Week In Review - August 22, 2022



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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


CVS, Walmart and Walgreens must pay Lake and Trumbull counties more than $650 million to help abate the damage the pharmacy chains caused by improperly dispensing opioids in those communities, U.S. District Court Judge Dan Polster ordered Wednesday. Lake County will be awarded $306.2 million over 15 years, while Trumbull County will receive $344.4 million over 15 years, Polster decided. "The court concludes it is appropriate to order the pharmacy defendants to pay immediately into an abatement fund two years' worth of these amounts, or a total of $86.7 million," Polster wrote. Polster wrote that CVS, Walmart and Walgreens repeatedly "squandered" opportunities to propose "meaningful" plans to abate the public nuisance caused by their oversupply of opioids. The companies plan to appeal.


The organization suing the OneOhio Recovery Foundation in a dispute over transparency requirements has another complaint against the new nonprofit formed to oversee the bulk of opioid settlement funding, asserting fault in how some board members got their seats. The foundation, in response, says regional governing authorities have leeway that it does not want to override. Dennis Cauchon, president of Harm Reduction Ohio, said Cuyahoga County Executive Armond Budish, representing foundation Region 3, and Joshua Cox, an attorney representing Franklin County's Region 1, do not have valid appointments to the foundation board. He argues they must be appointed by the regional governing bodies called for in the memorandum of understanding (MOU) that led to the creation of OneOhio.


AUDITOR OF STATE


An overhaul of high school-college dual enrollment programs several years ago has paid off by getting students more college credits at lower cost, but the College Credit Plus (CCP) program could provide even more help with better outreach and more effort to teach the classes on high school campuses, Auditor Keith Faber's office said in a performance audit of the program released Tuesday. Faber's office also launched a new dashboard showcasing information on each district's use of the program, higher education institutions' offerings and the participation of home school and private school students, among other data visualizations. Audit documents and the dashboard are at https://ohioauditor.gov/performance/college-credit-plus.html.


CORRECTIONS


Gov. Mike DeWine announced Friday he was awarding $5 million in state assistance to six county jails for targeted safety, security and operational projects. The grant awards complete the $50 million allocated for local jail renovations in 133-SB310 (Dolan), following distribution of $45 million last October. Recipients, funding amounts and spending purposes in this round include the following:



  • Darke County, $1.8 million for security upgrades.

  • Ross County, $1.6 million for security upgrades.

  • Pickaway County, $902,000 for a sewer system project.

  • Monroe County, $329,000 for a sewer system project.

  • Highland County, $179,000 for security upgrades.

  • Erie County, $150,000 for a sewer system project.

CRIME AND PUNISHMENT


The Ohio State Highway Patrol (OSHP) confirmed Thursday, August 11 that the deceased suspect who fled after attempting to breach the FBI's Cincinnati office location was Ricky Shiffer of Columbus. The OSHP release said that, during a standoff in Clinton County, Shiffer "raised a firearm and shots were fired by law enforcement officers." He then "succumbed to fatal injuries at the scene." This followed attempts at negotiation and taking him into custody through less-lethal tactics. In its statement, the FBI field office said it had "an armed subject attempt to breach the Visitor Screening Facility" at approximately 9:15 a.m. Thursday. FBI Director Christopher Wray issued a statement Thursday as well, saying that "unfounded attacks on the integrity of the FBI erode respect for the rule of law and are a grave disservice to the men and women who sacrifice so much to protect others."


The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Ohio says women locked away in the state's jails and prisons have increased six times in three decades and places most of the blame on drug offenses. It is one of a chorus of policy voices calling for a real criminal justice data system in Ohio to evaluate those numbers further. ACLU Ohio Chief Lobbyist Gary Daniels joined Policy Director Jocelyn Rosnick and former Policy Fellow Anna Crouser recently for the release of "On the Basis of Punishment: Women in Ohio Prisons." It notes women are now incarcerated twice as fast in the U.S. as their male counterparts, and with the proportion of women convicted for drug offenses doubling since the mid-1980s.


The long-delayed Ohio Supreme Court report on wrongful convictions and expanded legal review spans a tumultuous period for law enforcement and criminal justice in the state and nation and calls for post-conviction and new-trial remedies capped by a first-ever Ohio Innocence Commission. All but two county prosecutors refused to participate in the process, despite pleas from Chief Justice Maureen O'Connor. O'Connor announced the Task Force on Conviction Integrity and Post-conviction Review in early 2020, prior to COVID-19 and national debate over the murder of George Floyd. She appointed members in June of that year as protests raged over Floyd's death at the hands of police, and the ad hoc panel finally convened for the first time in late September 2020.


