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Week in Review April 8, 2024


Ohio statehouse government affairs week in review January 2023


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

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


ABORTION


State laws that require those seeking an abortion to meet with a doctor at least 24 hours ahead of time and be given state-specified information about abortion and pregnancy are unconstitutional under the new abortion and reproductive rights amendment voters approved last year as Issue 1, a new lawsuit filed Friday argues. Planned Parenthood, the ACLU and others filed the suit in Franklin County Common Pleas Court. They seek a preliminary injunction to block enforcement of the laws and a declaration they are unconstitutional under the new amendment spelled out in Article I, Section 22 of the Ohio Constitution. Ohio voters approved the amendment, put on the ballot via petition drive, with more than 55 percent of the vote. The litigation challenges ORC 2317.56, which requires a physician meet with a patient at least 24 hours before an abortion to provide information on abortion, pregnancy, gestational age and family planning. It also targets ORC 2919.2 through .4, which likewise requires a 24-hour waiting period and provision of information if fetal cardiac activity can be detected.


ADDICTION/SUBSTANCE ABUSE


The OneOhio Recovery Foundation opened applications Tuesday as planned for its first-ever grant cycle, which will award as much as $51 million for addiction prevention, treatment and recovery projects. Applications are due by the end of Friday, May 3. OneOhio issued the RFP for the first grant cycle about a month ago, and also at that time opened registration for entities interested in applying. Nonprofit, for-profit and government entities can apply for projects lasting one to three years. More information about applying and the grants is at www.oneohiofoundation.com/grants .


AGRICULTURE


To say the new executive director of the Ohio Expo Center & State Fair is excited about his job would be an understatement. "I grew up on a fairgrounds. My dad was a fair manager, so that's all I ever wanted to do. That's all I really focused my career on," Adam Heffron told Hannah News during an interview at the state fairgrounds. "I've stepped outside of it -- I worked at a convention center, ran the sales staff for a convention bureau, worked at a music fest -- but I've mostly worked in the fair business," he continued. "All along, I wanted to manage a fair. I've had opportunities that I've turned down, and I've had opportunities that have turned me down. So nothing was just quite right." That changed when Gov. Mike DeWine recommended, and the Ohio Expositions Commission approved, Heffron's appointment to lead the Ohio State Fair. Heffron took over for long-time Ohio State Fair General Manager Virgil Strickler, who retired.


ARTS, SPORTS AND ENTERTAINMENT


Ohio State Fair officials have announced two more concerts in the 2024 Ohio State Fair Concert and Event Series. Alternative rock band Stone Temple Pilots with special guest Soul Asylum will play on Friday, July 26 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets cost $47 or $37. R&B group Boyz II Men with guest comedian Preacher Lawson will perform on Saturday, July 27 at 7 p.m. Ticket are $48 or $38. Each concert ticket purchased in advance includes admission to the Ohio State Fair. All concerts take place in the indoor, air-conditioned WCOL Celeste Center. Tickets are available for purchase at ticketmaster.com/OhioStateFair.


The DeWine administration released Friday the 2024 edition of the state's "Travel Guide," produced by TourismOhio. It invites visitors and residents "to explore must-see attractions" and offers "inspiration for dining and overnight stays," according to the administration. There are also resources to plan a trip to or within the state. The 2024 guide is organized around the five regions of Ohio and features attractions, local restaurants and inspiration on places to visit outdoors such as Hocking Hills and several lakes in the state. There are eight pages of "Top things to do in Columbus" including athletic events, festivals and restaurants.


Viewing the April 8 solar eclipse was also promoted in the guide, which further noted Ohio is home to one of the oldest working telescopes in the world at the Cincinnati Observatory. It encouraged visiting Ohio's state parks and noted there are several art and history museums with free attendance as well. The cover for the 2024 edition has Smale Riverfront Park near the John A. Roebling Suspension Bridge in Cincinnati.


BUSINESS/CORPORATE


The Ohio Chamber of Commerce's nonprofit Research Foundation announced Tuesday it had raised funds for grants to Logan County small businesses affected by the tornadoes and severe weather on March 14. The funds were raised in partnership with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Logan County Chamber of Commerce, Indian Lake Chamber of Commerce, Huntington Bank, Grange Insurance, Westfield Insurance and Columbia Gas/NiSource Charitable Foundation. They will be distributed by the Indian Lake Chamber of Commerce in grant amounts up to $5,000 and can be used for out-of-pocket expenses needed to resume business operations. Logan County businesses can apply at https://tinyurl.com/3a3dbr4h . Those interested in donating to the grant effort can do so at the same link. For questions about the process, contact Fagan at 937-539-6348 or office@indianlakechamber.org , or Vollrath at 937-578-3563 or bvollrath@logancountyohio.com . Businesses can send applications to office@indianlakechamber.org with the subject line "Small Business Grant Application."


CRIME AND PUNISHMENT


Internet pornography providers would be forced to use location-based technology -- similar to that required of mobile sportsbooks -- for the purpose of verifying that an individual attempting to access the material is age 18 or older, under the latest version of the "Innocence Act." The House Criminal Justice Committee on Wednesday accepted a substitute version of HB295 (Demetriou), which made a number of changes to the bill including the requirement that pornography companies "utilize a geofence system maintained and monitored by a licensed location-based technology provider to dynamically monitor the geolocation of persons attempting to access the material or performance that is obscene or harmful to juveniles. ... If the location-based technology provider determines that a person is located in this state, the [porn site] shall block that person until the person's age has been verified using reasonable age verification methods." Rep. Steve Demetriou (R-Chagrin Falls) said Ohio's current age verification laws for pornography are outdated, noting most people consume adult content online, and not through video rental stores. He also cited statistics showing that exposure to pornography may be harmful to children.


