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Week in Review August 14, 2023

Updated: Sep 5, 2023


Ohio statehouse government affairs week in review January 2023


This report reflects the latest happenings in government relations, in and around the Ohio statehouse. You’ll notice that it’s broad in nature and on an array of topics, from A-Z. This will be updated on a weekly basis.

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ADDICTION/SUBSTANCE ABUSE The OneOhio Recovery Foundation Board of Directors voted Wednesday to re-authorize prior actions from several previous meetings, ranging from mundane approval of minutes to the selection of a depository institution and the hiring of lawyers, as a safeguard after recent court rulings on its obligations under sunshine laws. Board Chair Larry Kidd explained that at several prior meetings, the board had not maintained a quorum of in-person members. "As such, any action taken by the board at such meetings could be subject to invalidation under Ohio's Open Meetings Act," Kidd said. "As a proactive measure, each action at those meetings will be re-reported to the board by me." The Ohio Department of Commerce's Division of Liquor Control (DOLC) announced it has awarded $58,100 to three nonprofit organizations to improve and expand activities related to raising awareness about alcohol-related harms for the public or education efforts for vulnerable groups, including those under the legal drinking age of 21. The grant recipients are Addiction Services Council of Cincinnati, Recovery Resources of Cleveland, and FOCUS Recovery of Findlay. AGRICULTURE The Ohio State Fair Sale of Champions livestock auction broke more than half of the records previously set at the sale, with a grand total in sales of $547,500. Eight of 12 records were broken or set Sunday afternoon in the WCOL Celeste Center. More than $421,000 will fund the Virgil L. Strickler Youth Reserve Program to continue supporting Ohio youth in agriculture and beyond, according to fair organizers. "What a great, final Sale of Champions in my career," said Ohio State Fair General Manager Virgil Strickler, who is retiring later this year. "I am so proud of the junior fair livestock exhibitors who work so hard throughout the year to exhibit at our great state fair and dedicate so much time to becoming a champion. They deserve this honor. I will forever be grateful to our outstanding buyers who make this sale possible year after year and who went above and beyond this year." More than one million people visited the 2023 Ohio State Fair, state officials announced Tuesday. The 1,006,228 individuals who attended over the course of the state fair is the record since 2004, when the event changed to a 12-day event. The previous record for the 12-day fair was 982,305 in 2015. The fair also broke a single-day attendance record, with 119,660 visitors on Saturday, Aug. 5. Prior to 2023, the single-day attendance record was 115,288, set on Sunday, July 28, 2013. There were also significant year-over-year increases in Midway (rides and games) and concessions (food and beverage) revenues. The state fair reported more than $3.2 million in total Midway revenue, which is an increase of 36.2 percent over 2022. Fair officials also reported more than $8.2 million in total concessions sales, which is an increase of 18.4 percent over 2022. The Ohio Department of Agriculture (ODAg) has confirmed several new spotted lanternfly infestations across the state, including in Columbus and Toledo. In 2021, ODAg designated the spotted lanternfly as a destructive plant pest and established regulations aimed at reducing the risk of spread. "As a result of new detections, Franklin, Hamilton, Lucas, Mahoning and Muskingum counties will be added to the spotted lanternfly regulated area. In regulated areas spottedlanternflyinfestations have been confirmed and inspections are increased,” ODAg said. ATTORNEY GENERAL A group seeking to add an amendment to the Ohio Constitution that would end qualified immunity for police officers and other government employees has resubmitted its petition language for the sixth time after previous versions were rejected by Attorney General Dave Yost. The proposed "Protecting Ohioans' Constitutional Rights" amendment would bar any "government actor" from using "any immunities or defenses which are only available to government actors or any subset thereof, including but not limited to qualified immunity, sovereign immunity, prosecutorial immunity, or any immunity provided to the state, political subdivisions, or public employees by statute." Yost had previously rejected the summary language for the petition five times, saying that the language included "omissions and misstatements that, as a whole, would mislead a potential signer as to the actual scope and effect of the proposal.” Action by the attorney general on this latest submission is due Friday, Aug. 18. BALLOT ISSUES After months of political wrangling, campaigning, protests and TV ads, Ohio voters defeated a proposed constitutional amendment