Lawmakers finished work on about half of the bills containing provisions initially proposed by Gov. John Kasich as part of his mid-biennium budget review, and left the Statehouse for the summer without acting on a handful of others.
Bills passed by
Kasich added his signature June 5 behind closed doors to House Bill 484, which focuses on higher education-related law changes. Among other provisions, the bill allows community and technical colleges to establish tuition guarantee programs, freezing rates for students who earn their degrees in specified periods of time. The bill also repeals enrollment limits at five universities, including Kent state; increases cooperation between colleges and universities and adult career centers; and links community college funding to student graduation rates.
Other mid-biennium budget review bills awaiting the governor's signature include:
• HB 486: Includes work force development policy, including publishing a list of in-demand jobs and increased review of state work force programs.
• HB 488: Makes changes to assist Ohio's military men and women. Among other provisions, the legislation calls for the development of a system to award college credits to veterans to account for their military training, prioritization and fee waivers for veterans submitting applications for licenses and certifications, and protections against identity fraud.
• HB 492: Makes changes to the state's laws affecting motor fuel excise and petroleum activity taxes. The legislation also enables state officials to reduce certain tax credits when businesses fail to comply with loan terms.
• HB 493: Outlined numerous changes to the state's workers compensation laws, including requiring most employers to pay premiums on an annual basis instead of semiannually and allowing penalties against employers who make late payments
Bills that stalled out
Among mid-biennium budget bills that did not move before the summer break were:
• HB 375: The legislation, which passed the Ohio House in mid-May on split vote, would set the tax rate on oil and gas produced via horizontal hydraulic fracturing at 2.5 percent, with lower rates for vertical wells. The legislation had a hearing before a Senate committee but did not move any further before the summer recess. The Kasich administration has indicated it does not support the bill.
• HB 490: Another fracking-related bill, the legislation would expand the Ohio Department of Natural Resources' authority to revoke or suspend drilling and related activities of those who break the state's environmental regulations. The bill was prompted, in part, by a Youngstown-area incident involving the dumping of tens of thousands of gallons of oilfield waste into a storm sewer. The bill has had multiple hearings before a House committee but did not move to the floor for a vote before lawmakers left town.
• HB 472: The legislation included numerous tax law changes proposed by the governor, namely an increase in the commercial activity tax for larger businesses and hikes in taxes on cigarettes and other tobacco products.
• HB 491: The legislation outlines gaming-related law changes, including granting the state casino control commission regulatory authority over skill-based amusement machines. The House passed the bill on a vote of 90-3 late last month. The Senate has not yet taken action on the legislation.