Week In Review - April 13, 2020



PDF/Printer Friendly Version

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.

ABORTION


A three-judge panel of the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals on Monday dismissed Attorney General (AG) Dave Yost's appeal of a federal judge's decision to temporarily restrain the state of Ohio from enforcing a coronavirus-related public health order against surgical abortion providers, with the majority writing that the court lacks jurisdiction in the case. In mid-March, Ohio Department of Health (ODH) Director Amy Acton signed a public health order requiring health care providers to postpone elective surgeries when possible in order to preserve personal protective equipment (PPE), hospital beds and ventilators to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic. The AG sought an emergency stay of U.S. District Court Judge Michael Barrett’s subsequent temporary restraining order (TRO), arguing that abortion facilities would cause health care workers to die so they can provide a surgical abortion whenever they want.


AGRICULTURE


Despite receiving a high number of applications from agricultural producers seeking to participate in the H2Ohio program, Ohio Department of Agriculture (ODAg) Director Dorothy Pelanda said the initiative will undergo a budgetary "reevaluation" along with other agency programs as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.


ATTORNEY GENERAL


The Ohio Attorney General's Office has published a frequently-asked-questions document for government bodies navigating the logistics of open meetings during the public health emergency sparked by the COVID-19 outbreak. The office said it's fielded "many questions" since passage of HB197 (Powell-Merrin), emergency coronavirus legislation that included temporary changes to the open meeting law that are in effect until the end of the public health emergency declaration or until Tuesday, Dec. 1, including greater flexibility for meeting via teleconference or videoconference.


FY20-21 BUDGET


Ohio's tax revenues dropped more than 10 percent in March, but the lagging nature of collections and the timing of recent public health orders mean that drop doesn't represent the full scope of the economic damage wrought by the coronavirus and its disruption to the economy. Tax receipts of $1.35 billion were $159.4 million or 10.5 percent behind estimates, with sales taxes lagging by $68 million and income taxes by $22.8 million. Most of the sales tax shortfall was in non-auto sales tax, which missed estimates by $66.5 million or 9.7 percent. Auto sales taxes were off 1.1 percent or $1.4 million. For now, tax collections are still ahead of estimates for the fiscal year to date by half a percent, bringing in $89.5 million more than expected and reaching $16.99 billion.


BUSINESS/CORPORATE


Honda announced Monday that it would again extend its suspension of production at all automobile, engine and transmission plants in the U.S. and Canada due to the novel coronavirus, setting a new end date of May 1. Honda initially announced a stop in production from Monday, March 23 to Tuesday, March 31, then moved the date to resume work to Tuesday, April 7.


General Motors (GM) and Honda recently announced an agreement to jointly develop two new Honda electric vehicles (EV) using GM's global EV platform powered by proprietary batteries. GM previously announced it would work with South Korean company LG Chem Ltd. on production of EV battery cells in the Lordstown area. Production of the new cars "will combine the development expertise of both companies," and they will be manufactured at GM plants in North America. Sales are expected to begin in the 2024 model year.


The Ohio Restaurant Association (ORA) reported that more than 80 percent of respondents to its latest survey reported "significant" year-over-year sales declines, 41 percent said they had closed their restaurants temporarily and 1.5 percent said they had closed permanently. Then on Wednesday, ORAÂ said it had sent a letter to President Donald Trump, top Congressional leaders and Ohio's delegation requesting federal relief similar to terrorism insurance-related legislation after the Sept. 11 attacks.


The coronavirus pandemic represents "an unprecedented situation" for global supply chains and is the largest disruption since World War II, panelists in a recent webinar facilitated by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine said. Anne Strauss-Wieder, director of freight planning at the North Jersey Transportation Planning Authority, said it has affected the entire world while disruptive events generally affect supply chains in a limited area. The demand for various freight services has changed, too, creating a rapid and significant need for commodities that sustain communities such as health care products, food and household items. On the other hand, demand has dropped significantly for many retail products and passenger air travel.


CENSUS


About 64 million households across the nation are beginning to receive paper questionnaires, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Of the nation's households, 46.2 percent have already responded to the 2020 Census. The remaining households began receiving paper questionnaires Wednesday.


CHILDREN/FAMILIES


The Ohio Domestic Violence Network (ODVN) recently released data from the 14th Annual Domestic Violence Counts Census report showing the unmet need for domestic violence services in Ohio. The census, conducted by the National Network to End Domestic Violence (NNEDV), counts the number of adults and children seeking domestic violence services in each state. This annual census documents the number of individuals who sought services in a single 24-hour period, as well as the types of services requested, the number of service requests that went unmet due to a lack of resources, and the issues and barriers that domestic violence programs face.


