Week In Review - April 4, 2022



PDF/Printer Friendly Version


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

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


AGRICULTURE


The Agriculture Education Foundation, chaired by former Rep. Jim Buchy, announced it is accepting applications for five $1,000 scholarships to be issued to college students enrolling in Ohio's agriculture educator programs for the fall semester 2022. The opportunity is open to any student who meets the minimum qualifications and is enrolled or planning to enroll in an agriculture teaching major or 4-H extension major at any of Ohio's three universities offering these programs, another two-year or four-year school in Ohio offering a two-plus-two program or another pathway to becoming an agriculture teacher or extension educator, the foundation said. Application materials must be submitted no later than 5 p.m. on Monday, April 25, 2022. Official application documents and requirements are available at www.agised.org.


ATTORNEY GENERAL


Attorney General Dave Yost Thursday, March 24 announced an $80 million settlement with the Monsanto Co. that forces the company to pay for what Yost calls "the long-standing environmental damage it knowingly caused in Ohio with its toxic products." Noting the decades of health and environmental costs of PCB contamination for decades, Yost said. "This settlement not only holds Monsanto accountable for its actions but also provides significant financial resources to assist in environmental cleanup." PCBs or polychlorinated biphenyls are a group of man-made chemicals that can cause cancer in humans, are toxic to fish and wildlife, and can damage waterways and soil. The settlement comes after extended litigation by Yost's Environmental Enforcement Section, with the money being placed in Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (Ohio EPA) accounts specifically designated to mitigate future environmental hazards.


CHILDREN/FAMILIES


Members of the Ohio Legislative Children's Caucus recognized Women's History Month by examining how the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in a "she-cession," an economic downturn shouldered disproportionately by women and that had the effect of reversing decades of gains women have made in areas like wage gaps and employment and workforce participation. Panelists for the meeting included, Kelley Griesmer, president and CEO of the Women's Fund of Central Ohio; Sondra Palivoda, manager of research at Team NEO, a JobsOhio partner organization based in Northeast Ohio; and Lisa Patt-McDaniel, president and CEO of the Workforce Development Board of Central Ohio.


Senate Democrats and advocates for early childhood services urged state and federal leaders Thursday to do more to make child care accessible and affordable for Ohio families, touting a trio of legislative measures from Sen. Teresa Fedor (D-Toledo) toward that end. They include a resolution urging Congress to pass the Build Back Better package proposed by President Joe Biden, which among many other items includes funding for child care, and SB318 to require establishment of a universal preK program should Congress provide the funding. Fedor also plans a joint resolution that would propose a state constitutional amendment to require universal preschool.


CORONAVIRUS


The Ohio Department of Health (ODH) reported 3,103 new COVID-19 cases for the March 25-31 period, down from 3,668 during March 18-24. Hospitalizations rose from 193 to 297, and ICU admissions increased from 18 to 19. ODH also reported 249 deaths, up from 185. ODH has been reporting weekly COVID numbers on Thursdays rather than daily since March 17. Total numbers include 2.67 million cases, 113,869 hospitalizations, 13,384 ICU admissions and 38,042 deaths since the pandemic started two years ago.


CRIME AND PUNISHMENT


Attorney General Dave Yost and Republican legislators called out the Ohio Supreme Court majority led by Chief Justice Maureen O'Connor Tuesday by announcing a proposed constitutional amendment requiring judges to consider public safety when setting bail. Joined by Yost, Reps. Jeff LaRe (R-Canal Winchester) and D.J. Swearingen (R-Huron), and Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters, Senate Judiciary Committee member Sen. Theresa Gavarone (R-Bowling) labeled the 4-3 Court's January ruling in DuBose v. McGuffey a "reckless decision" and a "direct threat to public safety." She slammed O'Connor and Democrats' opinion limiting money bail determinations to a defendant's risk of non-appearance in court, with no consideration for whether the individual could commit future crimes while out on bond.


Gov. Mike DeWine, Attorney General Dave Yost and Ohio State Highway Patrol (OSHP) Superintendent Col. Richard Fambro Thursday announced the award of $10.5 million from the Ohio Department of Public Safety's (DPS) Office of Criminal Justice Services to allow the Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation (BCII) and OSHP to expand Ohio's participation in the National Integrated Ballistic Information Network (NIBIN) from seven to 16 NIBIN units. This joint initiative will help law enforcement track criminals from deadly shootings and other gun crimes in Ohio. The AG will receive $9.2 million to place five new NIBIN machines at BCII's state crime labs in London, Bowling Green and Richfield. BCI also will launch two transportable NIBIN units to test evidence onsite in underserved areas of the state, including Appalachia in Southeast Ohio. The highway patrol will begin testing their own ballistics evidence with two new NIBIN machines at DPS headquarters in Columbus and OSHP's Cleveland District Headquarters in Brookpark.


ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT


Gov. Mike DeWine's administration announced Monday the approval of assistance for eight projects expected to create 1,884 new jobs and retain 838 jobs statewide. During its monthly meeting, the Ohio Tax Credit Authority (TCA) reviewed economic development proposals brought by JobsOhio and its regional partners. The projects are expected to collectively result in more than $129 million in new payroll and spur more than $1 billion in investments across Ohio.


EDUCATION


A county common pleas court lacks jurisdiction to hear the appeal of a school district's losing state funding money for its failure to transport charter school students consistently, the Ohio Department of Education (ODE) argued in a legal memo recently. The law on withholding of bus funds also can be enforced without establishment of an administrative rule, the department further argued. Under HB110 (Oelslager), the biennial budget bill, ODE can determine there has been a "consistent or prolonged period of noncompliance" with a district's obligation to provide transportation to students who live in the district but attend other schools. In such cases, ODE is to deduct the daily share of the district's state transportation funding for each day of noncompliance. Groveport Madison Schools sued in Franklin County Common Pleas Court over the law in late 2021, saying the "consistent or prolonged standard" is not defined in rule or law, and arguing that ODE's move to deduct nearly $700,000 in funding would have "disastrous" effects on the district. The case is pending before Judge Michael Holbrook. In a motion to dismiss the lawsuit filed last week, the attorney general's office argued on behalf of ODE that the trial court lacks jurisdiction because it was not the result of an "adjudication" by ODE, and the law on withholding bus funds itself does not authorize appeal of such withholding decisions.


The State Board of Education (SBOE) Executive Committee voted Tuesday to recommend the full board adopt a change to how teachers are nominated to serve on the Educator Standards Board (ESB), a change required under the state budget bill. The board now draws appointees for 10 seats on the ESB from nominations submitted by the Ohio Education Association and Ohio Federation of Teachers. Under HB110 (Oelslager), the board now has discretion to consider those nominees or choose other teachers.


Under the proposal adopted Tuesday, the Ohio Department of Education (ODE) will post applications for any interested teacher to apply, and ODE will review the applications to ensure they were submitted on time and that the applicants meet the criteria for a given seat.


The Ohio Department of Higher Education (ODHE) and Department of Education (ODE) Tuesday announced $5.2 million in funding awards as part of a statewide effort to address educator shortages.


The money comes from the federal Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) fund. Awards will be shared among 29 four-year public and independent colleges and universities that have chancellor-approved educator preparation programs, including those in collaboration with school districts, educational service centers, and community colleges.


The Ohio Department of Education (ODE) extended the public comment period for the draft model curriculum of instruction in grades 9-12 on interactions with peace officers until 4 p.m. on Monday, April 4. Ohio law requires city, local, exempted village and joint vocational school districts and community schools to provide instruction on student interactions with officers within at least one course required for high school graduation. The first group of students expected to receive this instruction will be students entering grade 9 on or after July 1, 2022.


ELECTIONS 2022


The U.S. Senate should eliminate its rule requiring 60 votes for most bills to pass, according to the three Democrats running to replace U.S. Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH). U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Niles), attorney/community organizer Morgan Harper and tech executive Traci (TJ) Johnson discussed the filibuster and a number of other issues during the Ohio Debate Commission's U.S. Senate Democratic primary debate on Monday. The televised event at Central State University was moderated by Spectrum News 1 anchor Curtis Jackson.


A primary debate had been scheduled earlier on Monday for the Republican gubernatorial candidates, but was cancelled after DeWine declined to participate and other candidates in turn dropped out.


Former mayors John Cranley and Nan Whaley spent their first debate Tuesday evening criticizing the man who wasn't on the stage at all Tuesday rather than each other in a Democratic primary debate hosted by the Ohio Debate Commission and held at Central State University.


The moderator of the Ohio Debate Commission's U.S. Senate Republican primary debate had a busy start to the event, as she fact-checked six of the seven candidates for making false claims about the 2020 presidential election. Ohio Public Radio & TV Statehouse News Bureau Chief Karen Kasler corrected inaccurate statements made by former Ohio Republican Party Chair Jane Timken, businessman Neil Patel, investment banker Mike Gibbons, former Treasurer of State Josh Mandel, businessman Mark Pukita and author J.D. Vance. "There were more than 60 lawsuits filed by former President Trump and his supporters challenging the validity of the election -- all in states that he lost. None of the cases were judged to have merit. Many were tossed out by federal judges who had been appointed by President Trump. Claims that in some states more votes were cast than the number of registered voters have been examined and found to be false," Kasler said. Sen. Matt Dolan (R-Chagrin Falls) was the only candidate to acknowledge that President Joe Biden lawfully won the 2020 election.


Gov. Mike DeWine's re-election campaign Tuesday launched its first television ad. The ad, titled "Tough Fights," argues that DeWine fought to reopen schools during the pandemic, brought more manufacturing back to Ohio, and increased funding for police. It will run statewide on cable outlets this week. DeWine-Husted campaign manager Brenton Temple said the ad "speaks to who Mike DeWine is -- a leader who not only fights for Ohioans, but wins those tough fights."


