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Week in Review August 21, 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.

Please feel free to share it with anyone else you believe may find it of interest, as well. Also, please do not hesitate to contact us should you have any questions, concerns or if we can be of any assistance.


ADDICTION/SUBSTANCE ABUSE


Ohioans on Medicaid make up a large proportion of the state's increases in intentional and unintentional drug overdose deaths from January 2019 through November 2022, Ohio Department of Medicaid (ODM) official Kendallyn Markman said Tuesday. "Our Medicaid population is largely driving intentional self-poisoning or self-harm rates of death between 2019 and 2022," Markman said during a meeting of the Stakeholder Advisory Committee for Ohio's Medicaid Substance Use Disorder (SUD) 1115 Waiver. "There's also ... the unintentional self-poisoning ... and you can see a slight increase over time since 2019, with the peak, of course ... in those pandemic months of March, May and June of 2020 that went up," she continued. "But overall, there is kind of an increasing overall slope, with the proportion of Medicaid patients, unfortunately, being the drivers of the rise in unintentional and intentional deaths."


BALLOT ISSUES


In an opinion handed down late Friday afternoon, Aug. 11, the Ohio Supreme Court unanimously rejected a challenge to the reproductive/abortion rights amendment’s appearing on the November ballot, with the justices ruling that the Ohio Constitution "does not require a petition proposing a constitutional amendment to include the text of an existing statute."

Ohioans will decide this November if adults age 21 and older should be allowed to use marijuana.


The Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol (CRMLA) filed enough valid signatures to place its initiated statute on the ballot this fall, according to the Ohio Secretary of State's Office. The campaign was 679 signatures short during the initial gathering period, and submitted 6,545 more. Of those signatures, 4,405 were valid, Secretary of State Frank LaRose told petitioners.


A new campaign has been launched to oppose the proposed initiated statute that would legalize marijuana for adults age 21 and older. "Protect Ohio Workers and Families" is a coalition of leaders from children's health care, business, veterans and law enforcement organizations, including the following: Ohio Children's Hospital Association, Ohio Adolescent Health Association, Buckeye Sheriffs' Association, Ohio Association of Chiefs of Police, Ohio Prosecuting Attorneys Association, Ohio Veterans First, Veterans Court Watch and Smart Approaches to Marijuana. Steering committee members of the campaign include Sen. Mark Romanchuk (R-Ontario), former Ohio Republican Party Chair Jane Timken, Phillips Tube Group CEO Angela Phillips and Smart Approaches to Marijuana CEO Kevin Sabet.


IT’S IN THE FY24-25 BUDGET


Changes added in the House version of the budget will shift the Joint Committee on Agency Rule Review (JCARR) from having a chair and vice chair to House and Senate co-chairs. The committee will meet at the call of the House co-chair during the first year of a general assembly and at the Senate co-chair's call during the second year, reflecting the current arrangement of a representative as chair in the first year.


According to JCARR Executive Director Ian Dollenmayer, the change will take effect Tuesday, Oct. 3 since it was not included under the emergency clause. This provision and several others added by the House were maintained in the Senate-passed and final versions of the budget, according to the Legislative Service Commission (LSC) comparison document.


Provisions the House added to the state budget, HB33 (Edwards), require public and chartered nonpublic schools to create an individualized seizure action plan for each student with an active seizure disorder diagnosis, reflecting legislation from the 134th General Assembly that passed the House but not the Senate. According to the final budget bill text, the school nurse -- or other employee at schools without a nurse -- shall create the individualized plan in collaboration with the student's parents or guardian.


Local governments received their first look at what they may get from the Local Government Fund (LGF) under changes made in budget bill HB33 (Edwards) after the Ohio Department of Taxation (ODT) released the first estimates of distributions for calendar year 2024 late last month. Thanks to a provision in the executive budget that made it into the final version of HB33, the share of General Revenue Fund (GRF) tax revenue going to the LGF and the Public Library Fund was increased from 1.66 percent to 1.7 percent for both, with the governor's estimating the additional transfer from the GRF of $12 million of FY24 and $12.6 million in FY25. The final version of the budget also increased the minimum floor for the amount counties can receive. Previously, they would receive the lesser of $750,000 or the amount received in FY13, but the budget raised that to no less than $850,000, though the allocations to other counties will be decreased proportionally.


A few weeks after enactment of universal EdChoice eligibility, Ohio education officials are very busy responding to increased interest in the program. One week in mid-July, phone and email inquiries ran about 700 daily, according to Colleen Grady, senior program officer of education policy and options at the Ohio Department of Education (ODE). Under the new state budget, HB33 (Edwards), any Ohio family can get an EdChoice scholarship, though the amount will be smaller for families earning in excess of 450 percent of the federal poverty line -- $135,000 for a family of four.


The sponsors of a bill indexing the state's homestead exemption to the rate of inflation that was included in the final version of budget bill HB33 (Edwards) said Wednesday that it likely won't be the final say on the homestead exemption this session. Reps. Steve Demetriou (R-Chagrin Falls) and Thomas Hall (R-Middletown) held a press conference at the Statehouse Wednesday along with Lorain County Auditor Craig Snodgrass and Ashtabula County Auditor David Thomas to laud the passage of the legislation, originally introduced earlier this session as HB57 (Demetriou-Hall) before it was wrapped into the budget.


Demetriou said that as rising inflation continues to affect Ohioans, they want to make sure Ohioans don't get priced out of their homes by property taxes, especially seniors and disabled veterans.


