Our association has had a busy and productive year since debuting in January. With the support of our partners, the Ohio Council of Retail Merchants, the OECA has created a new brand, established a strong board of directors, grown our membership, launched a new publication, member directory, website, and social media channels, held several successful member events (golf outing, annual meeting, fall clay shoot), restarted Ohio’s oilheat check off program and most importantly, engaged heavily in legislative and regulatory advocacy efforts, while also helping to lead a successful tradeshow with M-PACT 2022.
During this time, there have also been many challenges for our association and our industry. Inflation, supply chain constraints, soaring gas prices, diesel shortages, and a tight labor market coupled with potential legislative and regulatory initiatives which could have profound consequences for the convenience and fueling industries. However, thanks to the advocacy efforts from OECA leadership and members like you, our association has achieved some major successes.
I would like to take a moment to highlight just a few of those successes. The OECA along with coalition partners successfully defeated attempts to monopolize electric vehicle charging while also defeating proposed utility rate-basing which would have raised the energy bills for businesses and consumers alike. In addition, we worked with fellow business groups to defeat House Bill 235, which if passed, would have forced unionization upon all of Ohio’s oil refineries while likely raising costs across the fueling supply chain. Our association successfully added language to the latest I-lottery proposal, which if enacted would grant brick-and-mortar retailers a base commission increase, and a 3.5 percent cut of all I-lottery sales. We also worked to ensure popular games remain exclusively in-store. Although, the bill has been paused for the time being, the OECA will be well positioned should the issue resurface in the next General Assembly. During the lame duck session, we successfully added language to preempt municipalities from imposing their own onerous bans and regulations on tobacco and vapor products. Both the Senate and House supported us and passed this language. Unfortunately, citing concerns over the availability of flavored tobacco and vapor products to children and teens, Governor DeWine could exercise his veto power over the bill. If that is the case, the OECA will seek to resume work on this important issue in the new General Assembly.
Finally, we remained busy working on your behalf concerning regulatory matters, securing key revisions to underground storage tank rules and successfully advocating for an Hours-of-Service Waiver for haulers during the latest diesel shortage. Now more than ever, members of the fueling and convenience community must work together to advocate collectively for our interests. That is what the OECA is here to do: support you in every aspect of your business and be your voice at the statehouse. Under the leadership of OECA President Ryan Howard, board members Jeff Erb, Brian Burrow, Jenny Berlin, Drew Brower, and Jason Wittekind and with the support of Gordon Gough (Council President & CEO) and most importantly, our members, I firmly believe the OECA is poised to become one of the most powerful fueling and convenience associations in the country. Thank you for your tremendous support during our inaugural year. We wish you and your families a happy and healthy new year.
Alex T. Boehnke