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Week in Review August 28, 2023

Updated: Sep 5, 2023

Ohio statehouse government affairs week in review January 2023

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

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Alisha Nelson, who was Gov. Mike DeWine's point person for addiction issues at the outset of his administration, is the governor's pick to lead the OneOhio Recovery Foundation. Nelson, previously director of DeWine's RecoveryOhio initiative and most recently an official with Humana Healthy Horizons of Ohio, was one of three nominees forwarded to DeWine by the board of the foundation earlier this year. Nelson also led anti-addiction efforts for DeWine when he served as attorney general. Nelson said she anticipates OneOhio will eventually have a staff of fewer than 10 people. Kathryn Whittington, an Ashtabula County commissioner, had been serving as interim executive director but recently resigned that post and was re-appointed to a position on the board. She had been the board's first chair but stepped in the interim director post while the search for a permanent appointee was underway.


Attorney General Dave Yost said final judgments against two Florida robo-callers have brought sentencing in the multi-state scheme to a close. He said Scott Shapiro and Michael Theron Smith of Health Advisors of America worked with John Caldwell Spiller and Jacob Mears of JSquared Telecom, Rising Eagle Capital Group and Rising Eagle Capital Group-Cayman to bombard Ohioans and other Americans with hundreds of millions of illegal telemarketing calls. A permanent injunction was delivered against Spiller and Mears in March and now against Shapiro and Smith. Joining Ohio were attorneys general for Arkansas, Indiana, Michigan, North Carolina, North Dakota and Texas.


Auditor Keith Faber's office has published new guidance for schools and other local governments navigating the statutory prohibition on using public resources to promote levy and bond issues before their voters. The frequently-asked-questions document takes a "conservative" approach to coaching jurisdictions on the dos and don'ts of ballot issues. "Activity described as permissible, absent unique and unforeseen circumstances, is considered by AOS [Auditor of State] to be allowed under current legal standards; whereas some activities are considered unacceptable and must be voided -- leaving a wide range of activity in between where caution is advised," the guidance document states. The guidance notes that public officials can provide "factual information" on the effects of passage or failure of a levy or bond issue but cannot be compensated for time spent on activity intended to influence the outcome of the election. "In short, tax dollars cannot be used to ask for more tax dollars or influence how taxpayers vote," it states. A copy of Faber's guidance document is at


A joint office representing the U.S. departments of energy (USDOE) and transportation (USDOT) recently announced members of its Electric Vehicle (EV) Working Group (EVWG), which will help guide adoption of EVs across the country and the nation's position as a global leader in clean energy jobs and manufacturing. The working group includes Dean Bushey, senior vice president of sustainability at TravelCenters of America in Westlake, and Denise Gray, head of external affairs and government relations for LG Energy Solution Michigan Inc. That company is a U.S. subsidiary of lithium-ion battery maker LG Energy Solution Ltd., which has joint ventures in Ohio with Honda and GM and was previously part of LG Chem. The EVWG will make recommendations directly to the secretaries of energy and transportation. Its members represent manufacturers of vehicles, components, and batteries; public utility representatives; local and regional elected officials; state energy planners; and labor officials representing transportation industry workers. There are also leaders from USDOE, USDOT, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. General Services Administration and the U.S. Postal Service.


The Ohio Ballot Board voted along party lines Thursday to adopt a staff-written summary from Secretary of State Frank LaRose's office as the official ballot language for the proposed constitutional amendment on reproductive and abortion rights, overruling Democrats' objections that it used misleading language. The board designated the amendment as Issue 1 and an initiated statute on marijuana legalization as Issue 2. Ohioans United for Reproductive Rights, the campaign group in support of Issue 1, said it was considering but had not committed to a lawsuit in the Ohio Supreme Court to challenge the adopted ballot language, which spokesperson Lauren Blauvelt described as "propaganda."

The Issue 2 Ballot Board discussion was over quickly, with no debate and a unanimous vote on the staff summary prepared by LaRose's office outlining the marijuana initiated statute. "Unanimous approval by the bipartisan Ballot Board should assure voters that 'What they see is what they'll get.' That means: hundreds of millions of dollars in new revenue and stringent regulation like we already have in our existing medical marijuana market. We are looking forward to putting the illicit market out of business this November," said a statement from Tom Haren, spokesperson for the Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, the campaign group in support of Issue 2.

