Week In Review - August 30, 2021



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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.

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AGING Following a nearly 40-year long career in aging services, corporate finance and association leadership, LeadingAge Ohio President/CEO Kathryn Brod has announced her intent to retire at the end of 2021. She has been president/CEO since 2014. AGRICULTURE The Ohio Department of Agriculture (ODAg) has determined that an "L"-shaped bracket, known as a "flag plate," dislodged from the left side of the Top Thrill Dragster's green train car and struck a Cedar Point visitor in the head. The bracket, which was approximately the size of an adult male's hand, seriously injured the woman standing in line for the ride on Sunday, Aug. 15, ODAg At a virtual news conference, Amusement Ride Safety Division Chief David Miran said half of the bolts that were used to secure the plate to the train body had also dislodged. ATTORNEY GENERAL Attorney General Dave Yost announced his 2021 Law Enforcement Conference Tuesday with an appeal to law and order: "Public safety is the most important responsibility of government. The many good things that make a society healthy and prosperous rest on the foundation of public safety. And public safety depends on law enforcement." The conference is scheduled for the Columbus Hyatt Regency on Monday and Tuesday, Oct. 18-19, and will include a day and a half of training. CENSUS The U.S. Census Bureau released the "Business Dynamics Statistics (BDS) Explorer version 1.0" recently, which provides access to the entire BDS dataset through line charts, bar charts and thematic maps. It also provides an intuitive dashboard allowing for construction of tables and charts to compare and rank measures of business dynamism such as employment, job creation and destruction. The dashboard also tracks firm births and deaths across a wide range of establishment and firm characteristics, according to the Census. The tool is available at https://www.census.gov/data/data-tools/bds-explorer.html. CHILDREN/FAMILIES Central Ohio government and health leaders described Wednesday the next phase of their work to keep more babies alive through their first birthdays, with a greater focus on the factors that have driven higher mortality rates among infants of color. Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther set the stage for the discussion at the Columbus Metropolitan Club, noting that the city's infant mortality rate has decreased from 8.4 to 6.7 per 1,000 births since 2014, but Black babies suffer a 3-1 disparity in death rates. Maureen Stapleton, executive director of CelebrateOne, which spearheads the city's response to the issue, said lowering the overall rate and eliminating the disparities have been priority goals since the organization was founded several years ago. CORONAVIRUS The federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced its full approval of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine Monday, potentially leading to an increase in vaccination rates and making it easier for schools and universities to implement vaccine mandates. The Pfizer vaccine, which will now be marketed as Comirnaty, is the first vaccine to receive full FDA approval for use against COVID-19. It first received emergency use authorization (EUA) in December 2020 and applied for full approval in May. The vaccine was fully approved for people 16 years of age and older, and remains available under EUA for those 12 to 15 years old. Gov. Mike DeWine, who has been vocal in pushing for full approval of the Pfizer vaccine, reacted to the news in a Tweet, writing "The @US_FDA granting full approval to Pfizer's #COVID19 vaccine for those 16+ is good news! With this strong endorsement, we hope to see many more Ohioans get vaccinated to protect themselves and others. #InThisTogetherOhio #GetTheShot" According to the Ohio Department of Health's (ODH) coronavirus cases in Ohio kept increasing over the week with on 5,395 COVID-19 cases reported in the last 24 hours on Thursday. That's the highest number of daily cases since Jan. 28, when the state reported 5,432. ODH also reported 182 hospitalizations and 15 intensive care unit (ICU) admissions in the last 24 hours, both of which were higher than their respective 21-day averages of 129 and 11. Ohio State University (OSU) President Kristina M. Johnson announced Tuesday the university will require every student, faculty and staff member to be vaccinated against COVID-19. Noting the resurgence of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations driven by the Delta variant, particularly among young people, Johnson wrote in an email to the OSU community that, "Ohio State will now require every student, faculty and staff member to be vaccinated against COVID-19. The university is taking this step because vaccines are the safest and most effective form of protection against COVID-19. We are focused on enhancing the health and safety of our community. This step will increase our ability to support our students in continuing their educational experiences as well as help protect our current and the state's future workforce." ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT The Ohio Tax Credit Authority Monday announced a total of eight Job Creation Tax Credits that are intended to spur 1,105 new jobs representing $57 million in new payroll and more than $281 million in total investment, while retaining another 912 jobs statewide. ECONOMY A survey of Ohio economists released by the public policy group Scioto Analysis shows that only five of the 24 respondents agree state spending cuts during the pandemic will lead to more economic growth in the state. They were asked if the "DeWine administration's decision in 2020 to cut spending rather than use 'Rainy Day' budget stabilization funds during the pandemic will lead to more economic growth for Ohio in the long run," with 16 economists disagreeing or strongly disagreeing while three were uncertain or had no opinion. EDUCATION The State Board of Education affirmed its leadership's recommendation Monday by appointing Stephanie Siddens, a longtime Ohio Department of Education (ODE) official, as the interim superintendent, but with some debate about the role of the board's strategic plan that showcased divisions among board members. Siddens is a 15-year veteran of ODE who serves as senior executive director of the Center for Student Supports. She now is in line to become interim superintendent once Superintendent Paolo DeMaria retires near the end of September, replacing Deputy Superintendent John Richard. The board had voted to name Richard interim superintendent, but he soon after announced plans to leave the department shortly after DeMaria does. Board President Laura Kohler said last week she and Vice President Charlotte McGuire intended to recommend Siddens. A 2018 trial court ruling that then-Attorney General Mike DeWine cited in launching a case against ECOT founder William Lager was partly affirmed on appeal, though the charter school officials implicated in the case are asking for Supreme Court review. In Sun Building Limited Partnership et al v. Value Learning & Teaching Academy et al, the Hamilton County Common Pleas Court found family members who ran and worked for a Cincinnati charter school must forfeit their wages because of improper interests in school operations. Valerie Lee founded and served as superintendent of Value Learning & Teaching Academy (VLT), while husband Clyde Lee was project manager and daughter Echole Harris held various other positions at the school. Meanwhile, CEED Inc., a janitorial and maintenance services firm with multiple contracts with the school, was owned by Clyde Lee. As the General Assembly's summer recess nears an end, educators from across Ohio joined together Tuesday evening to speak out against two bills pending in the Ohio Statehouse that would ban the teaching of "divisive concepts." HB322 (Jones) and HB327 (Grendell-Fowler Arthur) had their first hearings in June in the House State and Local Government Committee. Both bills would ban the teaching of certain "divisive concepts" dealing with race and sex in public schools, though HB327 is the broader of the two -- applying also to public higher education institutions, political subdivisions and state agencies. Rep. Don Jones (R-Freeport) said his proposal is necessary to combat "critical race theory" when he introduced the bill in May, and both bills have been referenced in many of the discussions on critical race theory over the summer. During the virtual "Speak Out for Honesty in Education" event hosted by Innovation Ohio and the Ohio Federation of Teachers (OFT), about 20 current and former educators expressed fears about how the bills would affect education in Ohio if they were passed. ELECTIONS 2021 The congressional campaign of Democrat Allison Russo released a letter Thursday sent to Republican Mike Carey's campaign that proposes four debates between the two candidates before November's 15th Congressional District election. The letter referenced a proposed upcoming debate hosted by Columbus television station WCMH that Russo has agreed to participate in and said the Russo campaign is ready to negotiate on three other debates as well. The following endorsements were made over the week:


