Week In Review - August 17, 2020



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


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


ADDICTION/SUBSTANCE ABUSE


Medically-assisted addiction treatment providers Friday filed paperwork to form a new group to lobby the Ohio General Assembly on issues and interests on their behalf. According to the group, the Buprenorphine Providers Association will "promote and protect the common interests of those in the medically-assisted treatment industry; create and maintain a forum for the betterment of best practices through professional dialogue and education for the industry and public welfare; to develop and foster a code of ethics and discipline for the integrity of the industry and the safety of the citizens of Ohio." Dr. Michael Kirwin will serve as the association's first president.


U.S. District Judge Dan Polster last week rejected a motion filed by pharmacy chains seeking to have him toss a lawsuit filed by Lake and Trumbull counties against the corporations for their opioid distribution practices. The judge ruled federal and Ohio law support the nuisance claims made by the counties.


AGRICULTURE


Ohioans should get their hands dirty and create their own "Victory Gardens," according to the Ohio Department of Agriculture (ODAg) and Ohio State University (OSU) Extension. "Victory Gardens originated during World War I, an answer to a severe food shortage at the time. The idea was wildly successful, growing an army of amateur gardeners and serving to boost morale and patriotism," ODAg said in a news release. ODAg and OSU Extension are reviving the effort and once again encouraging people to plant seeds, realize the fruits of their labor, and share with others if inspired. Advice and resources on every aspect of planting and harvesting produce are available at the Ohio Victory Gardens website: https://u.osu.edu/ohiovictorygardens/.


FY20-21 BUDGET


Monthly tax collections beat expectations by $184.6 million or 8.2 percent in July, with the delayed income tax filing deadline arriving last month and federal pandemic relief funds helping to boost sales taxes, according to the Office of Budget and Management (OBM).


BUSINESS/CORPORATE


Ohio State University (OSU) recently announced details of a COVID-19 testing strategy for the upcoming fall semester. In a message to the campus community, Provost Bruce McPheron and Dr. Hal Paz, CEO of the OSU Wexner Medical Center, said the university is implementing a testing program based on recommendations from their Safe Campus and Scientific Advisory Subgroup and guidance from federal, state and local health authorities.


Downtown buildings sustained at least $1.2 million in damages due to vandalism amid protests at the end of May, according to a Columbus Division of Police report, though over 50 businesses are still collecting information. Due to that, the total cost of damages "conceivably could be much higher," the report added.


CENSUS


The U.S. Census Bureau announced that census takers have begun this week following up with households that have not yet responded to the 2020 Census. The bureau said the current self-response rate is 67.6 percent, including 52.2 percent of respondents who did so online. The bureau will need to visit the remaining addresses to collect responses in person. Households can still respond now by completing and mailing back the paper questionnaire they received, by responding online at www.2020census.gov, or by phone at 844-330-2020. Households can also respond online or by phone in one of 13 languages and find assistance in many more. Those who respond will not need to be visited to obtain their census response.


CHILDREN/FAMILIES


Ohio's foster care and adoption website now includes profiles of children in foster care who are waiting to be adopted, the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS) announced Tuesday. The profiles include children's first names and ages, as well as hobbies, strengths and activities that reflect their personality and interests. Ohioans interested in learning more about adoption should visit FosterAndAdopt.jfs.ohio.gov. The website features information for prospective adoptive families, as well as an interactive map that can link them to local agencies that can help them decide if adoption is right for their family.


CORONAVIRUS


After a downward trend for COVID-19 cases in nursing homes through most of June, the virus saw a resurgence last month, according to a new report from the American Health Care Association and National Center for Assisted Living (AHCA/NCAL), which says the increase is a result of viral spread in the community at large.


The Ohio Manufacturing Alliance to Fight COVID-19 announced efforts Thursday to increase the capability to produce cotton face masks in the state to help slow the spread of the virus, with assistance from JobsOhio and the Ohio Development Services Agency (DSA). Buckeye Mask Company of Cleveland and Stitches USA of Walnut Creek initially teamed up to make more than one million masks per month to meet demand for the products. With help from the alliance and JobsOhio, new equipment is projected to increase production from 150,000 masks per week to 100,000 masks per day. "This is the first example of reshoring an Ohio product, at a cost-competitive price, that otherwise would be made overseas," the alliance said in a statement.


