Week In Review - August 24, 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.


ARTS, SPORTS AND ENTERTAINMENT


While casinos, racinos, tattoo parlors, bars and strip clubs have been allowed to reopen during the COVID-19 pandemic, arts entertainment venues such as performance theatres and music halls remain dark with no light at the end of the tunnel. "Our big effort for three months has been reopening -- working on guidelines and getting them reopened safely. Then we began seeing the inconsistencies in reopening -- entertainment centers, all these things, movie theaters -- we couldn't understand why were we being left out of that conversation," Ohio Citizens for the Arts Executive Director Angela Meleca told Hannah News in an interview.


CHILDREN/FAMILIES


The Children's Defense Fund (CDF) recently released the 2020 KIDS COUNT County Fact Sheets, which provide localized data on child wellbeing in the areas of health, safety and education across a number of metrics, including infant mortality, child abuse rates and childhood poverty. While the fact sheets examine data from 2019, the Children's Defense Fund said areas of need will be exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, making the data continually relevant to policymakers.


CIVIL RIGHTS


Tuesday, Aug. 18 marked the 100th anniversary of passage of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, ensuring women the right to vote. In addition to the exhibit on display in the Map Room of the Ohio Statehouse marking the occasion, in July, the Capitol Square Review and Advisory Board (CSRAB) approved a proposal to create a monument to the women's suffrage movement. The Women's Suffrage Centennial Commission (WSCC) is now proceeding with fundraising and design ideas.


On the anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment, Census Bureau data show women have consistently higher rates of voter participation than men. According to census data which analyzed the composition of American voters by sex in presidential elections from 1980 to 2016, women make up about 53 percent of the electorate while men about 46 percent, and that disparity is only increasing.


CORONAVIRUS


While daily case growth moved back above 1,000 Thursday after a few days below that threshold, the latest update to the state's health alert system showed more counties dropping out of the higher risk "red" category, including a couple of the most populous ones. The nine red counties are the fewest since the alert system launched several weeks ago, Gov. Mike DeWine said at his regular COVID-19 briefing. Seven counties dropped from red to orange since last week, while four moved up into the red category -- Clark, Lorain, Preble and Trumbull.


Meanwhile, DeWine announced a new testing mandate for assisted living centers and the planned reopening of adult day and senior centers beginning Monday, Sept. 21, assuming reduced capacity and their ability to follow safety standards the state will be releasing. DeWine said he wanted to announce the date to give centers time to plan but cautioned that the plan for reopening is subject to change depending on the situation with the virus.


The Health Policy Institute of Ohio (HPIO) recently released a data brief on the state's COVID-19 statistics, just ahead of when Ohio crossed the 100,000-case threshold. All 88 counties have seen cases, the report said, and while around half the cases have been among those ages 30 to 59, nearly 60 percent of hospital admissions and 90 percent of deaths were among those 60 years or older.


Ohio's Minority Health Strike Force announced Wednesday the launch of the "More Than A Mask" campaign meant to prevent the spread of COVID-19 within Ohio's communities of color by providing messaging and resources. Throughout the pandemic, communities of color have been disproportionately affected by the virus, especially Black and Latino communities. While Black individuals represent only 14 percent of Ohio's population, they represent 24 percent of positive COVID-19 cases, 32 percent of COVID-19 hospitalizations, and 19 percent of COVID-19 deaths in the state. Similarly, at least 6 percent of those who have tested positive for COVID-19 in Ohio are Latino, despite only representing 3.9 percent of Ohio's population, according to data from the Ohio Department of Health (ODH).


A survey published Monday found that 38 out of 40 Ohio economists agreed the long-term economic benefits of Ohio's mask mandate are higher than the economic costs of the mandate. Scioto Analysis, a public policy and economics research institution in Ohio, drew responses from 40 economists across the state representing nearly as many Ohio universities. The survey asked if the economists strongly agreed, agreed, were uncertain, disagreed, or strongly disagreed that the long-term economic benefits of Ohio's mask mandate are higher than the long-term economic costs of the mandate.


