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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The Ohio Department of Agriculture (ODAg) will sponsor three pesticide collection events for farmers next month. The collections will occur in Fayette County on Tuesday, Aug. 18; Hancock County on Wednesday, Aug. 19; and Lake County on Tuesday, Aug. 24, the department announced.
The Ohio Department of Agriculture (ODAg) has been notified that several Ohio residents have received in the mail unsolicited packages containing seeds that appear to have originated from China. The types of seeds in the packages are currently unknown and may contain invasive plant species, the department said in a news release, noting that similar seed packets have been received recently in several other locations across the U.S. The state is now asking individuals to send the seed packets to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) in addition to reporting them to the state and federal agencies.
In lieu of the cancelled 2020 Ohio State Fair, the Ohio Expositions Commission is providing an "Ohio State Fair Anywhere: An Online Experience" digital collection now through Sunday, Aug. 9. The Ohio Channel will provide daily rebroadcasts of past fair coverage at noon on WVIZ/PBS Ideastream in Akron/Cleveland, WOUB in Athens, WCET in Cincinnati, WOSU in Columbus, WPTD/Think TV in Dayton and WGTE in Toledo.
The Ohio Quarter Horse Association announced Monday that the 2020 All-American Quarter Horse Congress, scheduled for Sept. 29-Oct. 5 at the Ohio State Fairgrounds, has been cancelled. The association said that the uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic "simply prevents safely moving forward in Columbus, OH. The wellbeing of our workers, exhibitors and attendees is our highest priority, and based on the information we have today, the risk is simply too great. Thank you for understanding this difficult decision."
Ohioans will be able to show off their butter cow sculpting skills in 2020 after all. The American Dairy Association (ADA) Mideast announced it will hold a "#BuildYourButterCowCompetition" this year on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.
Children in Ohio's Appalachian region have long faced barriers to quality education and health care, but the pandemic has exacerbated these barriers and federal intervention is needed in the area, according to advocates who spoke at a press conference hosted by the Children's Defense Fund of Ohio (CDF-Ohio). On Tuesday, CDF-Ohio released "Children and Families in Ohio's Appalachian Region: 2020 Data and Issue Brief," a new report meant to provide a snapshot of issues facing Ohio's 32 Appalachian counties. The report examines indicators of child wellness in the areas of economic well-being, health, education, and families and communities. Though the report uses data from before the pandemic, CDF-Ohio Executive Director Tracy Najera pointed out the pandemic has only amplified disparities in the region.
A planning group for improving children's behavioral health care got an overview Wednesday of how its work overlaps and aligns with ongoing efforts of the DeWine administration. The Children's Behavioral Health Prevention Network Stakeholder Advisory Group, created via the signing of HB12 (D. Manning-West), met virtually Wednesday. The group brings together state officials and representatives of health and education organizations to plan for "a comprehensive learning network to support young children and their families in facilitating social, emotional and behavioral development and to seek to reduce behavioral health disparities among young children."
Child care centers face an existential threat without continued government support during the pandemic, provider representatives told U.S. Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) during a call Wednesday. They are seeking a $50 billion federal aid package that would provide $1.67 billion to Ohio centers and offer around nine months of stopgap funding. Groundwork Ohio Executive Director Shannon Jones hosted the discussion and was joined by Patti Gleason, Carol Haynes and Katie Kelly, leaders of child care centers in Cincinnati, Columbus and Cleveland respectively.
The Columbus Metropolitan Club (CMC) Wednesday continued an ongoing discussion of race and systemic bias with a forum focused on judicial reforms. Usually, criminal justice and judicial reforms are discussed by focusing on prosecutors, but Wednesday's forum hosted panelists 10th District Court of Appeals Judge Laurel Beatty Blunt and Diane Menashe, partner and director of Litigation Training and Pro Bono Activities at Ice Miller LLP. Carter Stewart, former U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Ohio, moderated the event.
The Ohio Civil Rights Commission announced that the 2020 Ohio Civil Rights Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony scheduled for October has been cancelled. The commission cited the "ongoing dangers posed by COVID-19," in its cancellation.
Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction (DRC) Director Annette Chambers-Smith is among the 934 agency employees having tested positive for COVID-19. The DeWine appointee announced that a test administered Friday after she began to feel poorly came back positive on Monday.
