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Week in Review - August 7, 2023


Ohio statehouse government affairs week in review January 2023


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

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.


AGRICULTURE


The House Agriculture Committee and Senate Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee held their annual joint meeting Tuesday at the 168th Ohio State Fair, where they took testimony from General Manager Virgil Strickler of the Ohio Expo Commission, Director Brian Baldridge of the Ohio Department of Agriculture, Director Mary Mertz of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) and state Treasurer Robert Sprague, along with a half dozen other witnesses. Strickler, who is retiring this fall after three decades as GM, thanked the General Assembly for supporting the governor's Expo 2050 Master Plan, which begins with demolition of the Donahey Ag & Hort Building, where the joint committee historically meets, along with other expo facilities.

Ohio State Fair General Manager Virgil Strickler was one of seven individuals inducted into the Ohio State Fair Hall of Fame on Thursday. Others being inducted into the Ohio State Fair Hall of Fame included the following:

  • George Barhorst (posthumous), a draft horse exhibitor and fair supporter for 59 years.

  • Ted Barhorst, a draft horse exhibitor and fair supporter for 58 years.

  • John Cooper, a fair supporter and volunteer for 58 years, as well as an Abraham Lincoln impersonator.

  • Rhonda Lawson, an Ohio Expo Center & State Fair Rental Department employee for 30 years.

  • Vickie Noble, a fair creative arts exhibitor and supporter for 47 years.

  • Tom Price, a former Ohio State Fair commissioner and Swine Department/Youth Development supporter for more than 30 years.

The Ohio Department of Agriculture (ODAg) on Wednesday announced $5 million in H2Ohio grants for a statewide conservation ditch program. Ohio county engineers and soil and water conservation districts (SWCDs) are eligible to apply for funding to construct two-stage and self-forming ditches, according to ODAg.


ARTS, SPORTS AND ENTERTAINMENT


CreativeOhio Executive Director Angela Meleca will step down from her position on Thursday, Aug. 31, the organization announced Monday. Meleca is leaving to start her own firm, called "Meleca Creative Advisors." CreativeOhio will be one of Meleca's first clients, according to the organization.


ATTORNEY GENERAL


The Ohio Attorney General's Office and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) are voicing mutual praise for the U.S. enforcement action and state lawsuit that led to Thursday's $300 million forfeiture action against a cabal of unrepentant robocallers -- FCC's largest ever fine.


BALLOT ISSUES


Former Rep. Tom Brinkman and a former House candidate filed a lawsuit late Friday asking the Ohio Supreme Court to boot the proposed reproductive and abortion rights amendment from the ballot, arguing that the petitioners did not properly cite which sections of the Ohio Revised Code would be repealed by it. The lawsuit names Secretary of State Frank LaRose and the petitioners behind the amendment as defendants. It was filed by attorney Curt Hartman on behalf of Brinkman, who was term-limited after last session, and Jenn Giroux, who lost a bid to succeed Brinkman in the last election. Hartman had previously challenged an Ohio Ballot Board certification of the proposed amendment as one issue, which the Ohio Supreme Court overruled.


A new poll from Ohio Northern University's (ONU) Institute for Civics and Public Policy (ICAPP) finds voters are split on Issue 1, the proposed constitutional amendment that would make it harder to amend the Ohio Constitution in the future. The web-based poll was conducted among 675 likely Ohio voters from Monday, July 17 through Wednesday, July 26. It found an almost equally split electorate on Issue 1, with 42 percent supporting and 41 percent opposing the measure, and 17 percent neutral. Democrats and Republicans are almost equally split on the measure, with 56 percent of Democrats opposed and 53 percent Republicans in support. Independent voters did not show a preference for or against the measure.


Backers of a proposed reproductive and abortion rights amendment reported Monday they have spent nearly $7.5 million in their effort to get the issue on the November ballot. Monday was the deadline for semiannual reports from candidates not on the ballot this year as well as political action committees that are not spending to influence the August special election. The deadline for committees spending to influence Issue 1 was last week. For the reproductive and abortion rights amendment, the Ohioans for Reproductive Freedom PAC reported $8.5 million raised in its efforts to collect signatures to get the issue on the ballot. The group has spent nearly $7.5 million of that and has $1 million on hand.