Ohioans with certain criminal records would automatically have their records sealed under legislation proposed by Reps. Brett Hillyer (R-Dennison) and Bill Seitz (R-Cincinnati). Hillyer told the House Criminal Justice Committee that HB460 is a "workforce" measure, noting that criminal records are blocking many Ohioans from reaching their potential. Hillyer said the bill applies to individuals who have taken responsibility for their actions -- they must have served their time and paid all court costs, fines and restitution before becoming eligible.


DEATH PENALTY


Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost is redoubling the call for a reformed and effective death penalty in a "damning" capital crimes report showing execution delays have risen every year in the new millennium -- even before the state's last lethal injection in 2018 -- while only one sentence reversal involved actual innocence, and none included a Death Row inmate exonerated after his execution. "An inmate ... spends an average of 21.37 years on Death Row -- mostly as a result of multiple avenues for appeal -- before an execution is carried out. And currently, because of the state's inability to secure execution drugs, no Death Row inmate faces imminent execution," the annual Capital Crimes Report for 2023 states. "This means that an inmate is more likely to die of suicide or natural causes than execution."


DISASTERS


Gov. Mike DeWine announced Friday that he has initiated several federal and state disaster aid mechanisms that could bring financial relief to Ohioans affected by severe weather last month. The action comes after a damage assessment conducted by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) in the 11-county area affected by tornadoes that occurred in March. According to the governor's office, DeWine Friday directed his cabinet agencies to develop a plan for state-level financial relief programs for individuals and businesses that can be implemented jointly with the Ohio General Assembly to get affected Ohioans assistance while the requested federal programs are being evaluated by the Biden administration. DeWine has spoken with Senate President Matt Huffman (R-Lima) and House Speaker Jason Stephens (R-Kitts Hill) and will work with the General Assembly on pursuing the relief in the coming days, the governor's office said.


However, while his administration sought a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) disaster declaration, Gov. Mike DeWine said Thursday they have been told by FEMA that it is not expected to be issued, though that is "not definitive." The final decision will be made by White House officials, and so his administration is still advocating for it.


ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT


Gov. Mike DeWine's administration announced Monday the approval of assistance for 11 projects expected to create 1,025 new jobs and retain 567 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 $65 million in new payroll and spur $523 million in investments across Ohio.


EDUCATION


Senate President Matt Huffman (R-Lima) cannot claim violations of legislative privilege over written questions in voucher litigation before seeing the actual questions or facing an order compelling him to answer them, appellate judges ruled. In a Friday afternoon decision, the 10th District Court of Appeals dismissed Huffman's appeal of Judge Jaiza Page's decision on an attempt to depose Huffman by school districts challenging the constitutionality of Ohio's EdChoice voucher program. The districts and some resident families sued in Franklin County Common Pleas Court, arguing vouchers violate both the constitutional mandate for a "common" school system and the prohibition on giving control of education funding to religious sects. The litigants sought to depose Huffman, a strong supporter of vouchers who's helped bring about program expansions as Senate president. He asked Judge Jaiza Page to quash their subpoena, citing the legislative privilege established in Article II, Section 12 of the Ohio Constitution, which holds that lawmakers "shall not be questioned elsewhere" for legislative debate. Page responded partially granting Huffman's request, saying the plaintiffs could submit up to 20 questions to him in writing. Huffman then turned to the 10th District, saying the written questions still threaten his constitutional legislative privilege.

Warren County Common Pleas Magistrate Markus Moll signed orders Tuesday to grant a preliminary injunction to the Warren County Educational Service Center (ESC) and deny the Ohio Department of Education and Workforce's (DEW) motion to dismiss in a dispute over special education. DEW has 14 days to object to the magistrate's decision. Warren County ESC sued DEW over corrective action plans it issued in response to an investigation stemming from a complaint filed by Disability Rights Ohio (DRO), a nonprofit designated by the state to advocate for people with disabilities. DRO has since filed to intervene as a party to the lawsuit as well. At the center of the dispute is the Wellness Center, a day-treatment program Warren County operates for students with intensive behavioral and mental health needs.


The trial court considering a challenge to Ohio's new education hierarchy should not allow discovery to go forward until it decides whether to dismiss the case, an attorney for the state argued in a recent filing. Judge Karen Phipps and Magistrate Jennifer Hunt of Franklin County Common Pleas Court are presiding over a lawsuit challenging provisions of HB33 (Edwards) that transferred most authority of the State Board of Education and state superintendent to the new Department of Education and Workforce (DEW), whose leadership is appointed by the governor. State Board of Education members filed the lawsuit, saying it violates the 1953 constitutional amendment that created the board, as well as constitutional rules of legislative procedure. The plaintiffs initially won a temporary order blocking the new governance structure, but it was later dissolved, allowing the DEW transition to take effect.


ELECTIONS


William Curlis, a long-time campaign treasurer for Republican candidates, was charged in federal court Thursday with wire fraud, with the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Ohio's office accusing him of stealing nearly $1 million in campaign funds. Curlis, 76, was charged by a bill of information that was filed Thursday. The U.S. attorney also filed a plea document with the court, which it said will be considered at a future plea hearing. Curlis has served as a campaign treasurer for more than 100 local, state, and federal candidates based in Ohio, as well as multiple political action committees. A number of candidates, including Sen. Stephanie Kunze (R-Hillard), former Franklin County Engineer Cornell Robertson and former Franklin County Prosecutor Ron O'Brien, had filed complaints against Curlis with the Ohio Elections Commission of inaccurate reports and misappropriation of money. The commission referred the case for prosecution last month. The federal case filed Thursday accuses Curlis of defrauding candidates of approximately $995,231 of campaign funds. He allegedly wrote checks from the bank accounts of certain candidates and on political action committee to himself for personal use. The complaint also alleges that he transferred funds between campaign accounts without candidates' knowledge to conceal the deceit.


ELECTIONS 2024


U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown's (D-OH) re-election campaign announced Wednesday that it will be reporting over $12 million raised in the first quarter of 2024. Monday, April 15 is the deadline for federal candidates to report their fundraising totals for the first three months of the year.


The following endorsement was made over the week:


  • U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown's (D-OH) re-election campaign announced the endorsement of Communications Workers of America.

