GENERAL ASSEMBLY HAPPENINGS
Several township related bills were heard in testimony this week. To view the bills in their
entirety, please visit www.legislature.state.oh.us.
House Aging & Disability Services
HB 246 OP&F DISEASE COVERAGE (Yuko) To provide that a firefighter, police officer, or
public emergency medical services worker who is disabled as a result of specified types
of cancer or certain contagious or infectious diseases is presumed for purposes of the
laws governing workers' compensation and the Ohio Police and Fire Pension Fund to
have incurred the disease while performing official duties as a firefighter, police officer, or
public emergency medical services worker. (CONTINUED; 1st Hearing-Sponsor)
The OTA opposes this bill as it could result In higher costs for townships. See letter
attached that was sent to Senate sponsor of companion legislation.
House Commerce & Labor
HB 271 TOWNSHIP FIRE DEPARTMENTS (Patten, Stewart, D.) To modify coverage of the
Public Employees' Collective Bargaining Law with respect to township fire departments.
(REPORTED-AMENDED; 2nd Hearing-All testimony-Possible vote)
The committee reported the bill on a 6-4 party line vote, with Republicans in opposition,
after hearing testimony from seven proponents and one opponent. Adopted without
objection was an LSC technical amendment, and a clarifying amendment in response to
a concern of the Ohio Township Association.
The Ohio Township Association opposed (see attached) the legislation. Michael
Cochran, executive director, said the bill would require townships with less than 5,000 in
population in the unincorporated area, but with a full-time fire department that serves a
territory with a population greater than 5,000, be subject to collective bargaining laws.
He said existing law permits such townships to enter collective bargaining agreements,
but does not require them to do so. Mr. Cochran said the association was neither pro-
union nor anti-union. "For us it's a question of local control," he said. "I would rather have
the local officials themselves deciding whether to enter into an agreement. That's
something we hold near and dear, local control."
House Transportation & Infrastructure
HB 166 TRANSPORTATION AUTHORITIES (Carney, McGregor) To authorize the creation of
transportation innovation authorities (TIA) by specified governmental entities and to
establish the powers and duties of such authorities.
The OTA is an interested party on this bill. Townships may be a party to the TIA if they
want to but no township land can be included in the TIA without support of the township.
Senate Environment & Natural Resources
SB 196 OIL & GAS (Grendell) To revise the Oil and Gas Law. (CONTINUED; 1st Hearing-
The OTA supports SB 196 as it restores some local control over oil & gas well placement
that was removed five years ago.
HB 260, the House-version of election reform, passed the House along party lines on
Wednesday. While special elections were not eliminated, as originally proposed, there
was a provision that was included that would allow county board of elections to charge
political subdivisions even more money to conduct elections, including depreciation fees
for all equipment necessary to prepare for or conduct elections. This language is very
broad and at the very least should be narrowed to include only the machinery upon
which voters use at the election. Additionally, language was added that would require
at least 65% of the costs to hold a special election be paid up front. The OTA will work
with interested parties on these matters as the bill now goes to the Senate for hearings.
RECENTLY INTRODUCED LEGISLATION
HB 344 WATER/SEWAGE FEES (Goyal, Harris, M.) To limit recovery of rate-case expenses for
certain water-works and sewage disposal system companies.
HB 345 PUBLIC NOTICES (Hagan) To allow political subdivisions to make internet website
publications in lieu of newspaper of general circulation publication requirements if the
political subdivision donates all funds that would otherwise be used to provide
newspaper notices to a local food bank or food drive for charitable purposes.
The Auditor of State has released two recent bulletins that impact townships. The OTA
encourages all townships to read both bulletins. Both are attached for your reference.
2009-011 - Allocating Audit Costs
2009-012 - New Policy - Agreed-Upon Procedures for Small Government Audit Clients
(beginning with audit periods ending December 31, 2009)
The OTA has had Mr. Wendell Cox at OTA conferences to speak about the push at the
federal level for regionalism and how his research has shown that smaller governments
are better governments. We have received this information from Mr. Cox relative to
some happenings at the federal level. I encourage you to read this information and
contact your federal congressman and senators to express your concerns. You may get
more information from Mr. Cox's website at www.demographia.com
Congress and the Administration Take Aim at Local Democracy
Local democracy has been a mainstay of the US political system. This is evident from the
town hall governments in New England to the small towns that the majority of Americans
choose to live in today. In most states and metropolitan areas, substantial policy issues -
such as zoning and land use decisions - are largely under the control of those who have
a principal interest: local voters who actually live in the nation's cities, towns, villages,
townships and unincorporated county areas. This may be about to change. Two
congressional initiatives - the Boxer-Kerry Cap and Trade Bill and the Oberstar
Transportation Reauthorization Bill - and the Administration's "Livability Partnership" take
direct aim at local democracy as we know it.
