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Making Ohio the Best Place to Live in the World

Historically improving quality of life while turning our state into a world class economic powerhouse
By The Editors
November 17, 2023
On The Record

“The Ohio General Assembly could be in for its least productive year, in terms of passing bills into law, since at least 1955, state records show.” –  Cleveland Plain Dealer, November 10, 2023 

And now for the real news. 

The last two General Assemblies under Senate President Matt Huffman have been extraordinarily productive by any objective standard. 

More than seven out of ten bills passed with bipartisan support last General Assembly – that’s risen to 85% this term.

The current General Assembly is investing an unprecedented $86.1B to build an extraordinary foundation for the state's bright future.

There is a wealth of beneficial but unpublicized features in House Bill 33, the FY24-25 Main Operating Budget, passed by both chambers.

You’ve probably heard about the record tax cuts and record public school funding. 

But there is so much more Ohioans barely hear about from a media that just doesn’t want to publicize any good news from a legislature guided by Republican leadership.

This is a great story that you won’t read in the papers or see on television.

What your elected lawmakers are accomplishing is truly amazing. Don’t just take our word for it. 

Look at the record and decide for yourself.

The 134th and 135th General Assemblies have brought unprecedented progress in so many vital areas:

•        Empowering and Supporting Women 
•        Prioritizing Support for Children, Mothers, and Families
•        Supporting Ohio’s Local Communities   
•        Improving Access to Quality Housing and Encouraging Home Ownership
•        Making Higher Education Affordable
•        Universal Vouchers for K-12
•        Record School Funding
•        Major New Literacy Initiative
•        Expanding Job Opportunities and Innovative Training
•        Economic Development and the Booming Silicon Heartland
•        Helping Farmers 
•        Prioritizing Rail Safety
•        Slashing Regulations 
•        Record Tax Cuts

Empowering and Supporting Women 

SB 105 Empowering minority, women-owned, veteran-friendly businesses
Removes barriers for minority, women-owned and veteran-friendly businesses by eliminating duplication certification requirements and streamlining the process for these businesses.

HB 371 Improved insurance coverage for breast cancer screenings
Requires Medicaid and health insurance plans to provide coverage for supplemental breast cancer screenings if the patient had an increased risk of breast cancer due to family/personal history or if dense breast tissue is detected.

HB 33 No-Cost Period Products 
Provides funding for all schools to supply period products for female students in grades 6-12 free of charge. This will reduce truancy and stigma, and promote productivity and participation in the classroom.

HB 110 Increased postpartum Medicaid coverage 
Expands the duration of postpartum Medicaid coverage for pregnant women who give birth from 60 days to one-year.

HB 33 Medicaid coverage for doula services
Establishes a program to cover doula services provided to a Medicaid enrollee by a certified doula with a Medicaid provider agreement.

HB 93 Protecting victims of domestic violence, human trafficking, and sexual abuse
Enhances Ohio’s Safe At Home Program by strengthening protections for victims and shielding their personal information in public databases when purchasing a home (to keep information out of the hands of  abusers.) 

SB 100  Prohibiting installation of tracking device 
If passed by the House, would establish a new statute making it clear that knowingly installing a tracking device or tracking application on another person's property without the other person's consent (or after consent is revoked) is prohibited.

SB 288 Major Criminal Justice Reform 
Installs meaningful criminal justice reforms that provide pathways to second chances. SB 288 modifies Ohio's drug offense law and strengthens penalties for domestic violence offenders. A provision in SB 288 specifically changes strangulation from a misdemeanor to a felony. It creates a cooling off period between the first incident and the possibility of a second one. It helps ensure these women are survivors, not victims; and are connected to valuable resources to help them.

Prioritizing Support for Children, Mothers, and Families

HB 33 Reducing the financial burden on families 

•        Exempts diapers, wipes, cribs and other essential baby products from state sales tax. 
•        Requires the Medicaid Director to seek approval to provide continuous Medicaid coverage for children from birth through age three.  
•        Invests $2.5M to support the Healthy Beginnings at Home model to support initiatives that connect pregnant women with stable housing to improve maternal and infant health outcomes. 
•        Increases funding for Help Me Grow, Ohio’s evidenced-based home visiting program for at-risk expectant and new mothers to support state efforts to reduce infant mortality and promote comprehensive child health and development.
•        Increases access to publicly funded childcare by raising the family income eligibility requirements to 145% of the Federal Poverty Level (an approximate annual household income of $43,500 for a family of four.)
•        Streamlines state programs that serve Ohio’s children by establishing the Ohio Department of Children and Youth as the sole state agency responsible for the efficient and effective delivery of services to Ohio’s children and their families.
•        Provides $46.5M to support the 9-8-8 suicide prevention lifeline, ensuring Ohioans experiencing a mental health crisis have access to timely support services.