Gov. Mike DeWine announced Friday that $5.83 million in Coronavirus Emergency Supplemental Funding (CESF) grants will be provided to 114 local law enforcement agencies, courts and service providers for pandemic-related costs. CESF grants totaling $2.1 million were awarded earlier in the month as well.
Child care centers can return to pre-pandemic child-to-staff ratios and class sizes starting Sunday, Aug. 9, Gov. Mike DeWine said, although providers will have the choice to maintain lower pandemic ratios and continue to receive state subsidies. DeWine also said Tuesday all county and independent fairs from Friday, July 31 onward are limited to junior fair activities and spectator-free harness racing, an order spurred by cases traced back to fairs and an apparent lack of compliance with health precautions at some events.
A national study by the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) found that 86 percent of Ohioans who died due to COVID-19 in the week ending July 11 were 65 years or older, slightly above the national rate of 80 percent. A further breakdown by KFF showed that Ohioans 85 years and over represented 37 percent of deaths, those 75-84 represented 29 percent, those 65-74 represented 20 percent, those 55-64 years old represented 10 percent and those under 55 represented four percent of deaths.
At the low point of her bout with COVID-19, Rep. Stephanie Howse (D-Cleveland) was too tired for, well, everything. “It was literally two days where I couldn't do anything. I just drank some water and took a vitamin and that was it," she told Hannah News in a phone interview. Howse announced at the beginning of July that she'd tested positive for the virus. She said her isolation period ended Tuesday, July 21.
The Ohio Department of Health (ODH) said Wednesday that Ohio hospitals have the highest number of hospitalizations for COVID-19 since the pandemic began on March 9, with 1,122 COVID-19 patients. Of those, according to the Ohio Hospital Association, 348 are in ICUs and 174 on ventilators. "The previous high was in late April when the state saw 1,103 COVID-positive patients," the department noted in a release.
The Ohio Board of Pharmacy said Wednesday that hydroxychloroquine could no longer be used to treat COVID-19, but reversed itself a day later at the request of Gov. Mike DeWine, who said he agreed with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration commissioner’s statement that such decisions should be between doctor and patient, and argued the board hadn’t provided ample time for public input and review.
ProMedica announced Tuesday that it had obtained "promising results" in a study evaluating the use of stem cells in treatment of adult COVID-19 patients, after eight patients took part in a study under Emergency Investigational New Drug approval by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
Ohio Auditor of State Keith Faber announced Tuesday that his office will take part in a multi-state, bipartisan project to examine COVID-19 case numbers. The project uses a national Data Quality Audit template designed in part by Faber's office to "create a consistent and shared COVID-19 national data reporting and monitoring system."
Gov. Mike DeWine called Thursday for emergency liquor regulations that would cut off alcohol sales at 10 p.m. and consumption at 11 p.m. as a way to slow the spread of COVID-19. DeWine said most bar owners "are doing a phenomenal job" following health regulations and recommendations, but the venues have "an inherent problem" in the way they bring groups of people into contact with one another. Announcing the latest updates to Ohio's health alert system, DeWine said the county-level ratings showed good and bad news, with a reduction in the number of red counties but more counties moving from the lowest yellow tier to orange. The daily report on new cases, which Thursday increased by 1,733, "is certainly not good news," the governor said, noting it was the highest increase on record. Nine of the 10 highest day-to-day increases have been reported in the past three weeks, he said.
With the 2020-21 school year approaching, the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) released a report stating that even though children under 18 are less likely to become ill from COVID-19, they can still carry the disease asymptomatically and transmit it to others. KFF concludes that, "the risk of re-opening schools needs to be considered carefully in light of the recognized benefits of in-person education." This risk is higher in areas with higher recorded incidence of community spread.
CRIME AND PUNISHMENT
Ohio's Human Trafficking Task Force, the Ohio Department of Youth Services and the Public Children Services Association of Ohio (PCSAO) launched a series of webinars on the issue of human trafficking Wednesday, with the first session focused on state and federal laws.
A man twice sentenced to die in the last quarter century has been removed from the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction's (DRC) Death House schedule after the Supreme Court of Ohio stayed James Goff's September 2020 execution Wednesday to give him more time to exhaust post-conviction appeals.
Sunday marked the 30th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), signed into law by President George H.W. Bush. While the law prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities in several areas, including employment, transportation, public accommodations, communications and access to state and local government' programs and services, data from the Census Bureau's 2018 American Community Survey shows Ohioans with disabilities are still more likely to be unemployed and living in poverty than those without a disability. Of Ohio's total noninstitutionalized population, about 25 percent of those with a disability were employed, while about 72 percent were not in the labor force.