Calling Frank LaRose's statement seeking State Issue 1 donations from his U.S. Senate opponents "misguided and divisive," businessman Bernie Moreno's campaign said the secretary of state should focus on his current job and worry about his own contributions. "Bernie Moreno has quietly donated six figures of his own money to the effort, and will continue to rally support behind the cause. As of right now, we are unaware of any similar personal contribution from LaRose, but we are excited to announce that Bernie has agreed to match dollar-for-dollar any personal donation that Frank decides to give. Talk is cheap," Moreno Campaign Manager David DiStefano said.


Ohio Physicians for Reproductive Rights (OPRR) PAC on Monday released a series of "Doctors' Orders" videos encouraging Ohioans to vote "no" on State Issue 1. The videos feature OPRR founders Dr. Lauren Beene and Dr. Marcela Azevedo, who ask Ohioans to "stop the steal, desperate power grab, and attack on women." The ads can be viewed at https://tinyurl.com/26fmhpz8.


On Tuesday, one group supporting Issue 1 announced it is launching a major ad buy over the next week. Protect Ohio Women said it will spend $5.5 million on two new television ads featuring two Ohio moms who say they are voting for the measure to protect Ohio from outside interest groups "pushing radical political agendas."


The Libertarian Party of Ohio (LPO) said Tuesday that it has filed a formal complaint with the U.S. Office of Special Counsel arguing that Secretary of State Frank LaRose has violated the federal Hatch Act as a public official by receiving federal funds for elections while also using his office to affect an election.


"It's clear that LaRose's use of federal funds for elections and his support of Issue 1 place him in direct violation of the Hatch Act," said attorney Mark Brown, who filed the complaint on behalf of the LPO.


The Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, which is working to put an initiated statute on the ballot in November to legalize recreational marijuana, reported nearly $3 million in contributions and $3 million in expenditures, with $9,487 on hand. The group announced Thursday that it submitted an additional 6,545 signatures to the Ohio Secretary of State's Office – well above the 679 signatures it is short to get the measure on the ballot.


IT’S IN THE FY24-25 BUDGET


Editor’s Note: Articles summarized in this section have all been published as part of the Hannah Report’s series focusing on specific provisions included in the nearly 7,000 page FY24-25 budget, HB33 (Edwards).


Gov. Mike DeWine got his wish in the budget for a new cabinet agency focused on the wellbeing, education and development of the youngest Ohioans, and now administration officials are working to transfer relevant programs to the new Department of Children and Youth (DCY). DCY was officially created upon the signing of the biennial budget bill, HB33 (Edwards), but the law gives until Jan. 1, 2025 to officially transfer relevant programs from state agencies overseeing health, mental health and addiction, developmental disabilities, job and family services, Medicaid, education and economic development. DCY will take over responsibility sooner when it comes to duties assumed from the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS) related to the Ohio Family and Children First Cabinet Council, Children's Trust Fund Board and Ohio Commission on Fatherhood, which move to DCY 90 days after HB33's signing. According to the governor's office, DeWine has appointed a transition team for DCY.


The state will spend $24 million creating new "intellectual diversity" centers at five public universities after lawmakers included legislation in the FY24-25 state operating budget that is meant to combat "leftist bias" in higher education. The final version of the budget included SB117 (Cirino-McColley), a priority bill for Sen. Jerry Cirino (R-Kirtland), chair of the Senate Workforce and Higher Education Committee. HB33 establishes the Salmon P. Chase Center for Civics, Culture and Society at Ohio State University (OSU); the Institute of American Constitutional Thought and Leadership at the University of Toledo (UT); and centers similar to the Salmon P. Chase Center at the University of Cincinnati (UC), Miami University, and Cleveland State University (CSU). The bill establishes each of these centers as an "independent academic unit" within its university, and it provides funding for the universities to support the new centers. HB33 appropriates $5 million in each fiscal year to Ohio State; $1 million in each fiscal year to UT; and $2 million in both fiscal years to each of the other three schools, UC, Miami, and Cleveland State, for their centers.


