Week In Review - December 14, 2020



PDF/Printer Friendly Version

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.


ARTS, SPORTS AND ENTERTAINMENT


The Big 10 Conference Administrators Council on Wednesday voted to eliminate the minimum-game requirement for participation in the 2020 Big 10 Football Championship Game, meaning Ohio State University (OSU) will play Northwestern University for the conference title.


ATTORNEY GENERAL


Attorney General Dave Yost Thursday filed an amicus brief in a lawsuit filed by the Texas attorney general against four swing states in the U.S. Supreme Court, with Yost asking the Court to take up the case to resolve a question over judicial and executive actions in presidential elections while also urging justices to reject the remedy Texas is seeking. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton filed the lawsuit in the U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday, asking the Court to block the votes cast in Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, accusing the states of making unlawful changes to their election policies during the COVID-19 pandemic. In a separate brief, Yost asked the Court to take the case, but not necessarily to support the Texas claims. Yost said the states need the Court to decide whether the Electors Clause of the U.S. Constitution permits state courts and executive officials to alter rules by which presidential elections are conducted. Yost argued that the clause is clear that the power to regulate election rules lies strictly with state legislatures. He added that the relief Texas seeks "would undermine a foundational premise of our federal system: the idea that states are sovereigns, free to govern themselves."


Facebook Inc. has been illegally stifling competition to protect its monopoly power for years, Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost and 48 other attorneys general say in a new lawsuit. The lawsuit alleges that, over the last decade, the social networking giant illegally acquired competitors in a predatory manner and cut services to smaller firms that threatened its power, depriving users of the benefits of competition and reducing privacy protections and services along the way -- all in an effort to boost its bottom line through increased advertising revenue.


The Ohio Attorney General's Office announced the single-day arrest of 14 men during a human trafficking sting in Liberty Township (Trumbull County). Sunday's operation targeted men seeking to buy sex over the Internet.


FY21-22 CAPITAL APPROPRIATIONS


Budget Director Kim Murnieks outlined broad plans before both finance committees this week for a $2 billion capital budget, with new funding for school and public works construction on top of that provided in SB4 (Rulli-Kunze) earlier this year, $50 million for local jail projects, plus hundreds of millions of dollars for higher education, prisons and parks. The capital bill is expected to be formally introduced next week.


The Ohio Facilities Construction Commission and Ohio Public Works Commission are in line for $300 million and $280 million, respectively, on top of $300 million and $255 million they received in SB4. Murnieks also said the Office of Budget and Management (OBM) expects the state will be well below the 5 percent cap on debt service -- and likely below 4 percent -- even with the additional borrowing needed for the proposal.


FY20-21 BUDGET


Sales tax collections beat estimates by nearly $40 million in November, while income taxes were about on target, the Office of Budget and Management (OBM) reported in preliminary revenue figures Monday. Tax collections were up 2.3 percent or $46.3 million in November and are ahead by 3.8 percent or $393.5 million so far this fiscal year.


FY22-23 BUDGET


Senate Finance Committee Chairman Matt Dolan (R-Chagrin Falls) said in a Zoom budget forum hosted by G2G Consulting that, in addition to education funding, the first priorities will obviously have to be addressing the COVID-19 pandemic and ensuring that the budget is balanced at the end of FY21. However, if he could "suspend reality" and assume everything will be under control next spring, priorities would include avoiding raising taxes on anyone, funding the H2Ohio water quality initiative and funding services that will help enhance Ohioans' quality of life -- pointing specifically to medical services, environmental improvements, child care and economic relief for small businesses.


CORONAVIRUS


Ohio is expected to begin its first phase of vaccine distribution on or around Dec. 15, Gov. Mike DeWine said Friday. During his COVID-19 briefing, DeWine outlined details of "Phase 1A," in which priority for the vaccine will be given to EMS responders, health care workers and personnel who routinely care for COVID-19 patients, residents and staff at nursing homes, assisted living facilities and psychiatric hospitals, as well as those who live in group home settings such as some veterans and people with mental illnesses.


