JEFFERSON - State Rep. John Patterson shared updates about state legislation during his appearance at the Business Compass held Monday, March 6, at Pueblo Real in Jefferson.
The Ashtabula County CHAMBERS of Commerce organizes the Business Compass, which is a series of talks for Chamber members. Each month, a Chamber throughout the county hosts the event. This month, the Jefferson Area Chamber of Commerce hosted the event.
“This is a wonderful turnout,” Jefferson Chamber President Patty Fisher said of the turnout, which filled half of the restaurant.
She then introduced Patterson, who talked about some of the bills he’s working on and shared information about Gov. John Kasich’s proposed budget that may affect the people in attendance.
Patterson said one of the first pieces of legislation he was interested in was the “back-to-school” sales-tax holiday.
This bill establishes a three-day sales-tax “holiday” during the first weekend of August for back-to- school clothing and school supplies, Patterson said.
Patterson and State Rep. Brigid Kelly (D-Cincinnati) recently introduced House Bill 89, a bipartisan legislation that, if enacted, would establish the sales tax holiday for the third consecutive year.
Patterson said retailers have told him that it’s the next best thing to Black Friday. It keeps people shopping in Ohio instead of heading to Pennsylvania, where they can buy back-to-school clothes tax-free.
“It definitely allows us to compete with Pennsylvania,” Patterson said. “This evens the playing field.”
Patterson also spoke about a bill he’s working on to help places like Heavenly Creamery, an ice-cream shop in Conneaut run by Jefferson Police Department Officer Joe Ericksen, serve a new product.
“Joe has been working on bourbon-infused ice cream,” Patterson said. “Joe’s making this, but he can’t sell it.”
Patterson said they are working on tweaking the laws so Ericksen can serve the bourbon-infused ice cream on site, but no more than four pints a day.
Since Patterson’s district includes parts of Geauga County, he also talked about another bill he’s working on with Rep. Sarah LaTourette.
Last Monday was the fifth year of remembrance of the Chardon tragedy, Patterson said. (On Feb. 27, 2012, student Thomas Lane III killed three other students and injured several others at Chardon High School. Coach Frank Hall chased the shooter out of the building, preventing further injuries.)
Patterson and LaTourette are working with the Coach Hall Foundation to identify the responsibilities and training necessary for a school resource officer.
Right now, the Ohio Revised Code is silent on who these individuals are and what training is needed, Patterson said. By describing the role of a school resource officer, they can then try to fund it, Patterson said.
Patterson also spoke on legislation he introduced to create the STEM Degree Loan Program, a state-level loan repayment plan aimed at keeping graduates working in Ohio after earning degrees in science, technology, engineering or mathematics.
The idea is to keep the college graduates with high-tech degrees in Ohio, Patterson said.
Under House Bill (HB) 549, semi-annual payments would be made directly to a qualified graduate’s loan company as long as they maintain eligibility and continue to carry debt from their student loans. The level of degree earned would determine the amount a graduate is eligible to receive.
The STEM Degree Loan Program would be administered by the Ohio Department of Higher Education, which would determine eligibility based on the subject matter and type of degree each individual received. Qualified graduates must be employed by an Ohio company and work in a STEM field.
“As technology increases, different job opportunities have been created,” Patterson said.
Patterson also spoke about the state budget, and how municipalities in Ashtabula County are concerned about the possible formation of a centralized municipal income- tax collection, with the state taking over the collection and charging municipalities a 1-percent fee.
“All my municipalities urged me to take action on that,” Patterson said.
Patterson said he has an amendment drafted to pull it out of the budget.
He and his staff also have written an amendment to undo the budget’s proposal to cut funding to libraries. His amendment asks for the funding to be kept at what it is now.
“I’m not asking for any more, just asking to restore it,” Patterson said.
Patterson also spoke on the Medicaid Managed Care Organization (MCO) sales tax, which is ending in the state. If Ashtabula County loses that, $1.2 million will disappear from the county budget.
Patterson said the governor’s budget has a temporary fix through 2018, but in 2019, the state will face the issue again. Patterson is working on another amendment to the budget that will address that issue so the state will comply with federal law and still be able to collect this tax.
“This MCO really concerns me. We don’t have a long- term solution,” Patterson said.
Patterson then shared information about his office hours, which are held throughout the county. He encouraged people to attend the office hours, and noted that they do not need an appointment.
“I want all of you to know that you can call me anytime,” Patterson said. “If something comes up, I need to know about it.”
For a schedule of office hours, call (614) 466-1405.