Following a 2-month deliberative process, the General Assembly has passed HB 23, the FY 2024-2025 transportation budget bill. The process was greatly impacted by the February 2, 2023, train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio, with many taking the opportunity to discuss rail safety issues during the committee process. The conference report was unanimously voted out of committee yesterday evening. The Senate voted unanimously to approve the bill, while the House voted in favor of the bill by a vote of 93-2 (2 members did not vote and 2 seats are vacant).
Notable provisions included in HB 23 include:
One of the most contentious issues that arose during the committee process was the issue of local force account limits. Force accounts limits refers to the dollar cap that state law puts on the transportation construction projects that local governments are allowed to complete without resorting to competitive bidding by private contractors. Local governments have long argued that the limits, last changed in 2003, have not kept pace with inflation and have prevented needed but small dollar transportation construction projects from moving forward. In a comprise, the bill raises all statutory limits by 133% and then allows for those limits to increase annually based on ODOT’s construction cost index, with a 5% cap.
While the House had added $1 billion for a Rural Highway Fund to support construction projects in 80 of Ohio’s 88 counties, which received significant news coverage at the time, that funding was ultimately not included in the bill.
The bill now goes to the Governor for his signature. We would expect that to happen quickly so that the bill can become effective in time for the new fiscal year on July 1.
With the transportation budget now concluded, the General Assembly is scheduled to begin a two-week break starting this Friday. We expect the House to conclude its work on the operating budget bill shortly after they return in mid-April.
Please let us know if you have any questions or would like additional information on any item.
Maryellen K. Corbett
Attorney at Law
Calfee, Halter & Griswold LLP
1200 Huntington Center
41 South High Street
Columbus, OH 43215-3465