On Monday, Gov. Mike DeWine said that the state is seeing somewhat of a leveling of COVID-19 cases in the state, but said it is still too early to say whether the state is flattening the curve once again after experiencing a spike over the past month. He attributed the leveling off to his administration's masking order and the current curfew which shuts down most businesses between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. The latter order, which had been due to expire later this week, was extended until Jan. 2, 2021.


As Gov. Mike DeWine explained in his Monday briefing, the Ohio Department of Health's (ODH) Bureau of Infectious Disease Tuesday cleared the backlog of pending COVID-19 files that dated back to Nov. 1, causing a one-day spike in cases of 25,721. Included in these numbers are the results from approximately 13,000 cases that were part of the report backlog.


Gov. Mike DeWine was joined by 12 medical professionals from around the state at Thursday's briefing, offering what he called "a blunt appeal" for Ohioans to follow safety protocols during the holidays. The next three weeks represent a "very crucial" period for the state, he said, with ODH reporting 11,738 new COVID-19 cases -- the fourth-highest daily increase -- and 111 deaths. Hospitalizations also increased by 452 since Wednesday, with 31 new ICU admissions.


The holiday "Stay Safe Ohio" protocols include standard activities, such as wearing masks, social distancing, washing hands and working from home when possible. The medical professionals also urged Ohioans not to eat or drink with anyone outside their household, limit travel and keep attendance at weddings and funerals minimal through usage of virtual viewing. DeWine also announced an extension of the 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew until Jan. 2, 2021, while saying ODH would provide a variance for certain professional athletic events.


A new national Quinnipiac Poll released Wednesday found 33 percent of respondents don't think they would be willing to get vaccinated with a COVID-19 vaccine if it is approved, while 61 percent said they would be willing to be vaccinated. Asked how quickly they would be willing to get a vaccine once it is approved, 37 percent said as soon as possible, while 41 percent said they would wait a few months, and 20 percent said they would never get it.


ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT


Gov. Mike DeWine's administration announced Monday the approval of assistance for 16 projects that are expected to create 4,183 new jobs and retain 1,051 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 $240 million in new payroll and spur more than $864 million in investments across Ohio.


ECONOMY


For the week ending Dec. 5, the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS) reported 36,327 initial unemployment claims to the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL). That number is nearly 9,000 more than was reported last week and is the highest number of weekly jobless claims reported since July. The total number of initial jobless claims filed in Ohio over the last 38 weeks (1,969,894) was more than the combined total of those filed during the last four years, according to a news release from ODJFS.


EDUCATION


State Board of Education President Laura Kohler, Superintendent Paolo DeMaria and Renee Willis, superintendent of Richmond Heights City Schools, discussed the development and implications of the board's summer resolution on racism and equity during a virtual Cleveland City Club forum Friday. The board voted in July to adopt the "Resolution to condemn racism and to advance equity and opportunity for black students, indigenous students and students of color" in the wake of nationwide protests over racism and police conduct sparked by the death of George Floyd. The resolution inspired lengthy debate and drew public criticism and praise at board meetings for months.


While K-12 school funding overhaul HB305 (Cupp-Patterson) passed the House with broad bipartisan support, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Matt Dolan (R-Chagrin Falls) said the bill is promising but likely lacks the clarity and urgency necessary to pass the upper chamber during the lame duck session. This comment came during a Zoom budget forum hosted by G2G Consulting that also included House Assistant Minority Leader Kristin Boggs (D-Columbus) and Ohio Office of Budget and Management (OBM) Director Kimberly Murnieks. Murnieks said Gov. Mike DeWine has been clear that he is committed to wraparound services for students, and those programs will be funded in some form in the administration's budget recommendation.


Sen. Stephanie Kunze (R-Hilliard), one of many co-sponsors for the Senate version of the Cupp-Patterson school funding plan, said questions about the full price tag and the lost work time from the pandemic are factors in the chamber's deliberations on it, but she expressed optimism about its prospects. Kunze joined Reps. John Patterson (D-Jefferson) and Phil Robinson (D-Solon) and school finance expert Howard Fleeter at a Cleveland City Club virtual forum Monday to discuss the plan, passed by the House in HB305 (Cupp-Patterson) and pending in the Senate Finance Committee as SB376.