The following endorsements were made over the week:


  • The gubernatorial campaign of Democrat John Cranley announced the endorsement of the Ohio Association of Professional Fire Fighters.

  • The gubernatorial campaign of Democrat Nan Whaley announced the endorsements of the Cincinnati Women's Political Caucus; Cleveland Stonewall Democrats; Portage County Federated Democratic Women; Van Wert County Democratic Party; Cuyahoga County Progressive Caucus; and the Portage County Young Democrats.

  • Vote Mama endorsed Chelsea Clark for Ohio Secretary of State.

  • The Republican Party of Cuyahoga County endorsed Jim Renacci for governor, Frank LaRose for secretary of state, and Mike Gibbons for U.S. Senate.

  • The congressional campaign of Emilia Sykes announced the endorsements of the Ohio Association of Professional Fire Fighters (OAPFF); Ohio Association of Public School Employees (OAPSE); Communication Workers of America (CWA) District Council 4; CWA Local 4302; International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 306; Tri-County Building & Construction Trades Council; International Union of Painters and Allied Trades (IUPAT) District Council 6; and Laborers International Union of North America (LIUNA) Local 894.

  • The gubernatorial campaign of Jim Renacci announced the endorsement of Right to Life Action Committee of Ohio.

EMPLOYMENT/UNEMPLOYMENT


The Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS) said Friday that Ohio's unemployment rate dropped to 4.2 percent in February, down from 4.3 percent in January. Ohio's nonagricultural wage and salary employment increased 6,700 over the month, from a revised 5,432,700 in January to 5,439,400 in February. The number of workers unemployed in Ohio in February was 242,000, down from 246,000 in January. This number has decreased by 91,000 in the past 12 months from 333,000; the unemployment rate in February 2021 was 5.8 percent. The U.S. unemployment rate for February was 3.8 percent, down from 4.0 percent in January, and down from 6.2 percent in February 2021.


GENERAL ASSEMBLY/STATEHOUSE


The House Rules and Reference Committee took the relatively rare step of hearing and amending bills Tuesday, including action to reverse course on a proposal that would have given defendants in public corruption cases the ability to be tried where they live rather than where the alleged crimes happen. Aside from the usual business of referring bills to committees and setting the Wednesday floor calendar, the committee heard HB135 (Manchester-West) and HB286 (Seitz), the latter of which included the public corruption language. Rep. Bill Seitz (R-Cincinnati), who sponsored HB286 and had moved the amendment in question before the bill passed the House Civil Justice Committee last year, said the public corruption language generated substantial opposition. The committee also approved an amendment to HB135 that requires insurers to count third-party assistance payments toward a patient's cost-share deductible. The amendment states that the legislation is not to be construed as requiring health insurers to cover drugs not on the formulary, and that insurers would not be considered in violation of the law solely for removing a drug from a formulary. Rep. Thomas West (D-Canton), joint sponsor of the bill, moved the amendment.


The Senate Wednesday unanimously sent the capital reappropriations bill to Gov. Mike DeWine for his signature. HB597 (Oelslager) reappropriates $2 billion in capital projects for FY23-24. Sen. Matt Dolan (R-Chagrin Falls) said that because of when the General Assembly passed the last capital budget as well as issues from the pandemic, a number of projects were not finished. He said HB597 needs to be in place by July 1 so the projects are not disrupted which means it must be passed by April 1. The bill does not include any new money.


The Senate also passed HB175 (Hillyer), which Sen. Tim Schaffer (R-Lancaster) said will clarify which ephemeral water features are regulated in the state and will align the state with federal policy. The bill passed 25-8 along party lines.


The Senate unanimously passed HB272 (Plummer-Ghanbari) requiring more transparency by large-volume third-party sellers in online marketplaces. Sen. George Lang (R-West Chester) called the bill "consumer friendly" and said it is backed by much of Ohio's business community. While there has been bipartisan legislation introduced in Congress, he said Ohio can't wait for Washington to act.


Other legislation passed by the Senate Wednesday included SB264 (Brenner), regulating remote work by mortgage loan originators and others working for entities subject to the Residential Mortgage Lending Act, by a vote of 32-1; SB289 (Schaffer), which was unanimously passed, designates a portion of I-70 in Fairfield County as the "Corporal Dustin A. Derga Memorial Highway," and SCR11 (Yuko-Dolan), also unanimously passed, requests Congress to designate the Koi Israel Foundation Holocaust Memorial in Bedford as a national memorial. The Senate also agreed with House amendments to SB47 (Brenner-Peterson), addressing overtime pay exemptions, with the vote falling on party lines, 25-8. This bill now goes to the governor.


In other action, the Senate approved governor's appointments, though Democrats objected and voted against the appointment of Brandon Kern to the State Board of Education. Fedor called the appointment "a political maneuver" and said that Kern's resume "falls short" of what is expected for a state board member. She also said the appointment replaces Laura Kohler, who resigned after she did not vote to rescind an anti-racism resolution, though Sen. Andrew Brenner (R-Powell) said that Kern is not replacing Kohler. He said Kohler resigned on her own, and he called Kern's resume "stellar."