After several failed attempts in past General Assemblies, lawmakers earlier this summer approved Medicaid coverage for doula services in the FY24-25 state operating budget, among other provisions meant to improve the health of mothers and children. Unlike midwives who provide clinical support, doulas are trained professionals who provide non-medical support through a woman's pregnancy, childbirth, and postpartum period. A doula's primary role in a medical setting is to serve as an advocate for the mother and family.


CHILDREN/FAMILIES


State officials, advocates and others joined a Health Policy Institute of Ohio (HPIO) forum Thursday to discuss methods and goals for addressing some "upstream" factors driving Ohio's poor infant mortality rate. HPIO released "Social Drivers for Infant Mortality: Recommendations for Actions and Accountability in Ohio," which covers the same major topics as the previous report, "A New Approach" - housing, transportation, education, and employment, with the addition of a section on the toll of racism on birth outcomes for Black mothers and babies.


CORONAVIRUS/MONKEYPOX


Ohio Department of Health Director (ODH) Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff said Thursday that while there has been a modest rise in COVID-19 case numbers in Ohio and nationally that health officials are keeping an eye on, the number of new cases is still lower than this time last year. Vanderhoff said in August 2022, there were about 23,000 new cases reported weekly, while last week there were just under 3,000, 87 percent lower. He said there has been some increase in hospitalizations but the numbers remain lower. Most of the new cases continue to stem from the Omicron variant of the virus, he said, and the bivalent boosters released last year continue to protect well against it. He also expects a new booster to be approved in the fall that will address the newer XBB variant.


CRIME AND PUNISHMENT


Gov. Mike DeWine joined Cleveland officials on Wednesday to announce state support to help local authorities combat a recent spike in crime in the city. The Ohio State Highway Patrol, Ohio Narcotics Intelligence Center, Ohio Investigative Unit, Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction and the Ohio Department of Youth Services will partner with the Cleveland Division of Police and other local and federal authorities on a sustained violence reduction initiative, the governor's office.


Scammers are using recent obituaries to find information about a deceased person's family before contacting them and pretending to be a representative from a funeral home or cemetery to obtain the family's financial information, according to the Ohio Department of Commerce (DOC).


EAST PALESTINE DERAILMENT


Settlements with one of the founders and the fundraiser of a phony charity that had solicited donations on behalf of the Second Harvest Food Bank of the Mahoning Valley but instead kept most of the funds will now see those dollars go to the foodbank as the result of efforts by the Ohio Attorney General's Charitable Law Section. Attorney General Dave Yost's office began investigating the Ohio Clean Water Fund (OCWF), founder Michael Peppel and the organization's fundraiser after a complaint from Second Harvest officials, who said they had never given OCWF permission to raise money in the foodbank's name.


EDUCATION


Gov. Mike DeWine said Tuesday that 299 programs will be receiving nearly $54 million in federal grants through the 21st Century Community Learning Center (21st CCLC) program to provide enrichment opportunities for students as they prepare to head back to school. The program creates or expands community learning centers that provide academic enrichment and youth development programs for students who attend predominantly high-poverty and low-performing schools. The governor's office said quality after-school and summer programming is an important part of Future Forward Ohio, the state's strategic priorities for helping students recover from the impact of the pandemic.


Several federal departments Thursday announced the launch of a school safety awareness campaign to highlight federal resources and evidence-based practices available at www.schoolsafety.gov. The effort involves the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), U.S. Department of Education (USDOE), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ). As part of the campaign, the administration will release a range of resources, including a video, communications toolkit, and infographics, to help schools learn more about how to improve school safety, access support, and share information about the campaign with others. The campaign features an informational webinar showcasing federal training and technical assistance centers focused on issues related to school safety, school climate and mental health supports.


With a new school year beginning, WalletHub has released its 2023 rankings of the states with the best and worst early education systems. WalletHub compared the 50 states and the District of Columbia (D.C.) across 12 metrics, including share of school districts that offer a state pre-K program, number of pre-K quality benchmarks met, total reported spending per child enrolled in pre-K, income requirements for state pre-K eligibility, and monthly child care co-payment fees as a share of family incomes, among others.


ELECTIONS 2024


Small business owner Gina Collinsworth, a Republican of West Portsmouth, announced she will be running for the 90th House District in 2024. The seat is currently held by Rep. Justin Pizzulli (R-Franklin Furnace), who was appointed earlier this year to replace Rep. Brian Baldridge after the latter was appointed director of the Ohio Department of Agriculture.

Republican U.S. Senate candidate Bernie Moreno Tuesday announced captains in more than 50 Ohio counties for his campaign. The campaign said the individuals named, who include Rep. Rodney Creech (R-West Alexandria) and former Sen. Joy Padgett, "will help implement the Moreno campaign's strategy in each of their counties, and will serve as a hub of operations."


ELECTIONS 2026


The following endorsement was made over the week:

  • 2022 gubernatorial candidate Joe Blystone endorsed Matt Mayer for governor in 2026.

ENERGY/UTILITIES


The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) has scheduled public hearings regarding FirstEnergy's Ohio utilities' application for an electric security plan (ESP). FirstEnergy operates its Cleveland Electric Illuminating Company, Ohio Edison, and Toledo Edison distribution utilities across Ohio. The hearings begin Thursday, Sept. 7 in Cleveland. Other hearings are set for Toledo and Akron.


The AES Corporation Tuesday named Ken Zagzebski president and CEO of AES Ohio (formerly DP&L) and chairman of its boards. He formerly served as AES senior vice president. Ahmed Pasha, who recently served as acting president and CEO, will continue as the U.S. Utilities chief financial officer.


