GREENVILLE — The Legislative Committee of Darke County Chamber of Commerce held a meeting to review and monitor topics related to the biennial State of Ohio operating budget Thursday morning at Wayne Hospital.
State Representative Jena Powell, Senator Steve Huffman, and Senator Matt Huffman were in attendance via teleconference.
Topping the agenda was House Bill 6 that would see the bailout of two nuclear plants, a bill that has played into the operating budget which must be adopted by midnight Sunday.
FirstEnergy Solutions is requesting $150 million the first year and near as much the second year in lieu of going bankrupt, explained Katie DeLand, Ohio Director, Duane Morris Government Strategies.
As of Thursday, the bill is in the Senate making it a “political football” given not only the number of ads and mailers from both sides of the issue but the estimated 4100 jobs at stake during an election year, in a swing state.
House Bill 258 also topped the agenda with State Representative Jena Powell providing an update on what would essentially eliminate red tape for military spouses wanting to use an occupational license obtained in another state.
According to Senator Steve Huffman, the bill has passed the House, and the Ohio Senate placed it into the budget.
Congressional updates on the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), the Federal Disaster Declaration, and USDA Disaster Assistance were provided by Ben Thaeler, District Director for the Office of Congressman Warren Davidson.
According to Thaeler, Congressman Warren Davidson has put pressure on House leadership to hold a vote on the new NAFTA deal citing it as “a very strongly supported, pro-business bill.”
The USMCA is endorsed by the U.S. Chamber, the Ohio Chamber of Commerce, Farm Bureau Federation, American Association of Port Authority, and 150 other business groups.
The agreement has already been negotiated by the administration with the essential text in place for nearly a year; however, no vote has been scheduled for what Thaeler described as a variety of reasons.
The bill has significant implications for agriculture, said Thaeler, as Mexico is one of the biggest destinations for U.S. crops.
Thaeler also spoke on the recent Memorial Day tornadoes, himself having toured affected areas alongside FEMA.
Ten counties (Auglaize, Darke, Greene, Hocking, Mercer, Miami, Montgomery, Muskingum, Perry, Pickaway) were given a Federal Disaster Declaration which opens eligibility for FEMA and small business administration loans and grants for those who lost property.
Thaeler encouraged those impacted to seek assistance as soon as possible as there is a deadline of August 19, sixty days from the declaration. Those individuals may visit disasterassistance.gov, which simplifies the process in finding and applying for assistance as well as to review assistance status.
The record rainfall affecting area farmers and the ongoing trade war closed out the morning meeting.
Thaeler shared that Congressman Davidson wrote a letter to U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue, requesting (among other things) farmers with crop insurance to receive the maximum legal amount (about 90 percent) for their prevent planting benefit for this year.
The congressman also requested an allowance for those making claims to proceed in planting forage crops.
When it comes to the local impact on farmers with the trade war, Thaeler stated the most significant concern surrounds the decisions on planting.
Last year, the USDA began a trade-aid program, the Market Facilitation Program that provides some level of assistance to farmers who are impacted by price volatility from the trade war. The only way to receive aid is to plant; however, the rain has added complexities resulting in the letter sent to Purdue.
At issue is the number of variables farmers are facing that began with trade, tariffs, and government programs and now includes the weather.
“Every time we come up with another solution here it’s another variable that farmers have to try to navigate,” explained Thaeler, adding that Davidson has been vocal regarding the trade war, introducing the Global Trade Accountability Act which gives Congress the sign off on any new tariffs, a role as dictated by the Constitution.
Reach reporter Bethany J. Royer-DeLong at 937/548-3330 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Read more news, features, and sports at DarkeCountyMedia.com.