Week In Review - February 14, 2022



PDF/Printer Friendly Version


This report reflects the latest happenings in government relations, in and around the Ohio statehouse. You’ll notice that it’s broad in nature and on an array of topics, from A-Z. This will be updated on a weekly basis.

Please feel free to share it with anyone else you believe may find it of interest, as well. Also, please do not hesitate to contact us should you have any questions, concerns or if we can be of any assistance.


FY22-23 BUDGET


Income taxes yielded nearly $200 million more than expected in January, helping tax collections beat forecasts by 10.1 percent for the month, according to preliminary figures from the Office of Budget and Management (OBM). Tax collections for January reached $2.57 billion, $236 million more than the $2.34 billion expected. For FY22 so far, collections are up $816.4 million or 5.5 percent, reaching $15.8 billion.


CHILDREN/FAMILIES


Opponents to SB216 (Johnson) came out in force Tuesday to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee. One of the major criticisms from a number of witnesses focused on the bill's requirement that infants found to be "substance abused" at birth be removed from contact with the mother until certain conditions are met -- an approach several called "one size fits all." Rather, Sarah Gatti, an attorney who has worked in the child welfare arena, called these circumstances "incredibly nuanced" in regard to parent and family dynamics as well as to the local resources that are available to support the family. Others called the bill an "over correction" that in the process could cause even greater harm to any number of other budding families as the "solutions" in SB216 interrupt and halt the early bonding of baby and mother that is so necessary.


The Step Up to Quality (SUTQ) Study Committee adopted an interim report Wednesday designed to answer some basic questions about the program and publicly funded child care (PFCC) in Ohio. The committee also heard from several regional experts on the challenges facing child care providers and families. The study committee was formed out of late-stage budget negotiations on the SUTQ program, and is charged with issuing a final report containing recommendations for the quality rating system and for increasing access to child care across the state by the end of the year.


CORONAVIRUS


Even though COVID-19 vaccines have been available for all children ages five and older for at least three months, the vaccination rate for minors is lagging significantly behind that of adults, Ohio Department of Health (ODH) Director Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff said Friday. "Vaccination rates are currently lowest among some of our youngest Ohioans. For example, approximately 47 percent of those 16 to 17 are fully vaccinated. Approximately 42 percent of adolescents between 12 and 15 are fully vaccinated. And approximately 19 percent of children 5 to 11 are fully vaccinated," Vanderhoff said during a virtual press conference. Just over 60 percent of all eligible Ohioans are fully vaccinated, according to ODH. For those ages 18-29, the number is nearly 50 percent. Approximately 63 percent of Ohioans ages 30 to 59 are fully vaccinated, while more than 80 percent of Ohioans ages 60 and older are fully vaccinated.


While COVID-19 case numbers are improving, Vanderhoff said during a briefing Thursday that Ohioans should not let their guard down. He also talked about state plans for vaccination of children under 5 years old once CDC approval is granted. Vanderhoff opened with "good news" that case numbers have continued to decline statewide in "the last few weeks," with accelerated rates in some areas.


ODH's daily update for Thursday saw 4,176 cases, 257 hospitalizations and 25 ICU admissions, compared to 21-day averages of 7,842 cases, 300 hospitalizations and 27 ICU admissions. Vanderhoff said there was "active dialogue" with hospitals about dividing the data between those hospitalized due to COVID and those who enter the hospital for another reason and then test positive, but it would not be practical. The first 10 days of the month have seen 44,606 cases, 2,838 hospitalizations and 262 ICU admissions. This compares to 191,175 cases, 3,387 hospitalizations and 310 ICU admissions in the first 10 days of January. There have been 2.6 million total cases, 110,208 hospitalizations and 12,983 ICU admissions.


CRIME AND PUNISHMENT


Nearly five years after the Ohio Criminal Justice Recodification Committee (OCJRC) issued its final report, some of its recommendations could become law, Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Nathan Manning (R-North Ridgeville) said Tuesday. "A lot of great things came out of that committee, and we just really never did anything with it," Manning told the rest of the committee he chairs during an informal hearing on his criminal justice reform omnibus bill, SB288. Manning noted that he served on the OCJRC with Senate President Matt Huffman (R-Lima), Senate Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Cecil Thomas (D-Cincinnati) and many other public officials and criminal justice experts. He said there is widespread agreement on many of the panel's recommendations, and those should be implemented as soon as possible.


ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT


Peloton announced Tuesday that it was ending plans for its Wood County manufacturing facility, along with changes in executive leadership and elimination of around 2,800 positions worldwide as part of a re-evaluation of costs. The factory was first announced in May 2021, with Gov. Mike DeWine and Lt. Gov. Jon Husted taking part in the August groundbreaking ceremony. It was expected to create 2,174 full-time jobs and $138 million in annual payroll, and Peloton would have received a 15-year job creation tax credit previously estimated at $49.4 million in value. A statement by JobsOhio President and CEO J.P. Nauseef said Peloton had not drawn performance-based incentives offered by the economic development entity or the state yet, as fiscal safeguards are in place.


