This report reflects the latest happenings in government relations, in and around the Ohio statehouse. You’ll notice that it’s broad in nature and on an array of topics, from A-Z. This will be updated on a weekly basis.
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The House Rules and Reference Committee approved Thursday scheduled a floor vote on SB23 (Roegner), commonly known as the "Heartbeat Bill," for Wednesday, April 10, pending the House Health Committee's reporting the bill out.
Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost joined 38 other states and U.S. territories in lobbying the Trump administration to scrap a draft report on opioid prescribing that they say abandons best practices for chronic pain management published by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in 2016. Their letter to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' (HHS) calls it "incomprehensible" that the administration would reject the growing consensus that long-term opioid use endangers all patients in favor of a policy based on an individual doctor's personal views and a given patient's perceived risks.
The Ohio Department of Health (ODH) said Thursday that African American males had the highest rate of unintentional overdose deaths in 2017, and the trend appears to have continued into 2018, overtaking white non-Hispanic males for the first time since 2008. The announcement came as Gov. Mike DeWine announced the formation of the RecoveryOhio Minority Health Working Group that will make recommendations on reducing overdose rates among minority populations.
AFFORDABLE CARE ACT
Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost on Monday filed an amicus brief with the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals urging the court to reverse a lower court's decision that found the Affordable Care Act (ACA) unconstitutional. In the brief, joined by Montana Attorney General Timothy Fox, Yost argued the "unconstitutional individual mandate" can be removed from the ACA without throwing out other provisions in the law, such as protections for individuals with preexisting conditions.
Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost Monday certified a proposed constitutional amendment that would require Ohio's presidential electors to vote for the presidential candidate who won the national popular vote. The proposed amendment would add a new Article XX to the Ohio Constitution, stating that "It is the expressed will of the people that every vote for president be valued equally and that the candidate who wins the most votes nationally becomes president. Therefore, the General Assembly shall within 60 days of the adoption of this amendment take all necessary legislative action so that the winner of the national popular vote is elected president."
Ohio is nearly 1 percent ahead of estimates for tax collections this fiscal year, after a month where income and sales taxes outperformed assumptions, according to preliminary March data from the Office of Budget and Management (OBM). Tax receipts of $16.6 billion for FY19 to-date are nearly $137 million or 0.8 percent ahead of estimates. Sales taxes are ahead for the year by 2.1 percent or $156.4 million, while income taxes are about $100 million or 1.6 percent behind after missing estimates in December and January.
The heads of several departments dealing with addiction treatment and disabilities appeared before a House panel Monday to walk members through some of the key investments Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine has proposed in his biennial budget HB166 (Oelslager), emphasizing a collaborative approach to dealing with systemic issues facing the state. Jeff Davis, director of the Ohio Department of Developmental Disabilities (ODD); Kevin Miller, director of Opportunities for Ohioans with Disabilities (OOD); and Loris Criss, director of the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services (OhioMHAS) appeared before the House Finance Subcommittee on Health and Human Services.
Ohio Department of Health (ODH) Director Dr. Amy Acton, Ohio Department of Aging (ODA) Director Ursel McElroy and Board of Pharmacy Executive Director Stephen Schierholt presented their FY20-21 budget proposals, HB166 (Oelslager), to the House Finance Health and Human Services Subcommittee on Tuesday. Acton focused on the governor's proposed initiatives to reduce infant mortality rates, lead abatement and teens' use of tobacco products. Stressing Ohio's burgeoning senior population, McElroy noted how the department's proposed budget addresses strengthening Ohio's caregiver infrastructure and protects seniors' independence. Schierholt focused on the board's Ohio Automated Rx Reporting System (OARRS) and how the online system helps the board do its job.
"Please, get your arms around this," Rep. Scott Lipps (R-Franklin) pleaded with Ohio Department of Medicaid Director (ODM) Maureen Corcoran as he concluded his questioning of her around the issue of pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs). The questions came at Wednesday's House Finance Health and Human Services Subcommittee hearing on the Medicaid budget as proposed in HB166 (Oelslager).