Backers of a proposed amendment to the Ohio Constitution that would end qualified immunity for police officers and other governmental employees are now 0-6 on getting past the first step in the process. Attorney General Dave Yost Friday rejected the proposed summary for the "Protecting Ohioans' Constitutional Rights" amendment, which would bar any "government actor" from using "any immunities or defenses which are only available to government actors or any subset thereof, including but not limited to qualified immunity, sovereign immunity, prosecutorial immunity, or any immunity provided to the state, political subdivisions, or public employees by statute." The petitioners originally submitted the summary on May 3, 2021, under the title "Civil Action for Deprivation of Constitutional Rights" and again on Aug. 23, 2021. Thereafter, they submitted it on Nov. 22, 2022, under the title "The Ohio Civil Liberties Restoration Act" and on Feb. 27, 2023, and May 24, 2023, under the title "Protecting Ohioans' Constitutional Rights."

The governor re-emphasized his opposition to an initiated statute on marijuana legalization that will be on the November ballot, citing the greater potency of marijuana today versus in decades past, other states' experience with injuries to young children who've accidentally ingested marijuana edibles, the prospect of more impaired drivers on the roads, and the message legalization will send to young people. "You totally change the culture," he said.


Local governments saw a number of changes affecting them in budget bill HB33 (Edwards), including increases to competitive bidding thresholds, help with funding the next generation 9-1-1 program, more capital funding for county jails, and an increase in funding for indigent defendants along with a cap on attorney fees for those defendants. The House had added the provision regarding increases in the statutory competitive bidding thresholds for counties, townships, municipal corporations, libraries, fire and ambulance districts, regional airport authorities and regional water and sewer districts that took them to $75,000 through calendar year 2024. After 2024, the competitive bidding threshold for these entities is increased by 3 percent annually.

Changes enacted in the state budget are meant to make Ohio's Resident Educator (RE) Program, also called the Ohio Teacher Residency (OTR) Program, more affordable and accessible for beginning teachers. The Resident Educator Program, which began in 2011, is a two-year initiative that offers beginning teachers mentoring and professional development. The program was created to improve teacher retention and teacher quality, encourage continued professional development, and result in improved student achievement. As part of the program, teachers must pass the Resident Educator Summative Assessment (RESA).Once they pass the RESA and complete the other program requirements, the teachers become eligible for a professional teaching license, which lasts five years compared to the two-year resident educator licenses teachers receive as they begin their careers in the classroom. Most of the changes to the RE program made in HB33 (Edwards) will become effective Sunday, Oct. 3, 2023.


Panelists at the Columbus Metropolitan Club's (CMC) Wednesday forum shed light on some of the people and families directly affected by Ohio's and the nation's poor record on birth outcomes for Black women. Data from the Ohio Department of Health (ODH) show Black women die from pregnancy-related complications at a rate more than two and a half times that of White women. They are also disproportionately likely to experience severe maternal morbidities, which occur much more frequently than maternal deaths. Black infants and babies also experience disproportionately poor health outcomes. A recent report from the Health Policy Institute of Ohio (HPIO) found the infant mortality rate is 164 percent higher for Black Ohioans than it is for White Ohioans. The latest Census data show Black and African American Ohioans make up only about 14 percent of the population compared to roughly 80 percent of White Ohioans.


The Ohio Department of Health (ODH) said Thursday that 5,361 new COVID-19 cases were reported over the past week, marking the first time over 5,000 since April 13. Case numbers have been rising since July 13 as well. The previous two-week totals were 4,226 on Aug. 17 and 2,991 on Aug. 10. ODH also reported 111 hospitalizations, up from 95 and 89; and two ICU admissions, down from three and up from one. Deaths numbered 16, up from eight and 14. A report from Stateline Wednesday also measured how the pandemic affected deaths nationally, both through COVID-19 and "reverberating effects on society." Stateline said Ohio had 123,717 deaths in 2019, the year before the pandemic, and the years after that included the following:

  • 2020: An increase of 19,983 deaths over 2019, or 16 percent.

  • 2021: An increase of 23,918 deaths over 2019, or 19 percent.

  • 2022: An increase of 14,397 deaths over 2019, or 12 percent.

  • 2023 through June: An increase of 2,205 deaths over 2019, or 4 percent.


New bank subpoenas seeking 20-plus years of financial records from Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow (ECOT) founder William Lager are justified by a judge's ruling that ordered an accounting of the effects of his breach of fiduciary duty to the school, attorneys for the state argue in recent court filings. Franklin County Common Pleas Judge Kimberly Cocroft ruled more than a year ago that Lager violated the law prohibiting a public official from profiting from a contract, based on ECOT's contracting with for-profit companies also affiliated with him, Altair Learning Management and IQ Innovations.

