An amended Ohio House bill that was originally intended to reduce the lengthy residential foreclosure process and eliminate blight in Ohio neighborhoods died in the Ohio Senate Finance Committee Tuesday night, sources close to the situation told DS News.
A source close to the bill's sponsors said the likely reason that Ohio HB 223 died in the Senate Finance Committee was an editorial that appeared in Tuesday's Columbus Dispatch strongly criticizing the changes made to the original bill and urging the Ohio Senate to pass the bill in its original form.
Sources said the principals involved with getting the bill out of the committee and onto the senate floor could not agree on the bill's terms following the proposed amendments, and it was determined that the bill would not be moving forward during this session, which ends Thursday.
The crux of the debate surrounding the bill was a five-year pilot program to be introduced in three Ohio counties that would allow foreclosed homes to skip the sheriff's appraisal process and also be auctioned with no minimum bid, thus greatly reducing the time homes sit vacant following foreclosure and returning the homes to productive, inhabitable status as quickly as possible.
The proposed amendments to the bill eliminated pilot program and instead called for a study commission, according to the source close to the bill's sponsors, which would ensure the continuation of the lengthy, drawn-out foreclosure process. That process currently takes between two and three years in Ohio, according to one of the bill's sponsors, State Representative Cheryl Grossman. The pilot program would have reduced that time to between six and 12 months, according to Grossman.
The purpose of the original bill was to eliminate blight in so-called "zombie properties," which are homes that have been abandoned due to foreclosure, but the foreclosure process is not yet complete. Blight often breeds more blight in immediate surrounding areas, lowering property values and inviting vandalism and violent crime.
The bill was originally conceived by Columbus City Attorney Rick Pfeiffer and introduced by Grossman and Michael Curtin, the bill's sponsors, in June 2013. It passed unanimously in the Ohio House back in April and was awaiting vote in the Ohio Senate when it the amendments to the bill were proposed by the Ohio Senate Finance Committee earlier this week.
Sources close to the situation said that the bill's sponsors will likely re-introduce the bill when the next Ohio Senate Session begins, which will be in mid-January.