top of page

Week in Review April 22, 2024


Ohio statehouse government affairs week in review January 2023


This report reflects the latest happenings in government relations, in and around the Ohio statehouse. You’ll notice that it’s broad in nature and on an array of topics, from A-Z. This will be updated on a weekly basis.

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


ABORTION


Planned Parenthood Advocates of Ohio Executive Director Lauren Blauvelt is on the 2024 TIME100 list, TIME magazine's annual list of the 100 most influential people in the world. "Our success enshrining abortion into Ohio's Constitution proves that protecting the right to abortion is possible in every state, regardless of party politics," Blauvelt said. The full list and related tributes will appear in the April 29 issue of TIME and online at https://tinyurl.com/m7fa7hwh. The article on Blauvelt is available at https://tinyurl.com/245rzjwx.


ADDICTION/SUBSTANCE ABUSE


The OneOhio Recovery Foundation welcomed physician and Sen. Terry Johnson (R-McDermott) this week to replace Senate Majority Floor Leader Rob McColley (R-Napoleon) on its board of directors, which addressed conflicts of interest Wednesday and updated the organization's roster from 100 grant applicants in March to "450 and growing" this month, Director Alisha Nelson told members. Nelson said the nearly 500 grant hopefuls represent all regions of the state and many local interests.


AGING


Ohio Department of Aging (ODA) Director Ursel J. McElroy announced Wednesday that the Scripps Gerontology Center at Miami University will soon launch the state's Biennial Survey of Long-Term Care Facilities. The survey is commissioned by ODA and is the only survey that collects information from every long-term care facility in the state. It captures metrics in categories such as capacity, occupancy, payment types accepted, staff, types of services offered, and more. Participation in this survey is mandated for all long-term care facilities by Section 173.44 of the Ohio Revised Code. Facility administrators will be contacted directly in the coming days with instructions on accessing and completing the survey, according to ODA. Staff from Scripps Gerontology Center will also be available to provide technical assistance to facility administrators. Administrators can contact the Scripps helpline by emailing biennialltcsurvey@miamioh.edu or by calling 1-844-850-0043.


AGRICULTURE


The Ohio Department of Agriculture (ODAg) has issued a quarantine for six counties in Southwest Ohio to prevent the spread of an invasive insect -- the box tree moth. Butler, Clermont, Hamilton, Greene, Montgomery, and Warren counties now have regulations in place restricting the movement of boxwood shrubs out of the area, the department said. ODAg is encouraging landscapers and residents in these counties to check the quarantine boundaries and not transport the plants outside of the quarantined area. A map of the quarantined zone can be found at https://tinyurl.com/mt68u4sw.


ARTS, SPORTS AND ENTERTAINMENT


Rap legend Ice Cube and country music star Jamey Johnson will perform at the 2024 Ohio State Fair, officials announced Tuesday. Ice Cube will perform on Tuesday, July 30 at 7 p.m. Tickets cost $62 or $52. Johnson with special guest Southall will play on Saturday, Aug. 3 at 7 p.m. Tickets cost $48 or $38. Each concert ticket purchased in advance includes admission to the Ohio State Fair. All concerts take place in the indoor, air-conditioned WCOL Celeste Center. Tickets are available for purchase at www.ticketmaster.com/OhioStateFair.


CHILDREN/FAMILIES


Gov. Mike DeWine Friday announced the initial communities in 11 counties that will be served by the new universal nurse home visiting program, Family Connects, and its partner organizations. Family Connects will offer all new families, within the geographic areas selected, a nurse home visit around three weeks after the family brings their baby home. The visits will begin in the summer, with the goal of serving approximately 4,000 new families within a year of beginning the program. The partners and communities include the following:


  • Every Child Succeeds will offer visits to families in 16 zip codes throughout Hamilton County (45202, 45204, 45205, 45206, 45208, 45209, 45213, 45214, 45215, 45216, 45225, 45229, 45232, 45238, 45242, 45246).

  • Fisher-Titus Medical Center will offer visits to families who deliver their babies at the Medical Center, which includes primarily residents of Huron and Erie counties.

  • Greene County Public Health, Darke County General Health District, Fayette County Public Health and Sidney-Shelby County Health Department collaboration will offer visits to families in Darke, Fayette, Greene and Shelby counties.

  • Mahoning Public Health and Trumbull County Combined Health District will offer visits to families in Mahoning and Trumbull counties.

  • Noble County Health Department and the Cambridge-Guernsey County Health Department will offer visits to families in Noble and Guernsey counties.

