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Alert 4  Public Law Monday Message

Monday, May 18

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, Dave Gunning, Kelsey Smith and Mike Wise, you’ll find insights into areas of law we’re watching on your behalf.

In today’s edition:

  • U.S. House passes HEROES Act, which would supply direct aid to local governments
  • Ohio set to create broad civil immunity for healthcare, all other operations
  • Colleges, universities weigh reopening for fall semester
  • County offers local government solar projects without usual procurement obligations

Largest-ever stimulus bill passed by U.S. House; negotiations now begin

Ohio’s political subdivisions have long been waiting for the news from Washington that Congress will help shore up flagging budgets based on severe income and sales tax losses caused by the pandemic. The first of that news came when the House of Representatives passed the HEROES Act on Friday, May 15.

If enacted, the $3 trillion HEROES Act – the largest stimulus bill in the nation’s history – would allocate $187.5 billion for U.S. counties, $131.3 billion for U.S. cities with populations of 50,000 or more, and $56.3 billion for smaller U.S. subdivisions. Of note to our friends and clients in higher education, the HEROES Act would offer additional student loan forgiveness, forcing the Treasury Department to shoulder a portion of student loan repayments and expanding existing CARES Act student debt relief to private loans in addition to public loans.

The HEROES Act has no chance of passing through the Senate, but it kicks off the negotiations that one day may result in meaningful, untethered stimulus dollars reaching cash-strapped counties, municipalities and college kids across the nation.  Read more about the HEROES Act from Kelsey Smith and Mike Wise of our Public Law team here

Broad civil immunity, coronavirus relief dollars to see Ohio committee review this week

One of the impediments to the U.S. Senate’s adoption of the HEROES Act is that it remains silent on tort immunity for pandemic-related activities, which is high on the Senate’s list of demands. The Ohio General Assembly has stepped in with two competing bills, one in each house, that would expand existing immunity for the healthcare industry’s response to the coronavirus and would offer broad statewide immunity for all others providing services amid the pandemic. Each of the two bills, S.B. 308 and H.B. 606, will receive committee hearings in the General Assembly this week.

While emergency medical technicians and paramedics are listed among the healthcare professionals who would be entitled to immunity under the two bills, other government functions would fall within the broader provisions of each measure, making these bills worth a close watch for any public or private entities. An alert on the two bills written by our Public Law team member Kevin Butler offers more.

S.B. 310, which was passed by the Ohio Senate, will also receive a committee hearing this week in the Ohio House. That bill, which we’ve discussed in previous editions of our Monday Message, would have the state pass $350 million under the federal CARES Act onto local governments to reimburse them for actual expenditures made in response to the pandemic. Our Public Law team can help you prepare for your eventual receipt of these funds and advise you on how the funds may be put to lawful but creative, expansive and meaningful uses in your communities. Contact any of us for assistance.

Lecture halls to remain shuttered in the fall?

Our team of higher education attorneys is paying close attention to the many issues facing colleges and universities during this crisis, from enrollment to funding cuts to campus leaders’ fiduciary responsibilities. This week we add another to the list: simply whether to open up for the fall semester. Our colleague Dave Gunning, one of the many McDonald Hopkins attorneys with deep ties to institutions of higher education, explores the question in his post here

Taking advantage of solar savings

The sun still shines, we remind ourselves daily. All the better that Cuyahoga County is still offering local governments, nonprofits and school districts the ability to sign onto its solar program, which was launched last year.

The county’s program permits a local government entity or nonprofit the ability to install a solar project without the need for a request for proposals. What’s better, the local entity needn’t spend a dollar installing a project (often built on roofs or vacant land); instead, the local entity purchases the power generated by the solar project under a long-term agreement with the solar facility’s owner. Electricity generated by the solar array powers the government’s, school district’s or nonprofit’s facilities, which in turn reduces the amount of power they buy from the electrical utility company.

The county’s solar co-op program is open to all 59 communities, in addition to school districts and non-profits located in the county. McDonald Hopkins’ renewable energy advisers represent the project award winner, Enerlogics Solar, and we are available to answer questions and facilitate participation in this program and others like it around the state.

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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

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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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