1. Governor announces plan for Ohio Turnpike
Governor John Kasich unveiled his plan for the Ohio Turnpike this week. His plan, which will require legislative approval, does not include a long-term lease of the 241 mile route to a private entity. Instead, the state will issue $1.5 billion in new bonds, issued by the Ohio Turnpike Commission (OTC) and backed by future turnpike revenue. The proceeds from the sale of the bonds will fund road and bridge improvement projects primarily in Northern Ohio. According to the administration, an additional $1.5 billion can be generated from matching local and federal funds to generate approximately $3 billion for major transportation projects.
Under the plan, tolls for local passenger trips that are paid with EZ Pass will be frozen at current levels for the next 10 years. Increases for longer passenger trips and all truck trips, will be capped at the rate of inflation, or 2.7 percent annually.
According to the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT), the state has a $1.6 billion highway budget deficit due to dwindling federal and state gas tax revenues. Under Governor Kasich’s plan, the turnpike will work with ODOT to dedicate more than 90 percent of the $1.5 billion in new bond proceeds to Northern Ohio road projects, freeing up ODOT funds on highways downstate. Projects such as sound walls and locally-owned bridges spanning the turnpike will see the benefit of the additional funds under the plan.
The governor’s announcement followed the release of a study on options to leverage the turnpike, titled the Ohio Turnpike Opportunity Analysis. KPMG performed the study, which evaluates three options for the turnpike:
- Maintaining status quo with increased bonding capacity
- Closer alignment of the OTC with the ODOT
- Entering a long-term concession lease with a private party to operate and maintain the turnpike for 50 years
2. Asbestos tort measure receives approval
A bill changing requirements for claimants in asbestos tort actions received final legislative approval this week. According to Representative Lou Blessing (R- Cincinnati), the bill’s sponsor, House Bill 380 will bring transparency to asbestos litigation by requiring that claimants seeking recovery from asbestos defendants in Ohio’s courts disclose and pursue viable claims against the bankruptcy trusts.
Current law does not require asbestos claimants to disclose if they are also pursuing recovery from asbestos bankruptcy trusts. As a result, some claimants receive full compensation from multiple sources.
House Bill 380 requires a claimant to provide all parties with a sworn statement identifying all existing asbestos trust claims made by, or on behalf of, the claimant and all trust claims material pertaining to each such identified claim. The bill also requires the claimant to provide an amendment updating the statement to identify additional asbestos trust claims made. Failure to provide all material as required by the bill constitutes grounds for the court to decline to assign an initial trial date or extend the date set for trial.
Under the bill, if a defendant in good faith believes the claimant has not submitted a legitimate claim to an asbestos bankruptcy trust, the defendant may file, up to 75 days prior to the commencement of trial, a motion requesting a stay in the proceedings. The claimant may file a response to the defendant’s motion requesting a determination that the claimant’s or attorney’s fees and expenses to prepare and file the claim exceed the claimant’s reasonably anticipated recovery. If the defendant has met its burden for its motion to stay the proceedings and the claimant files a response, the court must determine by a preponderance of the evidence if a successful asbestos trust claim could be submitted in good faith to each asbestos trust identified in the defendant’s motion.
The legislation will now be delivered to the governor for his approval.
3. Legislature wraps up 129th General Assembly
The legislature met for its final session this week, and the following bills are among those that received final approval:
- Senate Bill 114: Sponsored by Senator Bill Seitz (R- Cincinnati), the bill would establish conditions for the operation of certain specialized motor vehicles—including low-speed and under-speed vehicles, scooters, cab-enclosed motorcycles, and mini-trucks. Additionally, the bill prohibits a motor vehicle manufacturer, remanufacturer or distributor from providing to a licensed motor vehicle dealer a motor vehicle that violates window-tinting standards.
- Senate Bill 139: Sponsored by Senator Jim Hughes (R- Columbus), the bill allows multiple professional employer organizations (PEO) to register together as one entity. Additionally, the bill requires a PEO or a PEO reporting entity to submit the most recent audited or reviewed financial statement when initially registering or renewing registration.
- Senate Bill 160: Sponsored by Senator Kevin Bacon (R- Minerva Park), the bill requires a prosecuting attorney who receives notice that a court has scheduled a judicial release hearing with respect to a first, second or third degree felony offense of violence to notify the victim or the victim’s representative of the hearing regardless of whether they requested notification.
- House Bill 278: Sponsored by Representative Gerald Stebleton (R- Lancaster), the bill increases the minimum dollar amounts of motor vehicle public liability insurance coverage required for a driver to have valid proof of financial responsibility as follows:
- Bodily injury to or death of one person in any one accident: From $12,500 to $25,000
- Bodily injury to or death of two or more in any one accident: From $25,000 to $50,000
- Injury to property of others in any one accident: From $7,500 to $25,000
House Bill 284: Sponsored by Representative Anne Gonzales (R- Westerville), the bill modifies the laws governing physician assistants. Among the changes included, the bill authorizes a physician assistant to perform the following medical services:
- Issue a do-not-resuscitate (DNR) order and take any other action that may be taken by an attending physician under the law governing DNR orders
- Determine and pronounce death in specified locations and circumstances
- Insert or remove chest tubes
- Prescribe or make referrals for physical therapy
- House Bill 555: Sponsored by Representatives Gerald Stebleton (R- Lancaster) and Jim Butler (R- Oakwood), the bill replaces the current academic performance rating system for school districts with a phased-in letter grade system under which districts and schools are assigned grades of A, B, C, D, or F based on 15 measures to reflect the performance profile of each district or school.
- House Bill 606: Sponsored by Representative Robert Hagan (D- Youngstown), the bill abolishes one of the three full-time judgeships of the Youngstown Municipal Court. Additionally, the legislation increases from more than 100 to more than 200 the population necessary for a municipal corporation to have a mayor’s court.
4. PUCO initiates electric retail market investigation
The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) began an investigation into the state’s retail electric market this week. According to the state’s utility regulator, the examination is an attempt to determine where the market is working, and how the retail market could be improved for the benefit of consumers.
“Today’s entry commencing our study of the state of Ohio’s retail market is the next logical step in the transition from a regulated environment to a restructured market,” said Chairman Todd A. Snitchler. “Our goal is to have a vibrant marketplace where suppliers can align their product offerings with customer demands, ensuring consumers can best control how their utility dollars are spent.”
The PUCO is seeking comments addressing questions about market design and corporate separation with a focus on ensuring that undue barriers do not exist to prevent a fully competitive market from operating. One such question asks whether default service provides an unfair advantage to the incumbent provider and its generation affiliate. To read the entry, click here.
Comments are due on January 30, 2013, and reply comments are due on February 15, 2013.
For more information, please contact:
Rebecca M. Kuhns
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