House Bill 315 (Township Omnibus Bill)
To make various township law changes and to make an appropriation.
Status: This bill is awaiting committee assignment.
Townships are creatures of statue, meaning all authority must be expressly provided to them by law. To address the concerns of townships, the OTA has introduced a township omnibus bill in every General Assembly (GA) since the 131st. An omnibus bill is a comprehensive piece of legislation that bundles multiple provisions together rather than addressing one issue at a time. This strategy is effective in garnering widespread support from legislators, as many township issues do not typically make news headlines. As a result, the OTA has successfully passed a township omnibus during each GA since this strategy was implemented.
The OTA is happy to give you a preview of this GA’s omnibus bill. It is sponsored by two former township trustees, Representative Thomas Hall (R-Madison Twp.) and Representative Bill Seitz (R-Cincinnati). When introduced, it will include eight provisions based on feedback from townships across the state.
The bill addresses numerous township issues. They include:
- Public Notice
This section would allow public notices to be posted on a township’s website or social media rather than in a newspaper. With newspapers being circulated less frequently, subscriber numbers dwindling, and increasing prices of advertisements, it is unnecessary for townships to use outdated methods to inform residents.
- Indigent Burial Fund
Traditionally, $1 million has been put into the indigent burial fund by the General Assembly. However, House Bill 33 (Biennium Budget) cut this funding. This legislation would reestablish the fund for all local governments.
- Township License Plate
While the state, counties, and municipalities have license plates for their jurisdiction, townships do not. This legislation would allow townships to have a township license plate instead of a county license plate. With over 41,000 centerline miles to maintain, the most in the state, township-specific plates would help identify township vehicles on the road.
- Township Preservation Commission
Preservation commissions are tasked with preserving historic properties within its district. With the creation of a township preservation commission, townships would become eligible for programs such as the Certificate Local Government Program (CLG), run by the Ohio History Connection.
- New Community Authority
House Bill 33 (Biennium Budget) gave townships with a population of at least 5,000 within counties with populations of at least 200,000 and no more than 400,000 (Butler, Clermont, Delaware, Lake, Lorain, Stark, and Warren) the ability to create a New Community Authority. This bill would extend that authority to townships with populations of 15,000 in the unincorporated area. Larger townships require more tools to meet the development goals of the community and the state, and this authority would help retain the tax dollars that originated in the township.
- Zoning Fines
Townships can issue fines for violation of zoning laws. However, they are collected through an approval process, nullifying the effectiveness. Zoning violations carry up to a $500 fine, so violators often choose to go to court, understanding lawyer fees will exceed the maximum fine. This legislation would use R.C. §504.06 model language for zoning citations, allowing for both due process and the ability of the township to collect the fine. With this proposed language, a citation would be issued, and the violator would be given fourteen days to respond to the violation. If the fine is paid, it is an admission of guilt, and the matter is finished. If not, the matter goes to court.
- Comprehensive Plan Updates
Today’s economic/business climate has dictated a need for updates to township zoning comprehensive plans. Comprehensive plans and land use plans are guides for future decision-making and policy decisions in the township. Unfortunately, these plans aren’t updated as often as they should be due to cost and lack of expertise. This provision establishes a fund for local governments to tap into updated planning and zoning regulations.
- Marks and Brands
R.C. §507.05 includes language that a township fiscal officer must keep a book to record marks and brands within the township. This is an outdated code section not currently utilized by townships. The OTA, the Ohio Farm Bureau, and the Department of Agriculture support the elimination of this unnecessary language from the code.
Due to the number of provisions included in the bill, we anticipate that it may see some changes as it moves throughout the process. The OTA will update membership if any changes are made. To ensure you are receiving the most up-to-date information on this and other bills, please contact Kelli Bailey to sign up for our weekly Legislative Alert email.
If you have any suggestions that you would like to see reflected in this bill, please contact Kyle A. Brooks.
See links below for more information on the Ohio Legislature's website, such as proponent and opponent testimonies, a summary of the bill, and more.