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House & Senate Pass Small Business Tax Fix

The House and Senate have overwhelmingly passed legislation to fix budget language that would have inadvertently led to a small business tax increase for 2015.

Rep. Ron Amstutz (R-Wooster) said SB208 would resolve an unintended effect of the budget bill HB64 (R. Smith) that would have led to a tax increase for some businesses. He said it will help businesses create more jobs and invest in expansion. 

AG Certifies 'Ohio Fair Wage Amendment'

The Ohio Attorney General’s Office Friday certified the petition for a proposed amendment to the Ohio Constitution regarding the state minimum wage.

On Oct. 13, the attorney general’s office received a written petition to amend the Ohio Constitution, entitled “The Ohio Fair Wage Amendment,” from the petitioners' legal counsel. The submission was certified today as containing both the necessary 1,000 valid signatures from registered Ohio voters and a “fair and truthful” summary of the proposed amendment.

The proposed amendment takes the state's minimum wage to $10/hour, effective Jan. 1, 2017; to $10.50/hour, effective Jan. 1, 2018; to $11/hour, effective Jan. 1 2019; to $11.50/hour, effective Jan. 1, 2020; and to $12/hour, effective Jan. 1, 2021. After that, "it will be annually adjusted for inflation consistent with existing law."

Regarding tipped employees, the amendment would require employers to pay at least $6/hour beginning Jan. 1, 2017. "The amount that employers must pay tipped employees will be increased by $1 per hour every following Jan. 1 until the wage paid to tipped employees by their employer matches the full minimum wage.

"If the wage paid to tipped employees by an employer requires an annual increase of less than $1 per hour to match the full minimum wage, the annual increased will only be for the amount required to match the full minimum wage," the summary explains. "Once the amount paid by the employer equals the full minimum wage, it will increase every Jan. 1 based on the rate of inflation consistent with existing law."

“Without passing upon the advisability of the approval or rejection of the measure to be referred. … I hereby certify that the summary is a fair and truthful statement of the proposed law,” Ohio Attorney Mike General DeWine stated in his certification letter.

Once the summary language and initial signatures are certified, the Ohio Ballot Board must determine if the amendment contains a single issue or multiple issues. That meeting has not been set as of Friday.

The petitioners must then collect signatures for each issue from registered voters in each of 44 of Ohio’s 88 counties, equal to 5 percent of the total vote cast in the county for the office of governor at the last gubernatorial election. Total signatures collected statewide must also equal 10 percent of the total vote cast for the office of governor at the last gubernatorial election.

Minimum Wage Advocates Look to Constitution

Last week, a group took the first step in amending the Ohio constitution to raise the minimum wage through statewide ballot initiative by filing paperwork with the Ohio Attorney General. However, this is just the latest attempt in an ongoing effort to increase the minimum wage in Ohio.

The current state minimum wage is $8.10 per hour and goes up annually based upon the rate of inflation. However, there have been movements recently, both nationally and within Ohio, to further raise that amount. Late last year and earlier this year, there were protests, demonstrations and even strikes at fast food restaurants promoting a minimum wage of $15.00. In Cincinnati, there was a short-lived push for a 2015 city ballot initiative that would have raised the city’s minimum wage to $10.10 and eventually to $12.20. There was even legislation introduced earlier this year in the Ohio Senate which would raise the state minimum wage to $10.10. Though these attempts have not been successful thus far, the proponents of raising the minimum wage are seeking any and all available avenues to accomplish their goal.

The proposed constitutional amendment would initially raise the minimum wage by $1.90 per hour, effective on January 1, 2017, and then by an additional fifty cents each year until it reached $12.00 per hour in 2021. Thereafter, the minimum wage would increase based upon yearly inflation, as it does now. The overall impact of the proposal would result in a nearly 50 percent increase in the minimum wage over just five years. The amendment would also phase out the ability of employers to pay tipped employees at a rate below minimum wage. The group behind the ballot initiative is called Stand Up for Ohio, which is a coalition of labor, community, environmental, and civil rights organizations.

While those advocating for a minimum wage increase believe doing so will help cure poverty and provide a livable wage, it could actually harm the most vulnerable workers: young people, the undereducated and those lacking work experience. When employers are forced to pay higher wages, they will be less likely to continue to be able to afford to employ less-skilled and less- educated workers. A smarter approach would be to focus on the state’s workforce development and education efforts. More education and experience provide Ohioans a lifetime of increased opportunity and earning capacity when compared to arbitrarily raising the minimum wage for a short-term benefit.

Last week’s filing signifies the first step in the process to alter Ohio’s constitution. If the paperwork is approved by the Attorney General, Stand Up for Ohio can then begin gathering the 300,000 plus signatures required for the constitutional amendment to be on the ballot in 2016. 

Senate Committee Approves Transportation Insurance Contracts Bill (HB71)

The Senate Civil Justice Committee has approved HB71 which would prohibit certain indemnity agreements in motor vehicle carrier transportation contracts.

HB71 is a significant step in leveling the playing field between propane motor carriers and terminals, by preventing shippers, in the case of their own negligence, from demanding that the motor carriers (or the motor carrier's insurance provider) pay for the defense and damages arising from the shipper's negligent actions.  42 states have enacted "anti-indemnification" statutes.

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