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Week in Review February 5, 2024

Ohio statehouse government affairs week in review January 2023

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.


On his weekly call with reporters, U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) Wednesday promoted bipartisan legislation he is co-sponsoring that would collect more data on the purchases of farmland by foreign entities in Ohio and across the country. The AFIDA (Agricultural Foreign Investment Disclosure Act) Improvements Act of 2024 would strengthen current law that requires foreign persons who acquire, dispose of, or hold an interest in U.S. agricultural land to disclose those transactions to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), according to Brown's office. "We cannot allow foreign adversaries to buy it in Ohio and around the country," Brown said. "It's a threat to our food. It's a threat to our national security, a threat to rural economies and our way of life." Brown said the current law has too many loopholes that allow countries such as China to conceal identities when buying land.


The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) has announced $438,000 in grant funding for 26 Ohio arts organizations. As part of its first round of funding for FFY24, NEA said it has recommended 1,288 arts grants nationwide totaling more than $32 million. NEA said organizations will carry out arts projects in several of the federal agency's funding programs, including Grants for Arts Projects, Challenge America, Literature Fellowships, Research Grants in the Arts, and Research Labs.


The Auditor of State's Special Investigations Unit (SIU) is seeking information on potential fraud, waste, and abuse of public resources at Eastern Gateway Community College (EGCC) in Steubenville. The SIU has established a dedicated email address,, for tips. Individuals who suspect wrongdoing can also confidentially submit information through SIU's webpage at or through the auditor's fraud hotline at 866-FRAUD-OH (866-372-8364). Earlier in January, the Special Investigations Unit and several partners, including the U.S. Secret Service, executed a search warrant related to ongoing investigations of the community college.


Backers of a proposed constitutional amendment that would enshrine certain voting procedures in the Ohio Constitution as well as declare voting as a fundamental right said Thursday that they have filed a lawsuit in the Ohio Supreme Court challenging Attorney General Dave Yost's rejection of their petition on the basis of the proposed title of the amendment. Yost has rejected the proposed petition twice, taking issue both times with the title of the amendment given by the group, which was first submitted as "Secure and Fair Elections" and then as "Ohio Voters Bill of Rights" the second time. Yost said that latest title "does not fairly or accurately summarize or describe the actual content of the proposed amendment." The supporters of the proposed amendment, which include the Ohio Organizing Collaborative, the Ohio Chapter of the NAACP, the A. Philip Randolph Institute and the Ohio Unity Coalition, said in their complaint that Yost has a clear lack of authority to opine on the proposed title, let alone reject it based on his "subjective distaste for it."

Ballot initiatives underway reported fundraising totals this week. Citizens Not Politicians, which is seeking to put a redistricting reform constitutional amendment before voters, reported raising more than $3.1 million, spending $1.3 million, and has $1.8 million on hand. Much of that has come from $500,000 contributions from the American Federation of Teachers, the American Civil Liberties Union, the Ohio Progressive Collaborative, the Ohio Education Association, and liberal PAC Sixteen. Article IV, a Virginia-based group, gave $550,000.

Raise the Wage Ohio, which is circulating a minimum wage increase petition, did not report any contributions and only had $84.50 on hand, but nearly $1.8 million in in-kind contributions from Massachusetts-based One Fair Wage and the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Ohio State Joint Council.


Gov. Mike DeWine on Tuesday signed HB101 (Bird), legislation that was originally focused on reforming the village dissolution process but was amended to become a "Christmas tree" budget corrections bill. The Senate made a litany of changes to the bill in December 2023, and the House concurred with the amendments in early January. Because the bill included appropriations, DeWine could have used his line-item veto power to remove any provisions to which he objected. However, the bill was signed without any vetoes. The bill includes a number of changes to doula services in the state, including a provision in budget law HB33 (Edwards) that the governor had vetoed.


New research from the Cleveland-based Center for Community Solutions (CCS) concludes that, during the five-year period between 2018 and 2022, 15.8 percent of births in Ohio were deemed to have inadequate prenatal care. The 15.8 percent figure is slightly higher than the national average of 14.5 percent of births deemed to have inadequate prenatal care. CCS used the Adequacy of Prenatal Care Utilization (APNCU) Index, or Kotelchuck Index, to measure a birthing person's prenatal care. The APCNU Index accounts for when prenatal care was initiated and the ratio of prenatal visits attended over the number of prenatal visits recommended by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. CCS notes that the APCNU Index is not a measure of the quality of the actual prenatal care received. According to CCS' research, the percentage of White, non-Hispanic birthing people who received inadequate prenatal care (13 percent) was significantly lower than the percentage of American Indian (24 percent), Black/African American Non-Hispanic (23 percent) or Hispanic of Any Race (24 percent) birthing people. Asian/Pacific Islander Non-Hispanic birthing people received inadequate prenatal care in 15 percent of cases.