ELECTIONS 2022


Hannah News published its list of candidates who filed for the Tuesday, May 3 primary. The list is still preliminary as boards of elections evaluate petitions. District lines are also expected to change after the Ohio Supreme Court again struck down the latest General Assembly plan adopted by the Ohio Redistricting Commission.


The Ohio Debate Commission (ODC) Monday officially announced dates for primary debates in the U.S. Senate and gubernatorial races, and invited the candidates in those races to participate. The debates will be held at the end of March at the Paul Robeson Cultural and Performing Arts Center on the Central State University campus in Wilberforce. The U.S. Senate primary debate will be held on Monday, March 28; gubernatorial candidates will debate on Tuesday, March 29. The commission said the specific format for the debates is in formation, and selection of moderators will be announced at a future date. The debates will be held in accordance with public health requirements, including social distancing in the 1,000-seat theater. The debates will be made available and free for broadcast and livestreaming, in order to reach as many voters and parts of the state as possible.


One day after issuing a press release touting the endorsement of the Clermont County Republican Party and saying his campaign was "building momentum," businessman Bernie Moreno ended his bid for the U.S. Senate. Moreno, one of 13 candidates who filed to run for the seat currently held by U.S. Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH), announced late Thursday, Feb. 3 that he will support whichever candidate is endorsed by former President Donald Trump.


Senate President Matt Huffman (R-Lima) told reporters Wednesday that the state will likely need two primary dates this year due to an unsettled redistricting process. He indicated that the election on May 3 would include all the statewide officers, U.S. Senate, and the locals. Huffman added that, after talking to Secretary of State Frank LaRose's office and boards of elections, he is skeptical the primary for the General Assembly and congressional seats will be held on May 3 because it will take a few weeks once maps are completed to be able to upload the new districts to their systems. He also said there may need to be a new filing deadline for candidates if lines are moved from the previously adopted maps. It would take legislative action to set a second primary date.


However, a day after Huffman floated the idea of having two primaries, election officials sent a letter to "strongly encourage" the Legislature to reject that possibility, citing the "enormous" cost of two primaries. They also said it will be difficult and potentially impossible for elections officials to recruit poll workers, secure polling locations, test and prepare voting machines, and obtain ballots among supply chain issues for back-to-back elections. They noted they have already been warned about a possible paper and toner shortage. Finally, they said two primaries "will almost certainly cause voter confusion and low turnout, making the expense and difficulty of conducting two elections even more worrisome."


Ballot printing and procurement legislation HB487 (T. Young) could help Ohio boards of elections obtain the paper they need during the current nationwide paper shortage, according to Runbeck Election Services Business Development Vice President Jim Suver. Suver was one of several witnesses who testified in favor of HB487 during the House Government Oversight Committee meeting on Tuesday. Rep. Bill Seitz (R-Cincinnati) said Secretary of State Frank LaRose discussed the paper problem during a recent phone call.


Democratic gubernatorial candidate John Cranley and running mate Sen. Teresa Fedor (D-Toledo) Friday announced a seven-city statewide tour to discuss social justice issues. The tour began Monday in Toledo and includes events in Columbus, Dayton, Cleveland, Cincinnati, Akron and Youngstown. They will announce their policy recommendations in March after the tour has ended, the campaign said.


Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Morgan Harper on Monday launched a statewide tour to promote her "Ohio Opportunity Guarantee" and to meet with voters across the state. The seven-day tour kicked off in Youngstown and Kent, and continues on to Dayton, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Toledo, Lima, Athens, Akron and Canton.


Republican gubernatorial candidate Jim Renacci said Wednesday that he would appoint an administration official as a "prolife advocate for the unborn."


A week after filing to run for the seat, Marion Mayor Scott Schertzer officially announced his campaign for state treasurer. A former teacher, Schertzer also previously worked for former Ohio Treasurer Mary Ellen Withrow, who he said inspired him to run for public office. He served for nine years on Marion City Council before he was elected in mayor in 2008.


Rep. Jeffrey Crossman (D-Parma), who is running for Ohio attorney general, said on a press call with reporters Thursday that there are still many questions surrounding nuclear bailout bill 133-HB6 (Callender-Wilkin), and said the state needs to get back to "a place of accountability." Crossman said Ohioans still don't know who knew what about the energy bill that led to the indictment of former House Speaker Larry Householder, adding it is still costs working Ohioans. He noted figures from the Ohio Consumers' Counsel that found Ohioans have already paid $180 million in subsidies.