Youngstown City Schools is beginning its 2023-2024 academic year with online learning after district teachers authorized a strike Monday. The Youngstown Board of Education, meanwhile, filed a request for the State Employment Relations Board (SERB) to determine that the strike is unauthorized. In its request for the unauthorized strike determination, the district said a fact-finding request is currently before SERB on whether the parties had exhausted dispute settlement procedures, alleging that striking while this is pending, violates state law.


The following endorsements were made over the week:

  • Ohio Association of Health Commissioners urges a "no" vote on Issue 2, the ballot issue legalizing recreational marijuana use.

  • The Catholic Conference of Ohio urges a "no" vote on both Issue 1, the reproductive/abortion rights constitutional amendment, and Issue 2, the initiated statute legalizing recreational marijuana.

  • Protect Women Ohio urges a "no" vote on Issue 1, the reproductive/abortion rights constitutional amendment.

ELECTIONS 2024 Eight Republican presidential candidates addressed issues from abortion to federal spending to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, attacked one another's records and discussed former President Donald Trump's pending criminal cases during a Fox News primary election debate Wednesday night in Milwaukee. Ohio entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy was on the stage along with former Vice President Mike Pence, Govs. Ron DeSantis of Florida and Doug Burgum of North Dakota, Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC) and former Govs. Chris Christie of New Jersey, Nikkie Haley of South Carolina and Asa Hutchinson of Arkansas. Fox News' Brett Baier and Martha McCallum served as moderators. Most of the candidates launched attacks on President Joe Biden's economic records and the post-pandemic inflation spike. State Sen. Matt Dolan (R-Chagrin Falls), who is running for the GOP nomination for U.S. Senate, released his third ad this week, this one focusing on the southern border. In the ad, he says, "I will take the necessary steps with infrastructure, civilian and military personnel to stop the flow of human trafficking and fentanyl into the country, save American lives and restore the nation's sovereignty." Bernie Moreno, who is running for the Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate, announced the creation of "Ag Leaders for Bernie," a coalition of agricultural producers and industry leaders in the state. It is chaired by former Ohio Farm Bureau Federation official Jack Fisher. Among other leaders of the group is Rep. Rodney Creech (R-Alexandria). EMPLOYMENT/UNEMPLOYMENT The Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS) said Friday that Ohio added 12,100 nonagricultural wage and salary jobs in July as the state unemployment rate went to 3.3 percent, the lowest rate it has been since 1976 when the series for reporting unemployment started. Nonagricultural wage and salary employment went from a revised 5,627,100 in June to 5,639,200 in July. ODJFS said it is the highest payroll employment reported since the series started in 1990. ENERGY/UTILITIES Federal officials have handed the Office of Ohio Consumers' Counsel (OCC) a partial victory in its push to block the merger of two of the few remaining generation suppliers participating in the state's retail electric market. OCC says the proposed sale of Ohio's nuclear plant operator, Energy Harbor, will allow the newly named Vistra Vision to inflate energy prices and hurt Ohio consumers. The consumers' counsel slammed the proposed merger of Vistra Corp. and Energy Harbor -- successor-owner of former FirstEnergy Solution's Davis-Besse Nuclear Power Station and Perry Nuclear Generating Station in Ohio and the nuclear Beaver Valley Power Station in Pennsylvania -- shortly after the companies sought approval from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) in April. The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) issued a brief order Wednesday suggesting more shoes could drop in the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) investigation into the $61 million bribery scheme behind 133-HB6 (Callender-Wilkin). Commissioners also moved 5-0 to fine electric retailer SmartEnergy Holdings LLC and order refunds of inflated generation charges following Commissioner Larry Friedeman's July warning to competitive retail natural gas service (CRNGS) and competitive retail electric service (CRES) providers that PUCO can and will regulate their marketing behaviors, if not their prices. The U.S. Attorney's Office first had asked the commission in 2022 to delay its four-pronged review of FirstEnergy management practices potentially implicated by the HB6 scandal and re-upped the request last February. The DOJ requested another six-month extension on Aug. 10, which PUCO granted Wednesday. Chairman Dick Stein (R-Norwalk) of the House Public Utilities Committee and Chairman Bill Reineke (R-Tiffin) of the Senate Energy and Public Utilities Committee delivered remarks to PJM Interconnection's Board of Managers Wednesday on the pressing need for improved grid reliability and "capacity," or generating facilities' readiness to meet peak electric demand. The Board of Managers for PJM, the regional transmission organization (RTO) encompassing Ohio, held its fourth "Critical Issues Fast Path" (CIFP) meeting since