Week In Review - April 19, 2021



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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.

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ABORTION Gov. Mike DeWine signed an executive order allowing for the emergency adoption of rules related to 133-SB27 (Uecker), the law that requires fetal remains from surgical abortions to be cremated or buried, the governor's office announced on Friday. Only Monday, April 5, Hamilton County Common Pleas Court Judge Alison Hatheway had granted a preliminary injunction to block implementation of the law until 30 days after the rulemaking process. The Ohio law prohibiting doctors from providing abortion-inducing drugs via telemedicine will not go into effect for at least two weeks. Hamilton County Court of Common Pleas Judge Alison Hatheway granted a temporary restraining order on Wednesday blocking enforcement of 133-SB260 (S. Huffman) after the law was challenged by Planned Parenthood of Greater Ohio and other affiliates. Ohio's law prohibiting a doctor from performing an abortion when they know the patient is seeking the procedure due to a Down syndrome diagnosis will go now go into effect, following a ruling from the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals. The 9-7 decision allows for the implementation of 132-HB214 (LaTourette-Merrin), which was signed by former Gov. John Kasich in late 2017. The law had been enjoined by U.S. District Court Judge Timothy Black and a three-judge panel of the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals. ARTS, SPORTS AND ENTERTAINMENT U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) told Greater Columbus Arts Council (GCAC) President and CEO Tom Katzenmeyer during the Ohio Citizens for the Arts' (OCA) Creative Ohio Advocacy Summit this week that he's confident that he and many other Ohioans will be able to safely attend a sold-out performance of "The Nutcracker" this Christmas season. FY22-23 BUDGET The House Finance Committee unveiled its initial version of biennial budget HB110 (Oelslager) Tuesday, wrapping in the school funding plan from HB1 (Callender-Sweeney) and a 2 percent tax cut across the board. It also appropriates $155 million in COVID-19 relief for small businesses and adds more oversight of the executive branch, including the creation of a Joint Legislative Oversight and Review Committee of Federal COVID Relief Aid and the referral of more spending initiatives by state agencies to the Controlling Board for approval. Meanwhile, Senate President Matt Huffman (R-Lima) and Senate Finance Committee Chairman Matt Dolan (R-Chagrin Falls) laid out a tentative hearing schedule that includes a newly formed Senate General Government Budget Committee chaired by Sen. Tim Schaffer (R-Lancaster) as well as sending portions of the budget to standing Senate committees to hear testimony based on specific topics. The Senate Finance Committee Wednesday began informal hearings on the proposed FY22-23 budget as the panel seeks to get a jump on the process ahead of officially receiving the legislation from the House --- something the panel chair, Sen. Matt Dolan (R-Chagrin Falls), said he expects in the next couple of weeks. Legislators face a June 30 deadline to have the budget in place for the July 1 beginning of FY22. First witnesses in the Senate committee included Office of Budget and Management Director Kim Murnieks and Legislative Service Commission Director Wendy Zhan. Both based their testimony on the as-introduced version of the budget. Also testifying were Ohio Department of Higher Education Chancellor Randy Gardner and Ohio Department of Education Superintendent Paolo DeMaria. Ohio Department of Jobs and Family Services (ODJFS) Interim Director Matt Damschroder gave his first testimony on the biennial budget in his new position during Thursday's Senate Finance Committee. His testimony closely mirrored his predecessor's Kim Henderson's before the House Finance Committee though he placed more emphasis on the public-private partnership, what he called the "P3 team," enlisted to help the state deal with the massive influx of pandemic-related unemployment claims. CHILDREN/FAMILIES Ohio will receive more than $1 billion in additional funding for child care from the latest federal COVID relief package, and some advocates want state leaders to put part of it toward expanding the number of families eligible for publicly funded child care. Various sources estimate the American Rescue Plan (ARP) will provide Ohio in the neighborhood of $800 million for "stabilization grants" to help child care providers address fallout of the pandemic -- increased operating costs from COVID protocols and lower enrollment, among other effects -- as well as about $500 million in Child Development Block Grant funds for child care. There's also a relatively small, ongoing increase of about $18 million per year in federal child care funding. Legislation that would expand eligibility for publicly funded child care received a wide