CRIME AND PUNISHMENT


Ohio's Human Trafficking Task Force, along with the Ohio Department of Youth Services (DYS) and the Public Children Services Association of Ohio (PCSAO), continued their webinar training series on human trafficking awareness Tuesday, this time focusing on justice system based interventions for survivors of human trafficking. Emily Dunlap, a staff attorney at Advocating Opportunities, which provides legal advocacy to trafficking victims, explained some of the caveats to Ohio's trafficking laws, especially as they pertain to youth victims.


DEATH PENALTY


Rep. Niraj Antani (R-Miamisburg) joined legislative colleagues from Georgia and Wyoming to call for an end to the death penalty as fiscally unconservative and ineffective in deterring crime. Antani spoke during a tele-conference hosted by Conservatives Concerned About the Death Penalty (CCADP), whose founding supporter is conservative pundit Richard Viguerie.


ECONOMY


A Friday panel hosted by the Center for Community Solutions examined the way the COVID-19 pandemic is affecting women, with participants explaining that women have been more likely to be considered "frontline workers," and more women lost their jobs than men following the spread of the coronavirus and related business shutdowns. Sarah Pariser, director of grants and programs for the Women's Fund of Central Ohio, said that 80 percent of health care workers are women, while 85 percent of child care workers, skilled caregivers, and other social services workers are women as well, all of whom are considered frontline workers amid the pandemic.


EDUCATION


Face shields can be used in exceptional circumstances but are not suitable as a blanket replacement for masks in K-12 schools, the Ohio Department of Health (ODH) said over the weekend, citing federal Centers for Disease Control (CDC) guidance.


The DeWine administration will not stand in the way of Ohio athletes playing sports this fall -- for now, at least. During his coronavirus briefing on Tuesday, Gov. Mike DeWine announced that his administration would be releasing an order to allow all contact and non-contact sports to move forward statewide. The order, which was signed Wednesday, applies to all organized sports in the state, not just the Ohio High School Athletic Association (OHSAA). Schools will, however, be permitted to move fall sports seasons to the spring if that is the desire of the school. Only family members and close friends of players and halftime performers -- such as marching band members -- will be allowed to attend the games as spectators, the governor said.


Specifically, the sports order provides that the maximum number of individuals allowed to gather at outdoor sports venues is the lesser of 1,500 or 15 percent of the facility's fixed seating capacity. For indoor venues, that number drops to the lesser of 300 spectators or 15 percent of the arena's capacity. The order, signed by Ohio Department of Health Interim Director Lance Himes on Wednesday evening, applies to youth, collegiate, amateur, club and professional sports across the Buckeye State.


Parents in a southwest Ohio school district who sued over a policy for arming school employees said a last-minute bid by the district to allow the policy to stay in effect pending appeal will upend plans for their children's education amid the pandemic.


The Ohio High School Athletic Association (OHSAA) recommends, but will not mandate, that schools ask student-athletes and their parents/guardians to sign liability waivers before being allowed to participate in sports during the COVID-19 pandemic, OHSAA Interim Executive Director Bob Goldring told Hannah News on Wednesday. "We have offered a waiver sheet to our schools that we recommend that they consider using for their student-athletes, but we are not requiring that that is used. ... The liability issue does weigh on our minds, particularly because there's not a bill in place that protects schools or nonprofit organizations at this point. We do feel confident that at some point that is going to get passed through the Legislature," Goldring said during a press call.


ELECTIONS 2020


Secretary of State Frank LaRose's Ready for November Task Force focused on election security during its Thursday meeting, with speakers praising Ohio's efforts to this point. Matt Olney, the director of threat intelligence and interdiction at Cisco as part of Talos, said he is confident the technical steps that the secretary of state's office is taking are the right direction, but the challenging question, and the biggest security threat, is what to do about disinformation. There are no technical controls for disinformation, he said. "The thing about this fight for disinformation, it is not being fought in Washington, but it involves a foreign adversary," adding that it is a fight between a foreign adversary and ordinary Americans. They might be neighbors, co-workers, or fellow poll workers.