Auditor of State Keith Faber announced Tuesday the launch of the online portal for Ohioans to submit their experiences with "inconsistent or erroneous COVID-19 test results," according to a release from Faber's office. He had announced Ohio's participation in the project last month.


CRIME AND PUNISHMENT


The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Ohio has sent a letter to over 450 criminal legal stakeholders in Ohio with recommendations for how to mitigate risks associated with COVID-19 for incarcerated populations, specifically people in county jails, in anticipation of a coronavirus resurgence. "The ripple effect of the deadly virus is, and will continue to be, ongoing, but decreasing local jail populations will save lives and lessen community-spread," the organization said in a release.


The DeWine administration announced $3.2 million in Family Violence Prevention and Services Act (FVPSA) grants recently to more than five dozen Ohio programs supporting crime victims. "This vital funding will help prevent incidents of family violence and provide immediate shelter and related assistance for victims and dependents," the governor said in a statement.


ECONOMY


According to the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODFJS), if the June employment rebound after the initial COVID-19 disruptions continues throughout 2020 in a similar magnitude. Total employment is predicted to increase at an annual rate of 27.37 percent for the next six months in Ohio. The following metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs) are also predicted to grow: the Dayton MSA at 0.93 percent; the Youngstown-Warren-Boardman MSA at 2.66 percent; the Cincinnati MSA at 5.74 percent; the Columbus MSA at 9.26 percent; the Akron MSA at 11.11 percent; the Canton-Massillon MSA at 16.46 percent; the Cleveland-Elyria MSA at 18.52 percent; and the Toledo MSA at 28.46 percent.


Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, only about 25 percent of the workforce worked from home at least some of the time, and just 14.5 percent worked exclusively from home all week. However, the social distancing restrictions put in place due to the coronavirus crisis forced businesses across the U.S. to operate from home while their buildings remained closed. Now, as many states have moved to loosen restrictions, a recent survey by the financial advisory website WalletHub shows almost 60 percent of Americans think COVID-19 has changed the way people work for the better.


EDUCATION


The Ohio High School Athletic Association (OHSAA) announced Friday the 2020 football season will be shortened to six games in the regular season with all teams making the playoffs. The announcement comes following a recommendation this week from Gov. Mike DeWine's office to shorten the season due to concerns that COVID-19 may spike in early winter. OHSSA said that if high school football games are approved by DeWine, the season will begin the week of Monday, Aug. 24 and end Friday, Sept. 28. All teams will enter the playoffs beginning Friday, Oct. 9 and the state championship games will be played no later than Saturday, Nov. 21.


The Ohio STEM Learning Network (OSLN) unveiled the four winners of its "STEM Excellence Awards" recently. The awards recognize outstanding teachers or education advocates who advance quality science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education in Ohio. Nominations for the 2020 awards opened in March.


The Ohio Department of Education (ODE) announced Thursday the planned launch of a suite of online readiness assessments for schools to use at the start of the 2020-21 school year as an optional resource for schools seeking to benchmark student progress at the beginning of the new academic year. More information about the benchmark assessments is available at: https://tinyurl.com/yxva6exj.


A new resource from the Ohioana Library Association (OLA) highlights Ohio's literary history with a map of historic locations, libraries and homes. The Ohio Literary Trail includes 61 destinations across the state such as the Nancy Drew Exhibit at the Toledo Public Library, the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library in Columbus, the Harriet Beecher Stowe House in Cincinnati, and the Thurber House Museum in Columbus. More information about the Ohio Literary Trail including a map and the full list of 61 historic sites is available at http://www.ohioana.org/resources/the-ohio-literary-trail.


The State Board of Education voted in a special meeting Monday to update its rules for preschools and child care programs to align with similar rules from the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS). The board also discussed the issues local districts are facing as they prepare to begin classes amid the pandemic, and reviewed a preliminary overview of how many schools will return students to classrooms, teach remotely or use a combination of the two approaches.