While the final version of HB33 did not include language that would have curtailed increases in Current Agricultural Use Value (CAUV) for farmland, lawmakers are expected to study the issue as part of the newly-created Joint Committee on Property Tax Review and Reform. The budget requires the committee to submit a report to the General Assembly by Tuesday, Dec. 31, 2024 making recommendations on reforms to property tax law.


Ohio's annual back-to-school sales tax holiday kicks off Friday, Aug. 4 but will be replaced next year and potentially in future years by a broader sales tax holiday created in the recent biennial budget. Under HB33, this back-to-school sales tax holiday will be replaced by an expanded sales tax holiday for items priced at $500 or less starting in 2024 in any year in which at least $60 million in surplus revenue is available after the Rainy Day Fund target is met. This use of surplus revenue replaces the Income Tax Reduction Fund, a disused mechanism for sending surplus revenue back to taxpayers via income tax cuts. However, the school-focused holiday will remain in law as a backup plan for when state finances won’t support the broader holiday.


A newly-released study of Ohio's largest rivers will help determine where the DeWine administration will utilize the approximately $46.6 million in new H2Ohio Rivers Initiative funding provided in HB33, state leaders announced Tuesday. During a press conference beside the Scioto River in downtown Columbus, Gov. Mike DeWine, Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (Ohio EPA) Director Anne Vogel and Ohio EPA senior scientist Bob Miltner said the first-of-its-kind, comprehensive study conducted from 2020 to 2021 shows significant improvements in water quality over the last several decades. According to the study, 86 percent of the state's large rivers -- with "large" meaning 500 square miles or larger -- are in "good to excellent" condition. In the 1980s, they said, only 18 percent of rivers met expectations for water quality.


Lawmakers addressed the cost of putting on a special election on Aug. 8 for Issue 1 through the FY24-25 budget after legislation that included an earmark for the election failed to clear the Ohio House. The appropriation was added by the Senate later in the budget process, requiring the Board of Election Reimbursement and Education Fund to be used to pay the costs associated with conducting the special election. A memo from Secretary of State Frank LaRose to county boards of elections after the budget was passed said lawmakers had authorized $16 million in up-front funds to pay for the election, with an additional $4 million in reimbursable funds available as needed. That is supported by a cash transfer from the FY23 General Revenue Fund (GRF) ending balance. Any unused funds must be returned to the GRF by the end of the calendar year.


The $22.5 million provided in HB33 for the Western & Southern Open will help ensure the professional tennis tournament remains in Ohio, Rep. Adam Mathews (R-Lebanon) told Hannah News. "It is a huge economic engine for Southwest Ohio. It brings in about $80 million of economic activity every year. So it's like the Taylor Swift concert, but we can count on it every year," Mathews said in an interview. He said the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) has authorized the Western & Southern Open to expand to a two-week tournament in 2026. The funding in the budget will help the tennis facility expand to host the larger tournament, Mathews said, noting it would also provide year-round programming for local tennis teams, pickleball, concerts and other events.


Ohioans face stricter oil and gas laws after the General Assembly joined the governor in expanding their enforcement to "any person" violating the state's regulatory authority. Not only production and brine injection wells, as under previous law, but now "stratigraphic" wells also have been brought under the insurance, bonding and setback requirements of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR).


Counties and townships also must find another way to fund road repairs and other infrastructure needs after budget bill HB33's final language stripped House redistribution of brine injection fees from horizontal "fracking" to local governments and generally blocked the raid on Ohio's Oil and Gas Well Fund.