Gov. Mike DeWine's administration announced Monday the approval of assistance for 15 projects expected to create 1,653 new jobs and retain 1,676 jobs statewide. During its monthly meeting, the Ohio Tax Credit Authority (TCA) reviewed economic development proposals brought by JobsOhio and its regional partners. The projects are expected to collectively result in more than $99 million in new payroll and spur more than $304 million in investments across Ohio.
Leadership of Columbus City Schools announced Tuesday all students will be taught remotely at least for the first quarter of the academic year. Meanwhile, teachers unions are urging virtual school starts and expressing support for strikes as a "last resort" safety measure. While Columbus Superintendent Talisa Dixon initially recommended putting students in classrooms two days per week, "public health conditions have drastically worsened in Franklin County," the district said in announcing the decision.
As state and local officials prepare for a new school year, parents with children who normally attend school overwhelmingly prefer that schools wait to restart in-person classes to reduce infection risk (60 percent) rather than open sooner so parents can work and students can return to the classroom (34 percent), a new poll released recently by the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) finds. Parents of color (76 percent) are even more likely than White parents (51 percent) to prefer that schools wait to return to in-person classes. The poll also finds a large partisan divide, with 87 percent of Democrats and 59 percent of independents preferring schools open later while 60 percent of Republicans prefer that schools open sooner.
While Ohio High School Athletic Association (OHSAA) Interim Executive Director Bob Goldring said the organization is "on track" to allow practices for contact sports to begin on Saturday, Aug. 1, school vs. school scrimmages are suspended indefinitely. In a memo to school superintendents, principals and athletic administrators, Goldring said OHSAA is still waiting on further guidance from the governor's office and the Ohio Department of Health (ODH) on when school vs. school competition can begin for the contact sports of football, soccer, field hockey and cross country.
Ohio State University Department of Mathematics is offering a free virtual summer camp to take place Monday, Aug. 3 through Friday, Aug. 7. The summer camp, called "Open Beyond the Classroom" (BTC), is a non-residential, self-paced, summer program open to students of all ages. Registration opened Monday, July 27. Email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit https://math.osu.edu/btc-gem for more information.
Rep. Gayle Manning (R-North Ridgeville) and Rep. Jessica Miranda (D-Cincinnati) Monday announced a bipartisan bill that would adjust Ohio campaign finance reporting requirements in response to the 2010 U.S. Supreme Court decision Citizens United vs. FEC. HB737 (Manning-Miranda) is similar to a bill that had originally been introduced by Lt. Gov. Jon Husted when he was in the Ohio Senate as 128-SB240. It would require corporations and labor organizations to report independent expenditures made in support or opposition to candidates in an election. 128-SB240 was passed by the Senate but was not passed by the House.
Voters in 13 counties will be asked to weigh in on local and school issues during the Tuesday, Aug. 4, 2020 special election. The election also will give counties a chance to roll out protections against COVID-19 ahead of November. Secretary of State Frank LaRose's office said it has been working specifically with the counties that have issues on the special election ballot to ensure they are prepared and are implementing safeguards for the special election.
Less than 100 days before the General Election, a new poll finds President Donald Trump and presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden in a virtual tie in Ohio. The poll was conducted by CBS News and YouGov, and surveyed 1,227 registered voters in Ohio between Tuesday, July 21, and Friday, July 24. It found Trump leading Biden 46 percent to 45 percent, within the margin of error of plus or minus 3.6 percentage points.
The Commission on Presidential Debates Monday announced that Cleveland will host the first debate between President Donald Trump and presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden on Tuesday, Sept. 29, after the University of Notre Dame withdrew as the host. The debate will be co-hosted by Case Western Reserve University and Cleveland Clinic and held at the Health Education Campus in Cleveland. The debate will be 90 minutes long and go from 9-10:30 p.m. EST.
A new poll released by Morning Consult Political Intelligence of battleground states shows President Donald Trump leading presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden by 3 percentage points. Trump won Ohio in 2016 over Hillary Clinton by 8.1 percentage points, but a 10-day moving average of surveys conducted by the pollster from Friday, July 17 to Sunday, July 26, of 1,741 likely Ohio voters shows Trump leading Biden 48 percent to 45 percent.