The Ohio Chamber of Commerce Tuesday hosted its inaugural Access & Affordability to Childcare Summit, with panels on child care delivery models, best practices, and a "fireside chat" with the director of the new Ohio Department of Children and Youth, Kara Wente. The summit comes on the heels of Gov. Mike DeWine's "State of the State" address in which he continued to focus on children and improving accessing to child care. During the address, DeWine announced, among other initiatives, the "Child Care Choice Voucher Program" for families who earn up to 200 percent of the federal poverty level, or $60,000 for a family of four; as well as $85 million for "Child Care Access Grants" to provide resources to improve and expand existing child care facilities. Both programs make use of federal funding. On Tuesday, Wente discussed the new programs and issues like affordability, ensuring quality, and public-private partnerships in a conversation with Ohio Chamber President and CEO Steve Stivers, who has also repeatedly highlighted the effect of the child care crisis on business and the economy.


CRIME AND PUNISHMENT


The latest version of SB37 (Blessing-Ingram) would allow judges to continue to suspend Ohioans' driver's licenses for certain non-driving-related offenses. In a party-line vote, the Senate Judiciary Committee accepted a substitute version of the bill on Wednesday.


DISABILITIES


Family members of Ohioans with disabilities and health challenges shared horror stories of abuse and neglect in care facilities Wednesday in a House committee hearing, urging the members to pass legislation allowing them to use audio-video surveillance to monitor the care of their loved ones and expanding Medicaid coverage of home- and community-based services to include payments to family caregivers. The House Families and Aging Committee held a hearing for proponent witnesses of HB465 (Carruthers), which is dubbed "Lauren's Law." More than a dozen people spoke or provided written remarks to the committee in support of the bill. Rep. Jean Schmidt (R-Loveland), the committee chair, noted many of those submitting written remarks could not attend in person because they were at home caring for their loved ones.


DISASTERS


The Ohio Controlling Board Monday approved nearly $4 million in disaster relief funds for the Indian Lake region after it was struck by a deadly tornado last month. Those funds, which were requested by the Ohio Department of Public Safety, will be disbursed to Logan and Auglaize counties for debris removal, safety and security operations, and to repair damage to municipal electrical systems and municipal buildings. Logan County will receive $3.75 million and Auglaize County will receive $187,500 through the State Disaster Relief Program (SDRP) -- a reimbursement program that can be used in instances where storm damage does not meet the threshold for federal assistance.


EDUCATION


The Controlling Board approved nearly $11 million in advance funding to the Mt. Healthy City School District in Hamilton County. The Ohio Auditor of State declared the school in fiscal emergency earlier this month, finding an operating deficit of $10,758,000. The advance, equal to the deficit, will keep the district solvent in FY24, and it will be paid back over the next two fiscal years. According to the Ohio Department of Education and Workforce (DEW), the district would not be able to meet payroll or other financial obligations without assistance. The deficit, which is equal to the advance, represents 26 percent of Mt. Healthy's General Fund revenues for FY24.


Sen. Andrew Brenner (R-Delaware) said Wednesday to expect an amendment aimed at limiting cell phone usage in schools potentially within the next week. Brenner, chair of the Senate Education Committee, said an amendment addressing students' use of cell phones in school may be added to HB250 (Miranda-Richardson). The amendment requires each school district board of education to adopt a policy governing the use of cell phones by students during school hours. The policy, according to the amendment, must "emphasize that student cellular telephone use be as limited as possible during school hours," and "reduce cellular telephone-related distractions in classroom settings."


The Ohio Department of Education and Workforce (DEW) is gathering feedback in advance of posting a draft rewrite of state rules on school transportation, which could address recent budget bill changes as well recommendations of Gov. Mike DeWine's school bus safety working group. DEW held a video conference Tuesday for stakeholders on plans for the rule revisions, which are being considered as part of the routine five-year review required for all administrative rules. Colleen Grady, senior program officer for educational policy and options at DEW, said to address concerns about mid-year rule implementation, DEW is looking to have the new rules take effect for the 2025-2026 academic year, though the rule revisions will likely be finalized by the end of 2024. Student transportation rules are addressed now in Ohio Administrative Code 3301-83-01 through -25. The department followed up Wednesday by posting the draft rules for comment. They are available at https://tinyurl.com/yeyswdnp.


ELECTIONS 2024


One proposed solution to the looming issue of President Joe Biden's getting onto Ohio's November ballot was rejected this week by Attorney General Dave Yost's office, which said Ohio law does not allow a political party to "provisionally certify" a candidate to the ballot. Democratic attorney Don McTigue had proposed the solution to Secretary of State Frank LaRose's office after LaRose had pointed out that the Democratic National Convention to nominate Biden will be held after the 90-day statutory deadline for political parties to submit the names of their presidential and vice presidential candidates. Under the proposal, Democrats would provisionally certify Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris before the Wednesday, Aug. 7 statutory deadline, and then would confirm the results by Sunday, Aug. 25, after the Democratic National Convention, which is set to begin on Monday, Aug. 19, in Chicago.


