OPARR Updates for December
Written by Belinda Jones
LEADERSHIP IN THE LEGISLATURE
- As you know, former Speaker Householder was indicted this summer on bribery and extortion charges in the amount of $60 million;
- The House voted Householder out as Speaker but he got to keep his House seat; and, get this, he won re-election to his House seat
- In the meantime, Rep. Bob Cupp (R; Lima) was elected Speaker. Cupp has vast experience having served in both chambers and on the Ohio Supreme Court; he has a reputation for bringing groups together and tackling complicated issues such as school funding
- Fun fact: As Senate President Larry Obhof leaves his seat as Senate President due to term limits, his successor will be Sen. Matt Huffman (R; Lima). I think this is the first time in Ohio history where both the Senate President and the Speaker are from the same home town. Do we have any active members (aka new best friends) from Lima?
BILLS BEING HEARD IN LAME DUCK
- One of the big issues for 2020 has been HB 6 (the nuclear bailout bill) that triggered the Householder arrest along with five of his cronies; AND just last week the FBI raided the home of the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio Chairman Sam Randazzo. Randazzo resigned.
- Rather than trying to do a rush job of repealing and replacing HB 6, the House and the Senate are passing a one-year moratorium on the bill so the subject matter (which is more complicated that just the bailout) can be given proper (and legal) attention
- Another bill that is supposed to pass during lame duck is the capital bill. This is a bill that gives state funding for "brick and mortar" community projects. However, the bill has not been introduced yet. Even so, we are hearing the House and the Senate are hoping to leave Columbus for the year next week. EEEK!
DEWINE, THE REPUBLICAN FAMILY AND COVID
- There is a great divide in the republican party (particularly in the Ohio House) regarding how Gov. DeWine has handled Covid. Many republicans are refusing to wear masks and the most conservative arm of the House republicans have actually introduced bills and resolutions calling for Dewine's impeachment
- The rub is that many conservatives think the Gov has usurped his authority by closing businesses, etc…
- Meanwhile, the covid cases keep increasing in staggering numbers
134TH GENERAL ASSEMBLY; THE OPERATING BUDGET
- Next year the House and the Senate are constitutionally required to pass a balanced state budget by June 30. As such the budget will be the key focus. With Covid having hit state revenues pretty hard, and with State Agencies having been asked to cut their budgets this past summer, don't be surprised if some of our state agencies are going to need to ask for modest fee increases. Don't panic. We will be working on it but let's just say next year is an important year for Green Industry Advocacy Day (Feb 24)
It seems like a lifetime ago that we were all excited about and focused on the H2Ohio program. In the first year of the biennium, members of the ag community, researchers, soil and water conservation districts and environmental groups collaborated and formed the Ohio Agricultural Conservation Initiative (OACT). Through their great work nearly 2000 north west farmers (or, one million acres) enrolled in the H2Ohio program. In order to qualify for funding in year two, farmers must be certified, and must use approved conservation practices.
While year one of H2Ohio is worthy of applause, like most parts of our lives, the program has been negatively impacted by the Covid 19 pandemic. Nearly all state agencies had to make cuts and sacrifices. Recently, ODA submitted a request before the Ohio Controlling Board appropriation for year two funding of H2Ohio.
We are grateful that we have such dedicated leadership in the Administration and at ODA so the H2Ohio program can continue to help battle water quality issues in our great lake. Thank you Ohio Farm Bureau Federation for your leadership on this issue and for the testimony you provided to the controlling board.
The Ohio Department of Agriculture (ODA), along with most state agencies, have staff working remotely. ODA has days where associates are in person at ODA but the agency has frozen any off-site speaking engagements for their personnel.
One change worth noting is the move of ODA Assistant Director Tim Derickson from ODA to the Jobs Ohio program. Unsure of his actual title but I have been told that Derickson will be head of agriculture issues at Jobs Ohio. This is a great opportunity for Tim and we wish him well! He has been a great friend to the green industry. We wish him well!Pesticide RecertificationOne of the many issues affected by Covid is pesticide license recertification. On the one hand, ODA, with great resolve for the integrity of their program, has been reticent to move toward providing on-line options. However, because of social distancing requirements, ODA ultimately made the following statement:
"The pesticide regulation program has just produced guidance for requesting approval of live webinar events for pesticide recertification. This option is available for our traditional course sponsors that we’ve worked with in the past. There are some very specific requirements for attendance verification and data, but the goal is to help meet the demand created by COVID-19 cancelations and precautions while maintaining the integrity of the education programming." stated Dan Kenny
Details are available here: https://agri.ohio.gov/wps/portal/gov/oda/divisions/plant-health/pesticides/pesticide-online-recertification-classes