Week In Review: August 9, 2019




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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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ADDICTION/SUBSTANCE ABUSE

Increased use of the Ohio Automated Rx Reporting System (OARRS) has played a major role in the state’s significant reductions in “doctor shoppers” and the total number of opioids prescribed, Gov. Mike DeWine said Friday. Joined at a Statehouse press conference by U.S. Drug Czar Jim Carroll, Ohio Board of Pharmacy (OBP) Executive Director Steven Schierholt, addiction specialist Dr. Krisanna Deppen and RecoveryOhio Director Alisha Nelson, DeWine said OARRS is now averaging 834,000 queries per weekday.


Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost joined other states Monday in pressing Congress to remove federal barriers to opioid treatment that have contributed to the shortening of U.S. life expectancy for the first time in a century. Thirty-nine attorneys general presented a letter urging House and Senate leaders to free up medication-assisted treatment (MAT), update privacy rules and remove the Medicaid ban on mental health and substance abuse treatment in large in-patient facilities. State attorneys general blame federal bureaucracy for laws they say made sense in the past but do not now.


A recent report released by the National Association of Counties and the Appalachian Regional Commission examining the opioid epidemic in Appalachia offers an overview of the overprescribing crisis and recommends specific strategies counties can utilize to address local and regional addiction problems. The overall opioid death rate in Appalachian counties was 72 percent higher than in non-Appalachian counties in 2017, while there was no difference in opioid death rates between the two regions in 2001.


AGING


Sen. Steve Wilson (R-Maineville) and Rep. Bill Reineke (R-Tiffin) are the recipients of this year's Public Service Award from LeadingAge Ohio, a nonprofit representing long-term care organizations, hospices and others. The organization noted Wilson's work on elder abuse detection and dementia awareness, and Reineke's role as vice chairman of House Aging and Long-Term Care Committee and his efforts on the intersection of workforce and aging issues.


AGRICULTURE


Fulton, Morrow, Union and Williams counties have been added to the list of Ohio counties covered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) secretarial disaster designations, Gov. Mike DeWine announced Friday. Earlier in the week, DeWine encouraged farmers in 40 other Ohio counties to seek potential relief from the USDA following disaster designations in their counties or contiguous counties due to rain, flooding, or other weather conditions.


ATTORNEY GENERAL


A federal judge in El Paso, TX has issued a temporary restraining order halting operations and freezing assets at two companies accused of defrauding millions of dollars from Americans beset by credit card debt. Complaints allege that Educare Centre Services and Madera Merchant Services worked in tandem on the telemarketing scheme. Educare, which is not registered with the Ohio Attorney General's Office as a solicitor, is accused of placing millions of robocalls offering consumers the opportunity to consolidate credit cards and obtain lower interest rates but apparently providing no legitimate services. The AG reports that approximately 450 Ohio residents lost a total of $300,000.


The state of Ohio is suing the joint owners of an earthen dam for ignoring the Ohio Department of Natural Resources' (ODNR) orders to fix the deteriorating structure, Attorney General Dave Yost announced Wednesday. The lawsuit accuses the Settlers Walk Homeowners Association and MCS Land Development LLC of failing to take action after ODNR's multiple safety inspections of the Remick Lake Dam found it needs repairs.


CHILDREN/FAMILIES


A recent study conducted by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, the "2019 Kids Count Data Book," ranked Ohio 27th in the nation for its child wellbeing, determining the overall score from aggregate data in four major categories: economic wellbeing, education, health and family and community. The nation's top three states for child wellbeing were New Hampshire (1), Massachusetts (2) and Iowa (3), while the bottom three states were Mississippi (48), Louisiana (49) and New Mexico (50).


Five organizations across Ohio received two-year grants to help fathers in their areas become better parents, partners and providers, the Ohio Commission on Fatherhood announced recently. "Research shows that children with fathers who are present in their lives have better cognitive outcomes, self-esteem, academic achievement and economic stability," said Executive Director Kimberly Dent. "They have healthier development as children, are more empathetic and are less likely to have problems with drugs and alcohol as teenagers."


CRIME AND PUNISHMENT


After 24-year-old Connor Betts used an AR-15 pattern rifle with at least one high-capacity magazine to kill nine people and injure 27 others in Dayton's Oregon District early Sunday morning, state officials and advocacy groups responded to the event with a range of statements. The shooter was killed by law enforcement within 30 seconds of opening fire, according to the Dayton Police Department.


ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT


U.S. Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) met with business and government leaders Friday to discuss ways to best use opportunity zones, as well as improve federal rules about them. Ohio -- and Columbus in particular -- has already positioned itself well to market its 320 zones compared to other states, he said, praising the Ohio Development Services Agency (DSA) portal unveiled in April.


EDUCATION


The Cleveland Browns Foundation joined the grant-funded partnership between the Ohio Department of Education and Harvard University for a new initiative to promote school attendance and reduce absenteeism. The "Get 2 School, Stay in the Game" Network will aim for overall attendance increases, as well as focus on student subgroups such as African-American and Hispanic children, English learners, economically disadvantaged students and students with disabilities. The initiative is meant to connect schools to one another as well as state and national experts, quality materials, strategies and evaluation tools. The network's website, www.get2school.org, is available to all schools and districts at no cost.


The State Board of Education Dropout Prevention and Recovery Schools Workgroup heard from Education Management Information System (EMIS) Director David Ehle at its Monday meeting, with Ehle answering members' questions and providing a detailed and technical overview of the state's education data collection efforts. Of concern to members was the fact that district and school administrators have access to a number of student metrics, including attendance records, disability status, scores on state assessments and what schools a student has attended, but data about course credits is not collected. According to Ehle, these data could be collected with additional reporting requirements for school guidance counselors and staff, but the current administrative load is already heavy.


The State Board of Education's (SBOE) Executive Committee held a lengthy executive session Monday with Superintendent of Public Instruction Paolo DeMaria following a previous July meeting in which the members were critical of some aspects of the DeMaria's performance. Following the closed session, Board President Laura Kohler told Hannah News she made two errors during the superintendent's recent goal-setting and performance evaluation process: not engaging the superintendent in an open dialogue with other members and not sufficiently stating their general satisfaction with his job performance, outside of the areas they identified, in last month's resolution. She said that their overall conversation was productive.


The Ohio Attorney General's Office says school districts, charter schools, private schools and institutions of higher education will have until late 2020 to commence operations or obtain construction or renovation financing to avoid an Ohio Board of Building Standards (OBBS) requirement that all educational facilities install storm shelters.


Summer brought the effective date for a new law requiring the Ohio Department of Education (ODE) to offer schools assistance on instruction of cursive handwriting. The department recently posted a new section of the state's model curriculum for English language arts.


ELECTIONS 2019


The following endorsements were made over the week:


- The Ohio Senate campaign of Republican Jerry Cirino announced that he has been endorsed by a number of Portage County officials including the following: County Commissioner Sabrina Christian-Bennett; Mayor of Aurora Ann Womer Benjamin; County Auditor Janet Esposito; County Recorder Lori Calcei; Mayor of Hiram Lou Bertrand; and Mayor of Streetsboro Glenn Broska.


EMPLOYMENT/UNEMPLOYMENT


The nation added 164,000 jobs in July, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) announced Friday, while the unemployment rate remained 3.7 percent. June also saw little change in the unemployment rate, and the July report revised the number of new jobs that month from 224,000 down to 193,000. BLS said the number of unemployed persons was also little changed at 6.1 million, and rates for most major worker groups showed little or no changes as well. The one that did show change was the unemployment rate for Asians, which rose to 2.8 percent.


An Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS) "leading indicators" report predicted Ohio's employment growth rate will be 1.35 percent over the next six months, with all but one of the eight largest metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs) seeing job increases as well. The report uses the most recent available data from June 2019, and is the second such report since ODJFS resumed them in July. ODJFS noted the forecasting models are "real time" processes that do not build on previous forecasts, and should not be used as a time series.


ENVIRONMENT


The Ohio Attorney General's Office and the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have reached a settlement with Sunny Farms Landfill that requires the Seneca County dump to pay $1.71 million in civil penalties for alleged violations of water pollution, solid waste and air pollution laws. The landfill also has agreed to pay $2.01 million for underreported and mischaracterized fees for waste at the facility.


GENERAL ASSEMBLY/STATEHOUSE


Sen. Joe Uecker (R-Loveland) will resign Saturday, Aug. 31 to take a position with the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT), the senator announced Thursday.