CORONAVIRUS


Gov. Mike DeWine told Ohioans Saturday that he'll be wearing a cloth mask while in public, following the latest advice from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for slowing spread of the coronavirus. The governor also signed an executive order meant to make behavioral health care services more accessible via telehealth.


DeWine said Monday that, in response to a formal request, he will be sending members of the Ohio National Guard to assist the Federal Correctional Institution at Elkton, OH, which is facing a COVID-19 outbreak that has killed three inmates with dozens more showing symptoms. DeWine stressed that the deployment of the guard will be only for a medical mission that will last seven to 10 days, or until more federal assistance arrives. He clarified that the guardsmen will not be armed, and all work in the medical field. They have N95 protective masks and will assist the prison medical staff with triaging inmates and transporting seriously ill patients to hospitals.


DeWine also announced those alternative sites selected so far to expand hospital capacity should the pandemic surge occur. The sites were selected by representatives from health care systems, local governments, county emergency management agencies, state agencies and the Ohio National Guard, among others. The buildings had to be large enough to accept a high number of patients. These sites include Seagate Convention Center in Lucas County; Case Western Reserve University's Health Education Campus in Cuyahoga County; Dayton Convention Center in Montgomery County; Covelli Convention Center in Mahoning County; Duke Energy Convention Center in Hamilton County; and Greater Columbus Convention Center in Franklin County. The governor said the facilities will likely be used for patients with milder cases during a potential surge, with the more serious cases remaining at hospitals.


Lt. Gov. Jon Husted said the state will be using the Dispute Resolution Commission to solve disagreements and mediate when two separate health agencies disagree about whether a type of business should or should not be deemed essential during the state of emergency. Husted said the deliberations will be public information, and they expect to have a 24-hour turnaround time on decisions.


COVID-19 infections in the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction (DRC) increased from two to 10 Monday as more prisoners tested positive at Marion and Pickaway correctional institutions; additional inmates have been placed in isolation at three facilities; and nearly 6,000 are now under quarantine. DRC reported one positive test each at Marion and Pickaway institutions on Sunday. Within 24 hours, the number jumped to 10 infected inmates split evenly between the two prisons.


On Tuesday, the governor buoyed hard-hit businesses with news of an emergency order allowing restaurants to sell alcoholic drinks while Lt. Gov. Jon Husted announced the creation of a state Office of Small Business Relief.


The Ohio Hospital Association (OHA) is offering advice to its members and health care providers on how to decide who gets scarce medical equipment like ventilators in situations where the health care system is overwhelmed, as has been the case for some areas of the world during the COVID-19 pandemic. The guidance is not an official state plan, the association said. Some of the guidance in a document circulated this week was developed years ago by doctors, ethicists and emergency preparedness experts, drawing also from a 2009 report from the Institute of Medicine, "Guidance for establishing crisis standards of care for use in disaster situations: a letter report."


To help ramp up testing during the coronavirus pandemic, the Ohio Board of Pharmacy (OBP) issued guidance expanding the authority of pharmacists, pharmacy interns and certified pharmacy technicians to conduct COVID-19 testing under certain conditions.


Ohioans will start to hear more details of the plan to emerge from coronavirus-induced isolation next week, both Gov. DeWine and ODH Director Acton said Thursday. The administration delivered that message with discontent on its doorstep as dozens of protestors circled the Statehouse and then converged on the building's north side during the daily briefing, holding signs urging that life be re-opened and that the governor be removed, among other messages. The administration is working on "a fairly sophisticated plan" for easing the orders that have shuttered businesses, restaurants and schools and ended large gatherings, the governor said with Acton explaining that trends on virus cases, deaths, hospitalizations and intensive care admissions will help to drive the timing of starting to lift restrictions -- a process administration officials have repeatedly said will be gradual.


The governor is moving on multiple fronts against the coronavirus threat to crowded jails across Ohio's 88 counties. State administrative rules do provide local authorities basic standards for inmate screening and medical intervention, and the DeWine administrative has convened a public safety strike force with additional guidance to sheriffs' offices, as well as a Multi-Agency Coordinating (MAC) Group that operates under the Ohio Bureau of Adult Detention's (BAD) oversight of county jails.


Ohio policymakers should remove collaborative supervision requirements regarding advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Buckeye Institute said in a policy memo released Wednesday, as that prevents them from "offering the medical care they have been trained and licensed to provide."