EDUCATION


The Ohio Department of Education opened applications Friday, Aug. 12 for organizations providing high-quality tutoring, as part of an effort to address pandemic-era learning loss via education omnibus HB583 (Bird-Jones). The law, signed by Gov. Mike DeWine in June, included language from Sen. Andrew Brenner's (R-Delaware) SB306, a proposal to create a tutoring and remedial education program. As part of the legislation, ODE is to compile and publicize by Saturday, Oct. 1 a list of high-quality tutoring programs provided by public and private organizations. Local districts will not be required to select tutors from this list, however, ODE notes. More details about applications and timelines are posted at https://tinyurl.com/2p9ya8ek


A new poll of Ohio parents of K-12 students found most support educational approaches that account for children's physical, social and emotional needs, from school meals to on-site mental health services to instruction in abuse prevention. Children's Defense Fund-Ohio (CDF-Ohio) commissioned the survey, which was conducted in May by the Baldwin Wallace University Community Research Institute and posed questions on school nutrition, mental health, curriculum, life skills, parent roles, trust in teachers, equity and social-emotional learning to 1,370 parents. "As Ohio works to meet our children's developmental needs, especially in the wake of the pandemic's impact, continued parent support and partnership with schools is key, and this means raising awareness of what the 'Whole Child Framework' includes," said Alison Paxson, senior policy associate for CDF-Ohio, in a statement.


The Ohio Facilities Construction Commission (OFCC), the agency responsible for overseeing state-funded capital projects, held its monthly August meeting at the recently completed Beulah Park Middle School in Grove City Wednesday. Beulah Park is one of several new school buildings within the South-Western City Schools system, the sixth largest school district in Ohio with about 21,000 students from Columbus, Darbydale, Galloway, Grove City, Georgesville, Harrisburg, and Urbancrest. Beulah Park is among four newly constructed middle schools, plus one that was renovated, in the district. Construction on the new buildings began in October 2020 and recently wrapped with classes set to begin next week.


ELECTIONS 2022


The Ohio Supreme Court Monday dismissed a lawsuit filed by disqualified independent gubernatorial candidate Niel Peterson, saying the candidate did not file a required merit brief by a Court deadline.


Peterson, a Dayton-area pastor who had launched a campaign this year as a "conservative independent" criticizing state coronavirus policies, had filed the lawsuit earlier this month after he did not get enough signatures to make the Tuesday, Nov. 8 ballot. Peterson and running mate Michael Stewart argued in his lawsuit that the signature verification policies of the state are "unreasonably vague, are maximally restrictive, and are ambiguously applied."


Two races for the Ohio House saw new candidates added to the ballot on Monday, including a sitting State Board of Education member. Medina County Democrats selected Ohio State Board of Education District 5 member Christina Collins to run in the 66th Ohio House District, a seat currently held by Rep. Sharon Ray (R-Wadsworth), who is running for re-election. Collins replaces Mike Oliver, who withdrew after earning the nomination through a write-in campaign. Meanwhile, Geauga and Ashtabula County Democrats nominated Kathy Zappitello, the executive director of the Conneaut Public Library, as the replacement candidate in the 99th House District. She replaces Abby Kovacs, who announced last week she was dropping out of the race due to being drawn out of the district in redistricting. She takes on Rep. Sarah Fowler Arthur (R-Rock Creek), who is running for re-election.


The Ohio Secretary of State's office Wednesday announced it had received the findings of an audit authorized by the U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC) that assessed the state's use of federal grants received under the Help America Vote Act (HAVA). The audit did not identify any findings or make any recommendations, meaning the secretary of state's office administered the $45 million in federal grants in full compliance with the EAC's requirements, the office said.


Former Dayton Mayor and Democratic gubernatorial nominee Nan Whaley Wednesday sought to portray opponent Gov. Mike DeWine as "too weak to stand up to radicals in his party," and too extreme on issues such as abortion. Speaking at the City Club of Cleveland, which had extended invitations to both candidates for governor, Whaley said the race will be about abortion after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down Roe v. Wade in June. She said there is no issue that DeWine "is more extreme" on than abortion, and said Republicans in the state are hoping that women will forget that they are outlawing abortion here in Ohio.