that would have made it significantly more difficult to amend the Ohio Constitution. With more than 2.9 million votes counted on Tuesday night, the "no" side of State Issue 1 was winning 56.7 percent to 43.3 percent. The Associated Press and other organizations called the race within an hour-and-a-half of the polls closing. The coalition opposing State Issue 1 celebrated its victory at the Columbus Fire Fighters Local 67 headquarters in downtown Columbus, while a more muted gathering of lawmakers on behalf of Protect Our Constitution, the main advocate of Issue 1, was held on Capitol Square. "You did it. We did it. Ohio did it," Ohio Education Association (OEA) President Scott DiMauro said. "They didn't just say 'no.' They said 'hell no.'" Backers of a November reproductive and abortion rights amendment argued in new court filings that they were not required to specifically delineate all laws that would be affected by the amendment, as a legal challenge suggests. The campaign committee for the amendment also asserts the Ohio Supreme Court lacks jurisdiction in the matter. But former GOP Rep. Tom Brinkman and former candidate Jennifer Giroux, who challenged the issue's placement on the ballot asked the Ohio Supreme Court to have the issue removed from the ballot. They cite Ohio Revised Code (ORC) 3519.01(A)'s requirement that petitions for initiated statutes and amendments "include the text of any existing statute or constitutional provision that would be amended or repealed if the proposed law or constitutional amendment is adopted." In a brief filed Friday, the campaign committee for the issue argued that the relevant section of law does not require listing "each and every statute that may ultimately be held to be in conflict" with the new amendment. FY24-25 BUDGET The Office of Budget and Management (OBM) released July 2023 preliminary revenue data Monday. For this first month of FY24, total General Revenue Fund tax receipts finished $13.2 million (0.6 percent) above estimate. The two components of the sales tax, the non-auto and the auto, balanced each other out, with the non-auto sales tax collections coming in $26.1 million or 2.6 percent above the July estimate. However, the auto sales tax collections were $26.1 million or 15.2 percent below estimate. Compared to FY23, the two sales tax categories this year brought in nearly $53.8 million more, for a total of nearly $1.2 billion for the month. Personal income tax (PIT) collections almost solely accounted for the month's excess revenue, bringing in $11.6 million or 1.6 percent above the anticipated level. Compared to this time last year, the FY24 PIT has brought in nearly $17.5 million more for a total of $741.7 million. IT’S IN THE FY24-25 BUDGET Legislation introduced earlier this year creating a new Office of Data Analytics and Archives was put into the budget by the Ohio Senate, a move hailed by Secretary of State Frank LaRose as a first-ever substantive effort by any state to adopt a clear and consistent method for retaining election data. LaRose and Sen. Theresa Gavarone (R-Bowling Green) introduced the provision as SB71 (Gavarone) in February. Dubbed the Data Analysis Transparency Archive (DATA) Act, they said the bill would improve the election data collection and retention to boost election transparency in Ohio. LaRose said at the time that there have been inconsistent standards on voter data, including how it is defined, and how long it should be stored. SB71 passed the Senate in May, with Gavarone saying on the floor that it would require election data to be "maintained, disclosed, analyzed, and archived in a modern way." Democrats voted against the legislation, saying the majority had declined to consider technical changes sought by election officials to ease the process and that the bill was unnecessary as the secretary of state could implement the provisions via directives. The Senate Finance Committee included it in its substitute version of budget bill HB33 (Edwards), and the provision was kept by the conference committee in the final version. With a wide swath of Ohio in the path of totality for the April 8, 2024 solar eclipse, the General Assembly appropriated $1 million to reimburse associated response costs for emergency management and first responders. Guidance regarding eligibility will be released by the Ohio Emergency Management Agency (Ohio EMA), which already has a website providing eclipse information at https://eclipse.ohio.gov/. The eclipse's path of totality will be approximately 124 miles wide -- including Dayton, Springfield, Lima, Toledo, Cleveland and much of Lake Erie -- while Columbus and Cincinnati will have at least 95 percent totality. The greatest duration for Ohio will be visible in Avon Lake (Lorain County). Gov. Mike DeWine and Interim Superintendent Chris Woolard discussed the rollout Thursday of new literacy resources as part of the ReadOhio initiative, supported by budget funding and policies that seek to spread schools' adoption of the "science of reading." DeWine spent the spring touring