Free Ohio Now, a group that is advocating for in-person voting on Nov. 3 and the removal of mask mandates in Ohio, said it will be holding another day of rallies around the state at 11 a.m. on Saturday Aug. 22. The group held similar rallies around the state earlier this month. In addition to adding no mask mandates as a theme, the group also said it will urge the re-election of President Donald Trump. Events for Aug. 22 will be held in Butler, Cuyahoga, Greene, Hamilton, Lake, Lorain, Lucas, Marion, Miami, Montgomery, Pickaway, Preble, Summit, Trumbull, Union, Warren, and Wood counties.


One candidate raised money by making spaghetti dinners and having her husband deliver them to donors within a certain radius. Another held a Zoom meeting with 50 people instead of a town hall meeting. In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way individuals go about their daily business, and campaigning is no different. Fewer are the face-to-face fundraisers at the Athletic Club in downtown Columbus, or the groups of volunteers canvassing neighborhoods. This year, the caucuses say, it's all about being creative to get their message out to voters.


The We Belong Here PAC, a group dedicated to galvanizing Black voters and empowering Black women in office, said that it is preparing an ad campaign aimed at reaching out to Black women voters -- specifically overlooked Black suburban women voters. "Democrats have spent considerable time, energy and resources to talk to White suburban and blue collar White voters, but they have overlooked a significant group of voters who can make the difference between winning and losing in November: Black women and Black women suburban voters," said House Minority Leader Emilia Sykes (D-Akron), founder of We Belong Here PAC.


Reforms needed at the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) "cannot come at the expense of our faith in the 2020 election," Attorney General Dave Yost wrote in a letter to President Donald Trump urging him to delay changes to mail service until after November. The letter, dated Sunday, argues USPS should be reformed to address "an outdated and broken business model" but says "radical changes" this close to the beginning of early voting "would place the solvency of the post office above the legitimacy of the government itself."


As the Democratic National Convention (DNC) took place virtually this week, U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (DOH) Monday spoke with reporters about what a virtual convention means for the Democratic Party and his concerns over how a lack funding for the United State Postal Service (USPS) could inhibit mail-in voting in the 2020 election. Brown said U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) needs to take the lead of U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and bring the Senate back into session to continue work on the next round of coronavirus aid and pass funding for the USPS.


Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden's campaign announced additional staff for its Ohio operations: Jaladah Aslam will serve as Ohio coalitions director. Jada Campbell, Rick Neal, and Angela Shute-Woodson will serve as Ohio deputy coalition directors. Gen Murphy will serve as Ohio deputy political director. Faith Oltman will serve as Ohio press secretary. Jimmy Dahman will serve as Ohio coordinated campaign director. Tim Ross will serve as Ohio organizing director. Aneese Johnson will serve as Ohio digital organizing director. Hishi Pradhan will serve as Ohio data director.


Secretary of State Frank LaRose said Tuesday that he will ask the Controlling Board on Monday, Aug. 24 to allow him to pay postage for return absentee ballots for the Nov. 3 election. LaRose had asked the Ohio Legislature to pass legislation that would allow him to use federal CARES Act or General Revenue funding to cover the postage on returned ballots, but lawmakers did not act. Democrats and voting advocates have been asking for LaRose to act on his own to pay the postage for this election because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.


The Ohio State Bar Association's (OSBA) Commission on Judicial Candidates released its ratings for the four Ohio Supreme Court candidates on the Nov. 3, General Election ballot, giving only one of the three -- Republican Justice Judith French -- its "Highly Recommended" rating. Republican Justice Sharon Kennedy and two Democratic candidates, 10th District Appeals Judge Jennifer Brunner and Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Judge John P. O’Donnell, were rated “Recommended.”