CHILDREN/FAMILIES


Kara Wente, director of the Office of Children's Initiatives for Gov. Mike DeWine and a member of the Department of Children and Youth (DCY) transition team, gave one of a series of stakeholder presentations Thursday to the Home Visiting Consortium, a panel established in law to ensure quality in home visiting programs. Such programs are among those being transferred to DCY from the Ohio Department of Health and numerous other agencies in order to unify services for children birth to age 5 under a single agency. Wente shared three draft goals that will drive the focus of agency efforts on maternal and infant health, academic readiness and child welfare. She said earlier feedback sessions had led the transition team to reframe them from a negative perspective ("reduce infant mortality") to a more positive, proactive perspective ("help more children thrive and reach their first birthday"). Similarly, "reduce learning gaps" became "ensure continuity of care across the spectrum of ages, stages and services to help children and youth succeed," while "reduce involvement with child welfare" became "help provider families with needed resources and supports proactively, before a crisis within the family occurs."


CORONAVIRUS/MONKEYPOX


COVID-19 cases are on the rise again in Ohio, with the Ohio Department of Health (ODH) reporting 2,054 Thursday, July 27. That was up from 1,678 on July 20 and 1,471 on July 13. The May 18 update was the last time ODH reported over 2,000 cases for the week. Other numbers reported by ODH Thursday included 72 hospitalizations, up from 53 on July 20; four ICU admissions, down from five; and 12 deaths, up from seven. ODH also reported that an additional 2,752 people received the bivalent vaccine booster in Ohio over the past seven days, bringing the total to 1.91 million or 16.33 percent of the state's population.


EAST PALESTINE DERAILMENT


The Ohio Department of Development (DOD) announced Thursday that eligible businesses and nonprofits can now access the application for the East Palestine Emergency Support Program. Gov. Mike DeWine and DOD introduced the program earlier this year. It provides forgivable loans at zero percent interest to businesses to assist with ongoing expenses and recovery efforts associated with the train derailment that occurred in February. For-profit Ohio businesses and nonprofit organizations located within a two-mile radius of East Palestine that were operational on or prior to Dec. 1, 2022, are eligible to apply for the loans ranging from $10,000 to $1 million.


ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT


Gov. Mike DeWine's administration announced Monday the approval of assistance for four projects expected to create 781 new jobs and retain 156 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 $85 million in new payroll and spur more than $47 million in investments across Ohio.


EDUCATION


Battelle and the Ohio STEM Learning Network announced that applications are now open for a new round of funding for the 2023-2024 school year. The deadline to apply is Tuesday, Sept. 5. The goal of the Ohio STEM Learning Network STEM Classroom Grant is to foster the creation of new, sustainable STEM education programming in classrooms by investing directly in K-12 teachers and administrators. With funding from Battelle, more than 300 projects have involved over 100,000 Ohio students since the program began in 2021. The one-time grants total either $2,500 or $5,000.


A teachers union leader, a former state superintendent and the head of Ohio's largest school district discussed Wednesday their outlook for the new Department of Education and Workforce (DEW) and other education issues at the Columbus Metropolitan Club. Jackie Walker, executive director of SkillsUSA Ohio, moderated the panel that included former state Superintendent Susan Tave Zelman, Ohio Education Association President Scott DiMauro and Columbus City Schools Superintendent Angela Chapman. Walker led off by asking the panelists what they wanted to happen under DEW, a restructured Ohio Department of Education that will now be led by a cabinet director appointed by the governor. The State Board of Education and state superintendent, who previously had control of the agency, will retain only a subset of their duties, mostly focused on teacher licensure and discipline. Statehouse Republicans included the restructuring plan in the new budget bill, HB33 (Edwards). Zelman said the quest for gubernatorial control goes back decades and has been pursued in multiple states, some with success, some blocked by litigation.


A magistrate this week declined to issue an injunction to reinstate ousted State Teachers Retirement System (STRS) Board of Trustees member Wade Steen. Gov. Mike DeWine replaced Steen earlier this year after Steen refused a request to resign, expressing a concern about his attendance records at meetings. DeWine appointed investor G. Brent Bishop in his place. Steen, an investment expert and former county fiscal official, sued DeWine and STRS in June in the 10th District Court of Appeals, arguing that he did not serve at the pleasure of the governor but rather had a fixed term lasting through September 2024.


Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow (ECOT) founder William Lager is asking a judge to block subpoenas the state issued for his financial information, saying they violate court rules and come long after discovery in his case closed. In mid-July, the state issued subpoenas to Huntington National Bank, Kemba Financial Credit Union, Heartland Bank and Provident Back, seeking by this week the production of bank records going back 23 years, according to a memo filed by Lager's attorneys. They note that discovery in the case ended three years ago, and that the court had previously blocked a deposition the state attempted to take after a discovery deadline.


ELECTIONS 2023


The following endorsement was made over the week:

  • The Ohio Council of Churches announced opposition to Issue 1.

ELECTIONS 2024


The following endorsements were made over the week:

  • The U.S. Senate campaign of Republican Matt Dolan announced the endorsements of Sen. Nathan Manning (R-North Ridgeville), Rep. Gayle Manning (R-North Ridgeville) and North Ridgeville Mayor Kevin Corcoran.

  • The presidential campaign of former President Donald Trump announced the endorsements of U.S. Rep. Bill Johnson (R-Marietta), U.S. Rep. Troy Balderson (R-Zanesville), and Ohio Treasurer Robert Sprague.

  • The League of Conservation Voters (LCV) Action Fund endorsed U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and U.S. Reps. Greg Landsman (D-Cincinnati) and Emilia Sykes (D-Akron) for re-election.

  • The U.S. Senate campaign of Republican Bernie Moreno announced the endorsement of U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL).

ELECTIONS 2026


In addition to campaign committees reporting their efforts to get issues on the November ballot, statewide officeholders also reported their latest totals, with Lt. Gov. Jon Husted and Treasurer Robert Sprague both reporting large campaign chests ahead of likely 2026 runs for other offices. Lt. Gov. Jon Husted, who is exploring a run for governor, reported $1.6 million raised, and has nearly $1.6 million on hand. Husted's campaign said it is the most raised in Ohio history for a new campaign committee in an equivalent reporting period. Treasurer Robert Sprague, who has not made his 2026 intentions known, reported $654,003 raised, but has $1.763 million on hand, which includes a $940,000 loan by Sprague to the campaign.


ENERGY/UTILITIES


Wholesale electric prices remain stable in the $80 per megawatt hour (MWh) range after hitting $122.30 MWh last fall and actually fell slightly in the latest auction results for Duke Energy Ohio. The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) approved an $81.88 MWh average this week for Duke's standard service offer (SSO) -- the utility's default rate for customers who do not seek out a competitive supplier. Tuesday's auction price is down a hair from February's $82.79 MWh result.


FEDERAL


U.S. Sens. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and J.D. Vance (R-OH) responded to the Senate's Thursday night passage of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), with Brown saying it included "wins" he had secured for Ohio. Vance said he worked to secure those wins as well, but voted against the overall bill because it would commit the U.S. to "years of additional military aid for the war in Ukraine.”


The Biden administration announced Monday that Space Command headquarters will return to Colorado, reversing a Trump administration decision to move it to Alabama. Ohio officials at the local, state and federal levels had promoted Wright-Patterson Air Force Base (WPAFB) as an alternate location, including through House passage of HCR8 (Patton-Lampton). "The Biden administration got this one wrong," U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) said in a tweet. In June, Brown and seven U.S. representatives from Ohio sent a letter to the Biden administration urging WPAFB's selection and for additional U.S. Space Force units to be located in Ohio in partnership with the Glenn Research Center's Neil Armstrong Test Facility in Sandusky.


GAMING/GAMBLING


For the third consecutive month, sports betting handle and revenues are down in Ohio. Gamblers placed $362.1 million in sports bets (handle) in June, down from $446.2 million in May, $520.6 million in April, $737.2 million in March, $639.1 million in February and $1.1 billion in January. The vast majority of sports bets in June were placed online, with $348.4 million wagered on websites and $13.7 million placed in brick-and-mortar sportsbooks. Total taxable sports gambling revenue was $37.2 million in June, down from $57.9 million in May, $63.3 million in April, $94.9 million in March, $81.1 million in February and $209.6 million in January.