numerous schools in support of his push to embed in schools more instruction, materials and coaching aligned to the science of reading, which generally means systematic instruction in topics including phonics, phonemic awareness, vocabulary, fluency and comprehension. His proposals to fund high-quality instruction materials, teacher training and placement of literacy coaches in high-need districts generally survived into the final version of HB33 (Edwards). The Cleveland Museum of Art and the Cleveland Orchestra are planning to decline funding earmarked for them in the state operating budget, leaders of the organizations told the Ohio Arts Council (OAC). The organizations each received a $500,000 appropriation in HB33 (Edwards), but accepting the money would make them ineligible for OAC sustainability funding, according to OAC guidelines. The Musical Arts Association (better known as the Cleveland Orchestra) received $750,000 in OAC sustainability funding, while the Cleveland Museum of Art received $794,273. Leaders of the organizations both wrote letters to OAC Executive Director Donna Collins informing her of their plans to decline the earmarked HB33 funding, saying they didn't ask lawmakers for the extra money. CHILDREN/FAMILIES Gov. Mike DeWine said Monday he's naming Kara Wente as director of the new Department of Children and Youth (DCY), elevating her from the similar position she now holds in his office. Wente has served since the beginning of the year as director of the Governor's Office of Children's Initiatives, which DeWine created at the outset of his administration to coordinate efforts across departments. She testified before lawmakers this budget cycle on the creation of DCY after DeWine included it in his executive budget proposal and has been leading the transition team on its implementation following the signing of HB33 (Edwards). DCY will consolidate numerous programs focused on children birth to age 5 from several state agencies. While HB33 provided until the start of 2025 for completion of the shift, Wente has outlined a 90-day plan for key efforts. Her appointment is subject to consent of the Ohio Senate. CRIME AND PUNISHMENT The Ohio Attorney General's Office says advance DNA analysis by its Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation (BCII) has cracked a decades-old cold case, leading to Wednesday's life sentence of Robert N. Edwards III for two rapes and aggravated murders. Investigators said they may not be done, calling him a serial killer who may have committed other crimes. Edwards, 68, will spend the rest of his life at the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction (DRC), or 45 years, before he is eligible for parole, according to Attorney General (AG) Dave Yost, commending investigators "who never gave up." ECONOMY The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) said Friday that total nonfarm payroll employment rose by 187,000 in July while the unemployment rate ticked slightly down to 3.5 percent from June's 3.6 percent rate. While still an increase, the number of jobs added is less than the average monthly gain of 312,000 over the prior 12 months. BLS said the number of unemployed persons was little changed in July at 5.8 percent. The unemployment rate for Asians declined to 2.3 percent in July. The jobless rates for adult men (3.3 percent), adult women (3.1 percent), teenagers (11.3 percent), Whites (3.1 percent), Blacks (5.8 percent), and Hispanics (4.4 percent) showed little or no change over the month. The labor force participation rate was 62.6 percent for the fifth consecutive month. The employment population ratio, at 60.4 percent, remained little changed in July. EDUCATION The Biden administration recently announced new efforts to expand registered apprenticeships for teachers and provide other support for teacher preparation programs. The U.S. Department of Education (USDOE) is providing $27 million to support educator preparation programs: $14.5 million for Teacher Quality Partnership grants and $12.7 million in Supporting Effective Educator Development funds. The latter source includes more than $380,000 in initial funding out of an expected $3.5 million award for the Urban Network to Inspire Teaching Excellence at Cleveland State University. The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) is providing more than $65 million in formula and competitive grants to develop and scale registered apprenticeship programs in the field of education and other workforce sectors. DOL also announced a new industry intermediary for registered apprenticeships specifically focused on K-12 education, RTI international. DOL has approved new National Guidelines for Apprenticeship Standards for registered apprenticeships for K-12 teachers. The guidelines were developed by the Pathways Alliance and are available at https://tinyurl.com/3hta7h99. The Ohio Department of Education (ODE) recently announced the 11 teachers selected as their State Board of Education (SBOE) district's Teacher of the Year for 2024. From that group, the