Week In Review - April 27, 2020



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


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

ABORTION


U.S. District Court Judge Michael Barrett followed the restraining order he issued a few weeks ago with a preliminary injunction Thursday barring enforcement of the public health order delaying non-essential surgeries against abortion clinics in a way that prevents them from making case-by-case decisions on which abortion procedures qualify as essential. In his ruling, Barrett wrote that risks of surgical abortions increase with gestational age, meaning delay of the procedures "could cause a substantial risk of serious harm." Delaying would also exacerbate usual logistical challenges of scheduling surgeries, meaning clinics could be "overwhelmed" if procedures are delayed to the viability limit. Barrett wrote that the state's contention women seeking abortions were being treated no different than someone seeking laser-eye surgery or a face lift relies on "false equivalence" and overlooks "well-settled" Supreme Court precedent on the 14th Amendment's guarantee of the right to reproductive freedom.


ATTORNEY GENERAL


Attorney General Dave Yost announced legal action Tuesday against a former nonprofit provider of sex education in Franklin County after a Making Healthy Relationships (MHR) official allegedly skimmed at least $90,000 in K-12 grants for personal use and filed false reports with the state. Worthington City Council member Doug Smith is being sued for full restitution, $60,000 in penalties, and additional punitive damages.


BALLOT ISSUES


In a short meeting that was its first ever done by video conference, the Ohio Ballot Board unanimously approved the proposed Secure and Fair Elections amendment as one issue after the Ohio Supreme Court had rebuked the board for splitting it into four separate issues at its last meeting. The Court had ruled that the board had overstepped its authority when it split the proposal into four separate amendments addressing the topics of casting a ballot, registering to vote, the right of citizens with disabilities to vote and audits to ensure election integrity.


Some justices sided with an opinion that said the proposal has the overarching issue of elections, while others signed on to an opinion arguing that a single subject rule does not apply to citizen-initiated constitutional amendments. The Ballot Board's actions allow supporters of the amendment to begin collecting signatures. To make the November ballot, they have until Wednesday, July 1 to collect 442,958 valid signatures.


FY20-21 BUDGET


The State Medical Board of Ohio (SMBO) could cut its FY20 budget by 20 percent while maintaining current operational levels, according to a document obtained by Hannah News. The letter, sent by SMBO Executive Director Stephanie Loucka to Ohio Office of Budget and Management (OBM) Director Kim Murnieks following Gov. Mike DeWine's order requiring state agencies to map out budget reduction scenarios, proposed to cut $259,209.


BUSINESS/CORPORATE


Secretary of State Frank LaRose announced Friday that 13,399 new businesses filed in March, an increase of more than 2,000 compared to February, and similar to numbers from March 2019. "During this pandemic we expected new business filings to slow down as Ohioans adapt to the stay-at-home order, but we have seen just the opposite," said LaRose.


The Ohio Restaurant Association (ORA) said Monday that its national counterpart had completed a second survey of restaurant owners and operators and found 40 percent had closed at least temporarily. In Ohio that number was closer to 50 percent, up from 29 percent of temporary closures in the first survey. Three percent of restaurants nationally have closed permanently, and five percent anticipate doing so within the next 30 days. Fifty-six percent of operators anticipate off-premise traffic during the next 30 days.


Lordstown Motors Corporation announced Tuesday that COVID-19 had led it to delay sales of its Endurance electric pickup trucks until January 2021, rather than its initial goal of being in production at the end of 2020.


The Dispute Resolution Commission, announced on April 2 to address disparate treatment of similar businesses under coronavirus restrictions, has heard 269 inquiries and made 67 determinations, with seven cases still under review. The determinations include 11 rulings and 56 other cases that were determined to be nearly identical to the 11 rulings and thus were decided by rule. The commission also decided that 185 did not meet the criteria for its review, as they were appeals of an individual health department decision rather than conflicts between two or more departments' decisions, and that 10 cases could be resolved locally without a commission ruling. The cases that have led to a ruling cover businesses including CBD establishments, pet grooming and car washes. The members of the commission are Ohio Department of Commerce Director Sheryl Maxfield, Ohio Development Services Agency (DSA) Director Lydia Mihalik and Public Utilities Commission of Ohio Chairman Sam Randazzo.


