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Week In Review - December 27, 2022


Ohio government affairs week in review December 2022


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.


ABORTION


The Ohio law that generally bans abortion after fetal cardiac activity is detected will remain indefinitely blocked. On Friday, Dec. 16, the First District Court of Appeals denied Attorney General Dave Yost's request to take up the appeal of the preliminary injunction granted by the Hamilton County Court of Common Pleas in providers' challenge to Ohio's "heartbeat" abortion ban, 133-SB23 (Roegner). Fetal cardiac activity can often be detected at around six weeks of pregnancy. With the injunction in place, abortion is legal up to 20 weeks post-fertilization, or 22 weeks from the last menstrual period (LMP). In a 3-0 decision, the appeals court sent the case back to the lower court to continue, and complete, proceedings in the case.


AGRICULTURE


The Ohio Department of Agriculture (ODAg) announced last week that it has teamed up with Ohio foodbanks to create Ohio CAN - Community + Agriculture + Nutrition. ODAg said under the program historically underrepresented producers will be able to sell food to the Ohio Association of Foodbanks and the products will then be distributed to Ohioans in need through the 12 Feeding America foodbanks and 3,600 member charities across all 88 counties.


ATTORNEY GENERAL


Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost is applauding lame duck passage of statutory authority for his 10th Amendment Center on states' rights, the Sacred Spaces Act banning protests at religious gatherings, and prompt testing of sexual assault kits for DNA matching. Each awaits the governor's signature. Last week, the General Assembly approved the Sacred Spaces Act in HB505 (Carfagna-Johnson), while both rape kit testing in HB390 (Lanese-Johns) and the 10th Amendment Center codification in HB506 (LaRe-Bird) were inserted into criminal justice omnibus SB288 (Manning).


FY24-25 BUDGET


Now available on the Hannah News homepage are the proposed FY24-25 budget requests 90 state agencies submitted to the governor. A link to the proposals can be found in Breaking News. Gov. Mike DeWine and staff of the Office of Budget and Management (OBM) are currently reviewing these requests as they work to put together the administration's proposed budget for FY24-25, which is due to the General Assembly by Tuesday, Jan. 31, 2023 -- four weeks after the organization of the Legislature, which is to occur on Tuesday, Jan. 3.


Gov. Mike DeWine this week joined two dozen of his Republican counterparts in a letter to President Joe Biden encouraging him to allow the federal public health emergency declaration (PHE) for COVID-19 to expire in April. The official budget request from the Ohio Department of Medicaid (ODM) for the coming FY24-25 biennium, submitted to the Office of Budget and Management (OBM) several weeks ago, contemplates this outcome. Meanwhile, Congress appears poised to end the link between the emergency declaration and continuous Medicaid eligibility.


State agencies are assembling budget plans that would enact policies Gov. Mike DeWine touted this fall as part of his "Bold Beginning" initiative, which he said is meant to make Ohio "the best place in the nation to have a baby and raise a family." The Ohio Department of Medicaid (ODM) budget request, submitted to the Office of Budget and Management (OBM) in late October, includes a few provisions related to those priorities. Among them are the plan to increase from 200 percent of federal poverty to 300 percent the Medicaid eligibility limit for pregnant women and children.


ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT


The DeWine administration announced Tuesday the state will provide $64 million in tax credits supporting 54 rehabilitation projects through the Ohio Historic Preservation Tax Credit Program (OHPTC), with over $1 billion in leveraged private investment expected as a result. It is the 29th OHPTC round. Twenty-one communities are expected to receive awards through this round of the program, which is administered by the Ohio Department of Development (DOD). The funding will assist private developers in rehabilitating the historic buildings, many of which are vacant and generate little economic activity. The tax credits will not be issued until project construction is complete and all requirements are verified.


While the city of Columbus and its metro area have experienced strong population and economic growth over the past two decades, the rest of Ohio is characterized by an aging population, and a lack of population and wage growth, according to a new report that examines 2020 Census data. The report released recently by the Greater Ohio Policy Center (GOPC) says lawmakers need to pursue policies that are tailored to local conditions.