following four finalists were named in the competition to become the 2024 Ohio Teacher of the Year: Joseph Miller, Port Clinton City Schools, State Board District 2; Mark Lowrie, Gahanna-Jefferson Public Schools, State Board District 6; Andrea Novicky, Springfield Local Schools, State Board District 10; and Shanti' Coaston, Westlake City Schools, State Board District 11. ELECTIONS The Ohio Chamber of Commerce Tuesday issued a statement condemning the use of its logo on an advertisement "by an organization promoting Issue 1." The chamber did not name the organization using its logo or which advertisement, but said the use was unauthorized. The chamber had endorsed Issue 1, which would make it harder to amend the Ohio Constitution in the future. ELECTIONS 2023 Though the ballots have not been fully counted for Ohio's special election held Tuesday, the attention on all sides of Issue 1 has now turned towards November, when a reproductive and abortion rights amendment will appear before voters barring a successful court challenge. With all precincts reporting, Issue 1, which would have made it harder to amend the Ohio Constitution in the future, is failing 57 percent to 43 percent, with 58,073 outstanding absentee and provisional ballots still to be counted. Meanwhile, Wednesday marked 90 days until the Nov. 7 General Election. Two groups backing the proposed reproductive and abortion rights amendment -- the Ohio Democratic Party (ODP) and Ohioans United for Reproductive Rights -- held virtual press conferences to celebrate the "No" side of Issue 1 prevailing while also discussing efforts to get the November amendment passed. ODP Chair Liz Walters said Tuesday's result was a "great day for democracy" and that Ohio voters had rejected a political power grab by out-of-touch politicians. ELECTIONS 2024 The following endorsement was made over the week:

  • The U.S. Senate campaign of Republican Bernie Moreno announced the endorsement of former Arizona gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake.

ENERGY/UTILITIES The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) and Office of Ohio Consumers' Counsel (OCC) floated conflicting numbers Wednesday in their assessment of electric bill impacts on 1.25 million Ohioans in AES Ohio's 24-county territory. One thing is certain: Customers in West Central Ohio will see an increase exceeding $5 per month under former Dayton Power & Light's new electric security plan (ESP). PUCO unanimously approved AES/DP&L's fourth rate plan, or ESP IV, after the utility abandoned ESP II and III for litigious reasons and twice returned to ESP I. The three-year rate plan retains in full the settlement adopted in April by AES, staff and 14 intervenors including the Ohio Manufacturers' Association (OMA), Ohio Energy Group (OEG), Ohio Partners for Affordable Energy (OPAE), Ohio Energy Leadership Council (OELC), Interstate Gas Supply (IGS), Retail Energy Supply Association (RESA), Ohio Hospital Association (OHA), Kroger, Walmart, University of Dayton, city of Dayton, Constellation Energy Generation, ChargePoint, and Armada Power. Not joining the agreement were OCC, Citizens' Utility Board (CUB) of Oho, Environmental Law and Policy Center (ELPC), Ohio Environmental Council (OEC) and One Energy Enterprises, Inc. A customer rate increase of around $425 million over the life of ESP IV includes up to $137.6 million for AES' distribution investment rider (DIR), $47.7 million for its regulatory compliance rider (RCR) and $12.9 million for its proactive reliability optimization (PRO) rider, along with $225 million in formerly approved distribution rate hikes in the form of rate "stabilization" charges (RSC) frozen by PUCO last December under ESP I. ENVIRONMENT The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) is removing the "degradation of aesthetics" beneficial use impairment (BUI) from the Maumee area of concern (AOC), the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (Ohio EPA) announced Friday. "Conditions in the Maumee AOC -- one of the largest AOCs in the eight Great Lakes states -- have vastly improved over the last 30 years, bringing the Maumee AOC one step closer to full restoration," Ohio EPA said. The improved conditions are a result of reducing sources of oil, grease and trash through cleanups of contaminated streams, according to Ohio EPA. "Degradation of aesthetics" refers to the appearance or odor of a body of water, which can have significant effects on local communities. The removal of this BUI was requested by Ohio EPA and the Ohio Lake Erie Commission (OLEC) earlier in 2023. State agency leaders discussed the H2Ohio program and other topics related to the environment and water quality at the Columbus Metropolitan Club's (CMC) forum Wednesday. Panelists included Ohio Department of Agriculture (ODAg) Director Brian Baldridge, Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) Director Mary Mertz and Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (Ohio EPA) Director Anne Vogel. In response to the opening questions, Vogel described the