The Boxer-Kerry Bill: The first threat is the proposed Senate version of the "cap and trade"
bill authored by Senator Barbara Boxer-Kerry (D-California). This bill, the Clean Energy
Jobs and American Power Act (S. 1733), would require metropolitan planning
organizations (MPOs) to develop greenhouse gas emission reduction plans. In these
plans, the legislation would require consideration of issues such as increasing transit
service, improvements to intercity rail service and "implementation of zoning and other
land use regulations and plans to support infill, transit-oriented development or mixed use
development." This represents a significant step toward federal adoption of much of the
"smart growth" or "compact development" agenda.
At first glance, it may seem that merely requiring MPOs to consider such zoning and land
use regulations seems innocent enough. However, the incentives that are created by this
language could well spell the end of local control over zoning and land use decisions in
the local area. True enough, the bill includes language to indicate that the bill does not
intend to infringe "on the existing authority of local governments to plan or control land
use." Experience suggests, however, that this would provide precious little comfort in the
behind-the-scenes negotiations that occur when a metropolitan area runs afoul of
The federal housing, transportation and environmental bureaucracies have also been
supportive of compact development policies. As these agencies develop regulations to
implement the legislation, they could well be emboldened to make it far more difficult
for local voters to retain control over land use decisions. There could be multiple repeats
of the heavy-handedness exercised by the EPA when it singled out Atlanta for
punishment over air quality issues. In response, the Georgia legislature was, in effect,
coerced into enacting planning and oversight legislation more consistent with the
planning theology endorsed by EPA's bureaucrats. No federal legislation granted EPA the
authority to seek such legislative changes, yet they were sought and obtained.
There is also considerable support for the compact development agenda at the
metropolitan area level. The proclivity of metropolitan and urban planners toward
compact development is so strong as to require no encouragement by federal law. The
emerging clear intent of federal policy to move land use development to the regional
level and to densify existing communities could embolden MPOs to propose plans that
pressure local governments to conform their zoning to central plans (or overarching
"visions") developed at the regional level. Along the way, smaller local jurisdictions could
well be influenced, if not coerced into actions by over-zealous MPO staff claiming that
federal law and regulation require more than the reality. It would not be the first time.
Further, MPOs and organizations with similar views will lobby state legislatures to impose
compact development policies that strip effective control of zoning and land use
decisions from local governments.
Surface Transportation Reauthorization: The second threat is the Surface Transportation
Authorization Act (STAA or reauthorization) draft that has been released by Chairman
James Oberstar (D-Minnesota) of the House Transportation and Infrastructure
Committee. This bill is riddled with requirements regarding consideration of land use
restrictions by MPOs and states. Unlike the Boxer-Kerry bill, the proposed STAA includes no
language denying any intention to interfere with local land use regulation authority.
Like the Boxer-Kerry Bill, the Oberstar bill significantly empowers the Department of
Transportation and the Environmental Protection Agency and poses similar longer term
risks. These legislative initiatives are reinforced by the Administration's "Livability Agenda,"
which is a partnership between the EPA, the Department of Housing and Urban
Development and the Department of Transportation. Among other things, this program is
principally composed of compact development strategies, including directing
development to certain areas, which would materially reduce the choices available to
local government. Elements such as these could be included in an eventual STAA bill by
the Obama Administration.
The Livability Agenda: Threatening Livability: Regrettably, the Boxer-Kerry bill, the Oberstar
bill and the "Livability Agenda" will make virtually nothing more livable. If they are
successful in materially densifying the nation's urban areas, communities will be faced
with greater traffic congestion, higher congestion costs and greater air pollution. Despite
the ideology to the contrary, higher densities increase traffic volumes within areas and
produce more health hazards or more intense local air pollution. As EPA models indicate,
slower, more congested traffic congestion produces more pollution than more freely
flowing traffic, and the resulting higher traffic volumes make this intensification even
There are also devastating impacts on housing affordability that occur when
"development is directed." This tends to increase land prices, which makes houses more
expensive. This hurts all future home buyers and renters, particularly low income and
minority households, since rent increases tend to follow housing prices. It is particularly
injurious to low income households, which are disproportionately minority. The large gap
between majority and minority home ownership rates likely widen further. So much for
the American Dream for many who have not attained it already.
