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    First half 2022 review, General Election, and preview of Lame Duck Session

    Overview

    The Ohio General Assembly finished the first half of 2022 with a rush of lawmaking, appropriating billions of dollars in infrastructure spending, and making policy changes in a range of subjects. Initially, the legislature’s pace slowed on key legislation, like the capital budget, due to redistricting litigation. Ohio held its statewide and congressional primary elections on May 4, 2022, but the General Assembly maps remained unclear after maps were rejected five different times by the Ohio Supreme Court in 4-3 decisions led by Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor (R). On May 27, 2022, a three judge panel on the Sixth Circuit Southern District ordered that the election go forward using the third map and a Primary Election held on August 2, 2022, ending the impasse. Once the state legislative districts were settled, the General Assembly quickly finished work on policy priorities for the first half of 2022.

    At present, any unfinished legislation will be considered during the General Assembly’s lame duck session after the November 2022 General Election. The legislature scheduled “if needed” session dates in September, but legislative leaders indicated those will likely go unused. This year’s election features a United States Senate race for an open seat, all the Congressional districts and statewide executive offices, races to decide the partisan balance of the Ohio Supreme Court, two statewide ballot issues, and state legislative races. This memorandum summarizes the legislative work in the first half of 2022, previews two statewide ballot issues, a brief review of public polling for two top races in the General Election and sets the table for the lame duck session following the election.

    First half of 2022 review

    As explained above, the redistricting process primarily occupied legislative leadership’s attention. After the finalization of the redistricting process and the May Primary Election, the Legislature picked up key pieces of legislation and worked quickly to finalize them prior to their summer recess. As a result, the final few weeks involved lengthy committee hearings and marathon floor voting sessions. Below are brief overviews of some of the impactful legislation passed during the first half of 2022.

    House Bill 687 – Capital Budget

    After a quick introduction, the House and Senate adopted House Bill 687, the capital budget, which includes $3.5 billion of capital appropriations. Generally viewed as spending on brick and mortar public buildings and infrastructure, most appropriations in the capital budget are directed towards toward K-12 and higher education facilities, local infrastructure improvements through the Public Works Commission, and state agency building projects. The bill included $191 million for local community projects.

    Several provisions relating to the economic development incentives for the recently announced Intel project were included in H.B. 687. The Intel components of the measure entail about $1.1 billion, including $600 million in "Ohio Onshoring Incentive" funds; $300 million to build a water reclamation plant; $101 million for local water and sewer infrastructure improvements; and $95 million for road upgrades. H.B. 687 also amended Ohio’s "mega project" statutes to provide additional tax breaks under the Commercial Activity Tax and Community Reinvestment Area programs, as well as the Job Creation Tax Credit. Governor DeWine is expected to sign the bill into law.

    House Bill 377- ARPA/ Appalachian Investment Funding

    Senate Finance amended House Bill 377, ARPA disbursement for local governments, to include Governor DeWine’s State of the State announced Appalachian Investment program. The bill coined it as the Appalachian Community Grant Program, which will be administered by the Ohio Department of Development. The bill allocates $500 million of American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding to the region. Development will work with its Governor’s Office of Appalachia and federally designated local development districts to form, plan and administer a grant program for communities in Appalachia. The legislation also included $422 million in ARPA funding for non-entitlement units of local government, such as townships.  

    Senate Bill 273- Ohio’s Guaranty Fund

    After Senate passage in April, the Ohio House passed Senate Bill 273, which expands Ohio Life and Health Insurance Guaranty Association (Association) coverage to include health-insuring corporations (also referred to as “HMO’s”). Additionally, the bill increases the maximum additional assessment the Association can impose on member insurers when current assessments are insufficient to meet Association obligations. The bill heads to the Governor’s desk to be signed into law.

    House Bill 99- Armed School Personnel

    In a heated debate, the Senate passed, with the House later concurring, legislation permitting armed school staff and establishing training protocols. The legislation leaves the decision on arming teachers and school staff to local school boards, but limits training to no more than 24 hours. Using a refrain usually heard from gun control advocates, supporting legislators implored that this was Ohio’s chance to “do something” about deadly school shootings. Despite calls from teachers unions to veto H.B. 99, Governor DeWine signed the legislation on June 13.

    House Joint Resolution 2 – Bail and Public Safety

    After a recent court decision in DuBose v. McGuffey, Representatives LaRe and Swearingen introduced the Joint Resolution in early April. House Joint Resolution 2 eliminates the requirement that the amount and conditions of bail be established pursuant to Section 5(b) of Article IV of the Constitution of the State of Ohio, and instead allows the courts to use factors such as public safety, a person's criminal record, the likelihood a person will return to court, and the seriousness of a person's offense. Both the House and Senate passed the Joint Resolution, and now the issue will appear as a constitutional amendment issue in front of Ohio voters on the November 2022 General Election ballot.