In a pre-recorded speech reminiscent of his "Two Paths" commercials when he ran for president in 2016, former Gov. John Kasich appeared at the Democratic National Convention (DNC) Monday evening to endorse Joe Biden for president, saying the current situation in the country requires people to put aside their partisan hats and do what's best for the country. Kasich said elections represent a real choice we make as individuals and as a nation on which path we want to take when we come to challenging times. "America is at that crossroads today," Kasich said in the four-minute video. "The stakes in this election are greater than any other in modern times."


Secretary of State Frank LaRose Tuesday announced a partnership between his office and RB Sigma LLC to donate 463,500 surgical masks to help keep voters and poll workers safe.

The following endorsements were made over the week:


  • U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan's (D-Niles) re-election campaign announced the endorsement of the Alliance for Retired Americans.

  • The re-election campaign of Rep. Dave Greenspan (R-Westlake) announced the endorsements of Bay Village Mayor Paul Koomar; Bay Village Council President Dwight Clark and council member Dave Tadych; former Councilmember Tom Henderson; and former Bay Village School Board member Mike Caputo.


EMPLOYMENT/UNEMPLOYMENT


For the week ending Aug. 9, the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS) reported 21,663 initial unemployment claims to the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL). That is a slight increase from last week's total of 20,969, but still significantly lower than the 25,952 reported two weeks ago. The total number of initial jobless claims filed in Ohio over the last 22 weeks (1,626,371) is more than the combined total of those filed during the last four years, ODJFS said.


ENERGY


Opponents of nuclear plant bailout HB6 (Callender-Wilkin) announced Friday they have formed a new coalition -- the Coalition to Restore Public Trust -- and launched a website in an effort to repeal HB6. The bill has become mired in controversy after its passage was tied to a federal indictment on bribery charges against five individuals, including former House Speaker Larry Householder (R-Glenford).


A recently announced project between PTT Global Chemical America (PTTGC America) and Energy Storage Ventures' subsidiary Mountaineer NGL Storage would support the proposed cracker plant in Belmont County, according to PTTGC America. PTTGC America spokesman Dan Williamson also told Hannah News that representatives of the U.S. Department of Energy and U.S. Department of Commerce visited the site of the proposed plant Thursday. Deputy Secretary of Energy Mark Menezes expressed the Trump administration's support for the project, saying the plant would create jobs in Belmont County and strengthen U.S. energy security and praised the project with Mountaineer as evidence of PTTGC America's commitment.


The U.S. Bankruptcy Court held off paying legal fees totaling $67,928,715.74 to Energy Harbor Generation's lead counsel, Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP, which Attorney General (AG) Dave Yost had requested but did award smaller claims to several parties Tuesday. Yost had urged a federal judge to halt payments in the case pending further revelations in the public corruption probe involving former House Speaker Larry Householder (R-Glenford) and unindicted parties that appear to include FirstEnergy Corp. and FES/Energy Harbor.


ENVIRONMENT


The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (Ohio EPA) has awarded approximately $466.5 million in loans and principal forgiveness to entities across the state during the first half of 2020. "Combined, Ohio communities will save more than $90.9 million when compared to market-rate loans," the agency said.


FEDERAL


U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) said Wednesday that he was "incredulous" after President Donald Trump suggested boycotting Akron-based Goodyear on Twitter. The Trump tweet came after WIBW in Topeka, KA, reported that a diversity training from the company included a slide on what is allowed and not allowed at the company. Among the items listed as acceptable were "Black Lives Matter (BLM)" and "Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Pride (LGBT)." Unacceptable were "Blue Lives Matter," "All Lives Matter," "MAGA attire," and "political affiliated slogans or material."


Gov. Mike DeWine said Thursday he does not agree with President Trump's message urging a boycott of Goodyear, while generally speaking in favor of allowing workplace political speech, the topic that set off the controversy. "We should not boycott this good company with good Ohio workers who are doing a good job making a good product," DeWine said. However, the governor said he was still trying to figure out exactly what happened to set off the controversy, and that he thinks it's better to allow people to express themselves.


