Ohio's Transportation Budget: Investing In Our Roads And Bridges
A Guest Column by Ohio Senate President Larry Obhof
April 11, 2017
 
 

The Ohio Senate recently passed the state’s biennial transportation budget. This bill, House Bill 26, is one of the most significant pieces of legislation that will be enacted during the two-year legislative cycle. It provides funding for the Ohio Department of Transportation and the Ohio Department of Public Safety, as well as many infrastructure projects throughout the state. In total, House Bill 26 invests nearly $8 billion into the construction, maintenance and safety of Ohio’s roads, bridges and highway system.

The transportation budget makes critical investments in infrastructure, which will lead to improvements to roads and bridges across the state of Ohio. Our focus wasn’t just on funding, though. Throughout the process it was important to the Senate that state government run more efficiently and more effectively and that we continue our efforts to make Ohio a more attractive place to do business.

Among the bill's provisions was a codification and renewal of the Ohio Bridge Partnership Program. Initially sponsored by the Senate a few years ago, this popular program requires the Ohio Department of Transportation to partner with local governments (generally the County Engineer) to repair local bridges. This cooperation gets local governments the help they need for important infrastructure improvements, directing resources back to local communities and ensuring that our bridges are safe.

The Senate also sought to improve government efficiency, to help ensure that we are protecting your tax dollars and doing more with less. That is why House Bill 26 included key provisions allowing townships and municipalities to enter into agreements to share services as it relates to maintenance, repair and the improvement of their roads by creating joint road districts.

One of our key priorities as a legislature is improving Ohio’s economy so that employers can grow and expand and any Ohioan who wants a well-paying job can find one. Ohio has made important progress in recent years, as we have cut taxes, eliminated unnecessary red tape and regulation and made significant improvements to our civil and commercial laws. These changes have helped Ohio add more than 400,000 jobs in the past six years. The transportation budgets that I have been involved in have played a key role in this. These bills improved Ohio’s ability to use public-private partnerships to spur investment in infrastructure and allowed the state to leverage turnpike bonds to fund and accelerate the timing of many additional highway projects. House Bill 26 will build on that momentum. The bill includes a pilot program that reduces registration fees for high-volume commercial vehicle fleets. This will encourage businesses to move their fleets to Ohio and could result in more job opportunities and economic development in our state’s trucking industry.

Importantly, a portion of the deliberations on the transportation budget were recorded and made available on the Ohio Channel online and on local public access broadcast stations. Open and accountable government is a priority for the Senate. Any time the state is spending billions of taxpayers’ dollars, the process should be accessible by We the People. That is why I recently expanded televised coverage of the Senate’s proceedings to include several key committees, including the Transportation, Commerce and Workforce Committee that considered House Bill 26. For the first time ever, the Ohio Senate was able to bring the inner workings of a transportation budget process to Ohioans everywhere, even in their own homes.

Just after the Senate passed the final version of House Bill 26, I joined the Ohio Department of Transportation as it kicked off construction season in north-central Ohio. There are major projects being undertaken throughout the 22nd District, as well as the rest of the state.

As the 132nd General Assembly continues, I will remain focused on improving our infrastructure and our economy. As with any issue, I welcome your input on our transportation system. If you have questions, or if you have any ideas that you would like to share, you can reach me by phone at (614) 466-7505 or by e-mail at Obhof@ohiosenate.gov. You may also reach me by mail at Ohio Senate President Larry Obhof, 1 Capitol Square, Columbus, Ohio 43215.

 
 
  

COLUMBUS - State Senator Cliff Hite (R-Findlay) today announced the Senate's passage of legislation providing additional training opportunities, helping equip Ohio's local police chiefs as leaders in their departments and communities.

Sponsored by Senator Hite, the legislation would establish a 40-hour police chief training program designed for newly appointed local police chiefs. Course content would include diversity training with an emphasis on historical perspectives and community-police relations. 

"This training program helps prepare local police chiefs to become effective and dynamic leaders in the communities they serve," said Senator Hite. 

In 2015, Ada Police Chief Michael Harnishfeger approached Senator Hite with the idea of establishing the training program. Senate Bill 37 is the result of extensive collaboration between the Ohio Attorney General's office and the Ohio Police Chiefs Association.

If signed into law, newly appointed police chiefs would be required to attend the training program, provided by the Ohio Peace Officer Training Academy, beginning in January 2018.

Senate Bill 37 now goes to the House of Representatives for further consideration. 

 
 
  
Senator Hoagland speaks on the floor of the Ohio Senate, Wednesday, in favor of his legislation, which would provide significant funding for local infrastructure projects.