In addition to her written testimony, Ohio Department of Job and Family Services Director (ODJFS) Kimberly Hall Wednesday provided the members of the House Finance Health and Human Services Subcommittee an overview of the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) Program. According to the summary table, the department expects to end the current fiscal year with a nearly $545.5 million surplus or "TANF Sustainability Fund Balance."
The Ohio Department of Agriculture (ODAg) needs additional funding in order to properly address water quality, ensure amusement ride safety and conduct meat inspections, ODAg Director Dorothy Pelanda said Wednesday. "Two basic increases in my budget can be defined in terms of safety," Pelanda told the House Finance Agriculture, Development and Natural Resources Subcommittee in testimony on the proposed state budget, HB166 (Oelslager).
Gov. Mike DeWine's budget proposal includes double digit growth rates in funding for the Ohio State School for the Blind (OSSB) and Ohio School for the Deaf (OSD) in a bid to boost early interventions, technology integration and more safety and support services for the hundreds of children served, many of whom face challenges beyond visual or hearing impairment. Lou Maynus, interim superintendent for both schools, said the institutions have fallen behind the levels of service offered in other states' schools, whereas she would like them to be leaders, particularly as OSSB was the first public school for the blind in the U.S. She presented the schools' proposal Thursday to the House Finance Primary and Secondary Education Subcommittee.
The Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) plans to use its share of H2Ohio funding to complete wetland projects in the Lake Erie watershed and across the state, ODNR Director Mary Mertz said Thursday in testimony before the House Finance Agriculture, Development and Natural Resources Subcommittee.
While the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (Ohio EPA) is seeking increases in both General Revenue Funds (GRF) and total funding in the FY20-21 budget, Ohio EPA Director Laurie Stevenson told members of the House Finance Agriculture, Development and Natural Resources Subcommittee she plans to reduce the number of full-time equivalent employees by 41 positions. Stevenson gave her testimony Thursday.
The House Finance Primary and Secondary Education Subcommittee explored the interplay between its co-chairs' new funding proposal and Gov. Mike DeWine's plan Thursday as part of discussions on the Ohio Department of Education's (ODE) budget request. Superintendent Paolo DeMaria outlined DeWine's school funding plans and other program changes, including an overhaul of laws on state oversight of struggling districts through academic distress commissions.
At a time when local governments face increased targeting from ransomware and other cyberattacks, a County Auditors' Association of Ohio (CAAO) working group and Columbus company SafeChain are developing ways to make property transactions and other records both more secure and efficient.
Ransomware attacks involve a hacker's infiltrating a company or agency's computer systems and blocking access to data unless payment is made, though access is not always returned if they are paid. Incorporating the new distributed ledger technology blockchain would make carrying out such crimes "a massively more significant challenge," SafeChain co-founder and CEO Tony Franco told Hannah News.
Ensuring an accurate census count in 2020 will have ramifications in both political representation and funding for a wide range of critical resources, advocates said during a press conference Monday, exactly one year ahead of when the census will occur. To ensure all Ohioans are counted, they have formed the Ohio Census Advocacy Coalition (OCAC), bringing together faith groups, businesses, educators and community leaders. Sen. Vernon Sykes (D-Akron) said an accurate census is necessary for proportionate representation and 2020 presents challenges and opportunities due to the new use of digital counting. The census is also used for planning programs and allocating budgets in the short- and long-terms, he said, and there should be a focus on getting a good count of underrepresented groups, including rural communities and children.
CRIME AND PUNISHMENT
Ohio Supreme Court Justice Michael Donnelly is joining growing calls for a statewide criminal tracking system allowing police, prosecutors and local courts to make better-informed decisions about sentencing, warrants and bail, among other criminal justice concerns. Donnelly presented formal remarks at the most recent meeting of the Ohio Criminal Sentencing Commission (OCSC), charged by the Council of State Governments' (CSG) Justice Reinvestment 2.0 project with designing a statewide criminal database for the Supreme Court of Ohio.
Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost Monday issued the 2018 Capital Crimes annual report, which details information and a procedural history on every case resulting in a death sentence since 1981. From 1981 through 2018, 143 death sentences have remained active, including those currently pending in state and federal courts. Four individuals received a death sentence in Ohio in 2018 and another individual was resentenced to death.
