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Updates from House Bill 197

Written by: Katherine Holmok, PLA, ASLA

Unprecedented times have us all pivoting and adapting to a new way of life – a new way of working, designing and planning for the now and the future. Friday, Governor DeWine signed into law new temporary measures to help Ohio businesses and communities work through the COVID-19 crisis. House Bill 197 includes a few key measures that are helpful to communities we work with, including clear direction about public engagement and soliciting public input.

Although Attorney General, Dave Yost provided guidance during the start of this crisis, HB 197 provides clear legislation. New legislation allows state boards and commissions, local and county governments and higher education boards to operate meetings electronically during the declared emergency, so long as the public is aware and can participate electronically.

Reliable public input and communication are more critical than ever. With public construction projects still moving forward, the need for innovative and clear electronic communication is at an all-time high. You’re not alone in this – shared challenges come with shared solutions. Many local municipalities have been augmenting their in-person city council meetings with CCTV and Facebook Live videos. We’ve put together a list of videoconferencing tools and ideas to keep your citizens safe and engaged:

Zoom: Calendar of Public Meetings and Webinars

Facebook Live: Local Government Live Streaming

Webex: Local Cities Rethink Council Meetings


The Governor has also helped water and sewer services focus on sustaining critical infrastructure during this crisis through the following:

  • During the emergency, but not beyond December 1, 2020, allows the Ohio Water Development Authority, to waive penalties and late fees owed to the Authority from the issuance of outstanding loans.
  • During the emergency, but not beyond December 1, 2020, allows the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency, to waive penalties or late fees owed to the Agency from the issuance of outstanding loans or permits and to suspend reporting requirements for water research recovery facilities or solid waste facilities.

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