  • Sen. Bob Peterson (R-Sabina) endorsed Mike Carey, his former primary opponent, for Congress.

  • The congressional campaign of Allison Russo announced the endorsement of U.S. Rep. Joyce Beatty (D-Columbus).

ELECTIONS 2022 Former Rep. John Adams, a Republican who served four terms in the Ohio House, has launched a campaign for secretary of state, setting up a primary with current Secretary of State Frank LaRose, who is running for re-election. Adams outlined his platform in interviews with Ohio media outlets, saying he has concerns with the legitimacy of the 2020 presidential election, and criticizing LaRose for supporting the postponement of last year's primary election. The Center for Christian Virtue (CCV) announced it will be hosting a forum with candidates for the U.S. Senate in October. The event, titled "American Leadership Forum: An evening with the Ohio candidates for U.S. Senate," will be held on Sunday, Oct. 24, at 7 p.m. at Genoa Church in Westerville. It will be moderated by talk show host and author Hugh Hewitt. CCV said the candidates will be asked where they stand on issues that "matter to pro-life, pro-family, and pro-freedom voters." The following endorsements were made over the week:

  • The Senate campaign of J.D. Vance announced the endorsement of former National Security Advisory Robert O'Brien and of former U.S. EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler.

EMPLOYMENT/UNEMPLOYMENT The Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS) said Friday that Ohio's unemployment rate was 5.4 percent in July, up from 5.2 percent in June. The number of nonagricultural wage and salary jobs rose by 19,200 over the month, from a revised 5,321,700 in June to 5,340,900 in July. ODJFS said the number of workers unemployed in July was 301,000, up from 291,000 in June. This number has decreased by 235,000 in the past 12 months, down from 536,000 in July 2020 when the unemployment rate was 9.3 percent. Ohio's unemployment rate for July 2021 matched the national rate, which decreased from 5.9 percent in June. ENERGY Two of the nation's top shale oil and gas producers Friday slammed PJM Interconnection's proposed exemption of certain energy "policy preferences" from its minimum offer price rule (MOPR) -- an actual-cost requirement which federal regulators ordered the 13-state body encompassing Ohio to expand to renewables and other subsidized generation during the Trump administration. Ohio and Pennsylvania have filed a joint "protest" with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) opposing PJM's July 30 proposal to exempt "legacy" generation policies from real-cost minimum pricing. Rather than referring to older forms of electric generation, the country's largest regional transmission organization (RTO) defines such policies as "any legislative, executive or regulatory action that specifically directs a payment outside of PJM markets [or competitive pricing] to a designated or prospective generation capacity resource, and the enactment of such action predates Oct. 1, 2021." FEDERAL The White House announced that it has reopened its public comment line. The number is 202-456-1111 and will be open for comment Tuesday through Thursday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. ET. In addition, the following website provides information about additional ways to contact the White House by mailing in comments or emailing them: https://www.whitehouse.gov/get-involved/write-or-call/. GENERAL ASSEMBLY/STATEHOUSE The House Health Committee Tuesday heard more than four hours of testimony and received testimony from more than 1,000 witnesses on both sides of legislation that would bar vaccine mandates by public and private entities as hundreds of supporters of the bill protested vaccine mandates outside of the Statehouse. What happens next with HB248 (Gross) is up to Republican leadership, Chairman Scott Lipps (R-Franklin) indicated, saying he hopes to be able to move forward with amendments to the bill when the House reconvenes next month. House Speaker Bob Cupp (R-Lima) had announced Monday that the bill would be paused after Tuesday's hearing as they discuss next steps. The bill has been controversial since its introduction, with proponents calling for personal freedom and the ability to make their own choices when it comes to taking the vaccine, while opponents said it will hamper the ability to respond and control infectious diseases, especially at a time when the Delta variant of COVID-19 has led to a spike in cases across the country, including in Ohio. GOVERNOR Amid news Thursday of an attack at the Kabul airport in Afghanistan that killed U.S. military servicemembers and many others during evacuation efforts there, Gov. Mike DeWine issued the following statement: "I have heard the very sad news coming out of Afghanistan today and want to express on behalf of all Ohioans our deepest sympathy to the service men and women and the families of the injured and those who have lost their lives. This is a terrible tragedy. … At a time when we first went into Afghanistan, it was used as the place in the world where terrorists could gather and find safe harbor. We made the decision to go in there right after 9-11. The fact that we are safe in the U.S. is a direct result of what they did. I want those families to understand that. We thank them and we thank the men and women who came home. What you did made a difference." GREAT LAKES The City Club of Cleveland held its annual "State of the Great Lakes" forum with a discussion on legal avenues for preserving bodies of water like the Great Lakes. The event featured Kelsey Leonard, a legal scholar and assistant professor in the School of Environment, Resources, and Sustainability at the University of Waterloo. Leonard, a member of the Shinnecock Indian Nation, discussed the possibility of extended "legal personhood" to bodies of water in order to preserve them. While the concept of legal personhood for water may seem radical to non-Native people, Leonard explained it is a core