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Ohio Chamber PAC Endorses 12 in March 15 Primary

The Ohio Chamber Political Action Committee (OCCPAC) released its list of General Assembly endorsements for the 2016 primary election last week. OCCPAC endorses candidates who have demonstrated a commitment to free enterprise and a willingness to advocate for pro-growth, pro-jobs policies. After evaluating the 47 contested races scheduled for the March 15th primary, a total of 12 candidates for the Ohio House and Senate were endorsed.

OCCPAC issues endorsements to candidates that are recognized as the most pro-business candidate in a contested primary race based off of a specific set of criteria that identifies them as such. Of the 12 OCCPAC endorsed candidates, eight are current members of the Ohio General Assembly. Five of the eight current members have 100 percent lifetime pro-business voting records and nearly all of them have perfect scores for this session of the General Assembly.

The four other OCCPAC endorsed candidates are not currently members of the General Assembly. While a legislative record is the most objective way to gauge a candidate’s stance on pro-business issues, electing candidates that understand how public policy impacts Ohio businesses is equally important. Based off of one-on-one interviews, issues questionnaire responses, and their professional backgrounds, OCCPAC believes that all four endorsed non- incumbents would champion free enterprise and economic growth as legislators in Columbus. 

Senate GOP: Freeze Energy Standards Pending Outcome of Clean Power Plan

Senate Republicans are still proposing to continue the current freeze of Ohio's clean energy standards until the legal fate of the federal Clean Power Plan (CPP) is known, but are seeking input from the Kasich administration on an acceptable timeframe, according to Sen. Bill Seitz (R-Cincinnati).

The Energy Mandates Study Committee, created during the last Session of the General Assembly by SB 310, recommended an "indefinite" freeze of the standards, which Gov. John Kasich spokesman Joe Andrews called "unacceptable." Seitz says the "hitch" was the word "indefinite." 

"I'm perfectly willing to put an end date on it and change 'indefinite' to 'definite.' But in order to do that, we need greater clarity around a number of questions," Seitz said, noting it is important to know when the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (Ohio EPA) is planning to submit its Clean Power Plan (CPP) to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA). He also said it will remain unclear what the CPP's actual mandates are until the conclusion of a lawsuit filed against USEPA by Ohio and more than 20 other states. 

"Until we know, it would be foolish of us to spend a lot of money doing something else," Seitz said. "We should move forward with whatever is left of the Clean Power Plan. Otherwise you run the risk of having two different sets of mandates and that's just stupid." 

Heidi Griesmer, Ohio EPA deputy director of communication, said the Ohio EPA is planning on submitting an extension request with the USEPA in September. She said the agency must conduct a public outreach initiative as part of that process, noting regional public hearings will begin in March.

"We don't know which direction we are going to go. Right now we are evaluating options," Griesmer said, noting the state's legal challenge to the plan. "We are kind of on a dual track. We are evaluating what we would need to do with the plan should it hold up." 

Seitz said Senate Republicans have begun meeting with members of the House and the Kasich administration on all of the recommendations in the Energy Mandates Study Committee report, and expects legislation to be introduced in Spring 2016.  

John Fortney, Senate GOP press secretary, said meetings or hearings across the state on the issue are also a possibility. 

Read more: Senate GOP: Freeze Energy Standards Pending Outcome of Clean Power Plan

Alternative Fuel Bill Introduced in Senate

An alternative fuel bill has been introduced into the Ohio Senate as SB 267 by Sen. Bill Seitz and Sen. Bob Peterson.  The bill is identical to HB 176 which has passed both the House Ways and Means and Finance Committees and awaits a floor vote by the full House of Representatives.

Like HB 176the bill would enact the Gaseous Fuel Vehicle Conversion Program, allow a credit against the income or commercial activity tax for the purchase or conversion of an alternative fuel vehicle, reduce the amount of sales tax due on the purchase or lease of a qualifying electric vehicle by up to $500, apply the motor fuel tax to the distribution or sale of propane and compressed natural gas, authorize a temporary, partial motor fuel tax exemption for sales of propane and compressed natural gas used as motor fuel, and make an appropriation to fund the program.

OPGA has offered testimony on behalf of HB 176.

Thrifty Propane Accused of Serial CSPA Violations

The Ohio Attorney General is accusing Thrifty Propane of violating the Consumer Sales Practices Act (CSPA) despite company claims of “fair pricing” and a market-leading supply network. The state is seeking $25,000 in civil penalties for each individual case of missing or untimely deliveries and substandard customer service by Medina-based Thrifty Propane, Inc.

The company, which also operates as Thrifty Propane Northern Ohio Inc. and Thrifty Propane Columbus Ohio Inc., makes broad claims at its website that the grade, pricing and reliability of its propane supplies are superior to that of other operators.

“Thrifty Propane has paid attention to the market every year, and has carefully planned its supply every winter. ... When you purchase your propane from Thrifty Propane you benefit from our constant vigilance that keeps supplies steady and propane prices down,” it says, blaming price pressures on the horizontal drilling boom.

“The market changed for good this past heating season, never to be the same again. It changed because of ‘fracking,’ which has created an export bonanza, so that all the propane is leaving the U.S. by ship, at rates that always go up,” according to Thrifty, whose operations have spread beyond Ohio. “The owners of pipelines will have less and less reason to supply American customers, since they will make so much more money abroad.”

In a lawsuit filed in Medina County Common Pleas Court Wednesday, the state challenges a number of those claims.

“Defendants committed unfair and deceptive acts or practices in connection with consumer transactions in violation of the CSPA, R.C. 1345.02(B)(2), by representing that their propane sales and services are of a particular standard, quality, grade, style, prescription or model, when they were not,” Attorney General Mike DeWine says.

His office says in the last eight months alone, the attorney general has received at least 38 complaints against the company. Previous calls to the AG and local Better Business Bureaus go back several years. Currently, propane is not regulated by the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO). (See The Hannah Report, 10/9/14.)

“Many Ohio families rely on propane to heat their homes, and they rightly expect to receive the propane they pay for,” DeWine said in a separate statement. “In this case, we found a pattern of people who didn’t receive what they were promised. We are filing this action to protect consumers.”

DeWine is seeking a halt to Thrifty’s business until all judgments against the company have been paid.

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