The Franklin County judge overseeing remaining assets for the defunct Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow (ECOT) has approved the state's proposal to settle claims against the former school treasurer in exchange for her assistance in the case against school founder William Lager. Attorney General Dave Yost's office filed a motion last month for approval of a settlement with Michele Smith that would dismiss claims against her and her bonding company in exchange for her assistance in helping the state press its claims against Lager.


The Thomas B. Fordham Institute unveiled a new report Thursday suggesting Ohio's current school funding system may not still be unconstitutional. The Ohio Supreme Court ruled 23 years ago in DeRolph v. State of Ohio that the state's school funding system violated Section Six, Article II of the Ohio Constitution which has a "thorough and efficient" clause. However, the report's author, Aaron Churchill, research director for the Fordham Institute, questioned whether it is still fair to characterize Ohio's current funding arrangement as unconstitutional given all the changes that have taken place over two decades.


ELECTIONS 2020


Sen. Stephanie Kunze (R-Hilliard) has won another term after a recount confirmed her victory and her opponent, Democrat Crystal Lett, conceded. The Franklin County Board of Elections showed a lead of less than 0.5 percent when it finished with its canvass of ballots, leading to the recount.


ELECTIONS 2021


Sen. Cecil Thomas (D-Cincinnati) has pulled paperwork to run for Cincinnati mayor, and confirmed his intention to several media outlets. Thomas, who is in his last term in the Ohio Senate, is seeking the office held by Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley, who cannot run again due to term limits. Cincinnati Councilman David Mann and retired Cincinnati firefighter Raffel Prohpett have also announced campaigns.


EMPLOYMENT/UNEMPLOYMENT


The national unemployment rate dropped from 6.9 percent in October to 6.7 percent in November as the economy added 245,000 jobs, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported Friday. BLS said the improvements in the labor market reflect the continued resumption of economic activity that had been curtailed due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and efforts to contain it. However, the pace of improvement in the labor market has moderated in recent months. In November, notable job gains occurred in transportation and warehousing, professional and business services and health care. Employment declined in government and retail trade.


ENERGY


The Ohio Manufacturers' Association (OMA) is turning to the Ohio Supreme Court in an effort to halt HB6's (Callender-Wilkin) $170 million annual "Clean Air Fund" charge on all electric accounts, saying the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) was "unjust and unreasonable" to approve ratepayer subsidies for nuclear and solar generators in light of mounting administrative and legal actions targeting the bill's enactment, First Energy, its former executives, and the nuclear plants' current owner, Energy Harbor. Meanwhile, the Office of Ohio Consumers' Counsel (OCC) is urging the commission to widen the scope of its "corporate separation audit" of FirstEnergy for the period covering the introduction and enactment of HB6 and the subsequent ballot campaign to repeal it.


FEDERAL


President-elect Joe Biden Thursday made it official that he is nominating U.S. Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-Warrensville Heights) for secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). A release from the Biden transition team called Fudge "a leading voice for working families." She has been a representative for the 11th Congressional District for the last 12 years. According to the transition team, if confirmed, Fudge will be the first woman to lead HUD in more than 40 years and the second Black woman in history to do so.


GENERAL ASSEMBLY/STATEHOUSE


Rep. John Rogers (D-Mentor-on-the-Lake) confirmed to the Willoughby News Herald that he has tested positive for COVID-19. With the positive test, Rogers joins Reps. John Patterson (D-Jefferson) and Rick Carfagna (R-Westerville) to confirm that they have the coronavirus. Media outlets have also reported that Rep. Gary Scherer (R-Circleville) has tested positive, and Rep. Steve Hambley (R-Medina) posted on social media this week that he had recovered from the virus after contracting it last month.


The House cancelled its floor sessions for Wednesday and Thursday, Dec. 9 and 10 although the Tuesday floor session proceeded. The speaker added that the House will be in session on Thursday, Dec. 17 with an "if needed" session on Wednesday, Dec. 16 remaining on the calendar. Committees are to meet.