history of H2Ohio and expressed gratitude for the Legislature's increasing support for the program. She also detailed Ohio's new rivers initiative that was added through the FY24-25 budget, saying it represents a fourth pillar for her department. Mertz added there is "no question" of Gov. Mike DeWine and the Legislature's commitment and said state agencies work to ensure they spend the money right. Baldridge gave his view as a former legislator as well. FEDERAL U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) has said the chamber will vote on the bipartisan Railway Safety Act of 2023 this fall, U.S. Sen. J.D. Vance (R-OH) told reporters on Friday at the Ohio State Fair. "I'm not naive about this. I think that we have to continue to make the argument, especially to some of our colleagues in the House, that you can't let these rail companies set off chemical bombs in our communities with no consequences," he continued. U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH), who is co-sponsoring the bill with Vance, issued a statement marking the six-month anniversary of Norfolk Southern's train derailment in East Palestine. After Issue 1's decisive defeat Tuesday, U.S. Sen Sherrod Brown (D-OH) fielded questions from reporters about what the special election results say about the state's chances of passing an upcoming reproductive and abortion rights amendment this November and on his own reelection bid in 2024. Over three million Ohioans cast a ballot in the special election to determine whether it should be harder to amend the state constitution ahead of the reproductive and abortion rights issue this fall. Issue 1 failed with 57 percent voting against it, and about 43 percent voting in favor of the issue. Asked if the election results could signal that Ohio is moving from an almost totally red state back to its former swing state status, Brown said he thinks that could be the case, adding that one party rule in Ohio has resulted in corruption and extremism, and that voters may be looking for a change. GENERAL ASSEMBLY/STATEHOUSE Rep. Bob Young (R-North Canton) pleaded not guilty to two misdemeanor charges Friday that allege assaults on family members. Young appeared in Barberton Municipal Court with his attorney for an arraignment after a Summit County grand jury indicted him on first-degree charges of misdemeanor domestic violence and assault. He appeared before retired Tuscarawas County Judge Edward O'Farrell, who was assigned to the case after both Barberton Municipal Court judges recused themselves. Rep. Jon Cross (R-Kenton) and his family are safe after a fire destroyed their home Saturday evening. According to media reports, the fire started in the garage and quickly spread to the rest of the house. Fire crews were sent out about 9:22 p.m., with eight fire departments assisting the Kenton Fire Department. Cross said on Facebook that the fire destroyed the house, cars and everything else, "but the flags still fly and our spirit is still strong!” GOVERNOR "The people of Ohio have spoken," Gov. Mike DeWine said Thursday, indicating he considered the results on Issue 1 to be definitive enough to rule out further consideration of changes to the amendment passage threshold for the Ohio Constitution. Unofficial results show the measure lost by about 14 points, 57-43. "They have spoken in regard to the issue about what percentage it should take to change the constitution. That's abundantly clear," he said following a press conference and school tour focused on the new literacy initiatives funded in the budget bill. Asked why he'd not been more active in campaigning for Issue 1, DeWine said given his experience from decades of elected office and multiple statewide campaigns, when the result is that decisive, debating campaign strategy isn't productive. "It just wasn't going to happen." HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES The Ohio State Medical Board this week indefinitely suspended the license of an Ohio doctor who went viral for her testimony on an anti-vaccination bill where she claimed COVID-19 vaccines could make people magnetic. Sheri Tenpenny, an osteopathic doctor and podcaster from Middleburg Heights and a noted vaccine opponent, had testified in favor of 134-HB248 (Gross), the Vaccine Choice and Anti-Discrimination Act which would have allowed individuals to decline a vaccination and not face any consequences for the refusal. Though many had filed complaints against her with the State Medical Board after the testimony, her suspension came from her refusal to respond to board investigators, a report from the board said. The report said that she failed to respond to an investigator's attempts to contact her, failed to respond to interrogatories from the board, failed to appear at a deposition, and failed to appear at an investigative office conference. HIGHER EDUCATION The Controlling Board approved advancing the disbursal of nearly $3.6 million in State Share of Instruction (SSI) payments to Eastern Gateway Community College (EGCC) Monday as the college settled