CINCINNATI (FOX19) - Ohio House lawmakers passed legislation Wednesday that penalizes municipal corporations that charge higher fees for water and sewer services in other subdivisions.
“Municipalities have the power under the Ohio Constitution to supply water to non-residents at prices of their choosing,” said State Rep. Tom Brinkman, R-Mt. Lookout, the bill’s primary sponsor.
“However, that doesn’t mean the State of Ohio needs to subsidize this monopolistic behavior.”
House Bill 163 creates a process where municipalities can be be penalized if they charge higher rates not justified by generally accepted municipal water pricing practices or require direct payments as a condition of providing the service in addition to the costs for extending the service, Brinkman says.
Under the bill, local government funds earmarked for the municipalities in violation of the bill’s provisions would be redistributed to the jurisdictions affected by the improper pricing policies.
Non-compliant municipalities would also be disqualified for state water and sewer development assistance.
“Passage of this bill will provide a framework to resolve this and many other similar cases of municipal rate gouging in Ohio. It allows any township, city or county to file a declaratory judgement action to declare that a municipal water or sewer supplier is “non-compliant,” Brinkman said on the House floor Wednesday when the measure came up for a vote.
He cited the city of Cincinnati’s “history of requesting excessive surcharges from its suburban neighbors through water pricing contracts.”
“House Bill 163 will provide a framework to resolve this and many other similar cases of municipal rate gouging in Ohio,” he said. “I’m proud to sponsor legislation that will save my constituents money on their water bills.”
Cincinnati and Hamilton County officials reached a deal last year after going to court over a proposed increase to townships water bills after Cincinnati City Council passed an ordinance in June 2018 to hike rates by 18 % in townships.
Township residents, however, already paid a 1.25 percent multiplier for city water. That meant their water bills are 25 percent higher than city residents.
House Bill 163 has the support of the Ohio Township Association and Hamilton County Township Association, Brinkman said.
The legislation now heads to the Senate for further consideration.
“It is indeed unfortunate that the state legislature must step in to referee these unneighborly acts of some municipal water and sewer providers, but it is nonetheless necessary that we do what we can to curb the abuse of dominant position that some of these providers are demonstrating. We do not need to subsidize bad behavior,” Brinkman said.