News and Analysis
Ohio Supreme Court Upholds Tort Reform Legislation
The Ohio Supreme Court on December 27, 2007 issued a 5-2 opinion upholding tort reform legislation passed by the General Assembly in 2004. The OMA-backed legislation (Senate Bill 80, 125th General Assembly) established parameters for non-economic damages in the civil justice system. Chief Justice Thomas Moyer wrote in the majority opinion that the law does not violate constitutional rights to jury trials, due process, equal protection of laws or the separation of powers.
“This is a major victory for manufacturers in Ohio that is years in the making,” said OMA President Eric Burkland. “The court’s decision enhances Ohio’s ability to create a predictable legal environment in which businesses pursue market opportunities within a common sense civil justice system without fear of costly, unnecessary lawsuits.”
Prior to this legislation, legal costs had skyrocketed due to an increased number of civil suits, exorbitant jury awards and frivolous lawsuits. The court’s ruling adds a degree of finality and predictability that will stabilize Ohio’s civil justice system and should moderate insurance premiums over time.
Opponents of the bill decried the court decision and have already begun the discussion of possible candidates for the November 2008 elections. Two high court seats are up for election next year – Justices Evelyn Lundberg Stratton and Maureen O’Connor.
Former Michigan Governor Engler, NAM President, Addresses OMA Board
Former Michigan Gov. John Engler, current president of the National Association of Manufacturers, visited Columbus on December 4 to meet with Gov. Ted Strickland and, separately, with the OMA Board of Directors. Engler’s meeting with Governor Strickland focused on the impact of proposed federal ozone regulations on manufacturers, especially those in Ohio and throughout the Midwest. Engler is seeking the support of Governor Strickland to help pass favorable regulations.
In his remarks to the OMA Board, Engler offered his perspective on several federal issues relevant to manufacturers. He discussed the current climate regarding tax policy, national energy strategy, infrastructure improvements, as well as foreign competition.
OMA Submits Final Recommendations to Transportation Task Force
The OMA submitted on November 28 final recommendations to the State Transportation Task Force, co-chaired by state Sen. Kirk Schuring (R-Canton) and Rep. Steve Reinhardt (R-Bucyrus). The OMA’s recommendations addressed policy issues ranging from increased truck weight limits to revised federal railroad guidelines. Steve Sobat of U.S. Steel and chairman of the OMA Government Affairs Committee was a member of the task force. The task force will now compile all recommendations submitted by various interested parties and issue a final report by December 17, 2007.
State Sen. Stivers To Run for Congress
State Sen. Steve Stivers (R-Upper Arlington) recently announced his intention to run for the 15th Ohio Congressional District seat being vacated by current GOP Rep. Deborah Pryce, also of Upper Arlington, a suburb of Columbus. Stivers’ decision to run for Congress means Ohio manufacturers will lose a staunch advocate in the Ohio General Assembly, but may benefit from his support at the federal level. Stivers is running against Democrat Mary Jo Kilroy, a current Franklin Count Commissioner, in what is anticipated to be one of the most competitive Congressional races in the country.
PRO-TEC Coating Company Receives 2007 Baldrige Award
President Bush and Commerce Secretary Carlos M. Gutierrez have announced that OMA member company PRO-TEC Coating is a recipient of the 2007 Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award.
PRO-TEC, located in Leipsic, Ohio, is the only manufacturing company to receive the award this year. It is joined by two health care concerns and two non-profits.
“On behalf of all of our member companies, we congratulate the men and women at PRO-TEC for this achievement,” said OMA president Eric Burkland. “The Baldrige is the most prestigious management award in the United States and the most difficult to receive. This is a tremendous accomplishment.”
Manufacturers Comment on Ohio Transportation Policy
The State Transportation Task Force met on November 14 to hear from witnesses on state infrastructure needs. The committee is co-chaired by Sen. Kirk Schuring (R–Canton) and Rep. Steve Reinhardt (R– Bucyrus). The panel consists of legislators, state transportation and development officials, as well as transportation industry and customer groups. The OMA is represented on the panel by Steve Sobat of U.S. Steel who chairs the OMA’s Government Affairs Committee.
