AIA Ohio Government Affairs Update
By Luther Liggett

Members of the Ohio General Assembly are very active, particularly considering legislation which came close to passage last session but did not make it across the finish line.

Budgets. In this first quarter, the General Assembly is focusing on passing an Operating Budget starting July 1, 2021 through the next two fiscal years. The State ends this current fiscal year with less of a deficit needing to be filled, by giving non-pay work suspensions to state employees last year. Thus, the state “rainy day fund” was preserved. The state took advances on unemployment funding from the Federal government, and now will use Ohio’s allocation of pandemic relief funding to pay back the Feds for the unemployment advances.

Payment Assurance Legislation (PAL). Senate Bill 49 passed the Senate and awaits hearings in the House Commerce and Labor Committee.

Senators Jay Hottinger (R, Newark) and Vernon Sykes (D, Akron) jointly sponsored the legislation again, reintroduced as Senate Bill 49. We gained five co-sponsors: Senator Cecil Thomas (D, Cincinnati), Senator Hearcel Craig (D, Columbus), Senator Michael Rulli (R, Salem), Senator Kenny Yuko (D, Richmond Hts., Minority Leader), and Senator Bill Blessing (R, Cincinnati), the only licensed Engineer in the General Assembly.

Statute of Limitations Legislation. Reintroduced after passing both Senate and House last session, Senate Bill 13 shortens the Statute of Limitations during which to bring a breach of contract claim from 8 years to 6 years. The House and Senate passed the bill unanimously, and the Governor signed it into law, effective June 11, 2021.

Building Code Obstacle. The Ohio Senate passed Senate Bill 9 on March 10, 2021, requiring removal of two regulations for every one enacted, thus blocking adoption of updated national model building codes. Introduced by Senator McColley (R, Napoleon) and Senator Roegner (R, Hudson), Senate Bill 9 now is assigned to the House Government Oversight Committee for hearings.

Highly opposed by state agencies, on February 24th, representatives of the Ohio Building Officials Association and Fire Chiefs testified against the legislation.

As much of Ohio’s building and fire codes follow national or international codes for uniformity in materials and enforcement, editing the codes would have an unintended effect. The Ohio Building Officials Association is urging a legislative exception to the Ohio Board of Building Standards.

Supreme Court. The Ohio Supreme Court is considering an appeal from the Medina Court of Appeals which ruled that a county’s consideration of Architect hiring under R.C. 153.65 et seq., Qualifications-Based Selection, must follow Ohio “Sunshine Law” requirements in an open meeting. The county sought to select an architect behind closed doors for a courthouse renovation.

Ohio Infrastructure Report. The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), Ohio Section, issued a report grading Ohio infrastructure as needing significant improvement, with an overall grade of “C–“. The trifold document categorizes 16 categories, of which Ohio graded “D” in 7 categories. The lack of adequate, long-term funding is cited in particular as the cause.

During budget hearings, County Engineers Association of Ohio Executive Director Dean Ringle expressed concern of over-reliance on state and federal gas taxes, which represent “a shrinking share” of transportation spending, which challenges counties across Ohio.