Week In Review - April 11, 2022



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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


Gov. Mike DeWine Wednesday signed Executive Order 2022-05D, which he said will effectively ban new opioids. The order suspends the normal rulemaking process to allow the Ohio Board of Pharmacy to classify a number of bezimidazole-opioids as Schedule I drugs, meaning they have no accepted medical use in treatment and pose an imminent hazard to public health, safety and welfare. The order states the "substances have a high potential for abuse and addiction and can lead to large numbers of drug treatment admissions, emergency department visits and fatal overdoses."


AGRICULTURE


The Ohio State Fair has added three more major acts to its 2022 concert schedule: country music legend Willie Nelson, pioneering rap artist Ice Cube and Dayton-born funk band Lakeside. They will all perform at the WCOL Celeste Center. Tickets for the shows are now on sale at ticketmaster.com/OhioStateFair. Each concert ticket purchased in advance includes admission to the fair.


The Ohio Department of Agriculture (ODAg) announced recently that Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) has been detected in a backyard chicken flock in Franklin County. The positive detection was confirmed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (USDA-APHIS). HPAI is a highly contagious virus that spreads quickly and can be fatal to flocks and devastating to poultry owners, both commercial and non-commercial.


FY23-24 CAPITAL REAPPROPRIATIONS


Gov. Mike DeWine's office announced Friday he signed the capital reappropriations bill, HB597 (Oelslager), which reauthorizes projects from prior capital budgets and needed to be enacted by Friday in order for the funding to be available in the new fiscal year to avoid project disruptions.


FY22-23 BUDGET


The state notched another month of strong tax collections in March, taking in almost $324 million more than projected, according to preliminary figures from the Office of Budget and Management (OBM). Tax collections through the first three quarters of FY22 are now running $1.4 billion or 7.7 percent over estimates, reaching $19.58 billion versus projections of $18.17 billion.


CENSUS


The U.S. Census Bureau and National Archives released Friday records from the 1950 Census, as 2022 marks the end of the 72-year window in which decennial census records remain confidential. The records are available at https://1950census.archives.gov/. "Since 1790, census data have painted a vivid, vibrant portrait of America. While the decennial census is constitutionally used to determine congressional apportionment to states, the completed forms can give us a unique peek into our nation's past, to the delight of historians, genealogists, and to all of us, the public," said Robert Santos, director of the U.S. Census Bureau, in a video message about the release.


CORRECTIONS


Sinclair Community College announced it has been selected to receive grant funding in support of prison education programs through Jobs for the Future (JFF) and the Ascendium Education Group's Ready for Pell Initiative. Both JFF and Ascendium are nonprofit groups focused on educational attainment and workforce training programs. Ready for Pell is an initiative designed to help institutions that provide postsecondary education in prisons navigate upcoming changes to the Pell Grant program. Since 1994, people who are incarcerated have been prohibited from receiving Pell Grants, but the program eligibility will change in 2023, "giving learners who are incarcerated new opportunities for educational attainment and increased economic mobility," Sinclair said.


Ohio Department of Youth Services (DYS) Director Amy Ast Tuesday told the Senate Judiciary Committee that she is not going to maintain the status quo at the agency but instead wants to innovate and improve DYS. Ast's appointment as the director of DYS was recommended for approval by the committee after Ast's remarks. She said DYS is reevaluating all aspects of operations to help every youth "reach their potential while protecting public safety in the process." She said she restructured the central office to put leaders in positions that would best serve operations and youth outcomes. It also allowed her to "move DYS at a more dynamic pace, which aligns with the governor's priorities for a more effective agency and safer Ohio."


CRIME AND PUNISHMENT


Organizations ranging from the Office of the Ohio Public Defender (OPD) to the Buckeye Institute and American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) hit back on the argument Wednesday that a constitutional amendment and supporting legislation requiring cash bail to address public safety would reduce repeat offenders. Witnesses told House members that HB315 (Leland-Hillyer) and SB182 (McColley-Huffman) offered a surer and fairer method of pretrial detention without money bail, though OPD argued more vigorously for the corrosive effects of incarceration as a whole. The House Criminal Justice Committee received in-person or written-only opponent testimony on HJR2 (LaRe-Swearingen), HB607 (LaRe-Swearingen) or both from the Bail Project, Ohio Justice & Policy Center (OJPC), Cuyahoga County Public Defender's Office, Ohio Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (OACDL), Ohio Fair Courts Alliance, Bail Reform Coalition, Americans for Prosperity, Policy Matters Ohio and Arnold Ventures, as well as OPD, ACLU Ohio and the Buckeye Institute, which identified as an interested party.


DISABILITIES


The Ohio Association of County Boards of Developmental Disabilities (OACB) announced Monday that Bridget Gargan, the organization's chief executive officer, will retire effective Monday, April 11 after leading the organization for nearly nine years. Gargan, who spent more than two decades lobbying state lawmakers and elected officials on behalf of the Ohio Hospital Association before joining OACB, was appointed to her position in 2013. The association's board of trustees also said that Adam Herman, currently the group's chief operating officer (COO), will become the association's interim CEO.


ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT


The Columbus Metropolitan Club (CMC) met for a discussion on changing demographics in Central Ohio Wednesday, with the conversation focused on increased diversity amid population growth from 2010 to 2020. It featured Michael Wilkos, senior vice president of community impact at the United Way of Central Ohio, and was hosted by Autumn Glover, senior director of community health partnerships at OhioHealth.


