Senate Passes $1.8 Billion Sewer/Water Bill, But House Won't Act Until After the Election

Sep 21, 2016

Brown says the water infrastructure bill would improve water systems, help ratepayers and spur business.
Credit ML SCHULTZE / WKSU

A nearly $2 billion bill to help communities upgrade their sewer and water systems has passed the U.S. Senate. But its sponsor, Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown, acknowledges he’s not certain of its chances in the House. 

The bill focuses on upgrades to century-old systems that flush massive amounts of storm water and sewage into waterways during heavy storms.

The bill would authorize $1.8 billion in competitive grants for water and sewer fixes over five years. It would require the EPA to recognize local economic problems when it mandates the schedule for the upgrades. And it would require the EPA to emphasize green infrastructure projects that keep water out of treatment systems in the first place.

Brown says it would be an economic boon as well.

“It’ll create jobs and promote economic development. Business wants to know that water is affordable and reliable most important before it moves in -- manufacturing and other business.” 

House leaders have said they will not consider the bill until after November’s election.

Akron, the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District and Sandusky are among the systems spending billions of dollars to upgrade, and customers are seeing their rates as much as quadruple. Akron estimates that green modifications to its sewer plan will save more than $50 million.

Overtime battle
Brown, a Democrat, is blasting Republican Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine for suing to block new federal overtime rules -- a fight that will affect about 140,000 Ohioans.

The U.S. Department of Labor announced the new rules this spring, raising the income threshold to qualify salaried workers for overtime pay. It’s now is just under $24,000; it would climb to more than $47,000

Twenty-one states – most from the South and Midwest -- sued this week to stop the regulation from taking effect Dec. 1, saying it was a federal overreach that would burden employers.

Brown called the lawsuit an outrage.

This is an attack by state officials on moderate and low-income workers who have earned overtime, and they’re spending state tax dollars to do it and it’s outrageous. :14

Brown says under the current rules, people are working as much as 60 hours a week with no extra compensation.