was delayed as an amendment was added to allow an electric distribution utility to build out middle mile infrastructure for broadband and receive recovery through their rate. Ultimately, a compromise three-year “pilot project” version of the amendment was added to HB 13, the measure passed the House on June 11 and now moves to the Ohio Senate for consideration.

HB 34   MINIMUM WAGE  (Kelly, B.)  This bill would increase the state minimum wage and allow municipalities, townships and counties to establish higher minimum wage requirements.  The bill has been referred to the House Commerce & Labor Committee, where initial hearings occurred January 22 and 23, 2020.

HB 48  ROAD IMPROVEMENT FUND  (Greenspan, D.)  This measure would provide for a new Local Government Road Improvement Fund for local governments to fund road improvements.  It was referred to the Finance Committee in February 2019.

HB 93  PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION (Skindell, M., Upchurch, T.)  Introduced February 21, 2019, in addition to any appropriations made for the 2020-2021 biennium, this bill would make additional appropriations related to public transportation in the amount of $100 million for public transportation and $50 million for the highway operating fund in both 2020 and 2021.  The bill was referred to the House Finance Committee in March 2019.

HB 98  LOAN FUND  (Jones, D., Cera, J.)  Similar to HB 695 introduced in the last General Assembly, this bill would reinstate the rural industrial park loan program under Ohio Development Services Agency, as detailed in ORC 122.23-.25, with an appropriation of $25 million.  The program would assist eligible applicants in financing the development and improvement of industrial parks by providing financial assistance in the form of loans and loan guarantees for land acquisition; constructing, reconstructing, rehabilitating, remodeling, renovating, enlarging, or improving industrial park buildings; and infrastructure improvements.  The bill has been assigned to the House Economic & Workforce Development where it had its first hearing March 27, 2019. The provisions of this bill were included in the signed Budget Bill (HB 166).

HB 116  TRANSPORTATION PLANNING  (Brinkman, T.)  Introduced March 4, 2019, in addition to any appropriations made for the 2020-2021 biennium, this bill would make additional appropriations related to transportation planning and research in the amount of $4.5 million for FY 2020 which shall be used to (1) study the Cincinnati Eastern Bypass Project, (2) review work done previously by the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet relative to the Brent Spence Bridge Project, and (3) make recommendations on moving forward with both projects cooperatively.  The bill was been to the House Finance Committee.

HB 149 TAX EXEMPTION (Merrin, D.)  Introduced March 19, 2019 and identical to HB 371 from the last General Assembly, this bill would amend ORC 5709.51 among other code sections and temporarily exempt from property tax the increased value of land subdivided for residential development until construction commences or the land is sold.  The bill would benchmark an “ascribed taxable value” of the newly subdivided parcel, and any increase in taxable value would be exempt from taxation until either (1) Construction of a residential building on that property commences, or (2) Title to the property is transferred for consideration by a qualifying owner to another person.  The construction of streets, sidewalks, curbs, or driveways or the installation of water, sewer, or other utility lines on a subdivided parcel would not cause construction of a residential building to commence for purposes of the bill, and the value of those improvements would thus automatically be exempted from taxation until construction of a residence begins or the property is sold.  The bill was referred to the House Economic and Workforce Development Committee, and its provisions were then included in the Conference Committee version of the state budget bill, HB 166.  However, after concerns were expressed by numerous local government groups including the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission, the Ohio Library Council, the Ohio Association of School Board Officials, the Ohio Township Association, the County Commissioners Association and the County Auditors Association, Governor DeWine line-item vetoed the provisions of the bill.

HB 162 TAX CREDIT (Patton, T.)  This bill would increase the overall cap on the motion picture tax credit from $40 million per fiscal year to $100 million per fiscal biennium.  The bill was referred to the Finance Committee in March 2019.