HB 45 Creating the Adoption Grant Program and Supporting Ohio’s Parenting and Pregnancy Program 

•        Transforms the adoption tax credit into a significant grant program for adoptive families, providing one-time grants for traditional adoption ($10k), foster care adoption ($15k) and special needs adoption ($20k).
•        Reduces the probate court adoption fee to $20 (instead of previous $50 fee). 
•        Ensures adopted children in Ohio are eligible to receive a one-time $2,500 grant to attend a two-year or four-year public or private institution of higher education. 
•        Appropriates $3 million to support the Ohio Parenting and Pregnancy Program, serving 200 pregnancy help centers and maternity homes in rural, suburban, and urban communities throughout Ohio.

Supporting Ohio’s Local Communities  

HB 33 improves the quality of life in communities around our state by upgrading or expanding a variety of services including our 911 system, broadband access, libraries, public safety, and legal defense.

•        $46M to upgrade counties to the Next Generation 9-1-1 system to improve emergency response systems around the state. This new technology will allow Ohioans to contact 9-1-1 via text message, smartwatches, home security systems and vehicle systems, and will also better directs calls made from cell phones and voice over internet protocol (VOIP) systems to the correct jurisdiction to improve response times. 
•        $50M to build broadband infrastructure in underserved areas of the state and ensure Residential Broadband Expansion Grants are more widely distributed throughout the state.
•         Increases money going to both the Local Government Fund and the Public Library Fund in permament law from 1.66% to 1.7% of the General Revenue Fund.
•        $75M to support the construction and renovation of county jails, $80M for law enforcement training, and $24M for school safety training grants to improve public safety in Ohio’s neighborhoods and communities.
•        $338M to reimburse counties for the cost of providing legal defense services for Ohioans who cannot afford an attorney.

Improving Access to Quality Housing and Encouraging Home Ownership

HB 33 creates three new initiatives that prioritize housing development and renovation across Ohio to help address the housing shortage facing our state and encourage home ownership:

•        An affordable housing tax credit to incentivize the construction of an estimated 4,000 housing units. 
•        A single-family housing development tax credit to encourage the development of affordable, single-family housing.
•        Invests $200M in the newly created Welcome Home Ohio program, which provides grants and tax credits to land banks to rehabilitate existing homes in need of repair, or to construct new, affordable residential property throughout Ohio. 
•        Creates a new Homeownership Savings Linked Deposit Program to provide above-market interest rates on savings accounts specifically used to help prospective homeowners save for down payments and closing costs on a future home purchase. Contributions to the savings account may also be deducted from state income tax, up to $10,000 for married couples filing jointly and $5,000 for all other taxpayers.

Making Higher Education Affordable

HB 33 caps tuition increases at public universities while increasing funding, expands needs-based aid for students, and creates a new scholarship.

•        Caps tuition increases at Ohio’s public universities at 3% for each of the next two cohorts of students to prevent escalating costs due to unprecedented inflation rates.
•        Expands eligibility and provides record funding for the Ohio College Opportunity Grant (OCOG), Ohio’s needs-based financial aid program for low-income college students, at $400M over the biennium, an 83% increase over the previous budget and the largest investment in OCOG in well over a decade. 
•        Expands eligibility for OCOG by raising the expected family contribution, which is used to determine eligibility, from $2,190 to $3,750 (a household income of approximately $55,500) for the first time since it was set in 2009.
•        Increases state aid (SSI) for Ohio’s 14 public universities and 23 community colleges, ensuring continued operational support for our state intuitions of higher education.
•        Provides $20M in FY 25 to fund the Governor’s Merit Scholarship Program to award $5,000 grants to students in the top 5% of their graduating high school class who attend an Ohio college or university, in an attempt to retain Ohio’s brightest students.

Universal Vouchers for K-12

Every Ohio student is now eligible for an EdChoice Scholarship for the first time in state history.

Families are eligible for these vouchers regardless of income, based on a sliding scale of income eligibility.

Every scholarship voucher saves taxpayers thousands of dollars. 

It costs about $14,000 to educate a student in a public school in the state of Ohio — some districts spend far more. 

Vouchers cost significantly less. 

Maximum scholarships are estimated to be $6,165 for K-8 students and $8,407 for grades 9-12.

•        Every student in Ohio is now eligible for a scholarship worth at least 10% of the maximum scholarship regardless of income.
•        Families whose earnings are at or below 450% of the federal poverty level ($135,000 for a family of four) will qualify for a full scholarship funded by the state. 
•        Scholarships for students in families with incomes above 450% are means-tested with scholarship amounts adjusted based on their income.  