teaching for many Indigenous people who see water as a "living relation." Congress should create a "Great Lakes Authority" to help Midwestern states compete with entities like the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) and the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-Toledo) said Thursday. "I have been struck by how our region actually is missing from most of the federal ongoing economic development instrumentalities that have helped grow other regions of the country," Kaptur said during a presentation at the virtual Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative annual meeting. HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES An unseasonable increase in respiratory illnesses -- including rhinovirus, parainfluenza, RSV and COVID-19 -- are pushing Ohio children's hospitals toward a "perilous situation," Ohio Department of Health (ODH) Director Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff said Monday. Vanderhoff said during a Zoom press conference that, "The Ohio Children's Hospital Association has reported that they are seeing a wave of respiratory viruses and illnesses typically seen in winter, rather than summer." He said the increases in RSV and COVID-19 are particularly concerning, noting RSV can be extremely harmful for young children. Three of OhioHealth's 12 hospitals are once again suspending elective procedures as the coronavirus continues to spread across the state. "Due to the upward trend in COVID-19 hospitalizations throughout Ohio, some OhioHealth hospitals will temporarily pause elective surgeries that require an overnight stay to free up staff and hospital capacity. Due to the fluid nature of this fourth surge, we will continually monitor capacity and pause or resume elective surgeries with an overnight stay as needed," OhioHealth said. HIGHER EDUCATION The Ohio State University (OSU) Board of Trustees approved a raise and bonus for university president Kristina Johnson. Recounting her leadership in her first full year at Ohio State amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the board approved a three percent increase, or $27,000, of Johnson's base salary of $900,000. The increase is consistent with the pay raise framework in the university's Annual Merit Compensation Process for faculty and staff, OSU said. The president also received an award for "achieving and exceeding performance goals" set at 35 percent of her base salary, or $263,500, which the board said is for Johnson's "steadfast leadership throughout an unpredictable year." The award is pro-rated based on Johnson's start date. In addition to her base pay, Johnson also receives $200,000 for her university retirement account annually, $50,000 annually to support her research and education and an $85,000 annual allowance for other expenses such as an automobile or tax planning services. The U.S. Department of Education (USDOE) announced that the office of Federal Student Aid (FSA) has retroactively waived interest on loans held by more than 47,000 current and former active-duty service members. The department said the action was made possible by a data-matching agreement with the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) that substantially improves access to a student loan interest-waiver benefit for many service members with federal student loans. The Big 10 Conference said on Monday that it "has determined that if one of its member institutions is unable to play a conference contest due to COVID-19, that contest shall be declared a forfeit and will not be rescheduled. That contest shall be considered a loss for the team impacted by COVID-19 and a win for its opponent in the conference standings," the Big 10 continued. "If both of the two competing teams are unable to participate in a scheduled conference competition due to COVID-19 and as a result the competition is unable to occur on the calendar day on which it is scheduled, the competition shall be considered a 'no contest.'" The policy was effective immediately. Youngstown State University (YSU) received a $5 million donation to its "We See Tomorrow" fundraising campaign. The gift total matches the largest donation in YSU's 113-year history. The university said the new building housing the Excellence Training Center (ETC) on the YSU campus is being named in honor of Dr. Chander M. Kohli, a local neurosurgeon and former chair of the YSU Board of Trustees, and his wife, Karen, in recognition of their donation. JUDICIAL Effective Wednesday, Sept. 1, lawyers admitted to the bar in other states will be allowed to provide remote legal services to Ohio. Amendments to the Ohio Rules of Professional Conduct and Rules for the Government of the Bar of Ohio recognize that, due to technology, "an attorney can practice the law of his or her own state from anywhere." Municipalities across Ohio have a major stake in a federal class action complaint seeking millions of dollars in "video" franchise fees from Netflix, Hulu and other potential content providers that currently do not pay the service tariff imposed on cable and broadcast TV. The Ohio Municipal Leagues (OML) says they should -- affecting hundreds of budget-conscious cities and villages should the lawsuit prevail. The state and its 88 counties, however, also have a stake in Maple Heights v. Netflix, the nation's top streaming service and Hulu note. Netflix itself pays a sales tax of 5.75 percent to the state and between .75 -2.25 percent to various counties but would be exempted from those charges if it instead were required to pay up to 5 percent in franchise fees to local communities. LOCAL GOVERNMENT Three regions of the state including Central, Northeast and Southwest Ohio are due pay hikes for elected county officials, and some are wondering how the federal government's busted due date for census results -- which determine county salaries -- could affect their income not only in 2021 but also in 2020. Elected officials receive a pay increase -- or a pay cut, the County Commissioners Association of