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Ohio House considers changes to transportation budget

By MARC KOVAC Capital Bureau Chief Published: February 22, 2017 11:13 AM

COLUMBUS -- Boaters would be allowed to keep tabs on water skiers using rearview mirrors, under an amendment added to the biennial transportation budget Feb. 21.

The language is similar to amendments and separate legislation offered in recent general assemblies to change an existing state law that requires an extra person onboard watercraft to observe individuals being pulled behind.

The Ohio House's Finance Committee accepted a package of amendments Feb. 21 as part of its consideration of spending plans for the Ohio Department of Transportation and several other state agencies.

The legislation is separate from the larger state budget being considered by the same panel. The transportation budget generally is finalized by lawmakers and signed into law by the governor by early April.

Other amendments to the transportation budget Feb. 21 would:

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Increase service fees charged by deputy registrar offices to $5.25 from $3.50 "for services including vehicle registration and renewal registration, vehicle inspections for titling purposes, driver's license and commercial driver's license issuance and renewal, and identification card issuance and renewal."

Allow county commissioners "to levy and retain" an additional $5 annual license tax per motor vehicle, with the proceeds used for road and bridge maintenance, construction and repair and other purposes. Any such levies would be subject to voter referendum, however.

Require money collected by the state from the sale of national forest timber to be distributed to the counties where the trees were taken, with half earmarked for road and bridge maintenance and the half for public schools.

Phase in motor fuel taxes on compressed natural gas, at 7-cents per year up to 28 cents.

Remove a requirement that signage on U.S. Route 24 in Defiance County designating the stretch of highway as the "Defiance County Veterans Memorial Highway" be paid for with private funds, allowing ODOT to cover those costs.

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Designate a stretch of State Route 93 in New Franklin in Summit County as the PFC Burt "Rusty" Miller Memorial Highway, in memory of the Akron-area man killed in action in Vietnam.

Require biennial inspections by county engineers of all bridges in a county highway system, rather than annual ones.

Allow motor vehicles to run unattended on residential properties or in other locations if they are parked and locked.

The amendments aren't set in stone.

House Finance Committee Chairman Ryan Smith (R-Bidwell) said Tuesday that additional amendments would be considered in advance of an expected committee vote on the bill on Thursday, setting up a floor vote in the House next week. The Ohio Senate then would take up the bill.

Marc Kovac covers the Ohio Statehouse for Gatehouse Media. Contact him at mkovac@recordpub.com or on Twitter at OhioCapitalBlog.

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