Week In Review - August 29, 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


Ohio financial advisers often underestimate the likelihood of their clients' experiencing effects of the opioid crisis but are well-positioned to spot warning signs and to help in navigating the expenses of treatment and recovery, the Ohio Department of Commerce (DOC) said Tuesday in launching a new awareness campaign for the industry. The "Recovery within Reach" initiative will offer advisers and consumers information about the economic toll of substance use disorder on families and about how to access treatment, via public service announcements on TV, radio and in digital ads, as well as a website, http://recoverywithinreach.ohio.gov. Over the next year, DOC also plans to roll out training modules for advisers.


AGRICULTURE


Gov. Mike DeWine and Lt. Gov. Jon Husted announced that 12 meat processors have been awarded a total of nearly $3 million for the third round of funding through the Ohio Meat Processing Grant program.


The administration said the funding is meant to strengthen the food supply chain by helping the processors implement efficiencies, expand or construct facilities at existing sites, assist in training and certification, and improve harvest services. Including the first two rounds of funding, 128 grants have been awarded to Ohio meat processors in 59 of Ohio's 88 counties, totaling nearly $28 million.


APPALACHIA


As communities across the country grapple with an uptick in the number of students experiencing mental health and behavioral health issues, local experts say the problem is particularly acute in the Appalachian region where resources, like Internet access, transportation, and mental health services, are scarce. Ohio's 32 Appalachian counties, which stretch from Lake Erie, down the state's eastern border, and to the west to the suburbs of Cincinnati on the Ohio River, are among some of the poorest areas in Ohio. According to a 2019 study from the Ohio Alliance for Innovation in Population Health, if the Appalachian counties were combined into a single state, it would be the second-most economically depressed state in the country. During Monday's Legislative Children's Caucus meeting, members heard from Robin Harris, the executive director of the Alcohol, Drug and Mental Health (ADAMH) Board of Gallia, Jackson, and Meigs Counties; Stephanie Starcher, superintendent of the Fort Frye Local School District in Southeast Ohio; and Randy Leite, executive director of the Appalachian Children Coalition.


ARTS, SPORTS AND ENTERTAINMENT


Internationally-known mandolin builder Don MacRostie has been awarded the 2022 Ohio Heritage Fellowship award for material culture, the Ohio Arts Council (OAC) announced Tuesday. Ohio Heritage Fellowship awards are given to individuals or groups that have significantly affected the state's people and communities through their advancement and preservation of folk or traditional arts. The $5,000 award is given in one of three categories -- performing arts, material culture or community leadership.


ATTORNEY GENERAL


Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost is set to address the prospective use of state and local funds to pay for abortions in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade. His office has received a formal opinion request from the Delaware County Prosecutor's Office on the potential use of state and local revenues to fund (1) abortions, (2) health care plans that cover abortions, and (3) nonprofits and other organizations that provide abortions.


BALLOT ISSUES


The Ohio Ballot Board in a lengthy meeting Monday approved ballot language for the two constitutional amendments that will go before voters on Tuesday, Nov. 8, as well as the explanation of both issues. At the beginning of Monday's meeting, Secretary of State Frank LaRose, the chairman of the Ballot Board, said Issue 1 on the ballot will be the proposed constitutional amendment that was passed by the General Assembly as HJR2 (LaRe-Swearingen), which will make public safety a required consideration when setting bail amounts. Issue 2, passed as HJR4 (Seitz-Edwards), bars noncitizens from voting in local elections.


The Ballot Board unanimously approved both the explanation and ballot language for Issue 1 with some of the changes suggested by John Martin, an assistant public defender for Cuyahoga County, and Democrats.


Rep. Mike Skindell (D-Lakewood) testified before the board on Issue 2, arguing that some of the provisions of the amendment are not fully explained. He said language of the amendment could restrict voting to only 18-year-olds, and would remove the limited ability for 17-year-olds to cast a ballot in a primary if they will turn 18 before Election Day. However, the Ballot Board was unable to come up with unanimous agreement on the language and explanation for Issue 2, passing both as originally proposed by LaRose, with Democratic members Rep. Paula Hicks-Hudson (D-Toledo) and Pavan Parikh voting against.


CHILDREN/FAMILIES


As students continue to deal with pandemic induced learning loss and economic difficulties, WalletHub recently released its 2022 ranking of states with the most at-risk youth. The financial advisory website used a number of metrics for the analysis, ranking all 50 states and the District of Columbia on factors like the share of "disconnected" youth, meaning those who are not attending school or working and have no degree beyond high school; the rate of poverty for people 18 to 24 years old; the rate of teen pregnancy; the rate of detained or incarcerated youth; and the share of homeless youth, among others.


WalletHub also analyzed the states on health factors like the share of youth, those 18 to 24 years old, who report heavy drinking and depression, as well as illicit drug use.