House Democrats Tuesday tried and failed again to force a mask mandate on the chamber during Tuesday's session, after at least three lawmakers tested positive for COVID-19 recently. Rep. Paula Hicks-Hudson (D-Toledo) sought to add an amendment to SB252 (Hackett-Craig), which prohibits "fail first" coverage of drugs to treat stage four advanced metastatic cancer, but it was ruled out of order by Speaker Bob Cupp (R-Lima), and House Republicans backed Cupp's ruling when Hicks-Hudson appealed that ruling. SB252 (Hackett-Craig) went on to pass 81-1. In addition, the House Tuesday passed seven other bills including HB159 (Blessing) HB273 (Ryan-Lipps), HB328 (Baldridge), HB361 (Upchurch-Strahorn), HB441 (Plummer-West), HB501 (Wiggam-Kick) and SB39 (Schuring). It concurred on Senate amendments on to HB24 (Hambley-Kick) and HB412 (Clites-Ginter).


Aggravated murder convicts and defendants could be found ineligible for execution if their conduct was affected by four of the most severe mental illnesses under legislation passed by an overwhelming majority Wednesday in the Senate. The chamber voted 27-3 to approve HB136 (Hillyer) after one final amendment on the floor from Sen. John Eklund (R-Chardon), the Senate Judiciary Committee chairman, addressing the evaluations of those petitioning to be found ineligible for capital punishment under the bill. Eklund said it represented another compromise with prosecutors that gave neither him nor them all they wanted. The chamber also voted 30-0 to approve the conference report to SB9 (M. Huffman), requiring insurers to release certain health claim information to employers with 50 to 100 employees.


The Senate also passed SB234 (Brenner), HB7 (Ghanbari-Patterson), HB210 (Carruthers), HB251 (Lang-Hillyer), HB312 (Powell), HB405 (Cross), SB289 (Blessing), SB341 (Roegner), SB362 (Peterson) and SB372 (Rulli).


In his post-session interview with the press, Obhof said lawmakers and the administration have been talking for a couple of weeks about resolving concerns with Gov. Mike DeWine's veto of SB311 (McColley-Roegner), reiterating previous statements about a desire to decriminalize the health orders. Obhof said the chamber is remaining flexible in its lame-duck schedule, noting the if-needed session already on the calendar for Tuesday, Dec. 22 and pointing out that lawmakers returned the week between Christmas and New Year's Day in the previous General Assembly.


The Senate Insurance and Financial Institutions Committee voted Wednesday to report out HB388 (A. Holmes), despite requests from the ambulance industry for further consideration of how it would be affected. The bill received a unanimous vote of those present.


In other actions, the Conference Committee on SB89 which dealt with health plan claim information accepted a report on the amended bill; the House Civil Justice Committee reported out SB276 (Roegner) which enacts the Ohio Revised Limited Liability Company Act; the House Health Committee reported out SCR5 (Schaffer) which urges Congress to enact the Mark Takai Atomic Veterans Healthcare Parity Act; and SB263 (Hackett) which addresses pharmacy benefit managers; the House Primary and Secondary Education Committee reported out HB321 (Lipps-Kelly) which addresses child sexual abuse prevention; the House State and Local Government Committee reported out HB460 (Hambley-Skindell) which allows party designation for judicial candidates; the Senate General Government and Agency Review Committee reported out HB46 (Greenspan) which establishes the Ohio State Government Expenditure Database; the Senate Health, Human Services and Medicaid Committee reported out HB365 (Manning) which revises requirements for a chemical dependency counselor II license; the Senate Local Government, Public Safety and Veterans Affairs Committee reported out HB450 (Stephens) which addresses succession guidelines for fiscal officers; the House Criminal Justice Committee reported out SB312 (McColley) which deals with the Hardin County Court of Common Pleas; and HB215 (Boggs-Carfagna), the Reagan Tokes Reentry Act; the House Transportation and Public Safety Committee reported out HB458 (Rogers) which creates the University of Alabama license plate; and HB794 (Cera), a highway designation bill; the Senate Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee reported out SB380 (Hoagland) which authorizes the use of owls in the sport of falconry; HB33 (Lanese-Carruthers) which establishes animal abuse reporting requirements; HB67 (Brinkman-Kelly) which addresses continuing education for veterinarians; HB665 (Jones) which modifies laws governing agricultural societies; SR454 (Roegner) which urges Congress to eliminate the e-check program; and HB674 (Hillyer-Becker) which revises liquor laws; the Senate Government Oversight and Reform Committee reported out SB383 (Johnson) which eliminates the duty to retreat; the Senate Insurance and Financial Institutions Committee reported out HB38 (Hillyer) addressing commercial credit reporting; SB362 (Peterson) which increases tax credits for insurance companies; and HB388 (A. Holmes) regarding out-of-network care; the Senate Judiciary Committee reported out HB1 (Plummer-Hicks-Hudson) which addresses intervention in lieu of conviction; and the Senate Transportation, Commerce and Workforce Committee reported out HB172 (Hillyer) which addresses self-storage facilities.