JobsOhio announced Tuesday that it had committed up to $50 million to assist Peoples Bank and recently merged First Federal/Home Savings Bank with providing loans to small businesses negatively affected by the coronavirus pandemic. The funds will help maintain operations and payroll.


Honda announced Thursday that it was extending its production suspension for automobile, engine and transmission plants in North America by one week through Friday, May 8 due to stay-at-home orders and other COVID-19 effects. The suspension began March 23 and has been repeatedly extended, most recently to May 1.


CENSUS


The Census Bureau announced recently it is seeking statutory relief from Congress for 120 additional calendar days to deliver final apportionment counts for the 2020 Census. Under this plan, the Census Bureau would extend the window for field data collection and self-response to Oct. 31, 2020 (originally July 31, 2020), meaning apportionment counts would be delivered to the president by April 30, 2021, and redistricting data would be delivered to the states no later than July 31, 2021.


CORONAVIRUS


Major announcements from the DeWine administration during daily coronavirus briefings for the week included extending through the end of the academic year the order closing school buildings; appointment of a Minority Health Strike Force to examine the disproportionate effects of the virus on African-American Ohioans; the assignment of former Govs. Dick Celeste and Bob Taft to lead a “strike team” on expanded coronavirus testing; relaxation of the order against elective surgeries to allow procedures the administration said were never supposed to be interrupted in the first place; and the first confirmed COVID-19 cases within a Department of Youth Services (DYS) institution and the first death at a developmental center. He also said on Thursday that details of his reopening plan will be released on Monday, April 27. Case statistics reported by the Ohio Department of Health (ODH) over the week showed an increase from 9,107 cases and 418 deaths on Friday, April 17 to 14,694 cases and 656 deaths on Thursday, April 23.


On Thursday, Professor Mark Weir, director of the Ecology, Epidemiology and Population Health Program at the Ohio State University (OSU) Infectious Disease Institute, joined DeWine and Lt. Gov. Gov. Jon Husted to offer individuals and businesses some guidance as the state moves closer to removing some of the stay-at-home restrictions that have been in place. DeWine has regularly discussed his expectations for what a return to work will mean for Ohioans and their businesses throughout the week, saying it will be gradual and include precautions to ensure workers and customers feel safe.


Gov. DeWine Sunday appeared on "Meet the Press" to discuss the state's coronavirus response, appearing along with Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, a Democrat. Vice President Mike Pence also appeared on the program before DeWine and Whitmer.


Saying the plaintiffs failed to demonstrate a cognizable injury, U.S. District Court Judge Algenon Marbley Tuesday issued a 25-page opinion denying a Columbus bridal shop's request for a temporary restraining order to stop the enforcement of Ohio Department of Health (ODH) Director Amy Acton's April 2 stay-at-home order. The 1851 Center for Constitutional Law filed the lawsuit in federal court on behalf of Gilded Social and its owner, Tanya Rutner Hartman, arguing that her business may fail if not allowed to open soon.


The Ohio Manufacturing Alliance to Fight COVID-19 announced Monday that it would be creating an "online marketplace" for production and distribution of personal protective equipment (PPE) and related items. The new exchange is not an e-commerce platform and the alliance is not involved in transactions between buyers and sellers. Instead, it is more comparable to Craigslist than eBay as PPE manufacturers list items they can sell or give away and those seeking PPE can search the listings and connect with manufacturers.


The Ohio Health Care Association (OHCA) Monday reiterated its support for transparency and accuracy in state reporting of COVID-19 statistics at skilled nursing centers, assisted living communities, and facilities for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. The association also noted that accuracy of the data is crucial both for informing families and for the state's coordinated response to assist these facilities.


The commissioner of Ohio's largest city health department said Wednesday that the COVID-19 pandemic is exposing serious gaps in public health, medical coverage and economic resilience that disproportionately impact minorities in the state capital and across Ohio, and that consensus is building for systemic change in the urban core. Columbus Health Commissioner Dr. Mysheika Roberts joined President and CEO Stephanie Hightower of the Columbus Urban League for a virtual Columbus Metropolitan Club (CMC) discussion on disparities being felt by many members of the community.


