Reps. Stephens and Scherer Offer Relief for Ohio Farmers

COVID 19 and the shuttering of Ohio’s businesses is having a significant financial impact on the agricultural industry. This coupled with the fact that Ohio farmers were hit hard in 2019 by higher than average rainfall that forced many farmers to forgo the planting season, and a trade war with China and the states $125 billion agriculture industry is in crisis.

State Representatives Jason Stephens (R- Getaway) and Gary Scherer (R-Circleville) have introduced House Bill 485 which alleviates bureaucratic red tape for farmers by removing a requirement that owners of farmland enrolled in the Current Agricultural Use Valuation (CAUV) program file a renewal application each year in order to remain in the program.

While this doesn’t undo the economic hardship facing farmers it does take away the threat of qualified farmers losing their property due to government paperwork procedures.

According to joint testimony provided by both Representatives Stephens and Scherer the CAUV program is designed to permit agricultural land values to be set below true market values, at its current use value. The formula for CAUV values incorporates agricultural factors (soil types, yields, prices, and non-land costs for corn, soybeans, and wheat) to calculate the capitalized net returns to farming land based on the previous 5 to 10 years. This program allows commercial agricultural farmland to be valued based on its value in agriculture, rather than the full market value, which can result in significant savings for farmers.

A renewal application must be filed every year before the first Monday in March to continue in the CAUV program.

Along with the application process, county auditors are also required, each year, to inspect the farmland on CAUV, to ensure continuing compliance with commercial farming.

H.B. 485 repeals the requirement for property owners enrolled in the CAUV program to file a renewal application each year in order to remain in the program. A property owner is required to notify the county auditor if the owner’s land no longer qualifies for the CAUV program. Additionally, some property owners will be required to submit documentation, in lieu of a renewal application, to demonstrate continued qualification for the CAUV program.

These landowner will still be required to report information demonstrating continued qualification for the CAUV program if they meet one of two criteria.

1. The owner of a plot of land of less than ten acres must document the yearly income earned from that land. Small plots of land qualify for CAUV only if the land generates at least $2,500 in annual income or is enrolled in a federal conservation program. Currently, the renewal application requires such information to be provided for such plots.
2. The owner of CAUV land that becomes enrolled in a federal conservation program after initially qualifying for the CAUV program must provide to the county auditor a copy of the agreement between the owner and the federal agency. Land enrolled in a federal conservation program continues to qualify for CAUV even if it is no longer actively used for farming. Currently, that documentation must be provided with the first renewal application after enrollment in the federal program.

Should H.B. 485 become law the new CAUV program application procedures apply to tax years beginning on or after the bill’s effective date.

For working farms over 10 acres both Stephens and Scherer state that requiring these farmers to complete the renewal application every year and requiring the county auditor’s office to check the farm land each year results in unnecessary redundancy and difficulties for working farmers across Ohio. Under H.B. 485, the county auditor’s office will still be required to check the farmland annually, as in current law, but these farmers will no longer be tasked with the renewal of the CAUV application.

State Representative Jason Stephens serves residents of the 93rd House District, which includes Jackson and Gallia counties, as well as portions of Lawrence and Vinton counties. Stephens is the former Lawrence County Auditor and has first-hand experience addressing the challenges of CAUV. “CAUV was put in place in the 1970’s before auditors had access to aerial photography and other forms of technology to assess land valuations. The goal of this legislation is to simplify the process. CAUV is cumbersome for the farmers and is an unfunded mandate for local governments.” Stephens continues, “If you look at homestead and owner occupancy it is left to the auditor to administer and not written specifically into law as is CAUV. The goal is to give each county auditor flexibility to ensure each farmer is receiving CAUV while eliminating unnecessary paperwork.”

