March 21, 2023
Ohio Chamber Testifies in Support of a New Licensed Mental Health Assistant
Ohio Chamber Director of Healthcare Policy Meredith Craig provided testimony last week in support of Senate Bill 60 (Gavarone), legislation aimed at addressing the current behavioral health workforce shortage. It will create a new license called a certified mental health assistant (CMHA) and will provide training necessary for identifying and managing mental health and substance use disorders. This ultimately will increase patient access to affordable, high quality behavioral health care.
The Chamber’s Blueprint for Ohio’s Economic Future highlights the need to increase access to addiction treatment, harm reduction, and mental health services. Senate Bill 60 aligns with the Chamber’s focus on ensuring access to treatment by addressing the shortage of personnel in behavioral health and recovery support services. Investing in mental health and safety is critical to building solid workplaces, a strong workforce, and strong communities. This legislation is one of our top policy priorities for the 135th General Assembly.
Ohio Chamber Testifies for House Bill 3
House Bill 3 the state tax credit to draw down additional federal money used for the Low Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) received its second hearing.

The Ohio Chamber of Commerce continues to support the effort and provided proponent testimony this week. The six-year program provides nonrefundable tax credit certificates to eligible developers. The actual credit is used over ten years for each approved project. Therefore, the foregone tax revenue per year is $50 million. This program is estimated to provide over 4,300 housing units each year of the program and estimated to generate nearly $4 billion in tax revenues over the useful life of the housing units.
Ohio Chamber supports Expanded Jurisdiction of Agency Appeals
In proponent testimony before the House Civil Justice Committee, the Ohio Chamber highlighted how Senate Bill 21 removes legal barriers to businesses appealing decisions made by state agencies. Under current law, nearly every appeal of a business license denial, order from an administrative law judge, or operating permit issued by the state of Ohio has to be appealed to the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas. This structure increases the cost of legal bills and the administrative burden associated with appealing agency decisions because many businesses will have no connection to Franklin County, yet are required to bring litigation in a court outside their home county. These higher costs and burdens serve as a barrier to appealing an agency decision for many businesses.

Senate Bill 21 seeks to address these issues by expanding the number of courts that can hear an agency appeal. In Senate Bill 21, all 88 county courts of common pleas have the jurisdiction to handle appeals of state agency decisions. As a result, businesses can more easily access the courts and have a judge review the decision of the administrative agency. Additionally, Senate Bill 21 helps promote judicial efficiency in Ohio, by creating a structure where the jurisdiction for hearing agency appeals rests in every county court of common pleas rather than vesting the sole exclusive jurisdiction in a single county. 

Senate Bill 21 remains in House Civil Justice Committee following a party line vote out of the Ohio Senate earlier this year.
Tax Policy & Committee Update
The Ohio Chamber provided written support for the wholesale tobacco bad debt tax credit. Last legislative session the measure almost crossed the finish line but was vetoed when an amendment was added to it during the lame duck session. House Bill 66 has received two hearings now in the House Ways & Means Committee and may find its way into the budget. As a standalone bill it is the same language that went to the Senate during the 134th General Assembly.

The Ohio Chamber Tax Committee is finishing a preliminary review of the August 2023 Ohio Tax Conference Agenda. A final agenda will be ready by April to prepare for the opening of registration. The event will be held over two days in Columbus starting on August 23.
Ohio Chamber Testifies in Favor of Unemployment Oversight Legislation
The Ohio Chamber lent its support to Senate Bill 31 last week in the Senate Insurance Committee. The bill, which would establish legislative oversight of agreements between the federal government and the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS), aims to prevent a repeat of the havoc the federal pandemic unemployment compensation (FPUC) program wrecked on Ohio’s labor market. The FPUC program provided claimants with an additional $600 per week in unemployment benefits during the early stages of the pandemic. However, despite the programing shrinking before being terminated in 2021, its effects are still being felt on Ohio’s labor market. In fact, there are more than 100,000 fewer Ohioans working today than before the pandemic and Ohio’s labor force participation rates have still not reached pre-pandemic levels.

Under Senate Bill 31, the legislature will be able to force ODJFS to exit any supplemental unemployment benefit program that either expands weekly benefit payments or increases the maximum total benefit amount by passing a concurrent resolution from both chambers. Importantly, the legislation does not limit the authority of the governor or ODJFS to enter into these agreements. Instead, it only grants the legislature with oversight authority and an ability to rescind an agreement if it becomes apparent a federal supplemental unemployment benefit is negatively impacting the Buckeye State. 

Senate Bill 31 awaits a third hearing and a potential vote in the Senate Insurance Committee.

Asbestos Reform Litigation Abuse Garners Support of Ohio Chamber
Before the Senate Insurance Committee, the Ohio Chamber gave proponent testimony on Senate Bill 63 because it seeks to stop the overnaming of businesses in asbestos lawsuits. Overnaming is a litigation tactic employed by trial lawyers that brings dozens and even a hundred businesses into a single lawsuit alleging an asbestos exposure. This harmful practice is problematic because countless businesses that have no connection to the alleged exposure have to utilize their insurance coverage or pay an attorney to get their business removed from the lawsuit, when the business should have never been named in the first place. 

The Ohio Chamber supports Senate Bill 63 because the legislation calls for plaintiff attorneys to provide information about the nature of the alleged asbestos exposure at the outset of the litigation. This pre-discovery disclosure will result in fewer businesses being named in asbestos lawsuits since the plaintiff is required to show the factual basis for why the party was named as a defendant. This requirement will not allow the responsible party or parties to escape liability and the plaintiff’s available remedies remain the same under Senate Bill 63, so the bill does not diminish a plaintiff’s right to seek redress for their injury or limit the monetary award they may receive because the pre-discovery disclosures.

Joining the Ohio Chamber in support of the legislation was the US Chamber Institute for Legal Reform, the Ohio Manufacturers’ Association, the Ohio Alliance for Civil Justice, and the National Association of Mutual Insurance Companies. 

Senate Bill 63 remains in Senate Insurance Committee where a third hearing is expected in the weeks to come.
Environmental Policy Update
Several state chambers held a call with the US Chamber to catch up on updates from the federal government. Several topics were covered including WOTUS, general permitting reforms and prepublication of a drinking water standard. As needed, the Ohio Chamber will weigh-in on rulemaking with comments or letters.