GREAT LAKES


Low-flying eyes in the sky are improving the accuracy of water quality assessments in the Great Lakes and the rivers that flow into them, according to the University of Toledo (UT). A new UT study found drones armed with sensors are useful tools in the fight against harmful algal blooms, particularly for monitoring key spots within Lake Erie, such as near drinking water inlets and off the shore of public beaches. Researchers compared data gathered by the drones with satellite data and boat-based water sampling at 10 locations over Lake Erie and the Maumee River.


Five years after a water crisis in Toledo left half a million residents without safe tap water for three days, environmental scientists from the U.S. and Canada boarded research vessels and fan out across western Lake Erie to collect water samples at nearly 200 locations in four hours in a united effort to create a high-resolution picture of this summer's harmful algal bloom (HAB) with the goal of ultimately protecting the public drinking water supply.


GUNS


Senate President Larry Obhof (R-Medina) looked on in silence Tuesday as Gov. Mike DeWine laid out 17 separate proposals to address growing gun violence seen in this week's Dayton mass shootings. The governor called for legislation implementing a modified red-flag provision or mental health "safety protection order," statewide background checks for all gun purchases, "proactive" state monitoring of social media, increased penalties for felons who illegally possess guns or use them in a crime, early intervention in schools to detect serious mental health problems, and a raft of other measures. "Do something," activists shouted outside the Statehouse press room as DeWine addressed the gathered crowd of mental health professionals, gun rights proponents and journalists during the morning news conference.


U.S. Rep. Mike Turner (R-Dayton) announced Tuesday that he would support legislation preventing the sale of what he called "military style" firearms to civilians, limitations on magazine capacity and "red flag" proposals.


HIGHER EDUCATION


Bowling Green State University (BGSU) recently named the head of its new resort and attraction management program, a first-of-its-kind program created in partnership with Cedar Fair, the owners and operators of Cedar Point amusement park in Sandusky. Swathi Ravichandran will head the department, joining the university after spending 14 years on the faculty of Kent State University's hospitality management program.


Miami University announced earlier in August that it will host the 10th annual National Civil Rights Conference on June 22- 23, 2020. The theme for the 2020 conference is "Rise, Advocate, Educate and Cooperate: The Challenge of Chang,e" and it will feature workshops, artistic productions, sessions and tours on the history of the American civil rights movement.


HOUSING/HOMELESSNESS


Ohio foreclosures continued to fall by nearly 5 percent from 2017 to 2018, according to a new report released Tuesday by Policy Matters Ohio (PMO) that examines data from the Ohio Supreme Court. However, foreclosure rates still remain nearly double those seen in the mid-1990s. There were 33,527 total foreclosures filed in county courts last year, down 4.5 percent or 1,642 foreclosures from 35,169 in 2017. That calculates to just fewer than three foreclosures per 1,000 Ohio residents in 2018.


JUDICIAL


The Ohio Supreme Court announced Monday that the deadline for courts to apply to its Technology Grant Fund is less than a month away. Appeals, common pleas, municipal and county courts may seek funding for technology projects that would remove barriers to the "efficient and effective administration of justice," including new or upgraded systems, hardware or equipment. Applications will be accepted electronically through Thursday, Aug. 29. The application form and other information is available at https://tinyurl.com/y3dkar3d.


Statutes governing Ohio's municipal ballot initiative process are constitutional, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Wednesday. The Portage County Board of Elections' decision not certify local ballot measures decriminalizing marijuana did not violate the First or Fourteenth Amendment rights of those seeking to place the initiatives on the ballot, Judge Helen White wrote in her opinion, joined by Judge Eric Clay and joined in part by Judge John Bush, who also offered a separate concurring opinion.


Former House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Willamowski and two other panel members for the Board of Professional Conduct are recommending a two-year license suspension for Martin Yavorcik, one-time candidate for Mahoning County prosecutor, with six months stayed. Yavorcik would retain his license, however, after a conviction for conspiracy, bribery, money laundering, tampering with records and engaging in a pattern of corrupt activity was overturned in 2018 and he was reinstated to the practice of law in January 2019. He already had served a 32-month interim suspension.


The Ohio Board of Professional Conduct issued four nonbinding opinions Thursday that collectively advise "hybrid" public/private sector lawyers on possible conflicts of interest and further admonish attorneys not to donate services to be raffled or auctioned off by a charitable organization, among other legal issues. The board anchored its first opinion by reminding bar members of their legal obligations when holding public office.