Under current law, failure to file the renewal application results in detrimental effects to the farmers. Not only does failing to file the application result in converting the CAUV land to a non-agricultural use which can cause significant financial loss, but land that no longer qualifies for CAUV is also assessed a recoupment charge upon removal from the program. According to current law, if the farmer does not return the application, for whatever reason, then they lose the CAUV credit for their property and their taxes most likely will go up. For many farmers this would result in losing their property.

The legislation was introduced in January and is being considered by the House Ways and Means Committee.

“I am very aware of how difficult farming is especially for small family farms. We can provide regulatory relief for farmers that makes sense and that maintains the goal of CAUV. It may be a small change but for the people it impacts hopefully it is one less burden.” Stephens concluded.

Ohio Small Businesses Can Get up to a $10,000 Advance on Federal Disaster Loans

According to the Small Business Administration (SBA), “small businesses can obtain up to a $10,000 advance on an Economic Injury Disaster Loan even if a previous application was denied.”

This loan advance will provide relief to businesses that are currently experiencing a loss of revenue because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The SBA has stated that the funds will be made available within 3 days of a successful application. This advance does not have to be repaid.

The application for this advance is online and Ohio small businesses can apply by clicking here. There is no word yet on how long these reviews will take or when these advances will take place.

Questions for Ohio Health Director Amy Acton

Photo Credit: Cleveland.com

Questions We Would Like to Ask Ohio Health Director Dr. Amy Acton

1. Since November, numerous Ohioans, ourselves included, have experienced a significant Covid-19 like virus that tested negative for both flu and pneumonia. Is it possible that this disease was here earlier and a number of us have already experienced and recovered from it?

2. If the answer to question number one is yes, then is it possible that a significant number of Ohioans have developed a “herd immunity” to this virus?

3. If the answer to questions one and two are yes, then aren’t the underlying assumptions about the spread of the virus fundamentally flawed?

4. At what point will we know whether the assumptions about this virus are correct or not?

5. If the assumptions about the virus are wrong, then how quickly can we begin to reopen Ohio?

Clean Energy “Watchdog” Appears to be Phony Organization

Energy and Policy Institute: Clean Energy oversight group or political operatives?

Who Watches the Self-Proclaimed Watchdogs?  What Exactly is the Energy and Policy Institute?

Throughout the debate over Ohio House Bill 6, Ohio news media and clean energy groups frequently cited the work of an innocuous sounding organization called the Energy and Policy Institute. As recently as March 5, 2020 Dave Anderson, the policy and communications manager for the Institute, was the primary source of research for an article on FirstEnergy contributions to organizations supporting the bill.

“Powerful corporations, and utilities in particular, often fund groups to do their dirty work in an attempt to avoid accountability,” Anderson said. But research into the Energy and Policy Institute have borne out their own abject hypocrisy.

In fact, a well-sourced report from the nonprofit Campaign for Accountability  reveals that the Energy and Policy Institute (EPI) is just as secretive as the organizations it exposes. EPI is a dark money group: it does not appear to have nonprofit status, it is not registered with any relevant secretary of state, and no one admits to funding it. It appears that EPI may be simply the creation of a public relations firm. Nevertheless, journalists treat EPI as they would any other watchdog organization. 1

According to the Facebook Page for EPI, they were founded in October 2013. But the trail gets murkier from there. Neither their Facebook Page nor their website lists a physical address nor a telephone number. The only address reported is a Post Office Box for San Francisco.

Furthermore, the organization does not appear to be registered as either a nonprofit or for-profit company with any relevant state secretary of state. As part of their research into EPI, the nonprofit Campaign for Accountability searched corporation databases in California, the District of Columbia, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, and Virginia.

Researchers for Ohio Statehouse News searched corporate databases in Delaware, New Mexico, New York, Nevada, Ohio, Texas, Washington and Wyoming. Additionally, we utilized LexisAdvance business search tools and the Tax Exempt Organization search for the Internal Revenue Service. We found no record of this entity.

