House OKs COVID-19 Response Bill

| March 27, 2020

The Ohio House this week approved a major legislative package to help the state manage through the COVID-19 pandemic.

The package, contained in House Bill 197, now goes to Gov. Mike DeWine for his signature.

The legislation covers a range of issues the state, local communities and schools need in the near-term to help address impacts from the coronavirus.

The bipartisan plan is the result of work between the House, Senate and DeWine administration.

“The impact of the coronavirus has touched the lives and daily routines of all Ohioans,” said Speaker Larry Householder. “We believe this legislation will help state and local leaders manage through this global pandemic.”

Among the changes, the plan addresses the 2020 primary election.

Primary election in-person voting was cancelled due to the public health crisis. Ohioans that were eligible to vote on March 17, 2020, will be able to cast their ballot by mail on or before April 28, 2020. Those Ohioans that cast their ballot early will have their vote count. The Ohio Secretary of State will mail all voters a postcard informing them on how they will be able to request their ballot by mail from their local county board of elections. The board will send them their ballot and a postage paid return envelope.

Other highlights of the bill include:

  • Testing and Accountability – State-mandated K-12 student assessments for the 2019 school year are eliminated, along with school district and school building report cards. The bill also directs the Ohio Department of Education to seek a waiver from federal student testing mandates.
  • EdChoice – In order to give schools greater certainty for the upcoming school year regarding the state’s largest student voucher program, EdChoice, the bill freezes the 2019-20 performance-based EdChoice building eligibility list, which stands at 517 schools, for the 2020-21 school year. The bill expressly prohibits expansion of the building list to 1,227 buildings.
  • Rainy Day Fund – In order to ensure the state can end the current fiscal year with a balanced budget, the bill permits the DeWine administration, if necessary, to seek State Controlling Board approval to transfer money from the state’s “Rainy Day Fund.” The current fiscal year ends June 30.
  • Local Government – The measure includes several provisions to help local governments, including flexibility for local elected officials to hold public meetings via video conference.
  • Unemployment Compensation – Changes to help workers impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.
  • Water Shutoffs – The bill gives the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency authority to direct public water systems to not disconnect customers for non-payment.
  • Licenses – Any license issued under state law and which will expire between the effective date of the bill and December 1, 2020, is to be extended until December 1.
  • Nursing and Teaching Licensure – The bill allows new nurses and teachers to secure a temporary or provisional license if they meet all other requirements but are unable to complete their licensure exam due to the coronavirus outbreak.

Ohio’s tax filing deadline will be the same as the federal filing deadline, July 15.

For more on the bill click on the link: OH House COVID 19 Package

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Category: Government

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Article contributed to The Beacon.

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