Business priorities being pursued at the Statehouse

The Ohio General Assembly started 2018 with much work left undone from the previous year, particularly on business-related legislation.

To remind members of the Ohio General Assembly of the top business issues that have stalled, we created a list of the top priorities for Ohio and distributed it to all 132 legislators. These issues left undone range from fixing Ohio’s broken unemployment compensation system to reducing the threat of more one-size-fits-all health insurance mandates.

Progress stymied
One bill still pending at the Ohio Statehouse is a longstanding Ohio Chamber legislative priority, restoring balance to Ohio’s employment discrimination statutes. House Bill 2 was favorably reported out of committee in early May and yet, as of this writing, still awaits assignment to the House calendar for a vote by the full House.

This despite the fact that House Bill 2 underwent numerous changes in committee and the parties that initially opposed the bill are now neutral.

Also left undone — and even further behind in the process — is a plan to fix Ohio’s broke and broken unemployment compensation system. Reforms are urgently needed to update and strengthen the system for the benefit of Ohio’s employers, employees and economy.

Unfortunately, opposition by labor unions to virtually any potential reductions in benefit levels has stymied pursuit of a legitimate solution. Simply pouring more money into the system without addressing the cost drivers isn’t the answer.

As we head into an election year, the prospects of the legislature acting on a controversial issue like unemployment compensation diminishes.

Relief in sight
More optimistically, two bills the Ohio Chamber helped author were introduced late in the year, Senate Bill 221 in October and House Bill 450 in mid-December.

Senate Bill 221 builds on the existing authority of the successful Common Sense Initiative, created in 2011 to help generate a more jobs-friendly regulatory climate in Ohio. The bill would further minimize the negative impact that agency regulations have on businesses, and could see quick action in the New Year.

House Bill 450 is designed to provide relief from health insurance mandates. Each new, government-mandated benefit puts upward pressure on health insurance premiums, ultimately making health insurance even less affordable and accessible.

With health care costs a top concern of most businesses, relief is needed.

House Bill 450 would ensure already existing mandates and their costs are periodically reviewed, provide health insurance purchasers with additional transparency about the cost impact of mandates, and put common sense guardrails around future mandates.

Finally, we still await action on Ohio’s energy efficiency requirements. Businesses need to be protected from escalating costs of energy efficiency mandates. Sen. President Larry Obhof publicly committed in January to fashioning a bill that tackles this and other energy-related topics.

The Ohio Chamber of Commerce strives to be the voice for Ohio business at the Statehouse. We will continue to push for action on these five priorities while continuing to carry out the Ohio Chamber’s mission to aggressively champion free enterprise, economic competitiveness and growth for the benefit of all Ohioans.

Keith Lake is vice president of government affairs at the Ohio Chamber of Commerce.