a dispute with the U.S. Department of Education (USDOE) that left it cash strapped. Last year, the federal government placed the college on "heightened cash monitoring 2" status, requiring EGCC to complete a review of student files prior to the release of federal financial aid. The move halted EGCC's Free College Benefit program and Pell grant funds for new students. According to media reports, EGCC filed a federal lawsuit against USDOE, saying the agency's actions did "irreparable harm" to the school and threatened its operations. The school and the federal agency resolved the dispute over the weekend, though the final terms have not been disclosed. Former President of Eastern Gateway Community College (EGCC) Jimmie Bruce and former Vice President and Chief of Staff James Miller face indictment on theft in office and related charges stemming from an investigation by Auditor of State Keith Faber's office. Bruce and Miller were placed on leave and then fired in 2020 after the routine state audit of EGCC turned up indications of inappropriate expenditures. An investigation by the Special Investigations Unit (SIU) in Faber's office identified 205 credit card transactions totaling more than $28,000 unrelated to college operations. According to Faber's office, a Jefferson County Grand Jury returned indictments leading to felony charges of grand theft, theft in office, telecommunications fraud, having an unlawful interest in a public contract and misuse of credit cards, plus misdemeanor counts of misuse of credit cards and having an unlawful interest in a public contract. The defendants are scheduled for arraignment Wednesday, Aug. 23. Ohio State University (OSU) Senior Vice President and Athletic Director Gene Smith announced Wednesday he will retire in July 2024. Smith has spent the past 18 years at Ohio State, and he has worked 38 years as an athletics director. Born and raised in Cleveland, Smith started in his position at OSU in April 2005. Prior to Ohio State, Smith served as athletic director at Arizona State University, Iowa State University, and Eastern Michigan University. Smith's tenure at Ohio State is the third-longest among the school's eight athletic directors. Smith's philosophy of developing the "total student-athlete" has resulted in academic achievements as well. In 2022-23, Ohio State saw 765 Ohio State Scholar-Athletes, 190 Big Ten Conference Distinguished Scholars, and six Academic All-Americans. INTEL The one-year anniversary of President Joe Biden's signing the CHIPS and Science Act into law on Aug. 8, 2022 drew reactions from a range of officials Wednesday, including Biden, Gov. Mike DeWine, Lt. Gov. Jon Husted and U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH). All four were in attendance at the Intel groundbreaking one month later following the signing. President Joe Biden said, "One year ago today, I signed into law the bipartisan CHIPS and Science Act to revitalize American leadership in semiconductors, strengthen our supply chains, protect our national security, and advance American competitiveness. America invented semiconductors -- and today, they power everything from cell phones to cars to refrigerators. But over time, the United States went from producing nearly 40 percent of the world's chips to just over 10 percent, making our economy vulnerable to global supply chain disruptions. The CHIPS and Science Act aims to change that.” JUDICIAL The Ohio Supreme Court unanimously this week ruled that the Ohio Fair Plan Underwriting Association (OFP), a property insurance association created by the state in the 1960s, is a "public office" and therefore subject to public records law. The Court said that because the entity was created by a state statute, it meets the definition of a "public office" and must provide records sought by Fair Housing Opportunities of Northwest Ohio. OFP was created under Ohio Revised Code 3929.43 to establish an underwriting association with the stated purpose of helping applicants in urban areas secure basic business property or homeowners' insurance, and to administer a program to provide reasonable coverages when insurance cannot be obtained in the private market. Any person unable to obtain basic property insurance in an urban area can apply to the association for coverage. A federal judge decided Monday to reject legal claims from parents who disagreed with Bethel Local Schools' decision to allow a trans girl student to use the middle school girls' restroom. The case arose from the experience of a student referred to in court filings as Anne Roe, a transgender girl who transferred to Bethel in January of 2020 and whose parents later asked that Roe be given permission to use the communal girls' room, saying she was being ostracized by other students for using the single-occupancy restroom near the nurse's office or the faculty restroom. In January 2022, the district's board president announced at a board meeting that the district would be allowing trans students to use the restrooms aligned to their identity. Other families in the