Doctors from children's hospitals shared their experiences with detecting and treating COVID-19 in children and recommendations for school safety precautions at Gov. Mike DeWine's pandemic briefing Tuesday. The briefing featured remarks from Dr. John Barnard, chief of pediatrics for Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus; Dr. Patty Manning, chief of staff at Cincinnati Children's Hospital; and Dr. Adam Mezoff, chief medical officer at Dayton Children's Hospital. DeWine again expressed his confidence in local school leaders' abilities to decide how best to start the school year and implement precautions, while emphasizing they can't do so in a vacuum.


The imminent return to classrooms for some Ohio students merits a stay of an appellate ruling on arming school staff, a Southwest Ohio district argued to the Ohio Supreme Court recently. Madison Local Schools, which experienced a school shooting that prompted it to authorize employees to carry concealed weapons, wants the Supreme Court to stay a Twelfth District ruling that blocked its decision to allow staff to go armed at school. The Butler County district also asked the Supreme Court to expedite its consideration of the motion for a stay.


Keeping students at home for remote instruction -- either through the fall or until COVID-19 cases drop significantly -- was the top preference for educators surveyed by the Ohio Federation of Teachers (OFT). The union released results this week of the survey that polled its membership on back-to-school plans, their concerns about the virus and related questions.


Saying that parents and teachers are bracing for a tough fall ahead, Ohio Education Association (OEA) President Scott DiMauro and Policy Matters Ohio (PMO) Executive Director Hannah Halbert Tuesday called for bolstered school funding and a remote start to school in the fall, noting concerns about the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The statements came during an online news conference. Halbert drew attention to two pending federal proposals that would send money to schools nationwide, the House Democrats' HEROES Act and the Senate Republicans' HEALS Act, both coronavirus relief bills. She supported the House Democrats' proposal, saying it would offer more money, and added that the HEALS Act would "bully" schools into reopening for in-person education, given the bill's sending more funding to schools offering in-person classes.


The National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) announced $253,573 in grants for three humanities projects across Ohio. The awards are part of $30 million in grants NEH is giving to 238 humanities projects nationwide. The grants are given out in several categories such as Landmarks of American History and Culture, National Digital Newspaper Programs, Short Documentaries and many more.


As school athletics officials await state guidance on contact sports competitions, Columbus City Schools (CCS) said Thursday it's suspending sports and extracurricular activities starting Friday in order to slow the spread of the coronavirus.


ELECTIONS


Secretary of State Frank LaRose issued a new directive to county boards of elections Friday to begin the process of removing inactive voters from Ohio's voter registration lists under the supplemental process, but his office said no voters will be removed until after the November election. The secretary of state's office said LaRose plans to go through a similar process this year as he did last year, when he released a list of inactive voters to the public and asked for help in notifying those voters of the possibility their voter registration will be cancelled.


Calling it a first for a state elections system in the nation, Secretary of State Frank LaRose Tuesday said he had issued a vulnerability disclosure policy for his office. The disclosure policies are common among larger private sector businesses, the secretary of state's office said, and establishes procedures for outside researchers to inspect the secretary of state's website for vulnerabilities. Once the vulnerabilities are reported, it allows 120 calendar days for LaRose's office to repair the vulnerability before the researcher may publicly announce its discovery. LaRose's office said the defined time period provides assurances to the cybersecurity community that reporting of potential vulnerabilities will be treated with the seriousness they deserve.


The centennial of women's suffrage is recognized officially on Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2020. On that date, 100 years ago, the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was passed ensuring women the right to vote. To mark the occasion, the Ohio Statehouse Museum Education Center is hosting an exhibit about the landmark voting rights victory. "Rightfully Hers," a pop-up display created by the National Archives, includes images and portraits related to the suffrage movement.


ELECTIONS 2020


Former Gov. John Kasich is on the list of speakers for the Democratic National Convention (DNC) that begins on Monday, Aug. 17. He confirmed his appearance on Twitter Tuesday. "I will be speaking at the #DNC Convention because I believe that America needs to go in a different direction," Kasich said in a tweet. "I've searched my conscience and I believe the best way forward is for change -- to bring unity where there has been division. And to bring about a healing in America."


