Education MBR voted out of committee
House Bill 487, the K-12 education portion of the governor’s Mid-Biennium Review package passed out of the House Education Committee this week.
The bill changes the name of the Post-Secondary Enrollment Options (PSEO) program to the College Credit Plus (CCP) program. Much like PSEO, CCP would allow high school students who are enrolled in public or nonpublic secondary schools, or who are home-instructed, to enroll in college courses to receive high school and college credit.
Under the legislation, the CCP program would begin operation during the 2015-2016 school year. Meanwhile, for the 2014-2015 school year, students will continue to participate under the PSEO program. The committee accepted an omnibus amendment that permits school districts to reach an agreement on the cost of credit hours with a college or university to fall below the current $40 per credit hour floor established in the formula. The amendment clarifies that if no such agreement is reached, the applicable default is the amount established in current law.
The committee also expanded the CCP to allow 7th and 8th graders to participate in the program. Additionally, out-of-state colleges whose programs are approved by the Board of Regents qualify for CCP participation.
The omnibus amendment accepted by the committee also included the following provisions:
Permit students enrolled in community schools to have access to extracurricular activities in their district of residence.
Forgive a school district's indebtedness to the Solvency Assistance Fund upon its voluntary consolidation with another district if specified conditions are satisfied, into the bill. This language was included from House Bill 216.
Permit students within the Cleveland Municipal School District who are eligible for the Cleveland Scholarship Program to utilize an EdChoice Scholarship if the Cleveland Scholarship Program is oversubscribed.
Permit a public or nonpublic school to enter into an agreement with a current or retired law enforcement officer to provide volunteer patrol services for preventing or responding to a mass casualty event. The provisions were taken from House Bill 215, legislation that passed the House in December.
The bill is expected to be considered before the full House on April 9.
Bill would freeze Ohio’s green energy standards
The Senate Public Utilities Committee heard testimony this week on a bill to freeze Ohio’s alternative energy and energy efficiency standards, which were enacted in Senate Bill 221 of the 127th General Assembly. During sponsor testimony on Senate Bill 310, Senator Troy Balderson (R-Zanesville) said the purpose of the legislation is to maintain the 2014 status quo for the standards while a study committee reviews and provides recommendations to the General Assembly on the appropriate path forward for any future mandates.
Under current law, electric distribution utilities (EDUs) and electric services companies (ESCs) must provide 25 percent of their electricity supply by 2025 from alternative energy resources. Additionally, EDUs and ESCs must meet energy efficiency benchmarks that total 22 percent energy savings by 2025.
The committee has considered the issue for more than a year during discussions on Senate Bill 58, legislation that would have included major modifications to the mandates, and Senate Bill 34, which would have repealed the advanced and renewable requirements completely.
Opponents of changes to the requirements assert that the standards are saving customers money, while proponents of an overhaul argue that the energy landscape has changed since the requirements were enacted and cost consumers more to comply than is realized in savings.
Balderson said the hearings on SB 58 did not provide conclusive evidence on whether the mandates were in fact serving their intended purpose. He said this led to his decision to maintain the status quo in his bill, while establishing the Energy Mandates Study Committee to continue to review the issue. The 21 person study committee would be responsible for undertaking a cost-benefit analysis on the effects of maintaining the mandates at the levels established in current law, or at the 2014 level.
The bill also requires utilities to disclose the cost associated with compliance of the standards on customer utility bills. Balderson said it is important that ratepayers know how much they are being charged on a monthly basis for each requirement.
Leadership in the House and Senate has indicated a desire to move the legislation prior to the summer recess. Hearings will continue next week in the Senate.
Legislation to watch
Church day-care: Sponsored by Senator Charleta Tavares (D-Columbus), Senate Bill 322 would exempt church day-care centers from property taxation, provided the day-care center does not produce more than $30,000 in income for the church per year. The bill was introduced on April 1.
Annuity contracts: Sponsored by Representative Bob Hackett (R-London), House Bill 512 proposes to require the Department of Commerce to establish guidelines for solicitation, access, and other requirements for agents and brokers providing annuity contracts and custodial accounts for employees of state institutions of higher education. The bill was introduced on April 2.
Financial continuing education: Sponsored by Senator Tim Schaffer (R-Lancaster), Senate Bill 6 will establish education programs and continuing education requirements for the fiscal officers of townships and municipal corporations, to establish procedures for removing those fiscal officers, county treasurers, and county auditors from office, and to create fiscal accountability requirements for public schools, counties, municipal corporations, and townships.
Land banks: Sponsored by Senator Tom Patton (R-Strongsville), Senate Bill 172 will modify the laws governing land reutilization programs and property tax foreclosures. The bill allows a land bank to acquire nonproductive land if the property has been offered for sale once, instead of twice, and has not been sold for a specified minimum price. The bill was approved by the House on April 2.
Foreclosure process: Sponsored by Representatives Cheryl Grossman (R-Grove City) and Michael Curtin (D-Marble Cliff), House Bill 223 will establish summary actions to foreclose mortgages on vacant and abandoned residential properties. The bill would expedite the foreclosure and transfer of unoccupied, blighted parcels. The bill passed the House on April 2.
Civil immunity: Sponsored by Representatives Louis Blessing (R-Cincinnati) and Al Landis (R-Dover), House Bill 379 would provide civil immunity for architects, engineers, and surveyors providing services during a declared emergency. The bill was approved by the House on April 2.
NOTE: Next week is expected to be the last week of legislative activity until after the May 6 primary election.
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