district filed suit in late 2022 to challenge that decision, asking for declaratory judgment that Title IX did not require the district to set that bathroom policy and asserting violations of parental, equal protection and First Amendment rights. In his ruling, Judge Michael Newman of the Northern District of Ohio wrote that the families' "broad assertion" of harm from the district policy does not give them standing to sue, and the injuries they claimed to suffer were hypothetical. Ohio's Board of Professional Conduct resorted to the same rule Monday in separate advisory opinions barring attorneys from contacting former clients engaged with new counsel and prohibiting law firms from attempting to claw back monetary judgments, settlements or legal fees from attorneys having left a firm with an ongoing client. "With rare exception," says Advisory Opinion 2023-07, a fired attorney may not solicit former clients to continue a professional relationship after they have retained new counsel. The conduct board then cited the same rule and comment in Advisory Opinion 2023-08, which bars law firms from inserting clauses in their employment contracts requiring departing lawyers to pay the firms a quantum meruit value of work completed while still employed there, plus 25 percent of attorney fees later collected in the lawyers' transferred cases. The Ohio Supreme Court announced new resources for custody and parenting time evaluations conducted by judges and court-appointed neutral observers. The custody tool kit explains laws, rules, best practices and court officers' responsibilities in helping families settle disputes around parenting time and shared rights and duties. "When problems arise with shared parenting or child custody, a neutral third party can be appointed by the court to investigate and make a written assessment of the needs, health, safety and development of the child," the Court explained, saying evaluators can be psychologists, social workers or family therapists who report findings and recommendations to the appointing court. NATURAL RESOURCES The Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) Division of Natural Areas and Preserves is holding special archery deer hunts at nine locations bordering the Stillwater State Scenic, Little Miami State and National Scenic, and the Big and Little Darby State and National Scenic rivers. These sites offer excellent hunting conditions while reducing the impact of deer browsing on native plant populations, the department said. Hunters must attend a mandatory meeting for each scenic river in which they would like to hunt. During each meeting, hunters will have an opportunity to purchase a $5 ticket to be entered into the scenic river area's special hunt drawing. Mailed entry forms are not permitted. PEOPLE Children's Hunger Alliance (CHA), a statewide nonprofit organization dedicated to fighting childhood hunger, Tuesday announced the retirement of Judy Mobley, president and CEO of the organization. Mobley joined CHA in April of 2016 after a 30-year career at Battelle. Under her leadership, the organization has expanded many programs that support the needs of hungry children throughout Ohio. Mobley plans to stay with the organization through the end of the year and then serve in an advisory role to ensure a smooth transition for the next president and CEO. The board has engaged BeecherHill to assist in the search for her successor. POVERTY Ohioans who need assistance to beat the heat and stay cool this summer may still apply for help through the Ohio Department of Development's (DOD) Home Energy Assistance Summer Crisis Program. DOD said that through Saturday, Sept. 30, income-eligible Ohioans can receive assistance in paying their electric bill, purchasing an air conditioner or fan, or making repairs to their central air conditioning unit through the program. The Summer Crisis Program assists low-income households with a member who is either 60 years of age or older, has a certified medical condition, has received a disconnect notice, has been shut off, is trying to establish new electric service, or requires air conditioning. The household must have a gross annual income at or below 175 percent of the federal poverty level. For a family of four, that is $52,500. Last year, the Summer Crisis Program assisted more than 36,000 households in Ohio, providing a total of $10.9 million in benefits. PUBLIC SAFETY The Ohio Collaborative Community-Police Advisory Board adopted its 13th state law enforcement standard Tuesday with new language outlining best practices for property room management and evidence control. The final standard adds a section on the National Integrated Ballistic Information Network (NIBIN) and the importance of submitting fired bullet casings to the network for ballistics imaging and potential matching to other crimes committed with the same gun. To be certified in the new standard, law enforcement agencies must establish written policies governing officers' and other agency personnel's control of evidence collection and property