Democrat Mark Sigrist, a Grove City councilman and retired Honda employee, is the official winner of the 10th District Ohio House of Representatives race after the Franklin County Board of Elections completed a recount on Monday. According to the board, no totals were changed over the official certified results, which had Sigrist defeating Sarah Pomeroy by just 20 votes. The race went to an automatic recount because the difference in votes was less than half of a percent.


Candidates, and the super PACs supporting and opposing them, spent millions of dollars in the final days of the primary campaign for the U.S. Senate, with Republican Bernie Moreno emerging victorious to take on U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown. Monday was the deadline for federal candidates to file fundraising reports covering the period from Feb. 29, through March 31. Additionally, super PACs reported their activity through the first three months to support or oppose federal candidates.


Secretary of State Frank LaRose Thursday announced the "Ready for November" initiative, which will include a series of collaborative training opportunities between Ohio's 88 county boards of elections and the secretary of state's elections, public integrity and communications staff to ensure election officials are trained and prepared for the 2024 presidential election. Among some of the topics covered by the initiative, election officials will preview poll worker recruitment and training, provisional voting, election night reporting, early vote and election day logistics, election integrity protocols and communication best practices, among other topics.


The following endorsements were made over the week:

  • The re-election campaign of U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) announced the endorsements of the Ohio State Association of Plumbers, Pipefitters, Sprinkler Fitters, and Mechanical Equipment Service Technicians.

  • The Hamilton County Republican Party endorsed Sen. Louis Blessing (R-Cincinnati) for re-election and John Sess, Jim Berns, John Breadon, Curt Hartman, Jenn Giroux, Cindy Abrams, and Mike Odioso for the Ohio House.

  • The U.S. Senate campaign of Republican Bernie Moreno announced the endorsements of U.S. Reps. Brad Wenstrup (R-Cincinnati), Jim Jordan (R-Urbana), Bob Latta (R-Bowling Green), Max Miller (R-Rocky River), Warren Davidson (R-Troy), Mike Turner (R-Centerville), Troy Balderson (R-Zanesville), Dave Joyce (R-Novelty) and Mike Carey (R-Columbus).

ENERGY/UTILITIES


Ohio Chancellor Mike Duffey was a 30-something freshman legislator when the General Assembly first entered the battle over sub-metered utilities with a raft of four bills to regulate services to multi-family dwellings. In the decade since, four sponsors including Duffey have embraced new challenges and one has died, now leaving it to the Ohio Supreme Court to grant renters equal protection under the state's utility law or punt the dispute back to the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) on procedural grounds. The Office of Ohio Consumers' Counsel (OCC) American Electric Power (AEP) have both appealed Ohio Power Company v. Nationwide Energy Partners -- the latter Ohio's leading utility reseller -- to the high court after PUCO imposed certain restrictions on sub-meterers last year, including a local-utility price match and customer disconnect standards, but denied landlord-dependent Ohioans the full protection of the state as apparent consumers of third-party services rather than as captive ratepayers under Ohio's system of local distribution utilities.

The PUCO is asking the Biden administration to approve $11.4 million from the federal Grid Resilience Formula Grant Program for eight projects led by American Electric Power (AEP) of Ohio and Duke Energy Ohio. Commissioners approved the proposals Wednesday for submission to the U.S Department of Energy (DOE). DOE requires a 100 percent match from sub-awardees handling over 4 million megawatt hours (MWh) per year and 33 percent from those under that load, bringing Ohio applicants' total match to $9.8 million. Distribution utilities, generators, electric grid operators, transmission owners and operators, electric storage facilities, and fuel suppliers may apply for grants currently slated through FFY26, with $3.9 billion available in the current and subsequent federal fiscal years.


FEDERAL


The United States Postal Service (USPS) plans to increase mailing service prices effective Sunday, July 14, 2024, according to a notice filed recently with the Postal Regulatory Commission, which oversees USPS operations and pricing. Proposed adjustments have been approved by the governors of the postal service and would raise mailing service prices approximately 7.8 percent. If favorably reviewed by the regulatory commission, the price increases would include the following:


  • First-Class Mail Forever Stamp: to 73 cents from 68 cents.

  • Letters (metered one ounce): to 69 cents from 64 cents.

  • Domestic Postcards: to 56 cents from 53 cents.

  • International Postcards: to $1.65 from $1.55.

  • International letter (one ounce): to $1.65 from $1.55.