GOVERNOR


While he emphasized that President Donald Trump has "every right" to challenge the results of the election he lost to President-elect Joe Biden, Gov. Mike DeWine said Americans should rest assured that the U.S. electoral process is working properly. "We need to have faith. We need to have faith in our election system. We need to have faith in our judicial system. We should not, for example, criticize the president or his lawyers for going into court. They have every right to go to court, just like any other American does. Courts are by-and-large a very good adjudicator of the facts," DeWine said in a wide-ranging interview with Hannah News, during which he also discussed issues such as the "State of the State" address, education funding, gun policies, police reform, scandal-plagued energy subsidy law HB6 (Callender-Wilkin), sports gambling, water quality, taxes, the budget and federal pandemic relief.


HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES


Molina Healthcare announced recently the appointment of Michelle Bentzien-Purrington as executive leader and Dr. Mario San Bartolome as national medical director of the Columbus-based National Molina Healthcare Social Determinants of Health (SDOH) Innovation Center created earlier this year.


HIGHER EDUCATION


University of Dayton (UD) School of Business Administration (SBA) Dean John D. Mittelstaedt died in hospice on Tuesday, after a long battle with cancer, the university said.


Youngstown State University's (YSU) nursing department received a $1 million donation from the Centofanti Charitable Foundation and will rename the department the James and Coralie Centofanti School of Nursing in honor of the gift.


Leadership changes are underway at Ohio State University (OSU) where President Kristina Johnson recently announced Executive Vice President and Provost Bruce McPheron had decided to step down from his role. Johnson also announced the departure of Susan Basso, senior vice president of Talent, Culture and Human Resources, and the hiring of Ayanna Howard as dean of the College of Engineering effective March 1, 2021.


HOUSING/HOMELESSNESS


Ohio has joined an $86.3 million nationwide settlement with Northstar Mortgage aka "Mr. Cooper" over allegations the company mismanaged tens of thousands of home loans between 2011 and 2017. Nationstar began purchasing mortgage servicing portfolios in 2012 from competitors and quickly grew into the nation's largest non-bank servicer, according to the Ohio Attorney General's Office. Of the $86 million-plus settlement, $79.2 million will provide direct relief to 55,814 borrowers nationally, including $2.13 million for current or former mortgage holders in Ohio. Consumers seeking mortgage assistance and loan modifications, for instance, are due a guaranteed minimum payment of $840. Victims of rogue third-party vendors will receive a guaranteed $250.


IMMIGRATION


Seeking "commonsense immigration reform," a number of regional and statewide business groups announced Thursday they have formed Ohio Business for Immigration Solutions (OBIS) and are calling for bipartisan efforts from the 134th General Assembly and 117th Congress. OBIS members include chambers of commerce in Columbus, Cincinnati, Akron and other cities; Ohio Bankers League, Ohio Business Roundtable, Ohio Council for Homecare & Hospice, Ohio Grocers Association, Ohio Hotel & Lodging Association, Ohio Pharmacists Association, Ohio REALTORS, Ohio Restaurant Association, OhioX, BioOhio, Cincinnati Compass, Columbus Partnership, Eastman & Smith LTD, Greater Cleveland Partnership and Hispanic Chamber of Cincinnati USA.


