Week In Review - December 6, 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


Ohio's governor could be the state's "last line of defense" against efforts to outlaw abortion, according to Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley. The Democratic gubernatorial candidate said she was alarmed by Wednesday's U.S. Supreme Court oral arguments in Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization, a case challenging the state of Mississippi's 15-week abortion ban. The eventual ruling has the potential to weaken or completely overturn the Court's past decisions supporting an individual's constitutional right to terminate their pregnancy, such as in Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey. "It's a tough day -- frankly, a terrifying day. If you're someone my age -- I am 45, born after Roe -- and I think everyone younger than me honestly believed that this could never really happen. It is at our doorstep. It is at Ohio's step, and we have incredibly aggressive leaders that are extreme on this issue sitting at the Statehouse. That is a really big deal for people all across the state," Whaley said during a press conference. Whaley promised to veto any anti-abortion bills sent to her desk, if she is elected governor.


Ohio Right to Life President Mike Gonidakis said members of his organization and Sen. Kristina Roegner (R-Hudson) were planning to participate in anti-abortion advocacy events in Washington, D.C. as the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Dobbs. v. Jackson Women's Health Organization. "Ohio Right to Life will proudly stand for life and advocate at the Supreme Court during this historic moment in our nation's history," Gonidakis said. "This is the most pro-life Court we have had in a generation, and now is our time to end this deadly and misguided standard that has led to the intentional killing of millions of innocent children. Ohio Right to Life looks forward to a majority decision from the Court allowing each individual state to craft its own policy to protect and defend human life, and we are extremely confident Ohio will adopt a statewide standard to protect all unborn babies."


There are "numerous First Amendment concerns" with anti-abortion bill SB157 (S. Huffman-Johnson), according to American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Ohio Chief Lobbyist Gary Daniels. "At its core, the recent changes outlaw entire categories and methods of speech a physician may engage in with any local or state government and public entity -- on any and every topic -- should they wish to also contract or consult with a relevant facility," Daniels told Hannah News following his opponent testimony on the legislation, which received its second hearing in the House Families, Aging and Human Services Committee on Thursday. During his testimony, Daniels focused on the amendment added to SB157 by the Senate Government Oversight and Reform Committee, which prohibits abortion providers from listing on variances any consulting physicians that are affiliated with state institutions of higher education, state hospitals or other public institutions. Daniels said the provision would be yet another unnecessary hurdle for abortion clinics to jump.


AGRICULTURE


Longtime State Veterinarian Dr. Tony Forshey has died, Ohio Department of Agriculture (ODAg) Director Dorothy Pelanda announced over the holiday weekend. Forshey received his doctor of veterinary medicine degree from Ohio State University, and practiced veterinary medicine for 27 years. He served as the state veterinarian and chief of the ODAg Division of Animal Health for 15 years, Pelanda said.


ARTS, SPORTS AND ENTERTAINMENT


For the first time in its history, the Ohio Arts Council's (OAC) Riffe Gallery is inviting curators to submit proposals for future exhibitions to be featured at the gallery. Through this effort, the gallery is seeking to expand the opportunities, impact, equity and reach of Ohio's curatorial voices. Selected curators will work with the OAC Riffe Gallery director to execute a 10-week exhibition in the Riffe Gallery during the 2024 calendar year. The submission deadline is Friday, March 11, 2022. The curator and all proposed artists must live in Ohio. Find more information about submission guidelines at https://tinyurl.com/5r95tsvt.


ATTORNEY GENERAL


With the holiday shopping season just around the corner, Ohio Attorney General (AG) Dave Yost warned consumers about the potential for illegal robocallers to pose as a legitimate business such as Amazon, Apple or PayPal in an effort to steal personal information and money. Yost explained scammers typically call at random and suggest, under the guise of wanting to help remedy a situation, that a large purchase has been charged to a person's credit card. "Legitimate companies don't do business this way, so just hang up," Yost said in a statement. "These impostors want to get you on the line and cause panic so you cough up personal information. My hope is that you will answer by ending the call."


BUSINESS/CORPORATE


Saying that nearly half of restaurant operators reported less sales in October than two years ago, the Ohio Restaurant Association (ORA) urged Congress to replenish the Restaurant Revitalization Fund (RRF). Almost 7,000 Ohio restaurants are eligible and awaiting RRF money, and the National Restaurant Association has requested the U.S. Treasury Department and IRS to "get the Employee Retention Tax Credit (ERTC) process moving." The national group also voiced its disappointment that the U.S. House passed the Build Back Better Act without RRF replenishment. ORA also reminded restaurants that the Ohio Department of Development's Food and Beverage Establishment Grant still has $120.6 million available, with $79.4 million already distributed.


CORONAVIRUS


The Ohio Department of Health (ODH) and Ohio Lottery announced 30 winners a day of the Ohio Vax-2-School $10,000 scholarships, for a total of 150 scholarships by week's end. The agencies also planned to announce the five grand prize winners of the $100,000 scholarships Friday evening during the Ohio Lottery broadcast. The scholarships are through the Ohio 529 College Advantage plans, and can be used at the Ohio college, university, technical/trade school, or career program of the winner's choice. The Vax-2-School program, which targeted those between age 5 and 25, was intended to increase awareness of the availability and efficacy of COVID-19 vaccines and to provide incentives to younger Ohioans to get a COVID-19 vaccination.


President Joe Biden told Americans Monday that the Omicron variant of COVID-19 identified this past week in South Africa is "a cause for concern, not a cause for panic." Travel restrictions placed on nations in Southern Africa give the United States time to get ready with Biden saying vaccination and booster shots are essential to preparing for "this new threat." Those who received a booster shot have the best protection against all forms of COVID-19, and Americans should not wait, he said.


