Week In Review - December 28, 2021



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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.

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 U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has permanently removed the in-person dispensing requirement for mifepristone, also known as an abortion pill. The FDA has not been enforcing the in-person dispensing requirement during the COVID-19 pandemic, so the current policy will continue. Removing the in-person dispensing requirement will allow, for example, dispensing of mifepristone by mail via certified prescribers or pharmacies, in addition to in-person dispensing in clinics, medical offices, and hospitals as currently outlined in the Mifepristone REMS Program, the FDA said.


ATTORNEY GENERAL


Attorney General Dave Yost announced an interagency sting operation in Southern Ohio recently that broke up two human trafficking operations. The AG's Bureau of Criminal Investigation and Identification (BCI) joined Chillicothe and West Chester police in raids on Lucky Asian Bodywork in Chillicothe and Foot Reflexology in West Chester.


BUSINESS/CORPORATE


A Policy Matters Ohio (PMO) analysis of the 54 publicly traded companies in Ohio's top 100 employers found that CEOs were paid a median of 322 times the typical employee's wage, according to the advocacy organization. The average CEO made close to $16 million in 2020, compared to $14.6 million in 2019, and the median worker pay fell from $52,500 to $51,494. Fifteen of the companies had a median pay below $26,500 -- the federal poverty level for a family of four -- and together employ over 185,000 Ohioans. These include Walmart, Kroger and Dollar Tree.


CHILDREN/FAMILIES


The state awarded grant funding to support child advocacy centers and trauma recovery centers that were negatively affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, Gov. Mike DeWine announced Monday. Payments totaling more than $800,000 went to 17 centers to help with revenue losses and other pandemic-related costs incurred between March 1, 2020, and Dec. 31, 2021. The grants were funded through the CARES Act, and the funds are being administered by the Ohio Emergency Management Agency in partnership with the Ohio Office of Budget and Management, DeWine said.


CORONAVIRUS


With hospitals facing "very serious" staffing challenges and the Omicron variant now spreading in Ohio -- particularly northern areas -- Gov. Mike DeWine announced Friday that he was activating 150 National Guard personnel to deploy as nurses and EMTs beginning Monday, Dec. 20 along with 900 others in support roles such as transport, food and environmental work in the hospitals. The administration is also working with an Ohio health care staffing company to bring in out-of-state staff to fill needed positions and ease the pressure over the holidays, though he said that process is still ongoing. The National Guard members will remain as long as needed, and DeWine told Hannah News the hospitals will decide how to deploy the 150 in a strategic way. The initial focus will be on the Cleveland, Canton, Akron and Wooster areas that see the "most dire situation at this point."


The Ohio Department of Health (ODH) reported 12,502 new COVID-19 cases Tuesday, marking the highest one-day number since the beginning of the pandemic. The previous high was Nov. 23, 2020 at 11,885. This excludes the two-day totals for Jan. 2, 2021 and Nov. 27, 2020 -- which followed state holidays where no cases were reported -- and the 25,721 cases reported on Dec. 8, 2020 as ODH cleared a backlog that had extended to Nov. 1, 2020. ODH also reported 584 hospitalizations, 81 ICU admissions and 249 deaths Tuesday, with the mortality data reported biweekly. The latest 21-day averages are 8,453 cases, 326 hospitalizations and 34 ICU admissions. There have now been 28,277 COVID-19 deaths reported by ODH.


AARP Ohio said the latest data in its Nursing Home COVID-19 Dashboard, reflecting information as of mid-November, shows 35 percent of Ohio nursing home residents and 13 percent of staff had received a booster dose of a COVID-19 vaccination. However, from mid-October to mid-November, Ohio nursing home case rates remained at 2.2 percent among residents, and dropped among staff from 2.8 per 100 residents to 2.5. Deaths decreased from 0.26 percent to 0.21 percent, AARP said. The proportion of residents and staff who've completed initial vaccinations continued to rise slowly, AARP said, reaching 83.2 percent and 62 percent as of mid-November, respectively.


ECONOMY


Ohio's unemployment rate continues to fall this holiday season, hitting 4.8 percent at the end of November compared to a revised 5.1 percent in October. The state's non-agricultural wage and salary employment increased 12,200 from a revised 5,378,900 in October to 5,391,100 in November, based on the latest business survey conducted by the U.S. Department of Labor (Bureau of Labor Statistics) in cooperation with the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS). The number of unemployed workers dropped from 289,000 the previous month to 275,000 as of Nov. 30. Over the past 12 months, says ODJFS, Ohio's total unemployed have decreased 45,000 from 320,000 at the end of November 2020, when the unemployment was as high as 5.6 percent.