EDUCATION


Former State Board of Education Vice President Steven Dackin and three superintendents of local school districts in Ohio are among the seven finalists who will be interviewed in closed-door sessions on Monday, April 11 and Tuesday, April 12 for the position of state superintendent, the State Board of Education announced Friday. The list does not include Interim Superintendent Stephanie Siddens, who did not apply for the post. Among the local superintendents named finalists is Thomas Hosler of Perrysburg Schools, who was a prominent advocate for the Cupp-Patterson school funding formula, aka the Fair School Funding Plan, as it worked its way toward enactment in the General Assembly over the past few years.


Also named finalists were Larry Hook, superintendent of Springboro Schools, and David Quattrochi, superintendent of Carrollton Schools. The remaining finalists are Finn Laursen, former executive director of Christian Educators Association International; Kimberly Richey, a former official in the U.S. Department of Education Office of Civil Rights; and Ronnie Tarchichi, superintendent of Pennsauken Public Schools in New Jersey.


In a new report for the Ohio Education Policy Institute, economist and school funding expert Howard Fleeter reflects on the importance of the DeRolph litigation in Ohio's school funding debates in the 25 years since the first Ohio Supreme Court ruling in the case. Justices issued four rulings in DeRolph from March 1997 to December 2002, when they relinquished jurisdiction despite concluding the system was still unconstitutional. "At a practical level, the DeRolph rulings established that Ohio's K-12 funding system needed to be both equitable and adequate. In addition, it also established that the state needed to provide significant funding for the construction and repair of school facilities, which the state has done through the creation of the Ohio School Facilities Commission (now part of the Ohio Facilities Construction Commission) which has disbursed more than $11 billion in classroom facilities assistance," he wrote. Fleeter's report notes the citation of his analysis as an Ohio State University professor at the time that the then-funding methodology relied on "residual" budgeting, by starting with the amount of funding lawmakers wanted to allocate to education and then designing a formula to achieve that result. That highlights the importance of an adequacy model that aims to determine an objective cost base for teaching typical students, plus additional needs of specific groups of students.


Reps. Jean Schmidt (R-Loveland) and Mike Loychik (R-Bazetta) introduced another bill Tuesday to restrict school instruction on "divisive concepts," also including a prohibition on instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity in grades K-3. Education groups immediately lambasted the proposal, comparing it to controversial Florida legislation derided as a "don't say gay" bill. Under HB616, schools would be barred from using material or curriculum promoting "any divisive or inherently racist concept," which the bill lists as including critical race theory, intersectional theory, the New York Times essay collection "The 1619 Project," "diversity, equity and inclusion learning outcomes," inherited racial guilt and any other concept so defined by the State Board of Education.


Member schools of the Ohio High School Athletic Association (OHSAA) will soon vote on whether high school athletes can financially benefit from their name, image and likeness (NIL). According to OHSAA, the program would be similar to the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) policy enacted by the General Assembly and Gov. Mike DeWine in Summer 2021. "This proposed addition would now allow student-athletes to sign endorsement agreements so long as their teams, schools and/or the OHSAA logo are not used and provided there are no endorsements with companies that do not support the mission of education-based athletics (casinos, gambling, alcohol, drugs, tobacco)," OHSAA said. If approved, the item will become effective on Monday, Aug. 1, unless otherwise noted. However, Senate President Matt Huffman (R-Huffman) expressed some consternation Wednesday at the prospect of OHSAA getting involved in NIL discussions at the high school level. "I don't think it's the athletic association's business. It's the families' business," he said.


ELECTIONS


The Ohio Elections Commission Thursday found a campaign finance violation with Sen. Niraj Antani's (R-Miamisburg) campaign committee, but for good cause did not impose a fine or take any further action. A complaint was filed against the committee claiming a contribution had not been properly reported. The commission followed Executive Director Phil Richter's recommendation to impose no fine.


ELECTIONS 2022


Secretary of State Frank LaRose sent a letter to legislative leaders and Gov. Mike DeWine saying that a federal court has set in motion a dual primary for the state, since the General Assembly took no action by Friday, April 1 to move the primary date. LaRose said the state will have a bifurcated primary, with election for statewide, congressional, and local offices on May 3, while conducting a separate primary election for House and Senate races and political party central committee seats most likely on Tuesday, Aug. 2. LaRose instructed the 88 county boards of elections to begin sending ballots to military and overseas voters beginning on Saturday, April 2. With this directive, he said the Tuesday, May 3 primary election was officially underway.


Secretary of State Frank LaRose cast his primary ballot Tuesday, April 5, the first day of early voting for the May 3 contest. Speaking to reporters afterwards, he said he hopes lawmakers will act "expeditiously" to establish a second primary election date, preferably in August, for state legislative and political party central committee races, as well as secure funding for such an election. However, the General Assembly's long-term calendar shows both the House and Senate taking a spring break after session on April 6, not returning until after the May 3 primary. Meanwhile, federal judges considering whether to intervene in Ohio's redistricting and primary election saga have indicated they might act if matters aren't settled by Wednesday, April 20. After the Wednesday House session, Speaker Bob Cupp (R-Lima) told reporters that his plan for the General Assembly primary election is to allow the three-judge federal panel to decide when Ohioans will vote for the offices of state representative, state senator and member of state central committees. LaRose said it costs about $20 million to $25 million to run an election.


The Joint Legislative Ethics Committee (JLEC) recently announced it was extending the financial disclosure filing deadline for Ohio House and Senate candidates to Monday, May 16, 2022. The new date corresponds with the filing deadline for current members of the Ohio House and Senate who are not primary election candidates. The extension is made by JLEC for good cause pursuant to Ohio Revised Code 102.02.