The House voted overwhelmingly Wednesday to pass two bills aimed at enabling prosecution of human trafficking offenses: HB276 and HB390. Rep. Jean Schmidt (R-Loveland) said her HB276 (Powell-Schmidt) would address the difficulty of prosecuting traffickers or pimps by creating a new offense of receiving money from prostitution, a third-degree felony, or second-degree felony if the trafficking victim is a minor. The bill passed 81-4. Under HB390 (John-Lanese), law enforcement would be required to submit for testing rape kits from investigations where there is evidence of human trafficking. Rep. Marilyn John (R-Shelby) said trafficking is the only high-level sex offense that does not require submission of kits for testing. The bill passed 89-0.


While most bills on the calendar passed with broad support Wednesday, a few drew substantial opposition, including HB519 (Roemer-Lanese), which lowers the maximum penalty for failure to file a municipal income tax return to $25, and specifies that municipalities can send notices to taxpayers who haven't filed, except those who've requested an extension on state and federal returns. The bill then passed 59-29.


Also dividing the chamber was HB286 (Seitz), a bill on the venue for appeals of state agency decisions. Rep. Bill Seitz (R-Cincinnati), who called the measure "the quintessential lawyer's bill," said such appeals now almost always are decided in Franklin County courts, but the legislation would allow residents and businesses to file the appeal in their county of residence or principal place of business. Those parties would still have the option to file in Franklin County, Seitz said. On the flip side, the bill would restore the exclusive ability of the Court of Claims to hear claims against the state and its universities and colleges. It passed 57-31.


The chamber voted 84-6 on a measure to establish a commission on income tax fraud, particularly via worker misclassification. Rep. Al Cutrona (R-Canfield) said HB482 (Cutrona-Edwards) responds to an estimated $1 billion in lost tax revenue.


Gaining unanimous support was a measure to help consumers control their out-of-pocket health care costs by curtailing an insurance industry practice. Rep. Susan Manchester (R-Lakeview) said under HB135 (Manchester-West) insurers won't be able to resort to "discriminatory administrative practices" that prevent third-party assistance payments from counting toward a consumer's out-of-pocket costs.


The House also voted Wednesday to extend pandemic-era flexibility on finding substitute teachers via HB583 (Bird-Jones), which also includes an appropriation for federal school meal funding. The bill passed 76-9.


Also passing in the House Wednesday were the following bills:


  • HB431 (Liston-Schmidt), regarding the stroke registry, passed 88-0.

  • HB515 (Hoops-Riedel), regarding income tax treatment of sales of ownership interest in a business, passed 89-0.

  • SB256 (Wilson), revising insurance laws, including provisions related to travel insurance, passed 87-0.

The Senate Workforce and Higher Education Committee heard testimony on occupational licensing from the Ohio Attorney General's office and the Occupational Therapy, Physical Therapy and Athletic Trainers Board; the Chemical Dependency Professionals Board; and Veterinary Medical Licensing Board Wednesday, including recommended changes.


In other action, the House Health Committee reported out HB558 (Roemer-Jordan), which modifies the law governing the drug repository program for donated Rx drugs; HB476 (Bird-Lightbody), which establishes a Parkinson's disease registry; the House Transportation and Public Safety Committee reported out HB526 (Lipps), a highway naming bill; the Senate Veterans and Public Safety Committee reported out SB259 (Hoagland), which adds a member to the Veterans Advisory Committee; the House Agriculture and Conservation Committee reported out HB507 (Koehler), which deals with poultry chicks; the House Criminal Justice Committee reported out SB25 (Gavarone), which revises penalties for certain drug trafficking offenses; the House Insurance Committee reported out HB530 (Lampton) to revise the Ohio Life and Health Insurance Guaranty Association; the Senate Financial Institutions and Technology Committee reported out HB440 (Swearingen-White), which expands the Agricultural Linked Deposit Program; and the Senate Insurance Committee reported out SB273 (Hottinger-Hackett), which makes changes to the Ohio Life and Health Insurance Guaranty Association.


GOVERNOR


Judicial appointments made during the week include the following:


Gov. Mike DeWine Friday announced the appointment of William C. Randolph to the Hillsboro Municipal Court in Highland County. Randolph, of Hillsboro, will assume office on Monday, April 18, 2022 and will be taking the seat formerly held by Judge David McKenna, who retired. Randolph must run for election in 2023 for the full term, which commences Jan. 1, 2024. Randolph has over 25 years of legal experience and has been an assistant prosecuting attorney with Clinton County since 1996. He has practiced in both criminal court and the juvenile division. For the last 10 years Randolph has held the title of legal director with the Clinton County Department of Job and Family Services. He is currently counsel for the Highland County Water Company.