EDUCATION


Gov. Mike DeWine announced Friday he is asking Attorney General (AG) Dave Yost and other offices with jurisdiction to determine whether Bishop Sycamore High School violated any civil or criminal laws in an alleged deception regarding its operations. DeWine made the announcement following the Ohio Department of Education's (ODE) release of an investigation into the operations of the school, which made national news earlier this year when its football team lost a blowout game on national television.


Questions over Bishop Sycamore's operations and school status were raised in August after its football team lost 58-0 against Florida-based IMG Academy, at the time the No. 1 high school football team in the country. The game, which aired on ESPN, started a national conversation about how such a mismatched contest came to be and about whether Bishop Sycamore accurately portrayed itself to game organizers and to ESPN, which also admitted it had been unable to verify Bishop Sycamore's record. ODE's investigation into the school, done at the request of DeWine, did not find evidence that the school met the minimum standards for non-chartered, non-tax supported schools. It additionally did not find evidence the "school" enrolled students this year, had a physical location for classes, employed teachers, nor offered any other academic programs meeting minimum standards.


Wendy Grove, director in ODE's Office of Early Learning and School Readiness, reported that preschool and kindergarten enrollment in Ohio has nearly reached pre-pandemic figures. Grove told the State Board of Education's (SBOE) Integrated Student Supports Committee that fall preschool enrollment was at 95 percent of pre-pandemic numbers and kindergarten enrollment was at 99 percent of pre-pandemic numbers.


Sixteen rural Ohio school districts and their corresponding counties and townships will share nearly $1.6 million from the Ohio state forest timber harvest, according to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR). The funding is being provided through the "Trees to Textbooks" program, which operates as part of the ODNR Division of Forestry. Through the program, a percentage of the revenue generated from state forest management activity goes to the county, township and school district in which the activity took place.


Prompted by intense arguments at local school board meetings around the state over what children are being taught, Rep. Brett Hillyer (R-Uhrichsville) and Rep. Bill Roemer (R-Richfield) will soon introduce legislation that would require all schools to post curriculum and other materials online. Specifically, Hillyer said Tuesday in a phone interview with Hannah News, the legislation would require posting of curricula, syllabi, materials and assignments for the prior year by July 1, as well as planned changes for the coming year from that prior year's materials.


ELECTIONS 2021


Secretary of State Frank LaRose's office said Friday that the Nov. 2 General Election had 12 races decided by a coin flip or similar means and six local issues that also ended in a tie, though that meant they were defeated since the law requires a majority of affirmative votes. The finding comes upon completion of the official canvassing of results for the election. "In November, 18 different local races in 18 different counties ended in a tie, and any single, solitary voter would have made the difference in the outcome," LaRose said. "Every Ohioan has the uniquely American ability to impact how we are all governed, and I encourage each eligible Ohioan to register to vote and participate in every election. These election results are proof positive that your vote matters."


ELECTIONS 2022


Cincinnati Mayor and Democratic gubernatorial candidate John Cranley's campaign announced Monday that he has accepted an offer to participate in a primary debate hosted by the Columbus Metropolitan Club (CMC). A spokesperson for Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley's campaign said dates for debates are still being worked out.


The following endorsement was made over the week:

  • The gubernatorial campaign of Nan Whaley announced the endorsement of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1385.

ENVIRONMENT


The Ohio Air Quality Development Authority (OAQDA) has approved bond financing totaling up to $55,000 to support Norge Cleaners in Cuyahoga County as it implements clean air equipment upgrades.


The financing is provided through OAQDA's Clean Air Resource Center (CARC), which aims to make clean air compliance easily accessible and affordable for Ohio small businesses. Norge Cleaners was approved for up $55,000 in financing along with up to an $11,000 grant through the CARC program, according to the agency.


GAMING/GAMBLING


Ohio economists probably won't be betting on the economic outcome of the state's forthcoming legalized sports gambling industry. According to a new Scioto Analysis survey of 23 Ohio economists, 10 said legalizing sports betting would have benefits that outweigh the economic costs of intervention. Another nine said they were uncertain, while four said the costs would outweigh the benefits.


