Legislative News

Building Code Bill Gets Hearing (SB 43)

Pro and con testimony regarding SB43 was heard March 28 by the Senate Local Government Committee.  SB43 would enable limited home rule townships to adopt building codes regardless of any similar codes adopted by the county in which the township resides.

Testimony against SB43 was given by Brad Cole, managing director of research for the County Commissioners Association of Ohio (CCAO). Testimony in support of the bill was given by Vincent Squillace, executive vice president of the Ohio Home Builders Association (OHBA). Written proponent testimony was submitted by Andrew Glenn, a trustee for Springfield Township in Lucas County.

Cole said, “CCAO is concerned about the duplication of services … Encouraging townships to establish parallel building departments that compete against existing county building departments for the limited business of performing inspections and issuing building permits would appear to be contrary to the overall objective of achieving greater efficiency in local government services… Another potential issue is the consistency of services …”

Chairman Uecker pointed out that Hamilton County has a robust building department despite multiple municipalities with their own departments. Sen. Terhar said Hamilton County also contains charter townships. Cole admitted he had not reached out to all counties, and agreed to meet with Uecker to discuss CCAO’s concerns further.

Squillace said OHBA wants the bill to make clear that charter townships must have exactly the same standards and rules as the county building department. Uecker requested that he submit a written copy of his testimony.

Glen wrote, “We have a very business friendly approach in our township … The building department in Lucas County treats people exactly opposite from how they are treated in our office… Several cities and villages in Lucas County have exercised their option to get away from the Lucas County Building Department by either creating their own department, or contracting with another department for permitting and inspections within their jurisdictions. It makes perfect sense to give townships that same option… another benefit of SB43 would actually be to improve the level of customer service within the county building departments through competition.”

Township Building Code Bill Gets Hearing (SB43)

Pro and con testimony regarding SB43 was heard March 28 by the Senate Local Government Committee.  SB43 would enable limited home rule townships to adopt building codes regardless of any similar codes adopted by the county in which the township resides.

Testimony against SB43 was given by Brad Cole, managing director of research for the County Commissioners Association of Ohio (CCAO). Testimony in support of the bill was given by Vincent Squillace, executive vice president of the Ohio Home Builders Association (OHBA). Written proponent testimony was submitted by Andrew Glenn, a trustee for Springfield Township in Lucas County.

Cole said, “CCAO is concerned about the duplication of services … Encouraging townships to establish parallel building departments that compete against existing county building departments for the limited business of performing inspections and issuing building permits would appear to be contrary to the overall objective of achieving greater efficiency in local government services… Another potential issue is the consistency of services …”

Chairman Uecker pointed out that Hamilton County has a robust building department despite multiple municipalities with their own departments. Sen. Terhar said Hamilton County also contains charter townships. Cole admitted he had not reached out to all counties, and agreed to meet with Uecker to discuss CCAO’s concerns further.

Squillace said OHBA wants the bill to make clear that charter townships must have exactly the same standards and rules as the county building department. Uecker requested that he submit a written copy of his testimony.

Glen wrote, “We have a very business friendly approach in our township … The building department in Lucas County treats people exactly opposite from how they are treated in our office… Several cities and villages in Lucas County have exercised their option to get away from the Lucas County Building Department by either creating their own department, or contracting with another department for permitting and inspections within their jurisdictions. It makes perfect sense to give townships that same option… another benefit of SB43 would actually be to improve the level of customer service within the county building departments through competition.”

Bill Granting Townships Building Code Rights Heard (SB 43)

The bill that would enable limited home rule townships to adopt building codes regardless of any similar codes adopted by the county in which the township resides had a proponent hearing March 21 before the Senate Local Government, Public Safety and Veterans Affairs Committee.

Testimony in support of SB43 was given by Bryan Rhoads, administrator for Blendon Township in Franklin County; and Heidi Fought, director of governmental affairs for the Ohio Township Association (OTA), on behalf of OTA and the Coalition of Large Ohio Urban Townships (CLOUT).

Rhoads said, “Our residents have to go to Franklin County to obtain building permits and inspections in order to undertake any improvements to their homes. We feel we can provide quick and efficient building services to our residents and can streamline the construction process.”

Fought said, “Clearly, Ohio law acknowledges that limited home rule townships do have the expertise and resources to effectively operate a building department to establish, revise and enforce building standard codes, for they are allowed to do so as long as the county has not adopted such. The typical limited home rule township is a large and sophisticated operation, managing police, fire and other critical operations… any such code adopted by a limited home rule township may not conflict with state-adopted codes …”

There were no questions following the testimonies.

Board of Building Standards Proposed Code Revisions

The Ohio Board of Building Standards will convene for a public hearing in accordance with Chapter 119. of the Revised Code, at 10:00 A.M., Friday, April 14, 2017 in Hearing Room #1, at 6606 Tussing Road, Reynoldsburg, Ohio, 43068.  The purpose of the hearing is to solicit testimony on proposed actions taken on select rules of the Administrative Code, identified as Amendments Group XCIII (93) pursuant to Chapters 119., 3781., 3791., and 4104. of the Revised Code.

