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.
U.S. District Court Judge Michael Barrett issued an extension Friday of his order temporarily restraining the Ohio Department of Health (ODH) and Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost from enforcing a recent coronavirus-related public health order against abortion providers. The order was scheduled to expire on Monday, April 13 before Barrett issued the 14-day extension
Attorney General (AG) Dave Yost announced Tuesday a lawsuit against an individual from northeast Ohio and others for allegedly hoarding N95 respirator masks and selling them online for nearly 18 times the retail price. According to Yost, Mario F. Salwan, of Chagrin Falls, and others operated an online store on eBay under the now-defunct user name "Donkey476." As COVID-19 increased the demand for essential products such as N95 masks, hand sanitizer and toilet paper, the group began to accelerate -- both in speed and volume -- its acquisition of such products, the AG's office said.
The groups Policy Matters Ohio, the Ohio Student Association, Innovation Ohio and College Now Greater Cleveland jointly sent a letter to Attorney General Yost Wednesday asking him to immediately cease the collection of student debt that has been turned over to his office by Ohio's public colleges and universities during the pandemic because so many are out of work.
Ohio is among a leading group of seven states and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) suing a prison-run pharmaceutical cabal charged with jacking up the cost of life-saving drug Daraprim 5,000 percent and forcing out cheaper generics through a supply-chain monopoly involving Columbus-based Cardinal Health and other national pharmaceutical chains -- imperiling immuno-compromised patients and unborn children. Attorney General Yost announced Wednesday that Ohio is seeking a permanent injunction and monetary damages for anti-trust and unfair trade violations by New York-based Vyera Pharmaceuticals and Swiss parent Phoenixus AG. The 86-page complaint details co-founders Martin Shkreli and Kevin Mulleady's "elaborate" and "comprehensive scheme" to inflate the price of Daraprim and its active ingredient pyrimethamine and to block generic competitors from the market.
AUDITOR OF STATE
Auditor of State Keith Faber Tuesday released the FY19 audit of the state's federal financial assistance programs, questioning at least $191,561 related to federal costs. Faber's office said the most notable of the findings relate to the eligibility systems, controls, and process, including the Ohio Benefits and Income Eligibility Verification Systems, connected to the state's public assistance programs (Medicaid, CHIP, SNAP and TANF). Several system defects and weaknesses were identified which involve multiple state agencies including the departments of administrative services and Medicaid, and the state and county departments of job and family services. These issues contributed to opinion qualifications for the Medicaid, CHIP, and TANF eligibility requirements.
The Ohio Supreme Court Tuesday ruled that the Ohio Ballot Board overstepped its authority when it split a proposed constitutional amendment regarding elections into four separate issues. The group behind the proposed amendment, Ohioans for Fair and Secure Elections, had filed the lawsuit after the Ballot Board voted along party lines last month to divide the proposal, also known as the Ohio SAFE amendment, which would put provisions such as automatic voter registration into the Ohio Constitution.
Following that decision, Secretary of State Frank LaRose has set a meeting of the Ballot Board for Thursday, April 23. The only item on the agenda for the 1 p.m. meeting is a re-examination of the amendment. The meeting will be livestreamed but the details about how to attend are not yet available.
While not subject to the Office of Budget and Management's (OBM) directives on planning for budget cuts because of constitutional separation of powers, Ohio's independently elected statewide officials are contemplating how to shave their own spending as economic disruptions of the COVID-19 pandemic upend tax collections. For example, Treasurer Robert Sprague wrote a letter to Gov. Mike DeWine saying his office had identified 20 percent of its General Revenue Fund (GRF) budget to cut, or nearly $426,000 out of $2.13 million.
Honda, which previously suspended production at all automobile, engine and transmission plants in the U.S. and Canada through May 1, announced Wednesday that "the majority" of salaried and support associates at U.S. Honda operations would be furloughed for two-weeks. In Ohio, affected facilities include auto plants in Marysville and East Liberty, the Performance Manufacturing Center in Marysville and powertrain plants in Anna and Russells Point.
