A House-Senate conference committee unanimously agreed Tuesday on

By John McCarthy Associated Press Published:

A House-Senate conference committee unanimously agreed Tuesday on a compromise

bill that basically follows the Senate version. It would replace E-check

in northeast Ohio and the Dayton area.

E-check would remain in the Cincinnati area because it has not been in attainment

with clean air standards set by the federal government. Testing has been

suspended in Cincinnati, however, because of a dispute between the testing

company and the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency.

The conference committee returned a key House provision that the Senate

had struck from the bill. It would require legislative approval of any expansion

of testing from the current 14 counties.

Under tougher clean air standards adopted this month by the U.S. EPA, up

to 50 Ohio counties could be ruled out of attainment.

Rep. Tom Johnson, chairman of the conference committee and the bill's original

sponsor, said lawmakers should have control of any expansion. He said it

could be years before the federal government acts on new areas that are

out of attainment.

"No offense to the Senate version, but I think it ties the hands of

the Legislature," said Johnson, R-New Concord.

The committee also amended the bill so that any contract changes required

with the companies conducting the tests are the same length as the current

contracts, which have about 8 1/2 years remaining.

The bill establishes a cap of $18.75 on the tests and appropriates about

$2 million for the budget year that began July 1 and $3 million for the

year after that so the EPA can pay for the changes.

The Voinovich administration remains opposed to the bill, said Kate Bartter,

the EPA's director of policy and legislation.

Voinovich has indicated he will veto it. He fears greater sanctions on businesses

in counties that aren't in attainment with the federal standards.

"It's not very different than the version that came out of the Senate,"

Bartter said.

Rep. Ron Young, R-Willowick, voted for the House version and likely will

vote for the conference committee report when the House considers it on

Thursday.

"It sounds like it will be an incremental improvement," he said.

"There's a reasonably good chance that I'll support it."

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