Foodbanks have requested $25 million in assistance from the state in order to meet an "immediate and unprecedented" need for food, which has stemmed from the spread of the novel coronavirus and the subsequent economic downturn that put thousands of Ohioans out of work.


CORRECTIONS


On Friday, Gov. Mike DeWine asked local judges to consider the early release of 38 of the state's nearly 49,000 prison inmates due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The governor said 23 of the inmates are new mothers or are pregnant, while the other 15 are over the age of 60 and are within 120 days of their scheduled release. Then on Tuesday, he invoked an "overcrowding emergency" in Ohio prisons, asking the Legislature's Correctional Institution Inspection Committee (CIIC) Tuesday to grant the early release of more than 160 additional prisoners. Among the latest candidates is former Republican booster and coin dealer Tom Noe, who has been serving time for bilking $50 million of state money.


EDUCATION


Charlie Wilson, a Worthington City Schools Board of Education member and former president of the Ohio School Boards Association (OSBA), has been elected 2020-2021 president of the National School Boards Association (NSBA).


The Ohio Department of Education (ODE) has been updating its list of guidance for schools and educators as they continue to navigate the closing of school buildings, the sudden shift to distance learning and the flexibility granted by state and federal governments in response to the pandemic. At http://education.ohio.gov/coronavirus, the department now provides resources on the following topics such as school building shutdowns; child nutrition; serving students with disabilities; and graduation, among others.


ELECTIONS 2020


For the first time in state history, Ohioans will only be able to vote in a primary election through the mail. In an interview with Hannah News, Ohio elections officials said they worry whether voters will have enough time to get their absentee ballot requests filled out, send them back, receive their ballot and get those sent back in time for the April 28 deadline set by the Ohio Legislature as a part of HB197 (Powell-Merrin). Officials said they have been receiving numerous inquiries from voters since the Ohio Department of Health (ODH) closed polling locations for the March 17 primary due to concerns over the spread of COVID-19, and said there has been some confusion on how to get an absentee request and get it returned.


U.S. District Court Judge Michael Watson Friday refused to make changes to Ohio's primary election in response to a lawsuit challenging HB197's (Powell-Merrin) provisions extending absentee voting until April 28. The judge ruled the plaintiffs in the case, including the League of Women Voters of Ohio and the A. Philip Randolph Institute, were not likely to succeed on the merits of their lawsuit and that the public interest in the changes of HB197 outweigh the plaintiffs' requested relief. The Legislature passed HB197 to address issues surrounding the closing of polling locations on the presidential primary date of March 17 due to concerns over the coronavirus. The bill did not set a new in-person voting date.


U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH), who has sat on the sidelines of the Democratic presidential primary, broke his neutrality Tuesday when he endorsed former Vice President Joe Biden over U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT). The endorsement was announced by Biden's campaign and comes as Ohioans are voting by absentee ballot for the presidential primary election.


EMPLOYMENT/UNEMPLOYMENT


More than 226,000 initial unemployment claims were reported for the week that ended Saturday, April 4, marking the second straight week that jobless claims exceeded 200,000 as the economic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic continues. According to the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS), total claims from the last three weeks reached more than 696,000, compared to 364,000-plus filed in the entirety of 2019. The week before, more than 272,000 claims were filed. As the COVID-19 pandemic shut down much of the nation in March, total nonfarm payroll employment fell by 701,000 jobs, according to new figures released Friday by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The national unemployment rate rose from 3.5 percent in February to 4.4 percent in March. It is the largest over-the-month increase in the unemployment rate since January 1975. The number of unemployed persons rose by 1.4 million nationally to 7.1 million in March. Unemployment rates rose among all major worker groups, BLS said.


As the coronavirus pandemic continues to grow, Drew DeSilver, a senior writer at the Pew Research Center, analyzed disparities in telework benefits among U.S. workers based on industry and income as well as how the pandemic may come to effect the U.S.'s relationship with working from home. One of the key public health responses to the global coronavirus pandemic has been social distancing -- with a major tactic being encouraging -- or requiring -- people to work from home. In that respect, COVID-19 may yet do what years of advocacy have failed to: Make telework a benefit available to more than a relative handful of U.S. workers.


ENVIRONMENT


The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (Ohio EPA) approved 22 requests for "regulatory flexibility" as local governments and businesses deal with fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic, Ohio EPA spokesperson Heidi Griesmer told Hannah News on Monday. According to a spreadsheet provided by the agency, a total of 29 entities have asked the Ohio EPA to provide flexibility so far.