Two U.S. Senate candidates announced the launch of their first television ads this week. J.D. Vance, running as a Republican, focused on illegal immigration and drugs in his first ad. Filmed on the street in Middletown where he grew up, Vance begins the ad saying, "Are you a racist? Do you hate Mexicans?” Democrat Morgan Harper's first ad began running on Tuesday in the Columbus and Cleveland markets. Her campaign said she is spending "six figures" on the ad buy.


Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Morgan Harper Thursday said she is the only candidate in the race who supports expanding the U.S. Supreme Court. Speaking out against the recent introduction of HB616 (Loychik-Schmidt), which bars teachers from teaching certain divisive concepts and prohibits teaching about sexual orientation and gender identity in grades K-3, Harper called for federal legislation to be passed to protect the rights of LGBTQ individuals, such as the Equality Act. She also said that to make sure these rights aren't rolled back by the Supreme Court it must be expanded and recalibrated. She called the current Court "out of control."


Democratic gubernatorial candidate Nan Whaley turned to U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) for her second television advertisement, which will begin airing on Friday. In the ad, Brown says Whaley will be a governor "who works for everyone."


The following endorsements were made over the week:

  • The U.S. Senate campaign of Republican Josh Mandel announced the endorsement of U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX).

  • The U.S. Senate campaign of Republican Matt Dolan announced the endorsement of former Toledo Mayor Mike Bell.

  • Ohio Right to Life Society endorsed J.D. Vance for U.S. Senate; and Steve Chabot, Brad Wenstrup, Bill Johnson, Max Miller, Warren Davidson, Theresa Gavarone, Troy Balderson, Madison Gesiotto Gibert, and Dave Joyce for Congress.

  • The congressional campaign of Republican Theresa Gavarone announced the endorsements of former state legislator Mark Wagoner; Sandy Barber, former Fulton County Republican chair and county auditor; former Ohio House Speaker Chuck Kurfess; former state legislator Lynn Wachtmann; former Reps. Barbara Sears, Rex Damschroder, and Lynn Olman; former Wood County Republican Party Chairman Mike Marsh; Sen. Nathan Manning (R-North Ridgeville); Dee Talmage, current Republican State Central Committee member; U.S. Rep. Jim Banks (R-IN); Wood County Sheriff Mark Wasylyshyn; Williams County Sheriff Thomas Kochert; Fulton County Sheriff Roy Miller; Wood County Prosecutor Paul Dobson; and former Ohio Attorney General Betty Montgomery.

  • Former President Donald Trump endorsed Jim Jordan for Congress.

  • We the People Convention endorsed Max Miller for Congress.

  • The Ohio Manufacturers' Association PAC endorsed Gov. Mike DeWine for re-election.

  • The congressional campaign of Democrat Emilia Sykes announced the endorsements of U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH), U.S. Reps. Joyce Beatty (D-Columbus), Tim Ryan (D-Niles), Barbara Lee (D-CA), Colin Allred (D-TX), Sara Jacobs (D-CA), and Lauren Underwood (D-IL); the Ohio Environmental Council Action Fund; Black Elected Officials of Summit County; Cleveland Stonewall Democrats; Elect Democratic Women; League of Conservation Voters Action Fund; Collective PAC; Higher Heights for America PAC; She the People; and Krimson PAC.

  • The U.S. Senate campaign of Democrat Morgan Harper announced the endorsement of Our Revolution Ohio.

EMPLOYMENT/UNEMPLOYMENT


The nation added 431,000 nonfarm payroll jobs in March as the national unemployment rate fell 0.2 percent to 3.6 percent, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) said Friday. BLS said the number of unemployed persons decreased by 318,000 over the month to 6.0 million. Among the unemployed, the number of permanent job losers decreased by 191,000 to 1.4 million in March and is little different from its February 2020 level of 1.3 million. The number of persons on temporary layoff was little changed over the month at 787,000 and has essentially returned to its February 2020 level. The number of job leavers -- that is, unemployed persons who quit or voluntarily left their previous job and began looking for new employment -- fell by 176,000 to 787,000 in March. In March, the number of long-term unemployed (those jobless for 27 weeks or more) decreased by 74,000 to 1.4 million. BLS said this measure is 307,000 higher than in February 2020. The long-term unemployed accounted for 23.9 percent of all unemployed persons in March.


ENERGY


Ohio's shale oil and gas industry is showing signs of rebound as the Biden administration is in its second year, with "fracking" production matching the first six months of President Donald Trump's final year in office. Horizontal wells centered in Appalachia produced 578 billion cubic feet (cf) of natural gas to close out 2021, compared to 582 billion cf in the first quarter of 2020 and 569 billion cf in Q2 of that year. Oil rose slightly to 3,912,593/billion barrels (bbl) of oil in the last quarter of 2021 -- still well off 4,625,639 bbl in the final months of the Trump administration but beating Ohio's eight-year low of roughly 3,500,000 bbl in Q4 2014.


ENVIRONMENT


Parts of the Ohio River are impaired for human health (fish tissue), recreation and drinking water, according to a new statewide water quality report released by the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (Ohio EPA) on Friday. "Ohio River mainstem assessment units are included for the first time. The 10 new units, based upon the lock and dam pools, are assessed for recreation, human health and public drinking water supply uses," states the Ohio EPA's 2022 Integrated Water Quality Monitoring and Assessment Report. According to the report, all 10 of the units are impaired when it comes to human health (fish tissue). Six of the 10 are impaired for recreation, with the other four reaching attainment. Only one unit was impaired for public drinking water, while three reached attainment. There was insufficient information to measure two of the units for public drinking water, while four of them are not being used for public drinking water.