range of support in the House Families, Aging and Human Services Committee Thursday, with proponent testimony on HB145 (Lightbody-White) offered by business groups, advocacy organizations and local government associations. Lynanne Gutierrez, assistant director of Groundwork Ohio, said women are leaving the workforce due to child care challenges, making investments in quality services "a critical support for the workforce of today." Families are forced to choose between spending a "significant portion" of their income on child care, utilizing cheaper but "potentially lower-quality or unsafe" options or leaving the workforce altogether, she said. CORONAVIRUS Ohio Department of Health Director Stephanie McCloud April 8 signed an amended health order on facial coverings, social distancing and non-congregating. Gov. Mike DeWine Tuesday morning announced a temporary pause in the state's using the Johnson & Johnson (J&J) single-shot COVID-19 vaccine in accordance with Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommendations. The vaccine had been primarily directed to mass vaccination clinics and colleges and universities. On Wednesday, the FDA and CDC reviewed data involving six reported U.S. cases of a "rare and severe" type of blood clot in individuals after receiving the J&J vaccine. One of the six died, and all were women between the ages of 18 and 48 with symptoms occurring six to 13 days after vaccination. As of April 12, over 6.8 million doses -- including 264,311 in Ohio -- of the J&J vaccine have been administered. At that time, the two agencies decided the matter warranted further investigation, so the halt in the use of vaccine continues. U.S. Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) reacted to the news Tuesday regarding the Johnson and Johnson vaccine, saying he is confident in the federal agency and other private entities reviewing the vaccine's data and coming to a "science-based conclusion." Portman was among the volunteers who participated in the clinical trial for the Johnson and Johnson vaccine. The governor's message Thursday during his COVID-19 briefing from the University of Toledo campus, where he and First Lady Fran DeWine spent the day visiting vaccination sites in the area, was "vaccinate, vaccinate, vaccinate." Vaccinations are key if Ohioans want to return to normal -- that is travel, visit their grandmothers, go out to eat or to a bar or attend an event in person, DeWine repeatedly stressed during the briefing. Vaccination is key even as Ohio's number of new COVID-19 cases remain above the 21-day average, coming in at 2,164 new cases on Thursday, with 181 hospitalizations including 31 ICU admissions. This translates to the current statewide average number of cases per 100,000 residents of 200 -- a number moving away from DeWine's target of 50 per 100,000. Asked several times whether he's given any thought to revising that target, DeWine said he does not believe it to be an unattainable number. The reason? Increased vaccinations. Thursday also saw Franklin County return to the "purple" category on the Ohio Public Health Advisory System. CORRECTIONS The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Ohio announced Monday that it was filing a lawsuit over the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction (DRC) policy of garnishing money from prisoners' COVID-19 relief funds to pay fines, fees, costs and other debts to courts and state agencies. The Ohio Justice & Policy Center also joined the case. The Ohio Attorney General's Office announced that former Cuyahoga County Corrections Center (CCCC) Officer Martin Devring will serve 30 days in jail for tampering with records and dereliction of duty following an inmate death. Devring, 61, pleaded guilty to the two misdemeanors in February and was sentenced in Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court Wednesday. DEATH PENALTY Issues with obtaining execution drugs continued to cause Gov. Mike DeWine's administration to push back executions, with the governor announcing Friday that he had given reprieves to three more Death Row inmates scheduled to be executed later this year: Timothy L. Hoffner, John David Stumpf and Lawrence A. Landrum. All now have new execution dates in 2024. ECONOMY Policy Matters Ohio (PMO) released a report Tuesday on the potential benefits of raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour, with researcher Michael Shields saying it would add $6.1 billion into the state economy each year, benefit 1.56 million Ohioans and drive greater pay equity for women and minorities. The report modeled the effects of raising the state minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2026 and eliminating the subminimum wage for tipped workers. According to the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS), total employment is predicted to decrease at an annual rate of -5.32 percent for the next six months in Ohio. EDUCATION The State Board of Education Emerging Issues Committee voted to recommend that the full