The Franklin County Board of Elections Wednesday certified the results of the Aug. 2 primary, officially giving the win to attorney Ismail Mohamed in the 3rd Ohio House District Democratic primary over Kelly Harrop and three other Democratic candidates. Mohamed faces Republican J. Josiah Lanning in the Tuesday, Nov. 8 General Election in a heavily Democratic district where Mohamed will be favored. If he wins, he will likely join Munira Abdullahi as the first two Somali American members of the General Assembly. Abdullahi won a Democratic primary on Aug. 2 for the 9th Ohio House District and has no Republican opponents in the General Election.


In a unanimous decision issued Thursday, the Ohio Supreme Court sided with Secretary of State Frank LaRose, who had rejected the candidacies of F. Patrick Cunnane and wife Mary E. Cunnane as independent candidates for governor and lieutenant governor, respectively. The Cunnanes had gathered sufficient signatures to get on the November ballot as independent candidates, but LaRose rejected their petitions in July, saying both had voted in the May Republican primary and therefore were not independents.


Democratic gubernatorial nominee Nan Whaley and Ohio Democrats Thursday were touting the results of Democratic pollster Lake Research Partners that showed Gov. Mike DeWine only up one point on Whaley, while a new poll released Thursday by Emerson College showed a much wider 16-point lead for DeWine. The Emerson College survey was conducted among 925 likely general election voters on Monday, Aug. 15 and Tuesday, Aug. 16, and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.2 percentage points. It showed DeWine leading Whaley 49 percent to 33 percent, with 8 percent planning to vote for someone else and 11 percent undecided. The U.S. Senate race between Democrat Tim Ryan and Republican J.D. Vance shows a tighter race, with Vance leading 45 percent to 42 percent. Another 4 percent chose someone else, and 10 percent were undecided.


Republican U.S. Senate candidate J.D. Vance is about to receive a significant boost from an out-of-state super PAC with ties to U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY). The Senate Leadership Fund (SLF) is planning to spend $28 million on statewide TV and radio ads, SLF Communications Director Jack Pandol said Thursday. "Tim Ryan just had the worst day of his campaign. SLF is going to send another Democrat career politician into long-overdue retirement -- this time in Ohio," Pandol tweeted.


Democratic gubernatorial nominee Nan Whaley held a press event outside FirstEnergy stadium in Cleveland Thursday to call for Gov. Mike DeWine and Lt. Gov. Jon Husted to release all private emails relating to the passage of nuclear bailout bill 133-HB6. "FirstEnergy is so rich and powerful that their name is on a stadium," she said. "More and more, it seems like their name should be on the governor's mansion too."


Democratic attorney general nominee Jeff Crossman and Ohio House candidate Jim Obergefell, a plaintiff in the landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision legalizing gay marriage, Obergefell v. Hodges, called this week for Ohio Attorney General (AG) Dave Yost to drop a lawsuit challenging a Biden administration policy regarding LGBTQ+ individuals.


The following endorsements were made over the week:



  • Everytown for Gun Safety Action Fund endorsed Nan Whaley and Cheryl Stephens for governor and lieutenant governor, respectively.

ENERGY/UTILITIES


Energy executives said Wednesday the General Assembly and Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) must embrace major policy changes for utilities to take full advantage of $369 billion in green energy funding signed into law this week by President Joe Biden. Chairman and CEO Nick Akins of American Electric Power (AEP) and President and COO Marc Reitter of AEP Ohio said deregulated generation in the Buckeye State has hampered long-term infrastructure investments needed to tap federal support for renewable energy and other climate measures. "There's no doubt we're moving toward a clean energy economy -- our customers expect it, our investors expect it -- but we have to do it in a way that certainly supports the resiliency and reliability of the grid," Akins told the Columbus Metropolitan Club during the panel discussion "Ohio's Electric Future: AEP's Perspective."