The DeWine administration and JobsOhio announced Wednesday that Medpace, a clinical contract research organization (CRO), has committed to adding 1,500 new jobs and $90 million in associated payroll over the next six years as part of expanded operations in Cincinnati. Medpace also committed to invest $150 million for the headquarters expansion, including construction of a new building and parking garage, and will grow its employment in Ohio by nearly 80 percent. Jobs will include a heavy focus on STEM talent including physicians, lab technicians, clinical research associates, data analysts, financial analysts and software engineers. The project is contingent on state and local incentives, and JobsOhio plans to provide assistance as well.


ECONOMY


The Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS) said Friday that the state unemployment rate was unchanged from October to November, remaining at 4.2 percent as the state added 5,500 jobs over the month. ODJFS said the number of workers unemployed in Ohio in November was 243,000, up from 242,000 in October. The number of unemployed has decreased by 14,000 in the past 12 months from 257,000 in November 2021. The November unemployment rate for Ohio decreased 0.3 percent from 4.5 percent in November 2021.


EDUCATION


Litigation challenging the constitutionality of Ohio's EdChoice Scholarship can move forward, after the trial judge declined Friday, Dec. 16 to dismiss the case as the state requested. Judge Jaiza Page of Franklin County Common Pleas Court also rejected a request from intervening families whose children use the vouchers for judgement on the pleadings.


Amid steady growth in the use of school vouchers and a legal battle over their constitutionality, the Fordham Institute commissioned a study from Ohio State University (OSU) researchers that seeks to gauge how the EdChoice program affects traditional school districts. Fordham is a consistent advocate for school choice policies and has an affiliated foundation that sponsors Ohio charter schools. Stephane Lavertu, a professor at OSU's John Glenn College of Public Affairs, and John Gregg, a Glenn College doctoral student, wrote the report, titled, "The Ohio EdChoice Program's Impact on School District Enrollments, Finances and Academics." The report asserts positive or neutral effects from EdChoice on school districts' levels of racial segregation, spending and academic achievement. Conclusions of the study are focused on the performance-based EdChoice program, as the authors said it was difficult to establish links between district outcomes and the income-based EdChoice expansion.


ELECTIONS


Secretary of State Frank LaRose Tuesday announced @VerifyOhio, a new digital outreach initiative his office said is aimed at educating Ohioans on elections and entrepreneurship. The platform will be used throughout the 2023 and 2024 election cycles to fact-check myths and answer common questions, as well as provide a "rapid response" resource during the voting period around Election Day, when misinformation is often at its peak, the secretary of state's office said.


The Ohio Association of Elections Officials (OAEO) this week expressed its gratitude to lawmakers for including in HB45 (Roemer-West) $7.5 million in federal funds for the purchase of electronic poll books. "Electronic poll books have transformed the voting process for election administrators and voters alike," said Brian Sleeth, president of OAEO and director of the Warren County Board of Elections. "We are so unbelievably grateful to the General Assembly for this important investment in our elections."


ELECTIONS 2022


In the final days of the 2022 general election campaign, Republicans on the statewide ballot outspent their Democratic opponents, led by Gov. Mike DeWine. Friday was the deadline for campaigns to report all campaign finance activity from Oct. 20 through Dec. 9 to the secretary of state's office. According to finance reports, DeWine's campaign reported $407,130 in contributions, nearly $3.4 million spent, and nearly $4.1 million on hand. Democratic challenger Nan Whaley reported $438,697 in contributions, nearly $1.1 million in expenditures, and has $89,802 on hand.


Rep. Richard Brown's (D-Canal Winchester) win in the Nov. 8 General Election over Republican Ronald Beach IV was confirmed during an automatic recount, with the results of that recount released Monday by the Franklin County Board of Elections. Though Beach led after election night by 96 votes, Brown was certified as the winner by a margin of 145 votes, or 0.4 percent, within the half-percentage point to trigger the recount.