March to address the availability and participation of generating resources in the 13-state area's capacity wholesale market following last year's Winter Storm Elliott outages and former PUCO Chairman and PJM Interconnection Vice President Asim Haque's comments to the Ohio General Assembly on PJM's urgent need for kilowatts. Stein and Reineke joined two dozen presenters to the PJM board, who also included staff from PUCO's Office of Federal Energy Advocate (FEA), Pennsylvania state Sen. Gene Yaw (R-PA), and Executive Director Greg Poulos of the Consumer Advocates of the PJM States (CAPS), a former assistant consumers' counsel in the OCC office. Lt. Gov. Jon Husted tops speakers including Sens. Mark Romanchuk (R-Ontario) and Kent Smith (D-Euclid) and leading industry executives at September's second annual Ohio Manufacturers' Energy Conference hosted by the Ohio Manufacturers' Association (OMA). The goal of this year's conference, says OMA, is to "help manufacturers control energy costs, ensure electric reliability and maximize energy management. This in-person, full-day event is designed for manufacturers of all sizes, energy professionals, sustainability leaders, and more." The one-day conference is $125 for OMA members, $250 for non-members and $99 for government employees. More information, including registration details, can be found at ENVIRONMENT Decreasing the number of people driving private automobiles by 5 percent by 2050 would have a significant effect on the Cleveland area's air quality, Northeast Ohio Areawide Coordinating Agency (NOACA) Executive Director and CEO Grace Gallucci said Friday. In Cuyahoga, Geauga, Lake, Lorain and Medina counties, transportation is one of the leading causes of poor air quality, Gallucci said during a City Club of Cleveland forum. The Ohio Water Development Authority (OWDA) has awarded $22.6 million through low interest loans to Ohio communities to improve infrastructure and make water quality improvements for Ohioans. For the month of June, OWDA funded six projects that will provide improvements and replace aging infrastructure, the agency said in a news release. FEDERAL U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) announced Wednesday Ohio State University (OSU) will receive $1.5 million to develop a system to produce clean hydrogen from natural gas through carbon capture and sequestration. He added that such investments will help make clean hydrogen technology cheaper to produce, which could increase affordability and availability of fuel electricity generation and electric vehicles (EVs) and in turn improve U.S. energy and environmental resiliency while supporting Ohio jobs. The grant was awarded by the U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Fossil Energy and Carbon Management and follows a previous January announcement of $3.8 million for OSU to develop EV battery technology. Brown also recently announced OSU had received a $12.09 million research funding award to help improve outcomes for women who experience diabetes during pregnancy, also known as gestational diabetes (GDM). The Biden administration announced recently that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) will host a virtual "Extreme Heat Summit" event at 4 p.m. Monday, Aug. 28 and have released new resources to help communities manage extreme heat challenges. Around 130 million Americans in 22 states, including Ohio, are under heat alerts currently according to the Biden administration. Seventeen states are experiencing record breaking heat levels and it is the leading weather-related cause of death. "Its effects threaten our critical infrastructure. For instance, roadways, runways, and railways can begin to buckle and weaken; large demands on electrical grids and physical impacts of heat on power lines can lead to power outages; and data centers can lose cooling ability," the administration continued. A link to register is available at GENERAL ASSEMBLY/STATEHOUSE The Capitol Square Review and Advisory Board (CSRAB) is seeking volunteers to help install the memorial flag display on the west lawn of the Ohio Statehouse in commemoration of the 22nd anniversary of the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. The 9/11 flag display will be open to the public from Thursday, Sept. 7 at 7 p.m. until Tuesday, Sept. 12 at 12 p.m. in downtown Columbus. On the evening of Sept. 7, 2023, a brief program will open the memorial at 5 p.m. on the West Plaza. After the ceremony, volunteers from across central Ohio will install the thousands of flags that form the memorial. The House of Representatives revised its fall session schedule, cancelling some dates and adding others. Hannah News updated its consolidated House-Senate schedule as a result. Rep. Jon Cross (R-Kenton) said Tuesday his family will soon move to Findlay following the fire that destroyed their house in Kenton earlier this month. The move will keep him within the 83rd House District, which covers Hancock and Hardin counties and portions of Logan County. A fire that started in the garage destroyed the Cross family home, vehicles and possessions Aug. 5. A Celebration of Life for former state legislator Scott Nein will be held on Friday, Sept. 1 at the First Presbyterian Church in Middletown, beginning at 1 p.m. Nein died Saturday, Aug. 19 at the age of 72. He is survived by his wife of 48 years Janis and their four children as well as four grandchildren and