CORONAVIRUS/MONKEYPOX


The Ohio Department of Health (ODH) Thursday, Aug. 25 reported 23,436 new COVID-19 cases in the past seven days, down from the 24,067 reported on Aug. 18. This continues a declining trend that began in the Aug. 4 data, when cases fell from 29,876 to 27,785. Reported hospitalizations fell from 665 to 604, while ICU admissions remained at 36. In Ohio Hospital Association (OHA) data, there are currently 1,242 hospital patients who tested positive and 205 ICU patients. That compares to 1,198 hospital patients and 174 ICU patients on Aug. 18. The number of deaths reported by ODH Thursday ticked up slightly from 90 to 96. Since the pandemic began, ODH has reported 3,049,546 cases, 124,151 hospitalizations, 14,055 ICU admissions and 39,406 deaths.


The Ohio Department of Health (ODH) launched a dashboard on monkeypox cases statewide and by county Thursday, along with an FAQ page. Both are available at https://tinyurl.com/28utcruk. The dashboard is modeled after others used for past infectious disease outbreaks. There have been 147 confirmed cases in 19 counties, with Cuyahoga County leading at 69 and Franklin County second at 33. The others have less than 10 cases each. The dashboard lists nine hospitalizations and no reported deaths. The age range for cases is 19 to 64 years, and 96.6 percent of those who tested positive are men.


CRIME AND PUNISHMENT


Four out of 10 johns arrested during the weekend "Operation Time's Up" human trafficking sting were trying to buy sex from children in major metropolitan and regional population centers, the Ohio Attorney General's (AG) Office said Monday. The AG's Ohio Organized Crime Investigation Commission led the cross-state sweep in Columbus, Cleveland, Dayton, Akron, Lancaster, Marietta and Portsmouth, where 98 partnering law enforcement agencies carried out the arrests of 21 people seeking commercial sex from minors and 35 other johns. "On my watch, those who keep human traffickers in business are going to pay a price along with the traffickers themselves," Attorney General Dave Yost said in a statement. The enforcement action coincided with a statewide search for missing children by the U.S. Marshals Service and an investigation of illicit massage parlors in Cleveland.


DISABILITIES


Gov. Mike DeWine announced Wednesday an additional $2.1 million to help Ohio college students with disabilities pay for tuition and educational expenses. Opportunities for Ohioans with Disabilities (OOD) will provide all eligible college students with disabilities up to $1,000, while participating in OOD services, for school expenses during the 2022-2023 school year. The money comes from General Revenue Funds (GRF) plus federal matching dollars, according to Dan Tierney, press secretary for DeWine. To qualify for the financial support, the students must apply and be eligible for OOD services and complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form. Students in two-year, four-year and graduate school programs are eligible for the funding, which will be distributed evenly each academic term of this school year, toward tuition or educational expenses regardless of the student's financial status.


EDUCATION


The state is now accepting applications for $53 million in school safety grants, Gov. Mike DeWine announced Friday. The funding is part of the DeWine administration's $100 million Ohio K-12 School Safety Grant Program, according to the governor's office. The Ohio Facilities Construction Commission (OFCC), in partnership with the Ohio School Safety Center, is encouraging more than 4,000 eligible public schools, districts and chartered non-public schools statewide to apply for the grant opportunity. Applicants can request up to $100,000 per school building to cover expenses associated with physical security enhancements such as security cameras, public address systems, automatic door locks, visitor badging systems and exterior lighting.


This school year's seniors are the first students who'll need to meet the latest graduation criteria adopted in 2019 in order to graduate from high school. In the DeWine administration's first biennial budget, 133-HB166 (Oelslager), lawmakers scaled back the number of end-of-course exams high school students must pass while creating a system of graduation "seals" reflecting various specializations for students to choose among. The graduation seals system was proposed by a business-education coalition including Ohio Excels, the Alliance for High Quality Education and the Fordham Institute. The system replaced an earlier set of criteria that provided three pathways based on exam scores, demonstration of college readiness or pursuit of work credentials. The new system taking full effect with the class of 2023 has three basic elements: completion of required credits and coursework; demonstration of competency in math and English; and earning at least two graduation seals, one of which must be a seal with state-designated requirements. The classes of 2021 and 2020 had the option to use these new requirements or the previous ones. Students need to earn at least 20 high school credits, including four apiece in English and math; one-half credit apiece in health and physical education; and three apiece in science and social studies.


Improving charter schools, expanding vouchers and making open enrollment universal would better empower parents seeking educational choices, a new report from the Fordham Institute says. Recognizing the slew of school choice policies enacted recently and the move of many families to private and charter schools amid the pandemic's disruption to education, Fordham -- which sponsors charter schools through its affiliate foundation -- suggests that lawmakers consider four principles when pursuing additional school choice policies:


  • Empowerment of families with options so they can find a school meeting children's unique needs.

  • Fairness in treatment of different types of schools and delivery models.

  • Quality in academics and support for the growth of effective schools.

  • Transparency via clear, impartial information about the academic quality and offerings of various education options.