The Marginal Returns of Compact Development Policies: These compact development
initiatives continue to be pursued even in the face of research requested by Congress
indicating that such policies have precious little potential. The congressionally mandated
Driving the Built Environment report indicates that driving and greenhouse gas emissions
could be higher in 2050 than in 2000 even under the maximum deployment of compact
Local Governments at the Table? The nation's local governments should "weigh in" on
these issues now, while the legislation is being developed. If they wait, they could find
themselves too late to the table when the EPA comes to bully them to follow not what
the local voters want, but what the planners prefer. Local democracy will be largely
dead, a product of a system that concentrates authority - and perceived wisdom - in the
hands of the central governments, at the regional and national level.
Even more, local citizens and voters need to be aware of the risk. Again, it will be too late
when MPOs or other organizations, whether at their own behest or that of a federal
agency, force the character of neighborhoods to be radically changed, as Tony Recsei
pointed out is already occurring in Australia.
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Commerce & Labor Committee
House Bill 271 - Collective Bargaining
Tuesday, November 17, 2009
Good afternoon Mr. Chairman and members of the Committee. On behalf of the Ohio
Township Association (OTA), thank you for the opportunity to testify before you this
afternoon in opposition to House Bill 271, which modifies coverage of the Public
Employees' Collective Bargaining Law with respect to full-time township fire
departments. HB 271 will require townships that are less than 5,000 in population in the
unincorporated area but have a full-time fire department that service a territory with a
population greater than 5,000 be subject to collective bargaining laws.
First I would like to point out that current law permits a township with a population less
than 5,000 in the unincorporated territory to enter collective bargaining agreements
but does not require them to do so. In State, ex rel. Ohio Council 8 v. Spellacy (1985),
17 Ohio St.3d 112, 1984-86 SERB 366, the Ohio Supreme Court held that a public
employer whose employees were exempt from the provisions of ORC Chapter 4117
could, within its discretion, enter into a collective bargaining agreement. The choice to
participate in collective bargaining is that of the employer in these circumstances. All
of the townships mentioned this afternoon can elect to bargain with the fire
departments but, again, are not mandated to do so. Therefore, this bill would be a
mandate because it takes the decision-making authority away from the local elected
During sponsor testimony on this bill, a question was asked as to the reason behind the
5,000 population threshold in ORC §4117.01 (B). Mr. Chairman, I can answer that
question. When the Public Employees’ Collective Bargaining statute was first written
into law, an agreement was made by all interested parties that municipal corporations
and townships with less than 5,000 people according to the most recent federal
decennial census would not be subject to the collective bargaining statute. The
reason that this compromise was reached is that public employers with less than 5,000
people generally do not have the budgets to support the costs associated with
collective bargaining. While there are some exceptions to this understanding, such as
here in Franklin County, this generality is still common across much of Ohio.
The Ohio Township Association has consistently opposed collective bargaining
requirements for townships with less than 5,000 people in the unincorporated territory,
which is the only area a township has legislative authority over. Our primary reason for
opposing this is the cost related to collective bargaining negotiations and the
“decision” process being removed, at least partially, from the township trustees. With
respect to township budgets, they are simply not large enough to handle the costs of
the process. The cost of attorneys and collective bargaining representation are
significant. Should this bill continue through the legislative process, the OTA would
recommend language that would set a budget threshold, as well as the population
threshold, to ensure the township has the revenue to cover the costs of collective
bargaining. For example, a township with less than 5,000 people in the unincorporated
territory and wishes to adopt limited home rule government pursuant to RC Chapter 504
must have a budget of at least $3.5 million.
With respect to the elected representatives (trustees) losing control over some
decisions, I would submit the following:
- binding arbitration on grievances;
- provisions in the agreement becoming effective without
requiring Board approval;
- custom and practice of the township cannot override an
ambiguous provision of a collective bargaining
- items which may not be subject to an agreement suddenly
changing (cost of health care) thus requiring higher costs
House Bill 271 will alter the traditional way population is counted in townships.