ENVIRONMENT


Gov. Mike DeWine announced Thursday that the H2Ohio initiative is investing an additional $1.5 million to help local communities identify, inventory and map lead service lines across the state with the Ohio EPA now accepting applications for the program. Public water systems that do not have the financial means to properly assess where their lead service lines are located are eligible to receive up to $50,000. This is the second round of grant funding available as part of the H2Ohio Lead Line Mapping Grant Program. Ohio EPA will accept grant applications until Friday, Sept. 9, 2022. The application can be found online at https://tinyurl.com/2p8ftkmz


Gov. Mike DeWine and the Ohio Department of Agriculture (ODAg) Monday announced a $5 million grant program for a new H2Ohio Best Management Practice (BMP) -- the Two-Stage Ditch. A two-stage ditch is a conservation practice that modifies the shape of a drainage ditch to create vegetation benches on each side. The vegetative benches slow water flow and reduce downstream nutrient runoff. This is the eighth BMP that ODAg has offered in the H2Ohio program. The Two-Stage Ditch Grant Program is available in the 24 counties in the Western Lake Erie Basin. Soil and Water Conservation Districts (SWCDs), and county engineers are eligible to apply for up to full reimbursement of the two-stage ditch construction.


FEDERAL


President Joe Biden Tuesday signed the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) during a ceremony at the White House. The budget reconciliation package has major policy changes on health care costs, energy production, climate change response and taxes. The bill passed the U.S. Senate earlier this month on a party-line vote with Vice President Kamala Harris serving as a tiebreaker. The reconciliation process allows passage of the bill with just a bare majority, rather than the 60 votes usually required to avoid a filibuster in the Senate. On Friday, Aug. 12, the bill cleared the U.S. House in a 220-207 vote. The federal legislation aims to tackle a number of pressing issues, from cutting prescription drug costs, reducing the deficit, lowering energy costs and promoting more environmentally friendly energy, and increasing taxes on large corporations.


GAMING/GAMBLING


Ohio's first sports gaming licenses were issued on Wednesday when the Ohio Casino Control Commission (OCCC) approved 200 type C host licenses, which are available to facilities like bars, restaurants and bowling alleys with D-1, D-2 or D-5 liquor permits.


GENERAL ASSEMBLY/STATEHOUSE


Much attention continues to be focused on what states will do following the June U.S. Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade, which ended women's constitutional right to an abortion. Here in Ohio, the ruling paved the way for the state's "heartbeat bill," 133-SB23, to take effect. While it had been signed into law in July 2019, the law had been stayed from going into effect until the U.S. Court decision this June. With Roe v. Wade overturned, Ohio Republicans are expected to enact a full ban later this year, but what other women's health bills are also under consideration at the Statehouse? Hannah News looked at some of them. One bill that may be signed by the governor before the end of the year, HB142 (Crawley-Brinkman), passed the Ohio House in June nearly unanimously. The legislation, which has been lauded as a boon for Black women in particular, allows Medicaid coverage for licensed doula services for the next five years.


GOVERNOR


The Department of Administrative Services (DAS) announced Friday that it had installed a new solar electric system at the Governor's Residence Carriage House, using a $50,000 grant from American Electric Power Foundation secured by Green Energy Ohio. The new system features "advanced solar and battery technology supporting greater efficiency and reliability." The Ohio State Highway Patrol operates a post out of the Carriage House on the residence, and complete overhaul was recommended after a recent inspection of the solar array and battery backup system, which were installed in 2004. This will maintain security functions in the event of a power outage.


GREAT LAKES


The Ohio Supreme Court Wednesday announced approval of a permit to construct a six-turbine offshore wind-powered electric-generation facility located about 10 miles from the shores of Lake Erie -- North America's first freshwater offshore wind-powered electric-generation facility. In a 6-1 decision, the Supreme Court found the Ohio Power Siting Board (OPSB) appropriately granted a certificate of environmental compatibility and public need to Icebreaker Windpower. The project has been billed as a small-scale "demonstration project" to test the viability of offshore wind farms in Lake Erie and the other Great Lakes.


GUNS


A recent study by the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) found that in addition to firearms becoming the leading cause of death for U.S. children, the nation stands alone among peers, as none have firearm deaths in even the top four causes of child death. The Washington Post previously looked at the U.S. data after it was noted in the New England Journal of Medicine. KFF compared the U.S. to Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Japan, the Netherlands, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom.


HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES


After President Joe Biden signed the Inflation Reduction Act into law this week, the administration Thursday released state-by-state information on the bill's health care provisions. Citing estimates from the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF), the administration said the new policies will benefit roughly 62,000 Ohio Medicare recipients who would have otherwise had out-of-pocket costs above the $2,000 cap as well as 1.9 million Ohioans with Medicare Part D. About 17,000 Ohio Medicare beneficiaries received partial Extra Help in 2020.