Free Ohio Now announced it will be holding rallies around Ohio on Saturday, Aug. 1, to advocate for in-person voting in November. Events are currently scheduled to begin at 11 a.m. in Butler, Cuyahoga, Geauga, Hamilton, Huron, Lake, Preble, and Trumbull counties, and the group said more are being planned.
After another episode where the president claimed the established practice of early mail-in voting poses substantial fraud risks, Gov. Mike DeWine stated his confidence in Ohio's election system and Secretary of State Frank LaRose rebutted the president's suggestion the election be moved.
Ohio Green Party (OGP) leaders discussed their effort to seek restored minor party status in a livestreamed press conference Thursday, saying they remain hopeful a court ruling will ensure presidential candidate Howie Hawkins is included on the November ballot. The OGP had been working to gather petition signatures before the pandemic, co-chair Nathan Lane said, but had to suspend those efforts out of concern for the safety of petitioners and the general public. The stay-at-home orders "were the final blow" to their efforts as they made signature collection unsafe and impractical due to the lack of large public gatherings and general inability to go door-to-door.
The campaign of presumed Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden announced Thursday it will begin airing its first network TV advertisements in Ohio as part of a strategy to expand into more battleground states. The new "Made in America" ad will broadcast across several battleground states and is meant to emphasize Biden's "Build Back Better" economic agenda. Another ad, "Backbone," meant to appeal to working class families, will begin airing in the Youngstown and Toledo markets.
The following endorsements were made over the week:
The Human Rights Campaign endorsed Kate Schroder for the Ohio's First Congressional District.
For the week ending July 25, the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS) reported 27,937 initial unemployment claims to the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL). This is the first time the state has reported fewer than 30,000 weekly jobless claims since Ohio's COVID-19 pandemic restrictions were put in place.
A new lead service line replacement program would be established under legislation introduced by Reps. Dave Greenspan (R-Westlake) and Allison Russo (D-Columbus). "We need to set up the best possible process in order to protect individuals and their families from the dangers of lead within our drinking water. I am proud to introduce this bill for the safety of Ohio's drinking water delivery systems," Greenspan said in announcing the introduction of HB730.
U.S. Sens. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Rob Portman (R-OH) both issued releases on Thursday's Senate passage of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which is now headed to conference committee. The two previously highlighted Ohio-specific provisions in the bill as well. Brown said he would continue "fighting for Ohio priorities" but noted he'd opposed the Senate version of the bill due to "a dangerous GOP provision that would allow President [Donald] Trump to shorten the amount of time to conduct a nuclear test."
U.S. Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) said Tuesday that Senate Republicans' $1 trillion stimulus proposal would include measures to provide more flexibility to cities and localities in spending existing COVID-19 stimulus dollars from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's (R-KY) Health, Economic Assistance, Liability protection, and Schools (HEALS) Act introduced Monday is the Senate's answer to the $3.5 trillion Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions (HEROES) Act passed in the House, with Portman characterizing the HEALS Act as a "starting point for negotiations" for the next federal relief package.
A federal law enforcement initiative known as "Operation Legend" will be expanded to include the city of Cleveland, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) announced Wednesday. "Operation Legend is a sustained, systematic and coordinated law enforcement initiative in which federal law enforcement agencies work in conjunction with state and local law enforcement officials to fight violent crime. The operation was first launched on July 8 in Kansas City, MO and expanded on July 22 to Chicago, IL and Albuquerque, NM," the DOJ said in a news release.
U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) introduced Wednesday a bill to bolster the Strategic National Stockpile with additional personal protective equipment (PPE) and other supplies necessary for the country to weather a pandemic, a move he said would restore the United States' status as a world leader in public health. His bill, the Protecting American Heroes Act, would mandate a greater stash of supplies and require all supplies stockpiled to be manufactured in the United States in order to additionally strengthen domestic supply chains.