Oberlin High School's Kurt Russell, the Ohio and National Teacher of the Year for 2022, joined a panel of other education experts Tuesday for a White House panel on supporting, attracting and retaining Black teachers and leaders. The White House Initiative on Advancing Educational Equity, Excellence and Economic Opportunity for Black Americans convened a virtual roundtable including Russell; Peggy Brookins, president and CEO of the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards; Tawana Grover, superintendent of Grand Island Public Schools in Nebraska; Bryan Hale, school ambassador fellowship coordinator at the U.S. Department of Education; and Fadhilika Atiba-Weza, executive director of the National Alliance of Black School Educators. Russell said his work in the classroom and in travels as Teacher of the Year, he's focused on "humanizing the curriculum." Russell said he strives to "add the voices of all" when teaching, whether he's focused on the Revolutionary War or the Civil Rights era.


After a marathon bargaining session that started Wednesday afternoon, Columbus school and union leaders announced an agreement was reached in the wee hours of Thursday morning that will end the strike if formally ratified. Sidewalks and street corners filled with sign-waving Columbus Education Association (CEA) members earlier this week were quiet Thursday morning after the deal was announced.


If approved by the union and the school board, the agreement would allow regular, in-person classes to resume Monday, Aug. 29. Teachers were doing planning work remotely Thursday and are likely to be setting up classrooms Friday, said CEA spokesperson Regina Fuentes. The union voted to strike over the weekend in the absence of a new contract to replace the one that expired Sunday, Aug. 21. Members hit the picket lines from Monday, their first official day to report to buildings, through Wednesday, when classes were supposed to start. The district put in action a remote learning plan led by substitutes instead of having in-person instruction.


ELECTIONS


With the redistricting of congressional seats completed ahead of the 2022 election, a new analysis by the Brennan Center for Justice found that Democrats and Republicans will be fighting for control of the U.S. House in the narrowest of battlegrounds. The analysis, written by the Brennan Center's Michael Li and Chris Leaverton, found there are fewer competitive districts than at any point in the last 52 years, with the percentage of competitive seats falling to just 14 percent of the total number of House seats. Li and Leaverton said partisan map drawers drove the decrease in competitive districts. In states where Republicans control all aspects of the map-drawing, the percentage of competitive seats fell from 16 percent in districts in the last decade to just 12 percent now. The decline in competitive seats was even more precipitous in Democratic single-party controlled states, they said, falling from 12 percent to 6 percent.


ELECTIONS 2022


Whether Rep. Shayla Davis can appear on the November ballot as an independent candidate will now be up to Secretary of State Frank LaRose after the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections tied on a challenge to her candidacy. Davis, of Garfield Heights, was appointed by the House Democratic Caucus in February to replace Rep. Janine Boyd (D-Cleveland Heights), who took a job with the Biden administration. Originally looked at as a placeholder for the seat as Sen. Sandra Williams (D-Cleveland) had filed to run for the district, Davis later pulled petitions and filed to run as an independent after Williams instead resigned her Senate seat to take a job in the private sector. When Williams pulled her name from the ballot, the deadline had passed for Davis to file to run. The issue now goes to LaRose to break the tie. Davis could also take it to court should LaRose rule against her candidacy.


LaRose will also break a tie vote on the replacement candidacy of Democrat Tanya Conrath for the 94th House District. Conrath, a businesswoman from Athens, has been nominated by the county parties in the district to take the place of Rhyan Goodman, who won the nomination for the seat but withdrew shortly after.


A retired Supreme Court justice heard a complaint filed by Ohio Republicans against the candidacy of Terpsehore Maras for secretary of state Thursday. No decision was expected Thursday from Terrence O'Donnell, the former justice appointed as an independent hearing officer by the secretary of state's office to hear the challenge over whether Maras, a podcaster, should appear as an independent candidate for secretary of state on the November ballot.


County boards of elections have certified the results of the Tuesday, Aug. 2, primary election for state legislative and state party central committee races. Monday was the deadline for boards to complete their official canvas. A number of write-in candidates received enough votes to move on as their party's nominee for the Tuesday, Nov. 8 General Election.


A new survey by the Trafalgar Group released this week shows Republican U.S. Senate nominee J.D. Vance and Gov. Mike DeWine holding leads over their respective opponents. The poll was conducted from Tuesday, Aug. 16 through Friday, Aug. 19 among 1,087 likely General Election voters. It found Vance leading Democratic nominee Tim Ryan 50 percent to 45 percent, with about 5 percent undecided. In the governor's race, DeWine holds a large lead over Democrat Nan Whaley, nearly 54 percent to Whaley's 48 percent, with 8 percent undecided.


The following endorsements were made over the week:


  • The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) PAC endorsed Nan Whaley for governor.

