Ohio House members last week approved two significant pieces of legislation - a $2.4 million capital spending bill that includes millions of dollars for projects in Trumbull and Mahoning counties, and a bill that promotes compressed natural gas use in vehicles with tax credits.
The capital appropriations bill, House Bill 497, and the CNG bill, House Bill 336, received tremendous bipartisan support Wednesday and are headed to the Senate, where they should breeze through, too.
Some of what the spending bill includes for projects in Mahoning County is about $12 million for improvements at Youngstown State University and $1.5 million to expand the Youngstown Business Incubator - one of the top biz incubators in the United States.
Funding in the bill for Trumbull County projects is $250,000 to equip the Tech Belt Oil and Gas Learning Center in Lordstown and $250,000 more to equip Tech Belt Energy Innovation Center in downtown Warren.
Money for improvements at the Trumbull branch of Kent State University is also part of the bill.
Democratic state Rep. Bob Hagan of Youngstown sent out a news release applauding the passage of the bill and lamenting the loss of money local governments use on expenses and employees.
The money, he said, ''cannot gloss over'' the cuts made to state funding for schools and local governments.
Hagan and two other state lawmakers who represent Trumbull and Mahoning counties, state Reps. Ron Gerberry, D-Austintown, and Tom Letson, D-Warren, voted in favor of the capital budget bill, which received only two ''no'' votes.
State Rep. Sean O'Brien didn't vote on the legislation because, he said, he had to return home to attend a funeral.
O'Brien was able to attend the session long enough to make sure his CNG bill passed, which it did, 92-0.
The overwhelming approval ''signaled'' lawmakers' commitment to making Ohio ''a national leader in the development and promotion of alternative fuels for transportation,'' said O'Brien, D-Bazetta. ''Given the Utica Shale Play, it only make sense we adopt legislation which utilizes our own domestic resources.''
The bill would provide tax incentives for entities that buy or convert vehicles to operate using compressed natural gas (CNG), establish a sales tax reduction for those who purchase electric vehicles and create a motor fuel tax on compressed natural gas.
The incentives would be funded by existing oil and gas taxes on companies in Ohio and phased out over five years.
''We believe the government may help start this process. However, it is ultimately up to the private sector and market forces to dictate the future of alternative fuels in Ohio,'' said O'Brien.