GENERAL ASSEMBLY/STATEHOUSE


The Ohio Chamber of Commerce announced Friday that 25 senators and 50 representatives qualified as "Champions of Business" as part of its 2021 score card. This recognized those with at least 80 percent scores in regard to key votes on legislation and their bill sponsorship. Those recognized included all 25 Republican senators, who received a 100 percent score as well. In the House, 47 Republican members were named as "champions," along with three Democrats -- Reps. Adam Miller (D-Columbus), Dan Troy (D-Willowick) and Thomas West (D-Canton). Only five House members -- Reps. Cindy Abrams (R-Harrison), Jon Cross (R-Kenton), Brian Lampton (R-Fairborn), Laura Lanese (R-Grove City) and Tom Patton (R-Strongsville) -- received a 100 percent score.


GREAT LAKES


Results from the 2021 Lake Erie yellow perch hatch surveys were mixed, according to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR). The Lake Erie Central Basin saw "below average to poor" results, while the Lake Erie Western Basin had a "good" hatch, ODNR said. The ODNR Division of Wildlife's yellow perch surveys completed during August in Lake Erie's west zone resulted in an index of 380 perch per hectare, a standard measure of catch per area. This is the 11th-highest value on record and just below the 34-year average of 398 perch per hectare. Catches of one-year-old yellow perch ranked 14th on record, with an index of 24 perch per hectare. Lake Erie anglers can look forward to these fish reaching keeper size as early as 2022.


GUNS


Members of the bipartisan Ohio Mayors Alliance (OMA) discussed their concerns about gun violence and the bill to remove licensing requirements for carrying concealed firearms, SB215 (Johnson), as well as some of the comments made on the bill. The remarks came during a Thursday press conference on their new "Strong Cities for a Stronger Ohio" initiative. During discussion of state efforts to help law enforcement, Parma Mayor Tim DeGeeter brought up "the proliferation of guns in our communities and the deadly consequences that follow." He reiterated the group's support for Gov. Mike DeWine's "Strong Ohio" plan for common-sense changes to curb gun violence in the state but added that that did not pass and instead the General Assembly is now moving to eliminate the concealed handgun licensure process. The Senate passed SB215 last week. Public safety actions "need to extend to laws that reduce criminal activity and access to guns in our communities," continued DeGeeter, a Democrat and former legislator.


HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES


The Ohio Hospital Association (OHA) recently announced its slate of officers for 2022 and the addition of trustees to its board. Steven Glass, chief financial officer of the Cleveland Clinic, was elected chair of the board, beginning Jan. 1, 2022. Michael Canady, CEO of Holzer Health System, will be chair-elect; Patricia Finn, CEO of Fulton County Health Center, will be secretary-treasurer; and Dr. Richard Lofgren, president and CEO of UC Health, will become immediate past chair. All officers will serve one-year terms. OHA members also elected two new at-large trustees for three-year terms: Ben Gill, president and CEO of Southern Ohio Medical Center in Portsmouth; and Cliff Megerian, CEO of University Hospitals in Cleveland.


HIGHER EDUCATION


The Ohio Affiliate of Prevent Blindness is accepting applications for its 2022 Young Investigator Student Fellowship Awards for Female Scholars in Vision Research. The fellowship program supports outstanding female scientists pursuing biomedical, behavioral, or clinical research careers relevant to helping prevent blindness and preserve sight, the organization said. Grants will be awarded for the summer 2022 session and will range from $3,000 to $5,000 depending upon the availability of funds. The deadline for receipt of applications is Tuesday, Feb. 15, 2022.


Eight Northeast Ohio colleges and universities have joined a compact program aimed at helping students with "stranded credits" -- those they've earned but can't access because their former institution is holding their transcript as collateral for an unpaid balance to the institution. Stark State College, Cleveland State University, Cuyahoga Community College, Kent State University, Lakeland Community College, Lorain County Community College, the University of Akron and Youngstown State University will work with Ithaka S+R, a provider for strategic advice and support services to academic and cultural communities, to design a pilot compact to settle institutional debts and release transcripts of students with those stranded credits. An estimated 6.6 million students nationally have stranded credits with average balances ranging from $631 for former community college students to $4,400 for former students at research universities, according to Stark State.


Miami University has selected Amy Shoemaker as its new vice president and general counsel, effective Saturday, Jan. 18. In this role, Shoemaker will be responsible for the coordination and supervision of all legal matters involving the university's Board of Trustees as well as all officers and employees acting on behalf of the university and its affiliated entities. Shoemaker is currently the deputy university counsel and associate athletic director for administration at the University of Louisville, where she has worked for 15 years.