HB 163 WATER/SEWER SERVICE (Brinkman, T.) This bill, introduced March 25, 2019 would create a process for withholding local government funds and state water and sewer assistance from municipal corporations that engage in certain water and sewer practices (for example, charging higher rates for nonresident customers) with respect to extraterritorial service.  The bill was referred to the House Public Utilities Committee, where 5 hearings have occurred.  On September 26, the committee accepted three amendments.  The first would specify that the civil action referenced in the bill is a declaratory judgment action.  The second would create a safe harbor for municipalities charging no more than 25% above rates charged to residents.  The third would final ensure the bill has no effect on existing contracts.  The bill had its sixth hearing January 29, 2020 during which an amendment was accepted that clarifies that nonresident rates that are no higher than 125% of residential rates are deemed to be reasonable.  The bill was reported out of the committee May 13 and passed the House on a 56-38 vote held on June 10.

HB 168 BONA FIDE PURCHASER (Arndt, S.)  This bill should assist with brownfield development by incorporating into Ohio law the federal Bona Fide Purchaser Defense (BFPD) established under CERCLA, which provides prospective buyers of contaminated property with an option to establish a defense to environmental liability after completing the All Appropriate Inquires and proper due diligence.  The bill passed the House May 30 and had its third hearing November 13, where an amendment was approved that would provide the director of the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency the ability to issue an order voiding a covenant not to sue if a property subject to institutional controls or use limitations fails to comply with those requirements.  A fifth hearing occurred May 6, and after adopting an amendment that makes clear the bona fide prospective purchaser provision is retroactive to January 2002 following the lead of federal law, the bill was reported out of Committee and passed by the Senate May 6, 2020.  On May 13, the House concurred on the Senate amendments.  The bill was signed by the Governor June 16 and takes effect in mid-September.

HB 185 JOBSOHIO (Ingram, C.)  Introduced April 4, this bill would establish that records kept by JobsOhio are public records subject to inspection and copying under Ohio Public Records Law and to require all meetings of the JobsOhio Board of Directors to be open to the public, except when in an executive session.  It has been referred to the Economic and Workforce Development Committee where a first hearing occurred May 15, 2019.

HB 190 BROADBAND PROGRAM  (Smith, R.) This bill is identical to HB 378 which passed in the House during the 132nd GA, would create the Ohio Broadband Development Grant Program to provide funds to extend broadband service to unserved areas of the state.  The program would be administered by the Ohio Development Services Agency.  The following entities could apply for a grant: (1) private businesses, (2) political subdivisions, (3) nonprofit entities organized to provide telecommunications services, and (4) co-ops organized to provide phone and Internet services.  Grant amounts cannot exceed the lesser of: (1) 50% of the total project cost, or (2) $5 million. Recipients could use funds to construct broadband infrastructure to serve unserved areas, including installing middle-mile or last-mile infrastructure, grant-project planning, obtaining construction permits, constructing facilities, purchasing equipment, and installing and testing the service.  The bill would appropriate $50 million per year for FYs 2020 and 2021 from the Facilities Establishment Fund, to be used to award grants under the Program.  It was referred to the Finance Committee in April 2019.

HB 218 PUBLIC-PRIVATE AGREEMENTS (Patton, T.) Introduced April 24, 2019, this bill would  authorize certain public bodies, including state agencies, state institutions of higher education, counties, townships, municipal corporations, school districts, community schools, STEM schools, college-preparatory boarding schools, library districts, and port authorities, to execute a public-private agreement (“PPA”) with a private party for the planning, acquisition, financing, development, design, construction, reconstruction, replacement, improvement, maintenance, management, repair, leasing, or operation of a “facility”.  “Facility” is defined to include a new or existing public building, public improvement, or public infrastructure used by a public body, by the public at large, in support of a public purpose, or for the delivery of services, and it must be owned by the public body or owned by the private party through a lease agreement under which the facility reverts to the public body upon expiration of the agreement.  A public body that has authority to issue bonds/obligations may issue them for the purpose of funding the development or financing of a facility under a PPA. A public body may accept a grant, loan, or other financial assistance from the United States or any of its agencies or may enter into agreements with the United States as necessary to fund the facility. A public body may also accept from any source any grant, donation, gift, or other form of conveyance of land, money, other real or personal property or other items of value, and the public body may use federal, state, local, and private funds to finance a facility. Finally, a facility may be financed in whole or in part by contribution of any funds or property made by any operator or an affected jurisdiction that is a party to a PPA.    In the State and Local Government Committee, HB 218 was changed with clarifying language to make public-private agreements align with laws governing public improvement projects.  The fourth committee hearing was held June 9.