Gov. Mike DeWine continued his schedule of regular briefings on the state’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, though he did not schedule them over the Easter weekend, the first full weekend without an appearance for about a month. Case statistics increased over the week, from 5,878 cases and 231 deaths on Friday, April 10 to 8,414 total cases and 389 deaths on Thursday, April 16.
Among updates DeWine, Lt. Gov. Jon Husted and Ohio Department of Health (ODH) Director Dr. Amy Acton announced over the week were the following:
A new method of counting coronavirus cases per CDC guidance, to include not only those with positive test results but also those who test positive for virus antibodies, and those with clinical and epidemiological evidence of the virus with no other likely diagnosis even if they’ve not been tested.
New flexibility on prescription drugs under Medicaid and MyCare Ohio, including waiver of prior authorization for new prescriptions and a relaxing of refill thresholds on certain prescriptions.
Temporary authorization for food trucks to operate at rest areas to help truck drivers.
Ohio’s first inmate death, a man in Pickaway Correctional Institution’s long-term care unit.
A requirement for long-term care facilities to notify family and residents within 24 hours when a resident or staff member tests positive for the virus.
Release of $5 million in federal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) funding to help foodbanks.
A bar on non-Ohio residents’ purchase at liquor stores in counties along the Pennsylvania border, following that state’s closing of liquor stores in mid-March.
Submission by the Ohio Department of Medicaid of an emergency federal waiver request to address the virus by bolstering use of telehealth, waiving signature requirement and making other changes.
Following a vote Tuesday by the Correctional Institution Inspection Committee (CIIC) to make use of an emergency overcrowding statute, authorization of the release of 105 prisoners who are within 90 days of their scheduled release and met screening criteria tied to the seriousness of offenses, prison disciplinary records and warrants from other states, among other factors. The governor also instructed Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction (DRC) Director Annette Chambers-Smith to screen new groups of prisoners daily as they enter that 90-day eligibility period.
DeWine stopped short of "ordering" Ohioans to wear masks in public on Thursday but did call it "the courteous thing to do. … I am strongly suggesting everybody do it," he added.
As Ohio lawmakers push Gov. Mike DeWine to start re-opening parts of Ohio's economy and President Donald Trump states on Twitter that he has the power to overrule governors on the decision -- only later to back off that statement -- DeWine said Monday that he is taking the advice and input from everyone when it comes to rolling back Ohio's restrictions. Ohio lawmakers have become more vocal on social media and in news outlets in recent days about their desire to open Ohio's economy back up after large portions were shut down last month to stop the spread of COVID-19. As cases begin to flatten, more attention is turning to how the U.S. and Ohio will bring the economy back online without leading to a new spike in cases.
DeWine and Acton said Tuesday that they share Ohioans' frustrations and anger about stay-at-home restrictions due to the novel coronavirus, but also cautioned there will not be a full return to normalcy until a vaccine is widely available. Acton said there could be "ongoing spikes" until the vaccine is widely administered and that they are preparing for that. She said Ohioans should be tremendously proud, as they've been a national leader and "won the first battle." Readily available testing to enable contact tracing is also important, she said.
Republican state lawmakers from rural and suburban areas wrote pointed letters to the governor or have otherwise expressed frustration with the executive branch's approach to the COVID-19 crisis. Among those pushing for reopening the state were Reps. Derek Merrin (R-Monclova), Craig Riedel (R-Defiance) and Andrew Brenner (R-Powell), Sens. Matt Huffman (R-Lima) and Rob McColley (R-Napoleon). Rep. Jay Edwards (R-Nelsonville) was critical of the administration regarding the new case counting policy and for a general lack of communication from legislative liaisons in the governor's office.
The Ohio Manufacturing Alliance to Fight COVID-19 offered more details on how its members will produce 750,000 to one million medical face shields in the next five weeks as part of personal protective equipment (PPE) production efforts.