ENERGY/UTILITIES


The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) Nominating Council opened the application process Monday for the commission seat currently held by Vice Chair Beth Trombold, who has served roughly a decade after her appointment and reappointment by former Gov. John Kasich. The new appointment begins April 11, 2023, is scheduled to run through April 10, 2028, and has a salary range of $73,715 to $213,865. Candidates for Trombold's seat must apply by 5 p.m., Thursday, Jan. 12, 2023. The Nominating Council will then gather on Thursday, Jan. 26 to interview select applicants and forward four finalists to Gov. Mike DeWine. He then will have 30 days either to appoint a commissioner or request a new list from the Nominating Council.


JobsOhio projects an "increasing reliance" on natural gas despite President Joe Biden's anticipated zero-carbon future and says the Shale Crescent in Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia will produce nearly half of all U.S. natural gas by 2040, when the Biden administration has suggested fossil fuels will be completely phased out. JobsOhio released its new report Friday in conjunction with Cleveland State University and the Ohio Oil and Gas Energy Education Program (OOGEEP). They say Ohio's shale industry alone continues to lead national growth in natural gas for the fourth straight year, with nearly $100 billion dollars invested in Utica and Marcellus drilling in the last decade and $2.5 billion just since the second half of 2021.


AES Ohio subsidiary Dayton Power & Light (DP&L) must agree to a new rate plan with state regulators before one of Ohio's "poorly rated companies," as DP&L describes itself, can un-freeze rates and improve its bottom line. The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) has denied DP&L requested revenue hikes of $45.18 million while granting a higher return on investment than sought by the Ohio Consumers' Counsel (OCC). PUCO found essentially that, although ratepayers aren't responsible for utilities' poor business decisions, they might still end up paying the bill.


The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) has granted the Ohio Consumers' Counsel's (OCC) complaint and withdrawn the electric transmission billing "adder" it previously awarded American Electric Power (AEP) on the argument Ohio law mandates participation in a regional transmission organization (RTO) like PJM Interconnection and therefore disqualifies AEP for the voluntary incentive.


ENVIRONMENT


The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (Ohio EPA) has begun a review of state regulations that protect Ohio's lakes, rivers, streams and other surface waters from pollution. The federal Clean Water Act requires such a review of water quality standards at least every three years. An in-person and virtual public hearing to accept comments about the standards is scheduled for Wednesday, Jan. 18, 2023, according to a news release from Ohio EPA. The public comment period is open through Tuesday, Jan. 31, 2023.


Gov. Mike DeWine's H2Ohio initiative will be investing $1 million in mini grants for drinking water system equipment across the state, the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (Ohio EPA) announced Tuesday. Ohio EPA is now accepting applications for up to $10,000 equipment mini grants until Wednesday, Jan. 25, 2023, according to a news release from the agency. These grant opportunities aim to strengthen the ability of public water systems to reduce leaks, purchase critical equipment, evaluate rates, and successfully operate into the future. Public water systems can apply at the following link: https://tinyurl.com/5548pzem.


FEDERAL


U.S. Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) held his 326th phone conference with reporters Wednesday as he neared the end of his final term in Congress, discussing issues ranging from an upcoming vote on an omnibus funding bill to the recent passage of the Respect for Marriage Act. He noted the recent reauthorization of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), saying it included a version of the Otto Warmbier Act, funds to help Ukraine, and an increase in defense spending, which he said will help out the Lima tank plant.


U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) Wednesday touted accomplishments in the recently passed FY23 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) in a year-end call with reporters. Brown told reporters he is a strong supporter of continuing to aid Ukraine against Russia's invasion. On Wednesday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky traveled to the White House for his first trip to the U.S. since the Russian invasion into Ukraine in February.


HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES


Ohio Department of Health (ODH) Director Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff cautioned Ohioans about the ongoing "triple threat" of respiratory viruses -- COVID-19, influenza and Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) -- during the holiday season. He also noted numbers for the flu and RSV have improved recently after seeing very early rises during the fall months in Ohio.


HIGHER EDUCATION


Oberlin College has completed paying the $36.59 million it owed to Gibson's Bakery in a defamation lawsuit. "We can confirm that all funds have been disbursed and that the family is continuing with the process of rebuilding Gibson's Bakery for the next generations," Brandon McHugh, an attorney for the Gibson family told, WKYC Cleveland. On Aug. 30, the Ohio Supreme Court declined to hear Oberlin's appeal of the $25 million judgment awarded to Gibson's, which said it had been defamed and falsely accused of racism by the college after a worker caught a Black student shoplifting at the bakery. Oberlin's Board of Trustees "decided not to pursue the matter further."


Miami University named Elizabeth Mullenix as its new provost. Mullenix has served as interim provost and executive vice president since last July. Prior to that interim role, she was the dean of the College of Creative Arts (CCA). Mullenix's tenure as Miami's permanent provost begins on Jan. 1. She succeeds Jason Osborne, who stepped down from the position last June.


HOUSING/HOMELESSNESS


Several provisions included in the $6 billion spending bill HB45 (West-Roemer) would make Ohio's affordable housing shortage worse and should be line-item vetoed by Gov. Mike DeWine, according to the Coalition on Homelessness and Housing in Ohio (COHHIO). While COHHIO supports the $161 million appropriation in emergency rental assistance that was added to HB45, the group is asking DeWine to veto language restricting it to tenants with rent and utility arrears incurred before Dec. 31, 2021. Other language in HB45 changes the way counties assess the value of affordable housing developments, which could effectively increase property taxes on senior and workforce housing developments despite restrictions on how much rent they can charge tenants. Another provision prohibits developers from receiving Historic Preservation Tax Credits and Low-Income Housing Tax Credits for the same project, and requires the state to rescind tax credits from projects that are already under development, according to COHHIO.


Home sales activity dropped by a quarter but prices increased in November, according to Ohio Realtors. The 10,629 sales seen in November represent a 25.6 percent reduction compared to the 14,293 sales seen in the same month a year ago. But the average sales price of $252,167 was almost 5 percent higher than the price of $240,442 in November of 2021.


JUDICIAL


The state's controversial $250,000 cap on non-economic damages is unconstitutional as applied to the case of a woman sexually assaulted by a man eventually convicted on several dozen counts, the Ohio Supreme Court ruled Friday, Dec. 16. In a 4-3 ruling, the Supreme Court ruled that the lack of an exception for major psychological injuries, as is provided in the law for major physiological injuries, is unconstitutional.


The Board of Professional Conduct cites the unresolved case of Death Row inmates Donna Roberts and Nathaniel Jackson in affirming that prosecutors may assist Ohio courts with judgment entries only if they avoid further contact with the court on "substantive matters" involving the judgment. The board concedes it is common practice in many Ohio jurisdictions for the court to ask the prosecutor to assist with the judgment entry, to the extent "administrative" or drafting requests do not involve substantive communications on the merits of the case.


LIBRARIES


The Ohio Department of Education (ODE) said Thursday it's providing $5 million in grants to library systems to help with learning recovery and acceleration priorities. The money will come from federal Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funding and go toward purposes aligned to Future Forward Ohio, ODE's pandemic recovery initiative.


LOCAL GOVERNMENT


The Ohio Mayors Alliance recently held a press conference in Columbus to outline the priorities of the coalition, including the need for more bipartisanship cooperation. The alliance, a bipartisan coalition of mayors in Ohio's 30 largest cities, released a set of policy recommendations to help address concerns over local control, public safety, gun violence, potential fiscal impacts to cities, and the importance of state and local collaboration. They include:


  • A state commission to preserve local control and foster statewide collaboration

  • Measures to improve public safety and reduce gun violence

  • Monitoring the impacts of remote working and protecting the fiscal health of cities

  • Improving state and local revenue sharing and targeted grant programs

  • Promoting bipartisanship, civic learning and public service.