ENERGY/UTILITIES


Ohioans will enjoy an average 24 percent drop in electric kilowatt (kW) charges this summer over last year's prices as costs continue to fall from the inflationary high of late 2022. Savings across each of the state's four electric distribution utilities (EDU) will range from a low of 17 percent at AES Ohio to a high of 33 percent for customers of American Electric Power (AEP). The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) approved final electric auction results for AES's standard service offer (SSO) Wednesday to round out all four utilities' price to compare for June 1, 2024 to May 31, 2025.


American Electric Power (AEP) of Ohio says its new collection of non-negotiable billing charges inked by the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) Wednesday will increase average residential costs by only $1.50 per month over four years -- a claim disputed by the Ohio Consumers' Counsel (OCC) -- and provide customers a 4:1 match for onsite electric vehicle chargers. OCC counters that the real rate hike could reach $8 monthly under AEP's electric security plan (ESP) and award the company lavish profits. Commissioners unanimously approved the utility's standard service offer (SSO) as "more favorable in the aggregate" than the hypothetical market-rate offer (MRO) of 127-SB221 but shortened it to a term of June 1, 2024 - May 31, 2028 from AEP's requested six years and rejected its efforts to shift responsibility for the "Neighbor-to-Neighbor" low-income bill assistance program away from company shareholders onto consumers.


ENVIRONMENT


State officials will conduct a 15-county comprehensive water quality study in Central Ohio, the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (Ohio EPA) and Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) announced Thursday. The study will quantify regional water use and demand for irrigation, safe drinking water, and industrial water. It will look at the current utility capacity for both drinking and wastewater, as well as quantify aquifer reservoir capacity. It will also look at county-specific projections to help determine where to locate new or upgraded utilities, where to consider water reuse, and where to invest funding for regionalization opportunities. "This study will give us valuable data that will identify zones of economic opportunity based on water resource availability across the state," Ohio EPA Director Anne Vogel said. "Access to clean and abundant water is a key driver in economic development, which helps ensure Ohioans continue to have job opportunities near their homes, while also making sure they continue to have clean water to drink and use every day."


The Ohio Water Development Authority (OWDA) announced Tuesday it had awarded $29.6 million in low interest loans for 12 projects providing improvements and replacing aging infrastructure around the state in March. Interest rates for the projects range from 1.80 percent to 3.67 percent through OWDA's Fresh Water Loan Program.


GAMING/GAMBLING


Ohio's gambling industry had a rough start to 2024, according to data provided by the Ohio Casino Control Commission (OCCC) and Ohio Lottery Commission (OLC). The state's casinos, racinos and sports betting operators all reported January 2024 revenues that were lower than January 2023. Ohio Lottery traditional ticket sales were much lower in January 2024 than they were in January 2023. The lower year-over-year handle/revenue total for sports betting is not surprising because January 2023 was the first month of legal sports gambling in Ohio, and that month remains the record for handle ($1.1 billion) and taxable revenue ($210.5 million). Sports bettors placed $810.4 million in wagers in January 2024, and operators reported $113.2 million in taxable revenue. While January 2024's handle is lower than December 2023's ($829.9 million), the taxable revenue for January 2024 was much higher than December 2023's taxable revenue ($87.3 million).


GENERAL ASSEMBLY/STATEHOUSE


House Speaker Jason Stephens (R-Kitts Hill) Tuesday told reporters the Ohio House won't amend the adult-use recreational marijuana program before the June deadline for the state to release licensing applications. "Getting a consensus on what that action will be in the House is probably not going to happen," he said. "I think there's been a lot of discussion and talk, you know, within the House, within the Republican Caucus frankly, and getting those to where we have a consensus of saying 'this is what needs to be different than what the people passed' -- there's just not that consensus right now," he said.


With Senate President Matt Huffman (R-Lima) signaling his interest in running for House speaker in the 136th General Assembly, Stephens told reporters, "I think it is really interesting that we have ... nine months almost left in this GA -- the House has been working really hard. We have done a lot of really good things -- and I think it would be, frankly ... better if the Senate president would pay attention to running the Senate instead of trying to run the House."


Former Senate Minority Leader C.J. Prentiss, the second African American woman to ever serve in that role, died on Tuesday at the age of 82. Her passing was mourned by former colleagues, including current Senate Minority Leader Nickie Antonio (D-Lakewood), who called her a "trailblazer and mentor to many," noting that her volunteering with Prentiss' campaign for state school board was her first foray into politics.


In other legislative action, the House Civil Justice Committee reported out HB322 (Seitz-Abrams) address child sexual abuse laws.


GOVERNOR


Gov. Mike DeWine told reporters Wednesday he sees "no appetite" for changing term limits among the public, a topic raised by Speaker Jason Stephens (R-Kitts Hill) and Senate President Matt Huffman (R-Lima) recently. Both legislative leaders said they thought changes should be considered. DeWine further said he would not be getting involved in the matter of who is House speaker for the 136th General Assembly but that he believed important legislation still needs to and can be passed. That includes the capital budget and items he will detail in a week's time although he declined to offer a preview of his State of the State topics. DeWine reiterated his belief that the "most pressing" topic regarding marijuana is intoxicating hemp being available to minors when it is "dangerous to their health." Changing a few sentences of Ohio law would solve the problem, DeWine continued, and he said it should be passed unanimously.


Judicial appointment made during the week includes the following:

DeWine announced that he has appointed Katelyn Dickey to the 7th District Court of Appeals. Dickey, of Lisbon, will assume office on Wednesday, April 10, 2024, and will be taking the seat formerly held by Judge David D'Apolito, who resigned at the beginning of the year. She will serve the remainder of the unfinished term and will need to run for election in November to retain the seat. Most recently, Dickey served as a Columbiana County municipal court judge. She has spent most of her law career working in Columbiana County, where she was a staff attorney for the court of common pleas, a court of common pleas magistrate, and an assistant county prosecutor. After graduating from law school, she began teaching business law at the Salem Campus of Kent State University.