  • The Ohio Federation of Teachers (OFT) endorsed Katie Hofmann, Teresa Fedor, and Tom Jackson for the Ohio State Board of Education; Tina Maharath, Catherine Ingram, Paula Hicks-Hudson, Hearcel Craig, Kent Smith, Nicki Antonio, Bill DeMora, Patricia Goetz, and Bob Hagan for Ohio Senate; and Dontavius Jarrells, Ismail Mohamed, Mary Lightbody, Richard Brown, Adam Miller, Allison Russo, Beth Liston, Russ Harris, Anita Somani, Mike Skindell, Sean Brennan, Bride Sweeney, Phil Robinson, Elliot Forhan, Dan Troy, Cecil Thomas, Rachel Baker, Jessica Miranda, Rita Darrow, Matthew Shaughnessy, Tavia Galonski, Casey Weinstein, Addison Caruso, Amy Cox, Nancy Larson, Erika White, Michelle Grim, Chuck Horn, Larry Mulligan, Scott Oelslager, Thomas West, Gayle Manning, Joe Miller, Bryan Burgess, Joy Bennett, Louise Valentine, Brian Flick, Vincent Peterson, Christina Collins, Charlotte Owens, Kathleen Clyde, Mark Gooch, Taylor Eastham, Claire Osborne, Sophia Rodriguez, and Jim Obergefell for Ohio House.

ENERGY/UTILITIES


The Ohio Oil and Gas Energy Education Program (OOGEEP) announced the launch of a new "Essential Ohio Energy" campaign that will air digitally and in television markets across the state. The ad highlights Ohioans' pivotal role in some of the nation's greatest achievements and showcases Ohio natural gas and oil's contribution to those accomplishments. The "Essential Ohio Energy" ad campaign aired its first ad in 2020 and has had over 16 million "impressions" during its two-year run.


The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) pointed to the Ohio Consumers' Counsel (OCC) and other parties' "contentious" inquiry into FirstEnergy and former Chairman Sam Randazzo's relationship Wednesday in granting the U.S. Attorney's requested stay of four commission probes into FirstEnergy and energy subsidy 133-HB6 (Callender-Wilkin). U.S. Attorney Kenneth Parker of the Southern District of Ohio filed a short but pointed request with the commission last week asking it to halt its four-pronged investigation into FirstEnergy and HB6 while the federal case against former House Speaker Larry Householder and others proceeds to trial. He cited the potential for PUCO proceedings to "interfere with or impede" the U.S. Department of Justice's (DOJ) criminal probe. "Restraining parties from intruding on the DOJ's investigation, instead of staying within the parameters that the commission has established for the four investigations, has been a long and arduous battle in these proceedings," commissioners said in granting the stay. They noted OCC, Ohio Manufacturers' Association (OMA), Interstate Gas Supply (IGS) and Northeast Ohio Public Energy Council's (NOPEC) particular interest in FirstEnergy's consulting agreement with the Randazzo-linked Sustainability Funding Alliance (SFA), including confidential disclosures from the utility's deferred prosecution agreement (DFA) with the U.S. Attorney's Office. That interest is born out in a litany of subpoenas to depose current and former FirstEnergy executives.


American Electric Power (AEP) Ohio is prepared to support many of the goals of the federal Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) grid resilience program, AEP Ohio Regulatory and Finance Vice President Lisa Kelso told the PUCO on Wednesday. "We serve customers in urban and rural areas, including disadvantaged and vulnerable populations, which are grant focus areas, per IIJA guidelines. Our subject matter experts are well-positioned to identify potential IIJA grant projects to improve grid resilience and support the transition to clean energy, while also looking for solutions to lower energy costs for our customers," Kelso said. Kelso also pointed to her utility's talented workforce, and its ability to track and report measurable project outcomes.


The PUCO cited rising electric and natural gas prices Wednesday in permanently adopting its previous emergency order to increase low-income eligibility for the state's Percentage of Income Payment Plan (PIPP) in conjunction with the governor's July 27 executive order. Jointly administered by the Ohio Department of Development (DOD) and PUCO, PIPP previously allowed residential customers whose annual household income is 150 percent or less of the federal poverty level to participate in the program. It allows residential customers to pay no more than $10 or 5 percent of their gross monthly income (10 percent for all-electric homes) with no deposit and no late fees and to receive bill forgiveness of their remaining balance and a credit toward any arrearage if the monthly amount is paid on time and in full. PUCO last month ordered the eligibility threshold to be increased to 175 percent of the federal poverty level on a temporary basis and this week made that rule change permanent.


ENVIRONMENT


The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) has announced assistance for Beverly, Coshocton and South Point to grow their outdoor recreation economy through the Recreation Economy for Rural Communities (RERC) program. "Outdoor recreation activities can bring new investment to local economies, encourage people to revitalize existing downtowns and conserve natural resources and lead to improved quality of life for residents and visitors," USEPA Associate Administrator for Policy Vicki Arroyo said. "This assistance will help rural areas explore ways that outdoor recreation can strengthen their communities, create jobs and boost access to the outdoors for everyone."


FEDERAL


Dr. Anthony S. Fauci announced Monday he will step down as director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) and chief of the NIAID Laboratory of Immunoregulation, as well as chief medical advisor to President Joe Biden this December to pursue the "next chapter" of his career. Fauci, 81, has led the NIAID since 1984 and joined the National Institutes of Health in 1968 at the age of just 27. "While I am moving on from my current positions, I am not retiring. After more than 50 years of government service, I plan to pursue the next phase of my career while I still have so much energy and passion for my field. I want to use what I have learned as NIAID director to continue to advance science and public health and to inspire and mentor the next generation of scientific leaders as they help prepare the world to face future infectious disease threats," Fauci said in a statement.