ENVIRONMENT


The Ohio Water Development Authority (OWDA) has awarded $1.4 million in low interest loans to Ohio communities to improve wastewater and drinking water infrastructure. For the month of July, OWDA funded three projects that will provide improvements and replace aging infrastructure, the agency said. Communities receiving funding include the city of Columbus, and the villages of Bainbridge and Gratis.


The Ohio Air Quality Development Authority (OAQDA) approved up to $57,000 in bond financing to support an air quality project for YS Cleaners LLC dba Dry Cleaning World in Akron at its August board meeting. The financing is provided through OAQDA's Clean Air Resource Center (CARC), which makes clean air compliance accessible and affordable for Ohio small businesses. In addition to the bond financing, Dry Cleaning World, located at 1490 N. Portage Path, also will receive a grant award not to exceed $11,400 to help replace an outdated, perchloroethylene (PERC) dry-cleaning machine with a new Realstar dry-cleaning machine that uses an environmentally-friendly solution. The upgrade will result in the total elimination of PERC, a hazardous chemical that is a known carcinogen and often used in the dry-cleaning process.


The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (Ohio EPA) has finalized its 2024 Drinking Water Assistance Fund (DWAF) program management plan, which includes more than $1.4 billion in funding. The funding will be used for a record number of infrastructure projects around the state, Ohio EPA said. The DWAF provides financial and technical assistance for a variety of projects that help improve or protect the quality of Ohio's drinking water. The 2024 DWAF program year runs from Saturday, July 1, 2023 through Sunday, June 30, 2024. Loan funds are available to all applicants that meet program requirements.


FEDERAL


Leaders at the U.S., Ohio, and Toledo chambers of commerce called for broad-based permitting reform Wednesday, saying the lengthy process is hindering federally funded infrastructure projects, deterring private investments, and halting a slew of other projects involving renewable energy and environmental restoration. Christopher Guith, senior vice president for the Global Energy Institute of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce; Steve Stivers, president and CEO of the Ohio Chamber; and Wendy Gramza, president and CEO at the Toledo Regional Chamber, all took part in the press call with reporters, which Guith said was the first of several the U.S. Chamber plans to hold with local partners as they try to ramp up pressure on federal lawmakers to come together for a compromise on the issue.


GAMING/GAMBLING


Premier Amusements should be allowed to immediately reapply for a skill games license despite having its license revoked by the state last month, the Ohio Casino Control Commission (OCCC) decided Wednesday. The company failed to submit its annual report in a timely fashion despite multiple attempts by commission staff to ensure compliance, OCCC General Counsel and Skill Games Director Andromeda Morrison said. Premier Amusements supplies crane and claw machines to approximately 200 facilities in Ohio, Morrison said, noting all of those games are currently shut down.


GENERAL ASSEMBLY/STATEHOUSE


Two staff members for the Ohio General Assembly were among 18 honorees recognized as outstanding legislative staff during the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCLS) 2023 Legislative Summit in Indianapolis this week. Professional staff associations of NCSL present up to two awards per year to recognize staff achievements. The American Society of Legislative Clerks and Secretaries recognized Ohio House Assistant Clerk Ali Sagraves with an award, and the Leadership Staff Professional Association presented Ohio Senate Deputy Chief of Staff Liz Connolly with an award.


The Joint Committee on Agency Rule (JCARR) Monday rereferred a proposed rule from the Department of Commerce (DOC) Division of Securities to the Common Sense Initiative (CSI) for further review after witnesses said the rule would create unnecessary restrictions for items that are already federally regulated. The rule (Ohio Administrative Code 1301:6-3-09) addresses the registration of certain types of securities for sale to Ohio investors, such as real estate investment trusts (REITs) and business development companies (BDCs). JCARR ordered the Division of Securities to file this rule at the Dec. 12, 2022 meeting under JCARR's policy-to-rule authority.


GUNS


A trial court erred when it enjoined the entirety of a 2018 state law preempting local government regulations, the 10th District Court of Appeals ruled Tuesday, sending the case back to the Franklin County Common Pleas Court for further hearings. Franklin County Common Pleas Court Judge Stephen McIntosh had issued a preliminary injunction against 132-HB228 (Johnson), which among other provisions, created a state law preemption of "further license, permission, restriction, delay or process" that would interfere with the "fundamental individual right" to have and carry firearms. It also enabled civil litigation against local gun restrictions.


HANNAH NEWS


Hannah News Friday unveiled an upgrade to its Ohio Revised Code (ORC) tracking feature. With this upgrade, users will now be notified of any new bill version published that affects their Tracked ORC (Ohio Revised Code) sections. Bill versions include "As Introduced," substitute versions, "Reported by Committee," "Passed by Chamber" and the act version. These ORC Alerts will be sent as part of the nightly ActionTRACK email clients receive.


HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES


Cleveland Director of Public Health Dr. David Margolius discussed a range of topics at the Cleveland City Club's forum Friday, including tobacco usage and gun violence. He also cited state policies as affecting local attempts to act on those issues. The discussion was moderated by Marlene Harris-Taylor, managing producer of health coverage at Ideastream Public Media. In regard to smoking and vaping, Margolius said it has regularly killed around 500,000 people each year nationally -- just as COVID-19 did in 2020 -- and so it deserves a similar response. Cleveland has the highest rate of smoking in the country, he added, as 35 percent of adult residents smoked in the last 30 days compared to 11 percent nationally. He further explained how tobacco companies targeted ads and promotional giveaways to majority-Black urban communities such as Cleveland when White smoking was in decline.


