Household sewage systems, preventing childhood obesity and encouraging the growth of renewable energy in our state - these are just a few of the issues tackled by my colleagues and me in the General Assembly this past week.

Household sewage systems, preventing childhood obesity and encouraging the growth of renewable energy in our state - these are just a few of the issues tackled by my colleagues and me in the General Assembly this past week.

Keeping track of what is happening at the Statehouse can be quite a challenge, and with that in mind, I would like to take a moment and update you on some of the measures we have been working on recently.

The Senate passed Senate Bill 86, which will grant limited liability protection to doctors who provide care in emergency rooms and in disaster situations. This change will help ensure that all Ohioans will have access to high-quality emergency care. It now moves on to the House of Representatives for consideration.

Senate Bill 232: The energy bill passed by the General Assembly two years ago required that Ohio obtain a portion of its energy needs from renewable and advanced energy sources, with some of that energy being generated right here in Ohio. Since then, however, few energy-producing facilities have been built in the state due to the higher tax liability they face.

To help encourage the construction of wind, solar and other advanced energy producers in Ohio and make our tax rates for these projects competitive with those in other states, we approved Senate Bill 232 earlier this week. This bill establishes a window of time in which companies seeking to build renewable energy facilities in Ohio may pay an annual fee in lieu of property taxes.

These incentives will bring Ohio in line with what our neighboring states are doing to lure these projects and will encourage these facilities to locate in Ohio and create jobs.

The Senate also approved Senate Bill 110, which updates Ohio's regulations regarding household septic systems. The legislation, which went through my committee, is in response to numerous homeowners in my district and across the state complaining of excessive fees and intrusions by local health departments.

As chairman of the Senate Environment and Natural Resources Committee, I have been committed to enacting this legislation to address the actions leading to these complaints and find a solution that also protects our environment.

Senate Bill 110 implements recommendations of the Household Sewage and Small Flow On-Site Sewage Treatment Study Commission and creates uniform standards for septic systems that will protect the public's health without driving up costs to homeowners for repairs or replacement systems. I appreciate all the hard work put in by the bill's sponsor and interested parties, as this process took several years to complete.

Additionally, we passed three bills that seek to improve Ohioans' health and their access to health care services:

House Bill 398 expands eligibility for Ohio's Home First Program, which allows seniors or disabled Ohioans to receive the care they need in the setting they prefer - home - instead of being admitted to a nursing home. Letting individuals choose which health care setting is right for them can also save the state money. The cost to the state for an individual receiving assistance through PASSPORT, which provides in-home care to older adults, is $560 per month, compared to nearly $1,700 per month for nursing home care. House Bill 398 now heads to the governor for his signature.

Senate Bill 210: Obesity is recognized by many health care professionals as a major public health threat. A 2008 study found that more than one in three children in Ohio are overweight or obese, as well as two out of three Ohio adults.

To help prevent childhood obesity and encourage our kids to develop healthy habits, the Senate passed Senate Bill 210, which encourages physical activity requirements and stricter nutritional standards for vending machines and menus at Ohio schools.

During our discussions on S.B. 210, I was concerned about the costs these new requirements would place on our schools, many of which are already operating under financial difficulty. Fortunately, we were able to work together to find a solution, allowing schools that are unable to apply these new standards due to financial hardship to obtain a waiver allowing them to opt out of the bill's requirements. To win my support, I made sure that this legislation was amended to not require costly mandates on our schools.

Finally, one of the highlights of my week was meeting with a group of fourth-grade students from Pataskala Elementary School as a part of their tour of the Ohio Statehouse. I had an opportunity to speak to them about my job as their state senator. The students had a lot of great questions and it was a pleasure for me to spend a part of my day with them.

As always, please do not hesitate to contact my office if you have questions or concerns about any of the matters we are considering at the Statehouse. I can be reached by phone at (614) 466-5838, by e-mail at or by writing me, State Sen. Tim Schaffer, Ohio Statehouse, 1 Capitol Square, Columbus, Ohio 43215.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Tim Schaffer represents the 31st Ohio Senate District, which encompasses Fairfield, Hocking, Licking, Perry and eastern Pickaway counties. For information, visit