As president of the Ohio Hospital Association (OHA), Michael Abrams had the coronavirus on his radar early and knew hospitals were planning for it. But he said the sirens really started going off one day weeks ago when he was out of town to visit his son and got 20 minutes' notice that he'd need to get on a call with Gov. Mike DeWine. "It was a thing that we were preparing for, but honestly that's the call I would say changed every moment of every day from that moment until this one. Everything has changed. Every meeting I thought I was going to was cancelled," Abrams told Hannah News in an interview.
The Ohio House 2020 Economic Recovery Task Force held hearings each day of the week. Patients with significant non-coronavirus-related medical issues, including children, are experiencing pain and health deterioration because their health care appointments are being delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, three physicians told members of on Monday. While Drs. Steven Tornik, Ian Thompson and Phil Slonkosky generally praised the response of the DeWine administration during the pandemic and understand the importance of preserving scarce personal protective equipment (PPE), they said the health consequences of delaying or cancelling appointments should not be ignored or minimized.
Lodging, restaurant and hair businesses as well as behavioral health and re-entry providers gave the task force their tallies of economic disruptions and ideas for re-starting commerce Tuesday, with some warning of the pandemic's "long tail." The task force heard from Neil Tilow, CEO of Talbert House; Joe Savarise, executive director of the Ohio Hotel and Lodging Association; John Barker, CEO of the Ohio Restaurant Association; and Tony Fiore, executive director of the Ohio Salon Association.
On Wednesday, the task force heard from Dale Hipsley of Half Day Cafe; Jason Duff of Small Nation; Mike Bohan and Jason Clark of IKORCC; Ohio Insurance Institute; Ohio Bankers League; Ohio Society of CPAs; and Ohio Credit Union League. Then on Thursday, the following testified: Johnathan Smith, CEO/president of Lancaster Bingo; David Waikem, owner of Waikem Auto Family; and Bob Hager, owner of Miller's Textile Services.
Monday’s Controlling Board meeting included approval of $8.8 million for the “Ohio Coronavirus Relief Fund,” down from an earlier request of $28.7 million, a reflection of the fact that virus cases are not growing as quickly as originally thought.
The Ohio Division of Emergency Medical Services (Ohio EMS) recently issued guidance to first responders regarding the novel coronavirus on personal protective equipment (PPE), minimum ambulance staff standards and places first responders and health care workers can stay to limit the risk of their families' being exposed.
Former Gov. John Kasich and psychiatrist Henry Harbin, past CEO and chairman of Magellan Health Services, recently wrote a CNN op-ed on coronavirus and related mental health effects. Throughout U.S. history, they said, the "greatest challenges have summoned our greatest strengths" and this pandemic will be no different.
Answering some of the questions and criticisms expressed by state lawmakers over the last several days, the press secretary for Gov. DeWine told Hannah News that the new method for counting COVID-19 cases is necessary to help the state gradually ease out of the Ohio Department of Health's (ODH) physical distancing restrictions. The new case counting policy, developed by the Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists (CSTE) and adopted by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as the official federal guidance for states, recommends including "confirmed" and "probable" COVID-19 cases in the official counts. Ohio's implementation of the guidance was announced by the DeWine administration last Friday.
Ohio hospitals are being asked to deliver a plan within a week on how they would resume the elective procedures now on hold to preserve hospital capacity and scarce personal protective equipment (PPE) amid the coronavirus pandemic. Gov. DeWine said at his daily COVID-19 briefing Wednesday that he'd been on a long conference call with the Ohio Hospital Association (OHA) and hospital leaders earlier in the day, hearing concerns about the effects of deferred or delayed health care.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom Tuesday gave the following six indicators his state will use to decide when to lift restrictions aimed at slowing the spread of the coronavirus: the ability to monitor and protect communities through testing, contact tracing, isolating, and supporting those who are positive or exposed; the ability to prevent infection in people who are at risk for more severe COVID-19; the ability of the hospital and health systems to handle surges; the ability to develop therapeutics to meet the demand; the ability for businesses, schools, and child care facilities to support physical distancing; and the ability to determine when to reinstitute certain measures, such as the stay-at-home orders, if necessary.