Monday was the deadline for political parties to replace candidates on the November ballot. According to the Licking County Board of Elections, former House Speaker Larry Householder is still on the ballot for the 72nd House District. He faces no Democratic opposition, though two candidates have filed to run as write-in candidates.


Secretary of State Frank LaRose sought to put online rumors and conspiracy theories to bed Wednesday and assure Ohio voters that the Nov. 3 General Election will take place as scheduled and that in-person voting will happen despite concerns over the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. He also announced that he will not allow more than one secure drop box for each county for the return of absentee ballots. LaRose had been requesting the General Assembly to weigh in on the issue, but it has not acted, and he also sent a request to Attorney General Dave Yost's office seeking a legal opinion on the secretary of state's ability to allow multiple drop boxes. However, LaRose said Wednesday that Yost's office has not responded, and that the secretary of state has withdrawn the opinion request because it was getting too close to the election.


Secretary of State Frank LaRose joined League of Women Voters of Ohio (LWVO) Executive Director Jen Miller and A. Philip Randolph Institute (APRI) Midwest Regional Representative Andre Washington in a Columbus Metropolitan Club discussion Wednesday on the upcoming election and voter suppression issues. Asked by Spectrum News 1 Anchor Curtis Jackson whether voter fraud is a problem in Ohio, LaRose called it "exceedingly rare" but said the state needs to work to keep it that way.


Fayette County elections officials shared their experience running a special election during the pandemic during Thursday's meeting of the Ready for November Task Force convened by Secretary of State Frank LaRose. Beth Ann Synder and Karla Morrison, respectively the director and deputy director of the Fayette County Board of Elections, had hosted LaRose last week during the special election. Snyder said the board "used a lot of commonsense things that we were already doing in our own personal lives." All polling locations were provided with a package of materials including protective equipment for poll workers, cleaning and sanitizing supplies, extra styluses and free masks for voters who didn't have one.


Secretary of State Frank LaRose announced this week that the Accountancy Board of Ohio will now allow Ohio certified public accountants (CPAs) to obtain continuing public education (CPE) general credits for serving as a poll worker in the 2020 November election.


The following endorsements were made over the week:


  • The campaign of Jerry Cirino, candidate for the 18th Ohio Senate District, announced the endorsement of the Affiliated Construction Trades (ACT) Ohio.

  • The Ohio Environmental Council (OEC) PAC endorsed Jennifer Brunner for Ohio Supreme Court.

  • The re-election campaign of Rep. Dave Greenspan (R-Westlake) announced the endorsements of Rocky River Mayor Pam Bobst and council members Tom Hunt, Jim Moran, John Shepherd, David Furry, and Chris Klym; Rocky River School Board member Kathy Goepfert; North Olmstead Finance Director Carrie Copfer; North Olmstead Council members Duane Limpert and Paul Barker; Fairview Park Councilman Bill Minek; Forest Park School Board member Erin Hinkel; former Forest Park Council members John Hinkel and Patrick Manning; and former Forest Park School Board presidents Frank Berkopec and Brad Lamb.

  • U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan's (D-Niles) re-election campaign announced the endorsement of AFSCME Power in Action.

  • The Ohio Environmental Council Action Fund PAC endorsed Reps. Mary Lightbody (D-Westerville), Laura Lanese (R-Grove City), Allison Russo (D-Columbus), Jessica Miranda (D-Cincinnati), Casey Weinstein (D-Hudson), and Sen. Sean O'Brien (D-Bazetta) for re-election.


EMPLOYMENT/UNEMPLOYMENT


The national unemployment rate for July fell once again to 10.2 percent in July, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), and 1.8 million non-farm jobs were added over the month. The improvements reflect "the continued resumption of economic activity that had been curtailed due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and efforts to contain it," BLS said in a release.


