Legislative update in Ohio

By Peggy Kirk Hall, director of agricultural law, Ohio State University Agricultural and Resource Law Program

February brought renewed activity at Ohio’s Statehouse as both the House and Senate returned to their regular committee schedules. The General Assembly began tending to several pieces of agricultural and resource legislation.  Here’s the latest summary of our state’s legislative developments.

Newly introduced Ohio legislation

H.C.R. 41 — Repeal individual income tax. Rep. Tom Brinkman (R-Mt. Lookout) introduced a resolution on Jan. 25, 2022 expressing an intent for the General Assembly to repeal the state personal income tax within ten years.  The resolution matches S.C.R. 13, introduced in the Senate last December, and both resolutions cite negative impacts on Ohio’s business climate as justification for the repeal.  The House Ways and Means Committee already held a first hearing on the resolution on Feb. 15, 2022.

Legislation on the move

H.B. 30 —  Slow-moving vehicles.  One of the slowest moving bills on the move, a proposal to increase visibility of animal-drawn vehicles by changing marking and lighting requirements finally received a third hearing before the Senate Transportation Committee on Feb. 16, 2022.  No opponents testified against the bill.  Readers may recall that the proposal passed the House on June 23, 2021.

H.B. 321 — Auctioneers.  The bill that passed the House on Dec. 9, 2021 had its second hearing before the Senate Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee on Feb. 15, 2022, with the Ohio Auctioneers Association testifying in support of the bill. It replaces the auctioneer apprenticeship requirement and replaces it with a course of study in auctioneering at an approved institution.  The bill also eliminates the special auctioneer license, changes the auction firm license, removes the oral exam requirement, increases the number of written exams offered, allows auction firms to provide online or live auction services, and gives ODA authority over internet auctions. 

H.B. 365 — Safe Drinking Water Act.  Although introduced back in July, H.B. 365 just received its first hearing before House Agriculture & Conservation Committee House on Feb. 15, 2022.  The proposal requires Ohio EPA to adopt rules to establish water quality standards and maximum allowable contaminant levels in drinking water for PFAS (the “forever chemicals”), chromium-6, and 1-4 dioxane, and to annually review the standards.  Sponsors Rep. Mary Lightbody and Rep. Allison Russo provided testimony at the hearing.  The many questions and concerns about costs and impacts of setting standards for the chemicals raise doubts about whether it will receive another hearing.

H.B. 397 — Agricultural leases.  The second hearing for H.B. 397 before the Senate Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee took place on Feb. 15, 2022.  The proposal passed the House on Dec. 8, 2021, and would require a landlord who wants to terminate a crop lease that doesn’t address termination to provide a written notice of termination by Sept. 1.  The Ohio State Bar Association Agricultural Law Committee and Ohio Farm Bureau Federation testified in support of the bill.

H.B. 484 — Fish designation.  Readers who like walleye will be happy to hear that H.B. 484’s proposal to name the Lake Erie Walleye as the state fish received its first hearing before the House Agriculture and Conservation Committee House on Feb. 15, 2022.  Sponsors Rep. Michael Sheehy and Rep. Lisa Sobecki testified that Ohio is one of only three states without a designated state fish despite sport fishing’s annual $1 billion economy, and that the walleye beat out yellow perch and smallmouth bass for the nomination in an online poll on NBC4 news.

H.B. 507 — Poultry chicks.  This bill to reduce the minimum number for poultry chicks sold in lots from six to three received a first hearing before the House Agriculture and Conservation Committee on February 15.  Committee chair and bill sponsor Rep. Kyle Koehler testified that the bill would reduce costs and challenges for 4-H members who must buy six turkey chicks to show one turkey and later struggle to find processors for the birds.

H.B. 515 — Income tax.  Reps. James Hoops (R-Napoleon) and Craig Riedel (R-Defiance) are sponsors of this companion to S.B. 247, which appears stalled before the Senate Ways and Means Committee.  Both proposals would allow a sale of an ownership interest in a business to 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.  H.B. 515 received a second hearing before the House Ways and Means on Feb. 15, 2022.

S.B. 210 — Postnuptial agreements.  The proposal to allows spouses to modify pre-nuptial agreements and separation agreements had its first hearing before the House Civil Justice Committee on February 8, 2022.  Sponsor Sen. Theresa Gavarone testified that the bill would bring Ohio into line with other states by allowing married couples to address life changes with options other than divorce or separation.  The bill passed the Senate back in November of 2021.

S.B. 241 — Agricultural Linked Deposit Program.  The Senate version of revisions to Ohio’s Agricultural Linked Deposit Program passed the Senate on Jan. 26, 2022 with emergency provisions that would make the bill effective immediately.  The proposal was referred to the House Financial Institutions Committee on Feb. 15.  Meanwhile, it’s counterpart in the House, H.B. 440, which passed the House on Dec. 9, 2021, awaits a hearing before the Senate Financial Institutions & Technology Committee. The proposals expand the availability of Agricultural Linked Deposit Program loans to agricultural cooperatives and replaces the current $150,000 loan limit to amounts as determined by the Treasurer.

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