Battelle will be decontaminating N95 respirator masks at no cost to health care providers after receiving a federal contract for up to $400 million to cover the cost of that work. The contract was awarded by the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) on behalf of the U.S Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
On Thursday, Gov. DeWine opened his daily briefing with a Winston Churchill quote: "This is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning." With that, he went on to say that on May 1 the state will begin a phased-in reopening of the economy. However, he repeatedly cautioned that it will be a slow, tiered process that will, in large measure, be driven by recommendations from his board of economic advisors which the lieutenant governor is now working with. Recommendations from the group will, in part, be based on what companies that have continued operating have found to be best practices.
Govs. JB Pritzker (IL), Gretchen Whitmer (MI), Mike DeWine (OH), Tony Evers (WI), Tim Walz (MN), Eric Holcomb (IN) and Andy Beshear (KY) Thursday announced that they will work in close coordination to reopen the economy in the Midwest region. "We will closely examine at least these four factors when determining when best to reopen our economy: sustained control of the rate of new infections and hospitalizations; enhanced ability to test and trace; sufficient health care capacity to handle resurgence; and best practices for social distancing in the workplace."
The Ohio General Assembly has been "missing in action" while Gov. DeWine and ODH Director Acton have been overstepping their constitutional authority during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Ohio Roundtable and American Policy Roundtable President and CEO Dave Zanotti. Zanotti, who recently spoke with Hannah News ahead of conducting a YouTube briefing with American Policy Roundtable Vice President Rob Walgate, said the Legislature should take back the "ultimate authority" to enforce quarantine and isolation laws from the ODH director because she's an unelected bureaucrat.
Advocacy group Ohio Right to Life sent a letter to Gov. DeWine along with a list of "guiding principles" the group says health care providers and patients should adhere to when making difficult health care decisions, including those addressing the use of ventilators related to treatment of COVID-19. Among the guiding principles is the idea that life-saving equipment, such as ventilators being used by older individuals, should not be taken away from those individuals in order to provide care to younger patients.
Ohio mayors Thursday said they may be forced to cut vital services such as police and fire protection due to the downturn in the economy and shutdown from the coronavirus pandemic if the federal government does not step in with help in the next round of stimulus. Members of the Ohio Mayors Alliance noted that help for cities was limited to the largest metropolitan areas nationwide in the previous stimulus packages. They said the next round needs to include all cities.
Social justice partners including the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Ohio, Policy Matters Ohio and others ratcheted up pressure on the DeWine administration Monday to release as many as half the state's 49,000-plus prisoners, calling the daily spread of COVID-19 within the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction (DRC) a "recipe for disaster." Ohio Organizing Collaborative, Juvenile Justice Coalition, Law Enforcement Action Partnership (LEAP) and Faith in Public Life joined policy matters and ACLU of Ohio in a Zoom press conference on DRC coronavirus numbers, which on Monday hit 146 positive cases (over one third of all tests), 163 prisoners in isolation, 17,000 inmates and 12 prisons on full quarantine, and one death so far. There were 67 infections and a positive test rate of
25 percent on Sunday.
ACLU of Ohio and the Ohio Justice and Policy Center announced Monday that they had filed a class action habeas petition on behalf of prisoners at Elkton Federal Correctional Institution (FCI Elkton). As of Sunday, the ACLU of Ohio said in a release, three inmates had died at the facility, so they were seeking "the immediate release, furlough or transfer to home confinement of all medically vulnerable individuals at high-risk for serious illness or death in the event of contracting COVID-19." By week's end, the number of inmate deaths had increased to six.
The Correctional Institution Inspection Committee (CIIC) acted on "emergency overcrowding" in DRC Tuesday and granted Gov. Mike DeWine's requested release of 141 additional inmates who are within 90 days of reentry to address the COVID-19 threat in prisons. DRC Director Annette Chambers-Smith told members those selected "pose the least risk to public safety" and represent only a partial list of inmates considered for reentry.