According to a  response sent to the Washington Examiner, EPI claims to be funded solely by environmental foundations. But here’s the problem. Environmental foundations have to report the grants they make to other groups on their IRS 990 tax returns. And a multitude of searches both by the Campaign for Accountability and Ohio Statehouse News have not found a single recorded grant. Additionally, charitable organizations are usually not able to make donations to organizations that are not recognized as tax exempt by the IRS and EPI is not on that list.

Here’s what we think is really going on.

In November 2011, a 501(c)4 dark money nonprofit group called Renew American Prosperity, Inc. was formed in Washington, DC. As a 501(c)4 organization Renew American Prosperity, Inc. is not required to list its contributors.

Renew American Prosperity, Inc. has shared the same address over the years with a for profit limited liability company named Tigercomm LLC. In return most of the funds spent by Renew American Prosperity, Inc. are paid to Tigercomm LLC on an annual basis for management fees, according to their  990 IRS tax returns.

The founder of EPI, Gabe Elsner, first worked as a social media associate with Tigercomm before becoming deputy director for the Checks and Balances Project. The Checks and Balances Project is a similar group to EPI that is funded by Renew American Prosperity, Inc. and is serviced by Tigercomm LLC. 2

In 2015, the Checks and Balances Project was caught red handed when it was confirmed that they were funded by SolarCity, the leading residential solar installer. The public disclosure of this hypocrisy led to SolarCity cutting ties to the group.3

EPI would like Ohio legislators and the news media to believe that they are simply a nonprofit, nonpartisan watchdog that is exposing fossil fuel interests. But what the facts reveal is that they are simply political operatives, being funded by solar energy and other vested interests, utilizing even more duplicity than the groups that they supposedly expose.

 

Legislation Coming to Abolish Ohio’s Death Penalty

Legislation is coming soon to end the death penalty in Ohio, a bipartisan group of state senators announced.

Repost:  State Sen. Nickie J. Antonio (D-Lakewood) is calling for the death penalty to be replaced with life without parole.

The bill will be introduced in the coming weeks, she said in a news conference.

“The death penalty is expensive, inhumane, impractical, unjust and often erroneous. Abolishing it is a practical solution,” Antonio said.

“This is not a Republican or a Democratic issue. No matter what a person’s reason is for supporting this legislation, we all agree that this is critical for our own collective humanity. It is our responsibility to work together across party lines and legislative chambers and move forward to end the death penalty in Ohio.”

Antonio has introduced similar legislation in every General Assembly in which she’s served since 2011.

This is the first time, however, the bill has bipartisan support in the Senate.

State Sen. Peggy Lehner (R-Kettering) will be a joint sponsor of the bill and Sen. Kristina Roegner (R-Hudson) plans to be a co-sponsor.

Ohio leaders have been debating the future of capital punishment as the state struggles to find a supply of lethal injection drugs.

Gov. Mike DeWine delayed seven executions last year and asked the Department of Rehabilitation and Correction for a new execution protocol after drug makers threatened to cut off access to medications if Ohio used them for executions.

House Speaker Larry Householder (R-Glenford) has said his caucus is having in-depth discussions on the issue and recognizes Ohio has a death penalty law on the books that the state can’t enforce.

Those internal discussions are continuing, Householder said Thursday.
State Rep. Bill Seitz (R-Green Township) said he will oppose the bill to abolish the death penalty: “It needs to be retained for terrorists, mass murderers and the like.”

He’s skeptical the legislation will make it out of the Senate.

“I do not predict where the House would be, but I doubt the Senate would pass it. They still haven’t passed the House-passed bill that would remove the death penalty as applied to the seriously mentally ill— so why would anyone think they would abolish it altogether?”

A Gallup poll released in November said 60 percent of Americans indicated they believe life in prison without parole is better punishment than execution, but 56 percent support it for convicted murderers.

By Jennifer Edwards Baker

Repost from CINCINNATI (Fox 19); Copyright 2020 WXIX. All rights reserved

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