The U.S. Senate voted 53-47 to confirm Ketanji Brown Jackson to the U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday, making her the first Black woman to serve on the nation's highest court. U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) voted to confirm Jackson, while U.S. Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) voted against her confirmation.


FEDERAL


U.S. Rep. Bob Gibbs (R-Ashland) Wednesday made the sudden announcement that he will not seek re-election this year, forgoing a primary where he faced a candidate backed strongly by former President Donald Trump. Gibbs released a statement through his campaign criticizing the redistricting process that drew him with Max Miller, a former Trump staffer who has the backing of the former president and who had originally announced a campaign to unseat U.S. Rep. Anthony Gonzalez (R-Canton), who is also not running for re-election. "It is irresponsible to effectively confirm the congressional map for this election cycle seven days before voting begins, especially in the Seventh Congressional District where almost 90 percent of the electorate is new and nearly two-thirds is an area primarily from another district, foreign to any expectations or connection to the current Seventh District," Gibbs said in a statement.


GAMING/GAMBLING


The Ohio Casino Control Commission (OCCC) has submitted its third batch of sports betting rules to the Common Sense Initiative (CSI). The rules address involuntary exclusion, voluntary exclusion, Type C entity licensing and integrity monitoring. The commission voted to send the rules to CSI during its meeting on Wednesday, April 6.


GENERAL ASSEMBLY/STATEHOUSE


During Wednesday's floor session, Rep. Janine Boyd (D-Cleveland Heights) announced that she is leaving the House to take a position with the Biden administration. "This all happened really fast," Boyd said, later telling Hannah News that details about her new position will be released next week.


Christina Pereyma's collection of decorated Ukrainian eggs, known as "pysanky," are now being displayed on Capitol Square. The collection can be viewed in the Ohio Statehouse Rotunda and at the Ohio Arts Council's (OAC) Riffe Gallery, located in the Vern Riffe Center for Government and the Arts, 177 S. High St. The exhibit will be available until Friday, May 6, OAC said.


The Senate Workforce and Higher Education Committee heard another round of invited testimony on occupational licensing Wednesday, with witnesses representing the Ohio Department of Developmental Disabilities (DODD); Vision Professionals Board (VPB); Ohio Board of Nursing (OBN); State Board of Embalmers and Funeral Directors (EFD Board); and Board of Emergency Medical, Fire and Transportation Services (EMFTS Board).


In other action, the House Civil Justice Committee reported out HB488 (Grendell-Galonski) which revises the guardianship law; the House Higher Education and Career Readiness Committee reported out HCR28 (Stewart) which urges the NCAA restore OSU vacated wins from 2010 and HB353 (Click-Miranda) which requires higher ed institutions provide students with religious accommodations; the House Primary and Secondary Education Committee reported out HB333 (Miranda-White) which addresses school counselors; the Senate General Government Budget Committee reported out HB178 (Schmidt) which limits water pressure at swimming pools; the Senate Ways and Means Committee reported out HB95 (Manchester-Lightbody) which deals with taxes and farmers; the House Criminal Justice Committee reported out HB64 (Powell) which creates the crime of fraudulent assisted reproduction; the House State and Local Government Committee reported out HB203 (Powell) which deals with occupational licenses and HB564 (Koehler) which deals with part-time township employees; House Technology and Innovation Committee reported out SB236 (Wilson-Lang) which deals with digital communications by insurance companies; and the House Government Oversight Committee reported out SB156 (Roegner) which regulates knives.


Bills passed by the General Assembly include the following:


Bills Passed by the Ohio Senate


HB95 (Manchester-Lightbody) To temporarily allow income tax credits for beginning farmers who participate in a financial management program and for businesses that sell or rent agricultural land, livestock, facilities, or equipment to beginning farmers, to modify the law governing certain tax increment financing arrangements, to alter the types of vehicles that may be purchased at a motor vehicle show, and to permit, for a limited time, the abatement of unpaid taxes, penalties, and interest for certain municipal property. Amended on Floor, Bill Vote 32-0


HB120 (Fraizer-Richardson) To permit compassionate care visits in long-term care facilities during the COVID-19 state of emergency, to establish criteria for those visits, and to declare an emergency. Vote 32-0


HB397 (Stewart-Kick) To revise the law regarding agricultural leases. Amended on Floor, Bill Vote 32-0


HB440 (Swearingen-White) To expand the Agricultural Linked Deposit Program and the types of obligations in which the Treasurer of State may invest interim funds. Vote 32-0, Emergency Clause 32-0


SB196 (Roegner) To make changes to the law relating to building inspections. Vote 32-0


SB259 (Hoagland) To add a member of the Paralyzed Veterans of America organization to the Veterans Advisory Committee. Vote 32-0


SB273 (Hottinger-Hackett) To amend the law governing the Ohio Life and Health Insurance Guaranty Association and to make changes regarding required distributions under an alternative retirement plan. Vote 32-0


SB283 (O'Brien) To designate a portion of State Route 84 in Ashtabula County as the "World War II Veterans Memorial Highway." Vote 32-0


SB287 (Manning) To allow county credit card charges for temporary and necessary assistance care provided by a county veterans service office. Vote 32-0


Bills Passed by the Ohio House


HB476 (Bird-Lightbody) To establish a Parkinson's disease registry and to change the observance of "Parkinson's Disease Awareness Month" from September to April. Vote 95-1