Appointments made during the week include the following:


  • Kerry R. Byrne of Cincinnati (Hamilton County) to the University of Cincinnati Board of Trustees for a term beginning March 4, 2024, and ending Jan. 1, 2033.

  • Nan A. Baker of Westlake (Cuyahoga County), Molly Kocour Boyle of Upper Arlington (Franklin County), Stephen D. Dackin of Columbus (Franklin County), Michael Duffey of Worthington (Franklin County), Michele A. O'Rourke of Cincinnati (Hamilton County) and Edward J. Pauline of Worthington (Franklin County) to the Governor's Executive Workforce Board for terms beginning March 5, 2024, and continuing at the pleasure of the governor.

  • Angela K. Brintlinger of Yellow Springs (Greene County), Marta Liscynesky Kelleher of Brecksville (Cuyahoga County), Joshua M. Prest of Cleveland (Cuyahoga County) and Peter Ujvagi of Toledo (Lucas County) for a term to the Commission on Eastern European Affairs for a term beginning March 29, 2024, and ending March 29, 2026; George E. Jaskiw of South Euclid (Cuyahoga County) and Tomasz Kacki of North Royalton (Cuyahoga County) for a term beginning March 29, 2024, and ending March 29, 2025; and Nazar Zhdan of Columbus (Franklin County) and Joseph A. Valencic of Cleveland (Cuyahoga County) for a term beginning March 29, 2024, and ending March 29, 2027.

  • William R. Creedon of Columbus (Franklin County) reappointed chairman of the Ohio Public Defender Commission for a term beginning March 11, 2024, and ending Jan. 12, 2028.

  • Keith A. Drabick of East Palestine (Columbiana County) appointed and Kathryn Bradsher Brown of Dublin (Franklin County), Jennifer D. Klein of Columbus (Franklin County), D. Michael Barhorst of Sidney (Shelby County) and Edward J. Dadosky of Blue Ash (Hamilton County) reappointed to the State Emergency Response Commission for terms beginning March 29, 2024, and ending Jan. 13, 2026; and Rusty Orben of Upper Arlington (Franklin County) for a term beginning March 29, 2024, and ending Jan. 13, 2025.

  • Amy B. Raubenolt of Akron (Summit County) reappointed to the State Board of Emergency Medical, Fire, and Transportation Services for a term beginning March 29, 2024, and ending Nov. 12, 2025.

  • Jonathan B. Feibel of Bexley (Franklin County) and Harish Kakarala of Akron (Summit County) reappointed to the State Medical Board for terms beginning March 29, 2024, and ending March 18, 2029. - Mark E. Rich of Perrysburg (Wood County) reappointed to the State Chiropractic Board for a term beginning March 29, 2024, and ending Nov. 1, 2027.

  • Jeffrey A. Myers of Groveport (Franklin County) to the State Vision Professionals Board for a term beginning March 29, 2024, and ending March 22, 2026; and Darrell Dye of Dublin (Franklin County) and Brian J. Miller of Toledo (Lucas County) for terms beginning March 29, 2024, and ending March 22, 2027.

  • Sanaz Armand Holcomb of Brecksville (Cuyahoga County) and Cara A. Carramusa of Poland (Mahoning County) appointed and Michele A. Courtney of Lancaster (Fairfield County) reappointed to the Ohio Occupational Therapy, Physical Therapy and Athletic Trainers Board for terms beginning March 19, 2024, and ending Aug. 27, 2026.

  • Cheryl R. Hoshor of Baltimore (Fairfield County) to the Chemical Dependency Professionals Board for a term beginning March 29, 2024, and ending Dec. 23, 2026.

  • Rebecca D. Miller of Lakewood (Cuyahoga County) and Sarah A. McCullough of Zanesville (Muskingum County) appointed to the Counselor, Social Worker, and Marriage and Family Therapist Board for a term beginning March 29, 2024, and ending Oct. 10, 2025; Erin K. Spring of Circleville (Pickaway County) for a term beginning March 29, 2024, and ending Oct. 10, 2024; and Nicole G. McCarthy of Columbus (Franklin County) for a term beginning March 29, 2024, and ending Oct. 10, 2026.

  • Kara B. Ayers of Mason (Warren County), Bernadetta J. King of Canton (Stark County) and Nathan D. Turner of Holland (Lucas County) reappointed and Meagan E. Alwood of Columbus (Franklin County) and Charles Dyer of Granville (Licking County) appointed to the Ohio Statewide Independent Living Council for terms beginning March 29, 2024, and ending March 14, 2027; and David W. Bertsch of Munroe Falls (Summit County) and David R. McNelly of Millfield (Athens County) reappointed for terms beginning March 29, 2024, and ending Oct. 26, 2026.

  • Diane M. Hoops of Deshler (Henry County) to the Banking Commission for a term beginning March 29, 2024, and ending Jan. 31, 2028; and Tyler J. Wilcox of Marietta (Washington County) for a term beginning March 29, 2024, and ending Jan. 31, 2027.

  • Ernest W. Durbin II of Hamilton (Butler County) to the Real Estate Appraiser Board for a term beginning March 29, 2024, and ending June 30, 2026.

  • Peg VanVleet of Huber Heights (Montgomery County) to the Waterways Safety Council for a term beginning March 29, 2024, and ending Jan. 31, 2029; and Brewster Rhoads of Cincinnati (Hamilton County) for a term beginning March 29, 2024, and ending Jan. 31, 2028.

  • Joseph K. Brady Jr. of Mineral City (Tuscarawas County) appointed to the Environmental Education Council for a term beginning March 29, 2024, and ending Oct. 1, 2024; and Brian J. Buschur of Dayton (Montgomery County), Mark K. Papke of Parma Heights (Cuyahoga County) and Amy Weiskittel of New Richmond (Clermont County) reappointed for terms beginning March 19, 2024, and ending Oct. 1, 2025.