An overwhelming majority of all U.S. adults (92 percent) said in late March that they were fairly or very closely following news about the COVID-19 pandemic that has dominated media coverage for weeks. But within that large share, some notable differences emerged by age, according to a recent analysis by Pew Research Center. Those differences are most pronounced between the youngest and oldest Americans. More than two-thirds of adults ages 65 or older (69 percent) said they were following news of the pandemic very closely. At the other end of the spectrum, about four-in-ten Americans between the ages of 18 and 29 (42 percent) said they were paying as much attention to COVID-19 news. Those adults ages 30 to 49 (54 percent) and ages 50 to 64 (63 percent) fall in between.


CORRECTIONS


Tom Noe, the central figure of the Coingate workers’ compensation investment scandal, was one of seven Ohio prison inmates whom Gov. Mike DeWine granted commutations to allow their early release because of coronavirus concerns. "I felt enough time had passed," DeWine said. "He committed a serious act. He's been punished for it." The governor also highlighted the commutation of another inmate -- Alexis Martin -- whom he said is a child sex trafficking survivor who went to prison when she was 17 years old.


The Ohio Supreme Court has dismissed the state's first inmate appeal addressing COVID-19 prison conditions on jurisdictional and procedural grounds after the attorney general's office argued that an immuno-compromised man with HIV currently incarcerated for a non-violent offense had asked the Court to do something only the governor can do -- grant a temporary medical reprieve -- a finding which the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Ohio calls legal "quibbling" and which Justice Michael Donnelly says must be met with speedy intervention by all branches of government to protect prisoners.


The Ohio National Guard (ONG) is phasing out its medical assistance at the Federal Correctional Institution at Elkton (FCI Elkton) in the coming days, but has also sent approximately 40 personnel to assist the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction (DRC) with operational functions and medical support at the Marion Correctional Institution (MCI). Ohio Adjutant General's Department spokeswoman Stephanie Beougher told Hannah News Tuesday that ONG personnel will remain at FCI Elkton through Friday, but "current projections show a decrease in the number of inmates being admitted" to the unit they support so they are phasing out that mission.


In addition, FCI Elkton has been ordered to identify medically vulnerable prisoners and evaluate potential transfer under a preliminary injunction granted by U.S. District Judge James Gwin Wednesday. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Ohio and the Ohio Justice and Policy Center had filed a class action habeas petition on behalf of prisoners at FCI Elkton and the order requires the prison to identify those who are part of the medically vulnerable subclass within one day.


ECONOMY


"Yes, we're in a recession." Such was the assessment of Jared Bernstein, a former Obama administration economic advisor and current senior fellow at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, during a recent webinar conducted by the Coalition on Human Needs (CHN). "Folks who make that call typically make it after the fact, but there's no question in my mind," he said. "In terms of its length, that's as much of an epidemiological question as an economic one."


EDUCATION


Ahead of Gov. Mike DeWine’s decision to extend the school closing order, the Ohio Federation of Teachers issued a call to keep students away from school buildings for the remainder of the academic year in the name of safety.


To account for social distancing practices, this year's Trauma-Informed Care Summit for educators and behavioral health providers will be held online on Tuesday, May 19 and Wednesday, May 20. Registration information for the event and a full schedule of workshops can be found at https://www.eeds.com/live/122243.


With school buildings officially shut through the rest of the academic year, the Ohio High School Athletic Association (OHSAA) also called off events for the spring. OHSAA had been advising local school leaders that any decision by Gov. Mike DeWine to extend the closing of school buildings for the 2019-2020 school year, as he did Monday, would bring corresponding action from the association.


ELECTIONS 2020


In the first quarter of 2020, all 16 incumbents for Ohio's delegation to the U.S. House of Representatives easily outraised their prospective opponents in the primary and the general election, and most are sitting on large cash reserves going into their re-election campaigns.


A coalition of voting rights advocates had one message for Ohio voters who have not yet cast a ballot in the presidential primary: now is the time to get the absentee request in. The groups held an online session Monday morning to discuss the difficulties of conducting a vote-by-mail election, a solution the Ohio Legislature created through the passage of HB197 (Powell-Merrin) after the Ohio Department of Health ordered polling locations closed on March 17 due to concerns over the coronavirus pandemic. The deadline for vote-by-mail efforts is Tuesday, April 28.


With a week left until the deadline to return absentee ballots to boards of election for the presidential primary, nearly 1 million Ohio voters have cast absentee ballots, according to new figures released by Secretary of State Frank LaRose on Tuesday. LaRose said nearly 1.7 million voters have requested an absentee ballot as of close of business on Friday, April 17. Of those requests, nearly 1.4 million were requested by mail, and 271,002 were requested and cast in person. There have been 975,158 absentee ballots cast in total, while there are 692,725 outstanding absentee ballots.


