In today’s edition: Ohio issues updated COVID-19 guidance for K-12 schools; States weigh in on facial coverings to combat COVID-19 and more.

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Alert 4  Public Law Monday Message

Monday, July 6, 2020

To our friends, clients and colleagues in local and regional government, higher education and the nonprofit sector, welcome to our latest Monday Message from the Public Law Group at McDonald Hopkins. In today's email, assembled by attorneys Kelsey Smith, Kirstyn Wildey and Kevin Butler, you’ll find insights into areas of law we are watching on your behalf.

In today’s edition:

  • Ohio issues updated COVID-19 guidance for K-12 schools
  • States weigh in on facial coverings to combat COVID-19 spike
  • Spotlight on economic development tools: New Markets Tax Credits
  • Ohio coronavirus immunity bill clears Senate, returns to House for concurrence
  • U.S. House passes sweeping infrastructure bill, but measure faces an uphill road

Ohio issues updated COVID-19 guidance for K-12 schools

Gov. Mike DeWine announced updated guidelines for Ohio K-12 schools resuming classes in the fall. The guidelines, which were created in conjunction with school superintendents, teachers, parents and numerous Ohio education organizations, require schools to closely monitor and assess symptoms, wash and sanitize hands, practice social distancing, and implement a face coverings policy.

The guidelines will undoubtedly change how schools across the state approach teaching and student interaction. For example, schoolteachers and staff are required to maintain a 6 foot social distance between all students whenever practicable, including in all school environments, hallways, restrooms, cafeteria, playground and school buses. In addition, although Gov. DeWine has not issued a statewide facial covering mandate and is promoting local community control of the mask issue (see more below), his school guidelines require that all school staff wear masks “unless it is unsafe to do so or where doing so would significantly interfere with the learning process.” Although not required, students in third grade and higher are strongly encouraged to wear masks unless they are unable to do so for health reasons.

States weigh in on face coverings to fight COVID-19 spike

To combat the national resurgence in COVID-19 cases, many states, counties and cities are mandating that face coverings be worn in public and when social distancing is not possible.  While the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recommended that all people over the age of 2 wear a cloth face covering in public, states are slow to turn that advice into law. Kelsey Smith of our team provides a summary here of the varying state and local face covering mandates in Florida, Illinois, Michigan and Ohio.

Spotlight on economic development tools: New Markets Tax Credits

We continue our focus today on special tools that provide creative and cost-effective solutions for economic development projects and preserve clients’ bottom lines, this time by featuring new markets tax credits.  Our team member Kirstyn Wildey reminds us that NMTCs can provide much-needed private investment in economically distressed communities.

NMTCs create an incentive for taxpayers (typically financial institutions, insurance companies and other publicly-traded companies) to invest in community development projects located in low-income census tracts that may otherwise not attract significant private investment. The NMTC Program targets projects that support job creation, drive economic growth or provide essential services, including manufacturing plants, commercial, retail, hospitality and mixed-use projects, and educational and health care facilities. The tax credit helps these projects by providing financing for hard and soft costs, including but not limited to, the cost of real estate acquisition, construction costs, furniture, fixtures and equipment purchases, and architect, engineering and other professional fees.

The federal NMTC program is administered by the Treasury Department’s Community Development Financial Institutions Fund, which allocates tax credit authority to Community Development Entities through a competitive application process. Investors benefit from participation in the program by receiving a tax credit against their federal income tax by making qualified equity investments in the CDEs.

Currently, the federal NMTC program is set to expire on Dec. 31, though there is bipartisan support to extend the program.  As we mention below, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Moving Forward Act last week; a provision in the act makes the NMTC program permanent. Separately, Reps. Terri Sewell (D-AL) and Tom Reed (R-NY) have introduced the NMTC Extension Act of 2019 (H.R. 1680), and Sens. Roy Blunt (R-MO) and Ben Cardin (D-MD) have introduced the New Markets Tax Credit Extension Act of 2019 (S. 750).

To further the economic development impact of the federal NMTC program, certain states have complementing state New Markets Tax Credit programs. In Ohio, the Ohio Development Services Agency oversees the Ohio New Markets Tax Credit Program, which provides up to $10 million in additional tax credit allocation awards to CDEs on an annual basis.

Our McDonald Hopkins Public Law team has experience in securing and closing transactions involving NMTCs and can provide more guidance on this important economic development finance tool.

Ohio coronavirus immunity bill clears Senate, returns to House for concurrence

We have previously written on two similar tort measures that would expand coronavirus-related immunity for public, private, healthcare, educational and nonprofit entities in Ohio.  Last week the Ohio Senate passed H.B. 606, an immunity bill that had cleared the House a month earlier. 

H.B. 606 would provide broad COVID-related immunity from civil judgments and professional licensure actions in healthcare settings and elsewhere, while preserving the right to sue for reckless, willful or wanton conduct and the ability to attack licenses based on gross negligence.  While the Senate’s version strips the House’s language adding immunity provisions to Chapter 2744 of the Revised Code, which governs political subdivision immunity, it clarifies that any “person” – defined broadly as an individual, for-profit or nonprofit entity, estate, trust, school, higher-ed institution, government entity or religious entity – would be protected against a civil action for injury, death, or loss to person or property based on exposure to, transmission of or contraction of a coronavirus arising between March 9 and Dec. 31.

Because the Senate made changes to the House’s legislation, the most current version of the bill will require the concurrence of the House, which is not expected to take up the measure until at least September, after its summer recess.  We will keep you updated here and online; meanwhile, reach out to any of us in the McDonald Hopkins Public Law group for guidance on appropriate protections to put into place while the General Assembly works through the bill.

U.S. House passes sweeping infrastructure bill, but measure faces an uphill road

Last week the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Moving Forward Act, a $1.5 trillion infrastructure bill intended to drastically improve American infrastructure and guide the country towards greener and renewable energy sources.  McDonald Hopkins previously summarized the provisions of the 2,300 page bill in an article published on June 26.

Today we follow that article with an update on the passage of the Moving Forward Act and its shaky future as it moves to the Senate, which regards its energy provisions less sanguinely.  Read more from Kelsey Smith and our Public Law team here.

If you have questions or need assistance, please feel free to contact any member of the McDonald Hopkins Public Law team.

Have a great week!

Teresa Metcalf Beasley
Chair, Public Law

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This Publication is designed to provide current information for our clients, friends and their advisors regarding important legal developments. The foregoing discussion is general information rather than specific legal advice. Because it is necessary to apply legal principles to specific facts, always consult your legal advisor before using this discussion as a basis for a specific action.

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