U.S. Sens. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Rob Portman (R-OH) sent a letter to Donald President Trump urging him to act swiftly on Gov. Mike DeWine's request for a Presidential Disaster Declaration for 20 counties in Ohio. The governor declared a state of emergency for those counties earlier in March.
After a week of hearings to flesh out the details of their new school funding plan, the workgroup led by Reps. Bob Cupp (R-Lima) and John Patterson (D-Jefferson), Friday released financial estimates of its effects on school districts and the state budget. Aggregate traditional school district foundation aid is estimated at $7.24 billion in FY20 and $7.56 billion in FY21, compared to $6.84 billion in FY19. That excludes weighted career-technical education funding, estimated to total $52 million per fiscal year.
Laura Kohler has hopes and goals for her tenure as State Board of Education president, and they all rest on one overarching concept: relationships. Strong relationships among board members give their work weight and focus, Kohler said. And bolstering ties with education stakeholders, lawmakers and the governor's office is how the board will solidify its status as an important player and resource in education policy development, she said in an interview with Hannah News.
Superintendent Paolo DeMaria outlined Thursday the executive budget proposal for reforms to the academic distress commission law, based in part on recommendations he was directed in law to submit to the General Assembly this spring. DeMaria addressed proposed changes to the commission law as part of his overall presentation on the Ohio Department of Education's (ODE) budget to the House Finance Primary and Secondary Education Subcommittee. The superintendent said his report and the portions of it embedded in Gov. Mike DeWine's proposal are built on the principles of avoiding one-size-fits-all approaches and trying to work with existing leadership and structures rather than supplant them with state authority.
Secretary of State Frank LaRose issued a report Thursday blaming human error rather than unlawful or malicious actions for the failure to count thousands of votes in Miami County in the November election. The report said that LaRose learned in January that the Miami County Board of Elections had not reported 6,282 in-person absentee votes cast in the election, and immediately launched an investigation.
After flirting with a possible run for months with visits to early primary and caucus states such as Iowa, U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Niles) officially jumped into the race for president on Thursday.
A group of energy consumers and ratepayers from around Ohio Wednesday announced the launch of the Ohio Consumers Energy Alliance, which the group billed as a non-partisan, statewide consumer advocacy group focused on keeping rates low by diversifying Ohio's energy portfolio.
The Ohio Power Siting Board (OPSB) cleared the way Thursday for construction of a utility-scale solar farm backed by American Electric Power (AEP) of Ohio to begin in Appalachia by year's end. A project of Open Road Renewables, Willowbrook Solar LLC won approval for a 150-megawatt (MW) installation but says it will commence with 100 MW on 1,726 acres in Brown and Highland counties.
Rep. Sedrick Denson (D-Cincinnati) received a suspended license after pleading guilty to a reduced traffic charge in Franklin County Municipal Court Thursday. He was arrested and charged with driving under the influence and felony drug possession after a traffic stop by an Ohio State Highway Patrol trooper on Interstate 670 in Columbus on Friday. The drug possession charge comes after the trooper found an Adderall pill in the car, according to reports. He was also charged with driving on a suspended license. However, the felony possession charge still remains and he will be arraigned on that charge on Monday, April 15.
Reps. Stephanie Howse (D-Cleveland) and Randi Clites (D-Ravenna) announced Tuesday that they will be introducing the Ohio Equal Pay Act, which they said will recognize the full value and potential of Ohio's working women. The lawmakers announced the legislation during a news conference on "Equal Pay Day" across the nation, the date to which women must work to make up for the lost wages relative to what their male counterparts earned in the previous year.
Counties would be eligible to receive state funding to defray costs associated with expensive death penalty cases under legislation passed by the House Wednesday. By a vote of 93-2, the House passed HB85 (Wilkin-Rogers) as an emergency measure. Those voting against the bill were Reps. Tom Brinkman (R-Cincinnati) and Niraj Antani (R-Miamisburg). Rep. Shane Wilkin (R-Hillsboro) said the bill is necessary, pointing to the Rhoden family murders in Pike County.