INSURANCE


Kristen Berger recently joined the Ohio Insurance Institute (OII) as director of communications. Prior to joining OII, Berger was senior communications specialist at the Ohio Public Employees Retirement System. She also held the position of communications coordinator for the Ohio Insurance Agents Association, Inc. Berger also worked for the Ohio Telecom Association and as a legislative aide in the Ohio House of Representatives.


JUDICIAL


Members of the Ohio bar would be allowed to include U.S. military service in their attorney registration files with the adoption of proposed amendments to the Rules for the Government of the Bar of Ohio. The change would provide the Office of Attorney Services demographic data on lawyers admitted to the practice of law or registered as corporate counsel. The comment deadline is Monday, Dec. 28, 2020.


The Ohio Supreme Court is granting a major extension of its e-filing deadline from 5 p.m. to 11:59:59 p.m., effective Jan. 1, 2021. Amendments to Rules 3.02 and 3.03 of the Rules of Practice note that official business hours of the Court's Office of the Clerk will remain 8 a.m.-5 p.m., and that paper or electronic documents submitted after the close of business will be considered timely if they otherwise comply with the rules. Those received after 5 p.m. will not be reviewed until the next day, however. Under Rule 3.03, moreover, the filing of a request for extension of time now automatically extends the period for filing a document until the Supreme Court rules on the request.


Gov. Mike DeWine Thursday appointed Karen K. Gallagher to the Williams County Court of Common Pleas, Probate and Juvenile Division, effective Dec. 31, 2020. This is weeks ahead of the term she just won in the November election where she ran unopposed to replace Judge Steven R. Bird. That term begins Tuesday, Feb. 9, 2021.


Clinton County Clerk of Courts Cindy Bailey was re-elected as 2021 president of the Ohio Clerk of Courts Association (OCCA) at its annual winter conference, the association announced. Also installed were Butler County Clerk County Clerk of Courts Mary Swain as first vice president, Fulton County Clerk of Courts Tracy Zuver as second vice president, Mercer County Clerk of Courts Calvin Freeman as third vice president, Holmes County Clerk of Courts Ronda Steimel as corresponding secretary, Delaware County Clerk of Courts Natalie Fravel as recording secretary and Wyandot County Clerk of Courts Ann Dunbar as treasurer.


MEDICAID/MEDICAID REFORM


While Ohio's Medicaid work requirements are in limbo because of the coronavirus pandemic, the U.S. Supreme Court said Friday it will review cases challenging the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' approval of requirements in other states. At the outset of the DeWine administration, the federal government granted approval for Ohio to implement Medicaid work requirements. But the planned 2021 launch is up in the air because enhanced federal matching funds granted states to address the COVID-19 pandemic come with the understanding eligibility requirements for Medicaid won't change. The Supreme Court said Friday it was consolidating and accepting for review Azar v. Gresham and Arkansas v. Gresham.


The Ohio Department of Medicaid (ODM) said Tuesday that Gainwell Technologies was awarded the contract to serve as the fiscal intermediary as part of a larger overhaul of managed care under the DeWine administration. ODM said the vendor will allow providers to submit claims and prior authorization requests through one system rather than with each managed care organizations, streamline prior authorizations in general and provide for timely updates on the status of claims and prior authorization requests. ODM said the contract will also enable it to assess regulatory compliance, review data and track performance measures.


NATURAL RESOURCES


Ohio hunters harvested 71,650 white-tailed deer during the annual gun hunting week that concluded on Sunday, Dec. 6, according to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) Division of Wildlife (DOW). Over the last three years, hunters checked an average of 65,566 deer during the same weeklong period, the department said.