NATURAL RESOURCES


Hunters harvested 71,932 white-tailed deer during the 2022 gun week that concluded on Sunday, Dec. 4, according to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) Division of Wildlife. In the same weeklong period over the past three years, hunters checked an average of 68,534 deer. In 2021, the weeklong number was 70,381. Ohio hunters checked 15,163 deer during the extra weekend of deer gun hunting on Saturday, Dec. 17 and Sunday, Dec. 18, according ODNR. In the same two-day period over the last three years, hunters checked an average of 12,944 deer. Hunters took 9,619 deer on the same weekend in 2021.


The Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) recently announced new investments in recreation, accessibility, and conservation at Ohio state parks. New projects include improvements to multiple park lodges and playgrounds, as well as new and improved trails and the expansion of a state nature preserve. Funding for these projects was secured in the latest capital budget, HB687 (Oelslager).


The Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) Scenic Rivers Program announced a new, more intense stream quality monitoring program focused on macroinvertebrates, such as insect larvae, crayfish, and snails. The new plan, approved through the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency's (Ohio EPA) Credible Data Program, is expected to give more detailed information about water quality and stream habitat.


PEOPLE


The Board of Directors of the Catholic Conference of Ohio announced the appointment of Brian Hickey as the conference's new executive director, effective Tuesday, Jan. 3, 2023. Hickey has been associate director since December 2021; prior to that, he was associate director in the Office for Human Dignity in the Diocese of Joliet. He has a bachelor's degree in business management from Valparaiso University and a master's degree in global affairs with specialization in Catholic social teaching from the University of Notre Dame.


The Ohio Prosecuting Attorneys Association (OPAA) has announced its annual awards, which are given for exceptional work performed by prosecutors, staff and law enforcement. Awards included Prosecutor of the Year, given to Mahoning County’s Paul Gains, and a special award for the Pike County prosecution team of Rob Junk, Angela Canepa and Andy Wilson for their work on the Rhoden family murders.


Drew D. Dunagin has joined American Municipal Power (AMP) as senior vice president of finance and chief financial officer, the company has announced in a news release. Dunagin brings more than 20 years of experience in financial roles within the electric industry as well as the financial services industry. Most recently, he served as chief financial officer and vice president of financial services at New Hampshire Electric Cooperative, the largest member-owned electric cooperative in New England, which provides electric utility services to consumers and businesses in 115 communities in New Hampshire.


The Ohio Department of Insurance (ODI) announced Monday a restructuring of its Office of Legal Services that includes the promotion of Whitney Fitch to chief legal officer. Fitch, most recently interim general counsel and previously staff attorney and assistant general counsel, is now the department's top legal adviser and will direct legal staff and operations, according to ODI. Assisting her will be Sean Sheridan and Dan Bradford, both recently promoted to the position of assistant general counsel; both were previously staff attorneys. The Office of Legal Services will now oversee the Market Conduct Division and Fraud and Enforcement Division of ODI. Todd Oberholtzer, the department's chief compliance counsel, oversees these divisions and will now also oversee the legal support for the department's administrative cases associated with the work of these divisions.


Former Sen. Chuck Horn has died at the age of 98. According to his obituary on Legacy.com, Horn passed away on Dec. 3 in West Chester. Horn served in the Ohio Senate from 1985 to 2000. He was also the mayor of Kettering and served as a Montgomery County commissioner. A memorial service will be held at 10 a.m. on Thursday, Jan. 12 at David's United Church of Christ at 170 W. David Rd. in Kettering.


POLITICS


Ohio Democratic Party (ODP) Chair Elizabeth Walters announced Monday that Mikayla Lee will serve as ODP's next executive director and Kyle Tromley will serve as ODP's deputy executive director. Lee and Tromley helped lead ODP's Workers First Coordinated Campaign last cycle, which ODP called the largest coordinated campaign in the country.