  • Additional-ounce price for single letters: to 28 cents from 24 cents.

U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Youngstown Mayor Jamael Tito Brown held a press call Wednesday, with both saying Congress needs to get its "act together" and pass legislation that would renew the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) before its funding runs out. The ACP offers qualifying households a discount of up to $30 per month toward Internet service, but April is the last month that will be fully offered without new action by Congress. Enrollment was frozen on Feb. 8, 2024, according to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) website. Sen. Brown said all Ohio families should have high-speed Internet without paying "exorbitant" prices and that many households lack alternative service options. More than one in four Ohio households have used ACP, including senior citizens who got Internet service for the first time. He also detailed how high-speed Internet is important for health care, education and starting a business.


GENERAL ASSEMBLY/STATEHOUSE


The House Democratic Caucus Wednesday announced the formation of a screening panel that will interview candidates for former Rep. Jessica Miranda's (D-Cincinnati) 28th District seat. Miranda resigned Saturday after she was appointed Hamilton County auditor, succeeding the late Brigid Kelly, who died last month after a battle with cancer. The panel, led by Rep. Dan Troy (D-Willowick), is requesting resumes and letters of interest from individuals seeking appointment to the House District 28 seat, the caucus said. The caucus will appoint a qualified applicant to serve the remainder of Miranda's term, which runs through December 2024. Troy will be joined by Rep. Beryl Brown Piccolantonio (D-Gahanna) and Cincinnati-area Reps. Cecil Thomas (D-Cincinnati) and Rachel Baker (D-Cincinnati) on the screening panel to interview applicants and make a recommendation to the 32-member Minority Caucus. Applicants should email resumes and cover letters to House Democratic Chief of Staff Jordan Plottner by 6 p.m. on Friday, April 26 at jordan.plottner@ohiohouse.gov.


Some areas of the Ohio Statehouse may be without air conditioning for a period of time in the coming months as the Capitol Square Review and Advisory Board (CSRAB) continues various improvements from the elevators, to audio and HVAC systems. CSRAB Executive Director Laura Battocletti gave the board an update during a meeting Thursday, saying that the most labor-intensive project in the coming months will be updates to the HVAC system, which involve replacing up to 250 various components tied to the system that provide supplemental heating and cooling to various rooms throughout the Statehouse. Battocletti said CSRAB will inform the public about the various "pain points" that may be without cooling and how long it is expected to last.


In other action, CSRAB began discussing various rule updates and changes as most of its rules are coming up for a five-year review by the Joint Committee on Agency Rule Review (JCARR). The board is expected to act on the rules at its meeting during the summer, but Battocletti previewed a number of changes.


In other legislative action, the House Health Provider Services Committee reported out SB81 (Romanchuk), which deals with medical professionals’ authorized duties.


GUNS


President Joe Biden's recently announced National Extreme Risk Protection Order Resource Center and "red flag" policy undermine Ohioans' and other citizens' fundamental right to legal due process, equal protection under the law, and freedom from unreasonable search and seizure, Attorney General (AG) Dave Yost and 18 other red state AGs argue in a scathing letter to U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland. Led by West Virgina Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, the AGs said that the Biden administration has overstepped its constitutional authority by seeking to direct states' gun safety policies and especially their position on red-flag restrictions on the Second Amendment gun rights of the mentally ill. "The idea that federal officials would purport to instruct state and local officials on how to implement state and local laws is strange enough, especially when the aim is to undermine a federal constitutional right," say Yost and colleagues.


HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES


Looming restrictions on gender transition services for children and transgender women and girls' participation in K-12 and collegiate sports are on hold under a judge's order issued Tuesday. Judge Michael Holbrook of Franklin County Common Pleas Court issued a temporary restraining order requested by families of two children, identified by the pseudonyms Madeline Moe and Grace Goe, who are in the midst of or considering hormonal treatments that would be disrupted by HB68 (Click). Lawmakers passed the law in December of 2023 then returned in January to override Gov. Mike DeWine's veto of the legislation. The ACLU of Ohio filed suit in late March to block its enforcement. It was due to take effect next week. Holbrook said he found "little doubt as to the irreparable nature of the actual physical injury to plaintiffs upon enforcement of the act. There is certainly a point where the changes to the body as a result of the progression of puberty cannot be reversed."

Earlier on Monday, Ohio Department of Health (ODH) rules banning gender transition surgeries and referrals for minors had been cleared to move forward after Republicans on the Joint Committee on Agency Rule Review (JCARR) voted against invalidating them. Numerous witnesses testified against the rules, and Democrats argued they should be invalidated for violating several JCARR prongs. JCARR had also been scheduled to consider ODH rules on reporting requirements for gender transition care, but those rules were placed in "to be refiled" status ahead of the meeting.