MARIJUANA/HEMP


The city of Columbus will no longer prosecute misdemeanor marijuana possession cases and will dismiss all pending marijuana possession charges, Columbus City Attorney Zach Klein announced Wednesday. Klein's office said the enactment of hemp legalization bill SB57 (S. Huffman-Hill) would require drug testing that distinguishes hemp from marijuana. "Without this drug testing capability, the Columbus City Attorney's Office is not able to prove misdemeanor marijuana possession beyond a reasonable doubt," his office said in a news release.


There are now 26 dispensaries legally operating under the Ohio Medical Marijuana Control Program. The Ohio Board of Pharmacy (OBP) on Thursday awarded a certificate of operation to Soothe, located at 1155 N. Main St. in Bowling Green.


MENTAL HEALTH


Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine was again in Dayton Thursday to announce that he, in conjunction with the Ohio Children's Hospital Association, will be hosting a September summit aimed at addressing the mental health needs of children. "Building Resiliency: A Pediatric Mental Health Summit" will be held Sept. 26 in Dayton, DeWine announced alongside Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley, Lt. Gov. Jon Husted, Dayton Children's Hospital CEO Deborah Feldman and other health and education officials.


MILITARY AFFAIRS


Ohio National Guard (ONG) personnel and partner agencies are continuing emergency response training in the 2019 "Vigilant Guard" exercise this week, and Wednesday saw a hazardous materials unit respond to a simulated structural collapse and radiological contamination at Rickenbacker Air National Guard Base (ANGB). The exercise ends Thursday, and included a focus on cyberattacks this year as well.


NATURAL RESOURCES


The Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) has announced it will coordinate special deer hunts at eight state nature preserves in an effort to control the deer population, especially those affecting native plants.


Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) Director Mary Mertz has designated

the Lake Erie Islands Water Trail as Ohio's 12th state water trail. The trail consists of five separate sections totaling more than 50 miles around North Bass, Middle Bass and South Bass islands, Kelleys Island and along the mainland shorelines of Catawba Island and East Harbor State Park, according to a release from ODNR.


NATIONAL CONFERENCE OF STATE LEGISLATURES (NCSL)


Monday's opening General Session of the National Conference of State Legislatures annual summit featured a discussion with country music legend Dolly Parton about her foundation's Imagination Library program, which recently received support in Ohio's new biennial operating budget. The library program mails one book per month to children from birth to age 5.


As e-commerce giant Amazon puts more warehouses and data centers in Ohio and other communities across the U.S. and the globe, it's also expanding as a buyer and developer of renewable energy, with an eventual goal of powering all operations enterprise-wide with renewable sources. At Monday's Energy Policy Summit meeting at the National Conference of State Legislatures annual summit in Nashville, Illinois Sen. Dave Koehler interviewed Nat Sahlstrom, head of the global energy practice at Amazon Web Services. Sahlstrom said the company is interested in meeting its goal in a way that creates policies and structures simplifying renewable energy development and acquisition for other businesses and organizations that want to follow.


Policymakers should be planning for a future where the average person lives a century, not just in terms of their health needs but their roles as workers, consumers and major drivers of state and local tax revenue, an AARP expert said Monday at the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) annual summit. Monday's pre-conference session, titled "Implications of Living to 100: Preparing State Policymakers," kicked off with a keynote address from Susan Reinhard, senior vice president and director for the AARP Public Policy Institute, and a former deputy health and human services commissioner in New Jersey and former Rutgers University nursing faculty member.


Despite an improving economy and significant advancements in medical technology, overall health and wellbeing is declining in the U.S., a National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) session was told on the first day of NCSL's annual conference. The Task Force on Innovations in State Health Systems, co-chaired by Ohio House Minority Leader Emilia Sykes and South Dakota Sen. Deb Soholt, is looking at ways to change the trajectory of the various health issues that are facing states, including how to get people to be more accountable for their health.


Nearly 70 lawmakers from 23 states and the District of Columbia gathered Wednesday on the steps of the Tennessee Capitol to urge action on gun control measures, including Ohio House Minority Leader Emilia Sykes (D-Akron) and Ohio Sen. Sandra Williams (D-Cleveland), sponsor of a red flag proposal. Those gathered also advocated for expanded background check requirements for gun purchases. The dozens of legislators said while the weekend's mass shootings in El Paso and Dayton lend immediacy to the issue, the problem is much broader than those high-profile events.