The following endorsements were made over the week:


  • EMILY'S List endorsed Kathy Wyenandt for Senate District 4; Betsy Rader for Senate District 18; Nancy Day-Achauer for House District 23; Sara Bitter for House District 27; Leronda Jackson for House District 40; Amy Cox for House District 43; Rachael Morocco for House District 67; and Alexis Miller for House District 89.

  • Right to Life of Greater Cincinnati PAC endorsed Brad Wenstrup and Warren Davidson for re-election to Congress; Candice Keller for Ohio Senate District 4; Terry Johnson for Ohio Senate District 14; Jennifer Gross for House District 52; Diane Mullins for House District 53; and Jean Schmidt for House District 65.


EMPLOYMENT/UNEMPLOYMENT


In the first jobs report for Ohio since the coronavirus pandemic shut down much of the state, the state lost 39,700 jobs in March as the unemployment rate rose from 4.1 percent in February to 5.5 percent in March, the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS) said Friday, April 17. Ohio's nonagricultural wage and salary employment decreased from a revised 5,599,100 in February to 5,559,400 in March, ODJFS said. The number of workers unemployed in Ohio in March was 314,000, up 73,000 from 241,000 in February. The number of unemployed has increased by 75,000 in the past 12 months from 239,000. The March unemployment rate for Ohio topped the 4.1 percent rate in March 2019.


ENVIRONMENT


The Ohio Environmental Council (OEC) shifted much of its 50th Earth Day celebration to the Internet as conservationists work to maintain physical distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic, OEC spokesperson Emily Bacha told Hannah News in an email.


The development and use of natural gas in Ohio will continue to help the state, country and world reduce the greenhouse gas emissions that lead to climate change, oil and gas industry representatives said Wednesday. Natural gas, which is plentiful in Ohio and other parts of the U.S., should serve as a bridge to renewables such as solar and wind as consumers shift away from the use of more pollution-heavy sources such as coal and number six fuel oil, Ascent Resources Environment, Health and Safety Director Bob Adams said during an Earth Day webinar hosted by the Ohio Oil and Gas Association (OOGA).


ETHICS


Information is not deemed private and exempt from public disclosure simply because it's discussed in executive session, but it is private if it meets the statutory conditions requiring it to be, the Ohio Ethics Commission stated in a new advisory opinion. "While the Ohio Open Meetings Act authorizes executive sessions by public bodies under limited circumstances to promote free and open discussion, simply discussing matters in executive session does not make that information confidential, unless certain conditions explained in the opinion are met," said commission Executive Director Paul M. Nick in a statement accompanying the opinion.


FEDERAL


Washington D.C.-based nonprofit the Coalition on Human Needs (CHN) recently held a webinar outlining the provisions of the two major federal COVID-19 relief packages signed into law so far: the Families First Coronavirus Response Act and the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (CARES Act). The Families First Coronavirus Response Act contained language providing free COVID-19 testing; increasing the federal share of Medicaid by 6.2 percent; providing nutrition assistance; providing multiple measures related to unemployment insurance (UI); and providing paid sick leave measures. The CARES Act contained language that sent dollars to many different entities, including businesses and individuals. Provisions included sending money to health care providers and researchers in an amount close to $150 billion; sending one-time checks to individuals in the amount of $1,200 with additional funds for families; providing $350 billion to "small businesses" with fewer than 500 employees in loans that are forgivable if funds are spent toward payroll, including nonprofits, self-employed individuals, and independent contractors; and providing upwards of $500 billion in grants and loans to middle-size and big businesses, requiring those businesses to keep on 90 percent of their workforce to receive benefits.


U.S. Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) said Ohio is in a better situation in terms of its health care response than many other states nationally due to the early action of state leadership, but he added that an increased level of diagnostic testing and antibody testing will be key to boosting consumer confidence when Ohio moves to reopen its economy.


U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown said Wednesday the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) has awarded $15.9 million to the Ohio Office of Criminal Justice Services as an allocation of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act that will be used to fund the hiring and overtime pay of corrections staff, as well as addressing the medical needs of inmates in state and local prisons, jails and detention centers.