  • Terri A. Specht of Johnstown (Licking County) reappointed to the Ohio Livestock Care Standards Board for a term beginning March 29, 2024, and ending Jan. 15, 2027.

  • Darren Bok of Hicksville (Defiance County) appointed to the State Auctioneers Commission for a term beginning March 29, 2024, and ending Oct. 9, 2026; and Beth A. Rose of Perrysburg (Wood County) for a term beginning March 29, 2024, and ending Oct. 9, 2024.

  • Joel P. Yankie of Liberty Township (Butler County) appointed to the Advisory Board on Amusement Ride Safety for a term beginning March 29, 2024, and ending Jan. 1, 2025; and Tammy K. Chapman of Xenia (Greene County) reappointed for a term beginning March 29, 2024, and ending Sept. 29, 2029.

  • Susan M. Skorupski of Orient (Franklin County) to the State Veterinary Medical Licensing Board for a term beginning March 1, 2024, and ending Dec. 31, 2025; and Daniel J. Wallon, Jr. of Columbus (Franklin County) for a term beginning March 1, 2024, and ending Dec. 31, 2024.

  • Linda Stickney of Columbus (Franklin County) reappointed to the Commercial Dog Breeding Advisory Board for a term beginning March 29, 2024, and ending March 12, 2027.

  • Richard McClelland of Zanesville (Muskingum County) reappointed to the Ohio Standardbred Development Commission for a term beginning March 29, 2024, and ending June 30, 2027.

  • Logan York of Cincinnati (Hamilton County) and Stephen C. Gordon of Oxford (Butler County) appointed and Rachel E. Bankowitz of Dayton (Montgomery County), Stuart D. Hobbs of Columbus (Franklin County), Sandra C. Hull of Wooster (Wayne County), Nathaniel Kaelin of Hamilton (Butler County), Elizabeth Corbin Murphy of Akron (Summit County) and Daniel M. Rice of Cuyahoga Falls (Summit County) reappointed to the Ohio Historic Site Preservation Advisory Board for terms beginning March 29, 2024, and ending Jan. 14, 2027.

  • John F. Martin of Copley (Summit County) reappointed to the Ohio Higher Educational Facility Commission for a term beginning March 15, 2024, and ending Jan. 1, 2032.

  • Haylee E. Dunahay of Columbus (Franklin County), Rick Carfagna of Westerville and H. Douglas Talbott of Powell (Delaware County) to the Sunset Review Committee for a term beginning March 29, 2024, and ending Dec. 31, 2024.

  • Wendi Snyder of Marion (Marion County) and James W. Jewell of Dublin (Franklin County) reappointed to the Underground Technical Committee for a term beginning March 29, 2024, and ending Dec. 31, 2027.

  • Russel V. Ciballi of Mount Gilead (Morrow County) to the Ohio Private Investigation and Security Services Commission for a term beginning March 29, 2024, and ending Dec. 31, 2025; and R. Michael Taylor of Delaware (Delaware County)for a term beginning March 29, 2024, and ending Dec. 31, 2024.


INSURANCE


The Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) reported recently that nearly half a million Ohioans signed up for an individual market health insurance plan for 2024 through Healthcare.gov. This figure includes individuals who were previously covered by a plan from Healthcare.gov in 2023, and also new enrollees who have signed up for a plan for 2024. The 2024 Marketplace Open Enrollment Period (OEP) started on Nov. 1 and stayed open through Jan. 13. CMS reports that 477,793 Ohioans enrolled in a Healthcare.gov plan during that time. CMS had reported that 286,316 Ohioans enrolled in a plan during the 2023 OEP. This year-over-year increase in enrollments in Ohio marks the largest increase in the number of Healthcare.gov enrollees in the state since the Marketplace launched in 2014. Kaiser Family Foundation had reported an average yearly enrollment of approximately 234,000 Ohioans into the Marketplace from 2015-2023.


JUDICIAL


In a seminal case implicating Ohioans' basic constitutional rights, the Supreme Court of Ohio is set to decide whether the right to counsel in the state's founding document is superior to Sixth Amendment guarantees in the U.S. Constitution. It will be the first time the Court has addressed this specific argument for state sovereignty and follows the arrest and interrogation of a Hamilton County man questioned without the assistance of his attorney appointed immediately prior at arraignment. The high court accepted State v. Morris on March 5 over the objections of Democratic Justices Michael Donnelly and Melody Stewart. Justice Patrick Fischer recused, while his Republican colleague, Justice Joe Deters, has declined to withdraw despite being Hamilton County prosecutor at the time of Isaiah Morris' arrest in May 2022. The Court will decide whether the Ohio Constitution in fact provides greater attorney guarantees than the U.S. Constitution; whether the latter's Sixth Amendment requires an actual indictment before triggering the right; and what it means to "clearly" and "unambiguously" invoke the right to counsel under the Fifth Amendment.

Republican Geauga County juvenile-probate Judge Tim Grendell, a former state legislator, resumes disciplinary hearings before the Board of Professional Conduct this month after the three-member panel hearing his case proceeded with the March 29 hearing despite the inavailability of certain witnesses on Good Friday. The panel, which includes attorney Peggy Schmitz of Critchfield, Critchfield & Johnston (chair), attorney Frank Woodside of Dinsmore & Shohl and Judge Rocky Coss of Highland County Common Pleas Court, dismissed one charge in February alleging that Grendell had accused a mother of using the COVID-19 "panic-ademic" to withhold her children from their father. His disciplinary case resumes Tuesday-Thursday, April 23-25.


LIBRARIES


Professionals from Ohio libraries offered pointers and lessons Tuesday on how libraries can support literacy instruction, as part the Public Library Association conference taking place in Columbus this week. Back-to-back panel discussions focused on the science of reading, a collection of instructional methods at the center of state literacy policy following passage of the biennial budget, HB33 (Edwards). Speakers on the first panel included Melissa Weber-Mayrer, literacy chief for the Ohio Department of Education and Workforce (DEW); Nancy Eames, youth services coordinator for Toledo Lucas County Public Library; and Amber Cristofaro, early literacy coordinator with Dayton Metro Library. Michelle Francis, executive director of the Ohio Library Council, introduced the panel.