A Utah legislative staffer offered a primer Tuesday for other states on how to assess and plan for the risks a recession poses to their states' budgets, while an economist offered some motivation for doing so -- a prediction that the U.S. economy will enter recession in the second half of 2020. Dan White, director of government consulting and fiscal policy research for Moody's Analytics, told attendees of the "Stress Testing State Budgets" session at the meeting of the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) annual summit about economic indicators that forecast a drop in the business cycle, but with a grain of salt.


Things are looking good for states fiscally overall, and budget directors have a positive outlook for the next two fiscal years, according to an analysis by the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL). Erica MacKeller, a senior policy specialist for NCSL, told a session at NCSL's annual conference that general revenue fund growth for states over the next biennium is expected to grow by 2.1 percent, while expenditures are expected to grow by 4.1 percent. She said both numbers are in line with the past several years.


As hemp production moves from limited pilot projects for research to full legalization and wide-scale production, growers, regulators and others around the industry are grappling with the practical concerns of interstate shipments, skeptical law enforcement officers, THC testing protocols and a host of other growing pains. Following limited latitude for hemp pilot projects in 2014 federal legislation, the 2018 Farm Bill legalized hemp nationwide. During a Tuesday session at the National Conference of State Legislatures annual summit, a panel discussed lessons learned from the pilot projects and progress on finalizing regulations for fully legal production.


As secretaries of state were preparing for the 2016 election, they caught wind that the federal government was going to declare elections infrastructure as a critical infrastructure. Tennessee Secretary of State Tre Hargett said one thing secretaries of state from both sides of the aisle could agree on -- they all hated it. Elections, he said, are a purview of the states, and the possible designation added uncertainty to how it would affect them.


As states look for new ways to fund transportation projects within their state, a panel of experts at the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) said governments have been doing a poor job of maintaining the roads they have and explaining the need for increased spending to the public. Bruce Starr, vice president of government affairs at icitizen, who moderated the panel, opened the session by saying that the changing transportation environment will require more of a complete rethink of how roads are funded.


Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker rallied Democratic state legislators Thursday with a recitation of progressive policy successes in his state and implored them to emphasize kitchen table issues for working and middle class families as they head into the 2020 election. The breakfast session and a nearby meeting of Republicans were the only explicitly partisan events of the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) annual summit.


Former Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker addressed Republican state lawmakers during a breakfast on the last day of the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL), telling them not to focus on the what when it comes to politics, but to instead focus "on the why." He said lawmakers need to tell people why they are doing something, rather than just what they are doing.


A Michigan energy executive said Wednesday he expects the power sector will be able to consistently push down emissions rates in the coming decades, while climate policy experts reviewed state efforts to encourage that movement and emissions-reduction trends in the transportation sector as well. The session at the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) Legislative Summit focused on state actions to reduce carbon emissions, featuring remarks from Skiles Boyd, vice president of environmental management and resources for DTE Energy; James Bradbury of the Georgetown Climate Center; and Janet Peace of the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions.


The federal Family First Prevention Services Act provides the best opportunity in 50 years to improve the nation's child welfare system, Tim Decker, a senior fellow with the Annie E. Casey Foundation and the former director of Missouri Children's Division, told attendees at a session Wednesday at the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) Legislative Summit.


Lawmakers from states that have legalized sports gambling and those contemplating it reviewed their decisions on tax rates, regulation, enforcement and mobile betting at a Tuesday session of the National Conference of State Legislatures annual summit. Tuesday's panel was moderated by Kentucky Rep. Adam Koenig and featured remarks from Nevada Attorney General Aaron Ford; Ohio Sen. Bill Coley, president of the National Council of Legislators from Gaming States (NCLGS); Michigan Rep. Brand Iden, vice president of NCLGS; West Virginia Del. Shawn Fluharty; Pennsylvania Rep. Robert Matzie; and New Jersey Assemblywoman Carol Murphy.


POLITICS


Ohio Republican Party Chair Jane Murphy Timken Monday called for Rep. Candice Keller (R-Middletown) to resign after Keller's social media comments regarding the El Paso and Dayton shootings received widespread circulation online. The Dayton shooting left nine dead, as well as the shooter, while the death toll in El Paso rose to 22 Monday. Keller is currently in a three-way primary race for the 2020 nomination to replace term-limited Sen. William Coley (R-West Chester) in the 4th District, along with fellow Rep. George Lang (R-West Chester) and West Chester Township Trustee Lee Wong. Tom Zawistowski, president of the Tea Party-affiliated We the People Convention, Tuesday called for the immediate resignation Timken because of her lack of support for Keller.