A new fundraising email from Tim Ryan's U.S. Senate campaign features singer and Springfield native John Legend asking donors to contribute to the Democrat's bid to succeed the retiring U.S. Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) -- a race he called "one of the most important fights of our lifetime."


The following endorsements were made over the week:


  • The U.S. Senate campaign of Matt Dolan announced the endorsement of Fayette County Sheriff Vernon Stanforth, who serves as president of the National Sheriffs' Association; Wood County Sheriff Mark Wasylyshyn, Wood County Auditor Matt Oestreich, Rossford Mayor Neil MacKinnon, Perrysburg Councilman Jon Smith, and Perrysburg Schools Superintendent Tom Hosler.

  • The gubernatorial campaign of Republican Jim Renacci announced the endorsement of the Strongsville GOP.

  • Former President Donald Trump endorsed U.S. Rep. Warren Davidson (R-Troy) for re-election.

  • Gov. Mike DeWine's re-election campaign announced the following endorsements: Columbiana County Commissioner Mike Halleck; Guernsey County Commissioner Dave Wilson; Steubenville Mayor Jerry Barilla; Lawrence County commissioners Deanna Holiday, Freddie Hayes, and Cotton Copley; Lawrence County Prosecutor Brigham Anderson; Muskingum County Commissioner Jim Porter; Ross County Sheriff George Lavender; Scioto County Republican Party Chairman Rodney Barnett; Somerset Mayor Tom Johnson; Athens County Republican Party Chairman Pete Couladis; former Meigs County Commissioner Randy Smith; Wellston Mayor Charlie Hudson; Pike County Republican Party Chairman David Manuta; Ross County Commissioner Dwight Garrett; Gallia County Engineer Brett Boothe; Zanesville Mayor Don Mason; Muskingum County Commissioner Mollie Crooks; Muskingum County Engineer Mark Eicher; St. Clairsville Mayor Kathryn Thalman; former Sen. Jimmy Stewart; Cambridge Mayor Thomas Orr; Ross County Republican Party Chairman David Glass; McConnellsville Mayor John Finley; Columbiana County Auditor Nancy Milliken; Columbiana County Engineer Bert Dawson; Columbiana County Prosecutor Vito Abruzzino; Columbiana County Recorder James Armeni; Columbiana County Sheriff Brian McLaughlin; former State Central Committee member Marilyn Ashcraft; Guernsey County Commissioner Skip Gardner; Jackson Mayor Randy Evans; Jackson County Sheriff Tedd Frazier; Jackson County Coroner Alice Frazier; Carroll County Prosecutor Steve Barnett; and Harrison County Commissioner Paul Coffland.

  • The gubernatorial campaign of Democrat Nan Whaley announced the endorsement of Cuyahoga County Council President Pernel Jones Jr.

EMPLOYMENT/UNEMPLOYMENT


Despite economic watchers' expecting only small job gains or even a loss nationally due to the effect of the Omicron variant of COVID-19 on the economy, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) said Friday that nonfarm payroll employment rose by 467,000 jobs in January. The national unemployment rate rose to 4.0 percent, a slight rise from December's 3.9 percent. BLS said the number of unemployed persons was 6.5 million in January, little changed from the month before. The unemployment rate is down by 2.4 percentage points, and the number of unemployed persons declined by 3.7 million. In February 2020, prior to the coronavirus pandemic, the unemployment rate was 3.5 percent, and unemployed persons numbered 5.7 million.


ENERGY


FirstEnergy improperly accounted for its lobbying expenses and must submit a plan within 60 days to refund money, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) said in audit report released Friday.


The audit said interviews and reviews of FirstEnergy documents "indicate the existence of significant shortcomings in FirstEnergy and its subsidiaries' internal controls over financial reporting, including controls over accounting for expenses related to civil, political and related activities, such as lobbying activities performed by and on behalf of FirstEnergy and its subsidiaries. Even more concerning, several factual assertions agreed to be FirstEnergy in [its deferred prosecution agreement] and the remedies FirstEnergy agreed to undertake, point towards internal controls having been possibly obfuscated or circumvented to conceal or mislead as to the actual amounts, nature and purpose of the lobbying expenditures made, and as a result, the improper inclusion of lobbying and other non-utility costs in wholesale transmission billing rates," the FERC audit states.


GENERAL ASSEMBLY/STATEHOUSE


The Capitol Square Review and Advisory Board (CSRAB) Tuesday selected three new "Great Ohioans" to be recognized for their contributions to the state and the nation. The new honorees are entertainer Bob Hope, artist Aminah Robinson, and U.S. Rep. Joshua Reed Giddings.


In other action, Capitol Square Foundation Chairman Charles Moses told the board that the foundation is proposing to commission a new painting to be situated across from the Wright Brothers portrait near the Rotunda. He said the painting will be 9 feet by 12 feet, about the same size of the Wright Brothers painting. It will be done in conjunction with the Ohio Arts Council, and Moses proposed the topic be "Ohioans in Space," saying it makes sense given Ohio's history with space exploration and the symmetry with the Wright Brothers. More than half of the funds expected to be needed for the project has been raised.


