AIA Ohio Government Affairs Update
By Luther Liggett

The Ohio General Assembly began its second year of session in January, 2022, with continued Republican majorities in both the House and Senate. All State Representatives and half of Ohio Senators will run for election in November, 2022, along with the Governor and all other statewide elected officials.

As a part-time legislature, the elected members will end all work on June 30, 2022, and return home to campaign. On the last legislative meeting day in December, 2022, the General Assembly will adjourn “sine die”, without another scheduled day. At that moment, all pending legislation is extinguished.

For 2022, the House Speaker will remain Robert Cupp of Lima, who has demonstrated his support of Architects as a profession. Senator Matt Huffman of Lima will continue as Senate President. Both are attorneys by profession.

Construction Funding. By Constitutional requirement, the General Assembly must pass a Capital Appropriation before June 30, 2022 for the next two fiscal years. This will cover State funding for K-12 Schools (administered by the Ohio Facilities Construction Commission), Colleges and Universities, as well as State Agency facilities.

Building Code Obstacle. Senate Bill 9 is set to pass, with the goal of reducing administrative rules in each state agency by 30%. Sponsored by Senator Robert McColley (R, Napoleon) and Christina Roegner (R, Hudson), the bill passed the Senate along party lines, and after five hearings is pending a vote in the House Government Oversight Committee.

If enacted, the new law would require each agency to reduce administrative rules by 10% annually for three years. No agency could adopt new rules without maintaining the prior reduction, thus requiring a reduction of additional rules to enact a new one.

Building Officials around the state have expressed opposition to the legislation, particularly interested in uniform building codes. If the Board of Building Standards attempts to adopt an update of a uniform International Code Council package, the old package along with additional rules must be cut to meet the annual 10% reduction.

On October 28, 2021, the Committee accepted an amendment restricting agencies from adopting any rule which would be more restrictive than federal law on the same subject. Foreshadowing the full vote, the amendment was adopted along party lines.

On December 8, 2021, Joe Warino of the Ohio Society of Professional Engineers addressed the possibility of removing requirements of registered professional designers in construction, raising health and safety concerns. AIA Ohio has sent opposition testimony to the House Government Oversight Committee as well.

Ephemeral Water Deregulation. State Representative Brett Hillyer (R, Dennison) introduced House Bill 175 to eliminate Ohio Environmental Protection Agency regulation of headwaters, in a nod to real estate developers who object to the cost of preserving wetlands.

The bill passed the House along party lines, and has enjoyed two hearings through November, 2021. In the Senate, the bill will be considered by the Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee.

Out-of-State Architects Automatic Ohio License. House Bill 203 and Senate Bill 131 propose automatic Ohio licensure of any professional licensed in another state. Sponsored by Representative Jenna Powell (R, Arcanum) and Senators Christina Roegner and Robert McColley (same as SB 9 above), the sponsors believe that easier access to occupational licensing will create jobs in Ohio and help employers in recruiting.

The legislation does not create “reciprocity”, which already is provided in Ohio law if the other state similarly recognizes Ohio’s license. This legislation merely assists out-of-state individuals to avoid Ohio licensing requirements.

With significant opposition, both bills appear stalled.

Cooperative Purchasing. House Bill 275 would allow public consortia to purchase “construction services” including contracts for design professionals without abiding by any statutory process, including Qualifications-Based Selection. The House Commerce and Labor Committee heard Sponsor testimony on May 12, 2021, and awaits Proponent and Opponent Testimony.

AIA Ohio is joined by the American Council of Engineering Companies and the Associated General Contractors in opposing the bill.

Medina County Common Pleas Court. The Medina Court of Appeals 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 selected design professionals and construction contractors an architect behind closed doors for a courthouse renovation. The Court of Appeals remanded the case back to the trial court, where the parties are undertaking discovery for further consideration. AIA Ohio filed an amicus curiae brief in support of QBS.

Interior Design Registration Legislation. Not introduced in 2021 was Interior Design certification or licensure legislation.

In the prior legislative session, AIA Ohio successfully recruited opposition from the Ohio Building Officials Association, the Ohio Fire Chiefs Association, and the Ohio Mayor’s Alliance.