State Senator Matt Dolan Newsletter
The pace of legislative work has certainly picked up since my last newsletter. Much of the work being done in Columbus has centered around the budget.
However, several other pieces of legislation have been voted on, and passed off the Senate floor. I have summarized all these votes in the Legislative Update section of the newsletter. I have chosen the two bills below to discuss more in depth.
In its current form, SB 2 embraces two concepts that I believe make for good public policy. The first concept is the further protection and preservation of Lake Erie. The bill does this by taking additional steps to ensure clean drinking water, and further supporting the continued effort to eliminate harmful algae blooms, as well as other toxins.
SB 2 also directs the Lake Erie Commission to consider economic benefits and strategies in its promotion of Lake Erie. Ohio needs to position itself as a leader in the availability of fresh water. SB 2 is an important step in that direction.
The second concept that I believe lends itself to good public policy is the idea that the private sector often has solutions to offer to a public problem. In this case, the pubic problem is the disposal of construction debris. Here too, SB 2 is a step in the right direction. It helps reduce the potential risks from construction and landfill debris, but also encourages the beneficial uses of potentially helpful materials from dredging and slag.
Overall, SB 2 will benefit communities across the state by making a number of improvements to Ohio’s environmental safety, and human health and safety programs. However, when the bill was originally introduced, I had my concerns.
Specifically, the original version of SB 2 gave too much power to Ohio’s EPA. I successfully included an amendment that restricted the EPA’s powers to issues of public health concerns only. Public water systems need to have the financial backing, appropriate management know-how and the relevant technology. The EPA can assist our water systems in achieving the goals stated above. But the EPA should not be able to take over the systems unless the water quality is a threat to human health.
By successfully amending SB 2, I was able to alleviate concerns that I had about a statewide creep of EPA powers over our local water systems.
SB2 is now in the House. I will continue to work to ensure my amendment remains in the bill as it moves through the rest of the legislative process.
The legislature also passed HB 26, the state’s transportation budget, which provides funding for the Ohio Department of Transportation, Department of Public Safety, Public Works Commission and Development Services Agency.
The $7.8 billion bill funds the construction and maintenance of the state’s transportation system, enhances safety, promotes commerce and seeks to put tens of thousands of Ohioans to work.
It had been my hope that the final version of the transportation budget would be the version passed by the Senate. The Senate version provided additional funding to local governments, and it did so without raising taxes. I advocated for the reallocation of $48 million to local governments for infrastructure projects. However, for reasons I still don’t know, the Ohio House and governor took this provision – which amounted to a little more than one half of one percent of the overall transportation budget — from the bill.
Of course, the bill does fund important infrastructure needs throughout the state. Other highlights of the bill include:
- Maintaining Ohio’s Bridges: HB 26 reauthorizes the Ohio Bridge Partnership Program, which is a construction initiative designed to provide resources for county bridge projects.
- Bringing Business Back to Ohio: Registration fees for high-volume, commercial vehicle fleets are reduced, encouraging these businesses to stay in Ohio. This will result in more job opportunities and economic development in Ohio’s trucking and commercial vehicle industry. HB 26 also modernizes and streamlines the current vehicle registration process.
- Enhanced Consumer Protections: Because of the increase in websites that look like they are government websites but are not, it is now a requirement of any entity other than the Registrar of Motor Vehicles must use a prominent disclaimer about fees charged for services that are otherwise already provided by authorized local registrars.
- Increasing Local Government Efficiency: Townships and municipal corporations now have the flexibility to enter into agreements to share services as it relates to the maintenance, repair and improvement of their roads by creating joint road districts.
- Funding for Public Transit: This year’s transportation budget will invest at least $66 million over the next two years in public transit options across the state.
Upon our return from Easter Break, the Senate will begin its deliberations of Ohio’s operating budget. This will provide an excellent opportunity to be strategic in our tax policy and to encourage business growth. On the education front, this will also be a perfect opportunity to begin eliminating the “one size fits all” approach to k-12 education, and to incentivize students and universities to be effective and efficient with higher education tax dollars. Finally, it is critical that this operating budget works to again restore the solid relationship that once existed between state and local governments.
I look forward to seeing you on May 6 at my town hall meetings, which will be in Strongsville from 10:00 to noon, and Solon from 1:30 to 3:30.