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House approves bill to ease effects of federal coal emissions standards

The Ohio House passed House Bill 506 this week, a measure that requires the Director of the Ohio EPA to adopt rules establishing standards of performance for carbon dioxide emissions from existing coal-fired and natural gas-fired electric generating units and to specify factors on which those standards must be based. The bipartisan bill was introduced by two Eastern Ohio legislators, Representatives Andy Thompson (R- Marietta) and Jack Cera (D- Bellaire), in what the sponsors referred to as a proactive effort to protect jobs in the power generation sector and related industries throughout their districts and Ohio as a whole.

This proposal comes on the heels of the U.S. EPA’s recent announcement of new rules to reduce U.S. domestic carbon dioxide emissions from power plants under section 111(d) of the federal Clean Air Act. According to the Obama Administration, the rules will require a 30 percent reduction in power plant carbon dioxide emissions by 2030 from a 2005 emissions baseline. Consequently, HB 506 requires the Ohio EPA to consider a number of different factors in determining proper parameters for establishing its own performance standards for existing coal-fired and gas-fired generating units. Among the items to be considered are:

  • Ohio consumer cost impacts
  • Impacts on Ohio energy prices
  • Assessment of the potential costs of implementation of emissions reduction technologies
  • Expected remaining useful life of electric generating units
  • Economic and grid reliability impacts of possible plant closures
  • Total overall costs to Ohioans of compliance with federal emissions reduction regulations

The measure also empowers the Ohio EPA director to examine any and all additional factors they deem necessary in order to make application of the standards less stringent or that lengthen the compliance schedule so as to make the compliance timetable more reasonable.

HB 506 is expected to be taken up by the Senate Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee when the legislature returns after the general elections in the fall. There has been no indication yet as to what, if any, changes the Senate would like to make to the House-passed version of the bill. 

Flurry of legislative action on Mid-Biennium Review bills

The legislature was hard at work this week finalizing a number of bills prior to breaking for summer recess on June 4. Among the measures to receive approval were half a dozen bills included in the Governor’s Mid-Biennium Review (MBR) package, of which a summary is included below.

General policy and appropriation changes: Each chamber accepted a report from the conference committee charged with finding agreement on items of difference in House Bill 483, the major policy and appropriation portion of the MBR package. The committee accepted the Senate version of the majority of items under discussion, including language to accelerate implementation of the gradual 10 percent income tax cut approved by the General Assembly in the previous budget, ensuring that the full 10 percent reduction will be realized in tax year 2014, a 1 percent increase from current law. The bill also increases the previously approved 50 percent tax cut for small businesses on the first $250,000 of income to 75 percent for tax year 2014, provided that the state’s end of the year balance is able to cover the increase.

Education: A conference committee was also called to work out matters of difference between the House and Senate versions of House Bill 487, the K-12 education portion of the MBR. The bill renames the Post-Secondary Enrollment Options Program as the College Credit Plus (CCP) Program effective for the 2015-2016 school year. The bill qualifies out-of-state colleges, with approval from the Chancellor for participation in the program and reimbursement from the Department of Education, and specifies that CCP will govern arrangements in which a high school student enrolls in college and receives credit from the college.

Workforce development: House Bill 486 revises the coordination of workforce development and economic development programs. Among the provisions included, the bill requires the State Workforce Policy Board, in connection with the Department of Job and Family Services, to develop a methodology for identifying jobs that are in demand by employers operating in Ohio. The Department, in consultation with the Board, is required to use this methodology to publish a list of in-demand jobs on the Department's website before December 31, 2014. The list must be periodically updated to reflect evolving workforce demands in the state. Additionally, the bill requires the Chancellor of the Board of Regents to develop recommendations for increasing access to and participation in programs for adults who have not earned a high school diploma that offer credentials equivalent to a high school diploma and also provide career pathways, such as an associate degree, industry credential, or other type of career training. Finally, the bill allows the Director of Commerce to adopt rules to establish incentive programs for compliance with laws and rules pertaining to the divisions under the control of the Department.

Veterans: House Bill 488 requires state institutions of higher education to award credit for military training and prohibits the institution from charging a fee to the student for the application for college credit. The bill also authorizes an employer to adopt a policy to provide a preference for employment decisions to a service member, veteran, or the spouse or surviving spouse of a service member or veteran, and specifies that such a policy is not a violation of state or local equal employment opportunity law and does not constitute an unlawful discriminatory practice.