On Wednesday, DeWine announced the appointment of Elizabeth J. Schuller to the Napoleon Municipal Court in Henry County. Schuller, of Napoleon, will assume office on Monday, April 25 and will be taking the seat formerly held by Judge Amy Rosebrook, who was appointed to a different bench. Schuller must run for election in 2023 for the full term, which commences Jan. 1, 2024. Schuller began her law career as an attorney and partner at Fisher & Schuller Ltd./Schuller & Associates, where she worked for six years before becoming staff attorney for UAW Legal Services Plan. Schuller is also a credentialed contract mediator for Northwest Ohio Court Mediation Services, which covers a six-county area.


Appointments made during the week include the following:


  • Mark Eugene Masters of Lucas (Richland County) reappointed to the North Central State College Board of Trustees for a term beginning March 16, 2022 and ending Jan. 16, 2025.

  • Kristin Nicole Aspin of Ashland (Ashland County) to the North Central State College Board of Trustees for a term beginning March 25, 2022 and ending Jan. 16, 2024.

  • Laura Ann Lyden of North Jackson (Mahoning County) to the Youngstown State University Board of Trustees for a term beginning March 25, 2022 and ending April 30, 2026.

  • David George Enstone of Perrysburg (Wood County) reappointed to the Third Frontier Commission for a term beginning April 2, 2022 and ending April 1, 2025.

  • Michael Vernon Wible of Powell (Delaware County) and Rebecca C. Princehorn of Worthington (Franklin County) to the Ohio Tuition Trust Authority Investment Board for terms beginning March 25, 2022 and ending Jan. 30, 2026.

  • Rashad D. Spears of Sylvania (Lucas County) and Jason M. Hunt of Columbus (Franklin County) to the Motor Vehicle Dealers Board terms beginning March 25, 2022 and ending Oct. 4, 2024 and Oct. 4, 2022, respectively.

  • Laura Marie Doerger-Roberts of Cincinnati (Hamilton County) to the Ohio Rail Development Commission for a term beginning March 25, 2022 and ending Oct. 20, 2027.

  • Homer Daniel Rufener of Sardis (Monroe County) and John Edward Sharier of Coshocton (Coshocton County) to the Historic Boilers Licensing Board for terms beginning March 25, 2022 and ending Sept. 30, 2024 and Sept. 30, 2026, respectively.

  • Brittany Nicole Warner of Columbus (Franklin County) to the Ohio Athletic Commission for a term beginning March 25, 2022 and ending Sept. 2, 2022.

  • Suresh Sharoff of Dublin (Delaware County) to the Commission on Minority Health for a term beginning March 25, 2022 and ending Sept. 2, 2023.

  • Merle J. Pratt of Powell (Franklin County) to the Ohio War Orphans Scholarship Board for a term beginning March 25, 2022 and ending Dec. 31, 2025.

  • Tracey S. Monroe-Winbush of Youngstown (Mahoning County) to the Board of Trustees of the Martha Kinney Cooper Ohioana Library Association for a term beginning March 25, 2022 and ending Sept. 15, 2025.

  • Richard Craig Rooney of Chillicothe (Ross County), Timothy Gene Anderson of Athens (Athens County) and Paul B. Graham of Worthington (Franklin County) reappointed to the Ohio Historic Site Preservation Advisory Board for terms beginning March 25, 2022 and ending Jan. 14, 2025.

  • Robin Jolene Heise of Yellow Springs (Greene County) reappointed to the Ohio Historical Records Advisory Board for a term beginning April 1, 2022 and ending March 31, 2025.

HIGHER EDUCATION


Colleges and universities with teacher preparation and education programs can now apply for a share of $20 million to provide mathematics and literacy tutoring for Ohio's K-12 students. The Ohio departments of education (ODE) and higher education (ODHE) announced the grant opportunity Friday, saying the funds will directly address pandemic learning disruptions by providing tutoring supports.


Ohio State University (OSU) announced David A. Jenkins has accepted an offer to serve as dean of the College of Social Work. Subject to approval by the Board of Trustees, the appointment would be effective July 1. Jenkins joins Ohio State from the University of Louisville, where he has served as professor and dean of the Raymond A. Kent School of Social Work and Family Science since 2016. Before arriving at the University of Louisville, he served on the social work faculty of Texas Christian University for 25 years, including nine years as department chair.


The Kent State University Board of Trustees approved the establishment of the Bachelor of Social Work degree. The new degree was developed based on the high demand for licensed social workers within the areas surrounding Kent State's regional campuses, the university said. A recent labor data report demonstrated that job postings for social workers increased by 21 percent in Northeast Ohio from 2019 to 2020. The degree will be offered as a single program on three campuses: Ashtabula, Salem and Tuscarawas. Coursework will be delivered in a hybrid online/in-person instruction format. The focus of the program will be on social work in rural areas, and the program will be accredited for graduates to become licensed social workers in the state.