HIGHER EDUCATION


This year's International Human Trafficking and Social Justice Conference at the University of Toledo (UT) will mark 20 years of the university's hosting the annual event, which will be held virtually Wednesday, Sept. 20 through Friday, Sept. 22 and feature more than 110 live webinar presentations. Registration is open now through Tuesday, Sept. 12. Individuals can view the full schedule of events and register to attend on the International Human Trafficking and Social Justice Conference website at https://www.traffickingconference.com/.


A recent report by personal finance site WalletHub on student loan debt ranked Ohio as the sixth-worst state nationally, though it was third among neighboring states. The five worst states were Pennsylvania, Delaware, Mississippi, West Virginia and South Dakota. The five best-ranked states were California, Wyoming, New Mexico, Hawaii and Utah. WalletHub also calculated sub-rankings of "Student-Loan Indebtedness" and "Grant and Student Work Opportunities." Ohio ranked 11th-worst nationally and third among neighboring states for Indebtedness, while it was sixth-worst nationally and second among neighboring states in Opportunities.


A federal judge on Monday dismissed a challenge from two conservative groups to block the Biden administration from cancelling the federal student loan debt for more than 800,000 people who have been making repayments for more than 20 years. The decision will affect 804,000 borrowers who have a total of $39 billion in federal student loans that will be automatically discharged. This includes over 37,000 Ohioans with a total of over $1.7 billion in student loan debt who are eligible for cancellation, according to data from the U.S. Education Department. U.S. District Judge Thomas L. Ludington dismissed the case, saying the groups did not prove they would be harmed by the administration's latest student debt relief program.


HOUSING/HOMELESSNESS


The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) recently released the second portion of an annual report designed to estimate the scale of homelessness in the U.S., with a focus on the effect of the pandemic on sheltered homelessness. The 2021 Annual Homelessness Assessment Report (AHAR): Part 2 provides a national estimate of people who utilized shelter programs at some point between Oct. 1, 2020, and Sept. 30, 2021. The new report estimates that approximately 1,214,000 people experienced sheltered homelessness during this period, a 17 percent drop from 2019, which HUD attributed to policies implemented during the COVID-19 pandemic.


HUMAN SERVICES


As part of Child Support Awareness Month, the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS) unveiled a new website featuring the programs and resources the Office of Child Support offers Ohioans.


"Our new website, jfs.ohio.gov/child-support, contains a wealth of information, including a child support calculator and guidance on how to change or end a support order," said ODJFS Director Matt Damschroder. "You can also download the ODJFS Child Support mobile app, which gives you access to your case information, allows you to make or receive electronic payments, and has other convenient features." Ohio's child support program, supervised by ODJFS, serves nearly 675,000 children statewide. More information about Ohio's child support services can be found online at https://jfs.ohio.gov/child-support/welcome.


JUDICIAL


The Ohio Supreme Court has scheduled oral arguments in Preterm-Cleveland v. Yost for Wednesday, Sept. 27, just two weeks before early voting starts on a proposed reproductive/abortion rights constitutional amendment. The case will determine whether a preliminary injunction against "heartbeat" abortion ban 133-SB23 (Roegner) will continue to block enforcement of the law while the Hamilton County Court of Common Pleas continues to consider the merits of the case. The Court is considering arguments from Attorney General Dave Yost that the state should be allowed to immediately appeal orders preliminarily enjoining state laws, and that abortion providers do not have standing to challenge 133-SB23, which prohibits abortion when fetal cardiac activity is detected, usually around six weeks' gestation. The Court declined to review Yost's argument that the Ohio Constitution "creates no right to abortion."


LIQUOR/ALCOHOL


Starting this fall, the Ohio Department of Commerce (DOC) Division of Liquor Control (DOLC) will only accept liquor permit renewal applications online. The web-based renewal portal opens on Tuesday, DOC said. In October 2021, nearly 55 percent of permit holders who renewed used the portal. In October 2022, nearly 78 percent filed online. And during the most recent June 2023 cycle, for example, more than 80 percent of permit holders filed online.


MARIJUANA/HEMP


There are now 100 dispensaries legally operating under the Ohio Medical Marijuana Control Program (MMCP). The Ohio Board of Pharmacy (OBP) on Monday awarded a dispensary certificate of operation to Debbie's Dispensary, located at 544 Richland Ave. in Athens. The board also recently awarded certificates of operation to the following dispensaries:

  • Saphyre, located at 4066 Morse Rd. in Columbus.

  • Debbie's Dispensary, located at 1100 McArthur Rd., Ste. 112 in Jeffersonville

  • Verdant Creations, located at 876 State Route 61 in Marengo.

OBP released its June MMCP numbers, which show there are now 377,384 patients registered in the program. Of registered patients, 22,342 are military veterans, 23,405 are classified as "indigent" and 1,346 have a terminal diagnosis. Of the 377,384 registered patients, only 176,109 have both an active registration and an active recommendation from a doctor. There are now 36,003 caregivers registered in the program, and 648 physicians have certificates to recommend medical marijuana.


NATURAL RESOURCES


A photo of a great blue heron gliding low over the water took the top spot in this year's Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) Division of Wildlife photo contest. More than 1,500 photos from across the state were submitted. Winners in six categories were also chosen. The Best in Show photograph was captured in Adams County and featured the moment as a great blue heron flew with wings spread wide just above the surface of the water while its reflection stood out below. The photo was taken by David Bowie, from Adams County.