HIGHER EDUCATION


Ohio State University (OSU) announced it will lead a multi-institutional engineering research center to develop autonomous manufacturing systems, create a manufacturing workforce, and ease supply chain issues. The National Science Foundation (NSF) awarded the Hybrid Autonomous Manufacturing, Moving from Evolution to Revolution (HAMMER) Engineering Research Center $26 million for five years with the ability to renew for another $26 million for an additional five years. If fully realized, OSU said it will be one of the largest research investments in the last decade for the university. Ohio State will partner with Case Western Reserve University, North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University, Northwestern University and the University of Tennessee, Knoxville along with more than 70 industry, educational and technical organization collaborators.


Remaining federal student loans given to students from 2005 onward to attend the now-defunct ITT Technical Institute, which operated nine Ohio campuses before its 2016 shutdown, will be discharged, the U.S. Department of Education (USDOE) said Tuesday. More than 200,000 borrowers will receive nearly $4 billion in full loan discharges, the agency said. ITT shut its doors in September 2016, shortly after USDOE blocked the institution from enrolling any new students who had federal loans. The USDOE action includes borrowers who had not previously been approved for a borrower defense to repayment discharge.


HOUSING/HOMELESSNESS


Ohio home sales dropped 10.4 percent in July compared to a year ago, but prices are 8.4 percent higher, according to Ohio Realtors.


INSURANCE


The National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) has reaccredited the Ohio Department of Insurance's (ODI) approach to regulating insurance company financial solvency for another five-year term, department Director Judith L. French announced. According to the department, it underwent a comprehensive, independent review of its legal, financial and organizational procedures to ensure insurance company financial solvency oversight met the criteria set by the NAIC. This includes having adequate solvency laws and regulations to protect consumers and safety-net guaranty funds, sufficient financial analysis and examination processes, and effective practices for the review of organization, licensing, re-domestication and change of control of Ohio domestic insurance companies.


JUDICIAL


The Ohio Board of Professional Conduct warns against international money laundering in a new opinion on attorney handling of client cryptocurrency. The board says a lawyer with a practice in global transactions has asked whether cryptocurrency held in escrow may be considered part of his interest on lawyers' trust account (IOLTA) for client fund deposits. "Many of the lawyer's international clients prefer to use cryptocurrency for business transactions and desire for the lawyer to hold the cryptocurrency in escrow. Because financial institutions do not accept or exchange cryptocurrency, the lawyer is unable to place cryptocurrency in his lawyer's trust account," Advisory Opinion 2022-07 concludes.


The Ohio Supreme Court is now accepting public comment on the Ohio Probate Judges Association's draft amendments to probate forms. Amendments would create a form for disbursement of an attorney decedent's trust accounts and several forms for name-change and name-conformity applications and would amend existing forms for settling a minor's claim to an account for depositing proceeds into a trust. Comments should be submitted in writing by Thursday, Sept. 29, 2022 to Bryan Smeenk, deputy chief legal counsel, Supreme Court of Ohio, 65 S. Front St., 7th Floor, Columbus 43215-3431, or to RuleAmendments@sc.ohio.gov. A full name and mailing address should be included in emailed comments.


LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR


Lt. Gov. Jon Husted was asked this week for his thoughts on the recent attack on a Southwest Ohio FBI office by an armed man clad in body armor. He was also asked whether elected Republicans should do more to denounce the attack, which came after former President Donald Trump's Florida home was searched by FBI agents as part of an investigation for possible Espionage Act violations. "I'm an elected Republican, and I do denounce it," Husted said. "Nobody should take justice into their own hands, even as demented and odd -- I don't have the right words for it -- nobody should take another person's life. Attacking any law enforcement official has to be condemned by everyone Republicans, Democrats, everyone," Husted said. "What happened at the FBI offices in Cincinnati is, I think, an unfortunate sign of our times," he continued. "I'm glad that none of the law enforcement officials lost their lives when confronting an ugly situation."