GAMING/GAMBLING


The Ohio Lottery currently has the authority under the Ohio Constitution and the Ohio Revised Code to offer sports gambling services and Internet-based Lottery games, Sen. Bill Coley (R-West Chester) told Hannah News in an interview. "Look at the definition of what a 'lottery' is under the constitution and the code. It's pretty much anything," Coley said, pointing to video lottery terminals (VLTs) at the state's seven racinos as an example. "I mean it's clear that casinos do not have that authority, because it's not a table game or a slot machine, so the casinos do not have the authority to do that without additional legislation. But the Lottery probably does." However, the senator also said it makes sense to work with the General Assembly before making such large policy changes.


GENERAL ASSEMBLY/STATEHOUSE


Rep. Michele Lepore-Hagan (D-Youngstown) said Monday that she has donated an amount equal to the contributions she has received from FirstEnergy to the Alliance for Congregational Transformation Influencing Our Neighborhoods (ACTION). Lepore-Hagan said she received $2,000 from the company in 2015 and $500 in 2019 and has given a $2,500 check to ACTION. She said she decided to make the donation after the indictment of former House Speaker Larry Householder (R-Glenford) on federal charges related to the passage of nuclear bailout legislation HB6 (Callender-Wilkin).


Sen. Tina Maharath (D-Canal Winchester) has tested positive for COVID-19, the lawmaker announced on Twitter. "My family and I have tested positive for COVID-19. Sharing this info now because two of them have been hospitalized and by the grace of God, a Caucasian man can interpret for us," Maharath tweeted. Maharath confirmed in a message to Hannah News that her sister-in-law (SIL) passed away after contracting the virus.


GUNS


A wave of shootings in the past several days across the state prompted Gov. Mike DeWine to again urge Ohio legislators to take up his proposals on gun safety. He said Thursday his office tallied shootings that injured 56 and killed 17 since Friday -- "and these were just the cases that we were able to find in the news."


HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES


Advocacy organizations held a joint press call Monday to ask state leaders to allocate $243 million in federal coronavirus relief funding toward several assistance programs due to the economic effects of the pandemic. Specific requests included $100 million for emergency rental assistance, $60 million for child care providers, $45 million for assistance with food and basic needs and $38 million for utility assistance. Advocates for Ohio's Future (AOF) hosted the call, joined by leaders of the Coalition on Homelessness and Housing in Ohio (COHHIO), the Ohio Poverty Law Center, Ohio Association of Foodbanks, Policy Matters Ohio (PMO) and Universal Health Care Action Network (UHCAN) Ohio.


Wednesday's meeting of the Prescription Drug Transparency and Affordability Council again saw discussion of the role of pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs), which was also a topic at the last meeting in July. The council will hold another virtual meeting to receive comments on Wednesday, Aug. 26 before meeting again in September to prepare a final report. Presentations were offered in this meeting by Connor Rose, director of state affairs for the Pharmaceutical Care Management Association; Leigh Purvis, director of health care costs and access at the AARP Public Policy Institute; and James Gelfand, senior vice president for health policy at the ERISA Industry Committee (ERIC).


In Ohio and across the country, a recent study shows a troubling increase in deaths by suicide across ages, races and genders. The national suicide rate has consistently risen since 2001, and in 2017 suicide claimed the lives of 47,173 people in the U.S., nearly two-and-a-half times the number of homicides in the same year (19,510). The study, "Suicide in Ohio: Facts, Figures, and the Future" was conducted by three Ohio-based organizations, including the Mental Health & Addiction Advocacy Coalition (MHAC), the Ohio Alliance for Innovation in Population Health, and the Ohio Suicide Prevention Foundation (OSPF). The research gives a broad overview of national suicide data and takes a detailed look at the rate of suicides in Ohio over a 10-year period from 2009 to 2018.


Though same-day access to intrauterine devices (IUDs) has been found to decrease the chance a person will become pregnant when she doesn't plan to, most providers in Ohio don't offer the service, according to a new study. Researchers from Ohio State University (OSU) examined access to same-day implantation of the long-acting contraceptive option by calling 396 randomly-selected obstetrician-gynecologist (OB-GYN) offices and posing as would-be patients. While almost 95 percent of practices offered IUD placement, 92 percent of those providers required multiple appointments, according to OSU.