    House Joint Resolution 4- Qualifications of Voters

    The Legislature passed House Joint Resolution 4, so it will also appear on the November 2022 General Election. If passed by Ohio voters, H.J.R. 4 will amend the Ohio Constitution to prohibit local governments from allowing persons who lack the qualifications of an elector to vote in local elections. The Village of Yellow Springs previously adopted changes in 2020 to its charter allowing non-citizen voting, prompting lawmakers to act. According to the Village no non-citizens have registered to vote in the Village.

    House Bill 126- Property Tax Complaints

    Earlier in 2022, the General Assembly overhauled the property tax board of revisions and appeals process. Political subdivisions are now limited from filing property tax valuations complaints unless the property was sold and the sales price was at least 10 percent and $500,000 more than the county auditor’s previous valuation. In addition, the bill eliminates school districts’ right to appeal decisions of the Board of Revision.

    House Bill 140- Levy Language

    In a policy change that could impact the success of school, library, and other levies in the future, H.B. 140 changes the required ballot language for property tax levies. Going forward, ballot language must display millage in terms of $100,000 of appraised value, as opposed to $100 increments of tax value. Opponents argue the changes will cause ballot language to overestimate the cost to property owners, possibly making it harder to pass levies. Governor DeWine vetoed similar language in the operational budget (H.B. 133), but is now expected to sign the legislation when it reaches his desk.

    Ohio House and Senate redistricting and primary election

    All 99 House seats and 16 of the 33 Senate seats are on the ballot in this year’s General Election. The candidates for each race will be finalized in an unusual August 2 Primary Election. After the Ohio Supreme Court’s rejection of all five maps drawn and passed by the Ohio Redistricting Commission, a three judge panel of the United States District Court for Southern District of Ohio ordered an August primary with the third legislative district map for the races.

    November 2022 General Election preview

    Ohio’s general election will be center stage due to retiring U.S. Senator Portman’s race. Representative Tim Ryan (D) and author J.D. Vance (R) are set to face off for the seat. A recent USA Today poll released the first week of June put J.D. Vance winning 42 percent of likely midterm voters (including those leaning toward him), with Tim Ryan following at 39 percent. The poll’s margin of error was 4.4 percent. Analysts predict a tight race through Election Day.

    For Governor, incumbent Governor Mike DeWine (R) faces former Mayor of Dayton, Nan Whaley (D). The same USA Today poll showed Governor DeWine leading his Democratic challenger 45 percent to 30 percent. More than half of respondents also said they have a favorable view of DeWine. 

    As mentioned above, two statewide ballot issues H.J.R. 2 and H.J.R. 4 will appear on the ballot statewide. At present, no other statewide ballot initiatives are expected on the ballot this year.

    Lame Duck Session preview

    Distracted driving

    House Bill 283 is pending in the Ohio House Criminal Justice Committee. Sponsors, Representative Brian Lampton (R) and Representative Cindy Abrams (R), continue to advocate for the passage of H.B. 283, which would make distracted driving a primary offense in Ohio. Sponsors and the Chair of the committee, Representative Jeff LaRe, are pushing for the passage of the bill for the end of the 134th General Assembly.

    ARPA funds

    The General Assembly should have additional ARPA funds to distribute in the second half of 2022. The United States Treasury will release the second tranche of ARPA funds to states soon. Previously, Ohio used the bulk of its allotment of ARPA funds to replenish the unemployment fund.

    Electric vehicles

    Comprehensive legislation designed to keep Ohio’s place at the forefront of the automotive industry, S.B. 307, may be primed for additional activity in the fall. The legislation creates the “Electric Vehicle Retooling and New Equipment Acquisition Program” to provide grants to manufacturers and suppliers helping them produce parts or components for electric vehicles (EV). The bill also creates an EV Training and Modernization workforce development program. Appropriations for the two programs total $25 million. The legislation also exempts, temporarily, from sales taxes the sale or lease of new or used EVs or plug-in hybrid EVs. A section creating Transportation Electrification Plans, establishing what infrastructure related to EV charging stations is eligible for rate recovery by Ohio’s electric distribution utilities generated the only vocal opposition to the legislation during committee hearings. Given the state will also soon be receiving its allotment under the National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure formula program for EV charging stations, as part of the federal bipartisan infrastructure bill, expect the Senate Energy and Public Utilities Committee to continue deliberations on EV adoption and EV charging policy.

    Conclusion

    During the summer months, legislators return home for campaigning, which is especially important as many face contested primaries or are asking new constituencies for their support due to redistricting. In addition, the statewide campaigns are already in full swing. Legislative activity continues at a slower pace and behind the scenes. All in all, it makes for a busy summer. Our team will continue providing you with updates on political and legislative developments. In addition, we’ll have comprehensive coverage of the August 2 Primary Election. 


    This is for informational purposes only. It is not intended to be legal advice and does not create or imply an attorney-client relationship.

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