CRIME AND PUNISHMENT
The Health Policy Institute of Ohio (HPIO) highlighted Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Sen. John Eklund's (R-Chardon) SB3 as a drug sentencing reform measure that Eklund said would reduce the number of low-level drug convictions charged as felonies, but wouldn't necessarily reduce convictions of users and distributors of illegal drugs. "SB3 was not conceived to be, and is not seen by the sponsors today, as a recipe for reducing prison population," Eklund said on a conference call hosted by HPIO.
With the continuation of problems with acquiring drugs needed to carry out executions, Gov. Mike DeWine announced Tuesday the delay until 2022 of execution dates for three inmates scheduled to be put to death this year – Romell Broom, James Gelen Hanna and Douglas Coley.
The Ohio Supreme Court will again take up an appeal by the defunct Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow (ECOT), this time to consider the online charter school's argument that it should have the right to challenge in court the State Board of Education's determination that the school had been overpaid.
Term limits again are creating new opportunities in the Senate, and House lawmakers are looking to take advantage of those opportunities to move to the upper chamber. While a win in the primary will most likely put those legislators in the driver's seat for the November election because of the district makeups, they by no means have an easy road ahead of them. Many are facing tough competitors running on an anti-establishment platform, or have a challenge from a local official who has been coalescing support in the district around them.
An appointee of former Gov. John Kasich has won rounds one and two of his primary fight with the endorsed judicial candidate of the Hamilton County Republican Party, which twice has passed over former Statehouse hopeful Curt Hartman. The Board of Professional Conduct recommended and a five-judge commission has ordered a public reprimand and fine against longtime magistrate and GOP pick Karen Falter based on false campaign statements, leaving the Ohio Supreme Court barely two weeks to hear her appeal before the Legislature's Tuesday, April 28 primary election deadline.
Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose announced Tuesday that more than 700,000 Ohioans have cast a ballot for the primary election with two weeks to go before the April 28 deadline. LaRose said that 1,254,377 Ohioans have requested a vote-by-mail ballot for the primary election, and 712,048 have cast their ballots. His office clarified that the total includes ballots cast before and after March 17.
The Ohio Supreme Court Tuesday in a 6-1 opinion ordered the Athens County Board of Elections to put Democrat Katie O'Neill, the daughter of former Ohio Supreme Court Justice William O'Neill, on the ballot for the 94th House District after it had removed her for not meeting residency requirements.
The Clermont County Sheriff's Office said David Uible, a Republican candidate for the 14th Ohio Senate District, has been charged with two misdemeanors related to false statements made to a sheriff's detective during an investigation. Uible was charged with one count of falsification, a first-degree misdemeanor, and one count of obstructing official business, a second-degree misdemeanor.
A coalition of voting groups Thursday sent a letter to members of the General Assembly urging lawmakers to change Ohio's voting rules for the Aug. 4 special election and the Nov. 3 General Election due to concerns over the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. The groups said that the Ohio General Assembly "must enact legislation so that every registered Ohio voter receives a postage-paid absentee ballot" for the two upcoming elections.
For the week ending Saturday, April 11, the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS) reported 158,678 initial unemployment claims, taking the state's total over the last four weeks to 855,197 as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to wreak havoc on the economy. "To put that in perspective, the total for the last four weeks of claims is 139,685 more than the combined total of 715,512 for the last two years," ODJFS said in its release announcing the new numbers.
The Ohio Power Siting Board (OSPB) approved a series of certificate application and modification requests filed by large scale solar developers in the state, the Utility Scale Solar Energy Coalition (USSEC) announced.
U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) said he is pushing to restart talks on the next federal COVID-19 relief package, but U.S. Senate President Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has been "resisting" efforts to begin negotiations. "Negotiation needs to start today with Sen. McConnell asking Congress to get back to work. Governments, businesses and banks are all asking for it," Brown said. He also admonished President Donald Trump for refusing to take responsibility for the nation's coronavirus response, and said the nation's response started anywhere from six to eight weeks late.