State Board of Education (SBOE) send a rule to the Joint Committee on Agency Rule Review (JCARR) that would have the effect of requiring chartered nonpublic schools to offer at least one high school-level course in one of the following subject areas: foreign language, technology, family and consumer sciences or business education. The State Board of Education (SBOE) narrowly adopted a resolution Tuesday expressing its position on report card reforms as lawmakers in both chambers debate the issue. The board also delayed a proposed vote to endorse a school funding system in line with the main elements of the Cupp-Patterson plan -- which House lawmakers rolled into the budget bill that same day -- in favor of a deeper review by the board's Legislative Committee. The board did vote 10-7 in favor of a resolution on report cards from the Legislative Committee, which met twice last week to review legislative reform proposals in HB200 (Jones-Robinson) and SB145 (Brenner) and evaluate them in the context of the board's strategic plan. The Ohio School Boards Association (OSBA) is encouraging Ohioans to run for their local boards of education with its recently launched "Get on Board" campaign. The campaign asks current school board members to offer their expertise for an additional term and encourages new community members to take up the challenge of board work for school districts and educational service centers (ESCs) where vacant seats exist, according to OSBA. At www.getonboardohio.org , OSBA provides answers to common questions about running for board seats, including questions a citizen might have about qualifications; running a campaign; time commitments; and the roles and responsibilities of school board members. The site also offers a section where individuals can recommend potential candidates. Legislation that would allow teachers and other school staff members to carry concealed firearms on school grounds was met with heavy opposition on Wednesday. The House Criminal Justice Committee received a total of 133 pieces of written opponent testimony on HB99 (Hall), but only four individuals were allowed to testify in person. Following criticism from at least one of the witnesses for ending the committee hearing at noon, House Criminal Justice Committee Chair Jeff LaRe (R-Canal Winchester) issued the following statement: "Due to the time constraints with today's House Criminal Justice Committee meeting, several witnesses were unable to testify on HB99. Unfortunately, the length of committee meetings are limited. It would not have been fair to witnesses for us to recess for an undetermined length of time for today's House session. The House Criminal Justice Committee will continue to have hearings on this legislation because it is important for us to hear from community members and interested parties who want to have their opinion heard. I apologize for the inconvenience, but am pleased to note that the House is in the process of working to change the committee schedule to allow for longer committee meetings in the future." ELECTIONS In a dispute with the chairman of the Summit County Republican Party chairman that has reached the Ohio Supreme Court, Secretary of State Frank LaRose says he felt the county board of elections needed new leadership after a number of issues sprang up, leading him to reject the reappointment of that chairman -- Bryan Williams. ELECTIONS 2022 Businessman Mike Gibbons Tuesday officially announced he is entering the 2022 U.S. Senate race, making him the fourth Republican in the race to succeed U.S. Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH). It is the second time Gibbons has run for the Senate, having unsuccessfully sought the Republican nomination in 2018 when U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) was up for re-election. Emily's List announced this week that it is including nine current Republican governors up for re-election in 2022 in its "On Notice" opposition program for next year's elections, including Gov. Mike DeWine. U.S. Senate candidate Bernie Moreno announced Thursday that Kellyanne Conway is joining his campaign as senior advisor. Conway managed President Donald Trump's first presidential campaign and served as senior counselor to the president. EMPLOYMENT/UNEMPLOYMENT For the week ending April 10, the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS) reported 23,117 initial unemployment claims to the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL). That number is lower than last week's when the department reported 44,985 jobless claims. ODJFS said potentially fraudulent claims are likely inflating the totals from this week and recent weeks. "Ohioans with disabilities make excellent employees because of their loyalty and drive to be successful," Lt. Gov. Jon Husted said during Thursday's COVID-19 briefing with Gov. Mike DeWine. Addressing the ongoing concern he has heard from employers about the scarcity of employees as they seek to re-open and ramp back up operations, Husted touted the