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AIA Ohio News
Senate Committee Eyes Second Story Egress Requirement (SB205)
The Senate Transportation, Commerce and Labor Committee took testimony February 10 regarding SB205 which would require a separate, exterior means of egress for dwelling areas above the second story of certain residential rental properties and provide a qualified immunity to landlords who in good faith comply with the requirement.
Sen. Beagle read the written testimony of Ann and Rod Garner, whose daughter, Ellen, died as a result of injuries she sustained in a house fire near the University of Cincinnati campus.
He said Ellen was trapped in a third-floor bedroom when a fire was started by a space heater.
The testimony indicated that having an external egress option could have helped Ellen escape the home, and argued that a failure to act would mean accepting the deaths of more college students.
The testimony indicated that quality egress ladder costs about $265, and besides offering an escape route, would also minimize the risk that insurers and landlords face from the issue.
The hearing start was delayed briefly at the outset when Senate staff and a canine were brought to the Senate Finance Hearing Room after an object thought to be a suspicious package was found in the room. The room was temporarily cleared and it was determined the box contained an egress ladder that Sen. Beagle displayed during the testimony.
Spencer Brannon of the Ohio Student Government Association also backed the bill. He said the measure would have a significant positive impact on college students in that it would make many of them safer in their off-campus residences.
The rising cost of university housing often forces students to seek lodging elsewhere, and students often end up renting older off-campus homes that have been renovated to make attics and other areas available for living, he said. It is in those areas of homes where having external egress options would be beneficial.
Mr. Brannon added that the association's members regularly disagree on legislative issues, but said members were unanimous on this bill.
Written proponent testimony was provided by Rod Garner, Anne Kohls, Andrea Heinrich, Laure Quinlivan, University of Cincinnati President Santa Ono, James Oaks of the Miami University Student Senate, Andrew Naab and Andrew Griggs of the University of Cincinnati student body and Dean Dennis of the Northeast Ohio Fire Prevention Association.
Capital Reappropriations Bill Passes House (SB260)
The Capital Reappropriations Bill, SB 260, passed the house unanimously February 10. The bill now goes to Governor Kasich who is expected to sign it soon.
U.S. Supreme Court Stays Clean Power Plan
The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed with Ohio and other states and blocked the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency from implementing Obama's Clean Power Plan -- which aims to block carbon dioxide emissions from coal-burning power plants like FirstEnergy's W.H. Sammis plant -- until the courts can determine the constitutionality of the plan. Ohio and more than two dozen other states argue the EPA can limit emissions from individual power plants but cannot constitutionality order states to limit emissions.
WASHINGTON, D.C. — A divided Supreme Court agreed Tuesday to halt enforcement of President Barack Obama's sweeping plan to address climate change until after legal challenges are resolved.
The surprising move is a blow to the administration and a victory for the coalition of 27 mostly Republican-led states and industry opponents that call the regulations "an unprecedented power grab."
By issuing the temporary freeze, a 5-4 majority of the justices signaled that opponents made strong arguments against the rules. The high court's four liberal justices said Tuesday they would have denied the request for delay.
The Sierra Club called the setback a "pause," not the end of the case.
The Court's decision does not overturn the historic policy or decide its legal merits. This is a pause, and we are confident the Clean Power Plan and all of its benefits ultimately will be implemented across the nation," said Joanne Spalding, the Sierra Club's chief climate counsel, in a prepare statement.
"The Supreme Court has already upheld the EPA's authority to limit carbon pollution from power plants under the Clean Air Act. We fully expect the Clean Power Plan to ultimately prevail in the courts."
Ted Ford, Ohio Advanced Energy Economy CEO, echoed that position. "This decision doesn't change the fact that the energy sector has embarked on an unstoppable shift to a clean energy future," he said in a statement.
Opponents said the agency is overstepping its authority and intruding on states' rights. Supreme Court intervention casts doubt on the legal prospects for the program, suggesting concerns among a majority of the nine justices.