COLUMBUS—The Ohio Senate approved legislation today, sponsored by Senator Frank Hoagland (R-Mingo Junction), making significant infrastructure investments in local communities throughout the state.

"The condition of our roads and bridges is an ongoing concern for southeast Ohio," said Senator Hoagland. "Investing in local bridge projects helps to support economic development and makes Ohio's roadways safer for the traveling public."

Ohio has the most bridges of any state, except Texas, with more than 26,000 structures. In 2015, the American Road and Transportation Builders Association estimated that more than 1,800 of Ohio's bridges are structurally deficient, with another 4,200 deemed functionally obsolete.

Created by executive action in October of 2013, the Ohio Bridge partnership Program has invested approximately $138 million for repairing and replacing more than 200 bridges statewide. The program is set to expire at the end of June 2017. 

Bridges must meet the following criteria to be eligible for funding: be more than 20 feet in length; be deemed structurally deficient; must currently be open and carrying vehicular traffic; and must not be currently funded by other sources. 

Senate Bill 6 now goes to the House of Representatives for further consideration.

$7.8 Billion Investment in State Highway System

The Senate also approved legislation today investing $7.8 billion to fund the construction, maintenance and safety of the state's transportation system. The Ohio Department of Transportation estimates that the budget will support and create tens of thousands of jobs over the next two years. 

"Well-maintained roads and bridges are an important consideration for companies seeking to expand their operations and create jobs here in Ohio," said Hoagland. "This budget invests in critical infrastructure and provides additional dollars for counties and municipalities."

Passed by the Senate with unanimous, bipartisan support, House Bill 26 provides funding for the Ohio Department of Transportation, Department of Public Safety, Public Works Commission and Development Services Agency.

"This bill makes critical investments in infrastructure, improving roads and bridges throughout the state of Ohio," said Senate President Larry Obhof (R-Medina). "The bill also makes improvements in government efficiency and includes key changes to make Ohio a more attractive place to do business."

Among the bill's provisions included in the Senate-passed version:

  • Additional Funding to Local Governments: Allocates an additional $48 million in funding over the biennium from the existing motor fuel tax revenue to counties and municipalities for the improvement of local roads and bridges. This is above the $124 million proposed by the Administration.
     
  • Bringing Business Back to Ohio: Reduces the registration fee for high-volume, commercial vehicle fleets, encouraging this business to stay in Ohio, resulting in more job opportunities and economic development in Ohio's trucking and commercial vehicle industry. It also modernizes and streamlines the current registration process.
     
  • Enhanced Consumer Protections: Requires any entity other than the Registrar of Motor Vehicles to use a prominent disclaimer about fees charged for services that are already provided by authorized local registrars and the state-provided website.
     
  • Increasing Efficiency: Allows townships and municipal corporations to enter into agreements to share services as it relates to maintenance, repair and the improvement of their roads by creating joint road districts.
     
  • More Funding for Public Transit: At least $33 million per year will be invested in public transit options across the state. The bill also directs an additional $15 million from an existing emissions settlement towards public transit vehicles powered by clean energy.


House Bill 26 now proceeds to the House of Representatives for concurrence.

 
 
  

COLUMBUS—Ohio Senate President Larry Obhof (R-Medina) today appointed State Senator Bob Peterson (R-Washington Court House) to serve on the 14-member governing board for the Ohio Legislative Service Commission. 

"The Commission plays an integral role in Ohio's legislative process, providing important support services for the members of the General Assembly on a daily basis," said Senator Peterson. "I look forward to representing the Ohio Senate and providing guidance to the Commission in this role."

Established in 1953, The Legislative Service Commission (LSC) is a nonpartisan agency that provides drafting, research, training and other services for the members and staff of the Ohio General Assembly.

LSC is currently accepting applications from recent college graduates for its 2017 Fellowship program. Applications are due by April 1st. To learn more about the program, click here

 
 
  

COLUMBUS—Ohio Senate President Larry Obhof (R-Medina) announced today that expanded televised coverage of Senate standing committees will begin next week. In addition to the Finance Committee already being televised, the following committees will be part of the live coverage: Education; Transportation, Commerce and Workforce; and Health, Human Services and Medicaid. The Local Government, Public Safety and Veterans Affairs Committee will replace the Transportation Committee in the broadcast schedule at the conclusion of the biennial budget process in June.  