Ohio (CCAO) points out -- when a county's population changes under one of six compensation "classes" detailed in Ohio Revised Code Section 325. Affected offices include county commissioners, prosecutors, auditors, treasurers, sheriffs, engineers, coroners, court clerks and recorders. MARIJUANA/HEMP Attorney General Dave Yost Friday has certified the summary language for a proposed initiated statute that would legalize marijuana use in the state for all adults that is being proposed by the Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol (CRMLA). A previous iteration of the summary had been rejected by the AG's office which said it was not a "fair and truthful representation of the proposed statute." Now, the proposed statute heads to the Ohio Ballot Board which must determine whether the proposal contains a single law or multiple laws. If the ballot board certifies the petition, the petitioners must collect signatures from registered voters equal to at least 3 percent of the votes cast in the last gubernatorial election or at least 132,887 valid signatures. In addition, those signatures must come from voters in at least 44 of Ohio's 88 counties and, for each of those counties, the number must equal at least 1.5 percent of the votes cast in the last gubernatorial election. MEDICAID/MEDICAID REFORM Citing the effects of the lingering COVID pandemic, the Ohio Department of Medicaid (ODM) said Wednesday its restructured managed care program will start July 1, 2022 rather than January. The earlier goal "did not anticipate the persistence of COVID-19 and its impact on individuals served by the program and their providers," the agency said. ODM Director Maureen Corcoran explained that, "A July 2022 go-live gives us time to support and inform our members about the new program, to work with community leaders, and respond to the feedback received from the plans and providers." Ohio will have seven managed care plans for Medicaid beneficiaries under the new structure, as well as a specialty plan for children with complex needs, OhioRISE. The administration also selected a single pharmacy benefit manager (PBM) for all of Medicaid, and other specialized vendors to provide additional oversight on drug pricing and handle provider credentialing, for example. MENTAL HEALTH A new study comparing adolescent suicide rates with the availability of mental health services has found that more resources may contribute to fewer suicides, but don't appear to have any role in reducing suicides involving firearms. The findings support efforts to bolster mental health services by increasing providers and reducing wait times where services already exist as well as highlight the need to continue to focus on stricter gun laws, said senior researcher Thomas Wickizer, a professor emeritus at Ohio State's College of Public Health. MILITARY AFFAIRS Gov. Mike DeWine and Ohio U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D) both applauded the U.S. Air Force's announcement Wednesday that the Mansfield Air National Guard Base, home of the 179th Airlift Wing, has been selected as the preferred site for the Air National Guard's first Cyber Warfare Wing. Both noted this new mission will bring more jobs into the community as well as spur more economic growth and create new opportunities for industry and academic growth. Brown did note that, "As a result of the new cyber mission, the Air Force will divest the eight C-130Hs flown at Mansfield." NATURAL RESOURCES The Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) and the Girl Scouts of the USA (GSUSA) are inviting children to connect with nature during the third annual Girl Scouts Love State Parks weekend. Events will be held across the country and at Ohio State Parks on Saturday, Sept. 11 and Sunday, Sept. 12, according to ODNR. The Lake Erie Water Trail in Cuyahoga County is the 16th to be designated as a state water trail, according to ODNR. The 20-plus mile water trail along Lake Erie runs from Huntington Beach on the western edge of Cuyahoga County to Sims Park on the eastern edge of Cuyahoga County, ODNR said. Ohioans contributed more than $750,000 in 2021 to the conservation of state nature preserves and endangered wildlife through the annual income tax checkoff program, according to ODNR. The donations collected go directly to programs that protect Ohio's wildlife and natural areas, ODNR. The ODNR Division of Natural Areas and Preserves is inviting the public to explore Big Darby Creek State and National Scenic River at McKitrick Park in Plain City on Saturday, Aug. 28 from 9 a.m. to noon. During this free drop-in program, attendees will be able to search for stream life and learn how the Ohio Scenic Rivers Program works with community volunteers to determine stream health based on animals found in the water. The Plain City Department of Parks and Recreation will provide a coloring station for kids and small nets for field and river adventures, ODNR said. The ODNR Division of Forestry is inviting the public to attend its annual open house to learn about management plans for Ohio's state forests. The open house is scheduled for Wednesday, Sept. 1 at 6 p.m. and will be held virtually, ODNR said. Ohio's habitat mosaic of farm fields, woodlots and wetlands provides excellent opportunities to hunt mourning doves, squirrels and waterfowl when hunting seasons begin during the first week of September, according to ODNR. The hunting seasons that open on Wednesday, Sept. 1 include squirrel (fox, gray and red), mourning dove, rail, snipe and gallinule. Canada geese and teal (blue-winged, green-winged and cinnamon) may be hunted during the early waterfowl season beginning Saturday, Sept. 4, ODNR said. NONPROFIT ORGANIZATIONS According to "Vision Problems in Ohio 2020," an estimated 3.78 million Ohioans have vision problems and as the population ages, this number will only increase, Prevent Blindness Ohio said. The group said preventive steps include increased vision research as it announced its 2021 fellowship grants to the following:

  • Alyssa Hubai from Case Western Reserve University is studying ways to improve the treatment for ocular toxoplasimosis, a leading cause of eye inflammation worldwide that can lead to poor visual outcomes.

  • Rebecca Deffler from the Ohio State University College of Optometry who is studying ways to improve the driving of individuals using bioptic telescopes.

  • Megan Allyn from Ohio State University who is studying treatment for age-related macular degeneration.

PENSIONS Retirees in the Ohio Public Employees Retirement System who aren't yet of Medicare age will need to opt in during an upcoming open enrollment period in order to receive monthly payments for purchasing health coverage, as the termination of the OPERS group health care plan looms at year's end. The OPERS Board of Trustees voted in early 2020 to end the group plan effective in 2022, switching to a model where it will instead provide monthly subsidies for pre-Medicare retirees to buy coverage on the open market. This health reimbursement arrangement (HRA) will be administered by Via Benefits, a vendor OPERS chose to serve as the OPERS Pre-Medicare Connector to help move retirees into new plans and manage the reimbursement payments. Open enrollment runs Nov. 1 to Dec. 15. During this time, pre-Medicare retirees will have to opt in to the HRA with Via Benefits in order to begin receiving subsidy payments. PEOPLE The Ohio Children's Hospital Association (OCHA) Wednesday announced that it has promoted Sarah Kincaid to the newly created position of vice president from her previous role as director of policy and advocacy. Kincaid joined OCHA in 2017 and has nearly 15 years of experience in the policy and political arenas. POLITICS The Ohio Democratic Party (ODP) announced Tuesday that it has sold its former headquarters located on East Fulton Street in Columbus to Fairfield Homes, a property management company and housing developer. Former ODP Chairman David Pepper had announced the plan to sell the 13,000 square-foot building located at 340 E. Fulton St. in January 2020, telling Hannah News that the building was being sold to Borror, an urban development company. A spokesman for ODP said Tuesday that the Borror sale fell through because of the pandemic. REDISTRICTING/REAPPORTIONMENT Members of the Ohio Redistricting Commission Friday unveiled a new website which they said was designed for "transparency and easy access." It includes a way for the public to submit written testimony as well as their own maps and a portal to watch commission meetings. Also available is a link to the census data being used as the basis for redrawing the district boundaries. The website can be found at www.redistricting.ohio.gov/. The Ohio Redistricting Commission Monday kicked off a whirlwind week of public hearings across the state with meetings in Cleveland and Youngstown, followed by Dayton and Cincinnati on Tuesday, Zanesville and Rio Grande on Wednesday and Lima and Toledo on Thursday. They wrap up in Akron and Mansfield on Friday. Some hearings saw overflow crowds which Rio Grande only had six witnesses. Many complained about the lack of fairness in current maps for both the General Assembly and Congress, offering up local examples. The Ohio Redistricting Commission failed to adopt its rules as planned on Thursday, with the co-chairs, Sen. Vern Sykes (D-Akron) and Speaker of the House Bob Cupp (R-Lima) saying they were still working on them. Fair Districts Ohio launched its district map drawing competition Friday, with League of Women Voters (LWV) of Ohio Executive Director Jen Miller saying the group is "bringing people power to the redistricting process." Submissions will be due at midnight on Monday, Sept. 6 for state legislative maps and at midnight on Wednesday, Sept. 15 for congressional maps. There are no age or residency requirements with Catherine Turcer noting the 2011 state competition was won by an Illinois state