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October 30, 2009 HB 318 RECEIVES ROUGH RECEPTION IN SENATE; REPUBLICAN SENATORS CONSIDER POTENTIAL CASINO REVENUES AS BUDGET FIX IN LIEU OF TAX FREEZE

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October 30, 2009 HB 318 RECEIVES ROUGH RECEPTION IN SENATE; REPUBLICAN SENATORS CONSIDER POTENTIAL CASINO REVENUES AS BUDGET FIX IN LIEU OF TAX FREEZE This week saw Senate Republicans turn up the rhetoric
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October 30, 2009 HB 318 RECEIVES ROUGH RECEPTION IN SENATE; REPUBLICAN SENATORS CONSIDER POTENTIAL CASINO REVENUES AS BUDGET FIX IN LIEU OF TAX FREEZE This week saw Senate Republicans turn up the rhetoric as HB 318, the Governor s Tax Freeze bill, made its way to the Senate Finance Committee. Testifying on behalf of the Administration was Office of Budget and Management Director Pari Sabety, as well as Tax Commissioner Richard Levin. Meanwhile, Members also took the opportunity to consider the use of casino dollars as a potential budget fix. Under HB 318, Governor Ted Strickland proposed, and the Democratic-controlled House passed, a plan to delay the 4.2 percent state income-tax cut that took effect Jan. 1. The measure would generate money to replace what was lost when the Ohio Supreme Court blocked Strickland's plan to place slot machines at racetracks without a statewide vote. However, in the GOP-controlled Senate, which is not expected to take action on the measure for at least three weeks, a number of Republicans have labeled HB 318 a tax increase. Senate President Bill M. Harris, R-Ashland, said Wednesday that the Democrat-backed income-tax plan would be bad for small business and, in turn, bad for jobs. We feel that especially small business would be very adversely impacted (by HB 318), and the result of that is to eliminate jobs, Harris said. Any job that we have we need to hold onto with both hands and do anything we can to protect it. That said Harris admitted that his caucus has not ruled out any potential budget solution. One option could take advantage of the $200 million in casino-licensing fees that would be paid to the state if Issue 3 is approved. With polls showing the casino issue ahead, some state lawmakers already are considering ways to use the revenues. However, one sticking point is that the casino proposal says the fee money is to be earmarked for state economic development programs which support regional job training efforts. Some lawmakers contend higher education is the ultimate job-training effort. That's fairly broad, non-specific language, Sen. Mark Wagoner, R-Toledo, said of the amendment. A lot of the discussion of education reform we've had over the last six months is the role of education in economic development. You could make a good-faith argument that we could use that $200 million (in licensing fees) and put it into education. 1 Office of Budget and Management Director Pari Sabety said she wouldn't rule out the possibility, but added that it could face legal hurdles, noting that parts of the amendment say casino money cannot supplant state money. However, Sen. John A. Carey Jr. (R-Wellston), Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, did not share the same enthusiasm about the idea. I don't think that's our caucus position at this point, the Chairman said. Individual senators may think that's a good idea. Republican senators also indicated an interest in putting off unfunded changes to K-12 education policy during the chamber's hearing. Sen. Gary Cates led the GOP's charge on the education policy front, calling the all-day kindergarten and class size requirements under the Evidence Based Model a very large unfunded mandate on local schools and adding that it would cost the state more than $3 billion a year to fully fund the phased-in EBM system in the current year. As lawmakers further questioned whether passage of that issue could somehow mitigate the budget shortfall, Director Sabety and Commissioner Levin expressed doubts as to whether any such funds would even be available to aid schools during the current biennium. Mr. Levin noted there is no timetable in the amendment for when the casinos would be built. Ms. Sabety reiterated the Administration s position that the legislature should act soon on the Governor's plan so local school officials have budgetary certainty moving forward. One remark that did raise eyebrows from local government advocates in attendance at the hearing was a comment made in passing by the Commissioner Levin. During continued questioning as to what the casino monies could supplant in the current budget, the Commissioner added, I don't think there's anything in the constitution that says you have to have a local government fund. The comment quickly evoked concern from local government entities that the local government fund (LGF) could be substantially cut or even eliminated. Chairman Carey also asked if the Administration had considered other non-tax revenue alternatives such as securitizing