The Ohio Senate Wednesday unanimously passed legislation that would create a new tax credit designed to piggyback off the federal Opportunity Zone law passed by Congress in 2017 [SB8 (Schuring)] and to create the Ohio Cyber Reserve aimed at protecting Ohio's cyber infrastructure [SB52 (Gavarone)].
The Sunset Review Committee heard testimony from six groups Tuesday including the Ohio State Racing Commission, Ohio Thoroughbred Racing Advisory Committee, Ohio Standardbred Development Commission, Agricultural Commodity Marketing Program Operating Committee, Ohio Grain Marketing Program Operating Committee and the Cystic Fibrosis Legislative Task Force.
A proposal to make daylight savings time permanent had its first hearing in the Senate General Government and Agency Review Committee Wednesday, where sponsors of SB119, Sens. Bob Peterson (R-Sabina) and Kristina Roegner (R-Hudson), made the case that the twice-annual time switch doesn't lead to any efficiencies and in some cases may be dangerous for working adults. They explained that daylight savings time was implemented during WWI, when people still relied heavily upon the movement of the sun for their day-to-day activities.
Sens. Nickie Antonio (D-Lakewood) and Andrew Brenner (R-Powell) announced Monday the first meeting of the Ohio Developmental Disabilities Caucus is scheduled for Tuesday, April 16 at 4:30 p.m. The bipartisan caucus will seek "new and innovative" ways to provide support and improve quality of life for Ohioans living with disabilities.
Freshman Rep. Brian Baldridge (R-Winchester), a former four-term county commissioner from Adams County, told Hannah News that his dealings with the Legislature have come full circle, with his first experience having been testifying on the Local Government Fund before the House Finance Committee -- one of the committees on which he now sits.
In other action, the Senate Government Oversight and Reform Committee reported out SB49 (Eklund) which deals with body cavity searches; and the Senate Judiciary Committee reported out SB108 (Obhof) to eliminate the "rule of construction" used in ambiguous laws; SB31 (Roegner) which expands public records law exemptions; and SB55 (Gavarone) which increases penalties for certain drug trafficking offenses.
Gov. Mike DeWine on Friday announced the appointment of Elizabeth "Libby" Callan to serve as a judge on the Hamilton County Court of Common Pleas, General Division. Callan, of Cincinnati, will assume office on a date to be determined and serve for the remainder of the unexpired term ending Monday, Feb. 8, 2021. Callan is replacing Judge Robert Winkler, who was elected to the First District Court of Appeals.
In addition, he appointed William "Steve" McKinley to serve as a judge on the Richland County Court of Common Pleas, Juvenile Division. McKinley, of Bellville, assumed office on Tuesday, April 2 for the unexpired term ending Monday, Jan. 2, 2023. He must run in the November 2020 election to retain the seat for the remainder of the unexpired term. McKinley replaced Judge Ronald Spon, who retired effective March 31.
Appointments made during the week include the following:
- Ohio Department of Agriculture Director Dorothy Pelanda has been designated to serve as chair of the Advisory Board on Amusement Ride Safety.
- Timothy W. Ellenberger of Fremont (Sandusky County) to the Terra State Community College Board of Trustees for a term beginning March 29, 2019 and ending Dec. 30, 2024.
- Sandra K. Barber of Wauseon (Fulton County) to the Northwest State Community College Board of Trustees for a term beginning March 29, 2019 and ending June 9, 2023.
- Homa Amini of Dublin (Franklin County) to the Dentist Loan Repayment Advisory Board for a term beginning March 29, 2019 and ending Jan. 28, 2021.
- Jaime L. Darr of Massillon (Stark County) reappointed to the Dentist Loan Repayment Advisory Board for a term beginning Jan. 29, 2019 and ending Jan. 28, 2021.
- Tommie Jo Brode of Stow (Summit County) to the Self-Insuring Employers Evaluation Board for a term beginning March 29, 2019 and ending Aug. 22, 2020.
- Archie M. Brown of Cincinnati (Hamilton County) and Mark B. Malone of Lima (Allen County) to the Banking Commission for terms beginning March 29, 2019 and ending Jan. 31, 2023.