Want to know what your state library has to offer? Just ask. "Nothing's too silly. We get all kinds of questions all day long, and we love answering them," said Tami Masenhimer, training coordinator and consultant for the Washington State Library. "Please just ask what we can help you with," said Tiffany Hayes, education design and development manager for the South Carolina State Library. State Library of Ohio consultant Erin Kelsey joined her colleagues from South Carolina and Washington on a panel Wednesday at the Public Library Association conference, pitching the ways state libraries can be of assistance to local systems and their patrons. Those services can include grants, model policies, advice on interview questions or job descriptions for local library hiring, data comparisons, digital resources or even training of dungeon masters - the latter an offering of the Washington State Library, which is housed under Secretary of State Steve Hobbs, a Dungeons & Dragons enthusiast.


Librarians from across the U.S. also shared their approaches Thursday for responding to and blunting the effects of book bans and challenges, which they said are growing at an alarming rate. The "Unbannable: How Libraries Are Ensuring Access to Banned Books" panel at the Public Library Association conference featured Micah May, director of e-book services for Digital Public Library of America; Chris Brown, commissioner of Chicago Public Library; Nick Higgins, chief librarian for Brooklyn Public Library; and Kelvin Watson, executive director of Las Vegas-Clark County Library. Jill Bourne, city librarian in San Jose, CA, moderated the discussion. "Why are we here? We know, as a profession, we have seen and we continue to experience unprecedented, organized and intentional efforts to limit access to content, books and ideas," said Bourne, citing American Library Association statistics showing a 65 percent bump in the number of targeted titles just from the final quarter of 2023 to the first quarter of 2024. May said his organization brainstormed ways to address this increase in challenges and ended up with the Banned Book Club, which offers challenged e-books and audiobooks via the Palace Project, a tool for libraries and patrons to access digital content.


LIQUOR/ALCOHOL


Ohioans should "check in on their relationship with alcohol use" during Alcohol Awareness Month, according to the Ohio Department of Commerce (DOC) Division of Liquor Control (DOLC). "Overconsumption of alcohol can lead to potentially serious health complications and interfere with all aspects of life, including work, school and relationships," DOLC said. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 6,750 Ohioans die each year from excessive drinking. In addition, approximately 20 percent of Ohio adults report they binge drink, which is greater than the national rate of 17 percent. "This April, as we recognize Alcohol Awareness Month, we encourage Ohioans to examine how alcohol has affected their overall wellbeing and make changes or seek support, if necessary," said Paul Kulwinski, DOLC interim superintendent and licensing director.


MARIJUANA/HEMP


The new Ohio Department of Commerce (DOC) Division of Cannabis Control (DCC) is off to an excellent start, according to the Ohio Cannabis Coalition (OHCANN). "They are working their tails off to implement the adult use program," OHCANN spokesperson Tom Haren told Hannah News in a phone interview, saying the division is ahead of schedule on dispensary licensing rules. "I think there's a good chance the division, because of how hard the staff has been working, that they will beat the September deadline for adult use sales," Haren said, noting he wouldn't be surprised if the program launched in August. Issue 2, which voters approved in November 2023, requires the division to issue adult licenses by Saturday, Sept. 7.


Approximately 11 percent of 12th-grade students across the U.S. reported the use of delta-8-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) in the past year, according to a new study. The finding was part of an analysis of data from the 2023 Monitoring the Future survey, which is funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Delta-8 is a psychoactive substance that is typically derived from hemp, and has intoxicating effects similar to delta-9-THC, the primary THC component responsible for the "high" people may experience from using cannabis, NIH said. The researchers measured delta-8 use for the first time in 2023 to investigate the drug's popularity among teens as more hemp-derived THC products enter the market and become more accessible. Studies show an association between cannabis use and negative health effects for teens, underlining the importance of monitoring use of delta-8 and other cannabis products among younger people.


MENTAL HEALTH


The Governor's Work Group on Competency Restoration and Diversion held its first meeting Wednesday, with Gov. Mike DeWine and Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services (OhioMHAS) Director LeeAnne Cornyn both saying they have an "aggressive timeline." Cornyn chairs the work group. Members include representatives of the state's criminal court and penal systems, DeWine's office, OhioMHAS, the Ohio departments of rehabilitation and correction (DRC), Medicaid (ODM) and public safety (DPS), RecoveryOhio, behavioral health provider agencies, advocacy groups, local stakeholders and Ohioans with lived experience. DeWine said the six state-run regional psychiatric hospitals are currently at 97 percent capacity, with 93 percent of occupants there due to involvement in the criminal justice system. While some are there in connection to a "serious crime" and that can pose a challenge for hospitals, DeWine added not all of them are, and one person's case involved allegedly stealing a piece of pizza. The capacity issues due to the criminal justice system reduce access and capacity for civil patients, he continued. His goal is for the work group to "reach a consensus around recommendations that alleviate the strain on our hospitals and ensure that Ohioans living with serious mental illness get access to the care they need to get well, be well, and stay well."


MILITARY AFFAIRS


U.S. Air Force (USAF) leaders recently spoke on "reoptimization" efforts to compete with Russia and the People's Republic of China (PRC) during conversations as part of Defense One's "State of Defense" series. A leadership keynote livestreamed recently featured USAF Chief of Staff Gen. David Allvin. He said every budget involves "hard decisions" and they were restricted by the Fiscal Responsibility Act this year. In recent years there was a decline in readiness, so the U.S. Department of Defense worked to prevent that through this budget. He added they also wanted to continue modernization efforts, though some areas of procurement had to be reduced. Allvin also detailed the capabilities and overall number of USAF F-35 fighter aircraft. He added there is a "growing appreciation" for the aircraft internationally. Efforts to retire certain aircraft in preparation for future threats was another topic of discussion. Allvin further addressed development of collaborative combat aircraft (CCA), unmanned vehicles that would fly in conjunction with crewed fighter aircraft. He additionally discussed what the USAF is doing to increase pilot retention.