NCSL LEGISLATIVE SUMMIT


Lawmakers and legislative staff from across the United States traveled to Indianapolis this week for the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) 2023 Legislative Summit at the Indiana Convention Center. Hannah News was onsite, providing in-person coverage of the 48th annual summit, which began Monday, Aug. 14. The following highlights that coverage:


Former U.S. Vice President Mike Pence and a current presidential candidate says despite what former President Donald Trump and his allies have said, the 2020 presidential election in Georgia "was not stolen, and I had no right to overturn the election." Pence, who served as Indiana governor from 2013 through 2016, spoke during a Republican breakfast event in his home state. The room, filled with Republican state legislators from across the country, responded to his 2020 election comments with applause. "I hardly need to tell state legislators that states conduct our elections for national leadership. States certify those elections," Pence said, referring to Congress' Electoral College ceremony, which was delayed by the Jan. 6, 2021 riots in the U.S. Capitol. "The only role of the vice president of the United States as president in the Senate is to preside over a joint session of Congress where objections under the law might be heard, but where the electoral votes certified by the states would be opened and counted."


States coffers are generally flush now, but states are also generally expecting a decline in growth this fiscal year and face potential landmines in the near future, fiscal experts said Monday. Attendees faced a "Fiscal Jeopardy" board, and panelists used the questions as a segue to discussing taxation, revenue and policy topics of interest. Erica MacKellar, a program principal for NCSL; Geoffrey Buswick, managing director and governmental sector leader for U.S. public finance at S&P Global Market Intelligence; Marcia Howard, executive director of Federal Funds Information for States (FFIS); and Morgan Scarboro, vice president of tax policy for MultiState Associations, participated on the panel. Jonathan Ball, legislative fiscal analyst for the Utah Legislature, emceed the panel and provided answers for the game. "States have a lot of cash," said MacKellar, noting that state carryover and rainy day balances generally ran about 10 percent pre-pandemic but are now closer to 20 percent, according to preliminary information from a survey NCSL is in the midst of circulating to states. A large influx of federal money related to the pandemic helped to drive that trend. "States were able to use some of those federal funds for purposes they maybe would have had to use general funds for," she said.


A panel may have had overall different views on the American election system, but they largely agreed Monday on a few key points including maintaining accurate voter rolls and keeping outside money out of elections administration. The panel featured Chad Ennis, vice president of the Honest Elections Project; Liz Howard, deputy director of the Democracy Center at the Brennan Center; Rachel Orey, associate director of the Bipartisan Policy Center; and Matt Germer, a fellow at the R Street Institute. It was moderated by Charles Stewart, a professor of political science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Stewart opened the discussion by noting the breadth of the elections system and the cost to run it, including up to $5 billion to administer every presidential election. Ennis said for the most part the money comes from counties or state legislatures to fund elections, but lately there has been a persuasiveness of outside funding. The most known example is the use of "Zuckerbucks" that Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg's foundation granted to local boards of elections for voter outreach efforts, a private donation that now nearly half of the states have banned. He said those groups are creating membership programs to get those benefits rather than donating directly to officials.


Maximus Vice President Doug Howard and Economic Policy Institute (EPI) Director of the State Worker Power Initiative Jennifer Sherer discussed what state leaders can do to respond to the workforce trends that have emerged following the pandemic, as well as analyzing ones that had been present beforehand. Their discussion was moderated by Washington Senate President Pro Tempore Karen Keiser, who is chair of the Senate's Labor and Commerce Committee as well. During the discussion, Howard offered Maximus' perspective on the issues facing employers, while Sherer focused on how the trends affect workers. She also noted EPI's role in the Economic Analysis and Research Network (EARN), which includes Policy Matters Ohio, the Michigan League for Public Policy and Indiana Community Action Poverty Institute. In her remarks, Sherer said there have been "remarkable trends" of increasing employment as the job market has rebounded from the early pandemic. She also detailed issues of job access, job quality, racial and gender disparities, and income inequality along with how there has been a "decoupling" between productivity and workers' pay over time.


States are probably in for more dreary news on students' reading performance in the next few years but can see a reversal with sustained and systematic efforts to implement proven strategies, according to a curriculum expert whose company has performance data on about a third of American K-8 students. At a session on the much-discussed "science of reading" push in states, Curriculum Associates Executive Vice President Woody Paik joined Indiana Rep. Bob Behning, an assistant vice president at Marian University, to talk about performance data and instructional trends. Patrick Lyons, senior policy specialist for NCSL, moderated the discussion. Paik said amid all the changes in 30 years of "reading wars," fourth grade scores for the National Assessment of Educational Progress are essentially unchanged, and lackluster performance crosses demographic groups. "The 90th percentile kid and the 10th percentile kid and the 50th percentile kid, they were all impeded by a lack of focus on the science of reading."


When it comes to primary election participation throughout the country, a report from the nonpartisan Unite America Institute found that 8 percent of voters in the United States "effectively elected 83 percent of Congress" in 2022. "That is a wild statistic," said Beth Hladick, the institute's director of research and outreach. "If you ask non-voters why they don't participate in our politics, the top two reasons are because they don't like their options ... and the second reason is that they don't feel like their vote matters ...." Hladick gave remarks in a session titled "Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Primaries," which discussed the report, with Wyoming State Senator Cale Case and Tennessee Secretary of State Tre Hargett. The study, "Nonpartisan Primaries," finds that out of roughly 30 million registered voters who "had no say" in the 2022 congressional races, more than 13 million were independent voters barred from participating in party primaries by state law and 17 million were party-affiliated voters restrained from voting in their community's "dominant party primary."


