Ohio lawmaker pushes to end E-Check

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COLUMBUS, Ohio (WJW) -- A state lawmaker from Northeast Ohio is taking steps to eliminate the divisive E-Check program.

Republican Rep. Bill Roemer cleared the first hurdle with the passage of House Resolution 247. 

"A lot of poor people have older cars that might fail E-Check. They might only have one car; it makes it difficult for people to get to their jobs," he said.

The mandatory vehicle emissions check applies to seven counties in the state, all of them in Northeast Ohio.

Roemer's resolution passed in the house with a vote of 62 to 29 -- with bipartisan support. 

"A lot of people recognize that imposing additional regulations and costs and burdens on Northeast Ohio, disadvantage the entire state of Ohio."

A similar resolution passed in 2017, but nothing came of it. 

"I think we've got a very receptive president and hopefully U.S. EPA. What we're looking to do is make common sense reductions and regulation," Roemer said.

Started in January 1996, the test is now mainly diagnostic. A minimum of $300 waiver is issued for a car that fails for repairs. Roemer said it's not just about the money for repairs. 

"The problem is, people have to take time off work; they have to drive multiple times to E-Check."

Democratic State Rep. Tavia Galonski, who voted against the 2017 resolution, but in favor of this one, said a constituent came to her with that very problem. 

"What he said to me, which I found heartbreaking, was, 'I just want to go to work,'" she said.

"When I have to think about who do I really speak for and who do I represent, it has to be the most vulnerable and the less likely to be able to care for themselves."

Roemer pointed out in the resolution that the program costs Ohio more than $10 million a year to implement.

A representative from the Ohio EPA said E-Check has had a measurable improvement in the air quality of the seven counties.

"In 2017, E-Check was responsible for a reduction of 1,317 tons of nitrogen oxides and 1,100 tons of hydrocarbons from the air, for a total emissions reduction of 2,417 tons of pollutants that cause ozone. This reduction in nitrogen oxide emissions alone is equivalent to removing an average of 105,360 light-duty vehicles or 68,773 light-duty trucks from the road in one year. The Cleveland metro area currently does not meet the federal air quality standard for ozone."

Roemer said they are proposing solutions to the federal government.

"We're proposing one of the options would be to roll back those standards to go back to the standards that existed before 2015 and in doing that, would allow northeast Ohio to back out of E-Check."

Galonski said she believes her fellow colleagues care about protecting the environment. 

"I see there are people on both sides of the aisle who are interested in conserving our treasures here and what's important to Ohioans. It's just that E-Check for a limited number of counties isn't actually the answer."

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