HIGHER EDUCATION


Ohio State University (OSU) President Ted Carter delivered his first "State of the University" address at the Ohio Union recently, marking his first 100 days as Ohio State's 17th president. Carter discussed the history of the university, which opened in 1873 as the Ohio Agricultural and Technical College, touted its successes, and reviewed his vision for the university's future. One of those areas of success is around research, Carter said. Last year, Emeritus OSU Professor Pierre Agostini was one of three individuals to be awarded the 2023 Nobel Prize in Physics for his study of electron dynamics in matter, making him the fifth Nobel Prize laureate in the history of Ohio State. Carter also noted, "I'm part of a small consortium of university presidents, and I'm the only Big 10 president right now, writing a strategy for the nation on higher education as a strategic asset. … I will submit to you, in the present, that only a few public land grant universities of our stature can turn this conversation around. And we have the people, we have the ambassadors, we have the backing of the Buckeye community that understands how important this part of our mission is."


The University of Toledo (UT) announced plans to merge its College of Nursing and College of Health and Human Services into one college and to merge the College of Arts and Letters with the Judith Herb College of Education. Committees of faculty and staff from the colleges are being formed to work through the logistics of the proposed mergers during the upcoming school year. The goal is for the four colleges to become two colleges by the start of the 2025-26 academic year.


President Joe Biden recently released initial details of a new proposal that could bring the total number of borrowers eligible for some student debt forgiveness to over 30 million borrowers. The public will have an opportunity to comment on the plans in the coming week. In addition, Biden also announced $7.4 billion in debt cancellation for 277,000 borrowers, although Ohio joined several states in a lawsuit challenging the president's Saving on A Valuable Education (SAVE) plan.


Lakeland Community College (LKCC) in Northeast Ohio is overstaffed and burdened with debt related to facilities that are significantly underused because of continued declines in student enrollment over the past decade, according to the Ohio Auditor of State. LKCC stands at the precipice of fiscal watch, the auditor's office said, and administrators will have to make difficult decisions related to workforce, class and program offerings, and facilities to remain in operation. Auditor of State Keith Faber said, "LKCC's trajectory is unsustainable." The concerns, along with recommendations to address the downward enrollment trends, are included in a performance audit of LKCC released Tuesday by the auditor’s Performance Team, which reviews the operations of government agencies and programs and offers recommendations to improve their efficiency and effectiveness.


HOUSING/HOMELESSNESS


Saying they are "using carrots, not sticks," Reps. Dani Isaacsohn (D-Cincinnati) and Adam Mathews (R-Lebanon) Tuesday announced bipartisan legislation that would create a grant program to incentivize local governments to adopt policies friendly to creating more housing as a way to address the state's looming housing crisis. Isaacsohn said there are not enough options for Ohioans' looking for a place to rent or buy that they can afford, will fit their needs, and they will feel safe in. He said their proposed bill would "revolutionize" how local governments approach housing policy. The bill was drafted with the input of local governments, housing advocates, and developers. Under the legislation, any local government that adopts at least three of 12 different policy options to address housing, from eliminating parking minimums, to providing density bonuses for developments or speeding up the permitting process, would be eligible to apply for grant money from the state.


After 35 hours of listening to testimony from more than 200 witnesses across Ohio, the Senate Select Committee on Housing announced Wednesday its findings and provided 23 recommendations the General Assembly should look at to fix the current housing crisis in Ohio. Members of the Select Committee on Housing present included the chair of the committee, Sen. Michele Reynolds (R-Columbus), along with Sen. Hearcel Craig (D-Columbus), Sen. Louis Blessing (R-Cincinnati), and Sen. Andrew Brenner (R-Delaware). Senate President Matt Huffman (R-Lima) also attended the news conference. Earlier Wednesday, members of the committee introduced four new bills that Reynolds said stem from the report: SB243 (Reynolds-Craig), which addresses zoning regulations; SB244 (Reynolds-Craig), which deals with the property tax and Residential Stability Zones; SB245 (Reynolds-Craig), which revises housing laws; and SB246 (Reynolds-Craig), which renames the Department of Development the Department of Housing and Development. In the press conference, Huffman said the recommendations all have different timelines, so some may take weeks, and some may even be achieved over the next few years.