state assets. Ms. Sabety said the problems with securitizing assets such as the state lottery at this time include a credit market that's still constricted and, in the case of the lottery, significant legal work required to meet federal restrictions. Additionally, she said that while up-front money could be had with a lottery securitization, You are giving up a significant amount of that cash in future biennia. Chairman Carey (R-Wellston) reiterated his plans to continue hearings on the bill beyond next week's statewide vote on Issue 3. OAEO TELLS HOUSE PANEL THAT PROVISION IN ELECTION OVERHAUL BILL CEDES TOO MUCH POWER TO STATE The Ohio Association of Election Officials asked a House panel Wednesday to remove from a proposed voting system overhaul a provision the group said radically alters the way board of elections members are appointed. Echoing concerns CCAO has shared in recent meetings w/ legislators, the change in the appointment process contained in pending legislation (HB 260) would give too much power to the state. It gives almost carte blanche power to the state's chief election officer to appoint members to local boards of elections, Jeanette Mullane, the OAEO's first vice president told the 2 House Elections & Ethics Committee. This is simply not how our system was designed to work, said Ms. Mullane, who is director of the Stark County Board of Elections. Current law provides for political parties to recommend nominees to a Secretary of State for appointment to a county elections board. If no recommendation is made, the Secretary is required to make the appointment. The bill proposes a revision in the process. If a party recommendation is made, and the Secretary has reason to believe the nominee would not be a competent member of the board, the Secretary must state that conclusion in writing to the chair of the county executive committee. The party would then have one more opportunity and if the Secretary again found the nominee to not be a competent board member, the Secretary would then unilaterally make the appointment. The appointment would be final. Ms. Mullane said Ohio has a very decentralized elections system in which administrative functions reside at the local level, and policy functions at the state level. Local boards need to remain accountable to the local entities that appointed them, and this amendment makes them more accountable to the state than the locals, she said. It is both a philosophical and practical problem that we see, and we ask that this provision be removed, Ms. Mullane said. Ms. Mullane s testimony also touched a number of areas in the legislation of which both the OAEO and CCAO support. These provisions include all of the following: Eliminating special elections. Increasing bonding and bidding requirements for ballots from $10,000 to $25,000. Providing clear guidelines and limits on the number of observers, and allowing them during the early voting period. Limiting ballot language to 300 words. Likewise, OAEO and CCAO share concerns with language in the legislation that would allow a Secretary of State to break tie board votes related to establishing early absentee voting locations. Both associations believe such decisions should require a majority board vote. The positions on both the appointment process and early absentee voting location reflect a philosophy that elections administration is a shared responsibility between the state and county government. As such, CCAO and the OAEO strongly believe the local appointment and input on such decisions should be steadfastly protected. For more information on election legislation, please contact CCAO Policy Director Cheryl Subler or CCAO Policy Analyst Josh Hahn at (614) or and respectively. CCAO TESTIFIES ON TRANSPORTATION INNOVATION AUTHORITY LEGISLATION IN HOUSE CCAO Senior Policy Analyst Brad Cole testified as an interested party before the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee on legislation (HB 166-Carney, McGregor) which would permit combinations of local governments to establish Transportation Innovation Authorities (TIAs). The TIA concept was developed by ODOT based on similar authorities in other states. The purpose of a TIA is to empower combinations of local government agencies to perform multimodal and cross jurisdictional transportation projects utilizing a variety of funding 3 sources. Companion TIA legislation is also pending in the Ohio Senate (SB121-Niehaus, Cafaro). In his testimony Cole spoke in favor of an amendment that would require any county, municipal corporation, or township to provide 45 days advance notice prior to adopting a resolution or ordinance establishing a Tax Increment Financing (TIF) district for the purpose of funding a TIA and permitting the county or township to comment within 30 days of receiving the resolution or ordinance before proceeding with creation of the TIF. Cole also spoke in favor of provisions that would have required revenue sharing payments to the affected county and township taxing districts if the TIF exceeded ten