pool of potential workers in Ohioans with disabilities. "Creating an inclusive work environment and leveraging this untapped talent pool gives companies a competitive edge, and the new Opportunities for Ohioans with Disabilities (OOD) Employer Toolkit can help give businesses the tools they need to get started." That toolkit can be found online at https://tinyurl.com/35h62dm5. ENVIRONMENT For the third consecutive year, the Ohio Hospital Association (OHA) has received the ENERGY STAR Partner of the Year -- Sustained Excellence Award from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) and the U.S. Department of Energy. This is the highest award of the ENERGY STAR program. Winners represent those who have made a long-term commitment to fighting climate change and protecting public health through energy efficiency. FEDERAL The U.S. Department of the Treasury should send American Rescue Plan (ARP) funding directly to Ohio townships, U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) said Wednesday. The federal agency's rules for distributing the funds are required to be set by Monday, May 10, Brown said during a press call, adding that he's confident the department will be ready by that date. GAMING/GAMBLING Ohio's four casinos and seven racinos experienced their best month since the properties opened in 2012. The casinos pulled in $91.6 million and the racinos raked in $124.2 million in March 2021, according to revenue reports from the Ohio Casino Control Commission (OCCC) and the Ohio Lottery Commission (OLC). Any new sports gambling system should be run through the Ohio Lottery so it can benefit small businesses and help support K-12 education across the state, representatives of the Ohio Fair Gaming Coalition said Monday. The advocates are urging the General Assembly to allow businesses that currently provide Ohio Lottery services to also provide sports betting options to customers, with the profits going to schools like other Ohio Lottery dollars. Ohio Coalition for Equity and Adequacy of School Funding Executive Director Bill Phillis said schools will likely see a drop in revenue if sports gambling isn't run through the Ohio Lottery. Unlike their counterparts in the Senate, members of the House aren't going to start from scratch when crafting their chamber's sports gambling legislation, Reps. Jay Edwards (R-Nelsonville) and Brigid Kelly (D-Cincinnati) said Tuesday. Kelly told Hannah News that the House plans to build off the compromise bill that she, former Rep. Dave Greenspan (R-Westlake), former Sen. John Eklund (R-Chardon) and former Sen. Sean O'Brien (D-Cortland) came up with toward the end of the 133rd General Assembly. GENERAL ASSEMBLY/STATEHOUSE The House voted unanimously Thursday to approve a legislative package appropriating more than $1 billion to provide assistance for an array of people and organizations harmed by the COVID-19 pandemic. The four bills -- HB167 (Oelslager), HB168 (Fraizer-Loychik), HB169 (Cutrona-Swearingen) and HB170 (Richardson-Bird) -- appropriate federal relief funding from the CARES Act and Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021. After session, House Speaker Bob Cupp (R-Lima) said his chamber would work with the Senate to "promptly" finalize the relief proposals, for which companion bills have already passed the Senate. He suggested they might split the final vehicles among the House and Senate versions. Specifically, under HB167, $465 million would go to rental and utility assistance for eligible households. Rep. Scott Oelslager (R-North Canton), bill sponsor and chair of the House Finance Committee, said in most cases the funding would go directly to the landlord or utility provider. In HB168, a variety of organizations are in line for relief, with $4.7 million for local fairs; $3 million for veterans homes; $112 million for child care providers; $10 million for small businesses excluded from previous relief because they'd only been founded in 2020 or later; $20 million for entertainment venues; and $150 for small businesses to compensate for how need outmatched funding in a previous $125 million round of relief. In HB169, bars, restaurants and lodging establishments would get $125 million in assistance. In HB170, the largest of the proposals, lawmakers would provide $857 million to schools, $173 million to the Ohio Department of Health and more than $8 million for the Ohio National Guard. Also passing unanimously Thursday was HB8 (West-Plummer), a bill on recording police interrogations that picked up last minute amendments Thursday in House Criminal Justice Committee to clarify a new law against shackling pregnant prison inmates that took effect Monday. The bill was added to the day's business via suspension of the rules. The only measure to draw substantial opposition was HB126 (Merrin), the latest iteration of Rep. Derek Merrin's (R-Monclova) push to set new criteria for how local governments can contest property valuations. It passed 62-29. Also passing Thursday were the following bills:

  • HB23 (Plummer-West), requiring first responders to undergo training related to dementia, passed 87-2.

  • HB30 (Wiggam-Kick), adding new requirements for lights and reflective signage on animal-drawn vehicles, passed 83-6 after picking up a floor amendment providing an exemption for certain agricultural equipment.

  • HB122 (Fraizer-Holmes), setting telehealth regulations, passed 91-0. Republicans tabled an amendment from Rep. Jessica Miranda (D-Cincinnati) proposing to repeal the ban on providing abortion services via telehealth.

After session, House Speaker Bob Cupp (R-Lima) said he expects the chamber to pass the budget bill, HB110 (Oelslager), next week. He also addressed questions about changes the House made earlier this week in a substitute version of the budget. The Ohio Statehouse will soon be disinfected with a new sanitation device thanks to a grant received from the Office of Budget and Management using the federal CARES Act funding. According to the Capitol Square Review and Advisory Board (CSRAB), the system, invented by an Ohio company, will help prevent the spread of bacteria and viruses among Statehouse tenants and guests. CSRAB noted that staff has been working hard to sanitize the Ohio Statehouse over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, explaining that it has found a system to improve cleaning efforts without jeopardizing the infrastructure of the building, which is designated a National Historic Landmark, or the art and artifacts that are on display. Hannah News’ interview series with freshman legislators featured Rep. Bob Young (R-Green), who said his roots run deep in his hometown of Green. Having grown up there, meeting his wife at Green High School, starting a business, and serving seven years on Green City Council, he said he had an interest in local government and serving the community "that kind of raised me." A man under the influence of drugs reportedly broke three windows of the Ohio Statehouse early Monday and discharged a fire extinguisher inside before he was later found by police and taken to the hospital for treatment. Sen. Hearcel Craig (D-Columbus) announced Monday that forthcoming legislation would limit annual property tax increases at 5 percent for households at or below the median income for their county, with the state providing local governments with refunds through a similar manner as the current homestead exemption. In other action, the House Civil Justice Committee reported out HB35 (LaRe-Click) which expands mayors' authority to perform marriages; the House Primary and Secondary Education Committee reported out HB34 (Ingram) which requires the speedy transfer of student records; the House Ways and Means Committee reported out HB140 (Merrin) which changes how ballot language for property tax levies is written; the House Armed Services and Veterans Affairs Committee reported out HCR7 (John-Kick) to urge Congress and the U.S. Department of Defense to maintain the C-130 fleet; the House State and Local Government Committee reported out HCR5 (Hall) to urge Congress not to adopt HR1; and the House Technology and Innovation Committee reported out HB177 (Carfagna-Fraizer) to permit distributed ledger and blockchain technology. GOVERNOR Appointments made during the week include the following:

  • Catherine L. Evans of Middletown (Butler County) to the Cincinnati State Technical and Community College Board of Trustees for a term beginning April 9, 2021 and ending Aug. 31, 2026.

  • Tyeis L. Baker-Baumann of Greenville (Darke County) to the Edison State Community College Board of Trustees for a term beginning April 9, 2021 and ending Jan. 17, 2025.

  • Philip E. Dubbs of New Madison (Darke County) reappointed to the Edison State Community College Board of Trustees for a term beginning April 9, 2021 and ending Jan. 17, 2027.

  • Pamela E. Bobst of Rocky River (Cuyahoga County) to the Kent State University Board of Trustees for a term beginning April 9 2021, and ending May 16, 2021; and for a term beginning May 17, 2021 and ending May 16, 2030.

  • Brenda S. Haas of Ironton (Lawrence County) to the Shawnee State University Board of Trustees for a term beginning April 9, 2021 and ending June 30, 2028.

  • Wendy Humphrey Doolittle of Springfield (Clark County) to the Chemical Dependency Professionals Board for a term beginning April 9, 2021 and ending Dec. 23, 2022.

  • Alverta Muhammad of Columbus (Franklin County) to the Counselor, Social Worker, and Marriage and Family Therapist Board for a term beginning April 9, 2021 and ending Oct. 10, 2023.

  • Lisa Dodge Burton of Powell (Delaware County) reappointed to the State Speech and Hearing Professionals Board for a term beginning April 9, 2021 and ending March 22, 2024.