Today's announcement comes during "Sunshine Week," an initiative to educate the public about the importance of open government and their right to access information. Committee coverage will be provided by The Ohio Channel, a service of Ohio's public broadcasting stations, which provides coverage of the Senate's full legislative sessions, also streamed on OhioSenate.gov
 
“Open, accountable government is a priority for the Senate,” said President Obhof. “Technology gives us the opportunity to increase transparency and participation by bringing the legislative process to Ohioans wherever they are, and we look forward to using it to provide our constituents with greater access.”

Next week's coverage of the Transportation Committee will include deliberations on the important state transportation budget, which funds Ohio's roads, highways, bridges and other infrastructure and brings thousands of jobs to the state. For a full listing of committee meetings and times, click here.

The Senate also championed access to public records last year, as Senate Bill 321 created an expedited process for individuals whose public record requests have been denied by a public office at the state or local levels. Ohioans can now file a complaint with the Court of Claims that will begin with a mediation process designed to resolve the dispute over access to the requested public records. 

According to The Columbus Dispatch, the court has accepted nearly three dozen appeals since the bill's effective date almost six months ago. Ten cases have been settled as part of the first-step mediation process, with those denied records winning them in nine cases. 

 
 
  

COLUMBUS – Senate President Larry Obhof (R–Medina) announced the Senate passage of legislation that would eliminate unnecessary primary elections for uncontested party nominations.  The Senate unanimously passed Senate Bill 10 last week, which was sponsored by Senator Frank LaRose (R-Hudson) and co-sponsored by Obhof.  
 
Under current law, boards of elections are required to hold primary elections when two or more people file to run for an office, even if only one candidate remains on the ballot after the death, withdrawal or disqualification of other candidates.  This has caused boards of elections to hold unnecessary primary elections throughout Ohio.  One notable example occurred in southwest Ohio following the resignation of Speaker John Boehner from Congress.  The September 2016 special Democratic primary for that position cost taxpayers an estimated $340,800 even though the race was uncontested. 
 
Senate Bill 10 would prevent unnecessary, single-candidate elections in the future – saving money, employee time and other resources.  The bill will change the law to trigger a primary election based on the number of candidates who are actually certified to appear on the ballot, not the number of candidates who initially file. 
 
“Senate Bill 10 will remove an unnecessary and expensive mandate from our local boards of elections,” said Obhof.  “This commonsense change will save hundreds of man hours and hundreds of thousands of taxpayers’ dollars.”
 
Senate Bill 10 now goes to the Ohio House of Representatives for further consideration.

 
 
  

COLUMBUS—Ohio Senate President Larry Obhof (R-Medina) joined today with Governor Kasich and the leadership of the Ohio Bureau of Workers' Compensation (BWC) to announce a one-time rebate of approximately $1 billion to Ohio's private employers and public-taxing districts. This will be the third such rebate in the last four years.

Prudent fiscal management and a focus on worker safety and wellness has enabled BWC to continue to grow and see strong investment returns making this rebate possible. Ohio has reduced rates for the state's employers by nearly 30 percent since 2011. The bureau has also improved programs designed to reduce workplace injuries and has focused more on helping injured Ohioans receive the care they need to return to work.

"This rebate gives Ohio's employers an opportunity to reinvest these savings into expansion and hiring, and that translates into jobs for Ohio families," said President Obhof. "I commend BWC for its sound management and investment decisions. Today presents another important step in our efforts to improve Ohio's business climate."

To become effective, the proposal will first go to the BWC Board of Directors for review, with an expected vote on April 28. If approved, BWC expects to begin sending checks in early July 2017. Most rebates are expected to equal 66 percent of an employer's premium for the policy year ending June 30, 2016 (calendar year 2015 for public employers). Over $90 million of the total rebate will go to local governments.

Ohio's workers' compensation rates have gone from 3rd highest in the nation in 2008 to 11th lowest, according to the Oregon Study, a nationally recognized benchmark of rates.

 
 
  
 
Turning Heartbreak Into Hope: Our Fight To Prevent Deadly Meningitis
A Guest Column by State Senator Cliff Hite
March 09, 2017
 
 

March 9th is Meningitis Awareness Day in the State of Ohio. I know firsthand the heartbreak that meningitis can cause. My family lost my niece, Tess, to this terrible disease and I have made it a top priority to do all that I can to empower parents to protect their kids from meningitis. It was in her memory that I sponsored Senate Bill 275 during the 130th General Assembly, now known as Tess’s Law, requiring the meningitis vaccine for students entering 7th and 12th grades.

Often striking quickly in young victims and causing severe health risks or even death within hours, meningitis is a preventable tragedy that no parent or family member should ever have to face. The law protects a parent’s right to opt their children out of the immunizations for matters of conscience, including religious beliefs.