Saying that states nationwide will face $500 billion in budget shortfalls in the next fiscal year
due to decreased revenue from income tax and sales taxes, the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) Tuesday called on Congress to direct more federal aid to states. Otherwise, the Washington D.C. think tank said states will be forced to cut services to balance their budgets, and that could exacerbate health and economic woes. Elizabeth McNichol, CBPP senior fellow for state fiscal policy, said states will lose revenues in areas including income tax and sales tax due to the spread of COVID-19 and related social distancing policies, and the related losses of jobs and reduced consumer spending.
In a call with reporters Tuesday, U.S. Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) discussed future COVID-19 response plans for federal and state leaders. Portman noted that this week, people across the country will start receiving the $1,200 part of the federal government's phase three response to the pandemic known as the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.
Sen. Portman was named to the Opening Up America Again Congressional Group, a bicameral group of U.S. legislators selected by President Donald Trump to provide counsel to the president on reopening America in the wake of COVID-19.
In an announcement in the Friday, April 10 House Journal, Speaker Larry Householder (R-Glenford) said that effective over a month before, on Friday, March 6, Rep. Jamie Callender was temporarily named co-chair of the House Finance Committee along with committee chair Rep. Scott Oelslager (R-North Canton). Householder spokeswoman Taylor Jach explained the appointment in an email: "There was a previous administrative oversight. The intent at the time of the change was for Rep. Callender to co-chair with Chairman Oelslager in order for Rep. Callender to step in temporarily while Chairman Oelslager recovers from his back ailment. This now corrects the oversight."
A bill to distribute funding made available through the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act is among several pieces of priority legislation that senators have been working on during the last several weeks, Senate President Larry Obhof (R-Medina) said Tuesday. "We'll absolutely be back in session, probably in the not-too-distant future," Obhof told Hannah News in a phone interview, saying he hopes to meet in a few weeks, but it could take longer depending on the circumstances.
Members of the Ohio Legislative Black Caucus were joined by U.S. Reps. Marcia Fudge (D-Warrensville Heights) and Joyce Beatty (D-Columbus) and local public health officials on a recent conference call where they said the most culturally competent messaging on COVID-19 social distancing will have to come from within black communities. House Minority Leader Rep. Emilia Sykes (D-Akron) encouraged people to spread the word about the seriousness of social distancing policies, while adding that medical conditions which black people are socially predisposed to having are also risk factors for COVID-19 transmission, making them especially vulnerable. She and others on the call encouraged people to stay home.
HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES
The number of prescription opioids and benzodiazepines dispensed to Ohioans continued to decrease in 2019, according to a new Ohio Board of Pharmacy (OBP) report on the Ohio Automated Rx Reporting System (OARRS). The report says total doses of opioids dropped from a high of 793 million in 2012 to 415 million in 2019, a 48 percent decrease. During the same period, the total number of opioid prescriptions issued to Ohioans decreased by five million.
Among Ohio's universities, Ohio State University (OSU), University of Toledo (UT), and Miami University have all announced they will be holding virtual commencements for their spring 2020 graduates in wake of the coronavirus outbreak.
John Wiencek has been named executive vice president and provost at the University of Akron (UA). He will assume his new role May 29, succeeding Interim Provost Joseph Urgo, according to UA.
Medical students at Ohio State University (OSU) and Ohio University (OU) as well as nursing students at OU are graduating early in order to help treat the growing number of COVID-19 patients.
University of Toledo Medical Center announced a new CEO, Richard Swaine, and plans for a request for proposals to seek partnerships or possible sale of the hospital.
The U.S. Department of Education distributed $388 million in funding to institutions of higher education in Ohio as part of its COVID-19 response. The higher education emergency relief fund was provided through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act recently signed into law. Ohio State University (OSU) received the most of any institution by far with almost $43 million. The University of Cincinnati (UC) received nearly $24 million, University of Toledo more than $13 million, University of Dayton (UD) over $5 million, Cleveland State University (CSU) more than $12 million, Youngstown State University (YSU) more than $10 million, and Ohio University (OU) received nearly $20 million.
The Coalition on Homelessness and Housing in Ohio (COHHIO) has issued almost $500,000 in grants to homeless shelters from its "Pandemic Emergency Fund," which seeks to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in the facilities and to create additional capacity for housing homeless individuals.
