The Ohio General Assembly has recessed for the year and most likely will not return which means January of 2017 a new General Assembly will be seated and we start all over again. As usual a flurry of bills were passed in a lame duck session (that means they are nearing the end and all bills not passed will die at end of year and have to be reintroduced next year). One of the most important bills passed was HB 341, which overrides cities from prohibiting pet stores from purchasing dogs from so called puppy mills. Why you ask is this bill important, well its what’s called a Christmas Tree Bill, in other words loaded with other amendments and one of those prohibits cities from raising minimum wage giving that authority to the state only, this was strongly supported by MIRA and its now in the Governor’s hands. Another Christmas Tree Bill was SB 235, among the many provisions of the bill were the following, exempting from the sales tax tangible personal property used in the manufacturing of oil and natural gas, ensuring small business investment companies are not subject to the financial institutions tax. That would make the companies subject to the commercial activities tax. However, according to the Legislative Service Commission, the bulk of the company’s income is investment income that is not subject to the CAT. The bill also allows land in a downtown redevelopment district to get tax increment financing.
Continuing on, also passed was HB 554, this was a very controversial bill that repeals the alternative energy standards that would have gone into place in 2020 and replaced it with language that freezes the requirement for alternative energy for two years and then makes it voluntary after that, this could be a money saver for small business. Another very controversial bill passed was SB 374, this deals with Ohio’s Unemployment Fund which is badly underfunded. After many meetings and arguments, the compromise was that the House and Senate will come up with legislation to address this issue next Spring in the meantime if they don’t come to an agreement starting in 2018, benefits paid to jobless workers would be frozen and the taxable wage base on which employers must pay unemployment taxes would increase from the first $9,000 of an employee’s wages to $9,500. And a current law that automatically levies increased taxes on businesses if the state is forced to borrow from the federal government would be repealed. Lastly for MIRA members who may also be in the Tow Truck business HB 341, passed that would make it much easier to obtain titles for salvage vehicles. The General Assembly also passed an extended concealed carry bill that would prohibit employers from not allowing legal permit holders to have guns in their cars on company property.
At the local level MIRA was the only association representing convenience stores that testified in opposition to the city of Columbus proposal to raise the age to 21 for purchase of tobacco products. We did so not as a supporter for tobacco use but because it creates an unfair advantage for businesses outside of Columbus, MIRA said “Members of the MIRA feel that if the movement to increase the legal age to purchase tobacco products is a worthy one then the increase in age should be done at a statewide level to ensure all retailers within Ohio compete on a level playing field”. It’s expected our objection fell on deaf ears and the city is likely to pass the ban.
At the Federal level there were two issues, a Texas federal District Judge has preliminarily blocked the U.S. Labor Departments new overtime rule, which was to go into effect on December 1. This issue dealt with “white collar” exemptions. For further details please contact Ed Weglarz at MIRA. Due to recent scrutiny by the FTC and Federal Reserve Board of Governors VISA has changed rules to avoid enforcement on use of EMV smart chip technology, again MIRA can provide further details.
On the agency front State Representative Anne Gonzales has asked the State Lottery Commission to brief her on where they’re at on negotiations with MIRA on changes to lottery rules.
Governor John Kasich has said that Ohio is on the verge of a recession due to falling revenues. The Governor said that next year’s budget will be bare bones.
On the political front Republican Treasurer of State Josh Mandel announced he will run for U.S. Senate in 2018, against Democrat Incumbent Sherrod Brown, which would be a repeat of the 2010 election but first Mr. Mandel has to win a Republican primary as many others have indicated an interest in the race.
On the sad side American Hero John Glenn died on December 8, John was born in New Concord, Ohio a son of Appalachia who became a hero in World War II, the first man to orbit the Earth and lastly a U.S. Senator from Ohio. In another sad instance, students at Ohio State were attacked by car and knife by a Somalian immigrant who was shot and killed by a campus policeman. President Elect Donald Trump visited the victims of the attack in a very low key meeting.