CSRAB Executive Director Laura Battocletti updated the board on CSRAB's capital budget, saying the request has been adjusted up to $22.7 million at the suggestion of the Office of Budget and Management. The garage renovation is expected to be finished in the spring, and she said the garage is should now be structurally sound for the next 20 to 30 years.


The House Democratic Caucus Monday updated a number of their committee assignments in light of the recent election of Rep. Allison Russo (D-Columbus) as minority leader and the departure of former Rep. Stephanie Howse (D-Cleveland). More changes will be coming once Howse's replacement is named. Then on Tuesday, Senate President Matt Huffman (R-Lima) made two changes to the Senate General Government Budget Committee -- the committee that had been expected to deal with congressional redistricting. They included removing Sen. George Lang (R-West Chester) and Minority Leader Kenny Yuko (D-Richmond Heights) and appointing Sens. Rob McColley (R-Napoleon) and Vernon Sykes (D-Akron).


The Senate Wednesday passed SB168 (Hoagland) establishing a program that will help train school safety personnel. Sen. Frank Hoagland (R-Adena) said it establishes an Ohio Mobile Training Program that will appoint 16 regional training officers. Those officers will work with the governor's school safety center and the school safety designees. It passed along party lines 23-8.


The Senate unanimously passed foster care bill HB4 (Plummer-Manchester), which is headed to the governor's desk after the House later approved the Senate amendments to the bill. Sen. Nathan Manning (R-North Ridgeville) said the bill addresses child service agencies with regards to abuse and neglect reporting. He said many of the interested parties became proponents after a meeting that led to a few changes to the bill. The bill passed 31-0.


In other action, the Senate passed HB37 (Manning) allowing for certain emergency prescription refills; SB53 (Manning), allowing a primary candidate to become a candidate in the general election by being appointed to fill a ballot vacancy; SB112 (Dolan), making changes to the law relating to tax foreclosures and county reutilization corporations; and SB235 (Roegner), exempting documentary service charges and income tax electronic filing fees from sales and use tax.


More than two years after a Muslim high schooler was disqualified from an Ohio district cross-country meet because she was wearing a hijab, the General Assembly passed a bill clarifying that students can wear religious apparel while playing school sports. The House unanimously voted to pass SB181 (Gavarone) on Wednesday, sending the bill directly to Gov. Mike DeWine for his signature since it had not been amended in the House Primary and Secondary Education Committee.


In other action, the House voted 88-1 to concur with Senate amendments to HB51 (Lampton), which allows public bodies to continue meeting virtually through the end of the fiscal year. The bill was also amended in the Senate to include federal tax conformity changes for certain water and sewer utilities. The emergency clause attached to the bill was approved by a vote of 86-3.


The most controversial bill of the day was HB229 (Wilkin-Swearingen), which provides qualified immunity to camp operators. The chamber voted 59-31 to concur with Senate amendments to the legislation, sending it to the governor for his signature.


The House also passed the following bills:


  • HB304 (Baldridge), which requires the state fire marshal and the Ohio Board of Building Standards to adopt rules on sealed batter smoke alarms with 10-year battery lives. The bill passed 78-14.

  • HB236 (Fraizer-Lipps), which regulates the processing, sale and distribution of kratom, an herbal extract from Southeast Asia. Both Reps. Scott Lipps (R-Franklin) and Mark Fraizer (R-Newark) emphasized that kratom is currently legal and being used in Ohio, and that the kratom industry asked to be regulated so the safety of the products can be ensured. The bill passed 82-9.

  • HB197 (Stoltzfus), which creates a temporary income tax credit for employers to train commercial vehicle operators. The bill passed 89-0.

  • HB166 (Boggs-Carfagna), which makes a number of changes to criminal sentencing and correction laws, including the tracking of GPS-monitored offenders. It also requires the Ohio Criminal Sentencing Commission to create an Offender Supervision Study Committee. The bill passed 89-0.

  • HB161 (Lampton), known as "Jacob's Law," which requires certain child abuse convicts to be enrolled in the violent offender database. The bill passed 87-3.

The chamber also adopted HR184 (Cupp-Russo), in memory of Edna Brown, a former state representative and state senator who recently passed away.


The Senate Health Committee attempted Wednesday to modify Cleveland-area schools' ability to take voucher students via an amendment to legislation on crisis care for babies, but ultimately relented to minority members' protests after Senate leadership reconsidered the move. The bill then passed the committee.


