By Kolt Buchenroth
Ohio House Bill 6, dubbed the “Clean Air Bill” passed out of the House of Representatives yesterday with a vote of 53-43. The act deals primarily with power generation and the creation of a clean air fund. However, the bill has a provision that will relieve Ohio’s county fair’s of nearly half of their electricity bills, said Representative Don Jones (R-Freeport).
“The problem is that county fairs are on a demand rate. Basically, they pay their electric bills for the week of the fair, but then they have to pay for what it costs to generate that power for the other 11 months. Typically, it’s double what that electric bill is for that one week,” Jones said.
Representative Jones cited the example of a fair that used $20,000 in power for the week of the fair. Utility companies, Jones said, were charging fairs $40,000 over the other eleven months of the year to maintain their equipment to provide that much power.
Jones, who represents Ohio’s 95th house district, was drafting legislation to fix the issue when House Speaker Larry Householder (R-Glenford) found the provision to be a priority.
“This has been a problem for several years. There have been meetings held with Farm Bureau, there have been meetings with the utility companies with no end in sight. I was drafting legislation when the speaker and I had talked about it. [Speaker Householder] took it upon himself to put this into the bill to make it happen,” Jones said.
Before taking office, Jones served for 18 years on the Harrison county fair board, nine of which were spent as the board’s president. He recognizes the unique challenge that agricultural societies face.
“They’re going to break small county fairs. Financially, it’s very difficult for small county fairs to pay that demand. Fairs don’t complain about what they use the week of the fair for electricity,” Jones said. “They have a problem with is what they’re paying the other 11 months of the year when they don’t have a fair.”
Jones noted that the initial reaction from county fairs around the state has been positive.
“They were very pleased. It’s going to save a lot of county fairs a lot of money. Running a county fair is a tough enough job as it is. We deal with weather. We have one week out of the year that we put all of our effort into and three, four, or five days of rain could ruin a whole year’s worth of planning,” he said. “The reaction we’ve had so far has been very positive. They were excited because it’s going to allow them to do things and make upgrades to their fairgrounds and put that money back into the fair and the community where it belongs.”
Howard Call, Executive Director of the Ohio Fair Managers Association praised the legislature for the bill’s passage.
“The Ohio Fair Managers Association is pleased that the House of Representatives favorably passed HB 6,” Call said. “Among many provisions, the bill offers protections to Ohio’s fairs from unfair demand riders. We were happy to offer our support in the effort to passed HB 6 and look forward to the Senate process.”
The bill now moves across rotunda in the Statehouse for the Senate’s evaluation.