While COVID-19 cases increased in the first Ohio Department of Health (ODH) update of the year, they have gone down every week since. The ODH update for Thursday showed a decrease from 7,719 cases on Jan. 25 to 7,468, less than half the number reported on Jan. 4. Hospitalizations have also trended down during the month, going from 629 on Jan. 4 to 247 Thursday. ICU admissions ticked upward during the month -- with 25 on Jan. 4, 26 on Jan. 11 and 30 on Jan. 18 -- but decreased after that to 22 on Jan. 25 and 13 Thursday. Deaths have also fluctuated -- starting at 52 on Jan. 4, rising to 84 on Jan. 18, and then falling to 73 on Thursday. Since the pandemic began, there have been 3.7 million total cases, 149,407 hospitalizations, 15,710 ICU admissions and 43,517 Ohio resident deaths reported by ODH.


Attorney General Dave Yost and House Republicans wasted little time Tuesday in announcing the introduction of legislation authorizing state-sponsored executions by nitrogen hypoxia following its first use in Alabama on Thursday, Jan. 25. Sponsored by Reps. Brian Stewart (R-Ashville) and Phil Plummer (R-Dayton) and joined by 13 Republican co-sponsors, HB392 would allow Death Row inmates to choose between lethal injection and "a lethal quantity of nitrogen gas of sufficient dosage to quickly cause death." If inmates choose neither, they would be executed by lethal injection unless the required drugs are unavailable -- as has been the case for a half dozen years -- in which case they would be executed by nitrogen hypoxia. If the U.S. or Ohio Supreme Court declares both methods unconstitutional, their death sentence would be carried out by "any manner of execution that has not been determined to be unconstitutional."

A poll conducted by a Republican research firm shows a majority of Ohioans support a repeal of the death penalty in favor of life in prison for the worst of the worst murderers, says a coalition of public interest groups including Ohioans to Stop Executions (OTSE), ACLU, Ignite Peace and The Tarrance Group, which conducted the survey.


A total of $14.9 million in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) money will be distributed across 67 counties in support of projects for Ohioans with developmental disabilities and their families, Gov. Mike DeWine and Ohio Department of Developmental Disabilities (DODD) Director Kim Hauck announced recently. A full listing of awarded applications can be found at The governor's office said $210 million in ARPA Home and Community Based Services money has already been distributed to providers, and that another $42 million in ARPA money will also be available to people with disabilities and their families, the developmental disability workforce, youth with complex needs, transformative technology, the waiver redesign initiative, and more.


President Joe Biden will travel to East Palestine sometime in February to meet with residents affected by the Norfolk Southern train derailment, according to the White House, though a White House spokesman did not have an exact day or time. Saturday, Feb. 3 is the first anniversary of the derailment that caused an environmental disaster, with cleanup efforts still ongoing.

The DeWine administration announced Thursday two more East Palestine businesses will receive financial support from the state's Emergency Support Program, joining 18 others announced on Dec. 26. The new approval of these businesses brings the total amount of funding provided to over $3.45 million. The East Palestine Emergency Support Program, administered by the Ohio Department of Development (DOD), was announced in June. It provides a total of $5 million in zero percent interest, forgivable loans. Businesses can apply for loans ranging from $10,000 to $1 million. There will be terms up to 15 years and no principal is due for up to the first two years, but loans may not exceed the eligible business' 2022 gross revenue. The two businesses announced Thursday were sports streaming company Yokeley Scott Corporation, LLC, which received an $85,250 loan, and real estate company EPO, LLC, which received a loan of $65,285.


Gov. Mike DeWine's administration announced Monday the approval of tax credits for 15 mixed-use projects expected to create more than $401 million in new payroll and spur $2.6 billion in investments across the state. The projects are part of the Transformational Mixed-Use Development Program's third round, which took applications from July 27 to Sept. 8, 2023. The Ohio Tax Credit Authority (TCA) approved a total of $100 million in tax credits for the projects, with approximately $78 million for major city projects -- those within 10 miles of the corporation limit of Akron, Cincinnati, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Columbus, Dayton or Toledo -- and $22 million for general projects.


Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow (ECOT) founder William Lager is asking the judge presiding over the state's attempt to claw back money from him to delete from the case record information about the recent, multi-million dollar transfer of his former residence, saying he had nothing to do with it. Attorneys for the state counter that the transfer adds more urgency to their request to freeze Lager's assets.

The General Assembly should fund a grant program to help school districts purchase bus safety features, according to Gov. Mike DeWine's Ohio School Bus Safety Working Group. That recommendation is one of 17 included in the group's final report, which was released Wednesday during a press conference at the Ohio Department of Public Safety's (ODPS) headquarters in Columbus. The safety features funded with the new grant program could include seatbelts, but the group is not recommending any kind of mandate on schools installing seatbelts in school buses. DeWine said the school bus safety grants could possibly be funded through the capital budget.