The ruling late Tuesday "confirms that the legal justification for the Clean Power Plan should be examined by the courts before scarce state and private resources are used to develop state plans," said Melissa McHenry, a spokeswoman for Columbus-based American Electric Power Co., one of the biggest coal users among U.S. utilities.
"AEP has already cut its carbon dioxide emissions 30 percent from 2005 levels, and we will continue to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from our generation fleet as we transition to more natural gas and renewable resources in the future," she said.
FirstEnergy Corp. spokesman Todd Schneider said the company will continue working with states that are developing plans to comply while the court battle continues.
"While the legal challenges are addressed, we will work with our states if they chose to continue development of their compliance plans," he said.
The Obama administration's plan aims to stave off the worst predicted impacts of climate change by reducing carbon dioxide emissions at existing power plants by about one-third by 2030.
"We disagree with the Supreme Court's decision to stay the Clean Power Plan while litigation proceeds," White House spokesman Josh Earnest said in a statement.
Earnest said the administration's plan is based on a strong legal and technical foundation, and gives the states time to develop cost-effective plans to reduce emissions. He also said the administration will continue to "take aggressive steps to make forward progress to reduce carbon emissions."
A federal appeals court in Washington last month refused to put the plan on hold. That lower court is not likely to issue a ruling on the legality of the plan until months after it hears oral arguments begin on June 2.
Any decision will likely be appealed to the Supreme Court, meaning resolution of the legal fight is not likely to happen until after Obama leaves office.
Compliance with the new rules isn't required until 2022, but states must submit their plans to the Environmental Protection Administration by September or seek an extension.
Many states opposing the plan depend on economic activity tied to such fossil fuels as coal, oil and gas. They argued that the plan oversteps federal authority to restrict carbon emissions, and that electricity providers would have to spend billions of dollars to begin complying with a rule that might end up being overturned.
Attorney General Patrick Morrisey of West Virginia, whose coal-dependent state is helping lead the legal fight, hailed the court's decision.
"We are thrilled that the Supreme Court realized the rule's immediate impact and froze its implementation, protecting workers and saving countless dollars as our fight against its legality continues," Morrisey said.
Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine has worked has worked closely with Morrisey.
"I am very pleased that the Supreme Court has granted our stay request," DeWine said in a statement issued Wednesday. "This unlawful power plan is a power grab to force states into policies Congress has rejected and that would fundamentally alter the economies of states like Ohio. This stay is a significant victory, and the "Power Plan" is yet another example of the Obama Administration overstepping its authority."
The Ohio EPA and the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio have been developing a plan to comply with the proposal, even as Ohio and other states oppose it.
In its written comments last month, the PUCO noted that it did not believe the federal rules were legally enforceable.
"The PUCO continues to maintain that the Clean Power Plan is unlawful and that the U.S. EPA has stretched beyond its jurisdiction in drafting that regulation," the agency prefaced its remarks. "Concurrently, the PUCO seeks to be constructive in its commentary regarding the CPP in the event that Ohio is eventually required to comply."
Ohio EPA Director Craig Butler said the Supreme Court"got it right" in delaying the implementation of the plan until its constitutionality is decided.
"By staying U.S. EPA's Clean Power Plan, the Supreme Court got it right. The State of Ohio has pointed out the serious legal shortcomings of the federal Clean Power Plan on numerous occasions," he said in a statement Wednesday. "We will evaluate the decision and determine how it will impact our plans moving forward."
Robert Murray, CEO of Murray Energy, which has led the legal opposition to the plan, immediately predicted the high court would ultimately overturn the Clean Power Plan. "The Obama Administration's climate change agenda is a fraud," he said in a statement. "We are pleased to lead the way, joined by twenty-nine states, against this destructive government overreach."
Implementation of the federal rules is considered essential to the United States meeting emissions-reduction targets in a global climate agreement signed in Paris last month. The Obama administration and environmental groups also say the plan will spur new clean-energy jobs.