House Republicans voted Thursday to remove House Speaker Larry Householder (R-Glenford) from his leadership position and elect Rep. Bob Cupp (R-Lima) as his replacement. Several candidates had emerged in the race to succeed Householder, who’s been charged along with four others in a bribery conspiracy related to his ascension to leadership and the passage of HB6, and was indicted by a federal grand jury Thursday as well, as were co-defendants Matt Borges, Juan Cespedes, Neil Clark and Jeff Longstreth. Other contenders included Speaker Pro Tem Jim Butler (R-Dayton) and Reps. Rick Carfagna (R-Columbus), Craig Riedel (R-Defiance) and Tim Ginter (R-Salem). House Republicans had met at a Columbus hotel Tuesday for a caucus meeting at which they voted informally to remove Householder. Ahead of that vote, Attorney General Dave Yost had sent House Republicans a letter outlining their options for removing Householder under state law and the Ohio Constitution. Wednesday night, Carfagna, Ginter and Riedel withdrew and threw their support to Cupp, making it a two-person race. After voting unanimously to remove Householder, the House took a break for Republicans to try to agree on a leader, and they emerged hours later after a reportedly close caucus vote with Cupp the victor. The vote for Cupp on the floor was sufficient to elect him but was not unanimous. All House Democrats voted against his candidacy, as did Reps. Tom Brinkman (R-Cincinnati), Bill Dean (R-Xenia) and Candice Keller (R-Middletown). Cupp said one of the first priorities of the House under his speakership will be to take a new look at HB6, though he did not set a timetable as to when that will happen. A former state senator and Ohio Supreme Court justice, Cupp said he never intended to seek a leadership position when he returned to the Legislature, and instead wanted to focus on public policy like school finance reform. After Householder was arrested, Cupp said several other legislators approached him and asked if he would be willing to step in. Democrats proposed but Republicans tabled a motion to expel Householder as a House member as well. Cupp noted double-jeopardy protections that prevent a person from being expelled twice for the same reason, which is relevant because Householder is unopposed on the ballot and could be re-elected despite the charges against him.
Rep. Jamie Callender (R-Concord) -- who co-sponsored HB6 along with Rep. Shane Wilkin (R-Hillsboro) -- issued a statement Monday saying the alleged actions in support of the bill by House Speaker Larry Householder (R-Glenford) "crossed the line and [he] should resign immediately." Callender said that he had known Householder "strongly supported" HB6 but did not know until reading the charging document "all of the actions and behind-the-scenes maneuvers that [Householder] and his political advisors used to support it."
In a letter to the House Republican caucus Sunday, Rep. Stephen Hambley (R-Brunswick) called for all in leadership positions -- including committee chair and vice chair roles -- to commit to stepping down upon the election of a new speaker. Hambley's letter included an announcement of his intent to step down as chair of the House Civil Justice Committee.
Appointments made during the week include the following:
Lorrie L. Platt of Cincinnati (Hamilton County) to the Ohio University Board of Trustees for a term beginning July 27, 2020 and ending May 13, 2029.
Ellen M. Gill-Franks of Fleming (Washington County) as the student member on the Ohio University Board of Trustees for a term beginning July 27, 2020 and ending May 13, 2022.
Dylan P. Mace of North Ridgeville (Lorain County) as the student member on the Kent State University Board of Trustees for a term beginning July 27, 2020 and ending May 16, 2022.
Anthony J. Gennings of Amelia (Clermont County) as the student member on the University of Toledo Board of Trustees for a term beginning July 27, 2020 and ending July 1, 2022.
Eli R. Cole of West Portsmouth (Scioto County) as the student member on the Shawnee State University Board of Trustees for a term beginning July 27, 2020 and ending June 30, 2022.
Arlindo Ahmetaj of Fairview Park (Cuyahoga County) as the student member on the Cleveland State University Board of Trustees for a term beginning July 27, 2020 and ending May 1, 2022.
Michael R. Young of Caldwell (Noble County) reappointed to the Zane State College Board of Trustees for a term beginning Aug. 1, 2020 and ending July 31, 2023.
Maninder Kalra of Mason (Warren County) reappointed to the Sinclair Community College Board of Trustees for a term beginning July 10, 2020 and ending July 9, 2025.
Staci L. Morris of Centerville (Warren County) to the Chemical Dependency Professionals Board for a term beginning July 27, 2020 and ending Dec. 23, 2021.
Amanda E. Crates of Dunkirk (Hancock County) to the Board of Embalmers and Funeral Directors for a term beginning July 27, 2020 and ending June 30, 2023.
Frank C. Woodside III of Wyoming (Hamilton County) to the Real Estate Appraiser Board for a term beginning July 27, 2020 and ending June 30, 2022.
Lynn M. Blashford of Westerville (Franklin County) to the TourismOhio Advisory Board for a term beginning July 27, 2020 and ending Sept. 27, 2022.