President Donald Trump issued one executive order and three memoranda over the weekend as the White House and Congress have thus far failed to come to an agreement on the next coronavirus relief funding bill. One of the president's memos aims to allow for further unemployment compensation funding by pulling more dollars from the Federal Emergency Management Agency's (FEMA) Disaster Relief Fund (DRF), with two options available to states. Dan Tierney, spokesperson for Gov. Mike DeWine, told Hannah News that the governor has directed the state to proceed with implementing the second option, which allows for $300 per week in supplemental benefits, without the extra $100 that the state would have to fund on its own. "The first option, of course, would have been far more complex. We would've had to identify whether it was feasible within the budget and then get an appropriation from the General Assembly, or they would have to approve it in some fashion," Tierney said, noting the second option could be implemented much more easily and quickly with no additional costs to the state. During an interview on CNN's "State of the Union" with Dana Bash Sunday, Gov. Mike DeWine thanked President Donald Trump for taking action on unemployment benefits but said a deal in Congress is still needed.


For the week ending Aug. 8, the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS) reported 20,969 initial unemployment claims to the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL). This is nearly 5,000 fewer jobless claims than the department reported on Aug.6. Ohioans filed 374,751 continued jobless claims last week, which were 401,551 fewer than the peak earlier this year, ODJFS said in a news release.


FEDERAL


While congressional and White House officials are in a stalemate regarding the next round of pandemic relief, which may include more Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) funding, Hannah News' analysis of data on the first PPP round shows Ohio businesses in professional services, other services, health care and restaurant fields benefited most from the forgivable loans.


GAMING/GAMBLING


The Ohio Lottery and the state's 11 gambling facilities reported robust revenues for July 2020, according to the most recent statistics from the Ohio Lottery Commission (OLC) and the Ohio Casino Control Commission (OCCC). Ohio's four casinos set a new record for revenue for July, bringing in a total of $86 million over the month, the highest monthly total for casino revenues since all four properties became operational, the Ohio Casino Control Commission said. OLC Finance Director Greg Bowers said sales from traditional Lottery games from the month of July were $346 million, and that was $100,000 less than sales realized last month. But it was $86 million, or 33.1 percent higher than sales from July 2019.


GENERAL ASSEMBLY/STATEHOUSE


House Chief of Staff Jonathon McGee and Policy Director Matthew McAuliffe, who were hired by former House Speaker Larry Householder (R-Glenford), resigned last week. Recently elected Speaker Bob Cupp (R-Lima) named House Budget Director Christine Morrison as interim chief of staff and Paul Disantis as interim chief legal counsel and policy director.


The Ohio Republican Party announced Friday that it will assist the House Republican Caucus in its campaigns this fall after the caucus found itself short of cash when former Speaker Larry Householder (R-Glenford) was indicted on federal charges. Unlike his most recent predecessors, who ran campaign financing through a caucus fund, Householder was using his own campaign fund, Friends of Householder, to back caucus efforts. The charges against him also alleges he was running funds through outside 501(c)(4) groups such as Generation Now. In its last campaign finance report, the House Republican Campaign Committee reported only $383,884 on hand.


The House Democratic Leadership Tuesday filed an official protest of the passage of nuclear bailout bill HB6 (Calendar-Wilkin) after its passage was tied to federal charges against multiple individuals, including former House Speaker Larry Householder (R-Glenford). Meanwhile, one of the bill's sponsors called for the General Assembly to pass a bill that "simultaneously repeals and replaces this law."


GOVERNOR


Gov. Mike DeWine addressed reporters from his home Friday, seeking to clarify what he called "a crazy day" Thursday in which his office initially reported he'd tested positive for COVID-19 and then said later in the night that subsequent testing were negative. He was joined by Dr. Peter Mohler, vice dean of research at Ohio State University's Wexner Medical Center, who gave a detailed briefing on the differences between the antigen test that generated DeWine's apparent false positive result and the PCR tests that twice came back negative. DeWine took another PCR test Saturday, which also came back negative.


Appointments made during the week include the following:


  • Janice H. Buchele of Toledo (Lucas County) to the Real Estate Appraiser Board for a term beginning Aug. 12, 2020 and ending June 30, 2021.

  • Paul M. Kelley of Waverly (Pike County) to the State Dental Board for a term beginning Aug. 14, 2020 and ending April 6, 2024.

  • Thomas E. Nye of Hamilton (Butler County) reappointed to the State Vision Professionals Board for a term beginning Aug. 11, 2020 and ending March 22, 2023.