In other action, the Biden administration delayed the vaccination deadline for federal employees into 2022, according to media reports Monday. The administration said that 96.5 percent of the 3.5 million employees have been vaccinated.


Ohio's COVID-19 cases continued to increase over the week as numbers approached the peak last seen in mid-September.


A federal judge based in Kentucky Tuesday granted a temporary injunction against the Biden administration preventing a federal mandate requiring federal contractors to have their employees vaccinated against COVID-19 by Jan. 4, 2022 from taking effect. In a 29-page ruling, U.S. District Judge Gregory F. Van Tatenhove said the Biden administration had overstepped the authority given to it by Congress to issue the mandate. The injunction blocks the mandate from applying to federal contractors in Ohio, Kentucky and Tennessee.


The DeWine administration says there's no sign yet of an Omicron variant outbreak of COVID-19 in Ohio following confirmation this week of at least one case in California. The Ohio Department of Health (ODH) said Thursday the best known defense against any form of the virus is still vaccination, though lab-created monoclonal antibodies have shown some promise for patients at risk of serious infection.


CORRECTIONS


Gov. Mike DeWine voiced confidence Monday that the Controlling Board will approve another $12 million in jail funding for Southeast Ohio to convert the old Hocking Correctional Institute (HCI) into a regional detention center for women and a day treatment facility for substance abuse. DeWine announced the additional expenditure beyond the $50 million allocated for jail upgrades in the FY22-23 biennial budget at the Southeast Ohio Regional Jail (SORJ) in Nelsonville, another multi-jurisdictional jail serving Athens, Hocking, Morgan, Perry and Vinton counties. "We don't like spending money on jails. It's not a lot of fun to do that," he conceded, saying it is nevertheless critical to a fully functioning criminal justice system.


Amy L. Ast will take over as director of the Ohio Department of Youth Services (DYS) later this month, returning to the agency where she worked for more than 20 years, Gov. Mike DeWine's office announced Wednesday. Ryan Gies, DeWine's original appointee as director, is moving to the Ohio Department of Public Safety (ODPS) to become director of special projects in the Office of Criminal Justice Services (OCJS), the governor's office said. Ast most recently has worked as regional director of compliance at Rite of Passage, which provides youth services including family preservation and reunification, education, behavioral health, foster care and residential programs.


ECONOMY


For the week ending Nov. 27, the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS) reported 7,519 initial traditional unemployment claims to the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL). That number is slightly higher than the previous week, when the state reported 7,218 traditional jobless claims. Ohioans filed 32,134 continued traditional unemployment claims last week, which was 8,265 fewer than the previous week, according to ODJFS. The total number of traditional claims filed from Nov. 21 to Nov. 27 was 39,653. The eight-week average of new jobless claims is 8,213. The eight-week average of continued jobless claims is 42,102. According to data provided by ODJFS, the state's weekly jobless claims are slightly higher than pre-pandemic levels.


EDUCATION


Grants totaling $13.5 million will be provided to 54 school districts as part of the Innovative Workforce Incentive Program, according to a Tuesday announcement from Lt. Gov. Jon Husted. The funds help establish new programs for students to earn industry-recognized credentials in priority industry sectors, according to Husted's office and the Governor's Office of Workforce Transformation (OWT). "This funding will help more high school students earn in-demand career credentials that lead to quality, higher-paying jobs without the steep cost and debt that comes with many college pathways," said Husted, who is also the director of OWT. Funds can be used for equipment, instructional materials, facilities and operational costs.


The State Committee on Computer Science (SCCS) recently held its first meeting, with Chair Mike Duffey calling it a "first of its kind effort" in the state and encouraging members to consider "one key question: what would it take to make Ohio a national leader in computer science?" Duffey, a former legislator and senior vice chancellor of the Ohio Department of Higher Education (ODHE), leads the committee along with Vice Chair John Wiseman of the Ohio Department of Education (ODE). The committee was created through the budget.


A closeout audit of the Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow, the defunct online charter school ordered to repay the state tens of millions of dollars, remains unfinished nearly four years after it closed. Judge Michael Holbrook of Franklin County Common Pleas Court, who's been overseeing dissolution of the school since it closed in January 2018, directed ECOT's sponsor, the Educational Service Center of Lake Erie West, to complete a financial report for the school by early May 2020. That report was then to be submitted to Auditor Keith Faber's office by the attorney Holbrook appointed as interim master to mind ECOT's affairs, Myron Terlecky. Terlecky and Faber's office had previously disagreed on how to complete final financial reports for the school. School officials who normally would have done it are named as defendants in separate litigation seeking recovery of money the state paid ECOT.


Ohio schools can now apply for a share of $11 million in safety grants to be awarded by Ohio Attorney General (AG) Dave Yost's office for the 2022-23 school year. The funding is from the latest state budget, HB110 (Oelslager), and can be used for safety planning, training and classroom programs for public schools, charter schools, educational service centers, STEM schools and schools operated by county boards of developmental disabilities. Each school is eligible for a grant of $2,500 or $5.50 per student, whichever amount is greater. Applications are due by Monday, Feb. 28, 2022.