GENERAL ASSEMBLY/STATEHOUSE


Speaker of House Larry Householder (R-Glenford) announced that the House would reopen the week of May 4 with a staggered staff to facilitate safe distancing and a committee hearing arrangement with limited attendees in the meetings.


Sen. Andrew Brenner (R-Powell) Thursday issued an apology "for statements that were tied to my social media that were hurtful" after receiving condemnation from both sides of the aisle. Brenner had responded to comments his wife, Sara Marie Brenner, made on social media comparing a statement made by Ohio Department of Health Director Amy Acton to actions of Nazi Germany. The senator had written in response "We will never allow that to happen in Ohio."


Friday's meeting of the Ohio 2020 Economic Recovery Task Force saw members of the General Assembly seeking input from business leaders on how to restore consumer confidence and provide guidance to businesses in reopening the state's economy. Keith Lake, representing the Ohio Chamber of Commerce, the Ohio Manufacturers' Association, and a number of other business groups, said, "Now is the time for us to get back to business," noting Gov. Mike DeWine's targeting May 1 as the date to reopen Ohio's economy.


As legislative Republicans, conservative protesters and Gov. Mike DeWine are all discussing the importance of reopening portions of the economy soon despite the continued threat posed by the coronavirus, House Democratic leaders are saying a number of safeguards need to be in place before physical distancing restrictions are lifted. During a conference call with reporters on Friday, House Assistant Minority Leader Kristin Boggs (D-Columbus) said before Ohioans are asked to go back to work, the state must have access to expanded testing and be able to guarantee that people working with the public will have access to personal protective equipment (PPE). Additionally, she said legislation must be passed to protect workers who need to take time off work to care for someone who is high-risk or sick with COVID-19.


Gov. Mike DeWine has received a number of coronavirus-related letters from House Republicans over the last few weeks, with lawmakers suggesting a range of actions he and Ohio Department of Health (ODH) Director Amy Acton should take to address the economic and cultural fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic. These letters, provided to Hannah News by House GOP Chief of Staff/Chief Legal Counsel Jonathon McGee following a public records request, are in addition to the letters from House and Senate Republicans reported a week earlier.


Ahead of its Monday meeting, the Ohio 2020 Economic Recovery Task Force of the House of Representatives launched a website where small business owners can fill out witness slips to request to testify before the committee. Video footage from past meetings, copies of testimony, as well as task force agendas and schedules can also be found online at www.Ohio2020.OhioHouse.Gov . Testimony at the Monday hearing included Ohio AFL-CIO President Tim Burga who advocated for policies supporting workers.


At its Tuesday meeting, the House Economic Recovery Task Force listened to representatives from small- and large-scale businesses across Ohio who again called for the economy to reopen and for more assistance from state leaders during the crisis. Tony George of the George Group insisted that the phased in approach of opening the economy discussed by Gov. Mike DeWine and Ohio Department of Health Director Amy Acton will not work. He said with a phased in approach, people will still likely not receive their full wage because businesses will not operate at full capacity and the economy will not thrive as it had. He further said the public could be trusted to social distance, wash their hands, stay home when sick, and other necessary precautions if the economy reopened without a government mandate.


Wednesday's House Economic Recovery Task Force meeting featured the perspectives of a fast-food operator, a manufacturer, a large theater operator and a mom-and-pop jeweler on how the state should proceed with policies to reopen businesses and assist them with economic hardship. Meanwhile, at Thursday's meeting the task force heard testimony from a large beverage distribution company, a community bank, a nonprofit small business "micro-lender," and a number of professional hair stylists.


Ohio Senate President Larry Obhof (R-Medina) Tuesday wrote U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) urging that the U.S. House fully fund the federal Paycheck Protection Program. He called it a "critical program" to support "the thousands of Ohio small business owners and workers who have been harmed by the COVID-19 outbreak and its effects on the economy."


Six members of the Ohio House Democratic Caucus participated in a listening forum Thursday for micro and small businesses, with an emphasis on women- and minority-owned businesses.


HIGHER EDUCATION


Kent State University will hold a virtual commencement for its spring 2020 graduates with an in-person ceremony at a later date, the university announced recently.


The University of Toledo is allowing more than 275 medical and nursing students the option of graduating early in wake of the coronavirus pandemic.


