Legislative Updates: News from the State House – October 2019

Legislative Updates: News from the State House – October 2019
Wayne Lawrence

Wayne Lawrence, Weiss Movers

*This content is curated by Wayne Lawrence, President of Weiss Movers & Storage, with permission by the Ohio Trucking Association.

The number of enrollees in the individual health insurance market fell by 5 percent in 2019 following the repeal of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) individual mandate penalty, according to a recent analysis of federal health insurance data from the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF). In quarter one of this year, there were 13.7 million enrollees in the total individual market, including people enrolled in off-exchange plans, which fell from a total 14.4 million enrollees in quarter one of 2018, amounting to a decline of about 651,000 customers over the year.

Members of the Ohio Census 2020 Complete Count Commission provide “vital components” to the effort to ensure as many Ohioans are counted as possible, commission chair Lydia Mihalik said at the group’s first meeting Wednesday. Gov. Mike DeWine also told reporters the members represent a cross-section of Ohio and will be “ambassadors” in the effort. DeWine said the census numbers will affect Ohio’s number of representatives in Congress and federal funding for the state and local governments.

Ohio’s unemployment rate was 4.1% in August 2019, up from 4% in July, according to new data released by the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS), as the state added 3,700 jobs over the month, from a revised 5,588,000 in July to 5,591,700 in August 2019. The number of workers unemployed in Ohio in August was 238,000, up 3,000 from 235,000 in July. The number of unemployed has decreased by 24,000 in the past 12 months from 262,000. The August unemployment rate for Ohio decreased from 4.6% in August 2018. The U.S. unemployment rate for August was 3.7%, unchanged from July, and down from 3.8% in August 2018.

Homes sales in August lagged sales from the same month last year by 2%, but prices were higher, according to Ohio Realtors. August sales of 15,438 compare to 15,579 seen in August 2018. Year-to-date sales are half a percent behind sales for the same period last year, 103,038 vs. 103,532.

U.S. employers are paying more than $20,000 on average to cover a family with health insurance and passing more than $6,000 of that cost on to the workers, according to the latest Kaiser Family Foundation survey of insurance costs. Roughly 153 million Americans have employer-sponsored coverage, Kaiser said. The 5 percent bump to $20,576 for an average family plan in the 2019 survey compares to a 3.4% increase in wages and a 2% inflation rate. In the past decade, family premium costs have increased 54% and workers’ share of those costs have increased 71%, while wages grew just 26% and inflation was 20%.

A divided Ohio Supreme Court once again has struck down municipal residency requirements in Cleveland v. State and upheld 131-HB180’s (Maag) ban on employment quotas in government contracts based on the Ohio Constitution’s declaration in Article II, Section 34 that “[l]aws may be passed … providing for the comfort, health, safety and general welfare of all employees.” Leading the three-member dissent, Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor said Cleveland’s scuttled mandate on government contractors “does not exclude or regulate workers” the way more general public employee residency requirements did in Lima v. Ohio (2009) — an appeal to Article II, Section 34 which O’Connor had supported and former Chief Justice Tom Moyer had opposed.

Trails are an economic boon to communities and serve both recreational and transportation purposes, local officials testified in the House Civil Justice Committee Wednesday, arguing that eminent domain powers granted to local government groups are an effective but rarely-used tool to acquire land for the public good. Opponents provided testimony on HB288 (Manning), which would prohibit the use of eminent domain to appropriate land for trails. The bill, and its included emergency clause, stem from a case in Mill Creek Metro Park in Northeast Ohio, where residents have opposed turning over land for a trail. There are pending legal cases over the matter.

The County Commissioners Association of Ohio’s (CCAO) Board of Directors met Friday and approved an official statement backing the effort by some counties to recover damages in litigation against drug companies over the opioid epidemic. The move comes as Attorney General Dave Yost continues to argue that state government, not county and municipal jurisdictions, should take the lead in settlement talks.

There is no “silver bullet” to address the lack of broadband access in Ohio, a report by InnovateOhio and the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) said Tuesday, but using rights-of-way along state-owned highways could provide “considerable value” as one of several methods. The report compiled responses to InnovateOhio and ODOT’s request for information (RFI) on using those rights-of-way to expand broadband as well as findings from individual stakeholder interviews.

The House Finance Committee’s Transportation Subcommittee was told Tuesday that the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) has identified at least $11 million in savings and efficiencies as part of a pledge the agency’s director made to the General Assembly during discussions on the transportation budget, HB62 (Oelslager). At that time, ODOT Director Jack Marchbanks said his agency would work to find $100 million in savings over the next four years. The transportation subcommittee, continuing its hearings as part of what Chairman Dave Greenspan (R-Westlake) said is the House’s oversight into transportation issues, heard from ODOT Deputy Director William O’Gorman who said that 750 ideas have been generated from all levels of ODOT, and the agency has identified and approved roughly $11 million in savings so far.

The Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC) released a detailed list of the amounts to be disbursed to public employers beginning Thursday, as BWC sends a total of $1.5 billion in dividend checks to public and private employers in the coming weeks. Amounts paid to specific private employers are not being released. In total, 3,657 public employers will receive a total of $172 million, including cities, counties, school districts and other public taxing districts. Public employers in all 88 counties will receive checks.



About Wayne Lawrence

Wayne Lawrence is Vice-President of Weiss Movers and Storage. Wayne is WHACC's Board Chair and on the Advocacy committee. *This content is curated by Wayne Lawrence, President of Weiss Movers & Storage, with permission by the Ohio Trucking Association.