March 28, 2023
BWC Budget Advances Out of House Insurance Committee
On Wednesday, the Ohio House Insurance Committee, unanimously reported the BWC budget (HB 31) from its committee. Before voting on the bill, an amendment was adopted that eliminated the proposed name change for the agency. Under the as-introduced version of the bill, the agency was renamed from the Bureau of Workers’ Compensation to the Department of Workforce Insurance and Safety. In testimony, Administrator John Logue said the name change would better reflect the various missions of the agency and could bolster employee recruitment efforts.

The Ohio Chamber took no position on the name change, but the proposal faced strong head winds from members of the committee who thought the new name could result in confusion for injured workers and employers.

House Bill 31 will now head to the House Finance Committee for what is likely a single hearing and a vote on the bill. Following its quick stop in Finance Committee, we anticipate the House will complete its work on the BWC budget with a vote on the House floor upon their return in late April.
State Transportation Budget Heads to Conference Committee
Ohio’s two-year transportation budget (House Bill 23), containing billions for road and highway projects, is heading to a legislative conference committee and expected to emerge and land on Governor Mike DeWine’s desk for his signature by the end of March.

House Bill 23 originally cleared the Ohio House as a $12.6 billion measure on March 1 with a 74-21 vote. Among proposals inserted by the House to the Governor’s original introduced version were:
  • A $1 billion rural highway fund designed to improve worker commutes in rural communities

  • A reduction to the annual registration fee for owners of hybrid plug-in vehicles

  • A ban on township and counties from instituting traffic camera programs to issue tickets for speeding or running red lights

  • Permission for the DeWine Administration to enter into an agreement with the federal government to allow for enhanced driver’s licenses and ID cards to enter Canada, Mexico or Caribbean countries without need a passport

  • Provisions designed to improve rail safety in the wake of the East Palestine train derailment.

The Ohio Senate considered a number of their own changes to the budget, including a measure debated but ultimately not included that would have increased from 55 mph to 60 mph the maximum speed limit on two-lane highways. The Senate’s version also increases total spending to $13.5 billion, and removed the House’s rural highway fund provision, the traffic camera ban, the enhanced driver’s licenses/ID cards provision, and the registration fee cut for plug-in hybrid vehicles. Senators also agreed on House language to give Amtrak the statutory authority to expand rail service in Ohio, and agreed with, but altered, the House measure requiring all trains in Ohio to have a crew of at least two people.

Another major difference in the Senate version relates to force account thresholds, or the levels at which local governments must competitively bid public projects. The House version set the thresholds based upon the scope of work, while the Senate version changed this to allow local governments to set their own force account limits or use an increased limit indexed to inflation.

Other key provisions of the budget include: $10 million for a transformative transportation improvement study, increased funding to municipalities, townships, and counties, $3.6 billion for replacement of the Brent Spence Bridge in Cincinnati and to help build a second nearby bridge, and language allowing for permanent registrations for non-commercial trailers.

The Senate version of HB 23 passed that chamber unanimously 30-0 before returning to the Ohio House where they voted to not concur on the Senate changes 79-16. House Bill 23 now goes to a conference committee comprised of majority and minority members from both the House and Senate to resolve all differences between the two versions.
Environmental Policy
This past Friday the Ohio Chamber participated in a briefing from the US Chamber of Commerce on the soon to be announced rule for drinking water MCL (Maximum Contaminant Level) for PFOS and PFOA. The rule would impact water utilities. The public comment period on the proposal will end on May 30, 2023. The Ohio Chamber will review the US Chamber coalition letter and seek input from Ohio Chamber members before signing onto the letter.
Eminent Domain
House Bill 64 seeks to modify the current procedures used in eminent domain proceedings. House Bill 64 received two hearings earlier this month. Ahead of a third hearing the bill sponsors convened an interested party meeting. The Ohio Chamber attended that meeting this past Thursday. The meeting lasted an hour and elicited comments from many attendees at the meeting. Those comments will be compiled by the sponsor and may become the content of amending language or creation of a substitute bill. It is too early to say for certainty which direction the sponsors will take on the alternatives suggested by the interested parties. The Ohio Chamber will continue to monitor the bill and participate in future interested party meetings.
Tax Update
The Ohio General Assembly has introduced several bills impacting the Ohio tax code. These bills will receive hearings in the future, and a few may end up in the operating budget. These bills impact municipal income tax penalties; safe harbor for reporting apportionment for municipal net profit tax; allowance for immediate recognition of bonus depreciation expenses; and definitional clarity for guaranteed payments. The Ohio Chamber is monitored the bills and will keep Ohio Chamber members updated as the bills move through the process.
The Chamber Healthcare Committee Hosts Policy Event for Legislators
On Thursday, March 16, the Ohio Chamber’s Healthcare Committee hosted a healthcare lunch & learn for the members of the 135th General Assembly. The discussion focused on three industry perspectives: the pharmaceutical industry, the hospital industry, and the health insurance industry.  To kick off the discussion, PhRMA, Amgen, and Boehringer Ingelheim provided an overview on the biopharmaceutical contribution to Ohio’s economy, the implications of the federal Inflation Reduction Act, and overall policies impacting their business. 

Switching gears to the hospital industry, leaders from The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center and the Cleveland Clinic explained the workforce challenges they face, innovative ways to address behavioral health, access to care, and preventative care, and offered suggestions on how to reduce regulatory burdens on the hospital systems. 

To wrap up the event, the Ohio Association of Health Plans, the Buckeye Health Plan, and OptumRX discussed the utilization of the managed care model for Medicaid services, Medicaid redetermination, and the role pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) serve in the healthcare delivery system.