ASA Ohio Legislative Update: January 2014
The Government Policy Group (GPG), ASA Ohio's Legislative Firm, has put together the following legislative update for the members of ASA Ohio. ASA Ohio has partnered with GPG for over 25 years and they are responsible for looking out for the interested of ASA Ohio members in the Ohio legislature. GPG services is another Benefit of being a member of ASA Ohio.
2014 – What to expect:
Ohio's legislators returned from winter recess this month to begin the final year of the 130th General Assembly. During the first half of the General Assembly, lawmakers focused much of their attention on education, Medicaid reforms, and tax overhauls. Several of the Kasich Administration's key initiatives were included in the governor's biennial budget proposal, which dominated the debate throughout much of 2013. The 2014 legislative calendar is expected to be just as exciting, as legislators will attempt to wrap-up pressing issues before the end of the year. Adding to the interest is that 2014 is also an election year. All 99 House seats and half of the senate seats are on the ballot. Also in play will be Ohio's five statewide elected executive offices, as well as two GOP-held Supreme Court seats. All these factors will make 2014 an extremely important year for the future of Ohio.
Must of the attention during the first half of 2014 will surround two so-called "budget" bills. First, Governor Kasich has indicated plans to introduce a capital budget bill to fund a broad range of construction projects around the state. The capital budget measure, will include state debt-backed construction funding for "community projects." The administration believes the state's finances have sufficiently rebounded from the lean recession years to chip in for things like local parks, museums, and other cultural, historical and development-related facilities. Also on the horizon is the mid-biennium budget review (MBR), which is expected to be introduced by the end of winter. The MBR will likely include a personal income tax cut as well as numerous other policy proposals. Much like the main operating budget bill, the MBR impacts nearly every facet of state government, making it an extremely important piece of legislation.
Mechanical Repair Facility Registration:
Before legislators completed their work in 2013, ASA Ohio was successful in introducing legislation that would register mechanical automotive repair facilities with the Ohio Motor Vehicle Repair Board. ASA Ohio has worked diligently with Senator Joe Uecker (R-Loveland) and other interested parties in developing Senate Bill 232, which has been assigned to the Senate Commerce and Labor Committee. Currently, only collision repair facilities are registered with the Ohio Motor Vehicle Repair Board. After hearing the concerns of ASA Ohio's members, it became clear that failure to register the mechanical side of the industry has been detrimental to not only the profession but also to the consumers they serve.
Law-abiding mechanical repair businesses, trying to play by the rules, are put at a competitive disadvantage and operate under radical pricing differences compared to those "backyard" operations who refuse to comply with state and federal regulations. Unscrupulous automotive repair shops take advantage of the system by avoiding taxes, ignoring workers' compensation premiums, failing to obtain liability insurance, and ignoring the various EPA standards that legitimate shops face. Although a large majority of mechanical repair facilities adhere to the law, the actions of a few unrepeatable shops have tarnished the image of the industry. It's important to note that Senate Bill 232 is not designed to create any new standards or regulations, but instead is designed to ensure that all automotive repair professionals are operating under the same set of requirements. Senate Bill 232, if enacted, will promote competition and will benefit the industry through the resources offered by a professional board.
Also on the radar in 2014 is an attempt by lawmakers to protect Ohioans against the problem of predatory tow truck abuse. Ohio law currently has very few protections against predatory towing practices, which is often prevalent on college campuses. House Bill 382, introduced by Representatives Mike Duffey and Heather Bishoff, both of the Columbus area, is a compressive bill designed to protect consumers. ASA Ohio has been working with both sponsors to ensure that this bill focuses specifically on predatory towing, and that it will not negatively impact law-abiding tow truck operators. ASA Ohio has also spent months working with other interested parties in developing a similar proposal being drafted in the Senate. ASA Ohio will continue to work with both chambers on these proposals and will advocate for a final bill that will help protect the consumer while also ensuring that the provisions do not disrupt the operations of legitimate tow truck operators.
Unclaimed Motor Vehicles:
In August 2012, the Ohio Department of Public Safety implemented a new policy that drastically changed the affidavit process for obtaining a title to an unclaimed motor vehicle valued under $2,500. Previously, shop owners were allowed to deduct certain costs (storage, estimated repairs, etc.) against the value of the vehicle before completing the affidavit. Under the new policy this practice is no longer allowed. The new standard has significantly impacted the automotive repair industry and has resulted in shop owners being forced to store unclaimed vehicles that no longer fall below the $2,500 threshold.
To address is problem, ASA Ohio has worked diligently with the Ohio Department of Public Safety in drafting administrative rules that would allow repair facilities to deduct costs from an unclaimed vehicle's value. In addition to our efforts with the Ohio Department of Public Safety, ASA Ohio is also working on a legislative change that would increase the outdated threshold value from $2,500 to a more reasonable $5,000. Unclaimed motor vehicles cost automotive repair shops money. These vehicles take-up valuable space on their property – property that could be used by legitimate customers! Having the low ($2,500 value) threshold in addition to the affidavit changes has made obtaining a title to an unclaimed motor vehicle extremely difficult for automotive repair businesses.
ASA Ohio has a very close relationship with the Ohio EPA and plays an important role in providing them with insight as to how policy changes will impact the automotive repair industry. Last General Assembly it was identified that a certain provision included in the definition of "auto body refinishing facility" would prohibit repair shops, working on vehicles with a gross vehicle weight of 8,500 lbs., from claiming a permit-by-rule (PBR) exemption. The way the rule is currently written, the Ohio EPA could find automotive repair facilities claiming the PBR exemption in violation of the law, simply for repairing a vehicle exceeding the 8,500 lbs. threshold, regardless of whether the repair facility meets all the other emission standards established under the PBR. ASA Ohio has spearheaded the effort to correct this oversight by spending the past year providing suggestions, holding meetings with members of the Ohio EPA, and submitting comments in support of the change. The hard work paid off and the Ohio EPA used our suggestions and made the appropriate changes to the definition to alleviate the problem. The correction is part of a larger rule package that is being revised, which has delayed its implementation. Nevertheless, we have been reassured that the Ohio EPA will be filing the rule by the end of the month.
Should you have any questions, please feel free to contact Matt Dougher at your Association at 513.659.5324. You may also contact Andrew Huffman at GPG at 614-461-9335.