two brothers and their families. Nein served in the Ohio House from 1991 to 1995, when he was appointed to the Ohio Senate. He was subsequently elected to two full terms from the 4th Senate District which covered Butler and Preble counties. While in the Senate, he chaired the Senate Insurance, Commerce and Labor Committee. At the conclusion of his legislative career in 2004, he became president and chief executive officer of the Independent Agents Association of Ohio, a post he held until his retirement in 2017. GOVERNOR Gov. Mike DeWine said Monday his recent comments on taxing insurance policies to fund police training were meant to serve as an example rather than an indication of what he'll propose, though he acknowledged conversations with insurers. Addressing several other pending issues after a press conference on his new appointee as director of the OneOhio Recovery Foundation, DeWine said a consistent funding source is key to improving law enforcement training. He again said scenario-based training facility funding will be a component of a forthcoming capital budget proposal. He referenced the state of Kentucky's use of taxes derived from insurance policy sales to provide police training, as he had in comments last week. HANNAH NEWS A new Hannah News upgrade unveiled Monday simplifies clients' reporting to the Joint Legislative Ethics Committee (JLEC). Clients can now export their reportable legislative activities from their Hannah accounts directly into the JLEC/Ohio Lobbying Activity Center (OLAC) site. This eliminates the need to manually compile these reports each reporting period, thus saving time. Subscribers who already utilize Hannah's ActionTRACK for their tracking and legislative reporting needs will now be able to generate their Legislative JLEC reports with a few clicks of the mouse. Hannah News has compiled its extensive coverage from the 2023 National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) Legislative Summit in Indianapolis into one document. It is indexed both by day and by topic. HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES Seven organizations across Ohio will receive $2,861,000 to support survivors of domestic violence and human trafficking as well as addiction recovery efforts, according to an announcement from U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH). The money will fund legal assistance and crisis response programs for survivors of domestic violence, assist law enforcement with anti-human trafficking operations, support staffing at safe havens for domestic violence survivors, and connect individuals in need with addiction treatment support. The U.S. Department of Justice's (DOJ) Office of Justice Programs (OJP) has awarded the funds as FY23 Congressionally Directed Spending (CDS), Brown said. HIGHER EDUCATION The Biden-Harris administration has launched an updated income-driven repayment (IDR) plan it estimates could benefit over 20 million borrowers. The Saving on A Valuable Education (SAVE) plan is an income-driven repayment plan that calculates payments based on a borrower's income and family size, instead of their loan balance, and forgives remaining balances after a certain number of years. Under the plan, a single borrower who makes less than $30,000 annually will not have to make any payments, and borrowers earning above that amount would save around $1,000 a year compared to other IDR plans, President Joe Biden said. The new program also prevents balances from growing due to unpaid interest as long as borrowers keep up with required payments. The application takes around 10 minutes to complete, according to Biden, and it allows borrowers to choose to have their income accessed by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and automatically recertified every year, so most will not need to reapply annually, which will prevent borrowers from missing their required annual IDR recertification. Learn more about the program at Ohio State University's (OSU) Board of Trustees Tuesday unanimously appointed Walter "Ted" Carter Jr. as its 17th president, effective Jan. 1, 2024. Carter currently serves as president of the University of Nebraska System, where he oversees four campuses of almost 70,000 students, faculty and staff, including an academic medical center. He is a graduate of the United States Naval Academy and the Navy Fighter Weapons School, known as Top Gun, and he holds education credentials from the Navy Nuclear Power School, the U.S. Air Force Air War College, the Naval War College and the Armed Forces Staff College. Carter is a retired vice admiral with 38 years of service. Carter earned a bachelor's degree in physics and oceanography from the U.S. Naval Academy, where he also played ice hockey for four years. The Board of Trustees also announced that Peter Mohler will serve as acting president through the end of the calendar year. Mohler currently serves as executive vice president for research, innovation and knowledge. In addition, he is the chief scientific officer of the Wexner Medical Center. He has been with Ohio State since 2011 and serves on the university president's cabinet. The decade-old Ohio Student Association (OSA) released what it described as the "most comprehensive study to date" on Black student experiences at Ohio colleges and universities Thursday. "Ohio Black Student Equity Report" calls for urgent action by institutions of higher education