  • James H. Cottle of Westerville (Delaware County) to the Dentist Loan Repayment Advisory Board for a term beginning Aug. 12, 2020 and ending Jan. 28, 2022.

  • Constance E. Hausman of Medina (Medina County) to the Forestry Advisory Council for a term beginning Aug. 12, 2020 and ending Feb. 27, 2022.

  • Justin Paez of Columbus (Franklin County) to the Ohio Collaborative Community-Police Advisory Board for a term beginning Aug. 12, 2020 and ending April 29, 2023.

  • Robin S. Engel of Cincinnati (Hamilton County) reappointed to the Ohio Collaborative Community-Police Advisory Board for a term beginning Aug. 12, 2020 and ending April 29, 2023.

  • Anthony R. Podojil of Painesville Twp. (Lake County) reappointed to the Ohio Retirement Study Council for a term beginning July 1, 2020 and ending Jun 30, 2023.

  • Charles DeJonckheere of Cincinnati (Hamilton County), Jennifer Fenderbosch of Avon Lake (Lorain County), and Alexander T. Boehnke of Columbus (Franklin County), reappointed the Materials Management Advisory Council for terms beginning July 2, 2020 and ending July 1, 2023.

  • Reginald A. Wilkinson of Columbus (Franklin County) and Elizabeth A. Harsh of Radnor (Delaware County) to the Ohio State University Board of Trustees for terms beginning Aug. 12, 2020 and ending May 13, 2029.

  • Gregory W. Stype of Upper Arlington (Franklin County) reappointed to the State Council on Uniform State Laws for a term beginning Aug. 12, 2020 and ending June 5, 2023.

  • Tommie Jo Brode of Stow (Summit County) reappointed to the Self-Insuring Employers Evaluation Board for a term beginning Aug. 23, 2020 and ending Aug. 22, 2024.

  • Jeffrey E. Samuelson of Cincinnati (Hamilton County) reappointed to the Board of Building Standards for a term beginning Aug. 12, 2020 and ending Oct. 13, 2023.

  • Jeffrey Tyler of Springfield (Clark County) to the Board of Building Standards for a term beginning Aug. 12, 2020 and ending Oct. 13, 2023.

  • Kathryn L. Brod of Columbus (Franklin County), Peter Van Runkle of New Albany (Franklin County), Jean Thompson of Columbus (Franklin County), Joseph Russell of London (Madison County), E. Douglas Beach of Northfield (Summit County), Varun Mahajan of Powell (Delaware County), Bonnie K. Burman of New Albany (Franklin County), Trey Addison of New Albany (Franklin County), Melissa A. Schiffel of Galena (Delaware County), Lori Stevic-Rust of Chesterland (Geauga County), and Lori Stevic-Rust of Chesterland (Geauga County) to the Alzheimer's Disease and Related Dementias Task Force for terms beginning August 12, 2020 and continuing at the pleasure of the Governor.


HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES


Rep. Diane Grendell (R-Chesterland) said Friday that she is introducing legislation that would bar the Ohio Board of Pharmacy (OBP) from preventing certain prescriptions from being used for treatment purposes by doctors. The bill comes after the board had introduced a rule prohibiting hydroxychloroquine or chloroquine from being prescribed to treat COVID-19. It withdrew the rule a day later after a request from Gov. Mike DeWine.


Job cuts due to the pandemic have had a cascading effect on the health care industry as laid-off workers lose health insurance, Families USA leaders told reporters Tuesday in discussing two new reports. Families USA Executive Director Fredrick Isasi was joined by Stan Dorn, director of Families USA's National Center for Coverage Innovation, to discuss a mid-July report on health insurance losses due to the pandemic and a follow-up report released Tuesday on what could happen next without federal support.


The Ohio Department of Medicaid (ODM) did not select a single state pharmacy benefit manager (SPBM) by July 1 as required by budget bill HB166 (Oelslager) because the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) required further certifications, delaying the release of the SPBM request for proposals (RFP), ODM Director Maureen Corcoran told the Joint Medicaid Oversight Committee (JMOC) on Wednesday.