ELECTIONS


The Ohio Supreme Court Monday evening set an expedited briefing schedule for a lawsuit challenging congressional redistricting plan SB258 (McColley), denying a motion by the plaintiffs that would have set oral arguments for February. The lawsuit, filed by the National Redistricting Action Fund on behalf of 12 Ohio voters, challenges SB258 on the basis that it violates Article XIX of the Ohio Constitution which states that when passing a map without bipartisan support, the General Assembly "shall not pass a plan that unduly favors or disfavors a political party or its incumbents" and "shall not unduly split governmental units." The timeline is short for the lawsuit: currently, congressional candidates have until March 4, 2022 to file their petitions to appear on the May 3, 2022 primary ballot. Under the Ohio Constitution, should the Court strike down part or all of the map, the General Assembly would have 30 days to make changes to the plan, and if it fails to do so in that timeline, the Ohio Redistricting Commission would get 30 days to adopt a remedial map. The Court, in its order, set the schedule as follows: Discovery shall be complete no later than Wednesday, Dec. 8, 2021; the parties shall file any evidence they intend to present no later than Friday, Dec. 10, 2021, by 4 p.m.; relators shall file a brief no later than Monday, Dec. 13, 2021, by 4 p.m.; respondents shall file a brief no later than Friday, Dec. 17, 2021, by 4 p.m.; and relators may file a reply brief no later than Monday, Dec. 20, 2021, by 4 p.m.


The Ohio Elections Commission (OEC) opted to table potential issuance of an advisory opinion on Bitcoin as an in-kind contribution Thursday, after discussion of how its fluctuating value would be considered. The opinion will now be discussed at the next regular meeting at 9 a.m. on Thursday, Dec. 16, along with opinions on Venmo accounts and prohibitions regarding contributions by foreign nationals.


ELECTIONS 2022


Sen. Theresa Gavarone (R-Bowling Green) announced Tuesday that she is running for the 9th Congressional District, which was redrawn by lawmakers to include all or part of Defiance, Erie, Fulton, Henry, Lucas, Ottawa, Sandusky, Williams and Wood counties. The seat is currently held by U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-Toledo). The new 9th District leans Republican, according to various redistricting analysis platforms.


Sen. Kristina Roegner (R-Hudson) said Tuesday that she is running for re-election in the 27th Ohio Senate District next year.


The wife of Rep. Nino Vitale (R-Urbana) announced on social media this week that she is running for his seat in 2022, seeking to succeed him after he is term-limited next year.


Former Rep. Al Landis (R-Dover) announced this week that he will be running for the 31st Ohio Senate District in 2022. The seat is currently held by Sen. Jay Hottinger (R-Newark), who is term-limited. Landis, currently a Tuscarawas County commissioner, served in the Ohio House from 2010-2018 until term limits prevented him from running for re-election.


Madison Gesiotto Gilbert has announced on Twitter that she, too, is running for the 9th Congressional District next year against Kaptur. According to the Canton Repository, the 29-year-old Gesiotto Gilbert, who does not live in the district, is a former co-chair of the national Women for Trump advisory board. She became an attorney in 2017, and most recently worked as an attorney at Mills, Mills, Fiely & Lucas in Canton. She is a Miss Ohio USA winner in 2014 and married to retired NFL player Marcus Gilbert. Her statement of candidacy filed with the Federal Elections Commission however lists a Sandusky address.


Former U.S. Rep. Jim Renacci Thursday announced Joe Knopp, a Christian filmmaker who has helped produce movies such as "I Can Only Imagine" and "Unplanned," as his lieutenant governor pick as Renacci seeks to unseat Gov. Mike DeWine in the Republican gubernatorial primary next year. Renacci's announcement in West Chester focused on Knopp's being a political outsider who has never run for public office, as well as Knopp's personal story of growing up with a mother struggling with substance abuse and a period of homelessness before going to an orphanage. Knopp served in the Air Force at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, graduated with a degree in finance from Wright State University, and later applied that education to his career as a film producer. His last film was a documentary released last year about former President Donald Trump called "The Trump I Know."


The following endorsements were made over the week:

  • The campaign of Secretary of State Frank LaRose announced the endorsement of former Secretary of State Ken Blackwell. His campaign then later in the week announced the endorsements of more than 300 individuals around Ohio, including a majority of Republicans serving in the Ohio House, Ohio Senate, congressional delegation, Ohio Republican State Central Committee, and a majority of county GOP chairmen. A list can be found at https://tinyurl.com/bp8kmxvx .

  • The gubernatorial campaign of John Cranley announced the endorsement of Rep. Thomas West (D-Canton).

  • The gubernatorial campaign of Nan Whaley announced the endorsements of Summit County Executive Ilene Shapiro, Stark County Sheriff George Maier, Lorain City Councilmember Mary Springowski; Cuyahoga County Councilmember and former state legislator Dale Miller; former Cleveland Heights Mayor Carol Roe; Lorain City Treasurer Terri Soto; Sheffield Lake City Councilmember Rosa Gee; Amherst City councilmembers Brian Dembinski and Martin Heberling; Canton City Council members Christine Schulman, Bill Smuckler and Bill Sherer; Akron City Council members Ginger Baylor and Jeff Fusco; Summit County Sheriff Kandy Fatheree; Summit County Prosecutor Sherri Bevan Walsh; and Summit County Councilmember Jeff Wilhite.

  • The U.S. Senate campaign of Tim Ryan announced the endorsements of more than 40 elected officials from across Ohio, including Senate Minority Leader Kenny Yuko (D-Richmond Heights) and Sen. Hearcel Craig (D-Columbus) and Reps. Thomas West (D-Canton), Adam Miller (D-Columbus), Phil Robinson (D-Solon), Paula Hicks-Hudson (D-Toledo), Monique Smith (D-Fairview Park), Lisa Sobecki (D-Toledo), Bride Rose Sweeney (D-Cleveland), Jessica Miranda (D-Cincinnati) and Mary Lightbody (D-Westerville).