JUDICIAL


Back when people actually wrote each other, one was admonished not to send an angry letter without taking time to reflect. The facility of social media posts has only sharpened that advice, as demonstrated by the public reprimand of Hamilton County Probate Judge Ralph Edward Winkler. Winkler inherited a difficult case from his predecessor that was being handled primarily by a magistrate when the judge was first elected in 2014. Children of the elderly Mary Francis McCulloch had long contested her guardianship and conservatorship for dementia, according to the Board of Professional Conduct, resulting in what the Hamilton County Prosecutor's Office described as "threatening and harassing" letters to the magistrate. Developments in the case led to Winkler’s posting on Facebook – a post he deleted but which led to the reprimand by the board.


A statewide database of dead Ohioans with the names and addresses associated with the causes of death is not available to the public via a public records request because it contains "protected health information," the Supreme Court of Ohio ruled Wednesday. In the 5-2 decision, the Supreme Court rejected the claim of former Columbus Dispatch reporter Randy Ludlow, who sought the cause-of-death information from the Ohio Department of Health (ODH) during the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. The department provided Ludlow with requested spreadsheets with vital information from death certificates, including sex, age, and cause of death, but not the names and addresses of those who died. Writing for the Court majority, Justice Patrick F. Fischer stated the department correctly determined that the names and addresses, when combined with the other medical information, would constitute protected health information. Under Ohio Revised Code (ORC) 3701.17, the department is prohibited from releasing that information.


LOBBYISTS


The Batchelder Company announced Hunter Wright as its new vice president of government relations, citing his over 10 years of experience working on issues at the "highest levels" of the General Assembly and executive administration. Wright is currently on the Ohio Lobbying Association's Board of Trustees and is an active member of the Ohio Commodores. He has a B.A. from Bowling Green State University in marketing and communication.


MARIJUANA/HEMP


Senate President Matt Huffman (R-Lima) told reporters Wednesday that he is "reasonably hopeful" lawmakers can pass something to address the state's marijuana program, although House Speaker Jason Stephens (R-Kitts Hill) had told reporters earlier that he doesn't expect the House to address the marijuana program before the June deadline for the state to release licensing applications. However, Huffman said Wednesday that he has talked with "higher ups" in the House, without naming anyone, about getting something passed by the time lawmakers go on their summer break, "and they're working with some members of our caucus to try to do that." He said he is hopeful "because I think most reasonable people, including people in the industry, believe that it would be better to have it clarified in law," he said.


MEDICAID/MEDICAID REFORM


It's unclear if the results of Auditor of State Keith Faber's report on Medicaid concurrent enrollment can be trusted, according to Joint Medicaid Oversight Committee (JMOC) Chair Sen. Mark Romanchuk (R-Ontario). "The period that they audited was during the public health emergency (PHE). That was not normal operations for the state, or any state for that matter. So it's unfortunate ... that the auditor's office chose a period that was very unusual. And that clouds, in my view, the results of the report," Romanchuk said during Thursday's JMOC meeting. Faber's office recently released an audit report, "The Cost of Concurrent Enrollment," finding that more than 124,000 people were concurrently enrolled in Ohio Medicaid and the Medicaid program of another state from 2019 through 2022. The Ohio Department of Medicaid (ODM) raised questions about the audit in a lengthy response. "Thirty-four out of 48 months of the sample period were under the PHE. We could find no evidence that the auditor took that into account," ODM Director Maureen Corcoran said.


MENTAL HEALTH


Gov. Mike DeWine's newly formed Competency Restoration and Diversion Work Group dove into the data Wednesday in its second meeting. Members are seeking solutions to the outsized number of felony offenders at the state's six psychiatric hospitals and explored the difference between anti-social "criminogenic" behavior and mentally ill persons who are acting out or "behaving badly," saying early intervention offers hope to struggling Ohioans who might otherwise become institutionalized. Scheduled speakers presented some overlapping and potentially divergent numbers on the percentage and severity of mentally ill persons in Ohio prisons and jails. Criminal Justice Services Chief Chris Nicastro of the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services (OhioMHAS), who reports to work group chair and department Director LeeAnne Cornyn, said the "severely mentally ill" comprise 4 percent of the general population and 15-20 percent of the incarcerated, but did not give figures for the "seriously mentally ill" or lesser diagnoses.


NATURAL RESOURCES


The Ohio Wildlife Council has voted to remove the trumpeter swan from the state's threatened species list, Gov. Mike DeWine and Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) Director Mary Mertz announced recently. The delisting culminates a 28-year effort by the ODNR Division of Wildlife to restore the population of trumpeter swans in Ohio. Ohio's trumpeter swan population today stands at nearly 900, with swans nesting in 26 different counties, according to the governor. "Trumpeter swans represent a great comeback story for Ohio. This is just one of many examples of the conservation work ODNR has been doing for the last 75 years," said Mertz.