GOVERNOR


Appointments made during the week include the following:


  • Logan Arielle Johnson of Cincinnati (Hamilton County) as a student member on the University of Cincinnati Board of Trustees for a term beginning Aug. 19, 2022 and ending May 13, 2024.

  • Luke David Smith of Chillicothe (Ross County) as a student member on the University of Akron Board of Trustees for a term beginning Aug. 19, 2022 and ending July 1, 2024.

  • Robert M. Connelly of Dayton (Montgomery County) and Amy E. Barker of Centerville (Montgomery County) reappointed to the Sinclair Community College Board of Trustees for terms beginning Oct. 13, 2022 and ending Oct. 12, 2027.

  • Steven Harold Anderson of Medina (Medina County) and Elizabeth McNellie of New Albany (Franklin County) to the Miami University Board of Trustees for terms beginning Aug. 19 and Sept. 26, 2022, respectively, and ending Feb. 28, 2031.

  • David E. Richey of Winchester (Adams County) to the Shawnee State University Board of Trustees for a term beginning Aug. 19, 2022 and ending June 30, 2031.

  • William W. Patmon III of New Albany (Franklin County) reappointed to the Ohio Civil Rights Commission for a term beginning Aug. 19, 2022 and ending July 28, 2027.

  • Darrell Dye of Dublin (Franklin County) reappointed to the State Vision Professionals Board for a term beginning Aug. 10, 2022 and ending March 22, 2024.

  • Gae Cecelia Cox of Thornville (Licking County) to the Chemical Dependency Professionals Board for a term beginning Aug. 19, 2022 and ending Dec. 23, 2024.

  • Joseph S. Geig of Blacklick (Franklin County), Susan Jean Phler of Columbus (Franklin County), Scott A. Wilkes of University Heights (Cuyahoga County) and Raymond Losey of Cincinnati (Clermont County) reappointed to the Counselor, Social Worker and Marriage and Family Therapist Board for terms beginning Oct. 11, 2022 and ending Oct. 10, 2025.

  • Benjamin Burkam of Dublin (Franklin County), Mario Baker of Bowling Green (Wood County), Anissa Danielle Siefert of New Washington (Crawford County) and Hollie Ann Kozak of Willoughby (Lake County) reappointed to the Ohio Occupational Therapy, Physical Therapy and Athletic Trainers Board for terms beginning Aug. 28, 2022 and ending Aug. 27, 2025.

  • Donald Richard Miller of Blacklick (Franklin County) reappointed to the Ohio Board of Pharmacy for a term beginning Aug. 19, 2022 and ending June 30, 2026.

  • Betty Dee Montgomery of Reynoldsburg (Licking County) and Michael L. Gonidakis of Dublin (Franklin County) reappointed to the State Medical Board of Ohio for terms beginning Aug. 19, 2022 and ending July 31, 2027.

  • Gary Siciliano of Sagamore Hills (Summit County) and Timothy Karl Staup of Delphos (Allen County) reappointed to the Motor Vehicle Salvage Dealer's Board for terms beginning Aug. 19, 2022 and ending July 31, 2025.

  • James Robert Rocco of Aurora (Portage County) and Steven Richard Gergman of Cincinnati (Clermont County) reappointed to the Petroleum Underground Storage Tank Release Compensation Board for terms beginning Aug. 19, 2022 and ending July 10, 2025.

  • Megan Theresa Wanczyk of Athens (Athens County) reappointed to the Children's Trust Fund Board for a term beginning Aug. 19, 2022 and ending July 2, 2025.

  • Adam Michael Levine of Toledo (Lucas County) to the Ohio Commission for the United States Semiquincentennial for a term beginning Aug. 19, 2022 and continuing at the pleasure of the governor.

  • J. Averi Frost of Columbus (Franklin County) to the Ohio Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday Commission for a term beginning Aug. 19, 2022 and ending Dec. 30, 2024.

  • Lynn Marie Blashford of Westerville (Franklin County) reappointed to the TourismOhio Advisory Board for a term beginning Sept. 28, 2022 and ending Sept. 27, 2025.

  • Randall William Leite of Hilliard (Franklin County) and Randi Malcolm Thomas of Oxford (Butler County) reappointed to the Ohio Commission on Fatherhood for terms beginning Aug. 19, 2022 and ending July 30, 2024.

  • Morgan Dale Deavers of New Straitsville (Perry County) and Krystal Joyel Suzanne Albright of Paulding (Paulding County) to the Ohio Developmental Disabilities Council for terms beginning Aug. 19, 2022 and ending Dec. 31, 2024.

  • Jennifer Kucera of Berea (Cuyahoga County) to the Ohio Developmental Disabilities Council for a term beginning Aug. 19, 2022 and ending Dec. 31, 2022.

  • Thomas A. Tallman of Shaker Heights (Cuyahoga County) reappointed to the Medical Quality Foundation Board for a term beginning Aug. 19, 2022 and ending July 20, 2025.