PUBLIC SAFETY


The state will award nearly $4.9 million to local law enforcement agencies to help cover costs associated with body camera programs, Gov. Mike DeWine announced Friday. A total of 112 law enforcement agencies will receive grant funding as part of the Ohio Body-Worn Camera Grant Program. Of those agencies, 44 will use funding to create new body-worn camera programs and 68 agencies will dedicate funding toward expanding or upgrading existing technology, according to a news release from the governor's office.


Gov. Mike DeWine and the Ohio Department of Public Safety Wednesday announced a new "Drive to Succeed" scholarship program to expand access to teen driver training for low-income Ohio families. Under the program, administered by the Ohio Traffic Safety Office (OTSO) and available via grants to local governmental agencies, teens selected for a scholarship by grantee agencies would attend an eligible Ohio-approved driving school in their area at little to no cost.


TELECOMMUNICATIONS/BROADBAND


The Ohio Department of Education (ODE) is suggesting ways that schools can help spread the word on how to improve broadband coverage maps recently released by the federal government. Public feedback on the maps is important to ensuring Ohio maximizes the support it receives for expanding high-speed Internet services, the agency said. ODE said schools can encourage families to check the reported availability of Internet at their home address by going to broadbandmap.fcc.gov. If the provider information should be updated, citizens should submit a challenge to dispute the information presented. Individuals who need a step-by-step guide can find an informational video at https://tinyurl.com/yp42d7c6. The assessment should be completed by Friday, Jan. 13, 2023. Within 60 days of a challenge, an Internet provider may reach out to the submitter by phone or email to gather additional information about the individual's Internet situation.


TRANSPORTATION/INFRASTRUCTURE


The Ohio Turnpike and Infrastructure Commission recently announced the winners of its second annual Name-a-Snowplow contest, with each winner getting a $100 cash gift card. The commission said that a snowplow truck will be named at the each of the Ohio Turnpike's eight maintenance buildings: Kunkle (Williams County), Swanton (Fulton County), Elmore (Ottawa County), Castalia (Erie County), Amherst (Lorain County), Boston (Summit County), Hiram (Portage County), and Canfield (Mahoning County) along the 241-mile toll road.


Tolls could increase by 7.7 percent on the Ohio Turnpike for each of 2024 and 2025 under proposed toll rates reviewed by the Ohio Turnpike and Infrastructure Commission on Monday. Turnpike staff said the proposed increases would still keep Ohio's rates below what other nearby toll roads charge currently. The commission approved a resolution authorizing Executive Director Ferzan Ahmed to issue a public notice and hold public hearings on the proposal. The commission was told the public hearings would begin next month, and they would draft the required notice to be submitted to the governor and legislative leaders.


WORKERS' COMPENSATION


Gov. Mike DeWine signed an executive order Friday, Dec. 16 to put into effect emergency rules setting the professional provider and medical services reimbursement schedule for the Ohio Bureau of Workers' Compensation (BWC) next year. The BWC board approved the schedule on an emergency basis at a meeting Thursday.


WORKFORCE


Lt. Gov. Jon Husted announced Tuesday that 12 training providers will receive $2.58 million in awards as part of the Individual Microcredential Assistance Program (IMAP), helping Ohioans who are low-income, under-employed, or unemployed to earn a technology-focused credential at no cost to them.


In recognition of December as Career Exploration and Awareness Month, the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS) announced updates to the Career Pathway Tool on OhioMeansJobs.com, which allows visitors to explore occupations within 16 career clusters. Originally created in partnership with the Ohio Department of Education (ODE) for the student pages on OhioMeansJobs.com, the tool is now available on the main site with improved research and data analytics to provide more information on the relationship between occupations on a career path, according to ODJFS.




[Story originally published in The Hannah Report. Copyright 2022 Hannah News Service, Inc.]


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