ENERGY


The Ohio Power Siting Board's (OPSB) final report on electric transmission infrastructure stops short of the new board powers sought by the Office of Ohio Consumers' Counsel (OCC), Ohio Manufacturers' Association (OMA) and Ohio Municipal Electric Association (OMEA) but offers discussions commenced at the state and federal level as a sign that increased transmission oversight could be in the offing. The report commissioned this year by HB128 (Hoops-Stein) remains true to the draft version released by OPSB in September. It defers to the 13-state regional transmission organization (RTO) encompassing Ohio, PJM Interconnection and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) for any regulatory expansion governing smaller, "supplemental" transmission projects, though it notes the state's official position is ultimately the Legislature's to decide.


ENVIRONMENT


A total of $7.5 million will be awarded to seven entities to reduce nitrogen oxide emissions from diesel vehicles and equipment, according to a recent announcement from Gov. Mike DeWine and Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (Ohio EPA) Director Laurie Stevenson. Nitrogen oxide emissions are significant contributors to ground-level ozone pollution, also known as smog, Ohio EPA said.


Ohio EPA is now accepting applications for $7 million in grants for publicly accessible direct-current fast-charging (DCFC) electric vehicle charging stations. Eligible applicants include public or private entities in the following 26 priority counties: Clermont, Hamilton, Warren, Butler, Madison, Franklin, Fairfield, Licking, Delaware, Lorain, Medina, Cuyahoga, Summit, Portage, Geauga, Lake, Montgomery, Greene, Lucas, Ottawa, Sandusky, Erie, Stark, Mahoning, Trumbull and Ashtabula. Applications will be accepted via email at evcharging@epa.ohio.gov through Monday, Jan. 31, 2022.


ETHICS


The Ohio Ethics Commission released a formal advisory opinion saying a member of a legislative body of a local government entity can vote to elect him/herself to serve as presiding officer of the public entity provided that any additional payment for taking that role is set prior to the vote. The commission said the question on whether a member of the legislative body, such as a city council, could vote on becoming the presiding officer has come up in many situations as serving as a presiding officer often results in additional payments for increased duties in the leadership role. In its opinion -- Advisory Opinion 2021-02 -- the commission determined that members of city and village councils, township boards of trustees and county boards of commissioners are not prohibited from voting to elect himself or herself to serve as a presiding officer, provided that the amount of any additional payment for this service is set prior to the vote.


FEDERAL


U.S. Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) told reporters Tuesday that a huge increase in drug production in Mexico is flooding the United States with deadly fentanyl, with the synthetic opioid getting mixed in with more drugs or even made to look like other drugs. His comments come as the federal Center for Disease Control and Prevention's National Center for Health Statistics reported an estimated 5,558 Ohioans died from overdose between May 2020 and April 2021, a nearly 27 percent increase from the previous year and the highest number since 2017. There were an estimated 100,306 drug overdose deaths nationally in the same period, the first time there have been more than 100,000 deaths in a 12-month period. Portman attributed the increase to two factors -- more product coming into the U.S. thus dropping the price, and people becoming addicted or returning to their addiction because of the COVID-19 pandemic.


GAMING/GAMBLING


The HB29 (Wiggam-A. Miller) Conference Committee could report out compromise sports gambling legalization language as soon as next week, Rep. Bill Seitz (R-Cincinnati) said Wednesday. During a conference call with reporters, Seitz said a "conceptual framework" has been agreed to by himself, Rep. Jay Edwards (R-Nelsonville) and Sen. Kirk Schuring (R-Canton), all of whom are members of the HB29 Conference Committee. Other members are Rep. Adam Miller (D-Columbus), Sen. Nathan Manning (R-North Ridgeville) and Sen. Cecil Thomas (D-Cincinnati). "I feel reasonably optimistic that we can move forward," Seitz said, noting the plan still needs to be reviewed by House Speaker Bob Cupp (R-Lima) and Senate President Matt Huffman (R-Lima).


However, Cincinnati Mayor and Democratic gubernatorial candidate John Cranley Thursday responded to that proposed compromise on that sports betting bill HB29, calling it unconstitutional and saying he would push the Ohio Lottery Commission to adopt sports betting when he takes office -- something he maintains the commission can already do without legislative action. Pursuing the compromise will rob public education, small businesses and small towns, Cranley said, and he predicted the bill will be litigated, thus further delaying the receipt of tax revenues from sports betting.


GENERAL ASSEMBLY/STATEHOUSE


The Senate General Government Budget Committee held its first hearing on HB218 (Cutrona) Tuesday, with sponsor testimony from Rep. Al Cutrona (R-Canfield) as well as proponent testimony. Cutrona said that the sub bill adopted in the House expands the exemptions regarding the COVID-19 vaccine, including in regard to antibodies and reasons of conscience. It also bans "vaccine passports" from being required by public and private entities or having to show proof of vaccination and prevents children from being "discriminated against" due to vaccination status. He told the committee the bill is needed now due to the workforce shortage, including for the health care industry and nursing homes, and the supply chain backlogs.


The Capitol Square Review and Advisory Board (CSRAB) announced plans to celebrate the holiday season throughout the month of December with a schedule of musical performances by student groups from Ohio high schools. The holiday season kicked off with the Ohio Statehouse Holiday Festival and Tree Lighting on Thursday, Dec. 2. when Gov. Mike DeWine and the First Lady Fran DeWine lit the tree in the Statehouse Atrium. Additionally, school groups will perform at noon in the Museum Gallery on the ground floor throughout the month. The concerts will also be live-streamed by the Ohio Channel as the legislative schedule allows. All performances and activities are open to the public. The performance dates include the following:


Monday, Dec. 6 -- Johnstown-Monroe High School Choir


Tuesday, Dec. 7 -- Warren High School Choir and Hand Bells


Friday, Dec. 10 -- Centennial High School Choir


Tuesday, Dec. 14 -- Northside Christian School Choir


Wednesday, Dec. 15 -- Grandview Singers from Grandview Heights High School


Thursday, Dec. 16 -- Hamilton Township High School Choir


Friday, Dec. 17 -- Lancaster High School Chamber Singers


Tuesday, Dec. 21 -- Columbus Cello School's Columbus Cello Choir


GOVERNOR


Gov. Mike DeWine announced Wednesday that he has signed the following five bills into law, all of which become effective in 90 days:

  • HB177 (Carfagna-Fraizer) To allow a governmental entity to utilize distributed ledger technology, including blockchain technology.