People who rate themselves as highly knowledgeable about a new infectious disease threat could also be more likely to believe they don't know enough, a new study out of Ohio State University (OSU) suggests. In the case of this study, the infectious disease threat was the Zika virus. But the authors of the new study, published in the journal Risk Analysis, say the results could apply to the recent coronavirus outbreak.


The Kent State University School of Fashion announced its 2020 Fashion Show will now be hosted online. The event will highlight the work of 45 student designers selected prior to the COVID-19 pandemic by a panel of industry critics to be displayed on the runway in the original live show. More than 140 looks will be featured throughout the event -- all designed by seniors. In addition, the School of Fashion's annual Hall of Fame award will be virtually awarded to STOLL, a specialist in flat-knitting machine technology that helped create the School of Fashion's KnitLAB.


HOUSING/HOMELESSNESS


Home sales activity increased in March from the same month of 2019 and quarterly results also rose from a year ago, Ohio Realtors reported. March sales of 12,007 reflected a 6.5 percent increase from March 2019, while the average sales price for the month of $199,445 reflected a 10.5 percent increase. First-quarter sales of 30,210 reflected an 8.6 percent increase from the same period last year, with sales volume of $5.8 billion, reflecting an 18.1 percent increase.


JUDICIAL


The Ohio Supreme Court announced the approval Monday of a new Model Uniform Traffic Ticket designed to collect more information for law enforcement and to better inform the public. The new ticket will go into effect on July 1, though the old traffic ticket will be accepted until Jan. 1, 2021.


With two justices dissenting, the Ohio Supreme Court overruled a county common pleas court's local control of COVID-19 safety protocols and stayed all in-person, non-emergency hearings after two attorneys complained of the presiding judge's refusal to continue cases during the pandemic.


The Ohio Supreme Court roundly rejected the argument Wednesday that Ohio's "rape shield" law only protects victim confidentiality around past consensual sex and does not stop criminal defense lawyers from grilling rape survivors about previous sexual assaults they may have suffered. A unanimous Court said allowing such tactics would reinforce the perception that attorneys of accused sex offenders seek to "try the victim rather than the defendant" and would exacerbate the "the insidiousness of victim blaming."


The Ohio Supreme Court ordered the fully stayed suspension of a terminated 30-year common pleas court magistrate Thursday as it awaits the separate recommendation of a Board of Professional Conduct panel scheduled to hear Friday's case against former Chief Magistrate Michael Bachman of the Hamilton County Court of Common Pleas, who has resigned over alleged violations of the Ohio Code of Judicial Conduct.


MARIJUANA/HEMP


The application window for hemp cultivation licenses closes on Friday, May 1, Ohio Department of Agriculture (ODAg) Hemp Program Executive Director David Miran said in an email. "Interested individuals must have their background check completed, application submitted, and all fees paid by end of the day on May 1 to be considered for a license. All license applications started but not completed at that time will be abandoned," Miran said. Jim Belt, an ODAg hemp inspector, told Hannah News that the department doesn't plan to extend the deadline any further due to the COVID-19 pandemic, noting the application period was originally set to close on March 31.


While dispensaries remain prohibited from delivering medical marijuana to patients during the COVID-19 pandemic, they are allowed to offer curbside pickup of their products, Ohio Board of Pharmacy (OBP) spokesperson Ali Simon told Hannah News on Monday. The board also doesn't plan to make changes to allow for online payment processes during the pandemic, Simon said. Recently, the Ohio Cannabis & Hemp Chamber of Commerce requested the legal authority to provide home delivery, curbside pickup and online payments.


NATURAL RESOURCES


The Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) Division of Wildlife (DOW) has charged Szuch Fishery Inc. with wildlife violations after investigators observed abuse and wanton waste of highly-prized game fish on March 31.


While April may bring spring-like temperatures to the Buckeye State, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) Division of Parks and Watercraft is warning Ohioan that water temperatures in lakes and streams are still very cold. Even the best swimmers could experience complete exhaustion in just 15 minutes, according to the department.


PUBLIC SAFETY


The Ohio Department of Pubic Safety's Office of Criminal Justice Services (OCJS) announced the latest round of recertifications Monday under law enforcement standards promulgated by the Ohio Collaborative Community-Police Advisory Board.


