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05/04/2012

House votes to create new Ohio Facilities Construction Commission

Senate expected to follow suit

Tucked away in a 2,581-page bill passed by the Ohio House of Representatives on April 25 are a couple dozen pages that would make big changes in the way the state of Ohio builds non-highway capital improvement projects.

Those pages in Am. Sub. H.B. 487 authorize the creation of a new Ohio Facilities Construction Commission (OFCC) by effectively merging the staffs of the Ohio School Facilities Commission and the Office of the State Architect & Engineer.

This new commission would have broad authority to design and construct most state vertical building projects, including state-funded local school projects, except for those undertaken by the state's largest institutions of higher education.

Bill language provides that the OFCC would have three-members, the director of the Office of Budget & Management, the director of the Department of Administrative Services and a third member appointed by the governor.

The staffs of the Ohio School Facilities Commission and the Office of the State Architect & Engineer would be brought together under one roof.  The latter would be abolished, while the schools commission will continue to exist for the purpose of selecting local school projects for state funding.

Also included in the bill is a provision that requires the OFCC and the Ohio Department of Natural Resources to cooperate in a study "to determine which operation functions, if any, of the DNR Division of Engineering should be integrated and consolidated into the OFCC."

A major factor driving the merger proposal is the diminished role of the Office of the State Architect as the overseer of state capital construction projects.

Over the years, the Ohio General Assembly has given state agencies and universities more and more authority to administer their own capital projects, which has made it harder for the Office of the State Architect & Engineer to financially justify its existence.

The merger is one of dozens of changes in state government structure and operations proposed by Governor John Kasich in his "Mid-biennium Review" initiative.  Many of the changes are expected to be enacted into law before the General Assembly breaks for the summer, while others, including controversial tax law changes, have been deferred by legislative leaders.

While the Ohio Senate still must act on Am. Sub. H.B. 487, expectations are that the bill will complete its journey through the legislative process and be signed by the Governor within a matter of weeks.

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