Lame Duck is Upon Us

The term “Lame Duke” originated in Britain in the 1800s as a way to describe bankrupt businessmen. It was first applied to American politics in the 1830s, when it was used to describe a defeated politician, replacing the term “dead duck.”  Today “Lame Duck in a legislative branch of government parlance speaks to legislative activity by legislators after the election but before the elected legislators are sworn in for a new session. 

When parties lose control of a legislative body in an election, Lame Duck sessions can be exciting and filled with drama as a political agenda rejected by the voters may be quickly enacted.  That is not the case in Ohio’s 2020 Lame Duck legislative session.  Even though Republicans actually enhanced their super majorities in the Ohio House of Representatives and Ohio Senate, the Ohio General Assembly has returned for what is left of this year for the Lame Duck Session.

The 133rd Ohio General Assembly Lame Duck Session is grinding through major policy issues. 

  • School Funding Formula.  Speaker Bob Cupp is making a major push to rewrite the state of Ohio school funding formula following months of bi-partisan discussion.  Speaker Cupp’s plan is facing challenges in the Ohio Senate based upon its price tag which could add up to a $2-$4 B revenue increase.  Increasing spending on public schools by as much as 40% will prove challenging with a COVID 19 generated budget deficit looming. 
  • Energy Policy.  Looming over the Ohio Statehouse is whether to repeal House Bill 6 which is at the center of the federal indictments of former House Speaker Larry Householder, his campaign team and lobbyist for First Energy.  Action in the Lame Duck is not anticipated on House Bill 6 but the topic is sure to be reviewed next session.
  • State Capital Budget.  Odd number years are when the state of Ohio generally enacts a two year capital budget that funds the facilities and equipment needs of state agencies, universities, college, schools and community projects all over the state.  The Lame Duck Session is slated to see the state of Ohio Capital Budget passed in short order. 
  • Municipal Income Tax Collection.  Ohio’s cities are among a minority across the United States that can charge a municipal income tax.  With the government imposed COVID 19 shutdown, the Ohio General Assembly with support of Governor Dewine permitted cities to continue to collect income tax of from workers even though they were not showing up to work in another city.  Majority House Republicans are promoting legislation to stop that method of taxation as unfair to taxpayers.  Debate on this topic will be going on  during Lame Duck and possibly next session as Republicans begin to ask why their suburban voters are forced to pay big city income taxes.
  • Insurance Premium Tax Credit.  On the economic development front the Montrose Group is watching a couple pieces of legislation Senate Bill 39 and House Bill 704. Senate Bill 39 sponsored by Senator Kirk Schuring (R-Canton) would create an Insurance Premiums tax credit for capital contributions to Transformational Mixed-Use Development (TMUD) projects. Senate Bill 39 is a unique approach to help large economic development projects throughout Ohio work towards the necessary acquiring the necessary capital a TMUD project. We expect Senate Bill 39 to move during this lame duck session further enhancing Ohio’s already robust economic development toolbox.  
  • Tax Abatement Reform. House Bill 704 sponsored by Representative’s Jon Cross (R-Kenton) and Mark Fraizer (R-Newark) looks to improve and update one of the primary economic development tools used at the local level of government in Ohio, the Community Reinvestment Area (CRA). The legislation makes CRA’s more accessible by removing redundant reporting mechanisms, adds consistency in annual filing requirements, reduces the restrictions for who may enter in CRA agreements, and removes fees for property owners entering into CRAs, which will help attract additional investments in Ohio.

The Lame Duck legislative session will not pass legislation on all these topics but it will be a lively time and a strong finish to a very challenging 133rd Ohio General Assembly.