in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court's June decision barring affirmative action and SB83's (Cirino) pushback against critical race theory (CRT) and diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) programs. The 28-report reflects OSA interviews with 361 students at 12 public, four-year universities and one private university in Ohio. The top five participating institutions were Central State, Ohio State, Kent State, Cleveland State and Wilberforce. Black students shared their experiences with financial aid, university policing and other campus and state issues. "Structural barriers in higher education can't simply be waved away," OSA Executive Director Prentiss Harvey said in response to the Supreme Court's Students for Fair Admissions v. Harvard decision. The report finds that 60 percent of Black students have worried about their enrollment due to financial aid or money concerns, and that 35 percent felt they received inadequate help from their institution to understand aid packages. Otterbein University and Antioch University recently announced a partnership to "promote our pluralistic democracy, social, racial, economic, and environmental justice, and the common good." They said the Coalition for the Common Good is needed "At a time when divisive politics drives our nation and higher education is under attack for its work in building diverse, equitable, inclusive communities." The new system, they said, is about meeting the workforce development needs of the region as well as "education for a more just society." The University of Cincinnati (UC) has launched a new School of Environment and Sustainability Studies (SEaS) within its College of Arts and Sciences. Professor David Stradling, interim director of SEaS, commented. "Finding solutions to the creation of resilient, healthful and just communities will be at the heart of the SEaS research mission, as they must be for the university as a whole." The school aims to combine natural science, social science and humanities to create a transdisciplinary approach to environmental issues. Franklin University announced that it has expanded its articulation partnership with Marion Technical College to provide access to the Franklin University Pathway Portal and a $298 tuition rate for eligible Marion Technical students and alumni. Franklin's Pathway Portal is meant to streamline the transfer process. "Through this innovative tool, community college students and alumni from partner institutions gain insight into how the courses they have obtained through their associate degree work transfer toward one of Franklin's 28 bachelor's degrees to help find their best fit. Further, starting in fall 2023, those community college students and alumni of Marion Tech's and Franklin's other partner institutions who have opted into the Pathway Portal and meet eligibility requirements will receive a special $298 Pathway Portal tuition rate, helping provide a solution for those continuing their education affordably and transparently," Franklin said. HOUSING/HOMELESSNESS Almost 20 percent fewer homes sold in July 2023 as compared to the same month in 2022, according to Ohio Realtors. Sales of 11,441 homes last month compared to 14,291 a year earlier, but prices increased 5.4 percent, from $272,833 to $287,695. MEDICAID/MEDICAID REFORM Ohio is still removing substantially more people from the Medicaid program for procedural reasons rather than specifically determining they're ineligible, a situation far from unique as states work to unwind pandemic-era coverage policies but one that's drawn scrutiny from the federal government. The Ohio Department of Medicaid (ODM) says data show it's performing in line with or better than other states, and specifically peer states, while expressing concern about its own timeliness on processing eligibility cases given past scrutiny on that issue in Ohio. "We're kind of middle, upper-middle of the class," ODM Director Maureen Corcoran told Hannah News in an interview Wednesday. Corcoran also emphasized the need to look at a larger dataset over a longer period of time to get the full picture. For example, ODM has only a month or so of data on what's called churn -- people who leave the program but come back on relatively quickly. A person who is terminated from the program but reapplies and is approved within 90 days will have their eligibility backdated to the removal date to avoid an interruption in coverage. NATURAL RESOURCES As part of the "Arts in the Parks" series, artwork created by Ohio Second Lady Tina Husted will be featured at Deer Creek State Park's lodge beginning Sunday, Sept. 17, 2023 from 2 to 4 p.m. Husted will be in attendance that afternoon to discuss what inspires her art. "This event is an amazing opportunity to add to our visitors' experience at state park lodges while expanding their exposure to the arts," ODNR Director Mary Mertz said. "Mrs. Husted's work fits right into our natural spaces, and we look forward to her sharing what inspired her creativity." Husted works with various mediums, including pastel chalk, acrylic, and oils. Her work focuses on nature, including images of landscapes, sunrises, and sunsets. Her piece "Urbana Thunderhead" will be featured at the exhibit. NCSL LEGISLATIVE SUMMIT Mark Braden, a political process legal expert, said partisan gerrymandering cases, related to 2022 redistricted maps from throughout the country, "are 99 percent