All public water systems in the state are prohibited from disconnecting customers due to non-payment of fees and charges during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to an order from Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (Ohio EPA) Director Laurie Stevenson. Coronavirus omnibus legislation HB197 (Powell-Merrin) authorized the Ohio EPA director to issue such an order for the duration of the coronavirus state of emergency declared by Gov. Mike DeWine, but not beyond Tuesday, Dec. 1.


FEDERAL


In a call with reporters Tuesday, U.S. Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) said the next round of federal legislation aimed at mitigating the economic toll of the coronavirus pandemic would fill gaps in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act -- the $2 trillion COVID-19 (CV-19) relief bill signed into law last month -- as well as act as a stimulus package for the economy. Among the gaps that need filling, Portman said local communities in Ohio that rely on income tax are losing revenue even as their costs increase due to the pandemic. Ohio's tax revenues dropped more than 10 percent in March. Additionally, Portman said while he was pleased with many portions of the CARES Act, including the expanded Small Business Administration (SBA) loans, he said other parts of the legislation are being rolled out too slowly.


U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) called for "pandemic pay" for workers at a high risk of being infected with COVID-19, such as health care workers. His proposal would include $25,000 bonuses for "essential workers," which he said would be "equivalent to a raise of $13 per hour from the start of the public health emergency until Dec. 31, 2020," as well as $15,000 recruitment bonuses designed to attract potential workers and "secure the workforce needed to fight the public health crisis."


GAMING/GAMBLING


As the state's gambling facilities remain closed during the COVID-19 pandemic, companies that run Ohio's casinos and some of the racinos have announced mass layoffs and unpaid furloughs until they can re-open for business.


GENERAL ASSEMBLY/STATEHOUSE


While the Ohio General Assembly passed a range of coronavirus response measures in HB197 (Powell-Merrin), two legislators are also working on the front lines, as it were, to treat patients directly. Sen. Stephen Huffman (R-Tipp City) is an emergency room doctor at St. Rita's Medical Center in Lima, while Rep. Beth Liston (D-Dublin) works in hospital medicine at Ohio State University and Nationwide Children's Hospital. Meanwhile, Ohio's third physician-legislator, Sen. Terry Johnson (R-McDermott), continues to prepare for coronavirus contingencies regarding his work as director of medically assisted treatment and integrated health services at Valley View Health Centers in Waverly.


House Speaker Larry Householder (R-Glenford) Monday announced the membership of his OHIO 2020 Task Force to study ways to promote economic recovery from the coronavirus outbreak. Rep. Paul Zeltwanger (R-Mason) was appointed as chair; Rep. Terrence Upchurch (D-Cleveland) was named vice chair. The group met later that day in a closed session and again in a broadcast session on Wednesday where they heard from Mike Venerable, CEO of Cincytech. Zeltwanger said at the second meeting he hopes to craft a framework for recommendations by the end of next week.


Calling it a "perfect storm" of circumstance that is increasing costs for the state at the same time as state revenue is plummeting, House Speaker Larry Householder (R-Glenford) said the state budget could be as much as $2 billion short of projections by the end of the fiscal year on June 30. Householder made the comments on Tuesday during a 50-minute interview with WOSU's Ann Fisher on her radio show "All Sides."


HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES


A new study has found that higher daily step counts were associated with lower mortality risks from all causes. The study also found that the number of steps a person takes each day, but not the intensity of stepping, had a strong association with mortality. Researchers found that, compared with taking 4,000 steps per day, a number considered to be low for adults, taking 8,000 steps per day was associated with a 51 percent lower risk for all-cause mortality. Taking 12,000 steps per day was associated with a 65 percent lower risk, compared with taking 4,000 steps.


HIGHER EDUCATION


Amid the growing coronavirus pandemic, Ohio State University (OSU) and Miami University have both announced refunds for students. OSU and the University of Cincinnati (UC) have also extended remote learning through the summer session, which begins mid-May and ends in early August for both universities. Kent State University also announced changes to its admissions process for fall 2020 applicants including, among other steps, waiving ACT and SAT standardized test requirements.


Ohio State University Thursday announced it had completed its review of financier Jeffrey

Epstein and it will be donating money equal to any contributions Epstein made to the university to the Ohio Attorney General's Human Trafficking Initiative. An associate of former Ohio State Board of Trustees Chairman Les Wexner, Epstein was arrested on federal charges accusing him of sex trafficking minors in Florida and New York. He died in his jail cell in August 2019, and a coroner ruled the death a suicide. Ohio State said its review was conducted by national accounting firm EY (formerly Ernst & Young), and identified $336,000 in donations and pledges from Epstein and the J. Epstein Foundation to the university, including a 1990 gift of $1,000 to the Wexner Center's Membership Fund disclosed in July.