  • Ralph Eugene Ross of Mt. Sterling (Madison County) to the Mt. Sterling Financial Planning and Supervision Commission for a term beginning April 9, 2021 and continuing at the pleasure of the governor.

  • Tammy J. Bobo of Albany (Athens County) to the Banking Commission for a term beginning April 9, 2021 and ending Jan. 31, 2025.

  • Kathleen L. Fischer of Sylvania (Lucas County) to the Banking Commission for a term beginning April 9, 2021 and ending Jan. 31, 2022.

  • William U. Martin of St. Marys (Auglaize County) reappointed to the Banking Commission for a term beginning April 9, 2021 and ending Jan. 31, 2025.

  • Jasmine Clements of New Albany (Franklin County) reappointed to the Board of Tax Appeals for a term beginning April 7, 2021 and ending Feb. 28, 2027.

  • Gregory M. Gantt of Oakwood (Montgomery County) reappointed to the Unemployment Compensation Review Commission for a term beginning April 9, 2021 and ending Feb. 26, 2027.

  • Kristin Beggs of Columbus (Franklin County) to the Ohio AMBER Alert Advisory Committee for a term beginning April 9, 2021 and ending Feb. 6, 2023.

  • Christine H. Merritt of Columbus (Franklin County) reappointed to the Ohio AMBER Alert Advisory Committee for a term beginning April 9, 2021 and ending Feb. 6, 2023.

  • James W. Metz of Eaton (Preble County) reappointed to serve on the Environmental Education Council for a term beginning April 9, 2021 and ending Oct. 1, 2022.

  • Erik Yassenoff of Granville (Licking County) to the Technical Advisory Council on Oil and Gas for a term beginning April 9, 2021 and ending Jan. 31, 2022.

  • Brian D. Morley of Louisville (Stark County) reappointed to the Technical Advisory Council on Oil and Gas for a term beginning April 9, 2021 and ending Jan. 31, 2024.

  • Brian Ross of Columbus (Franklin County) reappointed to the TourismOhio Advisory Board for a term beginning April 9, 2021 and ending Sept. 27, 2023.

  • Daniel M. Rice of Cuyahoga Falls (Summit County) reappointed to the Ohio Historic Site Preservation Advisory Board for a term beginning April 9, 2021 and ending Jan. 14, 2024.


GREAT LAKES


DeWine cabinet members overseeing H2Ohio updated the Senate Finance Committee on the governor's water quality initiative and signaled the program's proposed expansion in FY22-23. Director Dorothy Pelanda of the Ohio Department of Agriculture (ODAg), Director Mary Mertz of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) and Director Laurie Stevenson of the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) appeared as a panel to describe their respective roles in H2Ohio and to communicate its overall success to date.


HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES


As the Ohio Black Maternal Health Caucus announced it was introducing a resolution to recognize Black Maternal Health Week in Ohio, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced two new measures to help improve maternal health outcomes.


The Ohio Department of Insurance's (ODI) Ohio Senior Health Insurance Information Program (OSHIIP) is offering free online "Welcome to Medicare" events through June to provide information to people nearing the Medicare eligibility age of 65. Registration for more than a dozen events offered through Tuesday, June 29 is available at https://tinyurl.com/2r4amhnd.


HIGHER EDUCATION


Ohio's two historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs), Central State University and Wilberforce University, received portions of the $1.6 billion of debt discharged by the U.S. Department of Education and provided to HBCUs that participate in the HBCU Capital Financing Program. A total of 45 HBCUs received funds nationwide, including 13 public institutions and 32 private institutions.


Ohio announced nearly $70 million in funding for a new scholarship program meant to boost the state's efforts to increase the workforce in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) sectors. The Controlling Board recently approved $69,826,882 for the Choose Ohio First (COF) scholarship, which will support an estimated 3,400 Ohio students who are new to the program, along with an additional 3,000 existing COF scholars. Funding for the program will be awarded over the next five years. It will support students completing programs in STEM disciplines at 57 colleges and universities across the state, including several schools that are new to the program.