years or 75% exemption, but the committee elected to adopt the more modest amendment that only provides notice and comment, but no revenue sharing. While Cole expressed appreciation to the committee for what he characterized as a step in the right direction, he said CCAO wanted to reserve the right to attempt to amend the legislation in the Senate to require revenue sharing and local government approval on TIFs that exceed ten years or 75%. Existing law permits TIFs of up to 30 years and 100% exemption on new revenue growth. In an effort to promote transparency among local governments that establish various entities to support a TIA, the committee adopted another amendment to require local governments to comply with all notice requirements when using various finding mechanisms to fund transportation projects under a TIA. Last week the committee adopted an amendment that would permit the creation of up to two TIAs in each of the 12 ODOT districts throughout Ohio. The prior version of the bill would have allowed only 4 TIAs statewide. CCAO TO TURNPIKE COMMISSION: FIX YOUR BRIDGES As a result of continued frustration with the Ohio Turnpike Commission CCAO forwarded correspondence to the Administration regarding clarification of state policy on maintenance of county and township bridges over the Turnpike. Within the past year of so, numerous townships, particularly in the Sandusky County area, have seen major degradation of approaches and embankments. At a regional meeting this summer, CCAO staff Brad Cole and Josh Hahn took a tour of these trouble spots. In some spots the embankments had fallen drastically. At one bridge, two sets of guardrails had slid some four to six feet from the approach. The bridge deck themselves had begun to crumble. At least two bridges had to be closed by the Sandusky County Engineer James Moyer. In his letter to the Administration, Mr. Cole detailed that at the Turnpike s construction from 1953 to 1955 all overpasses over the turnpike were paid for with state funds derived from the issuance of bonds. Within the past ten years portions of the Turnpike were widened to accommodate additional motor vehicle traffic. Said Cole, To the best of my knowledge these numerous county and township overpass projects (as a result of the widening) were paid for by the Ohio Turnpike and performed under bid specifications and contracts let by the Ohio Turnpike. Only now that the embankments to these bridges are failing has the Ohio Turnpike Commission claimed that responsibility for reconstructing these overpasses is that of the county and township governments and not of the Turnpike Commission that contracted for the improvements. Contended Cole these overpasses would not exist if it were not for the turnpike, and within the past ten years the Ohio Turnpike has exercised complete control over the reconstruction of these overpasses in order to achieve the Turnpike s goal of widening the Turnpike. (I)n light 4 of this information it is inappropriate for the Turnpike Commission now to claim that the repair of any failed approaches that were constructed under Turnpike contracts are the sole responsibility of local governments. For more information on this issue, please contact CCAO Senior Policy Analyst Brad Cole at or BILL INTRODUCTIONS SB 195 EMPLOYEE DETERMINATION (Patton) To create a uniform standard to determine whether an individual performing services for an employer is an employee of that employer. En , , , , , , to and SB 197 FORECLOSURE MEDIATION (Jones) To require courts to establish and operate programs of mandatory foreclosure mediation in non-tax foreclosure actions on occupied residential properties and to establish procedures for the operation of those foreclosure mediation programs. Am and and to enact sections and to SR 118 WORKERS COMPENSATION (Grendell) To create the Competitive Workers' Compensation Task Force to review the feasibility of allowing employers the option to obtain private insurance to insure their obligations under the workers' compensation system of Ohio. HB 331 MEDICAID EMPLOYER INFORMATION (Hagan) To require applicants for the Children's Health Insurance Program, Medicaid, Ohio Works First, and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program to provide information about their employers and to require quarterly reports identifying the employers. Am. and En , , , and HB 336 CAMPAIGN CONTRIBUTIONS (Garrison) To prohibit an elected officer of a political subdivision or a candidate for an elective office of a political subdivision from accepting contributions from an employee of that political subdivision who is or who would be supervised, directly or indirectly, by the public officer or candidate. Am HB 338 DRIVERS LICENSES (Book, Uecker) To allow, in certain circumstances, all issues concerning a person s driver s license to be litigated in a single court. En COMMITTEE SCHEDULE Tuesday, November 3 Senate State & Local Government & Veterans Affairs, (Chr. Hughes, ), South Hearing Rm., 10:00 am SB 184 PRIVATE ROAD PLOWING (Gibbs) To