HOUSING/URBAN REVITALIZATION


Gov. Mike DeWine and Lt. Gov. Jon Husted announced Tuesday the new Ohio Building Demolition and Site Revitalization Program, which will provide nearly $150 million to raze dilapidated commercial and residential buildings and revitalize surrounding properties. The program was funded as part of the 2021 state biennium budget bill, HB110 (Oelslager), and is being administered by the Ohio Department of Development. HB110 requires funds to be awarded on a first-come, first-served basis. To ensure that all of Ohio's 88 counties benefit from the program, each county will be eligible to receive a minimum of $500,000, DeWine explained.


JUDICIAL


The Ohio Board of Professional Conduct Friday announced the reelection of Lucas County attorney Patricia A. Wise as board chair and Judge D. Chris Cook from Lorain County as board vice chair. Commissioners Wise and Cook will serve their second, one-year terms beginning Jan. 1, 2022.


Judge Pinkey S. Carr has until Monday, Jan. 24, 2022 to explain to the Ohio Supreme Court why she doesn't deserve a two-year suspension from the bar and the bench for operating a carnivalesque courtroom where she yelled at defendants, solicited facetious bribes, and referred to defendants and/or court professionals as "Ms. Pudding," "little idiot" and "slave owner." Carr, who passed the bar in May 1993 and was elected to the Cleveland Municipal Court in 2012 after a 13-year career as a Cleveland and Cuyahoga County prosecutor, faces a "breathtaking" series of alleged violations under Rules 1.2, 2.2, 2.5(B), 2.8(A) and (B), 2.9(A), and 2.11(A)(1) and (A)(2)(d) of the Ohio Code of Judicial Conduct and Rules 8.4(c) and (d) of the Ohio Rules of Professional Conduct.


LIBRARIES


Ohio trails only New York among states for the number of libraries with a star rating in the 2021 Library Journal Index of Public Library Service, according to the Ohio Library Council (OLC). The index measures libraries on various criteria and awards three-, four- or five-star ratings to those meeting certain thresholds. Ohio has 26 libraries with a star rating. Of 5,608 libraries nationwide that were qualified to be rated in the index, just 262 achieved star ratings. Aside from top-rated New York, with 34 star-rated libraries, the top five includes Nebraska with 16; Illinois, 15; and Massachusetts, 14. Among neighboring states, Indiana and Pennsylvania had five apiece; Michigan, three; Kentucky, two; and West Virginia, none.


MARIJUANA/HEMP


The Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol (CRMLA) has submitted 206,943 signatures supporting its initiated statute to legalize the use of cannabis by individuals age 21 and older, the campaign announced Monday. The Ohio Secretary of State's Office and county boards of elections will now begin the process of verifying the signatures. If at least 132,887 signatures are verified and the 44-county requirement is met, the measure will be sent to the General Assembly for its consideration.


MILITARY AFFAIRS


State and local leaders talked about what more Ohio and the Dayton region in particular can do to make it the best area for military personnel and veterans as part of a recent Dayton Daily News virtual forum. Speakers included Joe Zeis, senior advisor to Gov. Mike DeWine on aerospace and defense; Dayton Development Coalition (DDC) President and CEO Jeff Hoagland; Col. Patrick Miller, commander of the 88th Air Base Wing and Wright-Patterson Air Force Base (WPAFB); former WPAFB commander Cassie Barlow, now president of the Strategic Ohio Council for Higher Education; and Thomas Owen, former commander of WPAFB's Aeronautical Systems Center. In regard to the current assets in the region, Hoagland said that the Dayton area is "the intellectual capital" of the U.S. Air Force (USAF). This includes the Air Force Materiel Command (AFMC), 88th Air Base Wing, Lifecycle Management Center, Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL), National Air and Space Intelligence Center (NASIC) and the Air Force Institute of Technology (AFIT).


NATURAL RESOURCES


The state's mineral resources produced $1.4 billion worth of geologic commodities in 2020, according to a report from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR). The total value of all non-fuel industrial minerals exceeded $1 billion for a seventh straight year, ODNR said. The "2020 Report on Ohio Mineral Industries: An Annual Summary of the State's Economic Geology," compiled by the ODNR Division of Geological Survey, provides information regarding the production, value and employment totals of Ohio's various mineral industries.


Ohio hunters harvested 9,392 deer during the extra weekend of gun hunting on Dec. 18-19, according to ODNR. That total is below average, ODNR noted, adding, "Over the past three years, hunters checked an average of 12,734 deer during the same two-day period." The top 10 counties for deer taken during the 2021 two-day deer-gun season include the following: Coshocton (307), Tuscarawas (287), Licking (256), Guernsey (236), Ashtabula (232), Knox (229), Carroll (220), Muskingum (219), Ashland (210) and Holmes (208).