Attendees of a session on mental health workforce issues got a sneak peek Tuesday at the preliminary findings of state-federal task force on mental health issues in the workforce. The Mental Health Matters; National Task Force on Workforce Mental Health Policy was convened by the U.S. Department of Labor's (DOL) State Exchange on Employment and Disability (SEED), along with NCSL and the Council of State Governments. Taryn Williams, DOL assistant secretary for disability employment policy, discussed the work of the task force with Maryland Del. Robin Lewis and Iowa Rep. Michael Bergen, on a panel moderated by Tennessee Sen. Becky Duncan Massey. The preliminary policy framework the task force includes the following:

  • Strengthen parity and nondiscrimination laws.

  • Expand workers' compensation, paid sick leave and disability insurance.

  • Educate consumers and employers about their rights and responsibilities.

  • Promote employee wellness programs and drug-free workplaces.

  • Promote awareness of reasonable accommodations.

  • Increase understanding of care disparities with data.

  • Engage with community members.

  • Embrace new tools.

  • Embrace peer support professionals.

  • Break down barriers to behavioral health professions.

  • Address burnout.

Panelists Tamarah Holmes, director of the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development Office of Broadband; Sally Doty, director for broadband expansion and accessibility in Mississippi; and Joseph Le, deputy director at the Kansas Office of Broadband Development, discussed how the federal Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) Program funding is being used, what has been learned already and what needs to be done going forward. U.S. district court judge in New Jersey Esther Salas, whose son was fatally shot at their front door by an assailant seeking to kill her, spoke during an afternoon session titled "Safeguarding Public Servants.” Alongside Salas was Neal Kelley, the former registrar of voters in California's Orange County, who became chair of the Committee for Safe and Secure Elections. Together, the two described an urgency to better protect public servants -- throughout various levels of government -- from politically motivated violence. In March 2023, President Joe Biden signed federal legislation giving government agencies, associations and individuals 72 hours to remove personal information related to federal judges and their family members from publicly available materials, upon a request being made. The law was named the "Daniel Anderl Judicial Security and Privacy Act" in honor of Salas' son, whose shooter was able to use public information to find out where Salas attended church, what routes she traveled for work and when her son played baseball. "Think for a minute what it would be like if the headline that we could read was something like, 'Family No. 302 was reunited last night ... and the state foster care population is now back to zero for the seventh time this year.'" That hypothetical, posited by William Bell, president and CEO of Casey Family Programs, encapsulated the aspirations for a prevention-focused child welfare system set out by speakers at an NCSL panel. Bell joined J. Bart Klika, chief research officer for Prevent Child Abuse America, and Takkeem Morgan, an entrepreneur and foster care alumnus, to discuss ways to transform child welfare policies. While massive numbers of eligibility redeterminations draw much of the focus in states' "unwinding" of pandemic-era Medicaid policies, they all face a second unwinding challenge as well -- the decision on whether to end or extend other policy flexibilities enabled during the COVID public health emergency. Experts from KFF (former Kaiser Family Foundation) and developmental disability organizations discussed disenrollment trends and options for extending pandemic-era policy flexibility. States have requested more than 400 changes to home- and community-based services (HCBS) programs amid this unwinding, said Kathryn Costanza, a program principal with NCSL. She moderated the panel that included Jennifer Tolbert, director of state health reform for KFF; Dan Berland, director of federal policy for the National Association of State Directors of Developmental Disabilities Services; and Julie Foster Hagan, assistant secretary overseeing Louisiana's Office for Citizens with Developmental Disabilities. Tolbert said the pace of disenrollment from Medicaid following the end of the continuous coverage mandate is hard to gauge because states are at various points in the process. Some have several months of data to analyze, some just one, and some won't even start to resume eligibility redeterminations and remove people from the program until the fall. A standing-room-only panel on artificial intelligence (AI) discussed the current state of AI, the risks and rewards it poses and the policy implications that government leaders face. The speakers were Chloe Autio, director for technology, public policy and applied AI governance at the advisory firm Cantellus Group, and Nicole Foster, director of global AI/machine learning and Canada public policy at Amazon Web Services (AWS). Connecticut Senate Deputy Majority Leader James Maroney hosted the discussion. He is a member of the NCSL cybersecurity task force and has worked on several tech-related bills. A panel addressed what states can do to better hire and retain workers through data-driven approaches. The discussion included Anna Dulencin, director of the science and politics program at Rutgers University - New Brunswick's Eagleton Institute of Politics in New Jersey; and Josh Martin, chief data officer for the Indiana Management Performance Hub (MPH). It was hosted by Christina Yancey, vice president for workforce development at the American Institutes for Research. In her opening comments, Yancey noted there are common issues in the private data and STEM fields that data-driven government personnel also face. That includes how to pursue a "braided river" for education experience, with multiple entry points and ongoing professional support and development rather than seeking four-year college graduates. She also recommended bringing in external technical experts and promoting government as a good place to work. Diminishing the national "obsession" with highly selective institutions and focusing more on adult learners and the practical challenges they face were some of the policy prescriptions offered at the session on bipartisan reforms of higher education. Oregon Sen. Michael Dembrow and Utah Senate Majority Whip Ann Millner, a former university president, said the day's discussion was a lead-in to forthcoming work of NCSL's new Task Force on Higher Education, which is meant to develop state policy recommendations and also help to influence federal decision-making on higher education issues. "I think our goals are common. We want access, we want affordability, we want completion and graduation," Millner said. Speakers at a forum on cybersecurity for legislatures described the changing tactics used by attacking groups and what can be done to prevent the attacks and to mitigate the damage