OMA members US Steel, PPG and DuPont offered comments this week on policy issues ranging from increased truck weight limits to revised federal railroad regulation. Manufacturers can submit comment individually or as part of a combined set of OMA recommendations which are due to the Chairman on November 28. Manufacturers with comments and/or recommendations are invited to email Ryan Augsburger by Friday, November 23.
It’s Official: Lead Paint Referendum Effort Fails
A group of trial lawyers and consumer activists failed to secure enough signatures to force a ballot referendum on tort reform legislation (SB 117) passed in the waning days of the last Ohio General Assembly.
The bill made important clarifications to the definition of public nuisance in Ohio tort law and was intended to deter the unwelcome legal trend of Ohio cities from filing suit against one-time manufacturers of a product. Just over one year ago several Ohio cities were encouraged by out-of-state contingency fee trial lawyers to file a public nuisance lawsuit against paint producers for making a product that decades later resulted in harm regardless of a property owners failure to safely maintain a property. Though unrelated to the nuisance language, the bill was amended to include a change in damages available under state consumer protection laws. Since the controversial Strickland inauguration day veto, the OMA has been leading the legal defense of the bill by filing amicus briefs and coordinating business community reaction.
Ryan Augsburger, OMA Managing Director of Public Policy Services, said this development is a logical end to an illogical campaign. “The legal reforms contained in Senate Bill 117 strike a reasonable balance between protecting consumers without overly burdening businesses,” said Augsburger. “This legislation adds fairness and predictability to Ohio’s civil justice system, which is a critical competitiveness issue for Ohio business and industry.”
While related legal challenges seeking to circumvent SB 117 are making their way through the courts, legal precedent suggests such litigation will be unsuccessful.
Hobson announces reitrement plans, will not run for re-election in 2008
The trend of Republican congressional retirements continued this week. Rep. David L. Hobson (R-Springfield) announced that he will not run for re-election to the seat he has held for nine terms. Hobson is the second Ohio GOP congressman in a week to announce retirement plans. Rep. Ralph Regula of Canton is the other veteran lawmaker who recently announced his intentions not to run (“Political Roundup”, October 12 issue of Leadership Briefing). They join Rep. Deborah Pryce of Columbus who had already announced her retirement plans. Nationally, Hobson is the 12th member of the Republican Party to announce plans not to seek re-election in 2008.
The competition for Hobson’s seat is expected to be tough. Among the early names being mentioned is current state Sen. Steve Austria of Beavercreek. Two Democrats have also announced intentions to run.
Manufacturing Leaders Engage with State Policymakers at OMA Committee Day
Manufacturing leaders from across the state gathered in Columbus on September 19 to discuss competitiveness issues with key Ohio elected and appointed officials. The event was OMA Committee Day, during which the association’s energy resources, tax, safety and workers’ compensation, and environment committees meet concurrently.
Governor Ted Strickland gave the keynote presentation, in which he celebrated Ohio’s historic and continuing global leadership in manufacturing industries. Governor Strickland described a partnership with manufacturing during the first eight months of his administration, in the areas of taxation, workers’ compensation, higher education, environmental permitting and regulatory reform.
The Governor gave a rousing call to action for enactment of his electricity legislation before the end of the year. He called the matter the highest priority for state government, and, while recognizing the time challenged, asked that “weekends and holidays” be worked if necessary to pass the reforms.
Jim McGregor, OMA First Vice Chairman from Rose City Manufacturing in Springfield, thanked the Governor for his leadership on the matter, saying “The Governor has demonstrated political courage by taking on this issue head-on. Ohio manufacturers appreciate his leadership, and are committed to help getting the job done in 2007.”
OMA Committee Resources Available Here
Ohio manufacturers determine and drive pro-manufacturing policies from OMA committees. Participation is open to all OMA members. You can sign up at MyOMA.
The committees are also a great source of management information. Those resources are available on the OMA website at all times.
Here are some of the resources generated at OMA Committee Day for energy managers, for environmental managers, for tax managers and for managers of safety and workers’ compensation.
Every day all day, manufacturing legislation can be followed at the OMA Bill Tracker.