authorize townships to use road equipment and labor resources available to a township to plow certain private roads and driveways either at the expense of the township or for a fee charged to specified persons. --1st Hearing-Sponsor SB 151 PARK DISTRICTS (Grendell) To authorize a park district's board of park commissioners to create a building department for building code enforcement purposes. --4th Hearing-All testimony- Possible vote Wednesday, November 4 House Local Government/Public Administration, (Chr. Chandler, ), Rm. 114, 10:00 am HB 223 COUNTY BUDGETS (Letson, Coley) To temporarily authorize county treasurers and county prosecuting attorneys to designate that part of any surplus balance in the county's Delinquent Tax and Assessment Collection Fund be used to pay operating expenses of the respective office in lieu of county general fund money. --4th Hearing-All testimony-possible amendments & vote HB 313 COUNTY LAND USE (Ujvagi, Winburn) To authorize a county with a population greater than 100,000, or a population between 78,000 and 81,000, to organize a county land reutilization corporation, to authorize a county treasurer of a county with such a corporation to utilize the alternative redemption 5 period in actions to foreclose abandoned lands, and to immunize a county land reutilization corporation from liability for breach of a common law duty in connection with a parcel of land. --2nd Hearing-All testimony House Criminal Justice, (Chr. Yates, ), Rm. 121, 10:30 am SB 77 DNA TESTING (Goodman) Relative to the expansion of DNA testing for certain convicted felons, the elimination of the DNA testing mechanism for felons who pleaded guilty or no contest to the offense, the collection of DNA specimens from all persons eighteen years of age or older who are arrested for a felony offense, the sealing of the official records of persons who have their convictions vacated and set aside due to DNA testing, the preservation and accessibility of biological evidence in a criminal or delinquency investigation or proceeding, the improvement of eyewitness identification procedures, and the electronic recording of custodial interrogations. --6th Hearing-All testimony HB 99 DNA TESTING (Weddington, Yates) Relative to the expansion of DNA testing for certain convicted felons, the elimination of the DNA testing mechanism for felons who pleaded guilty or no contest to the offense, the collection of DNA specimens from all persons eighteen years of age or older who are arrested for a felony offense, the preservation and accessibility of biological evidence in a criminal or delinquency investigation or proceeding, the improvement of eyewitness identification procedures, and the electronic or audio recording of custodial interrogations. --7th Hearing-All testimony House Insurance, (Chr. Dodd, ), Rm. 122, 1:30 pm HB 300 INSURANCE AGENTS (Dyer, Hottinger) To make changes to the law governing the licensure and regulation of insurance agents and certain insurance-related taxes. --3rd Hearing-All testimony- Possible vote House Ways & Means, (Chr. Letson, ), Rm. 114, 3:00 pm HB 326 ESTATE TAX (Hottinger, Grossman) To reduce the estate tax, to authorize townships and municipal corporations, or electors thereof by initiative, to exempt from the estate tax any estate property located in the township or municipal corporation, and to distribute all estate tax revenue originating in a township or municipal corporation that does not exempt property from the tax to the township or municipal corporation. --1st Hearing-Sponsor HB 286 HOME IMPROVEMENT TAXATION (Fende) To exempt from real property taxation home improvements greater than $5,000 for five years. --2nd Hearing-All testimony HB 255 FIREFIGHTER TAX CREDIT (Balderson) To allow a $400 income tax credit for volunteer firefighters. --2nd Hearing-All testimony HB 309 COMMUNITY REINVESTMENT AREAS (Batchelder) To lengthen the period for which certain structures in a Community Reinvestment Area may be exempted from property taxation. --2nd Hearing-All testimony Thursday, November 5 Senate Finance & Financial Institutions, (Chr. Carey, ), Finance Hearing Rm., 9:30 am HB 318 TAX RATE FREEZE (Sykes) To postpone for two years the last of five scheduled income tax rate reductions, to reduce salaries of General Assembly members by five per cent, and to make conforming amendments. --2nd Hearing-OBM & Taxation Senate Finance & Financial Institutions, (Chr. Carey, ), Finance Hearing Rm., 1:00 pm Continued hearings (all testimony) on HB 318 HB 280 MUNICIPAL PROPERTY TAX (Stautberg, Driehaus) To temporarily authorize a special election on December 8, 2009, exclusively for the purpose of allowing certain municipal corporation property tax levies to appear on the ballot, to repeal Section 1 of this act effective December 9, 2009, and to declare an emergency. --1st Hearing-Sponsor SB 177 TAX DECOUPLING (Seitz, Cates) To partially decouple Ohio law from recent federal tax law changes. --2nd Hearing-All testimony 6
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