Legislators ease tax cut for damaged properties

Ohio legislators approved a new way to cut property taxes on damaged property, streamline travel insurance paperwork, protect domestic violence victims and aid small businesses in their first full sessions of the new year.

Property taxes: State Rep. Brian Lampton, R-Beavercreek, sponsored substitute House Bill 51, which passed the House in March. Now the Senate has passed it unanimously.

When property is damaged or destroyed, such as by the 2019 Memorial Day tornadoes, there have only been two options to get its taxable value reduced, according to state Sen. Louis Blessing, R-Colerain Twp.: the owner can request a reduction personally, or two nearby residents can file an affidavit attesting to the damage.

“This adds a third option. The county auditor can also unilaterally reduce the valuation if he so chooses,” Blessing said.

Public meetings: An amendment to the property tax bill will let public bodies, such as local governments, continue meeting virtually until June 30 due to the continuing COVID-19 pandemic. The previous authorization for virtual meetings expired in July, Blessing said.

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Insurance: A bill sponsored by state Sens. George Lang, R-West Chester Twp., and Steve Wilson, R-Maineville, will automatically enroll online buyers of travel insurance in paperless documentation. People who still want paper policies and other documents can request that, and companies won’t be required to offer electronic documentation if they don’t already do so, Lang said.

Their amended Senate Bill 236 passed unanimously and now heads to the House.

Domestic violence: A bill sponsored by Reps. Cindy Abrams, R-Harrison, and Jeff LaRe, R-Violet Twp., adds protections for domestic violence victims by allowing their addresses to remain confidential in public property records. The program to help domestic violence victims elude their abusers has been in existence for some time, but participants identified ways to improve it, said state Sen. Theresa Gavarone, R-Huron. Publicly available documents and databases would be redacted, but government staff could still access the information, she said.

Substitute House Bill 93 passed the house in February, and has now passed the Senate unanimously.

Small businesses: The House passed amended substitute Senate Bill 105 by a 91-0 vote, requiring local political subdivisions to recognize state certification of businesses owned by minorities and women, and veteran friendly businesses.

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The bill sponsored by state Sens. Kirk Schuring, R-Canton, and Vernon Sykes, D-Akron, passed the Senate in June.

Rep. Jay Edwards, R-Nelsonville, said it won’t keep cities, counties or townships from setting additional standards for such businesses to compete for public contracts, such as requiring proof of residence. But it will cut time and paperwork by eliminating the need for redundant certification, he said.

State Rep. Terrence Upchurch, D-Cleveland, said the bill is supported by state agencies and Ohio chambers of commerce.

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