By Peggy Kirk Hall, director of agricultural law, Ohio State University Agricultural and Resource Law Program
The weeks since Thanksgiving have been busy ones at the Statehouse, but not a creature is stirring now as the General Assembly recesses for Christmas. While agriculture didn’t receive any final legislative Christmas gifts, a few bills advanced and may pass early next year. Here’s a rundown of agricultural legislation in Ohio.
Newly introduced Ohio legislation
S.C.R. 13 – Repeal Individual Income Tax. Sen. George Lang (R-West Chester) introduced a concurrent resolution on December 9, 2021 expressing an intention for the legislature to repeal the state personal income tax within ten years. The resolution cites disincentives to reside in Ohio, repeals by other states, and business climate impacts as justification for the intent to repeal the income tax. The Senate referred the measure to its Ways and Means Committee on December 15.
H.B. 484 — Walleye as Official State Fish. Representatives Michael Sheehy (D-Oregon) and Lisa Sobecki (D-Toledo) introduced a bill that would designate the walleye as Ohio’s official state fish. The bill was referred to the House Agricultural & Conservation Committee on November 16, 2021.
H.B. 507 — Poultry Chicks. This bill to reduce the minimum number for poultry chicks sold in lots from six to three was introduced by Rep. Koehler (R-Springfield) on December 8, 2021.
Ohio legislation on the move
H.B. 440/S.B. 241– Agricultural Linked Deposit Program. Part of the “Ohio Gains Initiative,” these companion bills would make revisions to Ohio’s Agricultural Linked Deposit Program, which provides interest rate reductions of up to 3% on operating loans and lines of credit for farm operators and agribusinesses. The legislation would extend the program to agricultural cooperatives and replace the $150,000 loan maximum to amounts as determined by the State Treasurer. The House passed the bill on December 9, 2021. The Senate Financial Institutions and Technology Committee reported out its bill on December 15, 2021, so the bill should head to the Senate floor soon.
H.B. 397– Agricultural Leases. For agricultural crop leases that don’t address how and when to terminate the lease, H.B. 397 would require a landlord who wants to terminate the lease to provide a written notice of termination to the tenant by September 1. The termination would be effective December 31 of the year notice is provided or on the date harvest is complete, whichever comes first. The House passed the bill on December 8, 2021 and the Senate referred it to the Senate Agriculture & Natural Resources Committee on December 15, 2021.
H.B. 321– Auctioneers. The proposal makes several revisions to auctioneers licensing, including eliminating the apprentice requirement and replacing it with a course of study in auctioneering at an approved institution; removing the oral exam requirement ; increasing the number of written exams offered; removing the special auctioneer license; allowing auction firms to provide online or live auction services; and granting the Ohio Department of Agriculture authority over internet auctions, which are currently exempt from ODA oversight. The bill passed the House on December 9, 2021 and was referred to the Senate Agriculture & Natural Resources Committee December 15, 2021.
H.B. 95 — Beginning Farmers. This legislation passed the House back on June 28, 2021 and finally received its second hearing before the Senate Ways and Means Committee on December 7, 2021. It proposes to allow individuals to be certified as beginning farmers and would establish income tax credits for certified beginning farmers who attend approved financial management programs and for owners who sell land and agricultural assets to certified beginning farmers.
S.B. 210 – Postnuptial Agreements. Spouses could agree to terminate or modify pre-nuptial agreements after marriage under this proposal, which would bring Ohio in line with many other states. The bill passed the Senate on November 16, 2021 and was assigned to the House Civil Justice Committee on December 7, 2021.
S.B. 246 – Income Tax. The goal of this bill is to avoid the federal State and Local Tax (SALT ) $10,000 deduction cap for federal income tax by allowing an electable individual income tax on a pass-through entity’s income apportioned to Ohio and a refundable income tax credit for tax paid. It received its third hearing with the Senate Ways and Means Committee on December 14, 2021.
S.B. 247 – Income Tax. The sale of an ownership interest in a business would be considered business income for Ohio income tax purposes if federal income tax law treats the sale as a sale of assets or the seller materially participates in the business activities during the taxable year in which interest was sold or any of preceding five taxable years. If passed, the legislation would apply to any audits, refund applications, petition for reassessments, and appeals pending on or after the bill’s 90-day effective date.The proposal had a third hearing with the Senate Ways and Means Committee on December 14, 2021.
Ohio legislation at a standstill
H.B. 175 – Water Pollution. This controversial legislation would exclude “ephemeral features”—those that result from surface water flowing or pooling in direct response to precipitation–from water pollution control programs. The bill passed the House in late September and received a second hearing in the Senate Agriculture & Natural Resources Committee on November 30 but has not received attention since that date.
S.B. 47– Overtime Pay. The proposal would exempt an employer from paying overtime for employer travel to and from a worksite, preliminary and postliminary activities, and minor tasks performed beyond scheduled work hours without authorization, such as checking email or phone messages. It passed the Senate in September and received a first hearing before the House Commerce and Labor Committee but no further action has occurred since October 26, 2021.
S.B. 257– Income Tax Credit for Donations to Townships. Qualifying donations of cash, property or services accepted by a township would receive a refundable state income tax credit of up to $5,000 under this proposal. The bill has not received a hearing since its referral to the Senate Ways and Means Committee on November 10, 2021.
S.J.R. 3 – Constitutional right to hunt and fish. If passed, the joint resolution would place a constitutional amendment before Ohio voters that would guarantee the right to hunt, fish, and harvest wildlife, subject only to laws and rules that promote wildlife conservation and management or preserve the future of hunting and fishing. No action has been taken on the resolution since it received a second hearing before the Senate Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee on Nov. 16, 2021.