HB 247 ELECTRIC SERVICE (Stein, D.) Introduced May 15, this bill would permit electric distribution utilities (EDUs) to offer customer-focused energy services or products, which may include energy efficiency, energy monitoring, electric vehicle charging stations, the installation and management of smart grid technology, and other items.  These products may be offered if either the PUCO has approved them under certain sections of the Ohio Revised Code or the products are optional, the EDU maintains separate accounting for the products, and the EDU does not include incremental costs directly related to the products in base distribution rates but instead recovers incremental costs through charges to customers who elect to subscribe to those services.  The bill would also allow an EDU’s electric security plan to include provisions for the EDU’s recovery of costs for the products and smart grid technology deployment, including lost revenue, shared savings, and avoided costs, and a just and reasonable rate of return on smart grid technology deployment.  Additionally, it would lift the corporate separation requirements that currently apply to the offering of a product or service other than retail electric service, effectively allowing an EDU to offer such a product or service directly, rather than through a fully separated affiliate.

Finally, it authorizes nonbypassable electric riders for: (1) infrastructure development costs for state and local economic development projects and (2) facilities of mercantile customers that are locating or expanding in Ohio.  The bill grants an EDU timely recovery of infrastructure development costs necessary to support or enable a state or local economic development project, including any project approved, certified, or funded by “the agency” (presumably the Development Services Agency). The bill defines “infrastructure development costs” as any cost of infrastructure development, including, if applicable, an allowance for funds used during construction. The bill defines “infrastructure development” as the planning, development, and construction of substation facilities and extensions of transmission or distribution facilities that an EDU owns and operates and the performance of load studies.  The bill requires the EDU, before beginning the infrastructure development, to file a notice with the PUCO that contains all of the following:

  • A description of the economic development project;
  • A summary of the infrastructure development costs;
  • A statement from the state or local entity involved that the infrastructure development is necessary to support or enable the economic development project.

The costs are to be recovered through a nonbypassable rider charged to all distribution customers regardless of whether the infrastructure development is used and useful at the time constructed.

The bill also expands the definition of “smart grid” to include capital investment in equipment deployed in conjunction with an EDU’s distribution infrastructure that facilitates intelligent city designs, such as traffic sensors, infrastructure monitoring equipment, data management systems, and similar technology as well as the deployment, adaptation, replacement, or subsequent reinforcement of any technology that facilitates the storage, control, or delivery of electric energy.

A third hearing on the bill occurred October 23, 2019 in the House Public Utilities Committee, where opponent testimony was heard from the OMA, IGS, Direct Energy, ChargePoint, the Environmental Law & Policy Center, the Ohio Environmental Council, the Consumers Council, the  Retail Energy Supply Association and others.

HB 255 TAX EXPENDITURES (Hoops, J.)  Introduced May 23, 2019, this bill would require the Tax Commissioner’s biennial tax expenditure report to include information on local property tax exemptions and to require the Tax Expenditure Review Committee to periodically review each such property tax exemption.  It has been referred to the Ways & Means Committee, which approved a substitute bill May 12 that made two changes.  The first removes the requirement to include tangible personal property tax exemptions in the tax commissioner’s biennial tax expenditure report.  The second change defines property tax exemption to mean a provision in Revised Code exempting all or a portion of real property value as reported on forms prescribed by the tax commissioner and categorized by the commissioner as a charitable and public worship, public and education, local economic development, or other exemptions.  The sixth committee hearing was held June 10.

HB 264 INFRASTRUCTURE LOANS (Wilkin, S., O’Brien, M.)  Introduced May 28, this bill would authorize the Ohio Water Development Authority (OWDA) to make loans and grants to persons and government agencies for the refinancing of certain public water and waste water infrastructure projects.  The bill also authorizes the OWDA to issue water development revenue bonds and notes for the purpose of paying any part of refinancing of these projects.  The bill was passed by the House December 12 and had its first hearing in the Senate Public Utilities Committee May 13.  As the bill sat in senate committee hearings, the County Commissioners Association of Ohio and other parties urged its passage.  The third committee hearing was held June 10.