legislator. The Ohio Citizens Redistricting Commission (OCRC), a group made up of academics, political party officials, community officials, and others across the state, Wednesday released proposed new district maps for the General Assembly that the group said is based on input it solicited from Ohioans around the state. The group has been holding events around the state to solicit opinions on the redistricting process over the last four months. Jeneice Brock, vice chair of OCRC, said the group received 2,000 maps. SECRETARY OF STATE Ohio had 15,320 new businesses file paperwork with the secretary of state's office in July, according to Secretary of State Frank LaRose. According to the secretary of state's office, 126,665 new businesses have been created in the first seven months of 2021, a 32 percent increase from the same timeframe in 2020, when there were 95,671 new filings. TRANSPORTATION/INFRASTRUCTURE Members of DriveOhio's Advisory Board Wednesday weighed in on where Ohio stands with smart mobility and where it should be going in the next 15 years. The board meeting held virtually included remarks from Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) Director Jack Marchbanks and Joshua Eck, chief of staff for Lt. Gov. Jon Husted, who reaffirmed their commitment to the work of DriveOhio, a state initiative working to improve smart mobility. Eck said the message for Ohio shouldn't be just that the state builds cars, but that it is constantly innovating. As the automobile industry changes, Ohio will go with it. The Transportation Review Advisory Council (TRAC) approved a draft of its annual funding list this week, outlining transportation projects set to receive funding over the next four years, including more than $292 million in new funding commitments. The Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) said it will be taking public comment on the list until Friday, Sept. 17. TRAC is scheduled to vote on the final list at its Wednesday, Sept. 22 meeting. UNEMPLOYMENT COMPENSATION The recent appellate court ruling on supplemental unemployment benefits raises key constitutional questions about the governor's and lawmakers' authority, Attorney General Dave Yost said Thursday in filing an appeal with the Ohio Supreme Court. The 10th District Court of Appeals ordered Tuesday that Franklin County Common Pleas Judge Michael Holbrook reconsider his decision not to order resumption of supplemental benefits of $300 per week under the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) program. A panel of judges ruled 2-1 that Holbrook abused his discretion in finding the litigants had no likelihood of success on the merits of their case. For the week ending Aug. 21, the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS) reported 8,182 initial traditional unemployment claims to the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL). That number is lower than last week, when the department reported 9,684 traditional jobless claims. Ohioans filed 136,163 continued traditional unemployment claims last week, which was 6,587 fewer than the previous week. In other developments, Ohio Office of Budget and Management (OBM) Director Kim Murnieks told Hannah News on Thursday that the DeWine administration will soon officially pay off the approximately $1.47 billion the state has borrowed from the federal government to cover unemployment compensation costs during the pandemic. The state is using a large chunk of its American Rescue Plan (ARP) funding to pay off the loan, as required by HB168 (Fraizer). "We are working with ODJFS to do that over the next couple weeks. We will be initiating that payment on Aug. 31, in accordance with HB168, and it will be paid to the feds sometime in the first week of September," Murnieks said.

[Story originally published in The Hannah Report. Copyright 2021 Hannah News Service, Inc.]


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