Toledo mayor urges Ohio lawmakers to pull lead provision from budget

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COLUMBUS — Toledo Mayor Paula Hicks-Hudson today urged state lawmakers to use the city as a guide in developing a statewide lead safety policy rather than throw up roadblocks to local efforts to tackle the issue themselves.

Mayor Hicks-Hudson

She asked members of a subcommittee of the House Finance Committee to pull an amendment added in the House to the proposed next two-year budget that would give the Ohio Department of Health sole authority to regulate lead abatement.

It was inserted by majority Republicans at the request of Rep. Derek Merrin (R., Monclova Township).

“Setting aside the serious question of whether or not the Merrin amendment violates the Ohio Constitution’s home rule provision, the amendment is poorly drafted and is bad policy,” Ms. Hicks-Hudson said. “Any delay in implementation of Toledo’s lead law dooms more children to become poisoned.”

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State Sen. Edna Brown (D., Toledo) is trying to convince her colleagues on the Health and Medicaid Subcommittee to recommend the amendment’s removal.

“I think we are making headway…,” she said. “If they wish to make it a statewide issue, that’s well and good. The city of Toledo, myself, and others will work with them. But it takes time to get an initiative done statewide…I think in due time we should be able to get this amendment out of the bill.”

Toledo’s ordinance, passed in August and revised in April, mandates that rental properties built before 1978 with up to four units and home daycare centers undergo inspections to be certified as “lead-safe.” Should a property fail inspection and subsequently pass, the property is issued a three-year certificate.

Those passing the first time around receive six-year certificates.

Some members of the committee questioned the idea of letting individual cities go it alone in addressing such problems rather than use a uniform process statewide.

“I represent small cities and villages that may not have the wherewithal to even implement a policy of inspection and remediation…,” said Sen. Dave Burke (R., Marysville), whose district stretches north to Sandusky Bay.

“Do you think there’s a willingness to pause that legislative initiative at the municipal level and cooperate with the state so that a policy would be more universal…?” he asked the mayor.

But Mayor Hicks-Hudson suggested a “pause” at the city level isn’t the answer.

“Use us as a testing ground in Ohio to show how this can work,” she said.

Sen. Bill Coley (R., West Chester) questioned why a rental property owner would have to undergo inspections every six years after having already abated the property. He noted that lead has been banned from products for decades and would be unlikely to be reintroduced to the property.

The mayor, however, said Toledo’s ordinance already addresses this, saying the property owner could show proof of abatement as an alternative to new inspections.

“The requirement for every six years is to show that that property is lead-free,” she said. “It is a secondary step to the issue of abatement…There are provisions in our ordinance that would allow you to say to our health department, ‘I have a certificate that says that my property has been abated’.”

Mr. Coley said the city should simply remove such properties from its list.

“Maybe we need to do it at the state,” he said.

Under Toledo’s ordinance, properties that have undergone lead abatement can receive lead-safe certificates valid for 20 years, avoiding the inspections.

The cities of Columbus and Cincinnati have also passed resolutions urging lawmakers to remove the lead amendment from the budget.

Contact Jim Provance at: jprovance@theblade.com or 614-221-0496.

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