Opponents of a Constitutional convention proposal argued before a House committee Wednesday that such a gathering would be unbound by any attempts to restrain it, and the proposed issues to be addressed could end ruinously. The House State and Local Government Committee has been considering HJR1 (McClain-Reidel) in recent weeks, which urges for the calling of a Constitutional convention under Article V of the U.S. Constitution to take up amendments imposing fiscal restraints, limiting federal power and jurisdiction and enacting term limits for federal officials. Dozens of people provided opponent testimony in person or in writing at Wednesday's hearing on the resolution.


In other action, the House Criminal Justice Committee reported out HB427 (White-Manchester) which prohibits using drugs to compel prostitution; House Government Oversight Committee reported out HB325 (Wiggam) which addresses gun rights and government's emergency powers; and SB9 (McColley-Roegner) which reduces administrative rules; House Health Committee reported out SB11 (Brenner) which designates Feb. 7 to 14 as "Congenital Heart Defect Awareness Week"; the House Transportation and Public Safety Committee reported out license plate bills HB527 (Lipps), HB502 (Hall) and HB453 (Jarrells); Senate Finance Committee reported out SB225 (Schuring) which modifies certain tax credits; the House Government Oversight Committee reported out HB376 (Carfagna-Hall) which enacts the Ohio Personal Privacy Act; the House Insurance Committee reported out HB447 (Lampton) which addresses workers' compensation and employees working from home; the House State and Local Government Committee reported out HB405 (Stewart-Johnson) which addresses boards of county hospitals; and the Senate Workforce and Higher Education Committee reported out SCR14 (Schaffer) which urges Congress to address youth working hours.


HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES


Women who suffered through treatment and surgery for breast cancer cases that evaded routine detection methods urged the Senate Health Committee Wednesday to approve legislation that would expand access to routine screenings and to supplemental screenings for women at higher risk. Under HB371 (Schmidt-Denson), women would be eligible for a screening mammography every year, regardless of age or risk factors, and coverage would be required for supplemental screening in women with dense breast tissue or other risk factors like family history.


HIGHER EDUCATION


Author Nikole Hannah-Jones, creator of the New York Times Magazine's "1619 Project," will deliver the Olivia J. Hooker Distinguished Diversity Lecture at Ohio State University (OSU) on Tuesday, Feb. 22. The event will take place at OSU's Mershon Auditorium at 6 p.m., according to an announcement on the OSU College of Education and Human Ecology's website.


Ohio State University (OSU) is represented by a number of athletes in the 2022 Winter Olympics as five countries have Buckeyes on their teams, the university said. The team rosters for Canada, Switzerland, Finland, Sweden and the U.S. will feature Emma Maltais and Natalie Spooner, Andrea Braendli, Minttu Tuominen, Sofie Lundin, and Jincy Dunne, respectively. Also representing Ohio State in Beijing is Matt Tomkins, who played on the men's ice hockey team from 2014-2017. The Buckeye alum joins Team Canada as a goalie. The Beijing 2022 Winters Games are currently underway. A viewing schedule can be found at: https://www.nbcolympics.com/schedule.


Malone University, located in Canton, OH, has named Gregory J. Miller its 14th president. Miller succeeds David King, who is retiring at the end of the academic year after more than 10 years as president. Miller has been with Malone for 22 years, serving as professor of history, department chair for history, philosophy and social sciences, director of general education, associate provost, and provost.


The U.S. Department of Education (USDOE) Monday released updates to the College Scorecard that are meant to make the tool more useful for students and families weighing college options. The tool also includes new and updated information that may be beneficial to school counselors, college access providers, researchers, and other stakeholders. The department said it has improved the College Scorecard interactive web tool, in addition to restoring several metrics to help students gauge how their prospective institution compares to other colleges across costs, graduation rates, post-college earnings, and other metrics. Find more information at https://collegescorecard.ed.gov/.


The Central Ohio Technical College (COTC) is launching its first bachelor's degree program in an effort to meet workforce demand in the Central Ohio region. The Bachelor of Applied Science in Diagnostic Medical Sonography (BAS in DMS) was created to prepare students for careers as registered sonographers. This is a selective, competitive program, COTC said. Applicants must first apply to COTC and then complete the DMS program application by Aug. 15. The BAS in DMS replaces the college's Associate of Applied Science in DMS.


Ohio Dominican University (ODU) President Connie Gallaher announced the appointment of Margaret Pomfret as the institution's new executive vice president, effective Monday, Feb. 14. Pomfret has more than 24 years of experience in higher education. Her role will allow Gallaher to further build and develop relationships with alumni, new and existing supporters of the university, and community and corporate partners, ODU said. Pomfret most recently served as vice president of Institutional Advancement at Ashland University (AU) in Ashland, OH. While there, she led Ashland's "Campaign for Every Individual," which reached $75 million in gifts, surpassing the $50 million goal.


