News and Analysis
The threat of COVID-19 has changed how hospitals like The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center look at their equipment inventories — especially personal protective equipment (PPE), such as face masks and isolation gowns. Hal Mueller, chief supply chain officer at OSU’s Wexner Medical Center, writes that the crisis may forever alter the way some supply chains operate. He adds that “local sourcing will have to be the focus” as health care providers form “stronger relationships with manufacturers and distributors.” 5/10/2020
This week, manufacturers joined a chorus of business interests in support of Senate Bill 308, legislation to provide temporary legal immunity during the COVID-19 state of emergency. The bill has three components:
- provide immunity to health care professionals;
- provide immunity to businesses against exposure related injuries; and
- provide immunity to manufacturers for emergency protective products.
The OMA provided proponent testimony highlighting the importance of the manufacturing provision, citing hundreds of firms who have generously repurposed operations to make needed masks, gowns, ventilator components, and other protective equipment.
Pete Huggins, president of ITEN Industries in Ashtabula, testified in support of SB 308, telling lawmakers how his company has been producing face shields. He urged lawmakers to promptly pass the bill, saying, “We undertook this activity because we were able to help and there was an immediate need. We did this without consideration of legal liability.”
A representative of the influential plaintiffs’ bar attended the hearing and presented opponent testimony.
Meanwhile in the Ohio House of Representatives, House Bill 606 contains similar immunity provisions for businesses, but it does not include liability for manufacturers of protective equipment and supplies. 5/15/2020
The General Assembly this week held hearings on two unemployment compensation bills that target two very different parts of the system.
On May 12, Reps. Tracy Richardson (R-Marysville) and Mark Fraizer (R-Newark) provided sponsor testimony on House Bill 614, a bill to study and reform the application, processing and administration infrastructure of Ohio’s unemployment compensation system. The sponsors stated that this bill is not focused on the solvency and funding of the system, but instead seeks to dive deep into how the fund is administered and how services are provided.
The Senate heard sponsor testimony from Sen. Bob Peterson (R-Sabina) on Senate Joint Resolution 4, which would create an alternative approach for repaying future state borrowing from the federal government to fund unemployment compensation claims. It would allow the General Assembly to provide for the issuance of bonds to repay outstanding debt of the state’s unemployment compensation program. Several states already permit bonding to fund debt repayment. The OMA previously signaled support for the creation of a bond repayment program. Ohioans would need to approve the measure as a constitutional amendment in a future referendum. 5/14/2020
- Gives the attorney general’s office explicit authority to go after the most egregious price gougers — those who sell items at prices “grossly in excess” of the regular price of an item before the declaration of an emergency.
- Gives the attorney general’s office permissive authority to establish statewide and uniform per-consumer, per-transaction quantity limitations on items related to an emergency or necessary to protect the health and safety of Ohioans.
Several senators expressed skepticism regarding the proposal, but changes to the bill could be coming. The OMA will review this legislation at the next Government Affairs Committee meeting, set for June 3. 5/14/2020
OMA Connections Partner Plante Moran will offer a free, 45-minute webinar at 10 a.m. (ET) on Thursday, May 21, to help businesses focus on ramping up cybersecurity and IT operations after a slowdown or full shutdown. 5/14/2020
At Bloomberg.com and in The Japan Times, Beijing-based technology analyst Dan Wang writes, “America can’t build anymore.” He says that while Americans dominate high-tech sectors, the U.S. today “struggles to make even relatively simple products such as swabs, masks and protective gear.”
“Learning to build again will take more than a resurgence of will,” he writes. The U.S. will need to re-establish process knowledge, skilled talent, and industrial clusters to support manufacturing. Meanwhile, U.S. policymakers and other leaders will need to treat manufacturing work, “even in low-margin goods, as fundamentally valuable,” while providing incentives “to bring production back home.” 5/11/2020
The new edition of the OMA’s Ohio Manufacturing Counts is now available digitally. The data in this publication are strong reminders that manufacturing continues to power the Buckeye State and will undoubtedly lead Ohio’s recovery in the coming months. The most current information collected by the OMA shows Ohio manufacturing is responsible for:
- Nearly 17% of Ohio’s Gross Domestic Product;
- Roughly 700,000 jobs for Ohio workers;
- An annual payroll of $43 billion, the highest total annual wages of any of Ohio’s sectors; and
- $53 billion in exported products to 211 countries and territories.
Sen. Matt Huffman (R-Lima) this week introduced Senate Bill 308 to revise Ohio’s civil liability laws in anticipation of litigation stemming from the pandemic. Sen. Huffman said the bill is needed because litigation might cripple a business as it is set to emerge from the lockdown.
The bill consists of two parts: the first deals with health care industries and the second addresses general business by clarifying immunity would be granted to businesses that are doing something to sustain or help people during an emergency, especially if a person is infected as a result of working at that business.
Together with the Ohio Alliance for Civil Justice, the OMA has been working to develop language that would include immunity for the manufacture of PPE and related safety products. The OMA is grateful to the Senate for making this a priority. A vote could take place soon.
Meanwhile, the House is working on a similar initiative, although the Senate version appears to be more workable for manufacturers. Negotiations are ongoing. Contact the OMA’s Ryan Augsburger for more information. 5/7/2020
This week, the House voted 58-37 to approve amended legislation that, if signed into law, would curtail the state health director’s ability to issue orders limiting business operations and the movement of Ohioans.
Under the amended Senate Bill 1 — a regulatory reform bill — the health director’s orders would be limited to 14 days. Any order lasting longer than two weeks would need to be approved by the General Assembly’s Joint Committee on Agency Rule Review.
It is unknown if the Senate will support this provision. A spokesman for Gov. Mike DeWine said the governor would veto the bill if it reached his desk as passed by the House. 5/7/2020
This week, the Senate Judiciary Committee held its first hearing on Senate Bill 301. Introduced by Sens. Nathan Manning (R-North Ridgeville) and Steve Wilson (R-Maineville), the bill targets panic buying and price gouging during a declared disaster or emergency.
The bill would give the attorney general permissive authority to establish per-consumer, per-transaction quantity limits on goods or services sold by suppliers in emergencies. SB 301 also provides expanded authority to investigate grossly excessive price increases as a violation of the Consumers Sales Practices Act after an emergency is declared. The legislators provided sponsor testimony and answered questions from lawmakers. The bill is expected to have more hearings in the coming weeks. 5/7/2020