To our friends, clients and colleagues in local and regional government, welcome to our latest Monday Message from the Public Law Group at McDonald Hopkins. In today's email, assembled by attorneys Kevin Butler, Amanda Gordon, Dave Gunning, Margaret O’Bryon and Kelsey Smith, you’ll find insights into areas of law we’re watching on your behalf.
Spotlight on higher educational entities
Today we lead by pointing you to two timely articles written by our colleague, Dave Gunning, on developments that will have sweeping effects on higher educational entities in Ohio. In the first article, we look at how Gov. Mike DeWine’s proposed $110 million in cuts to Ohio colleges and universities are already forcing these institutions to consider what will happen to enrollment and a host of other inflection points as they look ahead. In the second article, we digest how the federal Department of Education’s recent changes to the rules promulgated under Title IX of the Civil Rights Act will require a careful rewrite of campus policies around sexual assault and harassment. McDonald Hopkins features a strong team of attorneys in higher education who can assist in all these areas.
The severity and speed of these changes remind us it's never too late for any public, private or non-profit entity to engage a government relations team. Our lobbying group within Public Law includes former state legislators on staff who actively engage with the governor and General Assembly on legislative, regulatory, economic incentive and economic development issues. With more than 30 years of elective service in both state and local government, and another combined 30 years of government relations work, our lobbying team understands how to leverage state contacts for emergency and long-term local needs.
A new approach to emergency public financing
As our partner Amanda Gordon reminds us, Ohio governmental subdivisions are facing decisions in response to the negative economic impact of COVID-19 and the resulting federal, state and local responses to fighting the pandemic. In addition to potential reductions in services, these entities have available to them various financing options to address these issues.
Under the Revised Code, subdivisions with general taxing power may issue general obligations in the case of an epidemic or during an unusual prevalence of a dangerous communicative disease to defray the expenses that the board of health having jurisdiction considers necessary to prevent the spread of the epidemic or disease. Two prerequisites for this kind of borrowing are:
- A determination by the state tax commissioner that funds are not otherwise available for the purpose.
- A determination by the health department of the necessities to prevent the spread of the virus and expenses associated with those necessities.
Half the amount borrowed must be paid by June 30 after the next February settlement of property taxes following the issuance of the notes. The final maturity for the balance of the principal amount of these obligations must be by December 31 of the tenth year following their issuance.
Ohio subdivisions also have at their disposal a variety of authorities to anticipate revenues from various sources, and may issue revenue anticipatory obligations which may also help address potential shortfalls as a result of the COVID-19 economic impact. These issues are shorter-term in nature and generally need to be paid by December 31 of the fiscal year in which they are issued.
Local governmental entities are invited to contact any of our public finance attorneys to discuss potential financing options as part of their response plans to address the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
How employers responsibly restart: develop a contagious disease policy
As more and more states move toward reopening the workplace, our Public Law member Margaret O’Bryon instructs us that public entities should create a contagious disease policy to aid in protecting the health and safety of employees upon their return. Any policy may be revised as more information becomes available, but essential components should include:
- Persons responsible for monitoring the guidance and recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control, World Health Organization, and state and local health officials
- Persons responsible for coordinating employee communications with human resources, the chief executive and any designee
- Guidelines on employee travel for business and conferences
- Disease prevention in the workplace
- Alternative work schedules
- Report-in and emergency employee designation
- Pay and benefits
- Employee expectations
- Notification of isolation, quarantine or potential exposure
- Observation of employees in the workplace exhibiting signs or symptoms of a disease
- Procedure for leave, including disallowing an employee from working if it preserves the welfare of the public entity or other employees
- School and daycare closures, sick leave, donation leave, FMLA leave, essential status of certain employees, overtime, and the interplay between an emergency incident management plan and collective bargaining agreements
- Return to work certifications
Because these policies intersect with federal and state law as well as civil service rules, collective bargaining agreements and other policy provisions, clients must tread carefully. McDonald Hopkins’ labor and employment and public law attorneys are available to assist in developing the key elements of a contagious disease policy.
Ohio’s Coronavirus Relief Fund money to be passed through to subdivisions
Last week, the Ohio Senate passed S.B. 310, which puts into place the framework by which $350 million in CARES Act Coronavirus Relief Fund monies will be passed down to subdivisions across Ohio. Any dollars received by local entities must be put to the uses permitted in the federal act – namely, unanticipated expenditures directly related to the COVID-19 response. The Ohio House, which has adopted a decidedly more aggressive rejoinder to Gov. DeWine’s emergency actions and those of his health director, Amy Acton, will next take up the measure. As with all other forms of relief, whether from Washington or from Columbus, we’ll continue to monitor the progress of the bill and provide updates here.
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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