U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) commemorated the recent 52nd anniversary of the federal Fair Housing Act and emphasized the importance of housing assistance provisions in Congress' coronavirus response packages during a "Daily COVID-19 Update" livestreamed on Facebook. Brown said federal legislation passed thus far has included placing a 60-day moratorium on foreclosures, offering up to a year of mortgage forbearance, and placing a 120-day moratorium on evictions.
Chief Justice Maureen O'Connor announced late Tuesday that she is reinstating Ohio Supreme Court time requirements she suspended on March 27 following emergency HB197 (Powell-Merrin) measures during the pandemic, declaring Court functions "vital" to the health of the judiciary. O'Connor had answered the General Assembly's "tolling" of statutes of limitations and other filing and hearing deadlines last month by suspending operational rules on all jurisdictions -- including the Supreme Court and administrative government tribunals -- for time requirements normally expiring between the governor's March 9 declaration of emergency and its eventual expiration, or July 30, whichever came first. However, the chief reversed that in part Tuesday by restoring the Supreme Court's Rules of Practices as of Tuesday, April 21 -- with modifications.
The 1851 Center for Constitutional Law Thursday filed a lawsuit in federal court on behalf of a Columbus bridal shop against Ohio Department of Health (ODH) Director Amy Acton saying the amended "stay-at-home" order issued April 2 closing "non-essential" businesses is unconstitutional. The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio, argues that the amended order violates Ohioans' procedural due process rights under the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
Local governments should be planning for a substantial revenue decline as state government is, Auditor Keith Faber said Monday. Faber's office held a teleconference with 75 of the 88 county auditors earlier Monday to discuss their questions and concerns. "The big message is, they need to start preparing today about how they're going to weather the upcoming fiscal storm," he said. "It's easier to make those adjustments if you plan early."
Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther discussed the city's planned coronavirus recovery at a Columbus Metropolitan Club livestreamed forum Wednesday, a day after he spoke briefly at Gov. Mike DeWine's press conference that focused on how the state will lift restrictions. Echoing his Tuesday remarks, Ginther told NBC4 anchor Colleen Marshall that Columbus faces public health, human services and business crises and must address the public health crisis effectively in order to address the other two.
Columbus City Attorney Zach Klein announced Wednesday new guidelines for the Columbus Police Department (CPD) regarding house parties after previous warnings went unheeded, according to a release from Klein's office. "To stop more reckless and selfish conduct, I'm recommending that CPD issue citations to any individuals who defy the state's order prohibiting large gatherings," said Klein. "Our officers have been called to the University District, short-term rentals and other gatherings too often and warnings are no longer enough. To address this community-wide health emergency, we need community-wide compliance."
While members of the medical marijuana and hemp industry said they appreciate the state government's moves to allow for telemedicine and online ordering of their products, the Ohio Cannabis & Hemp Chamber of Commerce is asking to be allowed to provide home delivery, curbside pickup and online payments during the COVID-19 state of emergency.
The fracking industry is challenging the state's authority to shut down wastewater injection wells over minor earthquakes that do not meet the federal threshold for structural damage, with one disposal company demanding that the administration compensate it for the "regulatory taking" of its leaseholder property rights. The Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) counters that American Water Management Services (AWMS) has no claim for profits fettered by state efforts to protect public health and safety and to prevent a public "nuisance," and that the administration is not to blame if required site improvements would make the company's $7 million investment near Youngstown unprofitable.
The Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation Board of Directors voted at an emergency meeting Friday, April 10, to approve a 100 percent refund of FY19 premiums for private employers that still had active state insurance policies as of Saturday, April 4, or that had lapsed but not cancelled recently, following Gov. Mike DeWine’s request they do so to provide relief to businesses suffering under pandemic restrictions. Qualifying public employers hit with falling tax revenues will receive the same refund for policy year 2018.
[Story originally published in The Hannah Report. Copyright 2020 Hannah News Service, Inc.]