The ODNR Division of Wildlife is seeking to fill 20 wildlife officer positions throughout the state, the department said. Training begins in August 2022. Ohio wildlife officers enforce ODNR regulations and protect state lands, waterways and property.


NONPROFIT ORGANIZATIONS/OTHER ASSOCIATIONS


The Ohio Municipal League (OML) announced Patrick Titterington, director of public service and safety for the city of Troy, will chair of OML's Board of Trustees for 2022. Titterington served as second vice president in 2021 and has been on the board since 2013. Other officers include Bryan Mayor Carrie Schlade as first vice president, Centerville Deputy Mayor Belinda Kenley as second vice president, Kettering City Manager Mark Schwieterman as immediate past president and Cambridge Clerk of Council Sharon Cassler as past president.


PENSIONS


The State Teachers Retirement System of Ohio (STRS) announced that its Board of Trustees voted to reduce the additional charge for participation in alternative retirement plans (ARP) offered by higher education institutions. Universities can offer faculty alternatives to the typical STRS retirement benefit, providing more portable options. STRS in turn charges the institutions a "mitigating rate" to offset negative financial effects on the traditional pension plan from use of the alternatives. The STRS board voted to decrease the rate from 4.47 percent to 2.91 percent, effective July 1, 2022. The board also voted to align the mitigating rate charged to participants in the STRS defined contribution (DC) plan to the ARP rate, also making it 2.91 percent.


PEOPLE


The Ohio Insurance Agents Association (OIA) announced the hiring of Lauren Reid as government affairs manager, effective Tuesday, Jan. 4. Most recently, Reid served on the policy team in the Ohio House. She studied political science and criminal justice at the University of Dayton.


PUBLIC SAFETY


Ohio Task Force 1 (OH-TF1) announced its return to Ohio Thursday, Dec. 16 following "successful search and rescue missions in Western Kentucky" after the tornadoes there. The team was activated on Sunday. The team had conducted operations in and near Mayfield and Dawson Springs, according to a social media post, including both search and rescue and area damage assessment missions.


The Ohio Department of Public Safety's (DPS) Office of Criminal Justice Services (OCJS) announced its latest certification under state policing standards Thursday. Brooklyn Police Department (Cuyahoga County) has adopted requirements for use of force, including deadly force, and agency recruitment and hiring promulgated by the Ohio Collaborative Community-Police Advisory Board. Out of roughly 900 law enforcement agencies in Ohio, 544 agencies are now certified and another 11 are engaged in the certification process.


REDISTRICTING/REAPPORTIONMENT


Parties in the congressional redistricting battle could have a less than merry holiday week before New Year depending on justices' reaction to Ohio Supreme Court oral arguments announced for Tuesday, Dec. 28. The two lawsuits challenging the state's congressional redistricting map -- Case No. 2021-1428, Regina Adams v. Gov. Mike DeWine, and Case No. 2021-1449, League of Women Voters of Ohio, et al. v. Ohio Redistricting Commission, et al. -- will be argued before a virtual session of the Court at 9 a.m. Senate President Matt Huffman (R-Lima) and House Speaker Robert Cupp (R-Lima) answered complainants Friday in a six-point repudiation of their constitutional claims. Firstly, they said the Court must begin with the "plain language" of the Ohio Constitution, as it does with the Ohio Revised Code, and should interpret only "ambiguous" language.


TRANSPORTATION/INFRASTRUCTURE


Ohio's 96 airports will receive around $50.8 million in funding through the federal infrastructure act, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) announced Thursday, with money available for runways, taxiways, safety and sustainability, terminal, airport-transit connections and roadway projects. There will be four more annual rounds of funding available to Ohio airports. The airports will be able to submit projects for FAA review in the coming weeks, and airports are encouraged "to prioritize projects that increase airport safety, equity and sustainability." The FAA also plans to conduct outreach with the minority business community. "The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law has given us a once-in-a-generation opportunity to build safer and more sustainable airports that connect individuals to jobs and communities to the world," U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said. "With this new funding, urban, regional and rural airports across the country now can get to work on projects that have waited for years, modernizing their infrastructure and building a better America."


The Ohio Turnpike and Infrastructure Commission Monday approved its preliminary list of capital expenditures for 2022, totaling nearly $250 million. The preliminary list includes projects totaling up to $232,972,523, with a list subject to change, and $16,371,796 in uncommitted funds, which may be used for currently unidentified capital projects that may be needed next year, for a total of $249,344,319.

[Story originally published in The Hannah Report. Copyright 2021 Hannah News Service, Inc.]


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