JUDICIAL


The Ohio Supreme Court released updated probate forms affecting guardianships, name changes and the Medicaid Estate Recovery Program, effective Feb. 1. Amendments reflect statutory and administrative rule changes since the Court's adoption of previous changes to the forms.


LOCAL GOVERNMENT


Longtime Republican Butler County Auditor Roger Reynolds faces a swirl of criminal and civil charges over alleged attempts to leverage $1 million in public improvements adjacent to family property and a second parcel he reportedly tried to buy below-market. Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost secured a five-count indictment Wednesday for bribery, unlawful interest in a public contract, and additional charges against the 52-year-old, now summoned to appear in Butler County Common Pleas Court on Thursday, Feb. 17.


MARIJUANA/HEMP


Legalizing marijuana for adult use would be a mistake for Ohio, the Center for Christian Virtue (CCV) told Gov. Mike DeWine and legislative leaders in a letter on Tuesday. "If HB498 (Callender-Wilkin), HB382 (Weinstein-Upchurch) or the proposed initiated statute are successful in commercializing what most medical associations consider a harmful and addictive drug, it would most assuredly prove detrimental to Ohio families," wrote CCV President Aaron Baer, CCV Policy Director David Mahan and leaders of other religious organizations. The letter claimed that other states that have legalized marijuana have been dealing with a litany of problems as a result.


After Wednesday's Senate session, Senate President Matt Huffman (R-Lima) told reporters he doesn't expect to act on an initiated statute and is not in favor of legalization of marijuana for recreational use. He said he doesn't see it as being similar to medical marijuana issues. "I'm not going to bring it to the Senate floor. If people want to go put it on the ballot, have at it," he said. "Although 17 senators may disagree with me and may want to bring it to the floor and they can do that, but I'm not going to bring it to the floor."


PENSIONS


The State Teachers Retirement System (STRS) should be "cautious" as it considers benefit changes because COVID-19-related burnout is a serious issue, according to Alliance for High Quality Education (AHQA) Executive Director Anthony Podojil. The STRS Board of Trustees recently met and discussed implementing a one-time 2 percent COLA and removing the age 60 retirement requirement, replacing it with a policy that grants full benefits after 35 years of service, regardless of age.


PEOPLE


The Association of Municipal and County Court Judges of Ohio (AMCJO) announced the election of officers and trustees for its board: Judge Brian F. Hagan of Rocky River Municipal Court is president of the association; Judge Terri L. Stupica of Chardon Municipal Court, first vice president; Judge Julie L. Monnin of Darke County Municipal Court, second vice president; Judge Timothy R. VanSickle of Wayne County Municipal Court, secretary; and Judge Teresa Lyn Ballinger of Marion Municipal Court, immediate past president. New trustees joining the board include Judge Ann E. Beck of Bellefontaine Municipal Court; Judge Marisa Cornachio of Willoughby Municipal Court and Judge J.J. Costello of Cleveland Heights Municipal Court.


Heather Taylor-Miesle is stepping down from her leadership positions with the Ohio Environmental Council (OEC) and the OEC Action Fund. Her last day as OEC executive director will be Friday, March 4, according to OEC. She will also end her role as president of the OEC Action Fund but will remain on the board of the 501(c)(4) organization. Taylor-Miesle has taken a new position with a national organization, according to OEC. The OEC Board of Directors named Trish Demeter as interim executive director of the organization.


Cuyahoga Valley National Park (CVNP) Superintendent Lisa Petit has announced the selection of Karen Dorn as deputy superintendent. Petit and Dorn also oversee the James A. Garfield National Historic Site in Mentor and First Ladies National Historic Site in Canton. Dorn currently serves as superintendent of Hopewell Culture National Historical Park in Chillicothe. She will transfer into her new role in mid-February.


POLLS/STUDIES


A poll from Public Policy Polling (PPP) conducted last month shows unfavorable views of Gov. Mike DeWine among Republican primary voters, though he holds a lead over primary opponent Jim Renacci. The poll of 626 Republican likely voters was released by the Democratic Governors Association (DGA), which solicited the poll. Among respondents, 36 percent had a favorable opinion of DeWine, while 43 percent had an unfavorable opinion. On his job performance, the margin was closer, with 40 percent approving and 41 percent disapproving. Forty-four percent of respondents disapprove of DeWine's handling of the pandemic, while 40 percent approve. Sixty-three percent opposed DeWine's statewide mask mandate. The poll comes after Renacci's campaign highlighted a poll conducted by Trump pollster Tony Fabrizio, which showed Renacci leading DeWine. Both the Fabrizio and PPP polls, however, did not list Republican gubernatorial candidates Joe Blystone and Ron Hood.