For the first time since 2019, Kent State University announced it will remember May 4, 1970, with a return to an in-person, annual commemoration to honor the four students who were killed and the nine students who were wounded when the Ohio National Guard fired on Kent State students during an anti-war protest. This year's commemoration will kick off on Sunday, May 1, with folk music and a film series.


JUDICIAL


Justices must now decide a case which the Office of Ohio Public Defender (OPD) describes as a major first for the Ohio Supreme Court. The former assistant prosecutor for Warren County calls it a simple question of facts properly entered into evidence and whether an inmate twice convicted of murder -- including once in prison -- could kill again. At issue is the gender reassignment of a biological male on Death Row. Victoria Michelle Drain recently completed a name change from Joel Michael Drain at Warren Correctional Institution (WCI) and is currently pursuing a gender change to female on his/her birth certificate.


The Ohio Supreme Court has scheduled oral arguments in Bowling v. DeWine, a case over whether Gov. Mike DeWine had the authority to cut off the $300 supplemental unemployment benefits Ohioans were receiving under the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) program. On Wednesday, May 25, each side will have 15 minutes to present their arguments and answer questions from the justices, according to a statement from former Ohio Attorney General Marc Dann. Dann filed a lawsuit on behalf of unemployed workers in July 2021 shortly after DeWine terminated the federally-funded benefits before they were due to expire. The Ohio Supreme Court agreed to consider the case in November 2021.


MARIJUANA/HEMP


More than 250,000 patients are registered in the Ohio Medical Marijuana Control Program (MMCP), according to the Ohio Board of Pharmacy (OBP). Specifically, there were 252,139 patients registered through February 2022, OBP said in its updated patient and caregiver numbers document. Of registered patients, 16,505 are military veterans, 18,057 are classified as "indigent" and 1,025 are terminally ill. In total, Ohio physicians have issued 442,110 recommendations to use medical marijuana since the beginning of the program.


NATURAL RESOURCES


The Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) Division of Natural Areas and Preserves announced it is tracking this year's display of spring wildflowers with the weekly "Bloom Report" every Friday through mid-May. Information on the progress of Ohio's spring wildflowers can be found at Ohio Wildflower Bloom Report at https://tinyurl.com/bp9ewzj9 .


NONPROFIT ORGANIZATIONS


The Children's Defense Fund-Ohio recently announced that Jim Weiler, of The Robert Weiler Company, will join its Ohio advisory board. The Robert Weiler Company, a commercial real estate development company in Columbus, is known for charitable contributions to Central Ohio communities, the group said.


OHIO HISTORY


Burt Logan, the executive director and CEO of the Ohio History Connection (OHC) for the past 13 years, will retire in early 2023, according to the agency. Logan joined Ohio History Connection in December 2009, and the agency said he has led efforts to strengthen relationships with the state, embrace the heritage of the original inhabitants of the land that is now Ohio, and expanded the Ohio History.


Connection's programming, brand recognition and statewide outreach and service, among other highlights.


PEOPLE


The Board of Directors of the Charles F. Kettering Foundation announced it has chosen Sharon L. Davies as its next president and CEO. This is the first change in leadership since 1981 for the nonprofit organization, which researches and promotes "citizen-centered democracy." David Mathews, the current CEO and president of the Kettering Foundation, will become president emeritus when Davies begins in April.


POLLS/STUDIES


A poll released Thursday, March 24 by Quinnipiac University finds Americans under the age of 50 are more likely to see cryptocurrencies as a dominant economic force in the long term. Overall, the poll of 1,936 U.S. adults nationwide found 43 percent think cryptocurrencies will become a dominant economic force long-term, while 35 percent think they are a short-term trend, and 22 percent had no opinion. More than half of 18- to 29-year-olds and 30- to 49-year-olds see better long-term prospects for cryptocurrencies, while 40 percent of 50- to 64-year-olds see it as a long-term, dominant economic force, and only 21 percent of those 65 years of age and over.


Poll results released Wednesday by Quinnipiac University found 30 percent of respondents said inflation was the "most urgent" issue facing the U.S. now, followed by 14 percent for Russia's invasion of Ukraine and 9 percent for immigration. Responses differed by political party as well. The poll surveyed 1,462 respondents from March 24-28. The margin of error was 2.6 percentage points. For Republicans, top issues were inflation (39 percent), immigration (19 percent) and the invasion (13 percent). Democrats ranked issues as follows: the invasion (16 percent), inflation (15 percent) and election laws (13 percent). Responses from independents listed inflation (37 percent), the invasion (13 percent), and climate change and immigration were tied at 8 percent.


REDISTRICTING/REAPPORTIONMENT


Differing with the League of Women Voters of Ohio (LWV) and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Ohio, a coalition of advocacy and labor groups held a news conference Friday, March 25 saying they do not want to wait to challenge the most recent congressional maps adopted by the Ohio Redistricting Commission. LWV and the ACLU filed a challenge to the latest map, asking the Ohio Supreme Court to order remediation to districts in Hamilton and Franklin counties by the 2024 election. The move led to one of the co-plaintiffs, the A. Phillip Randolph Institute, to depart the lawsuit. Holding a press conference on the steps of the Statehouse, the Equal Districts Coalition said they have two messages -- they don't want to wait for fair districts and the May 3 primary needs to be delayed.


