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GLIN==> Ohio's Great Lakes Compact vote likely next week

May 22, 2008
Gongwer News Service
After revising and reporting a proposed constitutional amendment to protect private property Wednesday, a Senate panel will likely amend and vote on the Great Lakes Compact next week, the chairman said.
In an unusual development, the Ohio Environmental Council proclaimed its support for a substitute version of Sen. Timothy Grendell’s (R-Chesterland) resolution (SJR 8 ) during a hearing of the Senate Environment & Natural Resources Committee. (Resolution language)
Chairman Tom Niehaus (R-New Richmond) said he expected amendments next week to a measure (HB 416 ) that would implement the multi-state agreement designed to protect water in the Great Lakes Basin from major diversions. He also anticipated voting the measure out of committee.
“We want to fulfill the commitment we’ve made all along that we want to pass the Great Lakes Compact,” he said in an interview after the hearing. “We may be able to do that next week.”
Sen. Grendell said he would propose an amendment that would delay the compact’s effective date until Dec. 8 to allow voters sufficient time to ratify his proposed constitutional amendment.
Although he previously planned to amend the compact so that it would remain ineffective unless voters approved his amendment, Sen. Grendell said he was now willing to simply delay the effective date of the bill regardless of the outcome of the general election. (See Gongwer Ohio Report, May 16, 2008)
“I have confidence that the people of Ohio will vote to protect private water rights,” he told reporters after the hearing.
Speaker Jon Husted (R-Kettering) told reporters he was supportive of the package even though he didn’t think Sen. Grendell’s constitutional amendment was necessary.
Sen. Grendell said his proposed amendment was necessary to help protect landowners’ “reasonable use” rights to the groundwater under their property. However, the OEC helped him identify potential problems with the original version, he told committee members in reviewing the substitute.
Certain language in the original resolution overlooked existing law that deals with groundwater and could have been interpreted as impacting the ongoing dispute between lakefront property owners and the state, he said. The new version resolves those potential conflicts.
“We were having trouble reaching that balance,” he said about how to draft the amendment so it wouldn’t give an advantage to either side. “Now nobody can use this amendment for mischief.”
Testifying before the committee as a proponent, OEC Public Affairs Director Jack Shaner said he felt confident that the substitute measure “does not wade into the Lake Erie lakefront property controversy.”
Sen. Dale Miller (D-Cleveland) wondered whether rushing work on the amendment could result in “unintended consequences.”
Mr. Shaner said he shared his concern. “But it may give you some comfort that Sen. Grendell and I have been portrayed as polar opposites.”
The panel voted unanimously to report the resolution.
After the hearing, Mike Eckhardt, policy director for the League of Conservation Voters, said he still believed the constitutional amendment was unnecessary. However, as the substitute version allayed previous concerns about the lakefront property dispute, the group would no longer oppose it. (See Gongwer Ohio Report, May 14, 2008)
Breakthrough on Great Lakes Compact Prompts Love Fest
May 22, 2008
The Hannah Report
The Senate Environment and Natural Resources Committee accepted a substitute SJR8 and reported it out for consideration by the full Senate. The substitute bill was reportedly hammered out during the morning between Sen. Tim Grendell (R-Chesterfield), the bill sponsor, and the Ohio Environmental Council (OEC).
Sen. Tom Niehaus (R-New Richmond), chairman of the committee, quipped that “Somewhere a seismograph has registered a major earthquake in Ohio, something on the order of 7.0.” After the hearing, Grendell exclaimed to reporters that “Jack Shaner hugged me today!”
Grendell thanked Shaner, director of public affairs for OEC, and Trent A. Dougherty, OEC staff attorney, profusely for bringing to his attention several unintended imbalances in his proposed constitutional amendment and working with him to address them. Shaner in turn declared OEC to be very comfortable with the changes, and pleased to support both the revised SJR8 and HB416, the Great Lakes Compact. (See The Hannah Report, 4/23/2008 and 5/14/2008.)
Grendell described the changes in the substitute bill:
    * Adds parallel recognition of “the protection of Ohio’s natural resources” to the protection of the rights of property owners and the stability of Ohio’s economy as purposes of the article.
    * Deletes “When that property interest is taken for public use, the taking and compensation shall be made in accordance with Section 19 of Article 1 of the Constitution” as redundant.
    * Recognizes that “The state, and a political subdivision to the extent authorized by state law, may provide for the regulation of such waters” in paragraph (E).
    * Revises paragraph (F) to make sure the amendment does not impact in either direction the lakeshore public trust property dispute now in the courts.
Grendell said the changes reflect the goal of the proposed constitutional amendment to not change existing Ohio law on water rights, but to protect the law against future changes (based on some non-operative “held in trust” language contained in the findings section of the Great Lakes Compact). Shaner agreed that the changes fulfill the intent not to go beyond existing rights.
Sen. Dale Miller raised two questions. Shaner responded that he absolutely believes potential loopholes in SJR8 that could have adversely impacted protection of isolated wetlands have been closed, and acknowledged the limited opportunity to review SJR8. Shaner said he hoped others will examine the bill closely during its passage through the Senate and House, and by the voters in November.
Edith Chase, president of the Ohio Coastal Resource Management Project, testified in opposition to the original version of SJR8. Noting diversions agreed to by the eight Great Lakes Governors for Akron and Pleasant Prairie, Wisconsin, she said it is a misconception that the federal Water Resources Development Act of 1986 (WRDA) prohibits diversion of water from Lake Erie and urged swift passage of HB416.
While pleased that some of her issues had been resolved, Chase said she will continue to track the bills.
A love fest followed, with statements from Sens. Robert Spada (R-North Royalton), Niehaus and Grendell recognizing the amount of work that has been put in on resolving Great Lakes Compact issues. Grendell said he is confident that SJR8 will “go to the people and that the Senate will move the Compact before the summer break.”
After the hearing, Grendell told reporters he expects to amend HB416 to have an effective date in December, after the proposed December 1 effective date of SJR8 if it is approved by the voters. He explained that this would address any questions as to Ohio law in effect as of the date of ratification of the Compact. He emphasized that passage of the Compact is not linked to approval of SJR8 by the voters, only the effective dates are linked.
Mike Eckhardt, policy director for the Ohio League of Conservation Voters (OLCV); and Jerome Tinianow, executive director of Audubon Ohio; joined Shaner after the hearing. Shaner told reporters that the compromise is “as even handed and fair minded as you can get.” He added, “I’m confident that the House will approve the bills and we’ll go home happy this May.”
Eckhardt told Hannah, “I think we have cleared a major roadblock.” He called the substitute SJR8 “not necessary, but not harmful.”
Story originally published in The Hannah Report on May 21, 2008.  Copyright 2008 Hannah News Service, Inc.
Kristy Meyer
Director of Clean Water Programs
The Ohio Environmental Council
1207 Grandview Ave., Ste. 201
Columbus, OH 43212
P. 614.487.7506
F. 614.487.7510
E. kristy@theoec.org
W. www.theoec.org

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