Record School Funding

HB 33 provides record funding for public K-12 schools. 

A nearly $2 billion increase over the next two years.

Total funding for students in public schools is a record $9.6 billion in fiscal year 2024. 

Total funding is an even greater record increase of $9.9 billion in fiscal year 2025.

Major New Literacy Initiative

HB 33 will fund a major new literacy initiative based on the science of reading with an emphasis on phonics. 

It will overhaul reading instruction in Ohio, ensuring all students obtain a strong reading foundation. 

•        $86M will provide stipends to teachers to complete professional development in the science of reading. 
•        $64M will subsidize the cost for schools to purchase high quality instructional materials. 
•        $18M to support the use of literacy coaches in school districts with a high number of students who do not demonstrate reading proficiency.

Expanding Job Opportunities and Innovative Training

The legislature is committed to aligning workers' skills with the needs of businesses to close the workforce gap and get more Ohioans into rewarding careers.

HB 33 expanded opportunities for Ohioans to gain access to good paying, in-demand jobs by providing:

•        $20M to support the Work Ready Grant Program, which provides grants to students pursuing industry-recognized credentials, certificates or degrees in an in-demand job.
•        $20M for the Talent Ready Grant Program to support short-term certificate programs at Ohio’s community colleges and technical centers. 

SB 166 established a new income tax credit that incentivizes employers to provide vital job training and experience to high school students pursuing a career-tech education.

This legislation is critical in order to equip students with the skills needed to enter the workforce. 

The Ohio Senate will continue to prioritize policy that improves access to employment for Ohioans and creates long-term economic growth in our state.

Economic Development and the Booming Silicon Heartland

HB 33 provides a $700M One-Time Strategic Community Investments Fund to support capital projects around the state with collaboration and input from local communities.

The legislature's historic investment in launching the Silicon Heartland is paying off in a bonanza of dividends. Technology companies are flocking to Ohio. And so are the companies that support them.

A megaproject provision passed in HB 110, the state’s operating budget, helped Ohio land Intel. This provision grants tax credits to companies like Intel, which have at least $1 billion in fixed-asset investments or create at least $75 million in Ohio employee payroll.

The goal was to make Ohio more competitive for megaprojects and the thousands of jobs that they bring. 

The Intel project is now serving as a magnet, attracting the biggest technology companies to Ohio and putting the Silicon Heartland on track to become one of the most important industrial centers in the world.

•        Companies including Amazon, Google, Meta (Facebook), DBT-DATA and QTS Data Centers have announced billion-dollar-plus data center plans for central Ohio in just the last two years.
•        Microsoft just announced it is paying more than $30M to buy 289 acres in Pataskala, after buying two other parcels this summer for more than $60M.

"We are committed to supporting Ohio’s digital transformation with the Microsoft cloud," the company told The Columbus Dispatch. "We believe there is great opportunity for Microsoft’s cloud services to support local business growth and innovation in Ohio."

Intel's $100 billion investment in the Columbus area is just the beginning of the next generation of job creation in the Buckeye State. 

Helping Farmers

HB 95 creates the Beginning Farmer Tax Credit Program to incentivize younger individuals to start careers in the farming industry and encourage today’s farmers to pass their assets onto a new generation. 

The program establishes two nonrefundable income tax credits, together capped at $10 million or 5 years, whichever occurs first:

•        A tax credit for beginning famers—individuals who intend to farm or have farmed for less than 10 years in Ohio, have a household net worth of less than $800,000 and perform the majority of the farm’s labor—that attend a financial management program. 
•        A tax credit for farmers or businesses that sell or rent agricultural assets to beginning farmers, including farmland, livestock, buildings or equipment and machinery used in farming. 

To help farmers combat skyrocketing prices due to record high inflation, we passed HB 440 to eliminate the cap on loans issued under the Agricultural Linked Deposit Program (Ag-Link) and permit agricultural co-ops to participate in the program.  

Eliminating the $150,000 cap on individual Ag-Link loans allows the State Treasurer to determine loan amounts that more accurately and efficiently meet the needs of Ohio farmers and current market demands. 

HB 397 improved clarity in agricultural lease agreements, which have historically been accomplished through handshake agreements between neighbors. The bill establishes clear guidelines for the termination of agricultural lease agreements, proving increased clarity, expectations and protections for both farmers and landowners. 

Prioritizing Rail Safety

The catastrophic train derailment in East Palestine on February 3rd put rail safety at the forefront of all of our minds. 

The Ohio Senate immediately went to work to keep Ohio’s families safe in their communities and prevent such a devastating derailment from ever happening again. 