GOVERNOR


Appointments made during the week include the following:

  • Hannah Blythe of West Union (Adams County) to serve as a student member on the Shawnee State University Board of Trustees for a term beginning July 28, 2023, and ending June 30, 2025.

  • Lara M. Boman of Ashland (Ashland County) to serve as a student member on the Kent State University Board of Trustees for a term beginning July 28, 2023, and ending May 16, 2025.

  • Joshua H.B. Kerner of Avon Lake (Lorain County) to serve as a student member on the Ohio State University Board of Trustees for a term beginning July 28, 2023, and ending May 13, 2025.

  • Nicholas W. McNeil of Milford (Clermont County) to serve as a student member on the Miami University Board of Trustees for a term beginning July 28, 2023, and ending Feb. 28, 2025.

  • Nicholas K. Campana of Dayton (Montgomery County) to serve as a student member on the University of Akron Board of Trustees for a term beginning July 28, 2023, and ending July 1, 2025.

  • Madisyn Crabtree of Beavercreek (Greene County) to serve as a student member on the Wright State University Board of Trustees for a term beginning July 28, 2023, and ending June 30, 2025.

  • Kevin P. Bishop of Toledo (Lucas County) to serve as a student member on the University of Toledo Board of Trustees for a term beginning July 28, 2023, and ending July 1, 2025.

GUNS


Attorney General Dave Yost's office this week dropped a lawsuit filed in Fairfield County that challenged gun safety ordinances passed by the city of Columbus late last year. The ordinances, passed Dec. 5, included provisions that banned magazines that hold 30 or more rounds and required safe storage of firearms. Yost filed the lawsuit later in December, arguing that the ordinances violate the state's firearms uniformity law, passed by the General Assembly in 2006. Fairfield County Judge Richard Berens granted Yost's request for a temporary order blocking the ordinances, but later reversed course and refused a preliminary injunction against the ordinances, saying Yost had not demonstrated a likelihood of success at trial, or that there will be an irreparable injury if the injunction is not granted. The attorney general's office on Monday filed the motion to voluntarily dismiss the case without prejudice, meaning it could be refiled at a later date. The office also filed to dismiss an appeal of Berens' decision to the Fifth District Court of Appeals. The ordinances, however, remain blocked thanks to a separate lawsuit ongoing in Delaware County.


HIGHER EDUCATION


Ohioans seeking jobs at Intel and associated supplier businesses will be able to undergo training through a modular curriculum announced Monday by community and technical college leaders along with Lt. Gov. Jon Husted and Intel Ohio General Manager Jim Evers. The program was developed within seven months and will meet training needs that range from a single course to a full associate's degree.


The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced more than $33 million in grants to support capacity-building efforts at 1890 Land-grant Universities. Administered through USDA's National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), the funding will support 82 research, extension and education projects across the nation's 19 Historically Black Colleges and Universities designated as 1890 Land-grant Universities, including three projects at Central State University (CSU) in Wilberforce.


Mount St. Joseph University in Cincinnati recently announced Steven Almquist as its new provost. Almquist previously held the position of professor of English and associate provost for arts and sciences at Spring Hill College in Mobile, AL. In that role, he oversaw five academic divisions and their respective chairs, ensuring quality programming, faculty support, and efficient divisional operations.


JUDICIAL


The Ohio Supreme Court reminded bar members Wednesday that they have until Friday, Sept. 1, 2023, to register for the upcoming two-year licensing cycle. All active, corporate, and military spouse attorneys must register online with the Office of Attorney Services at a cost of $400. Attorneys who meet certain guidelines and limit their practice to pro bono cases through a recognized provider, or emeritus pro bono, pay $75. The registration page is tinyurl.com/t6z8b8mr, where a video tutorial will walk lawyers through the process.