  • Larry Dean Towning of Zanesville (Muskingum County) to the Medical Quality Foundation Board for a term beginning Aug. 19, 2022 and ending July 20, 2025.

  • Brenda Sue Shamblin of Amanda (Fairfield County) reappointed to the Public Benefits Advisory Board for a term beginning Aug. 19, 2022 and ending June 30, 2025.

  • Edward Lee Montgomery of Columbus (Franklin County) to the Ohio Retirement Study Council for a term beginning Aug. 19, 2022 and ending June 30, 2024.

  • John William Schuld of Fostoria (Hancock County) to the Financial Planning and Supervision Commission for the city of Fostoria for a term beginning Aug. 19, 2022 and continuing at the pleasure of the governor.

GREAT LAKES


The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) should do more to engage the people most affected by pollution and climate change, according to the Great Lakes Advisory Board (GLAB). According to the report, USEPA engagement efforts should focus on increasing participation from communities affected by pollution and climate change so they can be a part of identifying ways to mitigate the ill effects on individual health, community health, livelihoods, way of life and quality of life. According to USEPA data, these negative effects are -- and will continue to be -- disproportionately borne by low-income communities and communities of color, including Indigenous communities. "Engaging environmental justice communities from the earliest stages of planning for programs that will affect their lives will allow communities to have a say in program priorities, implementation and outcomes," the report continues. "Such participation is crucial to ensuring program appropriateness, success and sustainability." That recommendation is one of 65 included in GLAB's report, which was produced following a request from USEPA under former President Donald Trump.


GUNS


Adults younger than 21 would need a co-signer to buy guns that hold more than a single round of ammunition under legislation introduced by Sen. Matt Dolan (R-Chagrin Falls). "Whether we like it or not, there are some that lack the maturity or the emotional stability, and we saw that play out in Texas when the guy -- on his 18th birthday -- bought a gun, and four or five days later, used it," Dolan told Hannah News. "This is a recognition that I'm not banning anyone from buying a gun, but during that age frame if it's anything more than a single shot, then somebody 25 or older will also be facing liability if they get it wrong," Dolan continued. "You take away the emotional purchase. You take away the immature purchase." Dolan said SB357 includes exemptions for individuals in law enforcement and the military. The legislation also contains $175 million in federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) appropriations to increase the number of mental health workers and accelerate the expansion of regional mental health crisis centers. Additionally, the bill has language on a "due process safety protection order," creates a "seller's protection certificate" and includes provisions to improve state and federal background check databases.


HIGHER EDUCATION


President Joe Biden announced Wednesday a plan to forgive $10,000 in student loan debt for borrowers earning less than $125,000, and $20,000 for people who went to college with a Pell Grant. Biden also extended the pause on student loan repayments through Saturday, Dec. 31, 2022. The pause had been set to expire on Wednesday, Aug. 31. The decision could offer some level of forgiveness to as many as 43 million borrowers, including cancelling the full remaining balance for about 20 million borrowers, according to the White House. Eligible borrowers must have individual incomes below $125,000 and below $250,000 for married couples. The loan forgiveness does not apply to individuals with private loans. Current students are also eligible for the forgiveness, though if they are dependents their debt relief will be based on their parents' income rather than their own.


The Ohio State Buckeyes will take on the Michigan Wolverines in the first outdoor hockey game at FirstEnergy Stadium, Haslam Sports Group (HSG) announced Monday. The "Faceoff on the Lake" is scheduled for Saturday, Feb. 18, 2023. Cleveland Browns and Columbus Crew season ticket members, along with Browns waitlist members and select groups, will have early access to "Faceoff on the Lake" tickets beginning on Monday, Aug. 29 at 10 a.m. Tickets will officially go on sale to the public at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 7.


HOUSING/HOMELESSNESS


Columbus, and the entire Central Ohio region, need to ramp up housing production to keep pace with its economic boom and to keep housing affordable in the area, a panel of Columbus leaders told a crowded Columbus Metropolitan Club Forum (CMC) Wednesday. Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther opened the forum, noting that Columbus and surrounding areas have not created enough housing to keep up with the pace of job growth. From 2009 to 2019, the region created over 140,000 new jobs, but only built a little over 50,000 new housing units, he said. Ginther laid out his "Columbus Housing Strategy," which involves putting a $200 million bond package for affordable housing before Columbus voters this November.


INTEL


U.S. President Joe Biden will deliver remarks at the Intel facility's groundbreaking in Licking County on Friday, Sept. 9, according to a White House announcement Thursday. Biden also signed an executive order on implementation of the CHIPS and Science Act Thursday, reflecting the administration's commitment "to quickly increase production of semiconductors, strengthen research and design leadership, and grow a diverse semiconductor workforce to give the country a competitive edge on the world stage," according to the White House. The order creates a CHIPS Implementation Steering Council of administration leaders co-chaired by National Economic Director Brian Deese, National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan and acting Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy Alondra Nelson. Members include the secretaries of state, defense, treasury, commerce, labor and energy, the director of the Office of Management and Budget, the Small Business Administration administrator and the director of national intelligence.