HIGHER EDUCATION


A new grant program at Ohio State University (OSU) will back projects that address racial disparities and injustices. The Affordable Learning Exchange (ALX) is backing nine faculty or program directors with micro-grants meant to increase exposure to diverse voices in course material. The university said ALX works with faculty and staff to adopt free and openly licensed course materials to reduce instructional costs for students.


INSURANCE


Ohio Department of Insurance (ODI) Director Jillian Froment announced Tuesday that insurance veteran Lori Barron has joined the agency as a senior policy advisor. According to Froment, Barron "will focus on strategic planning and the department's emerging products initiative to ensure that Ohio's insurance industry is able to engage in a flexible regulatory environment that requires the highest-level consumer protections."

JUDICIAL


Lawyers cannot form "strategic partnerships" with real estate companies to provide mutual clients discounted legal services in exchange for fee-based referrals from the agency, the Board of Professional Conduct states in a new advisory opinion. It emphasizes that attorneys may not exchange anything of value for a third-party recommendation because, under such a business agreement, they might be tempted to offer legal advice more beneficial to the real estate company than to the client. Addressing a similar conflict of interest, the board says lawyers in Ohio may only perform financial planning as a "law-related service" for a flat or hourly fee -- not as a percentage of assets managed and not as a condition for providing legal advice on the same financial matters.


The Ohio Supreme Court, in a 6-0 decision without comment, dismissed a suit brought by Rep. Tom Brinkman (R-Cincinnati) that sought to require the Court to state a reason for every decision it issues rather than resorting to the current practice of issuing "merit decisions without opinions." The case stemmed from the Court's failure to state a reason for refusing a complaint against Secretary of State Frank LaRose for his delay of the March 17 primary election. Curt Hartmann, Brinkman's attorney, said they are considering an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court over the Court's adjudicating a complaint in which they are the named defendants.


LOCAL GOVERNMENT


Todd Bradley has been named the new policy director for the Ohio Mayors Alliance. Bradley's immediate focus will be on police reform and building on the mayors' efforts to support educational attainment, according to the organization.


MARIJUANA/HEMP


More than 100,000 unique patients have purchased cannabis from a dispensary under the Ohio Medical Marijuana Control Program (MMCP), according to figures released by the Ohio Board of Pharmacy (OBP). As of July 31, 100,224 unique patients have purchased medical marijuana since sales began under the state's program in January 2019.


MEDICAID/MEDICAID REFORM


The Ohio Department of Medicaid (ODM) took a dashboard it used for internal analysis and made it public in recent months, offering visualizations of the scope of the health care program in spending, geographic distribution and types of beneficiaries. Matthew Stearmer, data chief of ODM, said the dashboard is meant to help answer common questions posed by advocacy groups, journalists and others interested in learning more about details and effects of the program on a statewide and local basis.


NATURAL RESOURCES


Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) Director Mary Mertz recently designated the Tuscarawas River in Eastern Ohio as the state's 15th official water trail.


A free HuntFish OH mobile app is now available for outdoors enthusiasts to purchase fishing and hunting licenses, check game and view wildlife area maps, according to the ODNR Division of Wildlife. The app is available for Android and iOS users and can be found in the app store, ODNR said.


NONPROFIT ORGANIZATIONS


Google announced Thursday that Easterseals Serving Greater Cincinnati would receive an additional $125,000 as winner of the "People's Choice" award in Google's Impact Challenge Ohio competition. The overall challenge had five winners including Easterseals, and each previously received $175,000. The challenge recognized nonprofits' work to create economic opportunity during the pandemic, with the other four winners being Co-Op Cincy, the Family Independence Initiative (FII) in Cincinnati, MAGNET (the Manufacturing Advocacy and Growth Network) in Cleveland and OhioGuidestone in Berea.