  • HB215 (Wilkin-Cross) To enact The Business Fairness Act.

  • SB36 (Manning-S. Huffman) To revise the eligibility standards and procedure for awarding reparations to crime victims.

  • SB54 (Gavarone) To include within the offense of telecommunications fraud providing misleading or inaccurate caller identification information, allow the attorney general to prosecute offenses of unauthorized use of property and telecommunications fraud, and prohibit any person, entity, or merchant from violating the federal Telemarketing and Consumer Fraud and Abuse Prevention Act.

  • SB115 (Schuring) To make changes to the Ohio Pooled Collateral Program.

HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES


Dr. John M. Weigand has been appointed as the medical director at the Ohio Department of Health (ODH) and the Ohio Department of Aging (ODA), the DeWine administration announced Tuesday. Weigand, a Central Ohio physician, previously served as the chief medical officer in ODA's Regional Rapid Response Assistance Program (R3AP) and as medical director of the Post-Acute Regional Rapid Testing (PARRT) partnership. He previously served as president and managing partner at Central Ohio Geriatrics, located in Columbus and Granville. Beginning in 2015, he served as chief medical officer at National Church Residences, a nonprofit organization providing affordable housing for vulnerable older adults, and medical director at Kendal at Granville, an older adult residential community.


HIGHER EDUCATION


Ohio State University (OSU) President Kristina M. Johnson announced plans for the university to offer a debt-free bachelor's degree within a decade. Johnson shared details of the Scarlet & Gray Advantage plan during her investiture address on Friday, Nov. 19. The ceremony marked Johnson's formal installation as OSU's 16th president. The university plans to raise $800 million for student scholarships; to expand job and internship programs that allow students to gain experience while earning a paycheck; provide grant assistance; and extend coaching on financial education, leadership and work skills.


The University of Dayton's (UD) first building dedicated to visual and performing arts will be named for local entrepreneur and philanthropist Roger Glass, president and CEO of Marion's Piazza. The "Roger Glass Center for the Arts" is meant to provide greater connection with the Dayton community through concerts, dance and theater performances, and art exhibits featuring students, faculty, visiting artists, and community members, the university said. Glass, who holds a bachelor's degree in communication arts from UD, is the lead donor on the project.


Kent State University announced R. William (Bill) Ayres IV has been selected as the new dean and chief administrative officer of Kent State University at Trumbull, which is located in Warren, OH. Ayres is currently a professor of political science at the University of Toledo (UT), where he previously served as senior vice provost for academic affairs from 2018 to 2020 and vice provost for academic affairs from 2017 to 2018. He will join Kent State on Jan. 18, 2022.


Frederic Bertley, president and CEO of the Center of Science and Industry (COSI), will deliver the fall commencement address at Ohio State University (OSU). The ceremony will be held Sunday, Dec. 19, at the Schottenstein Center. Approximately 3,600 graduates will receive diplomas during the ceremony, which begins at 2 p.m.


A professor at the University of Toledo (UT) is working to combat two widespread diseases with the use of a single drug. Dr. Beata Lecka-Czernik joined UT College of Medicine and Life Sciences in 2007, when her field was seen by many as a curiosity. A professor in the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery with a joint appointment in the Department of Physiology and Pharmacology, Lecka-Czernik studies the connection between bone health and metabolic processes, including disorders such as diabetes. This fall, Lecka-Czernik received a five-year, $3.4 million grant from the National Institute on Aging to continue her work that's ultimately aimed at developing a single therapeutic drug that could both normalize glucose levels and improve the mass and quality of bone.


Rep. Rick Carfagna (R-Westerville) was elected chair of the Midwestern Higher Education Compact (MHEC) during the compact's annual meeting held earlier this month. One of four regional higher education compacts in the U.S., Carfagna explained MHEC brings together Midwestern states to develop and support best practices, collaborative efforts and cost-sharing opportunities with the goal of ensuring equitable postsecondary educational opportunities and outcomes for all.


HOUSING/HOMELESSNESS


Advocates for Basic Legal Equality in Toledo is receiving $1 million as part of a $20 million grant award from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to prevent eviction. The Eviction Protection Grant Program assists legal service providers in providing legal assistance at no cost to low-income tenants at risk of or subject to eviction. The grants are being made available to providers in areas with high rates of eviction or prospective evictions. More than 100 applications were considered for the grants, HUD said.


HUMAN SERVICES


Caseworkers and family recruiters in search of suitable adoptive placements for children in foster care should be able to save a lot of time now spent researching kids' family connections with new technological tools, the DeWine administration said Tuesday. Lt. Gov. Jon Husted and Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS) Director Matt Damschroder -- an adoptee and adoptive parent, respectively -- announced Ohio will be the first state to implement new tools developed by Connect Our Kids. The Family Connections tool allows children's services professionals to digitally diagram family trees, while the People Search tool gathers information from hundreds of sources and stands to "exponentially expand" the pool of potential kinship caregivers, the administration said.


The Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS) announced Wednesday that it has begun accepting applications for three grant opportunities, totaling $150 million, to help child care programs defray unexpected business costs associated with the pandemic and to help stabilize operations. Eligible child care programs have until May 31, 2022, to apply. According to ODJFS, the grants cover the following three areas:

  • Operating/New Pandemic Costs: These funds are intended to provide assistance with costs incurred after the declaration of the federal public health emergency on Jan. 31, 2020, through June 30, 2022.

  • Workforce Recruitment/Retention: These funds are for personnel costs such as wages, benefits, sign-on and retention bonuses, background checks and training that are incurred between Dec. 1, 2021, through June 30, 2022.

  • Child Access Development: These funds are to increase families' access to child care by providing funding to expand classrooms, increase access to technology, and address learning gaps and social/emotional needs of children. The expense period is Dec. 1, 2021, through June 30, 2022.

JUDICIAL


Judges will determine whether one family member's spiritual, physical, sexual, or economic abuse or coercion of another disqualifies them from appearing before a "neutral evaluator" under proposed changes to the Rules of Superintendence for the Courts of Ohio. The Ohio Supreme Court is seeking public comment on rule amendments to approve neutral evaluation as a form of dispute resolution in which the evaluator "shares impressions about the strengths and weaknesses" of evidence advanced in support of opposing parties' claims or defenses against each other. "'Domestic abuse' may occur as a single aggressive behavior or a combination of aggressive behaviors and may vary from family to family in terms of frequency, recency, severity, intention, circumstance and consequence," draft changes to Chapter 16 of the Rules of Superintendence state. Proposed changes to superintendence rules 16.14, 16.50-.55 can be found at https://tinyurl.com/4zdyr366. The deadline for public comment is Thursday, Jan. 6, 2022.


A Richmond Heights attorney suspended for disrespecting the Supreme Court of Ohio is weighing an appeal to the nation's top tribunal on First Amendment grounds, an argument Justices R. Patrick DeWine and Sharon Kennedy back in a rebuke of the 4-2-1 majority in the case, Cleveland Metro. Bar Assn. v. Morton. Attorney John Alex Morton of Richmond Heights represented Fred Schwartz in a property tax dispute with Cuyahoga County.


LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR


Lt. Gov. Jon Husted said Tuesday he's unaware of why former FirstEnergy executives facing shareholder litigation identified him as a person with "discoverable" information relevant to their cases. "I don't have any idea," he said. Chuck Jones, the former CEO of FirstEnergy, and Michael Dowling, the former senior vice president of external affairs, both identified Husted among numerous individuals who potentially have information to aid their defenses. The two were fired by the utility company following allegations of a bribery conspiracy involving former House Speaker Larry Householder (R-Glenford) and the passage of 133-HB6 (Callender-Wilkin), and now are the targets of a shareholder lawsuit.


MARIJUANA/HEMP


An initiated statute to legalize marijuana for adults aged 21 and older will likely make it to the General Assembly before the end of 2021, Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol (CRMLA) spokesperson Tom Haren told Hannah News on Wednesday. Haren said he expects the campaign will have collected the necessary 132,887 valid signatures by the end of November or early December, putting the measure on track to be validated by elections officials and transmitted to the Legislature by the end of the year.


All cultivators licensed under the Ohio Medical Marijuana Control Program (MMCP) should be allowed to operate under the same growing area guidelines, representatives of level two cultivators told the Senate Small Business and Economic Opportunity Committee on Tuesday. Wellspring Fields CEO Tom Hobson was among several "interested party" witnesses testifying during the committee's second hearing on SB261 (S. Huffman).


A 90-day supply of marijuana plant material will increase to nine ounces in 2022, under a resolution that will be considered by the Ohio Board of Pharmacy (OBP) next week. The resolution would also eliminate the different "tiers" of plant material, meaning Ohio Medical Marijuana Control Program (MMCP) patients would be allowed to purchase up to nine ounces per 90-day period regardless of the THC level. Currently, patients are allowed to purchase eight ounces of "Tier 1" plant material per 90-day period, or 5.3 ounces of "Tier II" plant material per 90-day period. Tier I plant material includes products with a THC content of 23 percent or less, while Tier II plant material products have a THC content between 23 percent and 35 percent.


On another topic, OBP spokesman Cameron McNamee said the board received 1,463 applications for new dispensary licenses. The application period lasted from Nov. 4 through Nov. 18. The board is seeking to add 73 new dispensaries statewide.


MENTAL HEALTH


While many groups have highlighted the toll of the COVID-19 pandemic on school age children, a recently released report from Groundwork Ohio's Center for Maternal and Young Child Health looks at the mental health needs of babies, toddlers and preschool age children that are often overlooked. Critical brain development takes place in the first few years of a child's life, and it is during these critical years that children are highly vulnerable to adversity. The report identifies ways the state can promote better early childhood mental health, prevent trauma and treat mental health problems before they become more serious problems later in life.


New research from the University of Toledo (UT) suggests there is an unmet need for stronger mental health support among people with disabilities during the COVID-19 pandemic. "Mental health has become another pandemic within COVID-19. The need for support has been emphasized broadly, but not necessarily for individuals living with disabilities," said Dr. Ling Na, an assistant professor of public health at UT. Na recently led a study that used a national survey of more than 6,400 Americans about their anxiety and depression, psychological risk factors, resilience and coping mechanisms on a bi-weekly basis from March 2020 through January 2021. Researchers sorted participants into three groups -- those who reported no disability; those who reported a disability that affects their mobility or their ability to perform routine self-care activities; and those who had disabilities that affected both mobility and self-care.