NATURAL RESOURCES


Save Ohio Parks and other organizations opposed to energy extraction from under state parks are asking the 10th District Court of Appeals to revive their challenge to actions of the Oil and Gas Land Management Commission (OGLMC). Lawmakers created OGLMC, a reformulation of the Oil and Gas Leasing Commission, in the FY22-23 biennial budget, 134- HB110 (Oelslager). It oversees the process for entities to nominate state park and wildlife area lands for oil and gas development, and to bid on the mineral rights for those lands.

The Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) Division of Wildlife is seeking volunteers for the fourth annual Midwest Crane Count on the morning of Saturday, April 13. The Division of Wildlife is collaborating with the International Crane Foundation and Ohio Bird Conservation Initiative to conduct the survey. Find more information about how to volunteer at https://obcinet.org/get-involved/ohio-crane-count/ .


The ODNR Division of Forestry has awarded nearly $5.5 million in grants for 36 urban forestry projects across Ohio through the federal Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) Urban Forestry Grant Program. Two grant programs were made available to nonprofit organizations in Ohio. Eligible projects are focused on developing emerging and established urban forestry programs, with an emphasis on expanding tree canopy in underserved communities.


NONPROFIT ORGANIZATIONS


The first chief executive officer (CEO) of the Ohio Association of County Behavioral Health Authorities (OACBHA), Cheri Walter, Monday announced her retirement after 22 years, effective July 2024. She will be succeeded by Liz Henrich. Henrich, which has been with OACBHA since 2006, is currently the association's associate CEO. During her tenure at OACBHA she has spearheaded advocacy activities, managed multiple grants, guided policy discussions, coordinated conferences and events, and developed relationships with partners and stakeholders. "She has a wealth of expertise and experience working with alcohol, drug addiction, and mental health boards and stakeholders throughout the mental health and addiction system," the association noted in the announcement.


PENSIONS


The State Teachers Retirement System (STRS) Board of Trustees voted recently to keep at 34 the required years of service for teachers to earn full benefits, reversing previously enacted plans that would have increased it to 35 years a few years from now. The board also slightly reduced the career length STRS beneficiaries must accrue for a reduced pension, allowing them to retire at any age with 29 years of service instead of 30 and earn a reduced benefit. Unchanged were existing requirements that allow someone to retire with a full pension at age 65 with at least five years of service, or with a reduced pension at age 60 with at least five years of service. The new changes take effect Saturday, June 1. The changes adopted at the March board meeting are part of the board's "sustainable benefit enhancement plan," a framework through which the board evaluates ways to improve benefits. Board members have been under increasing pressure to improve benefits after some unpopular cutbacks from 2012 legislative reforms.


PEOPLE


The Ohio Craft Brewers Association-PAC (OCBA) recently named Rep. Brett Hillyer (R-Dennison) and Sen. Andrew Brenner (R-Delaware) its 2024 Legislators of the Year. Bills introduced by both legislators -- HB306 (Hillyer-Barhorst) and SB138 (Brenner) -- would "modernize the existing franchise law and give Ohio craft brewers a more fair playing field to conduct business," according to OCBA.


Brittany Halpin, the former press secretary for Ohio Treasurer Robert Sprague, has joined the Ohio Insurance Institute (OII) as director of communications. With more than 15 years of experience at both the state and federal government levels, Halpin has also served as the spokesperson for the former Ohio Department of Education and for former Ohio Auditor Dave Yost. She also served as a field representative for former U.S. House Speaker John Boehner (R-West Chester).


PUBLIC SAFETY


A grant program to support law enforcement and other first responder substance abuse deflection and pre-arrest diversion programs has begun taking applications. Gov. Mike DeWine Friday announced that $4 million in substance abuse grants will be available over the next two years as part of the Ohio Deflection and Pre-Arrest Diversion Grant Program, administered by the Office of Criminal Justice Services (OCJS). "Helping those with substance abuse issues with recovery is an important strategy to reduce crime and the stress it places on our corrections system," DeWine said. "These grants will allow local communities challenged by high overdose rates to develop, expand, or enhance substance use deflection and pre-arrest diversion programs, to identify, treat, and support those impacted by the use and misuse of opioids, stimulants, and other substances."


The ODNR Division of Forestry recently approved grant funding for 85 projects totaling more than $549,000 for fire departments in rural areas of Ohio through the Volunteer Fire Assistance (VFA) Grant Program. This grant program provides supplemental funding to fire departments that serve communities with populations of less than 10,000 people within the ODNR Division of Forestry Wildfire Protection Areas. Many rural fire departments face challenges with limited resources, the division said.


The DeWine administration this week announced another 14 law enforcement agencies certified under minimum standards approved by the Community-Police Collaborative Advisory Board. They bring the number of officers in participating jurisdictions to 29,633 -- or 88.3 percent of the statewide workforce. The Office of Criminal Justice Services (OCJS) officially added Erie County to the 74 sheriff's offices having now adopted state standards. Fairfield and Summit county sheriffs were previously announced last month.


SECRETARY OF STATE


Ben Kindel, who most recently served as the spokesman for Secretary of State Frank LaRose's U.S. Senate campaign, has re-joined the secretary of state's office as press secretary, LaRose announced Tuesday. Melanie Amato, who has been serving as press secretary, will continue in the secretary of state's office as communications director. Kindel previously worked in the secretary of state's office under LaRose as a deputy press secretary before joining the U.S. Senate campaign. He also served as LaRose's communications director for LaRose's re-election campaign in 2022. He has a bachelor's degree in political science from Kent State University.


