Legislative Updates: News from the State House – September 2018

Legislative Updates: News from the State House – September 2018
Wayne Lawrence

Wayne Lawrence, Weiss Movers

AGRICULTURE
The Ohio State Fair saw its attendance numbers increase in 2018 following the event’s 15-year low at the 2017 fair, during which an 18-year-old man died when an amusement ride broke apart on opening day. Attendance at the 2018 Ohio State Fair was 908,306, up 13 percent from last year’s turnout of 801,031, according to Ohio Expositions Commission spokesperson Alicia Shoults.

FY18-19 BUDGET
Tax receipts held close to projections in July for the first month of FY19, with a small dip in personal income tax collections and a modest bump in sales tax collections versus forecasts. Preliminary revenue reports from the Office of Budget and Management (OBM) show tax receipts ahead of estimates by $11.6 million, or 0.7 percent, reaching $1.67 billion for the month. Since it’s the first month of FY19, those are the relevant figures for year-to-date revenues as well.

Ohioans for a Healthy Economy, a 501(c)4 nonprofit corporation affiliated with the Ohio Chamber of Commerce, announced recently that it has launched a statewide digital media advertising campaign to raise awareness about the role and importance of the Ohio Supreme Court.

EMPLOYMENT/UNEMPLOYMENT
The nation added 157,000 jobs in July and the unemployment rate fell to 3.9 percent from 4 percent in June, according to new numbers released Friday by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

ENERGY
Supporters and detractors of the proposed Lake Erie wind farm will have another six weeks to prepare for the state’s hearing on the four-acre facility targeted 8-10 miles offshore from Cleveland, where staff of the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO), Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) have given a qualified thumbs-up to the Norwegian project.

American Wind Week is in full sail as supporters of wind-powered energy promote the nation’s largest renewable source. More than two dozen events scheduled around the country include American Wind Energy Education Day on Friday, Aug. 10 at the Cuyahoga County Fair. Proponents say wind power is an affordable, reliable and rapidly growing segment of the U.S. electric supply supporting jobs in all 50 states. They point to popular support for wind power on the ground and on social media, along with proclamations from governors and mayors in a total of 15 states.

GAMING/GAMBLING
Total adjusted gross revenue (AGR) for Ohio’s four casinos was $69.7 million in July 2018, a small dip from July 2017’s AGR of $69.9 million, according to the Ohio Casino Control Commission (OCCC). July racino net revenues were $88.9 million, up significantly from $84.5 million in July 2017, according to video lottery terminal (VLT) numbers released by the Ohio Lottery Commission (OLC). The month’s revenues were also up from June, which totaled $87.4 million.

LOCAL GOVERNMENT
The Ohio Municipal League (OML) and Ohio Township Association (OTA) both called Wednesday for the use of a projected state surplus for infrastructure, public safety and anti-addiction efforts, rather than additional contributions to the Rainy Day Fund or a cut in tax withholding, as Gov. John Kasich proposes. Their statements follow similar sentiments expressed Tuesday by the County Commissioners Association of Ohio.

MARIJUANA
The Ohio Department of Commerce (DOC) handed out seven provisional licenses to medical marijuana processors on Friday. Six more could still be allocated in this first round of awards, according to the DOC’s announcement, as these applicants are still undergoing tax and/or background checks. A second round of review will occur for applications needing further clarification.

The Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction (DRC) plans to allow inmates to consume medical marijuana in cases where the agency’s medical officials decide it’s appropriate, DRC Managing Director of Fiscal and Healthcare Operations Stuart Hudson told Hannah News. Ohio would become the first state in the country to allow prisoners to use medical marijuana, according to Marijuana Policy Project spokesperson Mason Tvert.

The Ohio Department of Commerce (DOC) has granted seven time-extension requests from provisionally licensed medical marijuana cultivators, DOC senior policy adviser Mark Hamlin said Thursday. Reminding Medical Marijuana Advisory Committee (MMAC) members that cultivators are given nine months to prepare for their state inspection to receive a certificate of operation, Hamlin said all of the extensions were granted to the smaller level-two cultivators, as they were licensed before the larger level-one cultivators.

TAXATION
The administration plans in November to reduce the amount of income tax withheld from Ohioans’ paychecks, Gov. John Kasich and Office of Budget and Management (OBM) Director Tim Keen announced Tuesday.

For state lawmakers, there is a lot more at stake with the United States Supreme Court ruling in South Dakota v. Wayfair than a rush to collect revenues or provide commensurate tax cuts. “Adjusting the rate for an unknown amount of collection would be putting the cart before the horse; they [lawmakers] need to first get in line with the guidance,” Steve DelBianco president and CEO of NetChoice, said. The June 21 ruling was the topic of one of the first workshops out of the gate at the 2018 American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) conference in New Orleans.

Reps. Niraj Antani (R-Miamisburg) and Todd Smith (R-Washington) announced Thursday that they will be introducing legislation which they said will require a vote of the people to approve a county sales tax increase. The legislators said their bill is in response to a recent sales tax increase by the Montgomery County commissioners, as well a failed referendum effort to overturn that tax.

TRANSPORTATION/INFRASTRUCTURE
At the 2018 American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) annual meeting, Elaine Chao, U.S. secretary of transportation, played up her agency’s role in providing economic stimulus through deregulation. “The department is a leader in addressing the problems of unnecessary and burdensome regulations that do real economic harm,” Chao said. “At the beginning of the administration departments were told eliminate two regulations for every one adopted.” To date, the U.S. Department of Transportation has repealed 14 regulations for every new regulation proposed — ranking it first in the administration’s de-regulation push.

 

About Matt Barker

Matt Barker is New Image Media, Inc.'s senior editor. Learn more about New Image Media at http://newimagemedia.com