HB 283  GRANT PROGRAM (Miller, A., Sweeney, B.) Introduced June 11, this bill would require JobsOhio to establish and administer the Competitive Global Air Service Development Grant Program. Under the program, JobsOhio would be required to:

  • Provide grants to air carriers to support the establishment of new direct international and domestic air service to and from Ohio airports;
  • Ensure that grants made under the program provide minimum revenue guarantees and marketing assistance to air carriers;
  • Give priority consideration to air carriers that propose to establish new direct air service between Ohio and destinations located in the European Union or Japan;
  • Establish eligibility requirements; and
  • Prepare, and submit to the General Assembly, a written report not later than the last business day of January of each year detailing all aspects of the program occurring during the immediately preceding year.

The bill has been assigned to the House Economic and Workforce Development Committee.

HB 382 MUNICIPAL TAXES (Jordan, K.)  Introduced October 29, 2019, this bill would prohibit municipal corporations from levying an income tax on nonresidents’ compensation for personal services or on net profits from a sole proprietorship owned by a nonresident.

HB 386 TRUCK DRIVER STUDENTS (Hoops, J., Sobecki, L.) Introduced November 5, this bill would establish the Commercial Truck Driver Student Aid program and allocate funds for a grant and loan program to individuals seeking a Commercial Drivers License.  If students meet the eligibility requirements, they can receive a grant equal to one-half of the remaining state cost of attendance after the student’s federal Pell grant and expected family contribution are applied to instructional and general charges for the student’s enrollment in a certified commercial driver’s license school. They can also receive a loan in an amount equal to the grant, repayable if they do not complete the program and stay in Ohio for at least a year after completion.  It was referred to the Economic & Workforce Development Committee where a second hearing occurred February 12.

HB 401 WIND REGULATIONS (Reineke, B.)  Introduced November 6, this bill would apply to “economically significant wind farms” and would require inclusion of certain safety specifications in wind farm certificate applications to the Ohio Power Siting Board, would modify their wind turbine setback requirements and would permit a township referendum vote on these wind farm certificates issued by the Siting Board. The bill defines that term as already defined in ORC 4906.13, which is as follows:  “economically significant wind farm” means wind turbines and associated facilities with a single interconnection to the electrical grid and designed for, or capable of, operation at an aggregate capacity of five or more megawatts but less than fifty megawatts.” The term excludes any such wind farm in operation on June 24, 2008. The term also excludes one or more wind turbines and associated facilities that are primarily dedicated to providing electricity to a single customer at a single location and that are designed for, or capable of, operation at an aggregate capacity of less than twenty megawatts, as measured at the customer’s point of interconnection to the electrical grid.  If passed, the legislation would enable township residents by referendum to overturn a wind project already approved by the Ohio Power Siting Board. Amendments to approval certificates from the Power Siting Board for existing turbine projects would also be subject to potential referendum if they add more turbines, increase the height of a turbine or the diameter of a turbine tower’s base, or relocate any turbine. The bill also revises wind turbine setbacks with the distance to be equivalent to the manufacturer’s safety recommendations rather than current law which provides the greater of either 1.1 times total turbine height or at least 1,125 feet from the tip of the nearest blade to the property line of the nearest adjacent property.  The bill has been assigned to the House Energy & Natural Resources Committee, where a first hearing occurred November 13 and a second one is scheduled for November 19.  Senator Rob McColley has introduced companion Senate Bill 234.  A third hearing occurred December 3, 2019 at which lawmakers discussed possibly revising the bill to move a proposed township referendum process to the Power Siting Board.

HB 440 TAX EXEMPTION (Miranda, J., Carruthers, S.) Introduced December 9, 2019, this bill would authorize sales tax exemptions for property and services used to clean or maintain manufacturing machinery and for employment services used to operate manufacturing machinery.  It has been referred to the Ways & Means Committee where an initial hearing occurred January 28, 2020.

HB 481 LAND CONVEYANCE (Fraizer, M.) This bill was originally introduced to authorize the conveyance of state-owned real property and was passed by the House May 20.  On June 10, 2020 the bill was passed by the Senate after being amended to include the provisions of SB 310 (distributing $350 million in federal coronavirus relief funding for local governments) and SB 316 (the Senate’s $1.28 billion capital reappropriations bill).  The next day, June 11, the House concurred in the Senate’s amendments, so the bill should head to the Governor for signature.

