General Assembly moves to put Third Frontier renewal on the May ballot

The General Assembly reached a compromise to seek voter approval this May for a $700 million bond issue to pay for high-tech research and development investments through the popular Third Frontier program. As originally introduced and backed by Gov. Ted Strickland, the proposed extension and expansion of the Third Frontier program (HJR 12) had been set at $1 billion issued over five years. The House whittled it down to $950 million, and the Senate further cut it down to $500 million and tacked on $100 million in public works bonds under the argument that support for the popular local infrastructure program would help convince voters skeptical of government spending and borrowing in the difficult economy. The compromise version, approved unanimously by the six-member conference committee panel, would authorize $700 million in bonds over four years. The resolution was passed in both chambers on Wednesday, February 3, which was the deadline for filing the issue with the Secretary of State’s office to qualify for the May 4 ballot.

Shakeups in the statewide election campaigns

The start of several shakeups in the candidates for multiple statewide offices came from Republican gubernatorial candidate John Kasich when he announced State Auditor Mary Taylor as his running mate. The choice of Taylor left an opening for Republican candidates for the State Auditor's race; one was quickly filled by freshman legislator Rep. Seth Morgan of Huber Heights. Morgan's announcement was quickly followed by word that Delaware County Prosecutor David Yost would drop out of the race for Attorney General and instead run for Auditor. That move leaves former U.S. Senator Mike DeWine unopposed in the Republican primary for Attorney General and creates a primary race for the Auditor. The Republicans weren't the only ones moving candidates around. Gov. Ted Strickland announced that Yvette McGee Brown, Director of the Center for Child and Family Advocacy at Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus and a former Franklin County judge, will be joining him on the ticket as his choice for Lieutenant Governor. Democratic Rep. Jennifer Garrison of Marietta dropped her bid to be the Democratic candidate for Secretary of State and announced that she would also not be seeking re-election to the House. Maryellen O'Shaughnessy, the current Franklin County Clerk of Courts, quickly emerged as Garrison’s successor for that race.

Transportation Innovation Authorities

The Ohio House recently passed Sub. H.B. 166, authorizing a pilot project to create no more than 24 transportation innovation authorities (TIAs). TIAs are aimed at encouraging the development of transportation projects in Ohio to foster growth and economic development in the state. Such projects could include the construction or improvement of roads and bridges, intermodal systems, public transit systems, or freight or intercity passenger rail systems.

The board of directors of each TIA is comprised of members from each governmental agency within that TIA. The board is required to work with any community authorities, joint economic development districts, regional transit authorities and other applicable authorities within the TIA to develop a land use plan for the TIA area. TIAs would have the power to purchase property and construct transportation projects, as well as to issue bonds in order to finance such projects. However, TIAs will not have the authority to appropriate property or levy taxes to pay for transportation projects. The Bill was referred to the Senate Highways and Transportation Committee on February 3, 2010.

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