NONPROFIT ORGANIZATIONS


The JobsOhio Board of Directors discussed efforts over the year, particularly in response to the pandemic, and recognized the work of member and former Speaker Bill Batchelder, who has stepped down from the board but will serve in an emeritus role going forward. Gov. Mike DeWine was present in the virtual meeting, acknowledging Batchelder as "the father of JobsOhio" and welcoming his replacement on the board, Upper Sandusky businessman Paul Kalmbach Sr. DeWine also recognized the work of the economic development nonprofit as a whole during the pandemic.


PEOPLE


Groundwork Ohio, which advocates on early education and development of children, said it has hired Abby McMahon to the newly created position of director of policy and advocacy. McMahon previously was an attorney with the Legislative Service Commission. She has a bachelor's degree in geography from Ohio State University and law degree from the University of Cincinnati.


Alexander "P.G." Sittenfeld announced Monday he would accept a voluntary suspension from his seat on the Cincinnati City Council following his federal indictment, though he also vowed to "fight these false allegations [and] show [his] innocence."


The Ohio Manufacturers' Association (OMA) announced Tuesday that President Eric Burkland will retire at the end of the year, though he will remain active as president emeritus and leader of the OMA Educational and Industrial Development Institute. Ryan Augsburger, vice president and managing director of the OMA's public policy services, will serve as the next president. Burkland has led OMA for 31 years, according to the organization, helping "advance numerous policies to increase the competitiveness of Ohio manufacturers."


Tom Meyer, who spent 33 years in the Ohio Statehouse working for former Gov. Dick Celeste and Democrats in the Ohio Senate, passed away on Tuesday, Dec. 8 due to complications from COVID-19. According to his obituary, Meyer spent his time in the Statehouse "keeping the Republicans on their toes and helping interns learn their way. He fought to restore rights to Shawnee native tribes. He was proud to serve the people of Ohio, alongside colleagues who became family."


POLITICS


Ohio Republican leaders gathered virtually Friday to discuss the results of last month's election and look ahead to 2022 and beyond. At the meeting, Ohio Republican Party Chairwoman Jane Timken announced her intention to run for re-election as the party's chair. Numerous state leaders and committee members congratulated Timken for her work this election cycle, which saw Republican gains in the state General Assembly and President Donald Trump win Ohio by a large margin.


The "moral convulsion" that has occurred in the U.S. over the last five years -- and Joe Biden's excellent comprehension of it -- led to the former vice president's becoming the president-elect, according to New York Times political and cultural commentator David Brooks. Citing Harvard political scientist Samuel Huntington, Brooks said the country goes through heavy turbulence roughly every 60 years, pointing to the 1770s, 1830s, 1890s, 1960s and the present. Brooks presented a virtual talk hosted by the Capital Square Foundation (CSF).


PUBLIC SAFETY


The DeWine administration answered the May 25, 2020 police slaying of George Floyd Friday with a final law enforcement standard limiting chokeholds to incidents requiring use of deadly force to protect officers and others from serious physical injury or death. The Ohio Department of Public Safety's (DPS) Community-Police Collaborative Advisory Board also finalized work begun in September on a statewide law enforcement standard for mass protests and demonstrations to "enable Ohio's citizens to safely and peacefully exercise their constitutional rights of expression, of assembly and of freedom of the press while also ensuring public safety and the safety of ... officers."


Another state agency is now in compliance with law enforcement standards promulgated by the Ohio Community-Police Collaborative Advisory Board over five years ago. The Ohio Department of Public Safety's (DPS) Office of Criminal Justice Services announced Tuesday that the Ohio Casino Control Commission's gaming agents section has been certified for use of force, including deadly force, and agency recruitment and hiring. Also newly certified are police in Bedford (Cuyahoga County), Craig Beach (Mahoning County), Fort Recovery (Mercer County), Mount Vernon (Knox County), Muskingum Watershed Conservancy District (Tuscarawas County), Port Washington (Tuscarawas County), Silver Lake (Summit County) and Waterville (Lucas County).