HB504 (Carfagna-Johnson) To increase the penalty for "disturbing a lawful meeting" when committed with the intent to disturb or disquiet an assemblage for religious worship or to prevent, disrupt, or interfere with a virtual meeting or gathering for religious worship. Vote 95-1


HB507 (Koehler) To revise specified provisions of agriculture law. Vote 96-0


HB530 (Lampton) To amend the law governing the Ohio Life and Health Insurance Guaranty Association. Vote 96-0


HB558 (Roemer-Jordan) To modify the laws governing the drug repository program for donated prescription drugs and to make temporary changes regarding certificates of need. Vote 96-0


SB15 (Wilson) To change the circumstances in which certain fiscal officers may be held liable for a loss of public funds. Vote 96-0


SB25 (Gavarone) To enhance penalties for certain drug trafficking offenses committed in the vicinity of a substance addiction services provider or a recovering addict, to designate April as "Sexual Assault Prevention Awareness Month," and to name the act's provisions the Relapse Reduction Act. Vote 86-10


SB135 (Cirino) With regard to the operation of state institutions of higher education, free speech in public universities and colleges, the Second Chance Grant Program, high school career advising, apprenticeships, and energy project education relationships, and to make an appropriation. Vote 96-0


Bills Senate Concurred with House Amendments


SB25 (Gavarone) To enhance penalties for certain drug trafficking offenses committed in the vicinity of a substance addiction services provider or a recovering addict, to designate April as "Sexual Assault Prevention Awareness Month," and to name the act's provisions the Relapse Reduction Act. Senate Does Concur, Vote 32-0


SB135 (Cirino) With regard to the operation of state institutions of higher education, free speech in public universities and colleges, the Second Chance Grant Program, high school career advising, apprenticeships, and energy project education relationships, and to make an appropriation. Senate Does Concur, Vote 31-1


SB256 (Wilson) To amend the law related to travel insurance and other insurance provisions. Senate Does Concur, Vote 32-0


Bills House Concurred with Senate Amendments


HB95 (Manchester-Lightbody) To temporarily allow income tax credits for beginning farmers who participate in a financial management program and for businesses that sell or rent agricultural land, livestock, facilities, or equipment to beginning farmers, to modify the law governing certain tax increment financing arrangements, to alter the types of vehicles that may be purchased at a motor vehicle show, and to permit, for a limited time, the abatement of unpaid taxes, penalties, and interest for certain municipal property. House Does Concur, Vote 92-3


HB120 (Fraizer-Richardson) To permit compassionate care visits in long-term care facilities during the COVID-19 state of emergency, to establish criteria for those visits, and to declare an emergency. House Does Concur, Vote 94-0


HB175 (Hillyer) To deregulate certain ephemeral water features, make other changes to various water pollution control laws, to authorize a property tax exemption for certain private wetlands, and to make an appropriation. House Does Concur, Vote 61-35


HB291 (Callender-Troy) To amend and designate multiple memorial highways and memorial bridges and to create multiple new specialty license plates. House Does Concur, Vote 95-1


HB397 (Stewart-Kick) To revise the law regarding agricultural leases. House Does Concur, Vote 85-8


Conference Committee Report Approved


HB126 (Merrin) To require local governments that contest property values to formally pass an authorizing resolution for each contest and to notify property owners. Senate Accepts Conference Committee Report, Vote 24-8 and the House Accepts Conference Committee Report, Vote 61-35.


GOVERNOR


Bills signed by the governor:

  • HB597 CAPITAL REAPPROPRIATIONS (OELSLAGER S) To revise the law regarding priority for classroom facilities projects for which the prior conditional approval lapsed and to make capital reappropriations for the biennium ending June 30, 2024.

  • HB138 (Baldridge), modifying the laws governing services provided by emergency medical service (EMS) personnel and qualifications for serving as a medical director of an EMS organization.

  • HB188 (Lampton-Cross), prohibiting insurers from discriminating against living organ donors.

  • HB272 (Plummer-Ghanbari), requiring online marketplaces to verify certain information regarding high-volume third-party sellers of consumer products on such online marketplaces and to disclose to consumers certain contact and other information regarding such high-volume third-party sellers.

  • SB47 (Brenner-Peterson), which exempts traveling to and from a worksite and performing certain routine tasks from the overtime pay requirement and to prohibit opt-out class actions for overtime violations.

  • Appointments made during the week include the following:

  • Harun Al Rashid of Hudson (Summit County) reappointed to the Stark State College of Technology Board of Trustees for a term beginning April 6, 2022 and ending Nov. 2, 2024.

  • Sue E. Hackett of London (Madison County) and Melissa Hand Bedell (Franklin County) to the State Board of Education for terms beginning April 6, 2022 and ending Dec. 31, 2024.

  • Richard Lee Oeder of Morrow (Warren County) to the Historical Boilers Licensing Board for a term beginning April 6, 2022 and ending Sept. 30, 2025.

  • Eileen Frances Austria of Dayton (Greene County) to the Ohio Housing Finance Agency for a term beginning April 6, 2022 and ending Jan. 31, 2028.

GREAT LAKES


Lake Erie anglers can expect "world-class walleye fishing opportunities" to continue during the 2022 fishing season following years of strong hatches, according to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) Division of Wildlife. The department said Lake Erie maintains its title as "the Walleye Capital of the World" due to science-based management guiding regulations that conserve and ensure long-term angling opportunities across Ohio's waters. Additionally, a strong yellow perch population in Lake Erie's west zone will provide good fishing in 2022, ODNR noted, while low catch rates are expected to continue in the central and east zones.


HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES


An Ashland County infant's death is the first flu-associated pediatric death of the 2021-2022 season, the Ohio Department of Health (ODH) said Friday. The eight-month-old boy's death is being investigated by the Ashland County Health Department. ODH said flu-associated hospitalizations for the season are up from last year but far below 2019-2020 season. Hospitalizations have reached 972 so far this season, versus 108 for the same time period in 2020-2021, and 10,540 for the 2019-2020 season. The department said flu season typically peaks between December and February. The state reports flu season activity at www.flu.ohio.gov.


Legislation that generally prohibits the promotion of "divisive concepts" by public schools, public universities, state agencies and local governments would harm efforts to reduce racial disparities in health outcomes, minority health advocates said during a Statehouse press conference on Monday. Ohio Poverty Law Center Policy Advocate Tim Johnson, PrimaryOne Health CEO Charleta Tavares, Children's Defense Fund-Ohio Executive Director Tracy Najera and First Congregational Church Senior Minister Rev. Tim Ahrens all urged House Speaker Bob Cupp (R-Lima) to publicly announce that HB327 (Grendell-Fowler Arthur) will not receive any more hearings in the House State and Local Government Committee. "The Legislature must acknowledge that the bill cannot be fixed. It cannot be amended to make it better. HB327 must not move forward, period," Johnson said. The controversial bill has also been condemned by education groups and free speech advocates, among others.


HIGHER EDUCATION


Ohio State University (OSU) has been awarded two grants totaling $1,154,051 by the National Science Foundation (NSF). The funding, announced by U.S. Sherrod Brown (D-OH), includes $556,828 for a project to better integrate observational health data, and $597,223 for the CAREER project to improve the education of future engineers by helping address societal challenges in their fields.


Ohio's college and university presidents showed their support for a bill aimed at recruiting and retaining more college graduates during Tuesday's House Higher Education and Career Readiness Committee. Ohio State University (OSU) President Kristina Johnson as well as Bluffton University President Jane Wood appeared in person to give proponent testimony on HB514 (Cross-Denson). The bill also garnered the written support from several others. HB514, the "Graduate and Retain Ohio's Workforce (GROW) Act," would create the following incentives: a 100 percent refundable state income tax credit for college graduates who remain in Ohio for up to three years; 100 scholarships worth $25,000 over four years to certain out-of-state students; a refundable credit to employers worth 30 percent of wages paid to students in internships, apprenticeships and co-ops; and an additional Ohio College Opportunity Grant (OCOG) for associate's degree graduates who wish to pursue a bachelor's degree.


The Biden-Harris administration Wednesday announced another extension of the pause on student loan repayment, interest and collections through Wednesday, Aug. 31, 2022. Repayment had been scheduled to resume in May. "We are still recovering from the pandemic and the unprecedented economic disruption it caused. If loan payments were to resume on schedule in May, analysis of recent data from the Federal Reserve suggests that millions of student loan borrowers would face significant economic hardship, and delinquencies and defaults could threaten Americans' financial stability," President Joe Biden said in a statement. The pause will affect about 41 million people, giving them a few additional months without interest accruing on their student loans. This is the sixth extension of the pause in the past two years, according to media reports.


The Controlling Board approved $42,920,740 in scholarships through the Choose Ohio First (COF) program during its Monday meeting. The funding is aimed at increasing the state's workforce in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields. The scholarships, to be awarded over the next five years, will support an estimated 4,850 students pursuing STEM degrees and certificates.


HOUSING/HOMELESSNESS


The Coalition on Homelessness and Housing in Ohio (COHHIO) will receive $2.25 million to help improve birth outcomes and reduce infant mortality by providing stable housing for low-income families, Gov. Mike DeWine announced Wednesday. The initiative was funded in the most recent operating budget, HB110 (Oelslager), and is part of the Housing Assistance to Improve Birth and Child Outcomes Program. The program assesses the effectiveness of housing and rental assistance to reduce risk factors for infant mortality and increase housing stability of low-income households with children, as well as improve maternal and infant health outcomes.


JUDICIAL


Effective July 1, the Ohio Supreme Court will require all lower courts to have a technology plan for remote proceedings including live hearings, recorded depositions, service of "papers" and other judicial business. Amendments to the Rules of Superintendence for the Courts of Ohio will normalize remote proceedings such that "in-person" can mean either the "physical or remote presence of an individual."


MILITARY AFFAIRS


Ohio Adjutant General John Harris appointed Brig. Gen. Larry Pinkerton as commander of the Ohio Defense Forces, which includes the state's three volunteer components of the Ohio Military Reserve, Ohio Naval Militia and Ohio Cyber Reserve. Pinkerton is a retired colonel in the Ohio Army National Guard and received a promotion to brigadier general as part of the change of command ceremony. He previously served as deputy commander of the Ohio National Guard's 174th Air Defense Artillery Brigade.


Exhibitor signups are now open for the Ohio Department of Veterans Services (ODVS) Ohio Women Veterans Conference. Set for Saturday, Aug. 6, this marks the return of the event last held in 2019. It will be held at Ohio State University's Ohio Union in Columbus. The conference is one of the largest of its kind in the nation, and organizers are building the schedule now. It will include a resource fair for veterans service organizations, government agencies, VA program representatives, employers, financial services and other vendors to connect with women veterans.


NATURAL RESOURCES


The Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) detailed improvements to community trails made possible by funding from the Recreational Trails (RTP) and Clean Ohio Trails programs. ODNR administers the federal RTP grant program, which reimburses up to 80 percent of a project's cost. Chosen projects create and maintain trails, improve access for people with disabilities and provide education about trail safety and the environment.