JUDICIAL


McGown & Markling tops Ohio law firms with the most reported pro bono hours per attorney in 2021 -- a dollar-record year for billable hours at just under $28 million, the Ohio Access to Justice Foundation (OAJF) says in its new report. The Akron firm leads for sheer generosity, while two of the state's larger practices, Jones Day and Porter Wright, volunteered the highest number of total attorney hours last year.


Last year's median pro bono hour was valued at $250. Members of the Ohio bar answering OAJF's survey also donated more than $1 million in cash to legal aid in 2021. That is considerably less than roughly $1.5 million in 2020 and $1.8 million in 2019, which may signal a shift from cash contributions to free legal work. Roughly 14 percent of Ohio lawyers, or 3,854 practitioners, actually responded to the survey. Last year's 111,855 pro bono-hour total includes 65,359 hours for solo practitioners and 46,496 hours for law firms.


MARIJUANA/HEMP


Almost 300,000 patients are now registered in the Ohio Medical Marijuana Control Program (MMCP), according to the Ohio Board of Pharmacy (OBP). Specifically, 293,759 patients are registered in the program, OBP said in its July MMCP patient and caregiver numbers update. Of registered patients, 18,433 are military veterans, 19,852 are classified as "indigent" and 1,138 have a terminal illness.


MEDICAID/MEDICAID REFORM


Mid-August came and went with no news from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) on the duration of the public health emergency (PHE) declaration for the COVID-19 pandemic, meaning the state of emergency -- plus extra Medicaid money paired with an obligation not to kick people off the program -- appears likely to extend into January. The Biden administration has promised states 60 days' notice if it plans not to renew the PHE for another quarter. HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra extended the declaration in mid-July through mid-October, meaning that the federal agency would have had to provide notice by now if it were going to allow the PHE to expire this fall. Another quarterly extension would put the expiration off until mid-January of 2023.


NATURAL RESOURCES


The Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) has selected 50 students as members of the Conservation Teen Advisory Council (ConTAC) for this upcoming school year. ConTAC is a program designed to give high school students an opportunity to work on campaigns and strategies to improve their community and environment. Examples of past projects include stream quality monitoring, habitat restoration, educating youth on environmental issues, and fundraisers. ConTAC members serve at minimum one year on the council.


The Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) must increase abandoned oil and gas well clean-up by more than double to meet the General Assembly's 2018 spending mandate on the Division of Oil and Gas Resources (DOGR) and fully address the public and environmental hazards of so-called "orphan" wells, according to state Auditor Keith Faber. To accomplish that, Faber says, the department will have to job out orphan well planning to public-private partnerships or independent contractors and/or change its statutory interpretation to include staff hours as both direct and indirect costs of remediation billable toward the required expenditure. Faber released a new performance audit of DOGR's Orphan Well Program, which was launched in 1977 but received a major update in 132-HB225 (Thompson). The legislation requires the agency to spend 30 percent of its Oil and Gas Well Fund on abandoned well plugging, a number that has become harder to reach as industry severance taxes supporting the fund continue to pile up. It now has an unused balance of $180 million after the division spent a little less than half its $23 million orphan well mandate in FY21 -- a 2,000 percent performance gain compared to FY13, when it plugged only 10 wells.


PUBLIC SAFETY


The DeWine administration said recently that 21 local law enforcement agencies will share in another $8.5 million in funding through the Ohio Violent Crime Reduction Grant Program. Created in the biennial budget and then expanded with federal American Rescue Plan funding, the grants are meant to help agencies prevent and investigate crime through programs and staffing. DeWine's office announced earlier this week that strong demand for the grants prompted him to put another $42 million toward the program, bringing total funding to $100 million.


The Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) Division of Forestry said Tuesday wildland fire engines staffed with Ohio firefighters are currently fighting wildfires in Texas and California, and a 19-person crew has been mobilized to California. Throughout the spring and summer of 2022, the Division of Forestry has provided fire engines, firefighters and emergency support staff to locations across the country that have faced wildland fires and elevated fire danger. States that the division has assisted this year include Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, Alaska, California and Texas.


REDISTRICTING/REAPPORTIONMENT


While House Speaker Bob Cupp (R-Lima) and Senate President Matt Huffman (R-Lima) said that the state will not need to draw new congressional maps until after an appeal of the latest Ohio Supreme Court decision is filed with the U.S. Supreme Court later this year, the two Democratic members of the Ohio Redistricting Commission said any such federal appeal does not have any bearing on Ohio's constitutional provisions. In a memo sent to colleagues Friday, Aug. 19, House Minority Leader Allison Russo (D-Upper Arlington) and Sen. Vern Sykes (D-Akron) said Ohio is still under court order to draw fair and constitutional maps for the congressional and state legislative elections in 2024. The Ohio Supreme Court struck down the second congressional map last month and ordered a new map to be drawn. Under the Ohio Constitution, once a map is struck down by the Court, the General Assembly has 30 days to draw a new map. If it does not, the Ohio Redistricting Commission has 30 days to draw a new map. However, Huffman and Cupp said they planned to appeal the case to the U.S. Supreme Court, with Cupp explaining in a memo that the deadline to file such an appeal is 90 days after the Ohio Supreme Court decision was issued, putting the deadline of that appeal at Monday, Oct. 17. Cupp said there is no state constitutional requirement to draw new congressional maps for the 2024 election cycle before then. Russo and Sykes disagree with that interpretation. They pointed to language in the Ohio Constitution, and argued that an order from the Ohio Supreme Court is not appealable. While there is a process for the U.S. Supreme Court to review an Ohio Supreme Court opinion, that is a "petition for writ of certiorari," not an appeal, they said.