Gov. Mike DeWine used his Thursday press conference to highlight disparities among minority communities, especially when it comes to health, and said he is creating a permanent advisory board that will advise his administration. The governor said the effort comes after his Minority Health Strike Force presented a report with 34 recommendations, noting he had the senior leadership of his cabinet agencies read over it to determine what can be done to reduce these disparities.


In its application to the federal government to qualify for continued funding under Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS) is seeking public comments. Comments must be submitted by Wednesday, Sept. 30 to ODJFS at https://jfs.ohio.gov/owf/tanf/tanfcomment.stm where a link to the revised plan can also be found.


HIGHER EDUCATION


Central State University (CSU) has announced reopening plans for the fall 2020 semester. In a letter to the CSU community, President Jack Thomas said the university will offer both residential and virtual learning. The academic calendar has been adjusted so that the first day of in-person classes will now begin Tuesday, Sept. 8 and the last day of in-person instruction will be Tuesday, Nov. 24, with the rest of the semester taking place online. CSU is also offering classes using a hybrid-cohort model that combines live, in-classroom learning and remote learning. To maintain social distancing in hybrid courses, Thomas said students will alternate attending in-person and through video conference according to their assigned cohort.


Bowling Green State University (BGSU) has announced the single largest academic gift in the university's nearly 110-year history and its first named college. Following a special meeting of the Board of Trustees, BGSU President Rodney Rogers announced the $15 million gift from Ohio entrepreneur Allen Schmidthorst, and his wife, Carol, establishing the Allen W. and Carol M. Schmidthorst College of Business.


Cleveland State University (CSU) President Harlan M. Sands has been appointed to the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division I Board of Directors representing the Horizon League. His four-year term begins this month.


The 12-team Mid-American Conference (MAC) -- which includes six schools from Ohio -- has announced the postponement of all scheduled fall athletic contests due to continuing concerns related to the COVID-19 pandemic.


Ohio State University (OSU) recently announced details of a COVID-19 testing strategy for the upcoming fall semester. In a message to the campus community, Provost Bruce McPheron and Dr. Hal Paz, CEO of the OSU Wexner Medical Center, said the university is implementing a testing program based on recommendations from their Safe Campus and Scientific Advisory Subgroup and guidance from federal, state and local health authorities.


The Big 10 Conference announced Tuesday it has postponed fall sports due to the COVID-19 pandemic. "Our primary responsibility is to make the best possible decisions in the interest of our students, faculty and staff," said Northwestern University President Morton Schapiro, chair of the Big 10 Council of Presidents/Chancellors.


Athens-based musician and Ohio University Professor Paschal Yao Younge has received the $5,000 2020 Ohio Heritage Fellowship Award for the Performing Arts and by the Ohio Arts Council (OAC) for his expertise in traditional African music. In his classes, Younge focuses on choral and brass music, with his research focusing on intercultural and multicultural music education and fine arts curricula, creative performance issues and practices in music and dance, and world percussion.


HOUSING/HOMELESSNESS


Ohio leads the nation in new Trump administration awards for affordable housing, accepting an $8.75 million check from the Housing Trust Fund Thursday to be administered by the Ohio Development Services Agency (DSA) and Ohio Housing Finance Agency (OHFA). OHFA Chairwoman Sherry Maxfield, who also heads the Ohio Department of Commerce (DOC), joined Regional Midwest Administrator Joseph Galvan of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and interim OHFA Executive Director Shawn Smith at association headquarters to announce the $8,755,082 award -- nearly double that of its closest competitor, Indiana ($4,644,564).


INSURANCE


Ohio insurance consumers pay among the lowest average auto and homeowners insurance premiums in the country, according to a recent analysis, Ohio Department of Insurance (ODI) Director Jillian Froment announced. Ohioans paid an average of $862 (9th lowest) for homeowners insurance and $778 (13th lowest) for auto insurance in 2017, according to the most recent data from the National Association of Insurance Commissioners. That compares to the national averages of $1,211 and $1,005, respectively, producing average savings for Ohioans of $349 on homeowners insurance and $227 on auto insurance.


JUDICIAL


The Ohio State Bar Association (OSBA) announced this week it has partnered with online legal services provider LegalShield to expand access to affordable legal help for all Ohioans. OSBA said that as part of the new partnership, OSBA member attorneys are invited to join the LegalShield network for client referrals. LegalShield is a prepaid legal services provider with a statewide network of attorneys. The company allows members who pay a monthly fee to access an attorney within their area who can help with a variety of legal issues.


