February 14, 2023
Ohio Chamber Endorses Senate Bill 1 to Align K-12 Education With Workforce Needs
Rick Carfagna, SVP of Government Affairs for the Ohio Chamber of Commerce, testified last week in the Senate Education Committee in favor of Senate Bill 1. 

The legislation, a priority bill for both Senate Leadership and the Ohio Chamber, would restructure both the Ohio Department of Education and State Board of Education to provide stronger emphasis on workforce skills and career readiness. Not only does the state face a talent gap, but students are not adequately prepared at the K-12 level to pursue post-secondary education or earn workforce credentials for in-demand fields. 

The Ohio Chamber supports Senate Bill 1 because greater emphasis must be placed on ensuring accountability for Ohio’s education system and career readiness for Ohio’s students, making for brighter futures for younger Ohioans and encouraging more of them to remain in and build their lives here in Ohio.
Ohio Chamber Supports Legislation to Create Statewide Jurisdiction of Agency Appeals
On Tuesday, the Ohio Chamber of Commerce submitted proponent testimony on Senate Bill 21 before the Ohio Senate’s Judiciary Committee. This legislation seeks to alleviate administrative burdens that small business owners face when appealing a decision from a state agency by allowing the business owner to challenge the order in their home county. Under current law, business owners must file an appeal of a state agency order in Franklin County’s Court of Common Pleas since the court has been granted exclusive jurisdiction to bring administrative appeals. This current set-up is problematic because it can increase costs and make it more difficult for the business to reach a final resolution of their appeal. 

Senate Bill 21 proposes a simple solution to this issue that aims to reduce the number of appeals heard in Franklin County. Under Senate Bill 21, each of Ohio’s 88 county common pleas courts may hear the appeal of a state agency order. This reform promotes judicial equality because the legislation reduces the case load of a single county court in favor of a system that will give other courts an opportunity to hear administrative appeals. Additionally, Senate Bill 21 levels the playing field for businesses and state agencies by providing the business the option the bring the appeal in their home county rather than the home county of the state agency

Senate Bill 21 remains in Senate Judiciary Committee but is scheduled for a vote from the committee this week.
Ohio Chamber Outlines Progress and Barriers in Expanding Broadband
Rick Carfagna, SVP of Government Relations for the Ohio Chamber of Commerce, participated in a panel discussion Wednesday in the Ohio Statehouse Atrium surrounding high-speed internet access. The event, hosted by Heartland Forward, highlighted progress to date as well as the challenges remaining with deploying broadband infrastructure throughout Ohio. Heartland Forward is a nonpartisan, non-profit “think and do” tank focused on improving economic performance in the center of the United States. Participants in the discussion included state and local officials, as well as others who have been on the front lines of advancing high-speed internet solutions in Ohio. The forum was well attended by state legislators on both sides of the aisle and from the House and Senate.

Carfagna, himself a former state legislator and architect of the state’s residential broadband expansion program, detailed the barriers remaining throughout much of Ohio that deprive 1 million of 11.8 million Ohioans of access to reliable broadband service. With broadband access playing such an enormous role in work-from-home capabilities, distance learning needs, and telehealth opportunities, the Ohio Chamber of Commerce stands behind state efforts to assist private internet service providers with construction of infrastructure to unserved areas.

Carfagna discussed the history of broadband expansion efforts over the past five years, and outlined the ongoing barriers to access and adoption across the state. As outlined in the Chamber’s “Blueprint for Ohio’s Economic Future”, the Ohio Chamber supports preserving and bolstering the residential broadband expansion program, providing financial support to replace poles and assist with make-ready costs, and the provision of assistance to homeowners to offset construction costs associated with line extensions.
Tax Update
Senate Bill 10 passed out of the Ways & Means Committee and then passed by the full Senate last week. Senate Bill 10 creates tax conformity between the federal and state tax codes. Ohio enacts this type of legislation annually to incorporate any changes made by the federal government. Senate Bill 10 did pick up several amendments to smooth language enacted last year in House Bill 45. Senate Bill 10 now moves to the House for hearings in the House Ways & Means Committee.
Energy Update
The Ohio Chamber added reply comments to supplement its response to the Ohio Power Siting Board (OPSB) order that modified provisions of proposed rules at the OPSB. In the original response, the Ohio Chamber thanked the OPSB for changes on the definition of transmission lines. In the reply comments the Ohio Chamber added support to the comments of others that find the new setback rules to be a balanced approach providing regulatory flexibility. No time frame has been announced on the next order from the OPSB on the proposed rule package.

The Ohio Chamber also added a letter to a pending U.S. EPA proposal to modify Renewable Volume Obligations for 2023-2025. The Ohio Chamber letter asked the U.S. EPA to lower the proposal to the ethanol volumes consumed and eliminate the proposed supplemental RVO. The initial proposal uses a credit mechanism that is unstainable for independent and small refiners.

Finally, the Ohio Chamber also added a letter in support of the Ohio EPA application for a federal grant to bolster funds available for the voluntary business recycling program. The funds would add more resources for toolkits and marketing.
Transportation Update
The transportation budget was unveiled during testimony this past week. The bill language has not been introduced, but we do know the two-year budget totals $11.4 billion dollars.

The budget includes $2.2 billion for paving; $717 million for bridge work; $360 million in safety upgrades; and $211 million for public transit. Hearings will continue over the next several weeks.
Meta Hosts Legislators and Ohio Chamber for Tour of Ohio-Based Data Centers
Meta, an Ohio Chamber Champion member, recently hosted a site visit with three state legislators at their New Albany Data Center in Licking County. Ohio Chamber SVP Rick Carfagna joined State Senator Tim Schaffer (R-Lancaster), State Representative Thad Claggett (R-Newark), and State Representative and House Public Utilities Chairman Dick Stein (R-Norwalk) for a tour of their server halls and local operations. The New Albany Data Center, one of Meta’s 21 data center fleet sites globally, connects billions worldwide daily.

Since breaking ground in New Albany back in 2017, Meta’s capital investment in Ohio stands at over $1.5 billion and supports over 300 operational jobs and up to 1,500 construction jobs. Among the qualities cited by Meta that attracted them to invest in Ohio: the availability of a shovel-ready site with good infrastructure access, a strong pool of local talent, access to reliable power and renewable energy, and a great set of community partners willing to help execute the project. The company has invested $3 million in a variety of local philanthropic efforts, is advancing careers in the skilled trades through a paid 8-week training program, and stands as a proud example of significant private investment and community involvement in Ohio by a major corporation.