HB 507 TAX LIENS (Manning, D.)   Introduced February 13, 2020, this bill would prohibit enforcement of delinquent property tax liens against owner-occupied homesteads and require that any delinquent tax be paid before the title to a homestead may be transferred.  The bill was referred to the House Ways & Means Committee.

HB 523 LOAN PROGRAM (Patterson, J., Carfagna, R.)  Introduced February 21, this bill would establish the STEM Degree Loan Repayment Program, providing a refundable tax credit for employers who make payments on student loans obtained by graduates to earn a STEM degree.  The bill was referred to the House Finance Committee March 10, 2020.

HB 531 JOBSOHIO (Rogers, J.) Introduced March 3, 2020, this bill would establish that JobsOhio must submit to audits by the Auditor of State, and that an audit of JobsOhio must include an audit of the revenues, receipts, and expenditures of JobsOhio associated with the enterprise acquisition project.  The bill was referred to the House State & Local Government Committee.

HB 631 ECONOMIC ALLIANCES (Rogers, J., Hambley, S.) Introduced May 13, this bill would authorize municipal corporations to establish regional economic development alliances for the sharing of services or resources among alliance members. 10 or more municipalities may form an alliance but only 1 alliance may be formed per “region”.  “Region” means the territory included within the boundaries of a central county and of each county that is adjacent to that central county. If two or more central counties are adjacent to each other, “region” means the entire territory included within the boundaries of those central counties and each county adjacent to either of those central counties. If two  or more central counties are each adjacent to a common county,  “region” may mean either of the following: The territory included within the boundaries of those central counties and each county that is adjacent to either of those central counties,  or The territory included within the boundaries of one of the central counties and of each county that is adjacent to that central county, provided that, if a county is adjacent to two or more central counties that are included in separate regions under this division, the municipal corporations in that county may choose to join an alliance in any one of those separate regions.  “Central county” means either Cuyahoga or Summit County (as stated in the bill, “a county that has adopted a charter under Sections 3 and 4 of Article X, Ohio Constitution and that has a population of at least four hundred thousand according to the most recent federal decennial census as of the date an agreement is entered into under this chapter”).  The bill provides that alliances will have the same powers as given to COGs (Councils of Governments) under ORC Chapter 167 and sets forth a complex funding system alliances must follow, with annual contributions made by and funds received by municipalities factoring in their income tax rates and their revenues received  from income taxes.  Additionally, alliances may pool resources to fund infrastructure and economic development. It was referred to the House Economic and Workforce Development Committee where sponsor testimony was introduced on June 11.

HB 663 PREVAILING WAGE (Hood, R., Dean, B.) Introduced May 19, this bill would repeal the Prevailing Wage Law.  The legislation was referred to the Commerce & Labor Committee.

HB 670 CAPITAL REAPPROPRIATIONS (Merrin, D.)  Introduced May 20, this bill proposed to make approximately $600 million in capital reappropriations  to continue funding to previously-funded projects, for the biennium ending June 30, 2022. As noted below, its provisions were folded into SB 4.

HB 674 LIQUOR LAWS (Hillyer, B.)  To revise specified provisions of the liquor control law, this was one of two priority alcohol bills the House fast-tracked.  It includes a number of liquor law changes, including removing statutory limitations on Sunday alcohol sales and expanding permit holders’ ability to create outdoor refreshment areas.  Further, the bill expands the ability to consume alcohol in public airports and creates a “J liquor permit” to extend weekend hours of operation to 4 a.m.  The measure passed on the House on June 11.

HB 675 CLEANOHIO (Hillyer, B., Swearingen, D.)  Introduced May 26, this new bill would restore funding to the state’s CleanOhio Revitalization Fund (CORF) which operated through 2013 as a competitive grant program administered by the Development Services Agency. Grants for the cleanup of brownfields would be available for up to 75% of the cleanup cost to a max of $3 million.  The bill adds land banks (county land reutilization corporations) to the list of public entities and nonprofits eligible to apply.  The program would be funded by the excess liquor profits paid by JobsOhio to the State pursuant to agreements between the parties. It was referred to the State & Local Government Committee.