Turkey hunting seasons open in April, the ODNR Division of Wildlife announced. Ohio's 2022 youth wild turkey hunting season is Saturday, April 9, and Sunday, April 10. Following the youth season, Ohio is divided into two zones for the remainder of spring hunting: a south zone, which opens to hunters on Saturday, April 23, and a northeast zone, which opens to hunters on Saturday, April 30. The 2022 spring wild turkey season ends on Sunday, May 22, in the south zone, and Sunday, May 29, in the northeast zone (Ashtabula, Cuyahoga, Geauga, Lake, and Trumbull counties). The spring and youth seasons are open statewide, except for Lake La Su An Wildlife Area in Williams County, which requires a special hunting permit. More information can be found at https://tinyurl.com/3rptfe9z.


The most recent bald eagle census from the ODNR Division of Wildlife estimates 806 nests in the state. This is an estimated increase of 14 percent from the 707 bald eagle nests documented in Ohio from the 2020 citizen science survey coordinated by the division. Bald eagle nesting success was at an estimated rate of 82 percent in the spring of 2021, and the number of young per nest was 1.6, well above the number of one per nest needed to sustain the population, ODNR said. These productivity rates are similar to previous years. The 2022 estimate will be released following the nesting season.


A once considered extinct plant species is now flourishing, the ODNR Division of Natural Areas and Preserves announced recently. The rare running buffalo clover has officially been removed from the federal endangered species list. Historically growing from the Appalachians to the Central Plains, running buffalo clover (RBC) derived its name from its appearance and habitat. The plant's stolons (an above ground stem) appear to be "running" across the ground and it was once found in areas where the grazing and movement of bison helped maintain the habitat it needed to succeed, the department explained. Because of its ecological connection to bison, RBC disappeared from the landscape after the large mammal nearly became extinct.


PEOPLE


Stephanie Dodd has been selected to lead to the Ohio Campus Compact (OCC), a nonprofit coalition of 40 colleges and universities that works to promote civic engagement at institutions of higher education. Dodd began her new role as the group's executive director on Friday, April 1, marking the first change in leadership since 1997 for the nonprofit organization, which was established in 1992. Former Executive Director Richard Kinsley announced his impending retirement in the summer of 2020. Dodd served as an elected member of Ohio's State Board of Education (SBOE) from 2013 through 2020. She began working with Ohio Campus Compact as a consultant in 2015. Dodd went on to serve as the group's development director, and in 2019, she took on the additional role of program director.


Madeline Cain, who served in the Ohio House of Representatives from 1989-1995 and was the first woman to serve as mayor of Lakewood, died Monday, according to the city of Lakewood. She was 72. Cain served as mayor of Lakewood from 1996 until 2003, as well as Lakewood's clerk of council. She resigned from the Ohio House after she was elected as mayor.


Anti-abortion organization Ohio Right to Life (ORTL) has announced the addition of two board members, one PAC member and a new communications director. Joining the ORTL Board of Directors are Denise Liepold and Michael McGuire, while Kayla Atchinson joined ORTL PAC. Elizabeth Whitmarsh is the new communications director for ORTL.


PUBLIC SAFETY


The Ohio State Highway Patrol (OSHP) is taking part in distracted driving efforts along with state police in Ohio's five neighbors. The project began at 12:01 a.m. Monday, April 4 and continues to 11:59 p.m. on Monday, April 11. There were 226 fatalities as a result of distracted driving from 2017 through 2021, according to OSHP, which also noted that sending or receiving a text message takes the driver's eyes off the road for an average of 4.6 seconds, which equates to driving the length of a football field for vehicles going 55 mph.


REDISTRICTING/REAPPORTIONMENT


The Republicans on the Ohio Redistricting Commission said in filings Monday that they acted in good faith to try to comply with the Ohio Supreme Court's orders to draw a new General Assembly plan, but time simply ran out for work to be completed on a plan being drafted by independent mapmakers hired by the commission. Democrats, however, accused their counterparts of "hijacking" the process and introducing an unconstitutional plan at the last minute. Members of the commission Monday filed their responses in three lawsuits challenging General Assembly plans drawn by the commission. Those filings were made in response to motions asking the Ohio Supreme Court to hold members of the commission in contempt for passing what the plaintiffs said was another unconstitutional map, and the objections filed Friday to the fourth plan passed by the commission one week ago.


Republicans who filed a lawsuit in federal court seeking to force implementation of a General Assembly redistricting plan and Secretary of State Frank LaRose filed separate briefs with that court this week asking for it to order the implementation of the most recent plan adopted by the Ohio Redistricting Commission, even if the Ohio Supreme Court strikes down that plan. The three-judge panel has set Wednesday, April 20, as a deadline for the state to sort out its redistricting issues with Ohio General Assembly districts before it will act but it will now have to order a new primary date for Ohio voters to cast ballots for Ohio House and Senate candidates and state political party executive committee seats after the General Assembly ended its work this week without setting a date. Various parties to the federal lawsuit filed briefs with the court this week arguing for and against the options it is considering. The one agreement the parties settled on is that a second primary date should be held on Tuesday, Aug. 2.


Rep. Ron Ferguson (R-Wintersville) said Tuesday that he is planning to introduce legislation that would take the funds needed to pay for a second primary election out of the Ohio Supreme Court's budget. The need for a second primary is due to unsettled redistricting maps for the Ohio House and Senate. The Ohio Supreme Court has rejected three plans adopted by the Ohio Redistricting Commission and is considering a fourth. Secretary of State Frank LaRose ordered county boards of elections to remove General Assembly races as well as state central committee races for the state political parties from the May 3 primary ballot in response.