With the deadline for the Ohio Redistricting Commission to pass a new General Assembly map fast approaching Monday evening, majority Republicans on the commission gave up on finishing maps worked on over the previous five days by independent mapmakers hired by the commission and instead chose to pass a new version of the third redistricting plan rejected by the Ohio Supreme Court just 10 days earlier. The new map passed the commission by a vote of four to three, with Auditor Keith Faber again joining the Democratic members of the commission in opposing it. According to House Speaker Bob Cupp (R-Lima), two competitive Democratic House districts and one competitive Senate district from the previous plan became safer in the new version. The commission's actions came two days ahead of a federal court hearing on a lawsuit filed by activists seeking to get the court to order the use of a map rejected by the Ohio Supreme Court for the Tuesday, May 3 primary -- the same map tweaked by the commission on Monday. The move to adopt a "fail safe" plan came from Senate President Matt Huffman (R-Lima) who argued that as of early Monday evening, the commission had not seen a complete Ohio Senate plan and an Ohio House plan that they could verify is constitutional.


A day after the Ohio Redistricting Commission amended a previous General Assembly plan struck down by the Ohio Supreme Court and passed it, plaintiffs in the lawsuits that challenged the previous plans asked the Court to order the members of the commission to explain why they shouldn't be held in contempt for passing a plan the plaintiffs said goes against the Court's wishes. The Court asked respondents to file their responses to the motions by 9 a.m. on Monday, April 4.


Meanwhile, the Ohio Supreme Court consolidated separate lawsuits challenging the commission's most recent congressional redistricting plan and set a hearing schedule that puts it out past the current May 3 primary. The plaintiffs in Bria Bennett v. Ohio Redistricting Commission filed the show cause motion Tuesday, with the plaintiffs in Ohio Organizing Collaborative v. Ohio Redistricting Commission filing a separate motion in support of the Bennett plaintiffs.


The General Assembly primary election is still in the hands of Ohio state government officials -- for now.


After hearing hours of witness testimony throughout the day on Wednesday, a three-judge federal panel decided against intervening in the state's process for creating state legislative maps until the "drop dead" date of Wednesday, April 20. A map is needed by that date to successfully run a primary election on Tuesday, Aug. 2, Director of Elections and Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Amanda Grandjean told U.S. District Chief Judge Algenon Marbley, U.S. Circuit Judge Amul Thapar and U.S. District Judge Benjamin Beaton. Attorneys for the other parties in the case said they had no reason to doubt Grandjean's testimony on the number of days it will take to carry out a primary on Aug. 2. "We want to wait as long as possible for Ohio to solve their own mess," Thapar said.


The federal court panel also heard testimony on which maps should be used if the Ohio Redistricting Commission doesn't approve a constitutionally-compliant map by that date, with the panel asking all parties to submit opening briefs by Wednesday, April 6, and reply briefs by Monday, April 11. Judges also asked the parties to further explain why the court shouldn't order the state to use the map created during the 2010 redistricting cycle, with Marbley calling that map the "status quo." The judges also indicated they would be reluctant to move the entire Tuesday, May 3 primary election, saying the statewide and congressional races aren't affected by the lack of a General Assembly map.


In a virtual press conference with reporters Thursday, Ohio Democratic Party Chair Liz Walters expressed frustration over the redistricting process and said the party has been preparing for any scenario when it comes to the primary election. She accused Republicans on the Ohio Redistricting Commission who voted in favor of a new General Assembly plan introduced at the last minute on Monday of betraying their oaths of office and costing Ohioans a steep price by having to pay for more than one primary.


TELECOMMUNICATIONS/BROADBAND


The Broadcast Educational Media Commission (BEMC) held its first meeting of 2022 Thursday, hearing presentations on the state's ongoing efforts to expand broadband access as well as on a new collaboration among Ohio's public radio stations. Scott Gaughan told commissioners the pandemic shone a light on the "digital divide" across the state as well as showed how critical reliable broadband access has become, particularly for students. Gaughan is the director of Network Services at the Management Council - Ohio Educational Computer Network (MCOECN), which is the umbrella organization that provides connectivity to all of Ohio's K-12 schools.


Lt. Gov. Jon Husted Thursday announced another broadband expansion project in Mt. Healthy aimed at providing high-speed Internet to approximately 3,000 residents and creating public hotspots around the city. The state of Ohio along with Hamilton County, Mt. Healthy City Schools, and the city of Mt. Healthy have partnered with altafiber to increase broadband Internet. Through the partnership, altafiber and its Smart City organization -- branded as UniCity -- will also deliver high-speed public Wi-Fi to several apartment complexes, with a total of 828 apartment gaining access to the service.