SECRETARY OF STATE


Secretary of State Frank LaRose announced that there were 12,790 new business filings in July 2022, the lowest point of growth in the last six months. This is a 16 percent decrease from July 2021 and a 12 percent decrease from June 2022. "Each month that goes by with economic instability, entrepreneurs lose more faith," said LaRose. According to the secretary of state's office, 107,859 new businesses have been created in 2022 so far, averaging 15,408 per month.


TECHNOLOGY/AEROSPACE


Ohio leaders celebrated a groundbreaking for the National Advanced Air Mobility Center of Excellence (NAAMCE) at the Springfield-Beckley Municipal Airport Tuesday, during a forum on the national advanced air mobility (AAM) industry held in Springfield and hosted by the Dayton Development Coalition (DDC). The center will include a two-story, 30,000 square foot office building with administrative, laboratory, meeting and collaboration space, and 25,000 square feet of hangar space for the U.S. Air Force (USAF) and private businesses. It will support expanding work of manufacturers and operators of electric vertical takeoff and landing (eVTOL) aircraft and other AAM designs.


The Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) and other statewide partners are developing and deploying a new system to track drones to help the unmanned aircraft from colliding with other aircraft that operate at lower altitudes such as medical helicopters or crop dusters. ODOT said that the pioneering technology will help address concerns about how to keep airspace safe for both crewed and uncrewed aircraft as the number of drones grows. At low altitudes, detecting manned air traffic with traditional radar is much more difficult due to the presence of ground obstructions such as trees, houses, cars, and other low-flying objects such as birds and insect swarms, ODOT said. Since 2018, ODOT's Office of Statewide Planning and Research has been working with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), DriveOhio/FlyOhio, the Ohio Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) Center, Ohio State University and industry to develop and deploy a "detect and avoid" system to track drones, as a public service, and keep them from colliding with aircraft that operate at lower altitudes like medical helicopters or crop dusters. This is a first in an urban setting, the state agency said.


TRANSPORTATION/INFRASTRUCTURE


The Ohio Turnpike and Infrastructure Commission said construction of its new toll system that will allow for open road tolling is continuing with the conversion of 20 toll plaza interchanges and removal of gates from E-ZPass exit lanes. The changes are being made at toll plazas 52 to 209 along the Ohio Turnpike as part of the commission's modernization plan, which will also reduce the number of toll plazas from 31 to 24.


TREASURER OF STATE


The ResultsOHIO initiative proposed by Treasurer Robert Sprague, a pay-for-success model where private funders pay upfront costs and are reimbursed if projects fulfill expectations, reported success Wednesday with iSee, an effort to take vision screenings and eyeglasses to children in Appalachia. A partnership among the Foundation for Appalachian Ohio, Vision to Learn and the Ohio Optometric Foundation, iSee took mobile vision clinics to schools in Appalachian counties, providing vision screenings, eye exams and new prescription glasses. An independent evaluation by the University Cincinnati Evaluation Services Center of performance in the 2021-2022 academic year found the project surpassed benchmarks related to students who were provided eye exams and those who received new glasses. The project will continue in 2022-2023. During the project, 1,841 students received an eye exams at the 10 schools districts served, a rate of 95 percent of those students served, compared to the payment benchmark of 90 percent.


UNEMPLOYMENT COMPENSATION


According to the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services' (ODJFS) latest unemployment report, Ohio's unemployment rate was 3.9 percent in July, unchanged from a month before, as the state's nonagricultural wage and salary employment increased 7,000 over the month, from a revised 5,477,000 in June to 5,484,000 in July. ODJFS said the number of workers unemployed in Ohio in July was 224,000, unchanged from June. The number of unemployed has decreased by 71,000 in the past 12 months from 295,000. The July unemployment rate for Ohio decreased from 5.1 percent in July 2021. The U.S. unemployment rate for July 2022 was 3.5 percent, down from 3.6 percent in June 2022, and down from 5.4 percent in July 2021.


WORKFORCE


The Ohio Bureau of Workers' Compensation (BWC) held the state's 12th annual Fallen Workers Memorial Thursday to honor 126 Ohioans who died from a workplace illness or accident. "Today is a chance to mourn, and honor, those who lost their lives while on the job. Losing a loved one is never easy, especially those that are gone too soon," BWC Administrator/CEO Stephanie McCloud said in a tribute aired on the Ohio Channel. "The Fallen Workers Memorial is a chance to honor and remember the lives of those who simply went to work to support themselves and their loved ones and never made it home." McCloud opened the program with a video message from Gov. Mike DeWine.



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


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