Natural disasters spur passage of Disaster Relief Act

By Cliff Rosenberger - Guest Columnist

Recently the news has been inundated with stories about natural disasters affecting the United States and North America. We heard about Hurricane Harvey in south Texas and the detrimental flooding. Not long after, Hurricane Irma hit Florida with powerfully damaging winds. And now, Mexico has been hit by a massive earthquake and Hurricane Maria has devastated Puerto Rico while tracking closer to the mainland.

In the wake of these events, I have heard countless stories of Ohioans donating time, resources, and money to the victims of these disasters. The Ohio National Guard was deployed to aid in rescue efforts. Electricians and contractors have taken leave of their day-to-day jobs to help cities rebuild and return power back to homes and businesses. People have driven truckloads of food and water across the country, and homes even as far as Ohio have been opened to take in people and animals whose homes have been destroyed.

When thinking about these selfless acts and how Ohioans have gone above and beyond to help their fellow man or woman, I consider how the country might come to help our state in the event of a natural disaster. While Ohio rarely feels the direct impact of hurricanes or earthquakes, we are not safe from all catastrophes. From tornadoes to floods to blizzards, there have been many times when we have needed help from out of state to get our communities back on their feet.

Earlier this month, the Ohio House passed the Disaster Relief Act, a bill that would eliminate red tape and government bureaucracy for out-of-state companies looking to help with disaster-related work. Even though this legislation was introduced earlier this year, its need has become even more apparent because of recent tragedies that have taken place.

House Bill 133, sponsored by Representative Scott Ryan, would exempt communications, infrastructure, and utilities companies from certain state taxes and licensing requirements in the event of a declared disaster. This exemption will permit businesses to deploy resources and personnel faster, allowing repairs to happen more quickly.

When people are left stranded without electricity or shelter, the last thing we want to happen is for those willing and able to help to be turned away because of unnecessary administrative obstacles. The Disaster Relief Act will help Ohio have a quicker turnaround to recovery the next time a natural disaster might occur. This bill is all about keeping Ohioans safe and secure, and with that in mind, my thoughts are with all the victims affected across the country by these disasters.

Cliff Rosenberger is the Ohio House Speaker.

By Cliff Rosenberger

Guest Columnist