Eric Vendel of Plain City (Madison County) to the Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission for a term beginning July 27, 2020 and continuing at the pleasure of the governor.
Dyane Gogan Turner of Westerville (Franklin County) to the Early Childhood Advisory Council for a term beginning July 27, 2020 and continuing at the pleasure of the governor.
Angela L. Snyder of Columbus (Franklin County) to the Ohio Private Investigation and Security Services Commission for a term beginning July 27, 2020 and ending Dec. 31, 2020.
Two of Lake Erie's major ports in Ohio experienced uneven outcomes in the month of June as the industry continues to struggle with the fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the Chamber of Marine Commerce. "U.S. Great Lakes ports reported mixed results in June with strong shipments of aluminum, road salt and grain, but continuing decreases in commodities related to steel production and manufacturing," the organization said.
HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES
Gov. Mike DeWine's Children Services Transformation Advisory Council met virtually Monday in a series of four workgroups. DeWine created the advisory council in November of last year and charged members to recommend ways to better the state's children services system. Members of the council include a wide range of families, youth, and subject matter experts from across the state. Kari Akins, policy manager in the Office of Children Services Transformation at Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS), and Hannah Thomas of LeanOhio led the workgroups, which focused on three priority areas: the lack of guidance and support for foster parents; the inconsistency of youth care at local levels; and the lack of consistency across the state, especially in regard to times of transition like reunification, aging out and adoption.
Allocation of the $200 million in federal CARES Act funds to help higher education institutions with reopening expenses is expected to begin this month, according to information from the Office of Budget and Management (OBM) and Ohio Department of Higher Education (ODHE). Further information provided by ODHE lists allocation amounts for specific institutions, including $127.26 million to public universities, $51.88 million to private nonprofits, $18.14 million to community colleges, $1.94 million to proprietary
institutions and $781,099 to career centers.
Miami University announced Monday it is beginning the fall semester with remote/online classes only for its undergraduate students until at least the end of September. The university said classes will begin as scheduled Monday, Aug. 17 for all students, but will begin with all undergraduate classes on the Oxford campus being held online until at least Monday, Sept. 21. Undergraduate classes on Miami's regional campuses will also begin remotely on Aug. 17.
Central State University's (CSU) new leader, President Jack Thomas, recently outlined his goals for the university in an open letter to the CSU community. Thomas accepted the role of the institution's ninth president in February, but only officially took office earlier this month on Wednesday, July 1, in the midst of the pandemic.
Home sales in June almost matched levels seen a year earlier, but activity for the first half of 2020 is nearly 6 percent below the same period in 2019, according to Ohio Realtors. June sales of 15,028 mark a 1.2 percent decline from the 15,206 sales seen a year earlier. First half sales totals of 68,427 compare to 72,628 seen from January to June of 2019.
Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, a record number of Ohioans have lost their jobs. For a number of them that has resulted in loss of their health insurance, while other Ohioans that were uninsured may now want to sign up for health insurance. Ohio Department of Insurance (ODI) Director Jillian Froment recently outlined several options for Ohioans looking to secure coverage.
Gov. Mike DeWine Friday announced the appointment of Kristy S. Wilkin to the 4th District Court of Appeals. Wilkin, of Hillsboro and wife of Rep. Shane Wilkin (R-Hillsboro), will assume office on Monday, Aug. 3 and must run for election on Tuesday, Nov. 3 for the remainder of the unexpired term ending Feb. 8, 2023. She is replacing Judge Matthew W. McFarland, who was appointed by President Trump as judge of the U.S District Court for the Southern District of Ohio.
The Ohio Supreme Court has issued $725,088 in civil justice grants for 19 courts and court-related associations to help low-income, underserved and disadvantaged Ohioans who need legal assistance. The Civil Justice Program Fund seeks to provide direct civil legal assistance and increased access to assistance for Ohioans' civil legal needs, such as housing, health care and economic security, among other areas.
The Ohio Supreme Court is predicting a historic surge in eviction filings as the nearly one-third of all Ohioans living in rented housing -- 3.5 million men, women and children -- face uncertain prospects for the economy and public health. With Ohio among only five states lacking an eviction freeze, the Supreme Court is urging tenants and landlords to prepare for the difficult legal process of removing people from their homes. The Court's newly released Evictions: Report and Recommendations says the "imminent loss of federal support" for tenants challenged by COVID-19 promises to make the annual third-quarter spike even worse.