The Select Committee on Rail Safety was created on February 24, 2023, to better understand the cause of the train derailment in East Palestine, the status of recovery efforts, and to determine the most appropriate actions to help local residents. 

The Senate advocated for several rail safety reforms contained in HB 23, the FY24-25 Transportation Budget, including:

•        Requiring wayside detectors/hot boxes to be installed between every 10-15 miles of track, and requiring ODOT and PUCO to work jointly with the railroad companies to ensure the detectors are properly installed, functioning, and up-to-date.
•        Tasking the PUCO with examining and determining best practices for various railroad safety technology, including wayside detectors/hot boxes, hot bearing detectors (monitor wheel bearing temperatures), acoustic bearing detectors (monitor wheel bearing sounds to identify compromised components) and cameras installed on or near railroad tracks. 

In HB 33 the Ohio Senate provided:

•        A tax deduction for government or railroad company payments issued to residents in East Palestine as a result of the train derailment, including payments for lost business. This ensures relief aid is not counted for income tax purposes, and residents will keep the full amount. 
•        $10M for the Ohio Wayside Detector Expansion Program, a grant program to provide competitive grants to railroad companies doing business in Ohio to install wayside detector systems. This technology is used to measure temperatures of railroad bearings and send alerts to crew if temperatures reach elevated levels.
•        $100M for Rail Safety Crossings, allowing ODOT to draw down additional federal matching funds to make improvements to hazardous rail crossings around the state.
•        $1M for the Orphan Rail Crossing Program to repair abandoned, unowned railroad crossings around the state that pose a safety risk to drivers. 

We will continue to build on the progress we have made to ensure rail safety across our state. 

Slashing Regulations

Ensuring our state has a healthy and strong business climate is a top priority of the Ohio Senate. Cutting regulatory red tape in order for businesses to thrive in the Buckeye State is important for long-term economic growth in the state. 

In the last two General Assemblies, the Senate has passed legislation including:

•        SB 9 cuts burdensome regulatory red tape on Ohio’s businesses
         o   Requires Ohio's state agencies to reduce the overall number of state regulations by 30 percent over three years.
         o   Establishes an important review process for state agencies to seriously contemplate their regulatory environment and consider where reductions can be made in the restrictions they have in place within the Administrative Code.

•        SB 96 permits Employers to Post Labor Laws Online
         o   If passed by the House, SB 96 would help make Ohio the best place to do business in the 21st century. In a world where remote or hybrid work is becoming the norm, we want to make sure Ohio employers can post important notices in a streamlined way, giving them the flexibility to focus on their employees, products, and services rather than be restricted by regulatory red-tape.
        o   This bill will allow employees to access such information more easily and will reduce compliance costs for employers who opt to utilize the digital notices instead of printed copies.

•        The Ohio General Assembly has reduced barriers for many occupational license-holders, making it easier for them to work in Ohio and other compact states, and allowing more patients to receive the care they need. Those license holders include the following:

•        SB 2  – psychologists
•        SB 3  – nurses
•        SB 5 – physical therapists
•        SB 6 – physicians 
•        SB 7– occupational therapists
•        SB 28– physician assistants 
•        SB 40– dentists and dental hygienists 
•        SB 90– social workers 
•        SB 204– counselors 
•        HB 252 – audiologists and speech-language pathologists

Record Tax Cuts 

HB 33 provides a record-setting $3.1 billion in tax relief for Ohioans.

•        Ohioans making up to $26,050 will pay zero state income taxes.
•        Those with income above $26,050 will pay 2.75%.
•        Those making more than $100,000 will pay 3.5%. 
•        The bill adds an extended sales tax holiday in August.
•        Almost 90% of Ohio’s businesses will no longer have to pay any Commercial Activity Tax. 
•        Businesses are exempt from paying taxes on the first $3 million of gross receipts in the first year of the budget. 
•        Businesses will not have to pay taxes on the first $6 million of gross receipts in the following year.

The Ohio Senate is committed to moving toward a fair and simplified flat tax approach. This year’s budget reduces the number of tax brackets to only two. Under the last eight years of Republican leadership, we have reduced the overall number of brackets from nine to two.

A Bright Future

This year’s budget is truly remarkable. It manages to combine a record tax cut with a record increase in funding for public schooling, while also expanding school choice to make vouchers available for every child in the state. On top of that, it accomplishes all of the other remarkable achievements you saw listed above.

The Ohio Senate knows that tax dollars represent your hard-earned money – not the government’s.  

We will continue to be a voice for all Ohioans and make sensible investments with your tax dollars that position all of us for ever-greater success in the future.

All of these great works are critical to our top mission – to make Ohio the best place in the world to live, work, do business, and raise a family. 

(If you want more information on any of these bills, visit legislature.ohio.gov)