HB 704 REDEVELOPMENT AREAS (Cross, J., Fraizer, M.) Introduced June 15, this bill would seek to modify the law governing Community Redevelopment Areas and the terms under which property may be exempted in such areas.

_______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

COVID-19 RELATED BILLS: (Changes from last month are noted below in bold.):
House Bills:

HB 562 PROHIBIT EVICTION, FORECLOSURE DURING COVID-19 (LELAND D, CROSSMAN J) This bill would prohibit foreclosure activity and the eviction of residential and commercial tenants during the state of emergency declared regarding COVID-19 and would refer such proceedings caused by the state of emergency to mediation. The bill was referred May 5 to the Civil Justice committee.

HB 564 PREVENT UTILITY DISRUPTION DURING COVID-19 (LELAND D) This bill would prevent the disruption of utility service during the state of emergency declared regarding COVID-19. The bill was referred May 5 to the Public Utilities committee.

HB 565 EXTEND INCOME TAX FILING DEADLINE (ROGERS J, CROSSMAN J) This bill would  extend the filing and payment dates for state, municipal, and school district income taxes by the same period as any federal income tax extension granted in response to the COVID-19 disease outbreak.  The bill had its first hearing May 12 before the Ways & Means Committee.

HB 566 INCREASE LOCAL GOVERNMENT FUND DISTRIBUTION (ROGERS J, CROSSMAN J) This bill would increase the percentage of revenue to the General Revenue Fund distributed to the Local Government Fund.  It was referred May 5 to the Finance Committee.

HB 567 PARTIALLY REFUNDABLE INCOME TAX CREDIT (ROGERS J, CROSSMAN J) This bill would temporarily authorize a partially refundable earned income tax credit.  It was referred May 5 to the Finance Committee.

HB 570 OPEN BIDDING DURING COVID-19 (BOGGS K) This bill would allow a county to purchase public health-related items and communication equipment without competitive bidding, solicit bids electronically, and open bids during a meeting held electronically during the period of the emergency declared by Executive Order 2020-01D, issued on March 9, 2020.  It was referred May 5 to the State & Local Government Committee.

HB 572 STATE OFFICES – FEE, PENALTY WAIVERS (SOBECKI L) This bill would allow the Ohio Public Works Commission, the Ohio Water Development Authority, the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency, county auditors, and county recorders, during the state of emergency due to COVID-19, to waive certain penalties and late fees, suspend certain reporting requirements, and waive electronic recording fees. It was referred May 5 to the State & Local Government Committee.

HB 575 COUNTY DROP BOX PAYMENTS (MILLER J) This bill would permit counties to receive payments by a drop box instead of in-person for the duration of the Governor’s COVID-19 emergency declaration. It was referred May 5 to the State & Local Government Committee.

HB 576 SUSPEND HOMESTEAD INTEREST PENALTY, FORECLOSURE (ROGERS J, CROSSMAN J) This bill would temporarily abate the charging of interest and penalties against tax-delinquent homesteads and suspend tax foreclosure proceedings and tax certificate sales regarding such homesteads.  It was referred May 5 to the Ways & Means Committee.

HB 578 HOMELESS SHELTERS, RENT ASSISTANCE (SMITH K) This bill would make an appropriation to support homeless shelters in the state and provide emergency rental assistance in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. It was referred May 5 to the Finance Committee.

HB 579 REQUIRE INSURERS COVER COVID-19 TREATMENT (RUSSO A) This bill would require health insurers to cover COVID-19 testing and treatment and prohibit balance billing. It was referred May 5 to the Insurance Committee and on May 19 had its first hearing.

HB 580 REQUIRE INSURERS COVER TELEMEDICINE (LISTON B, PATTON T) This bill would require health plan issuers to cover telemedicine services during a state of emergency.  It was referred May 5 to the Insurance Committee.

HB 584 WORK SEARCH REQUIREMENTS – COVID-19 (CRAWLEY E, LELAND D) This bill would temporarily change eligibility and work search requirements under the Unemployment Compensation Law.  It was referred May 5 to the Insurance Committee.