Tess’s Law is my way of helping raise awareness about this terrible disease and helping lessen the numbers of those affected every year. I know that this law will help save lives which is the best possible outcome following the loss my own family has endured.

Please help me spread the word about the importance of getting your children vaccinated.

If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to contact me at (614) 466-8150, or email me at Hite@OhioSenate.gov. Fore more information regarding Tess's law, click here.

 
 
  
Senator Beagle delivers proponent testimony establishing "Ohio Deaf History Month" using an American Sign Language interpreter today at the Ohio Statehouse.

COLUMBUS - State Senator Bill Beagle (R-Tipp City) today announced the Senate passage of legislation that would designate March 13 through April 15 as "Ohio Deaf History Month" in an effort to raise awareness for deaf history and culture throughout Ohio. 

"Deaf history is rich and complex, but not without adversity," said Senator Beagle, who sponsored the legislation in the Senate. "Advancements in technology and the emphasis on early detection are especially noteworthy and this legislation pays tribute to those who have made important contributions to the deaf community."

Advocates for the deaf community hope that Ohio Deaf History Month will be an opportunity to focus efforts on celebrating deaf culture and educating the public about the deaf community's rich history.

"We want to thank Senator Beagle for proposing this piece of legislation," wrote Dawn Watts, co-founder of Citizens of Deaf Culture. "We are excited about this new opportunity for sharing the vibrant culture and history of the deaf community, which has made a significant impact on Ohio and American history."

Senate Bill 27 celebrates the progress made by the deaf community over the last 200 years. Ohio Deaf History Month's beginning date of March 13 commemorates the date Dr. I. Jordan King was elected as the first deaf president of Gallaudet University, a school for the deaf and hard of hearing in 1988. The ending date of April 15th recognizes the establishment of our nation's first permanent school for the deaf in 1817.

The legislation now goes to the Ohio House of Representatives for further consideration. 

 
 
  
COLUMBUS—Senate President Larry Obhof (R-Medina) and State Senator Frank LaRose (R-Hudson), Chairman of the Senate Transportation, Commerce and Workforce Committee, today released the tentative hearing schedule for the transportation budget process in the Ohio Senate.

“Transportation issues touch the lives of all Ohioans," said LaRose. "I look forward to working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to craft a transportation budget that invests in Ohio's diverse transportation infrastructure to enhance prosperity and improve safety for Ohio’s families.”

The first day of the transportation budget process will feature informal testimony provided by the directors of the Ohio Department of Transportation, Department of Public Safety, Public Works Commission and Development Services Agency. 

The Senate will begin formal hearings on the transportation budget following its passage by the House of Representatives, which is expected next week. 


Senate Transportation Budget Hearing Schedule

Week of February 27
  • Agency Testimony: Tuesday, February 28, beginning at 9 a.m.
Week of March 6
  • Agency Testimony (if needed) and Public Testimony: Tuesday, March 7
  • Public Testimony: Wednesday, March 8
Week of March 13
  • Public Testimony: Tuesday, March 14
  • Public Testimony: Wednesday, March 15
  • Public Testimony: Thursday, March 16 (if needed)
Week of March 20
  • Public Testimony: Monday, March 20
  • Public Testimony: Tuesday, March 21
  • Committee Vote: Wednesday, March 22
 
 
  
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Featured Posts

Ohio's Transportation Budget: Investing In Our Roads And Bridges

 

The Ohio Senate recently passed the state’s biennial transportation budget. This bill, House Bill 26, is one of the most significant pieces of legislation that will be enacted during the two-year legislative cycle. It provides funding for the Ohio Department of Transportation and the Ohio Department of Public Safety, as well as many infrastructure projects throughout the state. In total, House Bill 26 invests nearly $8 billion into the construction, maintenance and safety of Ohio’s roads, bridges and highway system.



 
 

Senate Approves Legislation Investing In Training For Local Police Chiefs

 

"This training program helps prepare local police chiefs to become effective and dynamic leaders in the communities they serve," said Senator Hite. 



 
 

Hoagland Announces Senate Passage Of Investments In Local Bridge Projects And State Highway System

 

"The condition of our roads and bridges is an ongoing concern for southeast Ohio," said Senator Hoagland. "Investing in local bridge projects helps to support economic development and makes Ohio's roadways safer for the traveling public."



 
 

Peterson Appointed To Legislative Service Commission

 

"The Commission plays an integral role in Ohio's legislative process, providing important support services for the members of the General Assembly on a daily basis," said Senator Peterson. "I look forward to representing the Ohio Senate and providing guidance to the Commission in this role."