A synopsis of the proposed rule changes is attached.  The full text of the public hearing draft containing the proposed rules can be viewed on the Board’s website at the following link:http://www.com.state.oh.us/documents/bbs_CombinedPHDraft-AG93.pdf

Due its size, it may take a few moments to download.

Please contact the Ohio Board of Building Standards at 614-644-2613 with any questions.

Private Building Inspection: HB128

bill that would permit a general contractor or owner of specified buildings to enter into a contract with a third-party private inspector or a certified building department for building inspection was introduced March 14 as HB 128 by Rep. Kristina Daley Roegner.

Building Code Bill Gets Hearing (SB 43)

The Senate Local Government, Public Safety & Veterans Affairs Committee took testimony, March 7 regarding SB43 which would enable limited home rule townships to adopt building codes regardless of any similar codes adopted by the county in which the township resides.

The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Kevin Bacon (R-Minerva Park) said his proposal would let residents and businesses in certain limited home rule townships obtain building permits at the township level, which would be more convenient than seeking permits from county departments.

He said the change was requested by Blendon Township, which would like to adopt its own codes.

He said that township has a commercial building department because Franklin County doesn’t have one, but is unable to open a residential building department because the county does have a residential operation.

Having both departments, he said, would make the process more efficient because Ohioans would only have to visit one jurisdiction to address all their permit needs. The change, he added, would allow builders to work with a single inspector on all projects.

Sen. Bacon told Sen. Bob Hackett (R-London) that the bill would not address any local zoning restrictions.

Sen. Vernon Sykes (D-Akron) questioned whether counties and townships could come to different decisions on permit applications. Sen. Bacon said the codes would be similar, but acknowledged that different people could have different views on code interpretation.

The sponsor also told Sen. Sykes that there is nothing in the bill that lets counties object to qualifying townships creating their own departments.

Responding to Sen. Joe Uecker (R-Loveland), Sen. Bacon said the proposed structure is similar to the process that many cities already follow, in which the county is not involved.

Sen. Frank Hoagland (R-Adena) said he has experience in residential and commercial construction, and raised concerns that the shift could “muddy the waters” in terms what governmental entity is responsible for permitting. “This could become an extreme nightmare if we make it more convoluted than it already is,” he said.

Sen. Bacon said it is his goal that the bill makes the process go more smoothly, not create confusion. “We’re changing nothing about the process,” he added, noting that the bill only creates new township authority.

Sen. Sykes said he wanted to avoid potential conflicts between counties and townships, and asked why the bill declares that township codes will prevail.

Sen. Bacon said that issue would be reviewed.

Budget Bill Would Mitigate Registration Board Anti-Trust Vulnerabilities

Ohio’s Budget Bill (HB49) contains provisions that address the 2015 U.S. Supreme Court decision against the North Carolina Board of Dental Examiners that ruled they violated federal antitrust laws because members of the state’s dental board were active participants in the profession they regulated.

Due to this Supreme Court ruling, certain vulnerabilities have been identified in Ohio’s current licensing system. HB49 proposes the creation of a third-party review process by the Department of Administrative Services (DAS), in which the DAS would review any action taken by or on behalf of a board that could be subject to antitrust laws. Not only would this protect boards from costly legal action for antitrust-related concerns, it would also prevent unnecessary delays in business decisions the boards make and promote better coordination and efficiency within the licensing boards structure.

Following are the details governing DAS Antitrust review:

  • Requires the Director of Administrative Services to review and approve or disapprove actions or proposed actions that have been referred to the Director and that may have antitrust implications taken by boards and commissions.
  • Voids an action or proposed action disapproved by the Director.
  • Allows a board or commission that has taken or proposes to take an action, person who is affected or is likely to be affected by an action taken or proposed to be taken by a board or commission, or a person granted a stay in court under the bill to refer an action for review by the Director.
  • Allows a party adversely affected by the Director’s approval or disapproval to appeal to the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas.
  • Requires a person to obtain a determination from the Director before pursuing a court action for a violation of antitrust laws and grants the state, a board or commission, or a member of a board or commission the right to request a stay of antitrust proceedings pending in a court that lasts until the Director approves or disapproves the action.
  • Requires the Director to adopt rules under the Administrative Procedure Act to implement and administer the bill’s review provisions.

Proposal To Sunset School Facilities Commission Won’t Impact Projects, Director Says

Eliminating the Ohio School Facilities Commission moniker would alleviate confusion and improve efficiency, Executive Director David Williamson told a House subcommittee Thursday.

The commission currently operates inside the Facilities Construction Commission, of which Mr. Williamson also serves as the executive director.