NATURAL RESOURCES


A total of $5 million in H2Ohio grant funding will be directed to 13 wetland projects in 11 counties to improve water quality in the Ohio River Basin, Gov. Mike DeWine and Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) Director Mary Mertz announced Wednesday. "We are excited to continue the expansion of H2Ohio's work into the Ohio River Basin and to take the next big step toward naturally improving water quality across Ohio," DeWine said. "Water issues expand beyond Lake Erie, so by focusing this funding farther south, we can address water challenges on a bigger scale and help ensure that people throughout the state can experience the benefits of these wetlands." DeWine announced the launch of the Ohio River Basin H2Ohio Wetland Grant Program in July.


Ohio hunters checked 21,754 deer on Monday, Nov. 29, the opening day of deer-gun season, according to the ODNR Division of Wildlife. That number is well above average. During the past three years, hunters took an average of 13,349 deer on opening day. Ohio's gun season is open all week until Sunday, Dec. 5, and again for two days on Saturday and Sunday, Dec. 18-19.


NEWS MEDIA


Current and past editors of the Columbus Dispatch gathered at a Columbus Metropolitan Club forum Wednesday to discuss their respective tenures, recommendations for journalism students and how the industry and the Dispatch in particular are working to foster diversity. The forum included current Columbus Dispatch Executive Editor Alan Miller, Associate Publisher Emeritus Mike Curtin and former editors Ben Marrison and Luke Feck. Curtin is a former legislator and Marrison is now chief of staff to Attorney General Dave Yost. It was hosted by Ann Fisher of WOSU Public Media, a past columnist at the Dispatch. Fisher opened the discussion by noting that many people ask about the future of journalism. Regarding advice to students, Miller -- who is set to retire from the Dispatch at the end of the year and teach full-time at Denison University -- noted that Denison approved its journalism major in May. The field "is more important now than it's ever been," he continued, despite "all the buffeting" the industry has seen.


OHIO HISTORY


In their final meeting, members of the Women's Suffrage Centennial Commission (WSCC) transferred their remaining responsibilities for placing a women's suffrage memorial on Statehouse grounds to other ad hoc committees. The commission began work in July 2019, making plans to commemorate 2020's 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment giving women the right to vote. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, those plans were delayed, and the commission was extended through 2021. In August of this year, the commission held a Family Day Festival at the Statehouse in honor of women's suffrage, and in July last year, the Capitol Square Review and Advisory Board (CSRAB) gave preliminary approval to the commission's proposal to place a women's suffrage installation on Statehouse grounds.


PENSIONS


Ohio Police & Fire Pension Fund (OP&F) leaders and public safety union presidents said Thursday the retirement system will soon need additional funding to stave off further benefit cuts, and that local government employers are overdue for an increase in what they contribute. Reps. Cindy Abrams (R-Harrison) and Brian Baldridge (R-Winchester), who are veterans of public safety professions, announced they'll soon introduce legislation calling for such employer contribution increases. Local governments have strong enough revenues to support the change, the sponsors said, but the Ohio Municipal League (OML) disputed that. The legislation would increase employer contributions to 26.5 percent of salary, in the process equalizing the contribution rates for police and fire positions, which now stand at 19.5 percent and 24 percent, respectively. The new contribution rate would mirror what the state provides to the Highway Patrol Retirement System, supporters of the legislation said.


PEOPLE


The Consulate of Canada in Detroit announced Monday that Daniel Ujczo has been appointed as its Honorary Consul in Ohio. This is a five-year appointment approved by the Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs. Ujczo is senior counsel at Thompson Hine, LLP in the firm's International Trade and Transportation practice groups, currently president of the Ohio-Canada Business Association (OH-CAN) and past managing director at the Canada-United States Law Institute, based at Case Western Reserve University (CWRU) School of Law and the University of Western Ontario.


The County Auditors' Association of Ohio (CAAO) has named Greene County Auditor David Graham the recipient of the 2021 "Richard J. Makowski Award for the Outstanding County Auditor of the Year." In addition, the association selected Licking County Auditor Michael Smith as its 2022 president. Both actions took place during CAAO's annual winter conference held in November. In addition to the installation of Smith as the CAAO's 2022 president, Graham was installed as CAAO third vice president. Other officers include Vice President: Lorain County Auditor J. Craig Snodgrass; Second Vice President: Wyandot County Auditor George 'Bill' Kitzler; and Secretary/Treasurer: Muskingum County Auditor Debra Nye.


POLITICS


Five members of Ohio Republican Party's (ORP) State Central Committee (SCC) filed a lawsuit against the Ohio Republican Party and its chairman, Bob Paduchik, making multiple claims including that he is supporting Gov. Mike DeWine and other candidates without approval by the SCC. The lawsuit was filed in the Franklin County Common Pleas Court by SCC members Laura Rosenberger, Denise Verdi, Joe Miller, Mark Bainbridge and Joann Campbell and names Paduchik, the Ohio Republican Party, and Dave Johnson, the party's treasurer.


PUBLIC SAFETY


The Ohio Department of Public Safety's (DPS) Office of Criminal Justice Services (OCJS) is rolling out a publicly accessible "Use of Force Database" that law enforcement agencies and citizens can search for officer-involved shootings and other police incidents involving use of force (UOF) or lethal UOF. The online database includes reports of officer shots fired in the direction of a subject; any other deadly weapon or object put to lethal use; any less-than deadly weapon or object put to non-lethal use; and any "empty-hand" technique used on a subject. The new database can be found at www.ocjs.ohio.gov by selecting "Ohio Use of Force Data" under Quick Links.


