Monday Message from our Public Law Team for Monday, July 27.

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Alert 4  Public Law Monday Message

Monday, July 27

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, Mike Wise and Kevin Butler, you’ll find insights into areas of law we’re watching on your behalf.

In today’s edition:

  • The local impact of a repeal and replacement of H.B. 6: What you should know
  • CARES 2: The latest from Washington on stimulus money
  • Cuyahoga human rights legislation challenged in lawsuit

The local impact of a repeal and replacement of H.B. 6: What you should know

Less than a week has passed since the FBI arrested Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder and prominent lobbyists for their role in an alleged racketeering scheme centering on the passage of H.B. 6 in 2019, which created an eight-year, $150 million per year ratepayer-funded Nuclear Generation Fund to bail out First Energy Solutions, then the owner of the flagging Davis-Besse and Perry nuclear power plants.

Calls for a repeal and replacement of H.B. 6 were swift and have intensified. Already Republican Reps. Laura Lanese and Mark Romanchuk have requested and received support from more than 30 cosponsors of a bill to repeal H.B. 6, and we know Republican Sen. Stephanie Kunze and Democratic Sen. Sean O'Brien are working on a parallel effort in the upper chamber. While we wait for draft repeal language, we note that any repeal without a similar replacement would result in a few consequences you may find of interest:

  • Electric rate hikes (one senator estimated them at $2.3 billion), because increases in rates tied to electric generators’ ability to meet energy efficiency standards would return without H.B. 6’s rewrite of those standards.
  • Solar and wind’s return to prominence over nuclear among the forms of state-supported clean, renewable energy.
  • Massive income tax losses in the communities where the nuclear plants exist and where employees of First Energy Solutions’ successor, Energy Harbor, work and reside.

With these dire ramifications at play, it stands to reason that for the legislators who ushered H.B. 6 through the General Assembly the effort to replace the law may be just as essential as the effort to repeal it. We’ll continue to monitor these efforts and will report back here as the picture comes into sharper focus in the coming weeks.

CARES 2: The latest from Washington on stimulus money

Republicans in the U.S. Senate are expected to introduce a new stimulus package on Monday afternoon that Senate Leader Mitch McConnell has titled CARES 2. It is still unclear what provisions the new bill will contain but it is expected to include financial assistance to schools, a “sequel” to the Paycheck Protection Program, and a second round of stimulus checks. The proposed legislation is expected to cost around $1 trillion, significantly less than the HEROES Act passed by House Democrats in May. The $2 trillion gap in funding could be difficult to overcome once negotiations begin. In addition, there has already been tension between the White House and Senate Republicans concerning which provisions the bill should contain and just how large the price tag for the new stimulus package should be.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has suggested that she will delay the House recess, scheduled for July 31, in order to pass the new stimulus package. In any case, both chambers will need to move quickly on a compromise before the Senate’s scheduled recess on August 7. We will provide an update and summary on the CARES 2 legislation once the text is released. In the meantime, you can read this article to learn more about what is expected to be included in CARES 2.

Cuyahoga human rights legislation challenged in lawsuit

Two weeks ago we wrote here about how the U.S. Supreme Court’s decisions in Bostock v. Clayton County and Our Lady of Guadalupe School v. Morrissey-Berru might affect local workplace nondiscrimination ordinances protecting gay, lesbian and transgender employees. We mentioned that many municipal and regional legislatures in Ohio – now upwards of 32 governments, according to the organization Equality Ohio – have adopted legislation affording members of the LGBTQ community additional protections not offered by state and federal law.

Last week Cuyahoga County, the lone home-rule county in Ohio to have created additional protections in employment, housing and places of public accommodation for LGBTQ persons, was sued by a for-hire wedding officiant claiming the county’s 2018 sweeping anti-discrimination ordinance violates her First Amendment religious liberties. In Covenant Weddings LLC v. Cuyahoga County, Kristi Stokes complains that the county’s legislation – which has the force of law in all Cuyahoga County communities except where local ordinances supersede the county’s – unlawfully forces her to perform ceremonies and advertise services that conflict with her religious beliefs against same-sex marriage. Notably, the county’s ordinance does not contain an explicit exemption for bona fide religious activities in places of public accommodation, making the case redolent of the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2018 decision in Masterpiece Cakeshop, Ltd. v. Colorado Civil Rights Comm’n, which held that a Colorado commission enforcing a similar law did not give a Christian wedding-cake baker’s “deep and sincere religious beliefs” enough deference.

Read the Covenant Weddings complaint here. Because the case may have implications into local codes offering protections to the LGBTQ community, we’ll watch it as it unfolds and report back here. Meanwhile, feel free to call on our broad-based Public Law and Employment practitioners for guidance on the drafting of or compliance with any laws that may be impacted by First Amendment jurisprudence.

If you have questions or need assistance on any of the matters we’ve covered above or with your legal needs in general, please feel free to contact any member of the McDonald Hopkins Public Law team.

Have a great week!

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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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