STATE GOVERNMENT


The Controlling Board approved nearly all of the items on its agenda on Monday including the first allocation from the federal bipartisan infrastructure bill and a late addition by the Ohio Department of Commerce to upgrade business software. The only item on the agenda not approved was a request from the Ohio Treasurer of State's Office to enter a "Pay for Success" contract with the Foundation for Appalachian Ohio, which was deferred by request of the treasurer's office. The Controlling Board approved a request from the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) to increase appropriation authority to allow the agency to utilize nearly $97 million in Federal Bridge Formula Program funding authorized in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act for FY22.


Sen. Kirk Schuring (R-Canton) told Hannah News Tuesday he hoped a forthcoming meeting with Ohio Department of Development (DOD) Director Lydia Mihalik and Senate President Matt Huffman (R-Lima) will address concerns regarding a new scoring system for the Historic Preservation Tax Credit Program. Schuring had discussed the scoring with the Senate Ways and Means Committee earlier Tuesday in regard to a potential amendment on HB95 (Manchester-Lightbody), though AM2968-1 was not formally offered and the committee voted the bill out. During comments to the committee -- which he is not a member of -- Schuring opened by detailing the history of his work to create the program and efforts of then-Lt. Gov. and DOD Director Bruce Johnson, Tax Commissioner Bill Wilkin and Senate Ways and Means Chair Ron Amstutz. The program has brought $7 billion in investments to Ohio since then, he said, and "doesn't need to be fixed." The new scoring criterion, however, was applied to the latest round, which closed on March 31. Schuring said all types of housing should be treated equally, and affordable housing should be left to market forces in regard to the historic preservation tax credits.


TAXATION


Schools and local governments will only be able to challenge property valuations for tax purposes if the difference between the sale price and county auditor's valuation exceeds 10 percent and $500,000, under legislation headed to Gov. Mike DeWine's desk. The House and Senate Wednesday both adopted the version of HB126 (Merrin) hammered out in a conference committee earlier in the day. The Senate approved it on a 24-8 vote. The conference report was approved on the House floor by a vote of 59-35.


Rep. Derek Merrin (R-Monclova), the bill sponsor and conference committee chair, has sought for multiple sessions to enact restrictions on the ability of political subdivisions to challenge valuations and to enter private-pay agreements where property owners agree to make payments in order to settle the disputes. Merrin said in the conference committee hearing that the final version would provide protection against "arbitrary and unwarranted complaints" and reduce property owners' uncertainty about their tax expenses. He called private-pay agreements, which are banned in the bill, "special, unseemly cash payments that distort values and treat taxpayers differently."


TRANSPORTATION/INFRASTRUCTURE


The Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) announced the beginning of construction season in Ohio this week, saying it will invest nearly $2 billion in 829 projects across the state. According to ODOT, crews will improve 661 bridges and 7,626 miles of pavement. There are also 222 projects aimed directly at improving safety on Ohio roads. ODOT noted that 95 cents of every $1 that will be spent on construction will go toward preserving existing infrastructure.


Ohioans are being asked to comment on the state's updated freight draft plan by Sunday, April 10. ODOT said that as part of a federally-mandated process, the agency has spent the last two years updating its state freight plan called Transport Ohio. The updated plan looks at the state of the freight industry in Ohio today and for the next five years. The draft plan can be downloaded at the Transport Ohio website. Once reviewed, feedback can be shared by taking a brief survey at https://publicinput.com/TransportOhio.


UNEMPLOYMENT COMPENSATION


The state's weekly number of initial traditional unemployment claims is continuing to increase, according to the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS). For the week ending April 2, ODJFS reported 17,662 jobless claims to the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL). Last week, the department reported 16,156 jobless claims. The week before that, ODJFS reported 12,599 jobless claims. The eight-week average for traditional unemployment claims is 13,826, according to a news release from ODJFS. Ohioans filed 47,318 continued jobless claims last week, which is 361 fewer than the previous week. The eight-week average for continued jobless claims is 54,303.


URBAN REVITALIZATION


The Central District Lima project is receiving a $1.2 million grant from JobsOhio, Gov. Mike DeWine and the development nonprofit announced Friday. The funding is being provided through JobsOhio's Vibrant Community Program, which is intended to drive economic development and revitalization in communities that have been overlooked for investment. The governor announced the grant during an event in Lima.


UTILITIES


The latest version of utility overhaul bill HB317 (Wilkin) would allow gas utilities to charge consumers for "pipelines to nowhere," according to Jeff Jacobson, representing the Office of the Ohio Consumers' Counsel (OCC). "New language allows gas utilities to recover costs for construction of economic development projects 'held for future use,' meaning not for a need that is current. If I can indulge those of you who may recall this far back, do you remember when the U.S. Congress adopted a 'road to nowhere' ... as part of a boondoggle spending bill? Well, this would be the 'pipelines to nowhere,'" Jacobson told the House Public Utilities Committee on Wednesday. Jacobson testified as an opponent after the committee accepted a substitute version of HB317 that made a number of changes to the legislation.


WORKFORCE


Ohio's fifth annual "In-Demand Jobs Week" will be held the first full week of May, Gov. Mike DeWine and Lt. Gov. Jon Husted announced Tuesday, and will focus on jobs that pay over $50,000 without requiring a degree or years of training. The week runs from May 2-6. In-Demand Jobs Week was first held in 2018 and promotes the state's fastest-growing industries through statewide hiring, education and training events.

[Story originally published in The Hannah Report. Copyright 2022 Hannah News Service, Inc.]


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