Throughout Ohio law, townships are counted by the population “in the unincorporated
territory according to the most recent federal decennial census.” House Bill 271 will
add a separate classification for township population including unincorporated and
incorporated population. I must note that no where else in the Ohio Revised Code
does township population include incorporated territory. Additionally, 5,000 is the
traditional line of difference between cities and villages.
Furthermore, you have heard testimony that this bill will impact 13 or 14 township across
Ohio. According to lines 23-28 of the bill, a township with a population less than 5,000 in
the unincorporated territory but at least 5,000 in the unincorporated and incorporated
territory and has a full-time fire department that services the territory would be subject
to collective bargaining. The OTA is concerned that this language does not address
the “problem” brought forth by the township fire departments in Franklin County but
could actually be read to state that the township would have to have at least a
population of 5,000 in the unincorporated and a population of 5,000 in the
incorporated territory for a total of at least 10,000. If read this way, none of the
townships in Franklin County would qualify for collective bargaining due to the fact that
the townships do not have a population of at least 5,000 in the unincorporated territory.
When reading HB 271 as proponents would like it to be read, the OTA is gravely
concerned about the situations that could arise with small townships that are providing
the service to their connected villages or small cities. For example, a township with a
population of 1,000 people in the unincorporated territory provides fire services to two
connected villages which put the township’s service area population over 5,000
people. A township of this size does not have the budget to deal with collective
Finally, I would be remiss if I did not point out that villages would not be subject to the
same requirements as townships in HB 271. As I stated earlier, villages and townships
with a population less than 5,000 were intentionally exempt from collective bargaining
requirements. HB 271 will require townships with less than 5,000 people but service more
than 5,000 to be subject to collective bargaining relative to fire departments yet a
village with less than 5,000 people but with a fire department that services more than
5,000 people would not be subject to the same requirements. Therefore, why not
include villages? Why does HB 271 only apply to townships?
By opening this section up for one exemption it will create a situation that could lead to
additional exemptions in townships with less than 5,000 people in the unincorporated
territory. The OTA has opposed this legislation in the past and must continue to do so.
Again, thank you Mr. Chairman for the opportunity to testify this afternoon. I would be
happy to answer any questions you or the committee may have.
May 5, 2009
The Honorable Tom Patton
Ohio Statehouse, Senate Office Bldg.
Columbus, OH 43215
Re: SB 94 Police & Fire Conditions
Dear Senator Patton:
On behalf of the Ohio Township Association (OTA), I am writing to express our
opposition to SB 94, which provides that a firefighter, police officer or emergency
medical services worker who is disabled as a result of certain types of cancer or certain
contagious or infectious disease is presumed for purposes of the laws governing
workers' compensation and the Ohio Police and Fire Pension Fund to have incurred the
disease while performing official duties as a firefighter, police officer or emergency
medical services worker.
Our main concern is that, if enacted, SB 94 will put an additional financial strain
on budgets of townships that employ firefighter, police officer and EMS workers. Under
the provisions of SB 94 certain types of cancer, requiring disability retirement, will be
presumed job-related. While some forms of cancer might be discernible as job-related,
such as lung cancer, for others it is difficult to see the relationship between the disease
and the occupation. The OTA does not believe certain cases of cancer, such as colon
or bladder cancer, call for a presumption. The presumption would considerably
increase township premiums and administrative costs while townships across the state
face lost revenue in tough economy.
Additionally, under the provisions of SB 94 contagious and infectious diseases, as
set by the Public Health Council, are presumed to be job-related. The OTA opposes this
presumption. A firefighter, police officer or EMS worker that contracts HIV could have
contracted the disease as a result of sexual activity rather than through a job-related
incident. Senate Bill 94 would automatically presume that the firefighter, police officer
or EMS worker contracted the disease as a result of their job. This is unfair to the local
government and the taxpayers that will be responsible for paying the higher workers’
I respectfully urge you to reconsider SB 94 and the financial implications the
legislation will have on local governments and the Bureau of Workers’ Compensation.
Should you have any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact me or
OTA Director of Governmental Affairs Heidi M. Fought at (614) 863-0045.
Michael H. Cochran
cc: Chairman Steve Buehrer
Members of the Senate Insurance, Commerce & Labor Committee