After 32 years in public service, Sara Andrews has officially retired. Andrews most recently led the Ohio Criminal Sentencing Commission (OCSC) as executive director, spending eight years at the commission. She also worked for the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction (DRC) for 24 years. OCSC Assistant Director Niki Hotchkiss told Hannah News that she is serving as interim director, and has applied for the permanent position as the next executive director.


With COVID-19 pandemic rules issued by Gov. Mike DeWine's administration expired, the Ohio Supreme Court Tuesday unanimously ruled a challenge by an Akron bar to one of those rules was moot. Highland Tavern in Akron had challenged "Rule 80," a 120-day emergency rule imposed by DeWine in July 2020 to reduce the hours that liquor could be sold in bars and restaurants. The bar had sought to have the rule declared unconstitutional after the Ohio Liquor Control Commission revoked the bar's permit when investigators found the bar was violating the rule. The constitutional challenge was part of the bar's appeal to its license revocation. Highland Tavern filed two legal challenges. The first appealed the commission's order to Franklin County Common Pleas Court, asking the judge to stay the revocation. A separate civil action was also filed in Franklin County Common Pleas Court challenging the rule.


The Ohio Supreme Court sided with the oil and gas industry Wednesday in a major decision affirming a series of tax write-offs for equipment used in oil and gas "fracking." Stingray Pressure Pumping, L.L.C. v. Harris, Tax Commissioner is perhaps more significant, however, for the watershed precedent that Ohio's 150-year-old deference to the state in tax disputes is a public policy preference that handicaps the taxpayer and a question properly left to the General Assembly. Justice Patrick DeWine signaled a new precedent for the state of Ohio: “We make clear today that henceforth we will apply the same rules of construction to tax statutes that we apply to all other statutes."


LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR


Lt. Gov. Jon Husted's office announced Tuesday that Josh Eck, his chief of staff, is leaving for a position outside state government and will be replaced by Aaron Crooks, most recently director of legislative affairs for Gov. Mike DeWine. Crooks' prior experience includes work for CareSource, OhioHealth and the Office of Health Transformation, as well as the Ohio Senate. Eck has worked for Husted for several years, including as press secretary when Husted was secretary of state, press secretary for the DeWine-Husted ticket in 2018 and communications director in the lieutenant governor's office. He also has experience in the House and Senate.


LOBBYISTS


Thomas P. Pappas & Associates (TPP) of Columbus announced that Mackenzie Betts has joined its team as director of association management. Betts has 25 years of association management, communications and marketing experience. Having worked with multiple associations during her career, Betts has held roles as membership director and communications director for associations such as the Ohio State Chiropractic Association, the Ohio Hotel & Lodging Association, the Ohio Library Council and the Ohio Insurance Agents Association.


MARIJUANA/HEMP


Two more medical marijuana dispensaries have received certificates of operation, according to the Ohio Board of Pharmacy (OBP). There are now 96 dispensaries operating under the Ohio Medical Marijuana Control Program (MMCP). The following dispensaries received certificates of operation:


  • The Landing Dispensary, located at 724 W. Gay St. in Columbus.

  • The Green Goat Dispensary, located at 4016 Greentree Ave. SW in Canton.


NATURAL RESOURCES


The Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) announced the selection of 70 students to be part of the Conservation Teen Advisory Council (ConTAC). The program is designed to give high school students an opportunity to collaborate and contribute ideas to ODNR's youth outreach program efforts.


Ohioans who have dedicated their lives to the conservation and preservation of the state's natural resources were honored last week during an event at the Ohio State Fair. Gov. Mike DeWine, ODNR Director Mary Mertz, and other ODNR officials inducted seven people into the Ohio Natural Resources Hall of Fame and awarded seven others with ODNR's Cardinal Award.


