April 4, 2023
Ohio’s New Distracted Driving Law Takes Effect
A new Ohio law making it illegal under most circumstances to use or handle a cell phone or electronic device while driving took will take effect on today, April 4, 2023. The enhanced distracted driving law was initially outlined under House Bill 283 in the last Ohio General Assembly before being rolled into Senate Bill 288 and passed in late 2022. The Ohio Chamber of Commerce made this priority legislation and issued key vote alerts to the legislature urging its passage.

For the first time in Ohio, using cell phones and other electronic communications devices while driving will be considered a primary traffic offense under which law enforcement will now be able to pull over offending drivers. Under the new law, there will be a six-month grace period where law enforcement will issue warnings to educate the public about the new law. Starting October 4, 2023, officers will begin issuing tickets to those found violating the law.  

This distracted driving law does contain a number of exceptions, including:

  • Making an emergency call to police, the fire department or the hospital
  • Adult drivers may use a phone if stopped on the side of the road, stopped at a red light, or because of an emergency or road closure
  • Adult drivers are permitted to make or receive calls while using a hands-free device
  • Adult drivers are permitted to hold a phone directly to their ear for a phone call
  • Navigation services are allowed as long as the driver is not typing in a destination or holding the phone while driving

To coincide with the new law taking effect, Governor Mike DeWine announced the launch of www.phonesdown.ohio.gov: a new website under the Ohio Department of Public Safety to help educate drivers on what activities are allowed and prohibited.
Ohio Chamber of Commerce PAC Kicks off New Election Cycle
Last week, the Ohio Chamber of Commerce Political Action Committee held a Kickoff Reception at the Ohio Chamber Offices in Columbus as we’ve entered a new election cycle. Business leaders were joined by featured guests Senate President Matt Huffman and Senate Minority Leader Nickie Antonio. The sole purpose of OCCPAC is to support candidates who demonstrate their commitment to strengthening Ohio’s economic climate, and last week’s event raised over $150,000 to help carry out that mission. Keep an eye out for more events and activities from OCCPAC later this year as we work to unify and strengthen the voice of business in Ohio.
Ohio Chamber Reiterates Need for Education Reform
For the third time in under two months, the Ohio Chamber of Commerce provided proponent testimony on behalf of legislation that makes dramatic structural changes to Ohio’s K-12 education system. The bill, Senate Bill 1, overhauls both the Ohio Department of Education (ODE) and State Board of Education to provide stronger emphasis on workforce skills and career readiness. Senate Bill 1, and its companion bill House Bill 12, would rename ODE the Ohio Department of Education and Workforce and segment the agency into both the Division of Primary and Secondary Education and the Division of Career Technical Education.

Rick Carfagna, SVP of Government Affairs for the OCC, testified last Tuesday before the House Economic and Workforce Development Committee in favor of Senate Bill 1, just as he did in the Senate on February 7 and in the House for House Bill 12 on March 7. Carfagna again stressed the importance of elevating career tech education to the same level as traditional K-12, and to equip students with the skill sets to fill current job openings, the jobs in the pipeline that have been announced, and the jobs in the coming decade that have yet to be invented.

When asked about how to avoid siloing students and ensuring they have a well-rounded educational experience, Carfagna answered that guidance counselors need empowered to engage students at younger ages and expose them to different pathways. Depending on the interests and talents of the student, the next step would be to have conversations between educators and families. No matter what, Carfagna stressed, the business community must remain involved with education both locally and at the state levels by offering feedback, resources, and job shadowing or employment opportunities.

Both Senate Bill 1 and House Bill 12 are priority bills for the Ohio Legislature and are also top policy priorities for the Ohio Chamber of Commerce this General Assembly.
Ohio Chamber Lends Voice to Housing Concerns at Ohio REALTORS Conference
The Ohio Chamber of Commerce joined with the University of Cincinnati, JobsOhio, and the Coalition on Housing and Homelessness in Ohio (COHHIO) for a panel conversation on housing challenges in front of more than 250 realtors in the Ohio Statehouse Atrium. Dubbed “REALTORS At the Rotunda”, the daylong advocacy conference was hosted by Ohio REALTORS and included assorted keynote speakers, panel discussions, and meetings with legislators.

Rick Carfagna, SVP of Government Affairs for the Ohio Chamber, shared statistics on the lack of workforce housing stock statewide and its escalating effect on price. As noted by both Carfagna and JobsOhio, approximately 20,000 future jobs were announced in 2022 alone. The challenge now is to ensure there is adequate single and multi-family housing to accommodate this growth over the next 5-7 years.

From a housing supply standpoint, production remains challenging despite the wide scale market demands and will continue to impact future homeownership. Even prior to the pandemic, developers’ hands have long been tied by land availability, zoning, density restrictions, regulations, construction costs, and a lack of skilled workers. Current disruptions in the supply chain have led to material prices rising at an exponential rate. Lumber, appliances that rely on multiple components from different countries, windows, chemical-based materials, and a shortage of tradespeople are inflating production costs. These key drivers, the panel noted, collectively throttle residential development, particularly in housing at lower price points.

The panel also detailed to the packed audience the assorted housing measures contained in the state budget, including: the creation of a state low-income housing tax credit to spur more workforce housing construction, a tax credit to drive down the costs of single-family home builds, a Home Ownership Savings Act to incentivize Ohioans to set aside funds without tax penalty toward a down payment, and aid to local governments to assist with the development of zoning plans. Panelists emphasized the need not just for these added state resources, but also cooperation and potential reforms at the local level to allow for more residential housing construction.

The Ohio Chamber believes that Ohioans need to have safe, decent housing in reasonable proximity to their places of employment – this provides companies with access to a stable supply of skilled employees. We view housing stock as both an attraction tool to lure companies to Ohio, and as a retention tool for Ohio-based companies looking to expand their operational footprint.
Statement on Proposed Minimum Wage Amendment
The Ohio Chamber issued a statement last week regarding the proposed minimum wage amendment to the Ohio Constitution.

“The Ohio Chamber of Commerce believes that workers deserve a fair wage and that Ohio’s employers need the flexibility to design wage and benefits packages that best meet the specific needs of their workforce. The proposed minimum wage amendment to the Ohio Constitution is not only ill-advised and economically detrimental, it would be next to impossible to correct once the unintended consequences transpire.

“Ohio’s employers have already struggled post-pandemic with widespread workforce shortages and have compensated by increasing wages and benefits to attract and retain talent. Furthermore, the expanded costs of doing business will result in widespread layoffs, particularly among lower-wage positions, as well as escalated shifts to automation and deterred economic development and job growth.