Hamilton County Republican Party favorite Karen Falter will be defending more than her political future when she goes before the Ohio Supreme Court to answer a special commission finding that the domestic relations magistrate showed "reckless disregard" for the truth in her judicial race against anti-HB6 (Callender-Wilkin) ballot campaign attorney and former Kasich appointee Curt Hartman.
The Ohio Debate Commission (ODC) is announcing a candidate forum with Republican Justices Sharon Kennedy and Judith French and their respective Democratic opponents, Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court Judge John O'Donnell and 10th District Judge Jennifer Brunner, the former secretary of state. The commission is convening an advisory panel to the September forum led by former Justices Yvette McGee Brown and Judith Ann Lanzinger and former Administrative/Presiding Judge Ronald Aldrine of the Cleveland Municipal Court.
The Columbus City Council had ordered bars, restaurants and nightclubs to end in-person service at 10 p.m. starting Tuesday night, but the restriction was blocked by a temporary restraining order requested by several local bars and granted Tuesday afternoon by Franklin County Common Pleas Judge Mark Serrott. The accompanying complaint said the plaintiffs had cooperated with state and city directives, and previously "suffered dearly" during the required shutdown starting March 15. The 10 p.m. closure requirement was "without reliable scientific data" and an exception for continued carry out and delivery service "does very little" to help the plaintiffs, the complaint continued.
Months into the COVID-19 pandemic, the majority of Ohio libraries have reopened their doors for patrons, but they've had to adapt their services to meet health precautions and, as a result, face increased costs and tighter budgets. Demand has been strong for the digital services libraries offer, according to the Ohio Library Council (OLC).
A second public corruption case moved forward Thursday with the appointment of a special three-judge commission to weigh the suspension of four Democratic Toledo City Council members charged with felony bribery and extortion. Chief Justice Maureen O'Connor named retired Judges David Faulkner of Hardin County Common Pleas Court, L. Alan Goldsberry of Athens County Common Pleas Court and Jennifer Sargus of Belmont County Common Pleas Court to consider the complaint against Yvonne Harper, Gary Johnson, Tyrone Riley and Larry Sykes.
The Ohio Medical Marijuana Control Program (MMCP) has announced plans to accept new testing laboratory license applications beginning the week of Monday, Aug. 3. On its testing laboratories webpage, the MMCP has posted two documents for potential applicants to assist in understanding the key substantive attributes of the application.
At least three facilities licensed under the Ohio Medical Marijuana Control Program (MMCP) have temporarily closed at some point during the pandemic due to a possible COVID-19 infection, officials from the Ohio Board of Pharmacy (OBP) and Ohio Department of Commerce (DOC) said Thursday. Responding to a question from Ohio Medical Marijuana Advisory Committee (MMAC) labor representative Jason Kaseman, OBP Medical Marijuana Operations Director Sharon Maerten-Moore she wasn't sure exactly how many dispensaries have closed due to the coronavirus, but said the board has worked to assist dispensaries dealing with those circumstances.
The Ohio Department of Medicaid (ODM) Friday released a request for proposal to move the agency's managed care program to a single pharmacy benefit manager (SPBM). Once implemented, Medicaid's pharmacy benefits strategy will ease provider administrative burdens, reduce operational costs and strengthen the state's fiscal oversight of this health care benefit, the department noted.
In a recent letter to federal officials, members of Ohio's congressional delegation lent their support to Gov. Mike DeWine's request for extended federal funding in the Ohio National Guard's (ONG) COVID-19 response. The letter to Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Administrator Peter Gaynor and Secretary of Defense Mark Esper was signed by U.S. Sens. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Rob Portman (R-OH) and U.S. Reps. Troy Balderson (R-Worthington), Tim Ryan (D-Niles), Anthony Gonzalez (R-Westlake), Bill Johnson (R-Marietta), Steve Stivers (R-Columbus), Bob Gibbs (R-Lakeville), Dave Joyce (R-Novelty), Joyce Beatty (D-Columbus), Mike Turner (R-Dayton), Bob Latta (R-Bowling Green) and Steve Chabot (R-Cincinnati).