PEOPLE


The Adelphi Bank Board of Directors announced Wednesday that former Columbus Mayor Michael B. Coleman has been chosen as lead director. Adelphi opened May 1 at 800 E. Long St. in Columbus' King Lincoln District as the only Black-owned bank in Ohio, promoting financial equity and meaningful wealth.


Now, a partner at Ice Miller Law Firm, Coleman has been on the Adelphi board since its inception.


PUBLIC SAFETY


This fall's legislative agenda is already taking shape. Following the governor's lead, the Senate will soon consider a new, cabinet-level law enforcement training center to bridge the gap between the highway patrol's scenario-based training and the textbook learning of post-secondary criminal justice programs.


Sen. Frank Hoagland (R-Adena) announced pending legislation to create the state-of-the-art Joint Law Enforcement Training Center (JLETC) for every aspiring peace officer in Ohio -- municipal police, sheriff deputies or state enforcement officials -- from beat cop to brass.

The Ohio Department of Public Safety's (DPS) Office of Criminal Justice Services (OCJS) announced state certification of two more law enforcement agencies under policing standards issued by the Ohio Collaborative Community-Police Advisory Board. Police in Union Township (Clermont County) and West Alexandria (Preble County) have met state requirements for use of force, including deadly force, and agency recruitment and hiring.

Gov. Mike DeWine has awarded more than $35 million in first-responder retention incentives to over 300 public safety agencies across the state led by Toledo Fire and Rescue and Akron Fire Department. As many as 10,325 peace officers, firefighters, EMTs and emergency dispatchers are employed by the agencies receiving the funding. The Ohio First Responder Recruitment, Retention and Resilience Program was created to address burnout caused by understaffing and job stress.


TAXATION


Ohio craft brewers would no longer have to comply with the Ohio Alcoholic Beverages Franchise Act of 1974 under legislation introduced by Sen. Andrew Brenner (R-Delaware). Under SB138 (Brenner), a "manufacturer" under the Alcohol Franchise Law would not include "any person producing less than 250,000 barrels of beer a year." The Brewers Freedom Alliance (BFA) is urging lawmakers to support the legislation, noting Ohio is home to more than 430 independently-owned craft breweries.


The Ohio Department of Development (DOD) announced Monday that eight film productions in six Ohio communities will be supported through a total of $36 million in motion picture tax credits. This program provides refundable credits of 30 percent on production cast and crew wages and other in-state spending for a range of eligible production types. The eight projects total more than $170 million in production expenses -- $129 million of which were eligible for the credit -- and are expected to create 370 full-time jobs. DOD received 30 applications for this latest round, which would have totaled over $77 million in tax credits. Applications are reviewed and awarded in two rounds each year, with $40 million available annually.


TECHNOLOGY/AEROSPACE


Innovators have discussed artificial intelligence (AI) at three recent forums around the state, with Lt. Gov. Jon Husted serving as a panel moderator in each event. This includes the Ohio Innovation Summit, where he gave opening remarks that touched on AI as well.


TRANSPORTATION/INFRASTRUCTURE


Gov. Mike DeWine announced 10 projects in transportation improvement districts (TID) around the state will receive $3.5 million to help cover project development and construction costs through 2026. The funds will go to 10 different counties - Lucas, Medina, Mahoning, Stark, Summit, Coshocton, Clermont, Hamilton, Belmont, and Columbiana counties -- with $1 million going to fund development of projects while the remaining $2.5 million will fund construction. The projects range from roadway extensions to turn-lanes. The funding provided for each project is limited to $500,000 per fiscal year. This round helps fund projects that will support 16 businesses, creating 809 jobs and retaining another 650.


VETERANS


The Ohio Department of Veterans Services and its partner the Ohio Arts Council are soliciting submissions for the 2023 Ohio Veterans Art Exhibition set for Oct. 23 through Dec. 8 in the first-floor lobby of the Riffe Center for Government and the Arts. The deadline for submissions, which are to be made online, is Thursday, Aug. 31. A complete list of the requirements and directions about how to submit artwork for consideration for the exhibit can be found online at https://tinyurl.com/2y2eyvez.








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


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