COLUMBUS -- Ohio schools would be required to use U.S.-made steel products in their renovations, under legislation being considered in the Ohio House.
Rep. John Boccieri (D-Poland) offered HB 57 in response to lead contamination in water systems in Sebring in Northeast Ohio. Lead was identified in a middle school in that community, he told the House's Economic Development, Commerce and Labor Committee March 21, from water fountain systems that were produced in China.
"These pipes were visibly corroded and faulty when maintenance staff broke down the wall and investigated the pipes," Boccieri said in his submitted testimony. "I believe that in choosing to use defective foreign steel for critical infrastructure that serves young students and affects their daily health, we were not doing all we could to ensure the safety of our children."
Ohio already has requirements in place requiring domestic steel in new public facilities construction, Boccieri and Rep. Dan Ramos (D-Lorain), the other primary co-sponsor of the legislation, told committee members. But those requirements don't extend to renovation or repair projects, they said.
HB 57 would fix that, requiring public primary and secondary schools and college and university buildings regularly used by students to use U.S. steel as part of their renovations. Private colleges and universities also would have to meet the requirement if they finance building improvements through state bonding.
Boccieri said the legislation would provide economic benefits to Ohio's steel industry and would counter dumping of steel by other countries.
"There have been several publicly reported incidences of Chinese steel producing unsafe infrastructure and faulty products," he said. "When it comes to our children, we need to ensure that we are not sacrificing any level of quality or safety, and that means turning to what we know is reliable."
Rep. Michele Lepore-Hagan (D-Youngstown), the ranking minority member of the House Economic Development, Commerce and Labor Committee, voiced her support for the bill Tuesday, asking whether the U.S. steel requirement could be extended to cover all public facility renovation projects.
"This does seem to be something that can be overlooked right now," she said.
Rep. Al Landis (R-Dover) asked whether the legislation covered only finished products or those made in the United States from raw material imported from elsewhere.
"Once you add value to that, it can actually be stamped as American made, yet it's still from a foreign melt source," he said, adding, "There's a fine line there to what is domestic."
Boccieri said his focus with the bill was on finished products, which would be subject to U.S. standards and not lesser requirements of other countries.
Marc Kovac covers the Ohio Statehouse for Gatehouse Media. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at OhioCapitalBlog.