of a breach. The discussion included Jeff Ford, chief technology and security officer for the Indiana Legislative Services Agency, and Tyler Hudak, practice lead for incident response at Ohio-based TrustedSec. In his opening comments, Ford noted there is a difficult balance between effective cybersecurity and the day-to-day operations for legislators. There is also an increased trend of stealing data and threatening to leak it rather than demanding a ransom to restore files as in the past. Ford added the best time to catch such attacks is early on and gave an overview of how "phishing" email attacks are conducted. Another trend in cybersecurity is "supply chain attacks," which Hudak explained occur when a hacker gets into the system of a trusted vendor and then targets their clients. The National Governors Association (NGA) has released an update to its 2016 roadmap that outlines solutions that governors and state officials can use to address high opioid overdose rates. Developed in coordination with Georgetown University Law Center's O'Neill Institute, NGA said its roadmap is based on the contributions of more than 30 subject matter experts and 20 states and territories. The recommendations fall across the spectrum of health services and are organized into five areas -- foundations, prevention, harm reduction, treatment and recovery. This new publication, titled "Implementing Best Practices Across the Continuum of Care to Prevent Overdose," reflects the evolving nature of the ongoing drug overdose epidemic and includes strategies specific to the rise of illicitly manufactured fentanyl rather than prescription opioids, the focus of the 2016 roadmap. Evolving science on early childhood development gives even greater insight into how crucial the first few years of life are for newborns and young children and sheds light on how policymakers can improve outcomes for children, panelists said. The forum drew on research from the book From Neurons to Neighborhoods: The Science of Early Childhood Development, published in 2000 and edited by Dr. Jack P. Shonkoff, the director of the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University, who was also a panelist at Tuesday's forum: "Thinking Beyond Neurons and Neighborhoods: New Science for Early Childhood Policy." Other panelists included Indiana Lt. Gov. Suzanne Crouch and Dr. Melissa D. Klitzman, an assistant professor of Clinical Pediatrics at the Indiana University School of Medicine and a pediatric hospitalist. While From Neurons to Neighborhoods is still "very valid" and has been driving early childhood policy for the past 20 years, Shonkoff said, new research, which he called early childhood development (ECD) 2.0, goes further and builds on that knowledge. Federal investment through the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) and Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) outpaced the transcontinental railroad or the New Deal, but the permitting process for major infrastructure threatens to throttle the pace of building, according to one expert speaking at an NCSL session. "How are we not able to get out of our own way in a decision-making process that adds 20 to 30 percent in project cost ... you know who ends up paying those costs? We do," said Alex Herrgott, a former congressional and White House staffer who founded the Permitting Institute. He provided a laundry list of challenges that can cause major energy transmission projects to spend five to seven years in the permitting approval process with state, local and federal regulators -- reliance on faxes, documents that get caught in email servers, large-scale vacancies at the federal Bureau of Land Management (BLM). With project timelines that can stretch across gubernatorial and presidential terms, relevant rules and regulations can be pulled or changed mid-stream. From efforts to decriminalize fentanyl test strips to jail diversion programs for individuals experiencing a mental crisis, Amanda Essex, NCSL's criminal justice program principal, said state governments have been active throughout the criminal justice system this year. "We've seen front-end reforms to prevent initial involvement and deeper involvement with the justice system," said Essex. "We've seen a lot of legislation to improve crisis response, as well as to provide behavioral health services. A large part of that is because a person experiencing a mental health crisis is more likely to encounter law enforcement than to receive treatment crisis intervention." Essex spoke at a session titled "Criminal Justice 2023: What Happened, What's Changed and What's Ahead." When it comes to the future of privacy policy and how it's implemented by state governments, some experts anticipate that artificial intelligence (AI), privacy protection for children using technology and potential data broker regulations could be the forefront issues. "What is the intersection between privacy issues and issues around competition? Privacy and content moderation?" said Keir Lamont, director of the Future of Privacy Forum's American legislation team. "I think we see privacy and online safety and autonomy intersecting, and sometimes conflicting [in] really interesting ways. I think that's something that the privacy profession is going to have to explore." Lamont presented at a session titled "None of Your Business: Trends in Privacy Legislation." Panelists discussed how to better support educators amid the pandemic's effects on learning and student mental health, along with external issues that make retention difficult. The solutions they described include heavy investments in education and a reimagining of what it looks like, with the decision-making process involving administrators, teachers and students. The panel included a 2023 teacher of the year, the president of the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP) and three people working in professional development for teachers. It was moderated by NCSL Senior Policy Specialist Molly Gold. OHIO HISTORY A new Ohio historical marker is now on display outside the Summit County Courthouse, commemorating the 1847 meeting there of a group of educators who founded the organization that would go on to become the Ohio Education Association (OEA). OEA leaders joined with the Summit County executive Thursday afternoon, Aug. 10 to unveil the historical marker, which is one of about 1,750 placed around the state by the Ohio History Connection to tell the unique stories of Ohio's communities. PEOPLE Ohio leaders Friday recognized the Tuesday, Aug. 8 death of former Rep. Chuck Calvert (R-Medina), 84, who had served as House Finance Committee chair and was later chairman of the Ohio Elections Commission. Calvert was a member of the House during the 123rd through 126th General Assemblies. He previously served in the U.S. Army and had worked as chief financial officer of NASA's then-Lewis Research Center, now named for John Glenn. Rob Nichols is no longer with Secretary of State Frank LaRose's office, a spokesperson for LaRose said, though no additional information was provided as to the reason for the press secretary's departure. Mary Cianciolo has been named interim