The lieutenant governor was also asked about his possible role in the 133-HB6 (Callender-Wilkin) nuclear bailout scandal in light of reported text exchanges between now-fired FirstEnergy executives mentioning his advocacy. "The question, I believe, was, 'What role did you play in the legislative committee process?' The answer is 'none' and I stand by that answer," Husted said, noting he advocated for saving the two nuclear power plants during the 2018 campaign and after the election. "Why? Because they represent the vast majority of the zero-carbon energy that we produce in Ohio. I believe that was the right policy decision, and important to Ohio's environmental and economic future. I encouraged, all through that process -- publicly and privately -- that the bill pass. But I wasn't involved in the legislative process, and I stand by that, and those are the facts. I don't care what anybody else says about it, that's the truth," Husted said.


LOCAL GOVERNMENT


The Franklin County Board of Commissioners recently appointed new leadership at the Franklin County Department of Job and Family Services (FCDJFS): Michelle Lindeboom now serves as the director of social services and innovation, while Vivian Turner has taken on the role of chief of community support services and partnerships administrator. The pair jointly oversee the agency, reporting the Deputy County Administrator for Health and Human Services (HHS) Joy Bivens.


MEDICAID/MEDICAID REFORM


Extended postpartum coverage for Ohioans on Medicaid, a policy enacted in the state budget pending federal approvals, got the official OK Tuesday from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). Under HB110 (Oelslager), lawmakers extended Medicaid coverage for postpartum women from 60 days to the maximum allowable by federal law and directed the Ohio Department of Medicaid (ODM) to seek federal approval toward that end. The federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) provided the option for states to extend Medicaid postpartum coverage to a year as of April 1 of this year. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and CMS announced Tuesday the approval of a Medicaid State Plan Amendment for Ohio to extend the coverage, retroactive to April 1. HHS said the change would affect up to 21,000 people per year in Ohio. ODM said its estimates show more than 9,100 women already fall under the extended coverage.


MENTAL HEALTH


The lingering mental health effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and the continued effects of the opioid epidemic have resulted in "dual behavioral health crises" and significant policy changes are needed to create a more comprehensive, accessible and fully staffed system, according to the Ohio Council of Behavioral Health and Family Services Providers. The council, which represents more than 160 private agencies offering community-based mental health and substance use disorder services, released a white paper to Hannah News Friday with recommended policy solutions for how the state can move forward in addressing the increasingly significant issue. The council laid out the following policy suggestions for handling the growing demand for behavioral health services:



  • Creating a stronger behavioral health workforce pipeline.

  • Enforcing insurance parity for mental health and substance use disorder services.

  • Improving access to treatment and services.

  • Supporting prevention efforts.

  • Creating an infrastructure of integrated care.

  • Increasing recovery support.

  • Implementing system improvements.

NATURAL RESOURCES


The Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) announced it has completed the reconstruction of the Beverly Lock on the Muskingum River. The Beverly Lock is located on what is known as the Muskingum River Parkway. This waterway features the nation's only complete working system of hand-operated river locks. Built in the mid-1800s, the Beverly Lock is one of 10 that helped connect the Ohio River with the Erie Canal. The lock helps boats bypass dams on the Muskingum River from south Zanesville to the Ohio River at Marietta. They are operated at no charge for recreational boats.


Scott Denamen, a wildlife officer supervisor in Northeast Ohio, has been named the Ohio Wildlife Officer of the Year by the Shikar-Safari Club International, according to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR). Shikar-Safari Club International is a conservation-based organization that presents annual awards to wildlife law enforcement officers across the U.S. and Canada.


PENSIONS


Trustees for the State Teachers Retirement System (STRS) authorized performance bonuses for investment staff Thursday despite getting an earful from retirees and others who objected to handing out the payments after a multi-billion dollar market loss and a just-ended multi-year drought in inflationary benefit increases for retirees. While the system lost money in the recent down market, the board chair said investment staff decisions helped to prevent the losses from being worse. The board approved performance incentives of about $9.6 million; the payments are based on a mix of criteria including short- and medium-term investment performance


PEOPLE


Policy Matters Ohio (PMO) announced recently that Bree Easterling has joined the organization as the group's new public safety fellow. In this role, Easterling will work with community members, advocates, elected officials and other stakeholders to establish a "care response" model in Cleveland. According to PMO, care response, or alternative response, is a "health first" approach to emergency response. Under this model, trained mental health responders are dispatched to help a person experiencing a mental health or behavioral crisis instead of armed law enforcement officers. The health care provider then connects the person to medical care, substance use treatment, shelter or other services.