room control. STATE GOVERNMENT The Ohio Department of Commerce's (DOC) Division of Unclaimed Funds reports "another successful year of finding Ohioans' missing money at the Ohio State Fair." This year, the division helped return nearly $322,730 in unclaimed funds to more than 1,000 claimants who stopped by the department's booth at the fair. More than 2,700 fairgoers visited the unclaimed funds booth this year. The average claim at this year's state fair was nearly $308. One Ohioan this year found more than $50,000. Another claimant found more than $28,000 in missing money. Inspector General Randall Meyer Tuesday released the results of an investigation finding that the Ohio Turnpike and Infrastructure Commission had failed to comply with procurement process requirements through the agency's own policies and the Ohio Revised Code. The findings wrap up a nearly two-and-a-half-year investigation that began in March 2021 when Meyer's office received an anonymous complaint alleging that the commission was failing to comply with the procurement requirements of the Ohio Revised Code. TECHNOLOGY/AEROSPACE The National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) released a report on regulating artificial intelligence (AI) Thursday, with NCSL Director of Public Affairs and Outreach Mick Bullock saying it "highlights practical approaches for creating a secure digital environment and offers state legislators valuable insights on how to devise an effective state regulatory framework on AI." The report is available at https://tinyurl.com/cxns5j54. TRANSPORTATION/INFRASTRUCTURE Gov. Mike DeWine this week announced the latest round of funding from the Ohio Department of Transportation's (ODOT) Highway Safety Improvement Program that will see $61 million go to 27 new traffic safety projects around the state. The program includes the installation of Restricted Crossing U-Turns (RCUT), roundabouts, sidewalks, and other safety measures. According to Power a Clean Future Ohio (PCFO) and the Ohio Mayors Alliance (OMA), Ohio cities were recently awarded $30 million through the Rebuilding American Infrastructure with Sustainability and Equity (RAISE) grants, which aim to promote sustainable transportation initiatives nationwide. Recipients included Cincinnati, Toledo, Youngstown and Kent. The grant program is funded through the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act that was signed into law in 2021. ODOT and the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet (KYTC) announced two open houses to update the public on the $3.6 billion Brent Spence Bridge Corridor Project. One meeting will be held in Kentucky and one in Ohio to allow the public to browse exhibits, review project information, provide comments, and talk one-on-one with the project team. The public is encouraged to attend at any time during the three-hour event. No preregistration is required. The Kentucky event will be held from 4 to 7 p.m. on Wednesday, Aug. 23, at the Radisson Hotel, 668 W. 5th St., Covington, KY 41011. The Ohio event will be held from 4 to 7 p.m. on Thursday, Aug. 24 at Longworth Hall, 700 West Pete Rose Way, Cincinnati, OH 45203. VETERANS Relaying a message from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), the Ohio Department of Veterans Services (ODVS) announced Thursday that the deadline for veterans and survivors to apply for PACT Act benefits backdated to Aug. 10, 2022 had been extended to 11:59 p.m. on Monday, Aug. 14. This comes after the VA experienced technical difficulties with its system for intent to file submissions as a result of extremely high demand. The original deadline had been Wednesday, Aug. 9. The technical issues led to some applicants receiving error messages when they submitted their intent to file, even though the VA successfully logged the submissions. As a result, those who received the error messages can consider their intent to file complete and the VA is working to provide direct confirmation. "Nearly all" of the technical issues with the website have been resolved, the VA added, and it is working to decrease abnormally long call center wait times due to the resulting high volume of calls. The VA is also working to provide further communication to veterans through social media, email and in coordination with congressional leaders and veterans service organizations. WORKFORCE The Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS) announced that it is providing $600,000 to 29 individuals participating in the Columbus Promise program to work as interns at 11 local nonprofit organizations during the upcoming school year. Columbus Promise is a joint initiative that allows eligible Columbus City Schools graduates to attend six semesters at Columbus State Community College for free. The program also provides internships for the students and gives them other supports to help them be successful in college and beyond.









[Story originally published in The Hannah Report. Copyright 2023 Hannah News Service, Inc.]


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