HB 588 PUBLIC ASSISTANT PROGRAMS – COVID-19 (RUSSO A, SOBECKI L) This bill would  delay eligibility redeterminations for certain public assistance programs and temporarily modify income eligibility requirements for certain public assistance programs.   It was referred May 5 to the Health Committee.

HB 589 FINANCIAL DAMAGE INSURANCE COVERAGE – COVID-19 (CROSSMAN J, ROGERS J) This bill would require insurers offering business interruption insurance to cover losses attributable to viruses and pandemics. It was referred May 5 to the Insurance Committee and had its first hearing June 9.

HB 590 PRICE GOUGING PROHIBITION (CROSSMAN J, ROGERS J) This bill would prohibit price gouging to protect consumers during the COVID-19 emergency.  It was referred May 5 to the Criminal Justice Committee.

HB 591 SUSPEND EMPLOYER MUNICIPAL INCOME TAX (ROGERS J) This bill would suspend some employer municipal income tax withholding requirements during the COVID-19 state of emergency.  It was referred May 5 to the Ways & Means Committee.

HB 593 REQUIRED PAID LEAVE – COVID-19 (BOYD J, BOGGS K) This bill would require paid leave for an employee who is unable to work due to quarantine or mandatory isolation and create a grant program to compensate contract workers who cannot perform services during public health emergencies.  It was referred May 5 to the Commerce & Labor Committee.

HB 594 DEFERRED RETIREMENT – EMERGENCY WORKERS (CROSSMAN J, BALDRIDGE B) In regards to the re-employment of a retirant as a police officer, firefighter, or emergency medical worker during a state of emergency, this bill allow a deferred retirement option plan participant to work past the participant’s employment end date during a state of emergency, and to declare an emergency.  It was referred May 5 to the Financial Institutions Committee.

HB 596 DEBT COLLECTION POSTPONEMENT  (WEST T) This bill would halt the collection of debts and prohibit the imposition of additional interest, penalties and fees during the COVID-109 emergency.  It was referred May 5 to the Civil Justice Committee.

HB 597 STUDENT LOAN DEBT COLLECTION POSTPONEMENT (INGRAM C, MIRANDA J) This bill would halt the collection of all debt owed to any state institution of higher education or hospital operated by a state institution of higher education and freeze the accrual of interest and collection of fees on all outstanding debt owed to those entities.  It was referred May 5 to the Civil Justice Committee.

HB 605 WORKERS’ COMPENSATION (Kelly, B., Patton, T.)  This bill would make COVID-19 contracted by an employee of a retail food establishment or food processing establishment an occupational disease under the Workers’ Compensation Law under certain circumstances and to declare an emergency. It was referred May 5 to the Insurance Committee and had its first hearing May 28.

HB 606 CIVIL IMMUNITY (Grendell, D.)  This bill would grant civil immunity to a person (including businesses) who provides services for essential businesses and operations for injury, death, or loss that was caused by the transmission of COVID-19 during the period of emergency declared by Executive Order 2020-01D, issued on March 9, 2020. Immunity would not apply in cases in which by clear and convincing evidence an individual can prove the virus was transmitted due to reckless or intentional conduct or willful or wanton misconduct.  The bill has had two hearings May 12 and 13 before the House Civil Justice Committee.  The House panel accepted a substitute version of the bill that contained two components: one for the health care industry and another for general immunity. Examples of entities covered by the bill include all Ohio businesses, hospitals, healthcare workers, volunteers, grocery stores, churches, delivery drivers, and business employees.  Senate Bill 308 is a companion bill.  The bill passed in the House May 28 and had its first hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee June 10.

HB 609  TAX AMNESTY (West, T.)  This bill would require the Tax Commissioner to administer a temporary amnesty program from August 1, 2020, to December 31, 2020, with respect to delinquent state taxes and fees, and to repeal Section 1 of this act on January 1, 2021.  It has its first hearing before the House Ways & Means Committee May 12 and the bill was passed by the House May 20.  It had its first hearing before the Senate Ways & Means Committee June 9.

HCR 26  INTERNET SERVICE (Smith, K.) This Continuing Resolution urges the Congress and the President of the United States to prohibit internet service providers from terminating internet service to residential customers and small businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic. It was introduced and referred in House May 12 to the Public Utilities Committee.