The Ohio Oil & Gas Association (OOGA) announced the hiring of Stephanie Kromer as director of legislative and regulatory affairs. Kromer, who leaves the Ohio Chamber of Commerce as director of energy and environmental policy, will manage regulatory and technical matters between OOGA and government agencies including the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) and Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (Ohio EPA) and will serve as member liaison with the state.


POLITICS


The Ohio Democratic Party announced Tuesday that it was launching a new and improved version of its website. The party said the website -- Ohiodems.org -- "will allow Ohioans to easily get the information and resources they need to help us flip Ohio blue. Ohio Democrats are also rolling out a new logo and branding that reflect a more modern, worker-centric party."


PUBLIC SAFETY


Gov. Mike DeWine recently announced the sixth round of grants through the Ohio Violent Crime Reduction Grant Program. Sixteen local and state law enforcement agencies will receive a total of $5.7 million in funding. So far, a total of $28.7 million has been awarded to 99 Ohio law enforcement agencies. A total of $58 million will be awarded as part of the grant program overall. The program is funded through both the state operating budget, HB110 (Oelslager), and with American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds that DeWine and the Ohio General Assembly have dedicated to first responders in an effort to counter various issues exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, including violent crime. The most recent round of grants is all funded through ARPA.


Facing strong demand far in excess of current grant funding, Gov. Mike DeWine said Monday his administration will provide $42 million more toward law enforcement projects meant to reduce violent crime. In HB169 (Cutrona-Swearingen), lawmakers set aside up to $175 million in money from the federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) for grants for local law enforcement to respond to violent crime. The administration previously announced $50 million of that would go toward the Ohio Violent Crime Reduction Grant Program, initially seeded with $8 million in the FY22-23 biennial budget, HB110 (Oelslager). This latest $42 million, which brings total funding to $100 million, will go toward funding already-submitted projects, as requests for the $50 million outstripped the available funding.


Law enforcement agencies across the state should follow Meigs County's lead by implementing Ohio's new statewide electronic warrant and protection order system, Lt. Gov. Jon Husted said Monday during a law enforcement roundtable campaign event at the Delaware Area Career Center. "Meigs County said in their review that it made them five times more efficient." The DeWine administration is also urging the General Assembly to require law enforcement agencies to use the eWarrants system. Husted said one of the main reasons statewide use of the system is important is to ensure individuals with weapons disabilities aren't allowed to buy firearms from licensed gun dealers.


The Delaware County Sheriff's Office has earned state recertification for use of force, including deadly force, and agency recruitment and hiring. The Ohio Department of Public Safety's (DPS) Office of Criminal Justice Services (OCJS) says 581 of the state's nearly 900 law enforcement agencies are now fully certified under policing standards promulgated by the Ohio Community-Police Collaborative Advisory Board. They account for more than 85 percent of all peace officers in the state.


The Ohio State Highway Patrol (OSHP) has entered the American Association of State Troopers (AAST) "Best Looking Cruiser" contest. People can vote on OSHP's Facebook, Twitter or Instagram pages through 5 p.m. on Thursday, Aug. 25, according to the agency. "You can also visit https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/QHXV8ZS to cast your vote for Ohio for the best-looking state agency cruiser photo," OSHP said. "When visiting the SurveyMonkey website, scroll to the bottom of the page and select Ohio from the drop-down menu."


During the "Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over" campaign, which started Wednesday and runs to Labor Day, Sept. 5, troopers will focus enforcement efforts on removing impaired drivers from Ohio's roadways.


Motorists can do their part in keeping the roadways safe by driving sober and following all traffic laws, never driving impaired and always designating a sober driver. In 2021, there were 13,762 OVI-related crashes, which resulted in 720 deaths and 8,201 injuries.


The Department of Homeland Security's Nonprofit Security Grant Program (NSGP) will distribute more than $7 million to synagogues, churches, religious education facilities, and charitable organizations across Ohio, according to U.S. Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH), who is the ranking member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. The NSGP provides grants to faith-based and other nonprofit organizations in an effort to secure their facilities against potential terrorist attacks and acts of hate.