TRANSPORTATION/INFRASTRUCTURE


Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) Director Jack Marchbanks appeared before the House Transportation and Public Safety Committee Tuesday to update the members on the federal infrastructure law, to request a couple of law changes to make Ohio's use of those funds possible, and to discuss the impact should Sen. Steve Huffman's (R-Lima) SB277 -- the gas tax rollback -- pass. He said there were a number of caveats around the federal money including that, although it includes $550 billion in new federal spending over the next five years, only the money for the current fiscal year has been appropriated. In addition, he said the funds come with "a lot of strings and carveouts." For Ohio that means while the state is due to receive more than $11 billion over the five years, "a decent portion of that is already spoken for ...." He went on to mention the funding targeted for bridge repair and replacement including the Cincinnati Brent-Spence Bridge, as well as the new electric vehicle charging infrastructure and "unprecedented" amounts targeted to public transit and airports.


UNEMPLOYMENT COMPENSATION


For the week ending March 26, the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS) reported 16,156 initial traditional unemployment claims to the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL). That number is higher than the previous week, when the state reported 12,599 jobless claims. The eight-week average for traditional unemployment claims is 12,103, according to ODJFS.


UTILITIES


The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) will join the Office of Ohio Consumers' Counsel (OCC) in opposing add-on customer charges by all four Ohio transmission utilities at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). PUCO said state law requires Ohio's distribution/transmission utilities to belong the regional transmission organization (RTO) encompassing Ohio and does not provide them special "incentives" to do so. Director Lori Sternisha of PUCO's Office of Federal Energy Advocate told commissioners FERC already had quashed AES Ohio's (formerly DP&L) add-on transmission rates in 2021 and affirmed that ruling last month. She said the decision sets a precedent for all other transmission utilities including American Electric Power (AEP) Service Co., Duke Energy Ohio and FirstEnergy's American Transmission Systems, Inc. (ATSI).


The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) announced Monday that the application period is now open for 2022 hazardous materials training grants. The program provides local governments and educational institutions grants for the following:


  • Coursework on first response awareness, operations and technician, highway response specialist, incident command, and

  • tank car specialist.

  • Intermodal hazardous materials training.

  • Incident response exercises.

  • Rail hazardous materials response including rail/highway incident training.

  • Hazardous materials planning and survey studies.

This year's awards follow $800,000 in grants to 12 local governments and educational entities in 2021.


Grants receive their funding from fines paid by hazardous material carriers and shippers. The 2022 application page can be found at https://tinyurl.com/yzsdjuz3. Additional questions can be sent to HazMatGrants@puco.ohio.gov.


The Office of Ohio Consumers Counsel (OCC) Wednesday called the "system improvement charge" (SIC) of water-sewage bill HB364 (Patton), the General Assembly's latest attempt to increase ratepayer costs through a mandatory billing rider, vulnerable to utility "gold-plating" and revenue "cherry-picking." Former Sen. Jeff Jacobson, speaking on behalf of Consumers' Counsel Bruce Weston, told the House Public Utilities Committee that the bill's extension of SIC to 2035 and expansion to new water and sewage charges is more of the same when it comes to electric security plans (ESP) initiated by 15-year-old energy omnibus 127-SB221 (Schuler). "You have heard a lot over the years about the relatively new riders or add-on charges that are allowed in single-issue ratemaking for energy utilities," he said. "You've heard about it mainly from us -- over and over."


The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) will weigh in at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) on the incorporation of residential rooftop solar panels and other small, distributed generators into the wholesale market through new rules for expanding electric aggregation within regional electric distribution utility (EDU) territories. PJM Interconnection, the 13-state regional transmission organization (RTO) encompassing Ohio, says its proposed aggregation model would allow PUCO and other state utility regulators to decide when and whether generators enter the grid; to "directly influence" EDUs' relationship with aggregators; and to regulate EDUs' ability to override PJM control of distributed energy resource (DER) use, or "dispatch."


VETERANS


The Ohio Department of Veterans Services (ODVS) issued a statement Thursday after a nurse's aide at the Ohio Veterans Home (OVH) in Sandusky was arrested amid sexual assault allegations. The release said David Valentine admitted to police that he had taken explicit pictures of three residents and sexually assaulted one resident on two occasions. All the acts occurred in November and December of 2021. Valentine is now in custody pending arraignment on felony charges.


WORKFORCE


With businesses facing a labor market that has never been seen before, the Columbus Metropolitan Club (CMC) sponsored a forum recently with Ohio Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Steve Stivers and Cardinal Health (CH) Chief Human Resources Officer Ola Snow. It was hosted by Lisa Patt-McDaniel, president and CEO of the Workforce Development Board of Central Ohio. CMC Board of Trustees Chair Kelly Atkinston gave the opening comments on the labor market that she said also represents a "boom-time" for workers. Responding to Patt-McDaniel's question on changes since the pandemic began, Snow said there had long been a "war on talent" but that was "nothing compared to what employers are facing today."

[Story originally published in The Hannah Report. Copyright 2022 Hannah News Service, Inc.]


59 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All