dead in the federal court. A lot of the partisan fight is now moving from your partisan bodies to the so-called 'non-partisan' judicial bodies," he said, later explaining how, when it comes to designing a legislative or congressional map based on voter data and population demographics, "This is social science. It's not science. Those pesky voters do things (differently) than oxygen or hydrogen atoms -- all of which become water at a certain number ... and those pesky voters vote (in) different ways." Braden spoke during the National Conference of State Legislatures' (NCSL's) 2023 Summit in Indiana. The session, titled "Overruled: Elections & Redistricting Legal Update," zoomed in on the U.S. Supreme Court's 5-4 ruling on Allen v. Milligan, contending that Alabama's redistricted congressional map likely violated Section 2 of the federal Voting Rights Act (VRA). NONPROFIT ORGANIZATIONS More than $9 million has been raised for the "Guardians of Free Speech Campaign," the City Club of Cleveland has announced. The campaign has a goal of $12 million, the organization said. "The Guardians of Free Speech Campaign advances the organization's vision to bring more civic dialogue to more people by moving to a new home at Playhouse Square and growing the City Club's endowment to help sustain the civic institution for generations to come. This is the largest expansion and campaign effort in the City Club's history," the organization said. PENSIONS Fewer employees will be eligible for performance bonuses, the maximum bonuses will be smaller, and payouts will drop in years when there's no budget for benefit increases, the State Teachers Retirement System (STRS) decided this month. The STRS Board of Trustees voted to update its performance-based incentive (PBI) policy for FY24. The system manages most of its assets internally and says outperformance of markets and investment benchmarks by its staff has a positive effect on system health. Retirees have been critical of the program, particularly because of the multi-year suspension of cost-of-living adjustments (COLA) they had experienced until recently. The system also voted to approve its FY23 bonus distributions, paying out about $8.6 million to investment staff. Ousted STRS board member Wade Steen has filed a motion for summary judgment in his bid for reinstatement, while the magistrate presiding in the case dismissed claims against all other board members but the one who replaced Steen, G. Brent Bishop. Magistrate Thomas Scholl III is overseeing the case in the Ohio Tenth District Court of Appeals. PEOPLE The Ohio Academy of Family Physicians (OAFP) announced that it has installed a new president and newly elected directors and officers to its board. Dr. Wayne A. Forde, a core faculty physician at the Department of Family Medicine at MetroHealth Medical Center in Cleveland, is the new president of OAFP, succeeding Dr. Ada Stewart. Forde is also an assistant professor of family medicine at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, acting chief medical officer of Asia Service in Action, and medical director of Cleveland's Jewish Family Service Association Residential Program. The Ohio Housing Finance Agency (OHFA) announced additions of Randy Durham, Rishawn Levy, Jannette Patete, Kellen Showes and Heather White to the OHFA team. Durham joins OHFA's Office of Single Family Housing, Residential Lending Division, as a housing development analyst. Levy, housing examiner trainee in the OHFA Office of Multifamily Housing, Program Compliance Division, comes from The NRP Group/Residences at Cornerstone, where she was a community manager/property manager. Patete is a bond accountant 1 in OHFA's Finance Office. Showes joins OHFA's Office of Multifamily Housing's Program Compliance Division as the director of program compliance. White joins OHFA as a housing examiner trainee in the Office of Multifamily Housing, Program Compliance Division, with more than 18 years of affordable housing experience. PUBLIC SAFETY According to the Ohio Department of Public Safety, the Ohio Traffic Safety Office (OTSO) was recently awarded a $15,087 grant from the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) and to strengthen law enforcement's ability to detect and deter impaired drivers on Ohio's roads. Officers will be trained to use DAX Evidence Recorders, which use high-definition digital video technology to record the eye movements and other physical responses of suspected impaired drivers. OTSO will use the video recorded by these devices to develop and provide training videos to law enforcement agencies to expand and enhance their impaired driving detection initiatives. REDISTRICTING/REAPPORTIONMENT Following up on the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in late June vacating the Ohio Supreme Court's decision in a challenge to a map drawn by the Ohio Redistricting Commission in the case Huffman v. Nieman, the Ohio Court Wednesday ordered all parties to file simultaneous briefs on the impact of that case within 20 days. They are also to address "what further proceedings this Court should hold. Simultaneous reply briefs, if any, are then to be filed 10 days after the filing of the merit briefs. No requests or stipulations for extension of time shall be filed and the clerk of the Court shall refuse any requests or stipulations for extension of time." The issue is now back before the state Supreme Court, which has a