2017-2018 End of Session Wrap-Up


It wasn’t until the final day of 2018 that the curtain came down on the most recent two-year session of the Ohio legislature, otherwise known as the 132nd General Assembly.

While late-December session days are highly unusual, Ohio lawmakers were actually at the Statehouse, still voting on legislation, three days after Christmas. However, by that time, such unusualness was almost to be expected, as this was one of the strangest two-year session of the Ohio legislature ever.

For example, two lawmakers resigned amidst allegations of sexual harassment and inappropriate conduct, as did the then-Speaker of the House – the first resignation by a sitting Speaker in over half a century – amidst an FBI inquiry into his spending and travel. This was followed by a nearly eight-week stretch during which the Ohio House was without a Speaker when members of the House Republican majority were unable to agree on how or when to take an official vote to fill the unexpected vacancy. Also contributing to the strangeness was a fractured relationship between legislative Republicans and Republican Gov. John Kasich. This culminated in the legislature overriding the governor’s vetoes of three bills in November and December – the first successful overrides of a stand-alone bill since 2006.

Nonetheless, there were important bills passed over the course of the past two years for which the Ohio Chamber helped advocate – pro-business bills that benefit your business or improve Ohio’s business climate.

Early in 2017, the Ohio Chamber helped secure a common-sense workers’ compensation reform, requiring injured workers to file a claim within one year instead of two. This will lead to faster treatment, quicker return to work, and better outcomes. While not a direct result of legislation, average private employer workers’ compensation rates have declined by 37% over the past eight years, leaving workers’ compensation costs at their lowest point in 40 years.

Also last year, as part of the state budget, we helped deliver two significant victories in the area of municipal income tax reform. First, the so-called “throwback” rule was eliminated. This is the name given to the practice by which municipalities tax revenue from sales made by its business taxpayers to companies located in other jurisdictions where the business neither has employees nor regularly does business. By eliminating throwback, cities are prevented from unfairly taxing businesses on sales made to customers not located in that or any other Ohio city.

Second, businesses now have the option of having their municipal net profit tax administered by the Ohio Department of Taxation. This allows businesses to complete and file a single form and make just one payment, rather than file separately with each municipality in which the taxpayer does business. This helps make Ohio’s tax environment more competitive.

Our Ohio Small Business Council members contributed major components to a bill to reform agency rulemaking and provide businesses with greater protection from potentially harmful rules and regulations. This bill – one of the three that were vetoed by Gov. Kasich but overridden by the legislature – will build on a long string of other recent regulatory reform initiatives.

Earlier this year, we championed legislation – the first of its kind in the nation – to provide businesses who institute a robust cybersecurity program in compliance with the statute an affirmative defense in a lawsuit involving a data breach. In today’s world, where companies are daily confronting increasingly complex cybersecurity challenges, this new approach further incentivizes businesses to invest in and maintain reasonable cybersecurity measures to protect employee, customer, and other private information.

Finally, as the end of the year was nearing, two additional bills supported by the Ohio Chamber were enacted. One cuts down on drive-by lawsuits against businesses for alleged disability accessibility violations, and another clarifies that employees of a franchisee are not considered employees of a franchisor for the purposes of the tax code, unemployment compensation, workers’ compensation, and other areas affecting the employment relationship.

As you can see, through all the craziness, the Ohio Chamber was working hard to make Ohio a better place to do business. However, there’s still more to accomplish. Left undone last year, despite our efforts, were several major priorities, including a longstanding Ohio Chamber legislative priority of restoring balance to Ohio’s employment discrimination statutes, fixing Ohio’s broke and broken unemployment compensation system, and enacting permanent changes to address the growing costs of Ohio’s energy efficiency mandates.

These three issues will be among the priorities the Ohio Chamber will continue to push for as we enter 2019. You’ll see them contained in our list of 2019-2020 Public Policy Priorities, which will be released later this month.