HUMAN SERVICES


The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Tuesday approved a request from the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS) to use USDA food from The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP) for disaster household distribution. The approval runs from Tuesday, April 7 through April 30, and will enable ODJFS to serve 1.25 million Ohioans through its network of 13 foodbanks and more than 2,800 distribution sites, according to the USDA letter. The approval waives household verification and income eligibility requirements normally connected to TEFAP. This allows them to serve "the large number of first-time clients" without close person-to-person contact collecting information such as names, addresses, household demographics and income details.


JUDICIAL


Ohio Supreme Court Chief Justice Maureen O'Connor Tuesday released a guide to mayors' courts on how to operate during the coronavirus public health emergency. Mayors' courts, while presided over by the executive branch and not courts of record, still follow rules sanctioned by the General Assembly and promulgated by the Supreme Court.


The lawsuit the Ohio Bureau of Workers' Compensation brought against its pharmacy benefit manager (PBM) will be delayed again because of current "unprecedented events." Attorney General Dave Yost filed the litigation more than a year ago, alleging OptumRx breached its contract with BWC by not reimbursing claims at the lower amounts it promised. The case first went to mediation per the contract but came back to the docket in November after that failed to resolve the dispute. While the case initially was to go to trial in March, Judge Michael Holbrook set a new schedule in February contemplating discovery ending in September and a final pre-trial conference in January 2021. Under a new scheduling order approved recently, events are pushed back three months, with discovery to end mid-December and a final pre-trial conference likely in April 2021.


The Ohio Board of Professional Conduct said Thursday in Advisory Opinion 2020-03 that a lawyer representing clients in an administrative probe must provide the government their confidential information "to the extent reasonably necessary" to avoid assisting the parties in illegal or fraudulent conduct before the investigating agency, trumping normal standards around attorney-client privilege.


MENTAL HEALTH


A new "toolkit" from the nonprofit Mental Health America was released in advance of May being Mental Health Month, but has since been supplemented with additional resources geared toward managing and dealing with stress in an era of social distancing due to coronavirus.

MILITARY AFFAIRS


The Ohio National Guard (ONG) issued more details on its work to increase medical care capacity through alternate locations. Joint Engineer Assessment Teams (JEATs), consisting of local officials and members of the Ohio Department of Health, Ohio Emergency Management Agency and ONG, have already begun identifying potential locations that could be used in the event the current health care infrastructure is overwhelmed. These sites include unused state-owned facilities, convention centers, large commercial properties and academic sites.


Helping collect personal protective equipment (PPE) has also been added to the ONG and Ohio Military Reserve (OHMR) response to the novel coronavirus, along with providing assistance to foodbanks and increasing medical care capacity. Approximately 30 members of the ONG and OHMR, both entities within the Ohio Adjutant General's Department, are supporting the Ohio Emergency Management Agency and Ohio Department of Health (ODH) with PPE collection, processing and storage.


NATURAL RESOURCES


The popular Hocking Hills State Park closed Friday until further notice because it's too risky for visitors to maintain the proper distance to avoid spreading coronavirus on its narrow, cliffside trails, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) announced. Stepping off the trail at the park is "strictly prohibited" at the park, given the risk of falls, so keeping six feet between hikers is "nearly impossible," ODNR said. Limited park staffing would affect response times to injuries and put pressure on emergency responders, the agency said.


Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the ODNR Division of Wildlife announced it will temporarily suspend the sale of non-resident hunting and fishing licenses until further notice.


NONPROFIT ORGANIZATIONS


A range of Ohio nonprofits recently requested additional relief due to the coronavirus pandemic, and Sen. Nickie Antonio (D-Lakewood) reiterated their request in a letter to Gov. Mike DeWine Tuesday. The groups, including Ohio YMCAs, Ohio Children's Alliance, Ohio Goodwills, American Heart Association and the United Way, cited their status as both nonprofits and self-insurers regarding unemployment compensation to say they are "concerned for the viability of our organizations at the end of this crisis."


