The Ohio General Assembly passed Substitute Senate Bill 331 (S.B. 331), a bill that was originally introduced to set a state standard for the source of dogs sold in pet stores but became a vehicle for many last minute amendments in the lame duck session, on Wednesday evening. The bill contained multiple provisions that impact local governments around the state. Small Cell Wireless Placement One of the amendments included in S.B. 331 limits the ability of communities to block the installation of new wireless antennas in the public right of way on lampposts, traffic lights, and new poles. Under the proposal, cities and villages will have 90 days to approve or deny a company’s application to attach a “small cell” antenna to a street lamp or traffic light or erect a new pole for it. The telecommunications industry sought the new rules as it looks to start installing the briefcase-sized antennas around neighborhoods, in part to create a new 5G network that promises data speeds 50 to 100 times faster than 4G LTE networks. The new language creates one approval process to be used in each community rather than have companies face different processes across the state. Some of the provisions of the legislation include:
- If a municipal corporation fails to approve an application within the time period, it is deemed granted upon the requesting entity providing notice to the municipal corporation that the time period for action on the application has lapsed.
- Prohibits a municipal corporation from, among other prohibitions:
- Evaluating the business decisions of the applicant, the need for the equipment or the availability of other potential locations for the placement of the equipment.
- Preventing placement of equipment in a residential area or within a specific distance from a residence or other structure.
- Enacting a moratorium on the filing, consideration or approval of applications.
- Entering into an exclusive arrangement with any entity for the right to attach to a municipal corporation’s wireless support structures.
- The application is deemed a permitted use and is exempt from local zoning review.
Employment Provisions - Minimum Wage and Employee Scheduling S.B. 331 includes language that prohibits local governments from raising the minimum wage in their jurisdiction to a level higher than the state rate. The language was added to ensure that the rate is consistent across the state. Proponents argued that allowing different rates around the state would lead to a lot of fragmentation and make the state into a less competitive business environment. The bill also includes language that grants private employers exclusive authority regarding work location, scheduling and benefits for employees unless otherwise expressly provided in state or federal law. However, this new language does not impact the current authority of a political subdivision to adopt a resolution or ordinance to limit the hours an employer operates. The bill will now be sent to the Governor for his signature. Upon receiving the bill, Governor Kasich will have 10 days to act; his failure to do so means the bill automatically becomes law.