PUBLIC SAFETY


Summit County leads the state with more than a quarter of all grants in the first round of funding for law enforcement recruitment of women and minorities. Gov. Mike DeWine announced $425,000 in awards for FY22 Tuesday out of $1 million appropriated by HB110 (Oelslager) and administered by the Office of Law Enforcement Recruitment. Thirteen awards will go to 12 agencies, including two for $25,000 and $33,734 to the Akron Police Department and $61,069 to the Summit County Sheriff's Office.


The DeWine administration added Notre Dame College and Crooksville in Perry County Thursday to police departments certified under state law enforcement standards for officer use of force, including deadly force, and agency recruitment and hiring.


REDISTRICTING/REAPPORTIONMENT


The Ohio Redistricting Commission will have to reconvene to try again to draw General Assembly maps after the Ohio Supreme Court struck down the second iteration of the commission's work and gave its members until Thursday, Feb. 17, to adopt a new plan. In this latest 4-3 ruling, Chief Justice Maureen O'Connor again joined the Democrats in striking down the plans. The majority said the new maps adopted on Saturday, Jan. 22 violate Article XI, Sections 6(A) and 6(B) of the Ohio Constitution. It particularly highlighted the proportionality requirement of those sections, which calls for maps to align with the preferences of Ohio voters, generally agreed to be 54 percent supporting Republicans over the last decade and 46 percent supporting Democrats. The Court ordered the new General Assembly plan to be filed with the Ohio Secretary of State's office by Thursday, Feb. 17, and to file a copy with the Court by 9 a.m. on Friday, Feb. 18. The Court said it will retain jurisdiction to review the plan. After a plan is adopted, plaintiffs in the lawsuits will again have three days to file any objections to the new plan.


The redrawing of the congressional maps also now goes to the Ohio Redistricting Commission after the General Assembly determined it will not pass a new congressional map by the Sunday, Feb. 13 deadline imposed by the Ohio Supreme Court. House Speaker Bob Cupp (R-Lima) Tuesday confirmed that the Legislature didn't have the votes to pass a new map with an emergency clause before Sunday. The Senate has enough Republicans to approve an emergency clause, but House Republicans are one vote short without Democratic help. Cupp told Hannah News that it would be "a futile effort by the General Assembly" to try to pass a plan without enough votes to adopt an emergency clause. The redistricting commission, he noted, can pass a map that will take effect immediately. The House and Senate committees that had expected to hear the new congressional plans cancelled their Tuesday and Wednesday meetings or removed the bill from their agenda. The House also cancelled an if-needed Thursday session.


Common Cause and the Southern Coalition for Social Justice said Wednesday that state courts have been the best tool in this round of redistricting to stop gerrymandering and continued to push for a fair and transparent process in states where redistricting is still ongoing, including Ohio. The groups held a news conference with reporters from around the country to discuss litigation and redistricting efforts, saying that in a number of states, gerrymandered plans have been a threat to communities of color to select their own representatives.


The Ohio Supreme Court late Friday denied a motion by Attorney General Dave Yost that would have converted to "amici" status responses by Democrats on the Ohio Redistricting Commission to objections by plaintiffs in three redistricting lawsuits against the latest General Assembly redistricting plans adopted by the commission. Yost had asked the Court to change the status of the responses from pro se into amici, arguing that only the Ohio Redistricting Commission should respond to the objections and not its individual members. House Minority Leader Allison Russo (D-Upper Arlington) and Sen. Vern Sykes (D-Akron) objected to Yost's request, saying they are named respondents in the lawsuits and therefore had the right to respond to the latest filings in the case. On Friday, the Court denied Yost's motion. Chief Justice Maureen O'Connor said she would have denied Yost's request to intervene to file his motion, therefore making the issue moot.


SUPER BOWL


Gov. Mike DeWine and Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) Director Mary Mertz Monday announced the temporary renaming of three Ohio State Parks to honor current and past players of the Super-Bowl-bound Cincinnati Bengals. Burr Oak State Park in Glouster will be referred to as "Burrow Oak State Park" in honor of Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow, who grew up in nearby Athens, OH. Evan McPherson, whose game-winning kicks helped send the Bengals to the Super Bowl, will be celebrated at Paint Creek State Park in Bainbridge with the moniker of "Evan McPherson Extra Point Creek State Park." And lastly, Hueston Woods State Park in College Corner will honor legendary Bengals running back Ickey Woods. The park, now dubbed "Ickey Woods State Park," is located between Cincinnati and Dayton.


Gov. Mike DeWine and First Lady Fran DeWine arrived in Los Angeles on Thursday evening ahead of Super Bowl Sunday, according to the governor's office. The governor also issued a proclamation declaring Sunday, Feb. 13 as "Cincinnati Bengals Day" in the state of Ohio.


U.S. Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) is also marking the occasion, sharing on Twitter that he made a bet with U.S. Sen. Alex Padilla (D-CA) that the Bengals will defeat the Rams.


