June 6, 2023

Chamber Testifies in Opposition to Solid Waste and Construction Debris Disposal Hikes

The Ohio Chamber of Commerce provided testimony last week before the Senate Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee in opposition to Senate Bill 119. The legislation, as originally introduced, proposes several changes to the waste industry including a significant hike in fees for the disposal of solid waste and construction and demolition debris. As OCC Senior Vice President Rick Carfagna remarked in committee, “These substantial fee increases are problematic to our Chamber members in the refuse and construction industries and will also have a downstream cost impact on our more than 8,000 members doing business in Ohio.”

The legislation was born out of ongoing health and quality of life concerns in Fostoria surrounding a landfill largely comprised of out-of-state construction and demolition debris. While the Ohio Chamber does not condone any parties performing in bad faith or failing to act or communicate as good community partners, in the attempt to address a local problem Senate Bill 119 would impose a statewide solution with dramatic consequences. Since most of the solid waste and construction and demolition debris disposed of in Ohio landfills is generated in Ohio, the proposed fee increases would disproportionately impact Ohio’s businesses, municipalities and citizens and would be higher than any surrounding state.

Carfagna cautioned that given Ohio’s need for more housing supply, as well as the four megaprojects and many more businesses having announced their intent to construct or expand Ohio-based operations, any large, unanticipated fee increases on construction and demolition debris will impact these construction processes and other investments.

Senate Bill 119 has now received three committee hearings and is scheduled for a fourth hearing and possible vote this Tuesday, June 6. Indications are that the sponsor will address the fees in an amended version of the bill and may elect to focus instead on improved oversight and inspections over landfill debris. The Ohio Chamber is cautiously optimistic its concerns will be heavily considered, but will continue to remain vigilant on this important bill.

Ohio House Begins Hearings on Statute of Repose and Vicarious Liability Legislation

Recently, the Ohio House held its first hearing on House Bill 179 before the Ohio House Civil Justice Committee. This legislation seeks to overturn or curtail two Ohio Supreme Court decisions released at the end of 2022. The bill’s sponsors describe the aim of the bill is to address statute of repose and vicarious liability standards used in our state.

The statute of repose standard changes seeks to overturn Elliot v. Durrani where the Ohio Supreme Court held a person’s absence from the state could lead to an endless period of professional liability for doctors and lawyers. Under the bill, where a person resides does not toll their statute of repose for claims alleging medical malpractice, product liability, legal malpractice, certain claims against mental health professionals, and certain premise liability claims. This change will benefit Ohio’s civil justice climate by bringing greater certainty to the end of a person’s potential liability and make it easier to seek liability protections to cover the cost of defending these types of claims. 

The vicarious liability changes in HB 179 are a response to Clawson v. Heights Chiropractic. In this litigation, the Ohio Supreme Court determined the employer of the chiropractor could not be liable for the actions of their employee because the plaintiff was unable to pursue a claim against the chiropractor due to a procedural issue. Under the bill, agents will not be a necessary party in most vicarious liability lawsuits which will enable plaintiffs to directly sue businesses without regard for whether they can hold the individual who committed the wrong doing liable. The Ohio Chamber continues to evaluate the impact of this change on Ohio employers and we are meeting with lawmakers to share our views over these changes. 

As HB 179 continues its way through the legislative process, the Ohio Chamber stands ready to highlight the voice of Ohio’s business community and push back on any provisions that may negatively impact our members.

Tax Policy

The Ohio Chamber was asked by News 5 Cleveland - WEWS to provide comments on the Ohio Motion Picture and Theatre Tax Credit provision that would dedicate at least $5 million of the credit to theatre productions. While staying agnostic on the use of the credit, I did point out the importance of theatre productions to Ohio’s economy. Playhouse square is the second largest theatre district outside of Broadway and is an important economic driver in Northeast Ohio.

The overall credit is a four-year pilot program modeled after the successful Georgia program. The motion picture industry alone spent 220.2 billion dollars globally on productions in 2021. Updating our state credit will allow Ohio to compete and create brick and motor businesses that support the industry. Overall, the credit aligns with the Ohio Chamber’s Blueprint sense of place by attracting both industry and patrons to Ohio and adding to Ohio’s tourism industry.

Coffee with Congress

This past Friday, the Ohio Chamber of Commerce hosted U.S. Representative Shontel Brown (OH-11) at the Cleveland Office of J.P. Morgan Chase. Ohio Chamber members heard an update from Congresswoman Brown on the debt ceiling legislation and what she’s been working on in DC. They also had a robust discussion on uplifting the Cleveland community and creating a stronger, more inclusive economy for all.

Energy and Environmental Policy

The Ohio Chamber’s Energy & Environmental Policy Committee met last week. The Ohio EPA presented its permitting wizard tool. It is a confidential reference tool to aid businesses determining if permits are needed for their operations. The permit wizard can be found on the front page of the Ohio EPA website. The committee also discussed an upcoming lunch & learn on the state of solar (June 20) and the 2nd annual Energy Summit to be held on October 19 in the statehouse.

After the committee meeting the Toledo Blade sought comments from the Ohio Chamber on the wetlands ruling issued by the US Supreme Court in Sackett v. EPA. In that decision, the Court limited U.S. EPA regulatory authority to wetlands connected to navigable waters. This leaves regulation of isolated wetlands to the states. I mentioned that the Ohio Chamber did not involve itself with the case, but that the decision restored a balance between federal oversight and state-level water conservation efforts. This should provide more clarity for landowners, developers and regulatory agencies charged with review of projects and enforcement of state law. Read the full article below.

Read the Article Here
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