Ohio's spring wild turkey seasons have begun, according to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) Division of Wildlife. Ohio's 2024 youth wild turkey hunting season ran from Saturday, April 13 through Sunday, April 14 while Ohio's regular seasons are divided into two zones: the south zone, which opens to hunters on Saturday, April 20, and the northeast zone (Ashtabula, Cuyahoga, Geauga, Lake, and Trumbull counties), which opens on Saturday, April 27. The season limit is one bearded turkey. During the 2023 spring turkey seasons, hunters harvested 15,673 birds.


OHIO HISTORY


After declining a request to delay lower court proceedings in the eminent domain case involving what's now part of Ohio's new World Heritage Site, Ohio Supreme Court justices decided Tuesday they won't take up the latest appeal by Moundbuilders Country Club, which already lost a legal battle with Ohio History Connection (OHC) over the "taking" of the Octagon Earthworks. The country club more recently challenged evidentiary decisions in the eminent domain trial over how much OHC must pay the country club for lost lease interest. Justices allowed OHC to proceed with the taking of the earthworks in December 2022, which were subsequently recognized by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) as a World Heritage Site, along with other Hopewell earthworks in Ohio.


PAYDAY LENDING


Payday lending reform advocates Tuesday celebrated the fifth anniversary of full enactment for 132-HB123 (Koehler-Ashford), while also saying they remain vigilant about any attempts to remove bill provisions from state law. Springfield Central Christian Church Pastor Carl Ruby said former Reps. Kyle Koehler and Michael Ashford made "an act of political courage" by sponsoring the bill. He also explained the process that led to its passage, comparing it to a "David versus Goliath" fight. Ruby further said results of the bill had exceeded all his expectations and ensured low-income families still had access to emergency short-term credit without being trapped by high interest rates.


PUBLIC SAFETY


Private investigators would be allowed to use devices to track people without their consent under the latest versions of HB91 (Patton) and SB100 (Manning-Antonio). The House Criminal Justice Committee on Tuesday amended SB100 to remove the requirement that a private investigator obtain consent from the owner of the property upon which a tracking device or tracking application is installed. The bill was also amended to create a process for a person to uninstall a tracking device if the other person had given consent in the past, but has since filed for divorce, dissolution or a protection order. The committee also accepted a substitute version of HB91 that includes the changes made to SB100. Committee Chair Rep. Cindy Abrams (R-Harrison) told Hannah News that HB91 and SB100 are now identical, and that committee members will continue to work on both of them. Abrams said she's not sure which bill will ultimately receive a committee vote.


The Educational Service Center of Eastern Ohio leads the DeWine administration's new teen driver training grants with a quarter-million-dollar award among 35 school districts and governmental jurisdictions in 43 counties receiving funding for the Drive to Succeed Scholarship Program. A total of $2,495,655 will provide driver instruction to an estimated 5,500 teens from low-income families. The ESC of Eastern Ohio serves Columbiana, Mahoning and Trumbull counties. Other leading recipients include the ESC of Central Ohio in Franklin County ($168,000), Boardman Township Police Department in Mahoning County ($147,885), Knox Public Health Department in Knox County ($142,000), Akron Public Schools in Summit County ($134,00), Toledo Public Schools in Lucas County ($133,500), Bethel Tate Local Schools in Clermont County ($116,630) and Washington Local Schools in Lucas County ($111,250).


SOLAR ECLIPSE


The Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) told Hannah News statewide traffic rose by 12.8 percent on Sunday and 15.8 percent Tuesday compared to four-week averages for April and May 2023, saying that showed many visitors for the April 8 eclipse did what state officials encouraged by coming to their planned viewing locations early and staying late. "This was a major factor in Ohio's not seeing the same traffic gridlock that impacted states in New England this year and states like Kentucky and Tennessee in 2017," ODOT Press Secretary Matt Bruning said. Sgt. Tyler Ross, a member of the Ohio State Highway Patrol (OSHP) Public Affairs Unit, told Hannah News OSHP troopers saw an increase in traffic leading up to and on the day of the eclipse as expected.


More than 150,000 people viewed the Monday, April 8 total solar eclipse from one of Ohio's state parks, wildlife areas, nature preserves or forests, according to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR). Nearly 300 law enforcement officers were on duty around the state on Monday. Natural resources officers and wildlife officers were posted at some of the busiest locations along the path of totality. Other wildlife officers were able to monitor the state parks, nature preserves, and forests that were not in the path of totality.


