By Dennis Hetzel, Executive Director
Here are some fresh developments on some of the many matters we are tracking in the Ohio Legislature.
Sheriff’s sale notices: We were very concerned when we learned there was a proposal to amend HB 223 to make newspaper notices optional for sheriff’s sales. After we met with the Ohio Mortgage Bankers Association, they agreed to withdraw their request for the amendment, and the bill passed a House committee without it. The bill primarily deals with speeding up the foreclosure process on abandoned and blighted properties in urban areas. We will continue to closely track this measure as it moves through the Legislature.
Tax reform: Everyone is awaiting the governor’s “mid-year budget review” bill that reportedly will include another reduction in the state income tax rate. While we all like the idea of paying lower taxes, there are rumors that the plan might include an increase in the CAT (Commercial Activity Tax) rate, which is a tax on gross revenue, not income. This wouldn’t be good for many ONA members.
The governor flatly stated in his speech at our recent convention that a proposal to expand the sales tax to include advertising and related service isn’t on his agenda this time.
Cyber-bullying: HB 74 is a very well-intentioned effort to apply laws related to harassment, threats and bullying to the digital space. It has passed the Ohio House and is pending in the Senate.
Unfortunately, we believe the language is murky at best in terms of First Amendment issues. It could leave the door open to a local media outlet facing criminal prosecution if someone argued that posted content urged or incited someone to threaten someone else. We are working on language to clarify that Ohio media outlets can’t be prosecuted for doing their jobs.
Business license records: HB 282 would allow the owner of a home-based business to have information redacted from their license information, which is a public record. The sponsor, Rep. John Rogers, has been responsive to our concerns. The only thing excluded is the specific street address and only upon request. In other words, the default is that the record is fully open.
While we do not support new records exemptions, the intent seems legitimate, and the compromise seems reasonable. Reporters also have other avenues to obtain this information.
As always, you follow everything we are tracking on our Legislative Watch List in the members only area of our website.