PEOPLE


The Appalachian Partnership, Inc. (API) and JobsOhio announced that Glenda Bumgarner will leave the statewide economic development nonprofit to become API's new president and CEO effective Monday, Aug. 31. She currently serves as senior director of engagement at JobsOhio.


ProgressOhio said Thursday that Michael McGovern has joined as the organization's new managing director. The left-leaning group said it has been largely dormant over the last year but will now focus its attention on the scandal surrounding the state with the indictment of former House Speaker Larry Householder (R-Glenford) on federal bribery charges.


PUBLIC SAFETY


The Ohio Department of Public Safety (DPS) objected but ultimately agreed to place a package of 21 rules in to-be-refiled status Monday after the head of the Ohio Association of Security Investigative Services (OASIS) accused the agency and Ohio Homeland Security of overstepping their authority in prescribing standards for uniforms worn by private security guards.


Minorities, police, and middle-to-upper-income observers of their increasingly tense interactions can overcome blind spots that prevent mutual understanding by adopting the "Bridges Out of Poverty" model for community-police relations and justice reform, says former state Rep. Gene Krebs, past Ohio Consumers' Counsel (OCC) chair and policy chief for smart-growth Greater Ohio. Krebs, co-author of 2018's "Bridges Across Every Divide: Policy and Practices to Reduce Poverty and Build Communities," says now is the time for Ohio to expand its adoption of the 20-year-old Bridges Out of Poverty book and model spearheaded by fellow co-author Philip DeVol, and the attorney general's office, Ohio judiciary, law enforcement, city councils, social services, and others.


In its ongoing series on race, the Columbus Metropolitan Club (CMC) looked at the history of policing in Ohio and how it still influences police departments now. The Wednesday forum hosted panelists Larry James, managing partner at Crabbe Brown & James LLP and national counsel for the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) and Michael Curtin, retired journalist for the Columbus Dispatch and former state representative. WCMH NBC4 co-anchor Colleen Marshall, who moderated the event, highlighted the growing division between the city of Columbus administration and the leaders of the police union. She noted there has been a lot of "finger pointing" in the city amid calls for greater racial equity and asked the panelists which way fingers should really be pointing at this time.


SECRETARY OF STATE


Secretary of State Frank LaRose said Thursday that after June 2020 new business filings broke all previous records with the most new business filings in one month, Ohioans went out (or in many instances stayed-in, at home) and started even more businesses in July. According to LaRose, 18,483 new businesses filed in July --15 percent more than the short-lived record of 16,047 from the previous month. The number of new businesses created in July is also a massive 65 percent increase over July 2019.


STATE GOVERNMENT


Most executive branch employees now working from home will keep doing so through year's end, Gov. Mike DeWine said in a memo to the state workforce. The "vast majority" of state employees who are tele-working now will keep doing so at least until Monday, Jan. 4, 2021, his message stated, citing an "uncertain and precarious" future amid the spread of COVID-19 in various regions of the state.


TAXATION


The COVID-19 pandemic could cost small municipalities that rely on retail sales taxes from apparel, vehicle sales, restaurants and tourism as much as 50 percent of their tax revenue, a new study released by Ohio State University said. The study, published this week in the journal Local Development and Society, also found that municipalities that rely on grocery stores for sales tax income could see a small increase in funding. Retail sales in every part of the state, no matter the geographical location or size, would be affected by the pandemic. In some areas, a village that could lose as much as 50 percent of its revenue is located adjacent to a village that could gain as much as 25 percent.


TELECOMMUNICATIONS


Lt. Gov. Jon Husted was recently appointed to the Federal Communications Commission's (FCC) Intergovernmental Advisory Committee (IAC), according to his office, and will serve as a state executive representative. The IAC provides support to the FCC on telecommunications issues affecting local, state and tribal governments under its jurisdiction. Specific areas of IAC work include increased deployment and adoption of broadband services, strengthened public safety communications infrastructure and emergency response capabilities, and any other task necessary to help government officials clarify or explain commission rules and policies to their constituents and other members of the public.