- Koral A. Clum of Dover (Tuscarawas County) to the Forestry Advisory Council for a term beginning April 2, 2019, and ending Feb. 27, 2023.
- Daniel A. Yaussy of Sunbury (Delaware County) and Eric L. Roush of Amanda (Fairfield County) reappointed to the Forestry Advisory Council for terms beginning Feb. 28, 2019, and ending Feb. 27, 2023.
- Carol H. O'Brien of Delaware (Delaware County) and Todd A. Wickerham, Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation Cincinnati Field Office, to the Ohio Peace Officer Training Commission for terms beginning April 2, 2019, and ending Sept. 20, 2020.
- George R. Kral of Toledo (Lucas County) to the Ohio Peace Officer Training Commission for a term beginning April 2, 2019, and ending Sept. 20, 2019.
- Col. Richard Fambro of the Ohio Highway Patrol to the Ohio Peace Officer Training Commission for a term beginning April 2, 2019, and ending Sept. 20, 2021.
The Ohio Lake Erie Commission (OLEC) Tuesday announced Lake Erie Protection Fund grants are now available. Projects must assist with implementing the Lake Erie Protection and Restoration Strategy 2016, OLEC said. Grants will be available up to $50,000. All projects require a minimum 25 percent match ($12,500). Applications are due Friday, May 10, and grant awards will be made at the Wednesday, June 12, 2019 commission meeting.
Amateur photographers can send their favorite Lake Erie photos to the Ohio Lake Erie Commission for a chance to win the 27th annual "Life on Lake Erie" photo contest, Gov. Mike DeWine said Friday. The entry form and official rules can be found at https://tinyurl.com/y6356y3p .
Lake Erie anglers will likely experience "excellent fishing opportunities" on Lake Erie in 2019, according to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) Division of Wildlife. "Walleye angler harvest rates set records in 2018, and numerous large hatches point to a bright future for the 'Walleye Capital of the World,'" ODNR said.
The House Federalism Committee Wednesday held a debate on gun issues between Ohio Gun Owners Director Chris Dorr and Richele O'Connor, a volunteer with Moms Demand Action, with Dorr advocating for expansion of gun rights through "constitutional carry" and "stand your ground" provisions, while O'Connor sought measures to curb gun violence, including expansion of background checks and enactment of "red flag" laws.
The Public Children Services Association of Ohio (PCSAO) has for the 14th year released its biennial assessment of children services agencies, focused on the challenges and barriers faced by Ohio's families and children. PCSAO reports that there were 101,241 cases assessed based on screened-in reports of child abuse, neglect or other similar situations. Of those, 84 percent were closed and nearly 16,000 cases were transferred for ongoing services. The organization reports that added up to 3,200 more children in foster care during 2018 than in 2016, and a $54 million increase in placement costs.
The Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS) announced that the new Oh SNAP mobile phone application is now available. The app has detailed information about the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and other food programs, not only for Ohioans receiving benefits but for those who think they may be eligible. It's available for free on mobile devices through the App Store or Google Play.
The Ohio Supreme Court publicly reprimanded Republican Judge Robert Rusu of the Mahoning County Probate Court Wednesday for neglecting to recuse himself from over 150 cases in which he acted as the previous attorney of record, nevertheless crediting him with the "evenhanded administration of justice." Rusu, appointed to the bench by former Gov. John Kasich in June 2014 and surviving that year's general election, violated Rules 1.2 and 2.11(A) of the Ohio Rules of Judicial Conduct, which protect the impartiality of the courts, and Rule 1.16(d) of the Ohio Rules of Professional Conduct, which governs the termination of client representation.
Lt. Gov. Jon Husted started his additional role as director of Governor's Office of Workforce Transformation (OWT), Gov. Mike DeWine's office said Thursday, formalizing a previous announcement made during the transition.
The Ohio Board of Pharmacy (OBP) has awarded a dispensary certificate of operation to "gLeaf Medical Cannabis" in Warren, the Ohio Medical Marijuana Control Program (MMCP) announced. There are now 13 medical marijuana dispensaries legally operating in Ohio.