Researchers at Kent State University found that social media use increases boredom among college students, while doing homework can decrease it. Researchers Andrew Lepp and Jacob Barkley from Kent State's College of Education, Health and Human Services suspected a relationship between boredom and social media use but wondered about cause and effect. The Pew Research Center found in 2019 that 72 percent of Americans use social media, and the percentage of teen and young adult users is even higher. However, the researchers noted, "I'm bored" is an often-used refrain, and they wondered if social media use causes boredom, or if boredom causes social media use.


HOUSING/HOMELESSNESS


U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Marcia L. Fudge announced the allocation of nearly $5 billion in American Rescue Plan (ARP) funds to help communities across the country create affordable housing and services for people experiencing or at risk of experiencing homelessness, which will include $201 million for Ohio.


JUDICIAL


The Ohio Supreme Court will review the role of the Ohio Ethics Commission in criminal charges referred for the prosecution of public officials in the wake of government corruption allegations in Northwest Ohio. The Court has accepted the appeal of former Williams County Sheriff Steven Towns, who resigned under pressure last year after he was convicted of disclosure by a public official (first-degree misdemeanor) and unauthorized dissemination (fourth-degree misdemeanor) for posting confidential child abuse reports on the sheriff's website and alerting the public to them on Facebook.


The Ohio Supreme Court is taking the next step in addressing the growing number of foreclosure and eviction complaints with a 17-county demonstration project implementing online recommendations from two reports issued by the Court at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic: Foreclosures and Civil Justice and Evictions: Report and Recommendations.


Former Marion County Common Pleas Court Judge Jason Warner and his wife have begun a pair of two-year prison sentences for a June 2020 hit-and-run accident that left an injured teenager at the scene. Warner was convicted of complicity to leaving the scene of an accident, a fourth-degree felony, and complicity to tampering with evidence, a third-degree felony last month. His wife, Julia, was convicted of the same crimes in addition to misdemeanor negligent assault. Both were sentenced Wednesday in the same court where Warner used to preside.


MEDICAID/MEDICAID REFORM


The Ohio Department of Medicaid announced winners of managed care contracts commencing in 2022, with some existing plans still in the mix and a decision deferred on another -- Buckeye Community Health Plan, is subject of recent state litigation accusing it and parent company Centene of "an elaborate scheme" resulting in substantial overpayments. Starting in early 2022, the plan lineup will include existing vendors UnitedHealthcare Community Plan of Ohio, Molina Healthcare of Ohio and CareSource Ohio, as well as Humana Health Plan of Ohio, AmeriHealth Caritas Ohio and Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield.


The Ohio Department of Medicaid (ODM) announced Wednesday that the firm of Myers and Stauffer won a contract to help oversee drug pricing, part of the DeWine administration's overhaul of the Medicaid managed care system. Myers and Stauffer will be paid $1.5 million per year to serve as the "pharmacy pricing and audit consultant" to ODM. The two-year contract can be extended up to six additional years. ODM noted it had renamed the contractor's role from "pharmacy operational support vendor," saying the new title better reflects the work.


Members of the Senate Finance Committee asked Ohio Department of Medicaid (ODM) Director Maureen Corcoran why her agency didn't give explicit preference to Ohio-based companies when evaluating the bids for Ohio's new managed care contracts, among numerous other questions posed during her budget testimony Thursday. The committee spent more than two hours listening to and questioning Corcoran in an informal hearing on HB110 (Oelslager), with her prepared remarks substantially similar to those offered in the House which focused on the as-introduced budget rather than recent revisions in the other chamber.


NATURAL RESOURCES


The Ohio Wildlife Council approved all 2021-22 hunting regulations during its recent meeting, according to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) Division of Wildlife. Hunting season dates and limits are proposed by ODNR Division of Wildlife biologists, and voted on by the eight-member Ohio Wildlife Council.


ODNR is now accepting nominations for the 2021 Ohio Natural Resources Hall of Fame. Nominees should have demonstrated a commitment to conservation and improving the quality of life in Ohio, according to ODNR. For more information on selection criteria and to request a nomination form, email Stephanie O'Grady at stephanie.o'grady@dnr.ohio.gov. Online and mail-in nominations must be received by Monday, June 14.


