Ohio Senate wraps up work for the year
The Ohio Senate stayed through the night on Dec. 11, wrapping up activity for the year early into the next morning. Negotiations lasted through the night between House and Senate leadership before a deal was reached on House Joint Resolution 12 to establish a new redistricting process.
The Senate tweaked the House proposal to ensure that there would not be more than two legislative district maps in a 10-year period in the event of an impasse by the Apportionment Board (Board). The resolution also provides guidance to the Board on what considerations should be made when drafting the new maps, such as keeping counties, municipalities, and townships together to the extent possible.
The measure passed the Senate with broad bipartisan support, and will now return to the House for acceptance of Senate amendments on Dec. 17. If approved, the resolution will go to the Nov. 2015 ballot for a vote.
Among the bills also passed by the Senate during the marathon session was H.B. 319, a proposal to permit natural gas companies to apply to the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) for approval of one or more economic development projects.
Rep. Cheryl Grossman (R-Grove City) told a committee the bill would allow local governments or economic development entities to more aggressively pursue economic development projects that might not otherwise move forward due to the unavailability of adequate natural gas infrastructure. Upon PUCO approval, a local distribution company (LDC) would be permitted to recover its infrastructure investment through a rider applied to all the LDC's customers. The annual investment cannot exceed $2 per customer for economic development projects with an identified end user.
The Senate is not expected to return to the Statehouse this year. The House will meet on Dec. 17 to accept Senate amendments to a number of bills and send-off outgoing House Speaker Bill Batchelder (R-Medina).
Environmental MBR legislation fails to pass
House Bill 490, the environmental portion of the governor's Mid-Biennium Review (MBR) legislation, will not pass this year. Senator Cliff Hite (R-Findlay), chair of the committee considering the legislation, said the bill collapsed under its own weight. H.B. 490 had been heavily amended in the House to include controversial provisions concerning issues such as Telecomm, the Great Lakes Compact, private sewage rules, and puppy mills. The only subject addressed by the committee prior to announcing the bill would not pass this year was the removal of language easing regulations on so-called puppy mill operators.
Senate President Keith Faber (R-Celina) issued the following statement: “After consulting with my colleagues, I've decided the Senate will not act on House Bill 490 during this legislative session. We simply need more time to consider the substantive issues contained in the 264-page document, and time is not our ally in a lame duck session.”
Sen. Faber added that the House had eight months to consider the legislation, which was introduced in March and passed the House in November. He said his chamber is committed to revisiting the provisions in the following General Assembly.
Bills approved this week
Property taxes for school safety: Sponsored by Sens. Gayle Manning (R-North Ridgeville) and Randy Gardner (R-Bowling Green), Senate Bill 42 would authorize school districts to levy a property tax exclusively for school safety and security purposes. The bill was approved by the House on Dec. 10.
Allowing opticians to dispense contact lenses: House Bill 258, sponsored by Rep. Anne Gonzales (R-Westerville), would deregulate the process of dispensing contact lenses for certain opticians. Under current law, some licensed spectacle dispensing opticians are prohibited from giving customers contact lenses because they are only licensed to prescribe eyeglasses. This bill would also allow opticians that can prescribe eyeglasses to give out prescribed soft contact lenses. The bill passed the Senate on Dec. 11.
Underground utilities facilities law: Senate Bill 376, sponsored by Sen. Bill Coley (R- Liberty Township), would give the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) jurisdiction to enforce underground-utility-damage-prevention law in conjunction with a 17-member Underground Technical Committee. The bill allows for the PUCO to impose a fine of up to $10,000 for a person that is a persistent non-complier. The bill was approved by the House on Dec. 10.
Lethal injection confidentiality: Sponsored by Reps. Jim Buchy (R-Greenville) and Matt Huffman (R-Lima), the bill would provide confidentiality and license protection for persons and entities involved in executing a sentence of capital punishment by lethal injection. The bill passed the Senate on Dec. 12.
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