He said the biennial budget (HB 49) proposal to sunset OSFC wouldn’t change the school facilities funding work that’s already underway – all of which is already being completed by umbrella commission OFCC.

“The commission within a commission structure breeds confusion among stakeholder groups when trying to figure out with which commission to deal and has contributed to operational inefficiencies and costs,” Mr. Williamson told the House Finance Primary and Secondary Education Subcommittee on Thursday.

He said the change will also streamline operations because both commissions currently hold back-to-back quarterly meetings attended by the same staff members and draft similar administrative rules.

“It has an additional advantage of alleviating the potential complicated legal issues that arise from having two legal entities – with confusing areas of authority – to engage in legal actions or file suit against, or on behalf of, if and when such conditions arise,” Mr. Williamson said.

Under the change, the OFCC will still consist of Office of Budget and Management and Department of Administrative Services directors as well as an appointed member of the governor’s cabinet.

Current appointees are Superintendent of Public Instruction Paolo DeMaria, who serves on OSFC, and Department of Rehabilitation and Correction Director Gary Mohr, who serves on OFCC.

Mr. Williamson told the subpanel that he would work with the legislature if it chooses to appoint lawmakers to serve as non-voting members on the commission.

The executive budget also expands the entities that can seek approval from OFCC to manage their own capital improvement projects that cost less than $1.5 million. They include the Department of Administrative Services, the Ohio School for the Deaf and the Ohio School for the Blind.

“The approval of this language would allow these entities to manage their small dollar projects under applicable laws and rules without the supervision or control of the Ohio Facilities Construction Commission,” Mr. Williamson said. “It would bring consistency with the practices found in other state agencies.”

The commission would also be permitted under the budget bill to debar construction firms as well as specific individuals associated with those firms from seeking work on state contracts.

Mr. Williamson noted that the Department of Transportation director has such authority and the bill’s language is taken from that statute.

“Currently, if a construction firm is debarred, there is nothing that prohibits the owners of that company from simply starting a new company and then competing for work, which effectively negates the purpose of the debarment,” he said.

The governor funded the commission to the tune of $424 million in Fiscal Year 2018 and $455 million in FY 2019.

Much of those dollars will pay the debt service on K-12 and cultural facility bond projects, which are estimated at $398.3 million in FY18 and $437.9 million in FY19, Mr. Williamson said.

OFCC’s work is given life in the capital budget, which previously appropriated $716.8 million for construction projects, including $650 million that’s designated for K-12 school facilities assistance projects.

Since 2011, the commission has completed work in 78 school districts and opened 270 new or renovated school buildings, Mr. Williamson said. It has also overseen historical facilities and completed 175 state agency projects.

The commission is currently in the active planning stages with 56 school districts, four state agencies and one community college, he added.

“We are proud of the work our staff has accomplished thus far, and are eager to continue the programs and responsibilities entrusted to us by the General Assembly and administration,” Mr. Williamson said.

Lawmakers Look to Accelerate School Facilities Program from Last Session

Lawmakers are hoping to create a school facilities program to help districts with little prospect of getting traditional facilities assistance the option of smaller amounts to address technology and security needs.

Sens. Randy Gardner (R-Bowling Green) and Lou Terhar (R-Cincinnati) testified Wednesday on their SB8 in the Senate Education Committee. Rep. Steve Arndt (R-Port Clinton) testified Tuesday on his HB37.

Gardner said his measure’s place among the first Senate bills to be introduced this session reflects the priority members of the chamber are placing on it, noting it’s something lawmakers tried to address in 131-SB3 (Faber-Hite). Language in that bill, largely meant to be a de-regulation measure for schools, requires the Ohio School Facilities Commission (OSFC) to develop a proposal for how it could provide funding for technology and safety to districts that haven’t participated in the traditional Classroom Facilities Assistance Program (CFAP).

“I would argue it’s SB8 for a reason. It means it’s going to receive serious consideration,” Gardner said.

Gardner said many school districts are so far down the list or are projected to have such a low state share of funding that CFAP isn’t a viable option, but they nonetheless have some specific facilities needs.

“We know there are a number of districts in the state that are not likely to participate in that program, or if they do they will be many, many years away,” he said.

Terhar said safety and security should be a priority at all schools, while schools also need help keeping up with technological change.

“When we have kids sitting on the bus on a smartphone that could run the space shuttle, and then go into a classroom and we’re back to pencils and paper … that’s absolutely nonsensical,” Terhar said.

Gardner said he wants to work collaboratively with OSFC and the administration, noting the bill is very short because it leaves many of the details to OSFC.

Sen. Bill Coley (R-West Chester) asked if it should be open to all schools, not just public schools. Gardner said he wasn’t sure of the details of how that would work but said he wants to maximize the benefit of the program.

Sen. Peggy Lehner (R-Kettering), the chair of the committee, noted there’s unused charter school facilities funding left over from the current operating budget.