Welcome to the March 2020 OPARR update, including information about the "State of the State," items of interest, and of course, election updates!
Be sure to learn more about how you can help advance the mission of OPARR by looking at the new support levels: https://oparr.net/Support-OPARR.
Written by Belinda Jones, OPARR Executive Director
STATE OF THE STATE
The State of the State in the legislature is "relatively uncooperative". As you may have read in the news, the republican controlled House and the Senate are at odds on a number of issues with one of the main bones of contention being HB 9, Ed Choice Scholarships (otherwise known as the voucher program). Unable to reach consensus, HB 9 is pending in conference committee that has set forth an aggressive schedule. For example, yesterday, a state holiday, the conference committee on HB 9 met for 10 hours. Other less contentious bills have also been sent to conference committees.
Meanwhile, the House and the Senate have been gathering information for the capital bill which is usually an election year bonus for members to tout successes during their election stops. The plan has been for the capital bill to be introduced in late February and voted out of both chambers by the end of March; however, the apparent lack of cooperation in other matters calls in to question the likelihood of prompt passage of the capital bill.
PENDING LEGISLATION OF INTEREST
SB 2, (Dolan, Peterson) would create the Statewide Watershed Planning and Management Program under the administration of the Director of Agriculture and to make changes to the law governing regional water and sewer districts.
A. One of the main priorities for the Ohio Senate, SB 2 addresses long-term watershed based focus to address water quality issues by utilizing Soil and Water Conservation Districts and establishing statewide/regional watershed planning.
B. Unanimously passed the Ohio Senate June 12, 2019 32-0
C. Currently pending in House Energy and Natural Resources Committee. Fifth hearing is scheduled for Feb. 19. The committee will be accepting amendments. At deadline, I am waiting on a call from Sen. Peterson about the content of the amendments.
D. For more information, see: https://www.ohiosenate.gov/legislation/GA133-SB-2
HB 7 (Ghanbari, Patterson) To create the H2Ohio Trust Fund for the protection and preservation of Ohio's water quality, to create the H2Ohio Advisory Council to establish priorities for use of the Fund for water quality programs, and to authorize the Ohio Water Development Authority to invest the money in the Fund and to make recommendations to the Treasurer of State regarding the issuance of securities to pay for costs related to the purposes of the Fund.
A. Dubbed as a priority bill for the House, HB 7 passed the House June 20, 2019 90-3
B. Currently pending in the Senate Finance Committee where it had it is first and only hearing to date on October 22, 2019.
SB 246 (Roegner, McColley) would require an occupational licensing authority to issue a license or government certification to an applicant who holds a license, government certification, or private certification or has satisfactory work experience in another state under certain circumstances.
A. Currently pending in the Senate General Government and Oversight Committee; Fifth hearing, "all testimony" scheduled for February 19, 2020.
B. OPMA and others have some concerns that the bill will allow reciprocity for pesticide applicator licenses from other states that may or may have less stringent licensing requirements that Ohio. We have a call in to ODA to check their opinion on this concern.
C. For more information, see: https://www.ohiosenate.gov/legislation/GA133-SB-246
2020 HAS ALL LOOKING TOWARD A BIG ELECTION YEAR
Certainly, we are looking forward to the Presidential election in 2020 but there are some contentious races already heating up in the Ohio House and the Ohio Senate, including primary contests with incumbents.
Republicans currently hold a super majority in the Ohio House (61-38) and in the Ohio Senate (24-9). It is highly unlikely that democrats could win control of but democrat caucuses to win at least a few seats to negate the supermajority which would allow them to override a veto by the governor and put measures on the statewide ballot without democratic votes. In addition to the partisan challenges, there are some primary races that are already drawing attention.
For example, in southwest Ohio, there is an open Senate seat created by the departure of term-limited Senator Bill Coley. Representative Candice Keller, Representative George Lang and Chester Township Trustee Lee Wong are both vying for Colley's Senate seat.
Another Senate seat that has a contentious primary is Senate District 26, a seat currently held by term-limited State Senator Dave Burke (R; Marysville). This Senate District is a very large district that stretches from Lake Erie to Marysville. State Representative Bill Reineke (R; Tiffin) will face off against Melissa Ackison. Ackison has run previously (unsuccessfully) for the US Senate and has been accused of a few campaign violations but to date no penalty has been assessed against her.
As you may know, Franklin County has become a solid "blue county" so it is no surprise that the one Republican Senate Republican, State Senator Stephanie Kunze (R; Hilliard) has three democratic challengers: Justin Adkins, Troy Doucet and Crystal Lett. Certainly, this seat is considered vulnerable. Expect this race to be one that results in heavy campaign spending on both sides.
Most of the other primary races are in districts where the incumbent is departing due to term limits, including:
Another interesting primary with a green industry bent is in the 43rd House District, a seat currently held by Rep. J. Todd Smith of eastern Ohio. Smith recently announced he will not seek re-election. One republican of interest seeking that post is Preble County Commissioner and lawn care company owner Rodney Creech.
Overall there are 17 open House seats (12 Republican and five democratic) and five open seats in the Senate.
The eyes of the nation may be on Ohio for our electoral college delegates for the presidential race but our eyes need to be focused on races that are closer to home that in some ways mean more to our businesses that those at the federal level.
If you have local "intel" on any of these candidates, please contact me.