Tax changes: House Bill 492 includes changes to Ohio’s tax law. The bill shifts the duty of selling cigarette tax stamps and receiving cigarette tax returns from the Treasurer of State to the Tax Commissioner. Additionally, it renames the tax levied on the basis of gross receipts from the first sale of motor fuel in the state from the "motor fuel receipts tax" to the "petroleum activity tax" (PAT) and specifies that only persons that have a sufficient business presence in Ohio are subject to the tax, but allows others to voluntarily register to be subject to the tax. The bill also specifies that municipal corporations may award job creation or retention municipal income tax credits to taxpayers not awarded a corresponding state credit.

Workers compensation: House Bill 493 requires, rather than permits as under current law, the Administrator of Workers' Compensation to calculate workers' compensation premiums for most employers on a prospective, rather than retrospective, basis, beginning policy year 2015. The bill also requires most employers to pay premiums on an annual basis, rather than semiannually as under current law. It also increases, beginning policy year 2015, the additional amount of premium or assessment due from an employer who fails to timely submit a payroll report from 1 percent of the amount due to 10 percent of the amount due and eliminates the current law cap for the penalty amount. 

Legislation to watch

Controlled substances: Sponsored by Representative Robert Sprague (R – Findlay), House Bill 366 requires hospice care programs to establish procedures to prevent diversion of controlled substances that contain opioids. The bill was passed by the Senate on June 3.

Cancer medications: Sponsored by Senators Scott Oelslager (R – Canton) and Charleta B. Tavares (D – Columbus), Senate Bill 99 requires that prescribed orally administered cancer medication be given no less favorable coverage than intravenously administered or injected cancer medications under a health insurance policy except when costs incurred exceed certain limits specified in the bill. The House passed the bill on June 3.

Tax refunds: Sponsored by Senators Bob Peterson (R – Sabina) and Bill Beagle (R – Tipp City), Senate Bill 263 requires the Tax Commissioner to notify taxpayers of tax or fee overpayments, and authorizes the Commissioner to either apply an overpayment to future tax liabilities or issue a refund to the taxpayer. The bill was passed by the House on June 3.

Storage facilities: Sponsored by Representative Stephanie Kunze (R – Hilliard), House Bill 430 establishes requirements and procedures for issuing self-service storage insurance—insurance that provides coverage for the loss of, or damage to, tangible personal property that is contained in storage space. The bill passed the House on June 3.

Protection order fees: Sponsored by Representative Dorothy Pelanda (R – Marysville), House Bill 309 prohibits the taxation of interpreter's fees as court costs if the party to be taxed is indigent and require payment of the fees by the legislative authority of the court. Additionally, the bill provides that no fee may be charged to a person who seeks a protection order for a domestic violence, anti-stalking, or sexually oriented offense. The bill passed the Senate on June 4.

Workers compensation: Sponsored by Senate Majority Floor Leader Tom Patton (R – Stongsville), Senate Bill 252 makes peace officers and firefighters diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder arising from employment without an accompanying physical injury eligible for compensation and benefits under Ohio's Workers' Compensation Law. The bill passed the Senate on June 4.

Economic council on women: Sponsored by Representatives Nan Baker (R – Westlake) and Marlene Anielski (R – Independence), House Bill 575 creates the Ohio Economic Council on Women. The council is charged with examining the economic concerns and needs of women in Ohio, including employment policies and practices, educational needs and opportunities, child care property rights, health care, domestic relations and the effect of federal and state laws on women. The House passed the bill on June 4.

For more information, please contact:

Michael Caputo
(non-attorney professional)
216.348.5770
mcaputo@mcdonaldhopkins.com

Rebecca M. Kuhns
(non-attorney professional)
614.458.0043
rkuhns@mcdonaldhopkins.com

Aaron M. Ockerman
(non-attorney professional)
614.458.0026
aockerman@mcdonaldhopkins.com

Government affairs work is so much more than networking with government officials. It requires a strategic plan drafted by specialists who understand economic development and legislative issues. We help identify ways the government can contribute a solution to a business challenge, such as complying with regulatory and legislative mandates, securing funding for an important project, or obtaining government contracts. Our Government Affairs team has an impressive background. They work together to listen to clients, assess opportunities and recommend how government might contribute to achieving the goal.

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