PENSIONS


Ohio's pension systems have been looking to shore up their long-term finances amid changing investment return expectations, health care inflation and other factors, and now will have to contend with the shock of a recession sparked by the coronavirus. But amid the crisis they're assuring retirees that benefits will continue. The pension systems are also adapting their own operations to the virus, implementing remote work plans and suspending in-person meetings and services. And their boards of trustees are permitted under the recently enacted emergency coronavirus legislation, HB197 (Powell-Merrin), to delay planned elections of new trustees.


POLLS/STUDIES


Coverage of COVID-19 (CV-19) has dominated the news and resulted in skyrocketing ratings for the nation's cable news networks, and according to a recent survey from Pew Research Center's Election News Pathways project, responses to that coverage and the pandemic itself vary among Americans who identify Fox News, MSNBC or CNN (the three major cable news networks featured in the analysis) as their main source of political news. In particular, Pew said responses to CV-19 news from those whose main sources of political news are MSNBC or Fox News are strikingly different. The views of those who identify CNN as their main news source most often fit somewhere between the two.


A new national poll released by Quinnipiac University Wednesday finds respondents give their highest approval marks on response to the COVID-19 pandemic to Dr. Anthony Faucci, director of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases. "Your state's governor" had the second best approval rating with 74 percent approval and 24 percent disapproval. President Donald Trump had coronavirus approval rating close to his overall approval rating: 46 percent approved of his coronavirus response, while 51 percent disapprove. His overall approval is the highest in the poll since taking office at 45 percent approval and 51 percent disapproval, up from 41 percent approval and 54 percent disapproval a month ago. Voters give Trump a positive approval rating on his handling of the economy 51 percent to 44 percent.


POVERTY


Policy Matters Ohio (PMO) released a brief Tuesday outlining additional actions the state and federal government could take to ensure access to food during the disruption caused by the novel coronavirus. PMO detailed the actions taken nationally through three "major" bills and said the next one could temporarily increase the maximum Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefit by 15 percent, providing around $25 per person per month to help afford food and help stabilize consumer spending in local economies.


SECRETARY OF STATE


Secretary of State Frank LaRose Wednesday launched a new public service announcement that features Gov. Mike DeWine and encourages Ohioans to vote by mail in the 2020 primary election. The secretary of state's office said it is encouraging stations to run the spot through the deadline for requesting vote-by-mail ballots on Saturday, April 25.


STATE GOVERNMENT


A trio of election law professors brought together by the Federalist Society on Friday for a teleforum generally agreed that Ohio Department of Health (ODH) Director Amy Acton had the authority to order all polling locations closed for the March 17 presidential primary due to coronavirus concerns, but split on whether they thought Secretary of State Frank LaRose acted appropriately in issuing a directive setting a new in-person primary date for June 2.


UTILITIES


The Ohio Consumers' Counsel (OCC) is urging the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) to divert nearly $60 million from energy efficiency (EE) programs covering 75 percent of the state's natural gas grid and earmark the funds for billpaying assistance for residents and businesses hard hit by the pandemic. PUCO could save Ohioans the same money by instead halting EE charges outright, the agency says.


However, Ohio Partners for Affordable Energy (OPAE) accused OCC the next day of exploiting the coronavirus crisis to push its long-term goal of eliminating energy efficiency (EE) programs. Instead of saving Ohioans money, as the agency claims, OPAE says cutting EE actually would "kill jobs" and hurt consumers.


The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) took additional measures Wednesday to address the governor's declared state of emergency due to COVID-19. Voting remotely for the first time, commissioners responded to the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act and eased electronic filing during the pandemic.


VETERANS


The Ohio Veterans Hall of Fame is accepting nominations to recognize U.S. Armed Forces veterans who continue to contribute to communities across the state through exceptional acts of volunteerism, advocacy, professional distinction, public service or philanthropy. The nomination deadline is June 1, 2020. Guidelines, a sample nomination and more information are available at http://dvs.ohio.gov/main/veterans-hall-of-fame.html.


WORKERS' COMPENSATION


The Ohio Bureau of Workers' Compensation (BWC) Board of Directors is being asked to send $1.6 billion in dividends to employers this spring "to ease the impact that COVID-19 has had on our economy and our business community," Gov. Mike DeWine announced Wednesday. "We know that this will help. This dividend equals approximately 100 percent of the premiums employers paid in policy year 2018," Gov. Mike DeWine said during his daily coronavirus briefing at the Statehouse. On Friday, April 10, the BWC board approved the action.

[Story originally published in The Hannah Report. Copyright 2020 Hannah News Service, Inc.]

68 views

41 South High Street, Suite 3625, Columbus, Ohio 43215, Tel. 614-782-1440

Privacy Policy  |  Disclaimer