PUBLIC SAFETY


On Friday, Aug. 9, Ohio Sea Grant and Ohio State University's Stone Lab will join boating safety advocates around the world in hosting a "Ready, Set, Wear It" life jacket event in their local communities. These events are part of the yearlong Safe Boating Campaign to promote boating safety and voluntary, consistent wearing of life jackets, Ohio Sea Grant said in a news release.


SECRETARY OF STATE


Secretary of State Frank LaRose's office has discovered discrepancies in the "Registration Reset" lists submitted by Franklin, Henry, Huron and Mercer counties and lists used by those counties to send "last chance" notices to affected registered voters. "The statewide Registration Reset list on www.OhioSoS.gov/RegistrationReset now accurately reflects those changes. No registration cancellations have taken place because of this process," the Ohio Secretary of State's Office said in a release sent late in the evening on Friday, Aug. 2.


OHIO STATE FAIR


The 2019 Ohio State Fair concluded its 12-day run on Sunday, Aug. 4 with an estimated 934,925 attendees entering the gates between July 24 and Aug. 4. This marks an increase of approximately 3 percent more visitors than in 2018, the Expo Center and State Fair announced Monday.


The Ohio Department of Commerce's Division of Unclaimed Funds helped return roughly $195,000 in missing money to visitors of the 2019 Ohio State Fair. From July 24 through Aug. 4, unclaimed funds staff found a total of 553 claims, reuniting these fairgoers with a grand total of $195,118.89.


STATE GOVERNMENT


After holding four items as a group for questioning, the Controlling Board approved all 75 items on its agenda without objection on Monday. Sen. Jay Hottinger (R-Newark) asked to hold four Ohio Development Services Agency (DSA) items that dealt with funding for TourismOhio. Hottinger asked if the state is seeing good results from its investment in the TourismOhio program, which DSA legislative liaison Rachel Near said has received roughly $10 million per year for the last five years.


STUDIES/POLLS


In an era of concern over "fake news," a new study finds that people draw a distinction between information sources that are dishonest and those that are biased. Researchers found that a source seen as biased may lose credibility with people, even if they believe the source is scrupulously honest. That means untruthful -- or "fake" -- news isn't the only issue for consumers.


TOBACCO/SMOKING


Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost called smoking the nation's "number one preventable killer" Wednesday as he joined a coalition of states in urging Netflix, Amazon, Google and other members of the burgeoning streaming industry to curtail tobacco use in entertainment content.


TRANSPORTATION/INFRASTRUCTURE


The prospect of hyperloop technology has moved beyond the feasibility stage, Virgin Hyperloop One CEO Jay Walder told local and state leaders Monday, and there is now a race to see which U.S. locations will be first to host transit with pods that can move people or cargo through tubes up to 650 miles per hour, greatly reducing travel time. Walder met with leaders in Central Ohio over several days this week, including a Wednesday discussion at the Columbus Metropolitan Club (CMC).


UTILITIES


The Ohio Consumers' Counsel (OCC) is asking the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) to immediately halt a "so-called" electric distribution modernization charge that OCC says is not being used for distribution modernization, is nearly identical to the FirstEnergy billing rider recently struck down by the Ohio Supreme Court, and is set to cost ratepayers nearly three quarters of a billion dollars if Dayton Power & Light (DP&L) convinces PUCO to increase the modernization charge and extend it through 2022. Should the commission fail to halt DP&L's distribution modernization rider (DMR) in response to the Court's June ruling against FirstEnergy, the consumers' counsel is asking PUCO to make DP&L's remaining DMR charges fully refundable as it did in the case of FirstEnergy.


WORKFORCE


The University of Toledo (UT) and ProMedica health care system recently announced they are forming a new partnership aimed at growing the nursing workforce and raising the profile of the profession in Northwest Ohio as part of an international campaign. The three-year Nursing Now campaign, founded by the Burdett Trust for Nursing alongside the World Health Organization and the International Council on Nursing, "aims to improve health globally by raising the profile and status of nurses worldwide -- influencing policymakers and supporting nurses themselves to lead, learn and build a global movement."



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