different makeup from the one that originally ruled in Huffman v. Nieman. Attorney General Dave Yost Wednesday rejected the petition summary for a proposed redistricting constitutional amendment, citing eight topics for which he said the summary language was incomplete or misleading, plus a general concern about which sections of the amendment were described in length versus those given "short shrift." Citizens Not Politicians, the campaign group behind the new amendment proposal, said it will revise its petition summary and resubmit it. Rep. Jeff LaRe (R-Canal Winchester) and Senate Minority Leader Nickie Antonio (D-Lakewood) announced that the Ohio Redistricting Commission would meet at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 13 in House Hearing Room 313 to organize and "begin the process of drafting a General Assembly redistricting plan." This will be the first meeting since May 2022. Other members on the commission include Gov. Mike DeWine, Auditor of State Keith Faber, Secretary of State Frank LaRose, Rep. Allison Russo (D-Columbus) and Sen. Rob McColley (R-Napoleon). Additional information about the commission can be found on its website at SECRETARY OF STATE Secretary of State Frank LaRose announced Friday that new business filings rose 12 percent year over year, with 14,500 new businesses created in July. Ohio continues to remain ahead of the previous year's pace and on track to exceed 2022's near-record of 178,636 business filings, the secretary of state said. So far, 123,674 new businesses have been created in 2023. STATE GOVERNMENT Acting on an agency referral, the Office of the Ohio Inspector General (OIG) found Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS) Office of Workforce Development Employment Professional Maria Ford had improperly accessed unemployment claims of relatives, friends, and other known persons and used state resources and time on activities associated with her secondary employment and other advocacy interests. As a result, OIG made 10 recommendations to ODJFS to improve policies and internal controls against such similar future acts and referred the report to several agencies. Those include the Ohio Auditor of State, the Ohio Ethics Commission, the Ohio Department of Taxation, the Ohio Attorney General Charitable Law Section, the Franklin County Prosecutor's Office and the city of Columbus Prosecuting Attorney. TRANSPORTATION/INFRASTRUCTURE Jerry Hruby was re-elected as chairman of the Ohio Turnpike and Infrastructure Commission (OTIC) at its meeting Monday. He will be joined by Sandra Barber as vice chair and Guy Coviello as secretary-treasurer. Their terms will be for four years. This was also the first meeting for two new members, Colleen Shay Murray and June Taylor, who were appointed Thursday, Aug. 17. OTIC honored former Vice Chair Timothy Paradiso for his 10 years of service. During a rare public comment period, residents of Canfield raised concerns about how the turnpike noise has increased since they moved there. Wayland Russell presented letters of support from U.S. Rep. Bill Johnson (R-Marietta) and Sen. Michael Rulli (R-Salem) on the issue. He described buying land and having a home built there, and said it would not be possible to hold his daughter's wedding on the property now like he did in 2006. The Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) announced Tuesday it will provide $16.9 million to help 10 municipalities with major roadway reconstruction and maintenance projects as part of its Small City Program. Combined with local matches, the total value of the projects is $38.9 million during FY26-FY28. The program is for municipalities with a population between 5,000 and 24,999 with ODOT providing up to 95 percent of the eligible costs for construction and construction inspection only. The program is currently funded at $10.5 million each year, with applications accepted from May 1 through June 15. They are reviewed by a committee with a background in funding and program management, environmental, engineering, and crash data and safety analysis. WORKFORCE The Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS) is now offering rapid response services to nearly 2,000 Ohioans who were formerly employed by transportation holding company Yellow Corp., which recently ceased its operations. ODJFS' rapid response team is working to provide each former employee with information on accessing free employment services and applying for unemployment benefits. ODJFS also noted the services available at its local OhioMeansJobs centers in every county and online. Ohioans can use those resources to find and apply for jobs, create or improve their resumes, participate in workshops, complete assessments, and explore trainings or certifications. Hondros College of Nursing and OhioHealth announced they are partnering to establish the OhioHealth Nursing Equity Scholarship, aimed at addressing the critical nursing workforce shortage impacting Ohio. Beginning this fall, OhioHealth will provide selected scholarship recipients financial support towards their associate degree in nursing program with the Hondros College of Nursing Westerville campus in Columbus. Students will complete the required academic coursework at Hondros College of Nursing and complete most of their clinical experiences at OhioHealth.

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

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