The Ohio Conservative Energy Forum, self-described political conservatives who believe in an "all-of-the-above approach," reacted to the decision on Wednesday by urging Ohio policy makers to move ahead with policies fostering renewable energy.
"The Supreme Court's decision to issue a stay until the legal challenges are heard should have no impact on Ohio's decision to pursue a true all-of-the-above energy policy, including continued development of domestically produced renewable resources. Ohio must move forward," said Mike Hartley, executive director, in a statement.
"While Ohio's conservative leaders have been suspect of the Obama Administration's plan, we must not allow the Clean Power Plan delay to serve as an excuse to keep Ohio's energy future on hold," he added. "Such a move would be misguided and result in the state falling even further behind the rest of the nation. Now is the time to put in place the right clean energy policy that promotes energy diversity, security and advances our state's economy through energy innovation."
Also on Wednesday, Christian R. Palich, President, Ohio Coal Association, called the decision a "just victory" and slammed the "radical EPA bureaucrats" who drew up the "Obama's politically motivated" plan. He said the decision would bring the nation "one step closer to defeating this agenda and ensuring our energy grid has access to reliable and affordable power."
Architect Board's CE Bill Heard (HB243)
The Senate Government Oversight and Reform Committee took testimony Feb. 10 regarding HB 243 which has passed the House and would make changes governing the architects board and the landscape architects board regarding continuing education requirements.
Rep. Schaffer gave sponsor testimony regarding the bill and said, "This legislation will bring Ohio's continuing education (CE) requirements for architects and landscape architects into alignment with national licensing trends."
He explained that many architects are licensed in multiple states and having similar CE requirements to the national model "makes the record keeping and renewal processes less cumbersome for the licensee.
"It will also ensure that our state government gives Ohio's architects and landscape architects an improved level playing field to compete with their counterparts across the country," Schaffer said.
Sen. Brown asked about the problems created by having different CE standards for Ohio's landscape architects, and she was told it "can create more work" in getting licenses in other states because the effort already put in to meeting Ohio's standards won't suffice elsewhere.
Schaffer told Sen. Yuko that the bill would help the "small" landscape architect to grow his or her business and indicated both the State Architects Board and the Landscape Architects Board would oversee the bill's enforcement, as they share a common office and staff.
Sunset Panel Told Architects & Landscape Architects Boards Are Effectively Combined
The Ohio legislature's Sunset Review Committee is considering combining the Architects and Landscape Architect's Boards. The Committee took testimony Feb. 9 from the Executive Director for both groups, Amy Kobe. She testified that, "There are two boards, with one budget, one website, one set of forms, and one staff, operating out of the same office in the Riffe Center. As many administrative processes as possible are integrated together, providing for the seamless operation of the two boards." However, there are two boards for policy considerations. A total of 8,026 individuals and exam candidates and 1,669 firms with active licenses are regulated by the boards.
The boards are self-funded, thus requiring no GRF funding. The FY16 budget is $507,614. Each board has five members, appointed by the governor. She said that effectively the two Boards are combined. As a result, there would be "no significant savings in personnel" were they to formally combine. Kobe said having to combine the professional expertise might result in longer board meetings with board members compensated by the hour.
Via testimony to the Sunset Review Panel, AIA Ohio's Immediate Past President and Liason to the Ohio Architects Board, Jim Sarks, AIA said, "AIA strongly supports the concept of single discipline boards to license architects. We do not believe that members of either group possess the requisite knowledge to render informed decisions regarding the subtleties of the other profession. Their scopes of practice are dissimilar in many ways. We believe that only architects are qualified to make decisions in matters of professional responsibility or in matters related to public health, safety and welfare."
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AIA Ohio’s Legislative affairs program provides information and leadership through advocacy and monitoring of legislation and regulations at the state level. By collaborating with allied professionals, industry representatives, code officials, and state and local representatives, AIA Ohio strives to build strategic alliances to address issues of public health, safety and welfate, design excellence and in advancing the quality of life through the built environment.
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