Ohio consumers have spent nearly $2.9 million on medical marijuana since the opening day of sales, according to the Ohio Medical Marijuana Control Program (MMCP). Total sales from Jan. 16 through March 31 were $2,884,096, according to a release from MMCP. Dispensaries sold 382 pounds of cannabis over that time period.
Dixie Allen, a former state representative and Montgomery County commissioner, died this week. According to her obituary in the Dayton Daily News, Allen was 84 years old. Funeral services will be held at Tabernacle Baptist Church in Dayton at 12 p.m. Monday, April 8, the newspaper said. She served in the Ohio House from 1998 through 2006.
The Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services (OhioMHAS) announced Monday that Lisa Iannotta will serve as chief legal counsel and deputy director. She will oversee the Office of Legal Services and Bureaus of Licensure and Certification and Pre-Admission Screening and Resident Review. Iannotta most recently served as section chief for Collections Enforcement with the Ohio Attorney General's Office.
The Ohio Manufacturers' Association (OMA) named Jamie Karl as managing director for communications services Monday. Karl served as vice president of public affairs and policy at the Nebraska Chamber of Commerce and Industry for the past 12 years. He previously served in the U.S. Army and worked in federal and state government and as a newspaper reporter.
Former Gov. John Kasich is among members named Wednesday to a national advisory committee for Two Paths America, a nonprofit formed by Kasich's allies last year to promote themes from his unsuccessful presidential campaign. Two Paths America said it will "promote center-right solutions to some of the major issues facing our nation."
Gov. Mike DeWine said Thursday that he has asked Ohio Department of Public Safety Director Tom Stickrath and the Ohio State Highway Patrol to look into the issue of front license plates after the General Assembly eliminated them starting in 2020 as a part of HB62 (Oelslager), the transportation budget. DeWine signed the budget on Wednesday, issuing no line-item vetoes. On Thursday, he told reporters that the budget "was a package, and one does not get everything one wants in a package. There has to be some accommodations made."
Gasoline taxes will increase by 10.5 cents in July, and diesel taxes by 19 cents, under a final compromise version of the state transportation budget. The deal on HB62 (Oelslager) passed the conference committee on a 5-1 vote, then cleared the House 70-27 and the Senate 22-10 -- all on Tuesday. Gov. Mike DeWine signed the bill into law on Wednesday, April 3 without vetoing any items despite pressure to do so. The final language retains the proposed 55-45 percent split of gas tax revenues between state and local governments and it includes a five-year phase-in to set the compressed natural gas tax rate at the same level as the diesel rate. Electric and hybrid vehicle registration fees will be set at the House-proposed level of $100 and $200, respectively, but the final version adopts the Senate's language setting definitions for hybrid and plug-in electric vehicles. The final version also adopts the House's proposal to require only one license plate on vehicles, a change from the current two-plate requirement, to take effect July 1, 2020. In addition, the conference report includes House language imposing new restrictions on cities' use of traffic cameras, putting offenses recorded by cameras under the jurisdiction of municipal and county courts and requiring the state to reduce Local Government Fund allocations to offset proceeds from traffic camera fines.
The full Senate followed the lead of its Senate Energy and Public Utilities Committee and this week confirmed the appointment of Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) Chairman-designee Sam Randazzo as commissioner. In testimony before the committee on Tuesday, Randazzo assured them that his past advocacy for or against certain energy stakeholders would not cloud his work on the commission.
The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) has approved results from Dayton Power and Light Company's (DP&L) latest wholesale auction, which will set default generation rates from June 1, 2019 to May 31, 2022. At the March 26 auction, three winning bidders secured DP&L's two-year product at an average clearing price of $44.92 per megawatt hour (MWh) for the service period June 2019 to May 2021 and a three-year product at an average clearing price of $46.51 for the three-year service period June 2019 to May 2022.
The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) marked the start of National Safe Digging Month Monday by reminding Ohioans to call 811 before they dig. PUCO says over 40 percent of Ohioans put themselves at risk when they dig, according to Common Ground Alliance. "Even common projects like installing a mailbox or planting a tree require calling 811 before you dig," PUCO Interim Chairwoman Beth Trombold said in a release.
Story originally published in The Hannah Report on April 5, 2019. Copyright 2019 Hannah News Service, Inc.