STATE GOVERNMENT


The Ohio Facilities Construction Commissions (OFCC) Thursday highlighted the new Ohio Fire Academy Search and Rescue Training House in Reynoldsburg. The Ohio Fire Academy trains over 5,000 students annually, OFCC Project Manager Chris Frommeyer said. Frommeyer, who worked on the project, said the new training house has many innovations to allow firefighter students to train in as realistic conditions as possible. The structure features removable doors and windows designed specifically for forcible entry and search training as well as for students to train with different types of fires and construction materials to see how fires may differ depending on how they started and how a home is constructed. Members also approved additional updates to the Ohio School Design Manual (OSDM).

New OFCC Executive Director Joy DeMarco reported that of the 13 school districts with an issue on the ballot in March, only one was successful -- Kings Local School District in Warren County. Four of them plan to return to the ballot in November, she said. DeMarco reported $2.63 billion in FY24 project activity as of February 2024 for 315 projects in design and construction.


TAXATION


Think tank Policy Matters Ohio (PMO) observed the tax filing deadline Monday, April 15 with an online panel discussion of how state tax policy could be more favorable to lower income Ohioans. Joined by colleagues from Children's Defense Fund-Ohio (CDF-Ohio), Northern Ohioans for Budget Legislation Equity (NOBLE), Ohio Association of Foodbanks and a Zanesville father of three, PMO outlined four policy proposals aimed at addressing the greater share of income paid by some Ohioans for basic living expenses. The policies include the following:


  • Refundability of the existing Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC)

  • Thriving Families Tax Credit, aka a state-level child tax credit

  • Sales tax credit

  • Property tax circuit breakers

TOBACCO/SMOKING/VAPING


Fourteen Ohio cities filed a lawsuit challenging a state law prohibiting local regulations of tobacco and alternative nicotine products at a local level. Plaintiffs in the lawsuit include Columbus, Bexley, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Dublin, Gahanna, Grandview Heights, Heath, Hilliard, Oxford, Reynoldsburg, Upper Arlington, Whitehall and Worthington. It argues that legislation passed by the General Assembly that is set to take effect later this month on Tuesday, April 23 is unconstitutional. Gov. Mike DeWine used his pen to line-item veto the provision in biennial budget bill HB33 (Edwards), but lawmakers in both chambers overrode that veto in January. The lawsuit, filed in Franklin County Common Pleas Court, argues that the preemption violates home rule provisions of the Ohio Constitution and that the local ordinances do not conflict with a general law of the state. The cities note that the Ohio Constitution grants municipalities the right to enforce local police, sanitary, and similar regulations as they are not in conflict with the state's general laws.


TRANSPORTATION/INFRASTRUCTURE


At 2:14 a.m. Wednesday, April 10 the new toll collection system for the Ohio Turnpike and Infrastructure System went live, according to Turnpike Executive Director Ferzan Ahmed. Ahmed updated the Ohio Turnpike and Infrastructure Commission on the launch at its monthly meeting Monday, saying it has so far been smooth. Still, he noted the challenges that the more than $250 million project has gone through over the last five years, with Ahmed calling it a "challenging and complex project." The new system includes open road tolling, the removal of all gates in E-ZPass entrance and exit lanes, and improvements to the customer service center.


Gov. Mike DeWine was joined by other state officials in unveiling a "re-imagined" rest area on I-70 West in Licking County, part of a project to improve rest areas around the state through 2026 that was announced in May 2023. This specific rest area focused on nearby historical sites including two of the eight Hopewell Ceremonial Earthworks, which were designated as a World Heritage Site by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in September 2023. The unveiling was held Thursday in recognition of World Heritage Day. The rest areas will contain overall information and displays encouraging travelers to visit local attractions. Other items shown at the Licking County rest area include downtown Newark, Dawes Arboretum, the restored 1928 Midland Theatre and sites in Columbus. There is also a 10-foot map of the state showing points of interest such as colleges and universities, state parks, campgrounds and nearby lakes. Video boards will provide live weather and real-time traffic and road alerts. Athletic events are promoted on the board as well.


WORKFORCE


The House Commerce and Labor Committee heard testimony from a former Trump administration official and trades groups' leaders in support of a bill to set E-Verify requirements for certain employers. HB327 (Wiggam-Swearingen) would require political subdivisions, private employers with 75 employees or more and nonresidential construction contractors to verify each new employee's work eligibility through the federal E-Verify program. The contractor provision also applies to subcontractors and any tradesperson assigned to work on the project. Joseph Edlow, who has held several executive and legislative branch positions regarding immigration enforcement including U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services' deputy director for policy, effectively an acting director position, spoke on behalf of the organization NumbersUSA. He explained how the E-Verify system works quickly and presented statistics on its accuracy, saying nearly 43 million employees were checked for eligibility during FY23 and it automatically confirmed work authorization for 98.24 percent.

 


 


 


 



 


 



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


86 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All

Kommentare


bottom of page