SOLAR ECLIPSE


The Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) and Opportunities for Ohioans with Disabilities (OOD) are partnering to use LightSound technology at Ohio state parks and wildlife areas to help Ohioans who are blind or have low vision experience the Monday, April 8 solar eclipse. "Ensuring accessibility for all Ohioans is a priority for our administration," Gov. Mike DeWine said in a statement. Developed in 2017, the LightSound device allows individuals who are blind or have low vision to experience a solar eclipse through sound. Using sonification, the device converts light intensity data into audible tones, allowing users to perceive changes as the moon eclipses the sun. Lt. Gov. Jon Husted and other DeWine administration officials traveled to Alum Creek State Park on Thursday to witness a demonstration of the device.


The Better Business Bureau (BBB) of Central Ohio offered several recommendations to Ohioans on travel and viewing safety for the solar eclipse. The BBB of Central Ohio noted eclipse glasses are necessary to view the eclipse, as lack of protection can result in permanent eye damage. It also said there have been instances of counterfeit glasses. Those who buy their eclipse glasses should look to businesses they trust, the BBB of Central Ohio continued. The Ohio Department of Health also recently held a press conference on the importance of only using properly rated ISO 12312-2 glasses from reputable sources.


Asked about preparation for the April 8 eclipse, Gov. Mike DeWine said state officials have worked to prepare for it but cannot control how many cars are on the road at 4 p.m. or 5 p.m. afterward. They can only warn people that what has been previously seen in other states shows the "biggest challenge" will be on the highways. He said he hasn't decided yet where he will watch the eclipse but may go to the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force in Dayton, which will have activities during the day that his grandchildren can enjoy. DeWine also noted how NASA's Glenn Research Center in Cleveland and the Armstrong Air and Space Museum in Wapakoneta will be holding events about the eclipse.


Asked how many people she's expecting to visit state parks for the eclipse, ODNR Director Mary Mertz said she didn't have a specific estimate. "What I can tell you is that every lodge room is booked, every cabin is booked and nearly every campsite in the path of totality is booked. And we have heavy usage outside the path," she said. "In addition to all of those people on the ground, we are anticipating lots will come in for the day for a party, for a program. ... I don't know that I can give you a hard number statewide, but we are ready. All of our officers are going to be on duty. They are going to be supplemented by some folks from the Ohio State Highway Patrol, and they are ready to be there for 48 hours to cover whatever may come up.


STATE GOVERNMENT


The move of the Ohio Board of Nursing (OBN) to the state-owned AB Graham Building on the campus of the Ohio Department of Agriculture (ODA) in Reynoldsburg follows the state's earlier efforts to move the State Board of Education (SBOE) to that location. SBOE, however, objected to being "banished" to a location 14 miles east of downtown Columbus, passing a resolution opposing the move. The SBOE will now be moving to the William Green Building in downtown Columbus effective Monday, April 1, DAS' J.C. Benton told Hannah News. That location, at 30 W. Spring St., is about four blocks north of the board's current meeting place at the Department of Education and Workforce (DEW), 25 S. Front St. However, OBN praised DAS for finding its new location.


TRANSPORTATION/INFRASTRUCTURE


The Ohio Turnpike and Infrastructure Commission outlined changes to the toll road as its new toll collection system is phased in gradually over the next several weeks. The new system along the 241-mile Ohio Turnpike will feature a combination of open road tolling lanes for E-ZPass customers and a gated exit system for non-E-ZPass customers who prefer to pay by cash or credit card. The system is the largest construction project in turnpike history since its completion in October 1955. According to the commission, motorists entering the Ohio Turnpike with E-ZPass have been experiencing features of the new toll collection system since early 2023. The first phase, which permanently opened the entry gates in all E-ZPass toll booth lanes, was successfully deployed at 20 interchanges from Toll Plaza 52 (Toledo Airport-Swanton) in Lucas County to Toll Plaza 209 (Warren) in Trumbull County.


Calling it a "statutorily unsupported and substantively capricious exercise" of the rulemaking authority of the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), a federal judge in Kentucky has ruled invalid the agency's proposed rule requiring states to set declining targets for tailpipe carbon dioxide emissions from vehicles on the National Highway System. The "Emissions Rule" seeks to progressively lower CO2 emissions with a long-term goal of "net-zero" emissions across the U.S. economy by 2050. Ohio is one of the 21 states that sued the federal government over the rule, saying the rule is a major question that Congress hasn't delegated to the FHWA. The FHWA, however, argued that the rule does very little, containing no enforcement mechanism for failing to achieve reduction targets. Instead, the agency said it aims merely to use the existing data to better guide state allocation of federal highway spending to eventually reduce the carbon dioxide emissions the highways generate.


TREASURER OF STATE


Ohio Treasurer Robert Sprague announced Monday that April is "ABLE to Save Month" and promoted the state's version of Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) accounts that help people with disabilities to enhance their financial independence. A new STABLE Account enrollment incentive that began Monday matches the first $25 that an eligible Ohioan contributes when opening a new account, according to Sprague's office. The accounts are similar to 529 plans and enable Ohioans to save up to $18,000 annually without losing federal assistance. Those who are employed can save an additional $14,580 each year. Earnings on STABLE accounts grow tax-free if they are spent on qualified expenses, which include housing, transportation, living expenses, health care and assistive technology. The state program was launched in 2016, following the creation of the federal ABLE Act. Sprague's office said participation has grown from fewer than 10,000 accounts when he took office in January 2019 to almost 40,000 active accounts now.


VETERANS


The Ohio Department of Veterans Services is seeking the stories of former service members who are excelling and making a difference in society as nominees for the Ohio Veterans Hall of Fame. The Hall of Fame seeks to recognize veterans who continue to contribute to their communities, state and nation through exceptional acts of volunteerism, advocacy, professional distinction, public service or philanthropy. The deadline to submit nomination forms for consideration to the 2024 Ohio Veterans Hall of Fame class is Saturday, June 1, 2024. Information about the process, including guidelines, and a sample nomination are available at https://tinyurl.com/y3r47ep6 . A complete list of previous inductees can be found at https://tinyurl.com/2737a7d7 .

 


 



 


 



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


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