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Ohio legislative update

By:Peggy Kirk Hall, Attorney and Director, Agricultural & Resource Law Program Thursday, November 18th, 2021
Ohio Statehouse Veteran's Day Parade 2021

Cannons were firing down at the Statehouse recently in honor of Veteran’s Day and so were a few pieces of legislation.   It’s time to check in with the Ohio legislature for a look at proposals that impact agriculture.  Here’s our summary.

New proposals

S.B. 257– Income tax credit.  Sen. Frank Hoagland (R-Adena) introduced this bill on October 27, 2021.   It proposes a refundable income tax credit of up to $5,000 for qualifying donations of cash, services, real property, and personal property to a township, which must approve the donation.   The bill was referred to the Senate Ways and Means Committee on November 10.

SJR 3 – Constitutional right to hunt and fishSenator Sandra O-Brien (R-Ashtabula) is the primary sponsor of this proposal to amend Ohio’s Constitution introduced in late September.  It proposes a constitutional right for the people of Ohio to hunt, fish and harvest wildlife and to do so using traditional methods, subject only to laws that promote wildlife conservation and management and preserve the future of hunting and fishing.  The proposal also states that hunting and fishing shall be a preferred means of managing and controlling wildlife n Ohio and that the amendment would not limit trespass or property rights laws.  SJR 3 received its second hearing before the Senate Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee on November 16, 2021.  If it passes both the Senate and House, the measure would be placed on the general ballot in November 2022 for a vote by Ohio residents as is the required process for amending the Constitution.

Bills on the move

H.B. 440/S.B. 241– Agricultural Linked Deposit Program.  Part of Ohio Treasurer Robert Sprague’s “Ohio Gains Initiative” is to make revisions to the Agricultural Linked Deposit Program (Ag-LINK) that provides loans to farm operators and agribusinesses at reduced interest rates.  The bills would allow agricultural cooperatives to apply for the loans and would remove the $150,000 loan cap and allow the Treasurer to determine loan limits according to current conditions.  The companion bills received a second hearing in the Senate Financial Institutions and Technology Committee on November 16 and in the House Financial Institutions Committee on November 17.

H.B. 397– Agricultural lease law.  We expected this bill to be reported out of the House Agriculture and Conservation Committee in its fourth hearing on November 17, 2021, but the committee held off on a vote.  The bill would establish a statutory notice of termination date for verbal and written crop leases that don’t address termination.  It would require a landlord who wants to terminate the lease to provide written notice of termination of the next lease period by September 1 of the current lease period.

H.B. 321– Revisions to auction law.  The Ohio Auctioneers Association and Ohio Department of Agriculture collaborated on this bill, which updates Ohio’s laws regarding auctioneer licensing and auction regulation.  The bill removes barriers to entry for new auctioneers by eliminating the apprenticeship requirement replacing it education at approved institution prior to sitting for the auction exam.  It also allows the Ohio Department of Agriculture to have regulatory authority over internet auctions, currently exempt from regulatory oversight and makes changes to auctioneer licensing, testing, and continuing education requirements.  The House Agriculture and Conservation Committee approved the bill on November 17.

H.B. 175 – Deregulate certain ephemeral water featuresThis highly controversial bill that passed the House largely along party lines on September 29, 2021, received its first hearing before the  Senate Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee on October 26, 2021.  The proposal would exclude “ephemeral features” from water pollution control programs and define an “ephemeral feature” as a surface water flowing or pooling only in direct response to precipitation, not including wetlands.  Environmental interests are urging the Senate to drop the bill.

H.B. 95:  Income tax credits for beginning farmers.  In the “bill I’ve reported on the most this year” category, HB 95 is inching steadily forward.  It would allow individuals to be certified as beginning farmers and create two income tax credits, one for owners who sell land and agricultural assets to certified beginning farmers and one for beginning farmers who attend approved financial management programs.  The bill passed the House back in June,  and finally received its first hearing before the Senate Ways and Means Committee on October 26, 2021.

S.B. 47– Overtime pay exceptions.  This proposal passed the Senate September 22, 2021 and had its first hearing before the House Commerce and Labor Committee on October 26, 2021.  It proposes two exceptions from employer overtime pay requirements:  traveling to and from a worksite and preliminary and postliminary tasks performed outside of work hours that are not at the direction of the employer.

S.B. 210– Postnuptial Agreements.  This proposal to allow spouses to voluntarily enter into a “postnuptial” agreement and to amend or terminate a prenuptial agreement passed the Senate on November 16, 2021.  Ohio is one of only four states that does not recognize postnuptial agreements that change a couple’s legal relations, such as inheritance rights, property division, and spousal support.   This bill would change that, and would also allow spouses to voluntarily agree to modify a prenuptial agreement.

Passed legislation

H.B. 215– Business Fairness Act.  A response to COVID-19 closures, the Business Fairness Act would allow a business subject to Department of Health orders to limit or cease operations during a pandemic, epidemic, or bioterrorism event to remain open.  To do so, the business must comply with all safety precautions required for “essential” businesses that are not ordered to close and must not be under an order to limit or cease operations that are based upon circumstances uniquely present at that business.   The measure passed the House on May 6 by a wide margin and passed Senate on November 16, 2021 with a unanimous vote.  It now goes on to Governor DeWine.


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