The Ohio State Highway Patrol (OSHP) is urging Ohioans who drink at parties to refrain from driving, warning that troopers "will be cracking down on impaired drivers" on Super Bowl Sunday. "The Cincinnati Bengals have given many Ohioans an extra reason to celebrate the Super Bowl this year," DeWine said in the OSHP news release. "I encourage everyone who is cheering on the Bengals on Sunday to celebrate responsibly and designate a sober driver."


TAXATION


The Ohio Department of Taxation (ODT) encouraged those filing Ohio income tax returns to do so online, saying that processing paper forms and issuing refund claims can take up to three months.


TECHNOLOGY/AEROSPACE


Citing an overall sense of urgency and similar legislation in other states, Ohio Aerospace and Aviation Technology Committee (OAATC) Chair Rep. Adam Holmes (R-Nashport) told Hannah News he hopes his slate of aviation-related bills will move forward in the spring. Holmes is the sponsor of HB490, regarding permitting laws and navigable airspace, as well as HB485 and HB486, which concern the use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), also known as drones. So far, HB490 is the only one to be heard.


TRANSPORTATION/INFRASTRUCTURE


Saying he wants Ohio "to get more than its fair share" out of the bipartisan infrastructure law, U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) held a virtual conference Friday so that U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) officials could brief local officials on the various programs that will be funded through the bill. The hour-long conference featured Charles Small, a USDOT deputy assistant secretary, outlining where the funds in the law are going to, and encouraging local officials to get in touch with the federal agency and attend seminars on applying for grant money that will be coming.


UNEMPLOYMENT COMPENSATION


The Buckeye Institute recommended Monday that Ohio should use its second round of funds through the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) to restore the unemployment trust fund to pre-pandemic levels as a way to "safeguard families and businesses from future downturns and tax increases." The recommendation was made through a policy memo by Rea Hederman Jr., executive director of the institute's Economic Research Center and vice president of policy.


Former Attorney General Marc Dann this week filed a brief on behalf of plaintiffs who are suing the state over the early termination of the extra $300 payments to jobless workers under the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) program by the DeWine administration last year. The brief argues that Gov. Mike DeWine's "unilateral decision" to terminate Ohio's participation in FPUC conflicts with legislative direction and encroaches on the General Assembly's reservation of authority in Ohio Revised Code 4141.45.


UTILITIES


The capital city's last Republican mayor, Greg Lashutka, not only was appointed to the PUCO Nominating Council this week but he was also elected chair before its latest meeting where the group interviewed and selected four candidates for a seat on the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO). Those four included Walbridge Republican Dan Wilczynski of Marathon Petroleum and Westerville Republican David Yarnell of Survey and Mapping (SAM) LLC as well as sitting Commissioner Daniel Conway and Vice President and General Counsel Stephen Serraino of Upper Peninsula Power Company, a seven-time candidate, six-time nominee and political independent. Then, on Thursday, Gov. Mike DeWine Thursday announced the reappointment of Daniel Conway to a second five-year term.


Electric distribution utilities (EDU) including American Electric Power (AEP) of Ohio, FirstEnergy, Duke Energy Ohio and AES Ohio won some wiggle room Wednesday to bill "indirect" costs through standard service offers (SSO) and to operate generation facilities through corporate affiliates as part of substitute changes to HB317 (Wilkin), which no longer requires EDUs to provide "least cost and reliable service." Rep. Shane Wilkin (R-Hillsboro), joint sponsor of ill-fated energy subsidy bill 133-HB6 (Callender-Wilkin), introduced a substitute version of HB317 with expansive changes adopted without objection by the House Public Utilities Committee.


The PUCO, whose transportation division regulates over 5,600 railroad crossings, is requesting public feedback on one of the more dangerous traffic conditions in the state. The online Highway-Rail Grade Crossing State Action Plan (SAP) Survey asks, "Where specifically in Ohio are there existing or potential safety concerns related to railroad crossings?" The question is accompanied by an interactive map of 5,685 crossings and 5,000 miles of track, with the densest network in Northern Ohio.


Customers of Dominion Energy Ohio will see a 20 percent increase in the cost of natural gas delivery on April 1. The PUCO on Wednesday approved results from this week's auction for Dominion's standard choice offer (SCO) covering the one-year period ending March 31, 2023.


WORKERS' COMPENSATION


The Ohio Bureau of Workers' Compensation (BWC) announced that registration has opened for 2022's virtual Medical & Health Symposium, "Comprehensive Care for an Injured Worker." Scheduled for Thursday-Saturday, April 7-9, the interactive conference will cover opioid abuse and pharmacogenetic insights into a body's specific genetic response to drugs, alternative pain treatments, live surgery performed by Dr. Kenneth Westerheide of Orthopedic One, and additional presentations by Ohio Department of Health (ODH) Director Bruce Vanderhoff and others.

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


59 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All