The Ohio Supreme Court said Wednesday it has completed exterior repairs of damage caused by vandals amid summer protests over police misconduct and the death of George Floyd. The Supreme Court released a video showing the damage and the cleanup process, in which Chief Justice Maureen O'Connor acknowledged the societal problems that gave rise to the protests.


Ohio Legal Help has assisted nearly 100,000 Ohioans since businesses closed and unemployment rose in March and says the need is only increasing. "Ohioans lost their jobs -- and incomes -- at record numbers as a result of COVID-19. Many of these Ohio families are now dealing with legal problems, including evictions, foreclosures and debt collection, without legal guidance or the help of an attorney," according to the group's executive director, Susan Choe.


MILITARY AFFAIRS


The Ohio Association of Foodbanks (OAF) issued a statement Monday praising the extension of federal support for National Guard operations through the end of the year, calling the work of guard personnel "indispensable" to its mission during the pandemic.


NATURAL RESOURCES


The new Ohio Scenic Rivers Activity book is a fun, educational way for kids to learn about water quality and stream wildlife, according to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR). "The free activity guide invites elementary-aged children to discover the hidden world of stream creatures, known as macroinvertebrates," the department said in a news release. The guide is available for download at https://tinyurl.com/yxunl43v.


The Ohio Lake Erie Commission and Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (Ohio EPA) have proposed to remove the beneficial use impairment (BUI) that restricts navigational dredging activities within the Ashtabula River area of concern (AOC). Beneficial use impairments (BUI) identify specific problems that can prevent a body of water from meeting its full water quality potential. The Ohio Lake Erie Commission and Ohio EPA are recommending the removal of the "restrictions on navigational dredging activities" BUI, according to a news release from Ohio EPA.


Forty students were selected to serve as members of the Conservation Teen Advisory Council (ConTAC) for the upcoming school year, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) has announced. The formation of ConTAC is intended to help expand the reach and quality of the agency's youth initiatives, ODNR said in a news release.


PUBLIC SAFETY


The DeWine administration is adding more sheriffs' offices to agencies now in compliance with state standards for officer use of force, including deadly force, and agency recruitment and hiring. They include one of Ohio's largest jurisdictions, the Lucas County Sheriff's Office, along with Fairfield County and Gallia County sheriffs.


TOBACCO/SMOKING


Researchers at Ohio State University (OSU) found that smokers who scored higher on a test of math ability were more likely than others to say they intended to quit smoking. The reason: They had a better memory for numbers related to smoking risk, which led to perceiving a greater risk from smoking and then a greater intention to quit.


UTILITIES


The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) rejected the Ohio Consumers' Counsel's (OCC) call for an indefinite halt on electric disconnections, deposits and reconnection fees during the COVID-19 economy Wednesday and granted American Electric Power (AEP) and Dayton Power and Light's (DP&L) request to resume service cutoffs on Tuesday, Sept. 1, 2020, one week prior to the Labor Day holiday.


Promising faster Internet to large areas of rural and Appalachian Ohio, Verizon's broadband successor in the Buckeye State is getting a thumbs-up from the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) one day after the scheduled approval of its reorganization plan in U.S. Bankruptcy Court. Embattled Frontier North Inc., which serves all or parts of 77 counties as a reputed expert in rural telephone and data lines, has agreed to dedicate $75 million over the next three years to telecom infrastructure and to correct what PUCO staff has described as an "egregious" record of extended outages and poor service quality.


WORKFORCE


The Complete to Compete Ohio Coalition -- a group of over 40 business and education leaders -- has developed a five-step plan so more Ohioans can earn "the high-value credentials and postsecondary degrees" needed to be competitive in a changing economy, according to a release from education advocacy group Ohio Excels. "Now, more than ever, Ohio must be a knowledge state. Ohioans must have the knowledge, skills and abilities acquired through training for in-demand jobs in order to get back on their feet and thrive," said Ohio Excels President Lisa Gray in a release.


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

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