Additional CARES Act funding is available for Ohio's cultural nonprofit organizations affected by the COVID-19 health crisis. Up to $60,000 is available to assist nonprofit organizations that offer programs in history, literature, philosophy, or other humanities topics. Grants of up to $5,000 will be awarded through a competitive application process. The grants are meant to help Ohio's cultural community maintain staffing and provide programming for audiences affected by continuing pandemic restrictions. Organizations that received CARES Act grants in the first round of funding are ineligible, according to a release from Ohio Humanities, the state-based partner for the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH). Applications for the grants are available now; the deadline for submission is Friday, August 14.
In its first meeting since the officer-involved slaying of George Floyd, the state advisory board charged with improving community-police relations took up the governor's recommendation for a statewide standard on handling mass demonstrations and a statutory requirement that police use of deadly force be investigated and prosecuted independent of the county where the death occurred. The Ohio Collaborative Community-Police Advisory Board met virtually to address those and other concerns around law enforcement and civilian conduct since Floyd's in-custody death on May 25.
An ordained Cleveland minister has enlisted the aid of faith-based Alliance Defending Freedom in challenging a Cuyahoga County law she says requires her to prepare wedding ceremonies and perform marriages of same-sex and transgender couples in violation of her religious beliefs. Rev. Kristi Stokes, a former missionary and AIDS education worker in Zimbabwe who has since delivered sermons, officiated at baptisms and dedications, ministered to the homeless and coordinated weddings, vows and other service materials for her local church, launched a separate enterprise, Covenant Weddings, in 2019 after earning a undergraduate degree in biblical studies and a master's degree in pastoral counseling.
At Monday's meeting of the Controlling Board, members amended an appropriation of federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act funds to include funding for organizations including veterans groups, public libraries, rape and domestic violence crisis centers, and others. In addition, the Ohio Department of Education (ODE) added an item to the agenda to appropriate $50 million toward expansion of broadband Internet access in a dollar-to-dollar matching grant program between the state and districts for hotspots, in-home Internet, and Internet-enabled devices. Veterans agencies received about $5 million; rape and domestic violence crisis centers received over $8 million; the Ohio Attorney General's Office received $1 million for consumer protection programs related to protecting citizens against fraud and scams related to COVID-19; and the Ohio deputy registrar received $4 million for continued operations of driving exam locations.
Ohioans will again have a chance to save on back-to-school shopping next weekend as the state holds its annual sales tax holiday on school-related items, but this year's holiday has the added challenge of a COVID-19 pandemic. Lora Miller, the director of government affairs and public relations for the Ohio Council of Retail Merchants, said this year is going to be a learning experience for the group's members on how to hold a sales tax holiday during a pandemic. Still, Miller said retailers are optimistic about the upcoming holiday, which will fall on Friday, Aug. 7, through Sunday, Aug. 9.
The Ohio Consumers' Counsel (OCC) is urging the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) to reimpose an across-the-board ban on door-to-door energy marketing as the state reaches "the most critical point in our battle against the coronavirus," according to Gov. Mike DeWine. OCC has joined the Coalition on Homelessness and Housing in Ohio (COHHIO), Ohio Poverty Law Center (OPLC), Northeast Ohio Public Energy Council (NOPEC), Pro Seniors Inc. and Southeastern Ohio Legal Services (SOLS) in calling for the reverse of PUCO's June 17 order to resume in-person cold-calling by competitive retail electric service (CRES) and competitive retail natural gas service (CRNGS) suppliers.
The electric distribution (EDU) utility serving over half of all Ohio households should not be allowed to resume account disconnections suspended during COVID-19 without the same regulatory scrutiny faced by other regional utilities not linked to the Statehouse corruption scandal, the Ohio Consumers' Counsel (OCC), Coalition on Homelessness and Housing in Ohio (COHHIO) and Ohio Poverty Law Center (OPLC) say in a new filing with the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO). OCC, COHHIO and OPLC say PUCO's failure to issue a direct order that utilities provide emergency and transition plans in response to its March 12 ruling has allowed FirstEnergy to slip through the cracks.
Cabin-fevered Ohioans anxious for an island hop to Lake Erie's archipelago may have to wait in longer lines for fewer boat trips to Put-in-Bay, Kelleys Island and other destinations following Wednesday's extension of public health orders by the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO). Chairman Sam Randazzo exercised his authority under R.C. 4905.04 and 4907.02 this month by exempting Miller Ferry, Jet Express and other water transport services -- included in the statutory definition of "railroads" regulated by the commission -- from business as usual to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
[Story originally published in The Hannah Report. Copyright 2020 Hannah News Service, Inc.]