TRANSPORTATION/INFRASTRUCTURE


Delays in software development and the COVID-19 pandemic have slowed implementation of a new customer service center by the Ohio Turnpike and Infrastructure Commission. Executive Director Ferzan Ahmed told the commission during its meeting Monday that the customer service center, which handles the back-office operations for the turnpike's toll collection system, was originally scheduled to go live in late May, but that has been pushed to mid-November.


A new service offered by the Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles (BMV) will allow Ohioans to print their temporary tag online by going to www.OPLATES.com without going into a deputy registrar's office. According to the Ohio BMV, individuals who purchase vehicles through private sales, new residents who are in the process of obtaining an Ohio title, and/or customers that have purchased a vehicle from a dealership that does not sell temporary tags can take advantage of this new service.


UNIONS


The Service Employees International Union (SEIU) District 1199 issued two statements Thursday on behalf of members working in Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services (OhioMHAS) facilities and Ohio correctional institutions, saying safety measures related to the pandemic are inadequate and putting lives at risk. Regarding corrections officers, the SEIU said they continue to need additional protective equipment despite "good faith efforts to request improvements." Officials with the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction (DRC) and the DeWine administration have not been responsive to concerns, the SEIU added. Union member nurses providing services on behalf of OhioMHAS had similar concerns, also saying that under-staffing at medical facilities has "significantly" worsened during the pandemic. One nurse reported having to care for 28 patients -- many with a severe diagnosis -- simultaneously. Providing care with only two to three nurses per unit is difficult, but now many have been down to one.


UTILITIES


More than 1.4 million households and businesses in 66 Ohio counties are facing a nearly 80 percent rate hike if the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) agrees Columbia Gas Transmission's service costs have nearly quadrupled since 1995. The Ohio Consumers' Counsel (OCC) and Northeast Ohio Public Energy Council (NOPEC) say that would suggest an annual cost increase of 15.5 percent, versus average yearly inflation at a fraction of that, and provide Columbia an "outrageous profit" of 16.1 percent return on equity. OCC and NOPEC filed their protest with FERC last week on the same day a long list of Columbia Gas Transmission customers, including Columbia Gas of Ohio and other Nisource distribution companies in Kentucky, Maryland, Pennsylvania and Virginia; Duke Energy Ohio and Duke Energy Kentucky; and natural gas distribution companies in other states filed a separate complaint against the transmission company, which Nisource spun off as a separate, publicly traded entity in 2015.


Amid the fallout from the indictment of former Speaker Larry Householder (R-Glenford), the Ohio Consumers Power Alliance (OCPA) is pushing for the removal of Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) Chair Sam Randazzo. Through PUCO's spokesman, Randazzo declined to comment on the OCPA effort. Randazzo "has deep connections to FirstEnergy," the OCPA maintains.


VETERANS


The Ohio Department of Veterans Services (ODVS) announced Tuesday that it had a new, more comprehensive website as part of the effort to move state agencies' websites to the centralized InnovateOhio Platform. This makes the ODVS site "better connected" with those of other agencies and enables the department to become "more customer-centric and data-driven." It is also described as more interactive and user-friendly. The new site can be viewed at www.OhioVets.gov.


WORKERS' COMPENSATION


Gov. Mike DeWine said Thursday during his coronavirus briefing that he's asked the Bureau of Workers' Compensation (BWC) Board of Directors to approve another wave of dividend payments totaling $1.5 billion, saying the money could be critical to businesses struggling amid the pandemic. He is also asking the board to approve a second mass distribution of face masks to Ohio businesses.


WORKFORCE


The Dayton Area Chamber of Commerce announced Thursday that it will partner with the Montgomery County Office of Reentry and local consulting firm Oniru Group to create a pilot initiative promoting entrepreneurship among the formerly incarcerated, citing a lack of support in that area. The "REACH! (Reentry Entrepreneurship Assistance CoHort) Entrepreneurship Redefined" initiative will begin in the fall, with the goal of helping "curb the prison-to-poverty pipeline." While there are many technical assistance boot camps for businesses, few resources are available to help those with a criminal record start their own business.


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

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