press secretary. Nichols previously worked with the Ohio Business Roundtable and served as a press secretary for former Gov. John Kasich. Multiple media outlets made note of a Twitter/X account that Nichols had been using to criticize others, including former President Donald Trump, though Nichols' name was not on the now-deleted account. POLLS/STUDIES In the wake of a federal indictment accusing former President Donald Trump of conspiring to defraud the U.S. by attempting to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election, 54 percent of surveyed Americans think Trump should be prosecuted on criminal charges, while 42 percent do not, according to a Quinnipiac University national poll released Wednesday. Democrats (95 percent to 5 percent) and Independents (57 percent to 37 percent) think the former president should be prosecuted on criminal charges for attempting to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election, while Republicans (85 percent to 12 percent) think Trump should not be prosecuted. "Not only do a large majority of Americans regard the federal charges as serious, more than half of Americans think the former president should face prosecution," Quinnipiac University Polling Analyst Tim Malloy said. Sixty-eight percent of respondents think that if a person is convicted of a felony, they should not still be eligible to be president of the U.S., while 23 percent think a person should still be eligible. Democrats (82 percent to 15 percent), Independents (67 percent to 25 percent) and Republicans (58 percent to 29 percent) agree that if a person is convicted of a felony, they should not still be eligible for the presidency. PUBLIC SAFETY The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) awarded $800,000 in hazardous training grants to 21 jurisdictions Wednesday. The annual Hazardous Materials Training and Planning Grant program helps public safety and EMS personnel for local governments and educational institutions prepare for hazmat incidents. "Hazardous materials training grants will provide over 1,600 emergency response personnel with valuable training to adequately respond to emergencies across Ohio," PUCO Chairwoman Jenifer French said after Wednesday's vote. Ohio Task Force 1 (OH-TF1) received activation orders for three human remains detection (HRD) canines to mobilize to Maui, HI, following the devastating wildfires. The team deployed three handlers and three dogs, all trained and certified to detect and alert for deceased persons. They joined Washington Task Force 1 and Nevada Task Force 1 along with a large number of already deployed HRD canines from other task forces in FEMA's National US&R System. REDISTRICTING/REAPPORTIONMENT A proposed constitutional amendment changing the way the state draws legislative and congressional lines backed by two former members of the Ohio Supreme Court -- former Ohio Supreme Court Chief Justice Maureen O'Connor and former Justice Yvette McGee Brown -- has been filed with the attorney general's office with a goal of making the 2024 ballot. Citizens Not Politicians, the group behind the proposed amendment, said it would create a 15-member Ohio Citizens Redistricting Commission made up of Republican, Democratic and independent citizens who represent broadly different geographic areas and demographics of the state. The amendment would also ban current or former politicians, political party officials, lobbyists, and large political donors from sitting on the commission. It would require fair and impartial districts by making it unconstitutional to draw voting districts that discriminate against or in favor of any political party or individual politician. It also requires the commission to operate under an open and independent process, the group said. Senate President Matt Huffman (R-Lima) said Tuesday he's not seen the details of the new redistricting amendment proposal but questioned whether it could enjoy the level of support given to the prior General Assembly redistricting reform amendment. "We did this in 2015, and I don't know what the percentage was, but well over 70 percent of the voters voted for the proposal. And even though it didn't come out the way that some folks wanted, it would be hard to get over 70 percent of the people to vote for a new proposal, I think," Huffman told Hannah News outside a session on the public or privileged nature of legislative records at the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) 2023 Legislative Summit. Asked about the core argument of amendment backers that legislators should not be involved in drawing their own district lines, he said, "The question is, are people who are responsible to the public, elected officials, going to be involved in the drawing of lines ... The U.S. Constitution says state legislatures control the time, place and manner of elections, and that's the way we do it, kind of, in Ohio." The governor and members of the General Assembly should not be part of the Ohio Redistricting Commission, Gov. Mike DeWine said Thursday. 'I don't think the governor should be on there. I don't think the legislators should be on there either," DeWine told reporters outside a meeting of the Governor's Executive Workforce Board. STATE GOVERNMENT The Ohio Department of Development (DOD) announced Friday that Chief Communications and Marketing Officer Sarah Wickham will also serve as director of TourismOhio. Her new role will include developing and implementing "innovative, targeted marketing strategies that increase the state's brand reputation and align with the new 'Ohio, the Heart of it All' brand." Wickham went to DOD in January after serving as chief of communications at the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, where she helped promote Ohio as a destination for outdoor recreation. She also has experience developing and implementing policy at the Ohio Department of Education. Ohio Emergency Management Agency (EMA) Executive Director Sima Merick this week announced a sixth round of reimbursements of over $20,000 from the State Disaster Relief Program (SDRP) for areas statewide impacted by severe storms last year. The SDRP is a reimbursement program that can be used in occurrences where storm damage amounts do not meet the threshold for federal assistance. In November, Gov. Mike DeWine authorized the use of the SDRP to help provide relief to several counties impacted by severe weather in February, May, June and July of 2022. TECHNOLOGY/AEROSPACE The use of artificial intelligence (AI) should not be regulated at the state level, but state governments should have policies for how the technology is used at state agencies, Lt. Gov. Jon Husted told Hannah News on Thursday. "Regulating it at the state level is not the way to go about it. You need to have a national policy on it. And I think we should be slow to regulate something that we don't fully understand," Husted said following a meeting of the Governor's Executive Workforce Board at the Nationwide Insurance headquarters in Columbus, during which generative AI was the primary topic.



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


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