Shared from the 6/8/2018 Sandusky Register eEdition

OHIO HOUSE

Lake Erie bill gets boost

COLUMBUS

The last obstacle for fast approval of Clean Lake 2020 appeared to be cleared away when the Ohio House finally picked a new speaker Wednesday, ending weeks of wrangling.

It took 11 rounds of voting Wednesday, but the House finally elected state Rep. Ryan Smith, R-Bidwell, as the new speaker. The first 10 rounds required Smith to win a majority, but in the 11th round, the House was allowed to elect whoever received the most votes, said state Rep. Steve Arndt, R-Port Clinton, who backed Smith.

Meanwhile, also on Wednesday, the Ohio Senate voted 33-0 to approve Senate Bill 299, the Senate’s version of the Clean Lake 2020 bill, whose main authors are state Sen. Randy Gardner, R-Bowling Green, and Arndt.

Gardner and Arndt both said they believe it is likely the measure will be approved and be on Gov. John Kasich’s desk by the end of June.

Arndt lost little time bringing the matter up with Smith on Wednesday after Smith was elected.

“He has pretty much promised me we will get this done and out before we recess,” Arndt said. “We have had nothing but supportive testimony over in the House.”

While House members have hosted committee meetings and are doing other work, action on the House floor has been delayed for weeks while members argued about how to replace former Speaker Cliff Rosenberger, who suddenly resigned during an FBI investigation of his finances. The full House could not vote on bills without a speaker.

Arndt said the House is now trying to get caught up.

When Arndt called Wednesday from Columbus, he said, “We just got done passing 28 bills.”

The Clean Lake 2020 measure spends about $36 million to clean up Lake Erie and fight harmful algal blooms.

It includes $20 million to prevent phosphorus runoff in the Western Basin of Lake Erie and $10 million to fund programs to end the dumping back into the lake of dirt dredged from the lake bottom.

There’s also $3.5 million to support soil and water conservation districts in the Western Basin and $2.6 million of capital improvement funds for Stone Laboratory.

Environmental groups such as the Ohio Environmental Council back the measure, which enjoys bipartisan support, as witnessed by the 33-0 Senate vote.

But a group based in Toledo, called Advocates for a Clean Lake Erie, has repeatedly criticized the measure, saying it doesn’t go far enough to deal with concentrated animal feeding operations, or CAFOs.

The group issued another press release Thursday, which it termed an “urgent warning,” stating lawmakers need to concentrate on regulating CAFOs.

Arndt said the bill does have provisions to improve manure management and transportation.

He said the basis of the bill is a white paper, “Summaries of Findings and Strategies to Move Toward a 40 percent Phosphorus Reduction,” written by retired Sea Grant director Jeff Reutter and eight other scientists.

“That was truly the blueprint that we used in developing the legislation,” Arndt said.

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