STATE GOVERNMENT


A Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation (BCI) rule package that would have increased fees for background checks and fingerprint searches was moved into "to be re-filed" status ahead of Monday's Joint Committee on Agency Rule Review (JCARR) meeting. The BCI rules would increase fees for criminal background checks from $22 to $30 and fees for fingerprint searches from $5 to $6. All other items on the agenda cleared JCARR.


Ohio Facilities Construction Commission (OFCC) Executive Director Cheryl Lyman told committee members Thursday that the total dollar amount of projects under the board's purview will reach over $3 billion by the end of FY21. Looking at the projects just from the beginning of September through the end of October, Lyman said $47.9 million will go toward school construction projects, $40.6 million toward state agency projects, and $5.3 million toward cultural and arts projects.


TECHNOLOGY


Lt. Gov. Jon Husted announced Monday that 200 unique datasets and more than 100 interactive visualizations will be available to public and state decision makers through an online portal that launches this week. Husted announced DataOhio during Gov. Mike DeWine's coronavirus update on Monday, saying the goal is to have data from all state agencies on the platform, which will serve as a centralized repository. Four agencies -- the Ohio Department of Health (ODH), the Department of Rehabilitation and Correction (DRC), the Department of Youth Services (DYS), and the Ohio Department of Higher Education (ODHE) -- will have data on the website as it goes live. It can be found at data.ohio.gov.


Lt. Gov. Jon Husted announced results from the October round of TechCred applications, saying that 246 employers were approved for funding that will lead to technology-focused credential training of 3,164 Ohioans. This now brings the program to over 15,000 credentials for the year, having already surpassed the goal of 10,000.


The Ohio Third Frontier Commission approved $900,000 for new medical technology and other innovative products in its Tuesday meeting, including $500,000 awarded to Ohio State University from Third Frontier's Technology Validation and Start-up Fund. The fund is focused on Ohio institutions of higher education and other nonprofit research institutions, to help demonstrate that technology is commercially viable through activities such as testing and prototyping. The ultimate goal is to license the technology to companies, according to the commission.


TRANSPORTATION/INFRASTRUCTURE


The Reason Foundation moved Ohio up five spots to 13th in the group's annual rankings of state highway systems on overall cost-effectiveness and condition. According to the group, Ohio ranks 13th in overall fatality rate, 19th in structurally deficient bridges, 21st in traffic congestion, 29th in urban Interstate pavement condition, and 29th in rural Interstate pavement condition. On spending, Ohio ranks 21st in total spending per mile and 22nd in capital and bridge costs per mile.


While COVID-19 overall has reduced demand for public transit in American cities, Ohio State University (OSU) researchers found how much that demand dropped varied based on a number of factors, including location and race. Overall, demand for public transit dropped about 73 percent amid the pandemic, but the authors of the study found the reduction didn't affect all cities equally. Using activity data from a widely used public transit navigation app, they found demand for public transit dropped further in larger, coastal cities than in other parts of the country. The reason had to do with the nature of jobs in different cities and who was actually using public transportation before the pandemic, said Luyu Liu, lead author of the study and doctoral student in geography at OSU.


UTILITIES


Capital-area resident Cynthia Wingo tried for more than three years to get the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) to apply the statutory test for an "electric light company" to submetering firm Nationwide Energy Partners (NEP) but was subjected instead to a baseless standard of the commission's own devising and denied the possibility of greater consumer protections from a fully regulated utility, the Supreme Court of Ohio ruled Wednesday, remanding the case to the PUCO for a proper application of Revised Code (R.C.) Section 4905.


WORKERS' COMPENSATION


The Ohio Bureau of Workers' Compensation (BWC) began issuing $5 billion in dividends to Ohio employers on Thursday to ease COVID-19's impact on the state's business community and economy, bringing its total dividends this year to nearly $8 billion. This latest rebate was announced by Gov. Mike DeWine on Oct. 28.


[Story originally published in The Hannah Report. Copyright 2020 Hannah News Service, Inc.]

53 views0 comments

41 South High Street, Suite 3625, Columbus, Ohio 43215, Tel. 614-782-1440

Privacy Policy  |  Disclaimer