Thirteen people were killed on Ohio roadways from Wednesday, Nov. 24 at midnight through 11:59 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 28, according to provisional statistics from the Ohio State Highway Patrol (OSHP). There were 10 fatal crashes, compared to 11 crashes and 11 deaths in 2020. The 13 deaths included one pedestrian and four people who were not wearing a seat belt, according to OSHP. Three crashes involved impaired driving.


REDISTRICTING/REAPPORTIONMENT


A second lawsuit challenging Ohio's new congressional redistricting plan that was passed by the General Assembly as SB258 (McColley) and signed by Gov. Mike DeWine was filed Tuesday evening by the League of Women Voters of Ohio (LWVO), the A. Philip Randolph Institute (APRI) and eight Ohio Democratic voters. The lawsuit, like the one filed by the National Redistricting Action Fund, argues the map violates Article XIX, Section 1 (C)(3)(a) of the Ohio Constitution, which states a plan passed by the General Assembly along party lines must not "unduly" favor or disfavor, a political party, "but the enacted plan does just that." The lawsuit was filed in the Ohio Supreme Court on behalf of the plaintiffs by the ACLU of Ohio, the American Civil Liberties Union, and Covington & Burling LLP.


TRANSPORTATION/INFRASTRUCTURE


Ohio is expected to receive $9.2 billion for federal-aid highway apportioned programs and $483 million for bridge replacement repairs under the recent Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, according to the White House. President Joe Biden signed the bill on Nov. 15 after it cleared Congress. The White House released a fact sheet after the bill signing. In addition to the funds Ohio is expected to receive based on the formula funding, it said Ohio can also compete for funds in the $12.5 billion Bridge Investment Program for economically significant bridges and nearly $16 billion of national funding in the bill dedicated for major projects "that will deliver substantial economic benefits to communities." The bill also includes $1.2 billion for Ohio over five years to improve public transportation options across the state; $140 million over five years to support the expansion of electric vehicle charging networks around the state, with the chance to apply for grant funding dedicated to EV charging from a $2.5 billion program; a minimum allocation of $100 million to help provide broadband across the state; $26 million over five years to protect against wildfires; $25 million to protect against cyberattacks; $1.4 billion over five years to improve water infrastructure across the state; and $253 million for infrastructure development for airports over five years.


Gov. Mike DeWine and Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) Director Jack Marchbanks rededicated the agency's Columbus headquarters Thursday in honor of Jerry Wray, the agency's only two-time chief. The governor and Marchbanks unveiled new signage with Wray's name at 1980 West Broad St., now known as the Ohio Department of Transportation Jerry Wray Building. Wray led ODOT for 16 years under two administrations: 1991-1999 under Gov. George Voinovich and 2011-2019 under Gov. John Kasich.


UNEMPLOYMENT COMPENSATION


The Ohio Bureau of Workers' Compensation (BWC) announced the appointment of insurance industry veteran Carolyn Mangas as its new deputy director of strategy and legislative affairs. Mangas has worked the last 15 years as the Ohio Insurance Agents Association's (OIA) government affairs manager. In her new role, she will oversee legislative affairs and communications between BWC and the public, stakeholders, employers and Legislature. She also will lead development of operational plans, policies and procedures and long-term strategy for legislation and workers' compensation law.


UTILITIES


"Is the regulator an enabler protecting the utility or an enforcer protecting the public?" The Office of Ohio Consumers' Counsel (OCC) asks the question in ripping the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) for exempting FirstEnergy from its stated purpose in commissioning a corporate separation audit in the first place: "Examination of the time period leading up to the passage of amended substitute 133-HB6 (Callender-Wilkin) and the subsequent referendum." The consumers' counsel is pushing for a supplemental audit of FirstEnergy's known malfeasance and asking PUCO to order a "preliminary" company forfeiture of up to $111 million. The commission created the special web portal "FirstEnergy and HB6-Related Cases" earlier this year to help policymakers and voters track four PUCO inquiries into the U.S. Department of Justice's (DOJ) criminal investigation of FirstEnergy, former House Speaker Larry Householder et al., former commission Chair Sam Randazzo and unknown parties. Asked by a prospective accountant whether the audit would examine the utility's infamous $60 million in "political and charitable spending" and $4.3 million gift to Randazzo's Sustainability Funding Alliance, PUCO staff "inexplicably" said no, according to OCC. In its 165-page audit report, moreover, Daymark Energy Advisors said the company lacked records for the run-up to HB6 and the ballot campaign following its passage.


Four of five commissioners put their imprimatur Wednesday on a $306 million refund of "significantly excessive" FirstEnergy profits negotiated by the Office of Ohio Consumers' Counsel (OCC) and other parties following an Ohio Supreme Court victory for the state utility watchdog. Chairwoman Jenifer French voiced open-mindedness to utility refunds and praised the agreement as a commonsense result. The commission also approved Phase 3 of American Electric Power (AEP) of Ohio's gridSMART rollout, for which Commissioner Beth Trombold credited former PUCO Chairman Asim Haque's Power Forward initiative for electric grid upgrades benefiting customers and utilities alike.


WORKFORCE


Career-technical education students who complete certification programs earn an average of $12,323 more than those with only a high school diploma or equivalent five years after starting a program, a gap that increases to $18,221 after 20 years, according to new research on the economic effects of career-technical education. The Ohio Association of Career-Technical Superintendents (OACTS) commissioned the study from the University of Cincinnati's (UC) Alpaugh Family Economics Centers. It looked at the benefits to adult students at Ohio technical centers (OTCs) and the economic effects of operations and capital spending at career centers, serving high school students. The study finds the increased earnings works out to a 2,000-plus percent return-on-investment on the cost of a career-technical investment after 20 years.

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


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