REDISTRICTING/REAPPORTIONMENT


House Speaker Bob Cupp (R-Lima) and Senate President Matt Huffman (R-Lima) indicated Wednesday that they will be appealing the Ohio Supreme Court's latest ruling striking down a congressional redistricting map to the U.S. Supreme Court, putting Ohio among the states seeking a test of the "independent state legislature" theory that the U.S. Constitution only allows state legislatures to address federal elections. The Ohio Supreme Court invalidated the second set of congressional district boundaries last month in a 4-3 decision and ordered state lawmakers to produce a new map. Under the constitutional amendment passed by voters in 2018, the Court has jurisdiction over congressional redistricting challenges. If the Court invalidates a map, the General Assembly has 30 days to draw a new map. If it fails, the task falls to the Ohio Redistricting Commission. With the 30 days nearly up since the Court's ruling, it seemed lawmakers might miss that deadline. But in a letter issued by Cupp Wednesday afternoon, the speaker said those who are pointing to a looming deadline have it all wrong.


Without issuing an opinion to go along with the decision, the Ohio Supreme Court Wednesday denied a motion filed by plaintiffs in three lawsuits challenging General Assembly redistricting maps that asked the Court to order the members of the Ohio Redistricting Commission to appear before the Court to explain why they did not meet the Court's deadline to draw a new map. On May 25, the Ohio Supreme Court for the fifth time struck down maps drawn by the commission and ordered commissioners to produce a new map by June 3. Three days later, however, a three-judge federal panel ordered the state to hold a primary for General Assembly and state party central committee candidates on Aug. 2 using the third map that was adopted by the commission and struck down by the Court.


STATE GOVERNMENT


Ahead of Wednesday's meeting of the Joint Committee on Agency Rule Review (JCARR), the Ohio Board of Pharmacy decided to pull and re-file a rule that would bar medical marijuana dispensaries from locating within 500 feet of an opioid treatment facility. The rule also would require dispensaries that sell edible products to display a placard and specify that dispensaries must establish, maintain and comply with written policies and procedures, according to the rule summary filed with JCARR.


TRANSPORTATION/INFRASTRUCTURE


A class action lawsuit in the Ohio Court of Claims -- Kellie Madyda, et al. v. Ohio Department of Public Safety, Bureau of Motor Vehicles -- alleges Ohio deputy registrars wrongly collected license lamination fees of $1.50 between July 2, 2018 and July 2, 2019. The Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles (BMV) denies the allegations in the lawsuit, according to a court-authorized notice from the BMV. Class counsel can be contacted by calling DannLaw at 216-373-0539 or Zimmerman Law Offices, P.C. at 312-440-0020. The opt-out form is available at https://www.ohiolaminationfeeslitigation.com/


In the coming months, the Ohio Turnpike and Infrastructure Commission will adopt new rules as it continues to work toward launching the new toll collection system next year. Executive Director Ferzan Ahmed told commissioners Monday that they are planning to go live with the new system next spring, with the timeframe for completion now around May 2023. He said the commission will have to work more closely with contractors on the various projects surrounding the new system to make sure that one project does not delay the other projects. Chief Legal Counsel Jennifer Monty Rieker said the commission will be starting the rulemaking process for changes to the Ohio Administrative Code over the next three meetings in anticipation of implementing the new system. She said the new rules will go along with provisions of SB162 (Reineke), which was signed by the governor in March.


TREASURER OF STATE


The Ohio Association Teachers of Family and Consumer Sciences recently presented Ohio Treasurer Robert Sprague with its "Friend of Family" Award. Through the award, the association recognizes an individual or organization for their involvement "in making decisions that affect the well-being of families and work that has made a significant contribution to policy areas affecting the family." The group recognized Sprague's work in financial literacy "as making a positive impact on young Ohioans and their families." Specifically, Sprague oversaw his office's collaboration with the Ohio State University Extension to expand the use of the university's Real Money. Real World. financial literacy curriculum in school districts across Ohio.


WORKFORCE


AmeriCorps, the federal agency for national service and volunteerism, has announced a 2023 funding opportunity for projects dealing with COVID-19 recovery, health equity, local public health, and growing the public health workforce. AmeriCorps released a notice of federal funding availability for the Public Health AmeriCorps through AmeriCorps' State and National Program. Earlier this year, the agency launched Public Health AmeriCorps, a $400 million American Rescue Plan partnership with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), designed to increase the recruitment and training of public health leaders. The 2023 grants competition prioritizes programs working to address community public health needs, including health inequities exacerbated by the ongoing pandemic, and is open to nonprofit, faith-based, tribal and community-based organizations; higher-education institutions; state, local and territorial government entities, including local public health departments. Organizations that previously have not received AmeriCorps funding are encouraged to apply for these grants, the agency said.



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


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