As the pandemic creates increased risks for those experiencing domestic violence, Columbus City Attorney Zach Klein announced Monday that residents experiencing domestic violence will now be able to use text messaging to request help and resources from the city attorney's office, in addition to phone calls.


The Ohio State Highway Patrol (OSHP) announced that it has begun using regional Twitter accounts to better inform Ohio residents of public safety messages and events. The regional Twitter accounts can be found at: @OSHP_CentralOH, @OSHP_NEOhio, @OSHP_NWOhio, @OSHP_SEOhio and @OSHP_SWOhi.


STATE GOVERNMENT


Though the Governor's Office of Appalachia Director John Carey has held numerous positions in state government, including chairman of both the House and Senate finance committees and chancellor of the Ohio Department of Higher Education under Gov. John Kasich, Carey has stayed true to his Appalachian roots, and still lives in his hometown of Wellston, OH in Jackson County, where he was elected mayor at age 28. "I always wanted to be mayor of Wellston, my hometown, a small city of about 6,000 people. So I ran for that in 1987," he told Hannah News in an interview. "It was a great experience, and still to this day, that's what a lot of people remember me as. They still call me 'mayor.'"


TRANSPORTATION/INFRASTRUCTURE


The Ohio Turnpike and Infrastructure Commission has teamed up with a local Girl Scout troop to thank truckers traveling along the highway, one of the most significant freight routes in the country. According to Executive Director Ferzan Ahmed, Girl Scout Troop 71628 donated over 700 boxes that the commission will be placing at various service plazas along the turnpike to thank truck drivers. Gov. Mike DeWine featured a video from the troop highlighting the donation during one of his daily coronavirus briefings.


UNEMPLOYMENT COMPENSATION


The Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS) announced Tuesday that it would be implementing a new weekly claim filing process for Ohioans approved to receive unemployment benefits. Starting Sunday, April 26, individuals filing weekly claims should do so on certain days based on the first letter of their last name. Those with names starting between A through H should file on Sundays, followed by I through P on Mondays and Q through Z on Tuesdays. The remaining days of the week are open to all individuals. To ensure the fastest processing, claimants should also set their correspondence preference to "electronic" as opposed to U.S. mail.


As of Saturday, nearly a million unemployment claims had been filed during the period of major pandemic-related economic restrictions, with 109,369 people submitting initial claims last week, according to ODJFS. Last weekend was the five-week mark from the first major restriction for businesses Gov. Mike DeWine and Ohio Department of Health Director Amy Acton imposed in response to the pandemic, the banning of dine-in service at bars and restaurants, which took effect the night of Sunday, March 15. In the ensuing five weeks, Ohio reported 964,566 initial jobless claims to the U.S. Department of Labor, ODJFS said. By comparison, the state tallied 715,512 total claims in 2018 and 2019 combined. During that five-week period, the state paid $926 million in benefits to more than 376,000 people.


UTILITIES


Environmental and renewable energy advocates are praising Ohio Power Siting Board (OPSB) action on 230 megawatts (MW) of solar power that will replace grid capacity lost to retiring coal-fired plants in the Ohio Valley and bring a utility scale solar farm to northwest Ohio. OPSB granted Lend lease Energy Development's application to begin construction on the 80 MW Nestlewood Solar Farm in Clermont and Brown counties last Thursday and approved Invenergy's land transfer from the Hardin Solar Energy II in Hardin County to its initial site there, scheduled to supply 150 MW to a single commercial customer in the rural northwest as part of a power purchase agreement (PPA).


The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) certified FirstEnergy Advisors as a new competitive supplier under FirstEnergy Corp. Wednesday and panned Northeast Ohio Public Energy Council (NOPEC) and Ohio Consumers' Counsel's (OCC) claims that a utility and subsidiary's use of the same management team "per se" violates corporate separation laws controlling utilities and retail suppliers in Ohio.


PUCO increased Dayton Power & Light's (DP&L) economic development rider (EDR) charge supporting Wright Patterson Air Force Base and Fuyao Glass America, Inc. Wednesday and agreed to rehear their February decision granting embattled Verde Energy's request to restart Ohio operations in October and pay a reduced civil forfeiture of $675,000.


American Municipal Power Inc. (AMP) Thursday announced the promotion of company veteran Pamala Sullivan to chief operating officer (COO). Sullivan has been part of AMP's leadership team for nearly two decades, most recently serving as executive vice president of power supply and generation.

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

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