A new H2Ohio wetland complex will help prevent harmful algal blooms from forming in Buckeye Lake, Gov. Mike DeWine and ODNR Director Mary Mertz announced Tuesday. The Brooks Park Wetland Creation and Water Quality Initiative will create wetlands along Murphy's Run, a tributary located to the south of the lake, to filter out excess nutrients and sediment runoff in stormwater before the pollutants enter Buckeye Lake and contribute to the growth of toxic algae.


PEOPLE


Veteran Statehouse journalist Laura Bischoff announced on social media she is leaving the Dayton DailyNews after 25 years to join the Gannett Ohio bureau, which provides Statehouse coverage for the Columbus Dispatch, Cincinnati Enquirer, Akron Beacon Journal and numerous smaller newspapers throughout Ohio. Bischoff will join the Gannett team Monday, April 19.


Ebony Speakes-Hall was recently elected president of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Ohio after previously working as the organization's equity officer and a member of its executive committee since 2007, making her the first African American woman to lead the organization's 23-member board of directors.


Former U.S. Attorney David DeVillers discussed his career in prosecution, the Statehouse bribery scandal and his views about judicial elections during Wednesday's Columbus Metropolitan Club forum. DeVillers is now in private practice with Barnes & Thornburg. His career included time in the Franklin County Prosecutor's Office and at the U.S. Department of Justice, including serving as an adviser in Iraq during the tribunal for former dictator Saddam Hussein. Last summer he announced federal charges alleging involvement in a $60 million-plus bribery scheme by former Speaker Larry Householder (R-Glenford) and associates.


POLITICS


Matt Keyes has joined the Ohio Democratic Party (ODP) as its communications director. Wednesday was his first day in the position. He previously worked in U.S. Sherrod Brown's office and for the Ohio House Democratic Caucus.


POLLS/STUDIES


With President Joe Biden approaching his 100th day in office, a new Quinnipiac Poll finds him with 48 percent approval and positive scores on a number of issues including his coronavirus response, but negative scores on how he is handling a surge of immigrants at the southern border and on gun policy.


Biden's 48 percent approval and 42 percent disapproval is down from a February survey, where 50 percent approved and 38 percent disapproved. He receives 94 percent of approval from Democrats, and 87 percent disapproval from Republicans. Respondents are split on their views of the economy, with 35 percent saying it's getting better, 34 percent saying it's getting worse, and 30 percent saying it's staying about the same.


PUBLIC SAFETY


The Ohio State Highway Patrol (OSHP) recently unveiled a new OVI information "dashboard" to curb impaired driving crashes and other violations through education and enforcement data. OSHP says drivers under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs continue to threaten the safety of Ohio citizens every day. The OVI Dashboard reflects troopers, OSHP's Ohio Investigative Unit (OIU) agents and other law enforcement partners' work to reduce this "dangerous and deadly crime."


TRANSPORTATION/INFRASTRUCTURE


According to President Joe Biden's administration, 1,377 bridges in Ohio and over 4,925 miles of roads are in poor condition. The administration released state-by-state fact sheets earlier this week as it sells its proposed American Jobs Plan infrastructure bill to the public in the face of Republican opposition. The fact sheet for Ohio notes the state's "C-" grade on the most recent American Society of Civil Engineers infrastructure report card. The administration also said commute times in Ohio have increased by 5.7 percent, and on average, each driver pays $506 per year in costs due to driving on roads in need of repair. It notes that the proposed infrastructure bill would spend $600 billion on transportation infrastructure, including $115 billion repairing roads and bridges.


WORKFORCE


Lt. Gov. Jon Husted briefed the Governor's Executive Workforce Board regarding workforce development programs Wednesday, particularly those better connecting businesses with the education community. Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS) interim Director Matt Damschroder also discussed the updated OhioMeansJobs website, which was unveiled in March. Husted said there is a need to cultivate talent at the high school level, detailing the recently announced High School Tech Internship Program and recognizing Development Services Agency (DSA) Director Lydia Mihalik and Ohio Department of Education (ODE) Superintendent Paolo DeMaria for their efforts.


[Story originally published in The Hannah Report. Copyright 2021 Hannah News Service, Inc.]


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