The judge presiding over litigation challenging Ohio's new literacy instruction laws scheduled an April hearing on the Reading Recovery Council of North America's request to enjoin the statutes included in the recent biennial budget. Judge Karen Phipps of the Franklin County Common Pleas Court assigned Magistrate Jennifer Hunt to the case and scheduled a preliminary injunction hearing from 9:30 a.m. on Monday, April 22. The Reading Recovery Council of North America sued in October over provisions of HB33 (Edwards) that bar "three-cueing" instructional methods and require use of materials aligned to what's often called the "science of reading."

Ohio opened applications Thursday for EdChoice scholarships in the 2024-2025 school year, creating potential for further program growth beyond the significant increased participation kicked off by the most recent biennial budget, HB33 (Edwards). All students are now eligible for EdChoice scholarships under HB33 (Edwards), although award amounts start to diminish once a family's income exceeds 450 percent of the federal poverty limit. That income threshold is now slightly higher than it was last year following the January issuance of updated poverty guidelines by the federal government. For a family of four, 450 percent of the poverty guidelines equates to $140,400, up from $135,000 last year. Beyond that threshold, scholarship amounts gradually diminish as income rises, down to a minimum of 10 percent of the full award amount. Full scholarship amounts are $6,166 for K-8 students and $8,408 for high school for the upcoming academic year. A spreadsheet of estimated award amounts compiled by the Ohio Department of Education and Workforce (DEW) shows minimum award amounts of $616.60 and $840.80 for those earning 783 percent of poverty or more.


Both the Ohio Republican Party and the Ohio Democratic Party (ODP) central and executive committees met Saturday to issue endorsements, with Republicans snubbing House Speaker Jason Stephens (R-Kitts Hill) and his supporters who elevated him over House Republican Caucus pick Rep. Derek Merrin (R-Maumee). The Ohio Republican Party's Central Committee had already censured the 22 Republicans, including Stephens, who joined with Democrats to vote for Stephens as speaker. On Saturday, the party refused to endorse the 17 who are running for re-election, including Stephens, even in races where the incumbent is unopposed in the primary. Not receiving an endorsement were Stephens, and Reps. Cindy Abrams (R-Harrison), Monica Robb Blasdel (R-Columbiana), Sara Carruthers (R-Hamilton), Jon Cross (R-Kenton), Al Cutrona (R-Canfield), Haraz Ghanbari (R-Perrysburg), Brett Hillyer (R-Uhrichsville), Don Jones (R-Freeport), Jeff LaRe (R-Canal Winchester), Kevin Miller (R-Newark), Scott Oelslager (R-North Canton), Gail Pavliga (R-Atwater), Bob Peterson (R-Sabina), Tracy Richardson (R-Marysville), Jean Schmidt (R-Loveland), and D.J. Swearingen (R-Huron).

Meanwhile, ODP's executive committee issued endorsements for Congress and the Ohio Supreme Court, as well as two proposed constitutional amendments seeking to make the November ballot. Democrats endorsed Samantha Meadows for the 2nd Congressional District; Matt Diemer for Ohio's 7th Congressional District; Amy Cox for the 10th Congressional District; and Adam Miller for the 15th Congressional District. All have primary opponents. The executive committee also endorsed Ohio Supreme Court Justices Michael Donnelly and Melody Stewart for re-election, as well as Eighth District Court of Appeals Judge Lisa Forbes for the seat currently held by Justice Joe Deters. On proposed ballot initiatives, ODP endorsed the "Citizens Not Politicians" redistricting reform and One Fair Wage $15 minimum wage issues.

Spectrum News 1 announced it will broadcast a U.S. Senate Republican primary forum on Monday, Feb. 19 at 8 p.m. Moderated by Spectrum News 1 anchor and host of "In Focus: Ohio" Mike Kallmeyer, the hour-long forum will take place at the University of Findlay and feature Republican Senate candidates Sen. Matt Dolan (R-Chagrin Falls), Secretary of State Frank LaRose, and businessman Bernie Moreno.

Rep. Dave Dobos (R-Columbus) has ended his bid for re-election to the 10th House District, according to the Franklin County Board of Elections. Dobos, serving in his first term in the Ohio House, sent a letter to the board on Friday withdrawing his name in the Republican primary, where he was facing two challengers. Dobos, however, kept his name on the ballot for the Franklin County Republican Party Central Committee race that he is also running in.

With Wednesday the deadline for state and federal candidates to file their annual fundraising reports for the final quarter of 2023, the competitive Republican primary in the U.S. Senate race showed Secretary of State Frank LaRose bringing in more than his rivals, but trailing them in cash on hand overall. LaRose reported $807,539 in contributions, but spent $905,277 and has $771,611 on hand. Businessman Bernie Moreno reported $778,477 in contributions, but spent more than $3.8 million as his campaign blitzed the airways. The campaign still has more than $2 million on hand. Sen. Matt Dolan (R-Chagrin Falls) reported $340,038 in contributions, but thanks to his advertising campaign, spent more than $2.2 million. He has nearly $5 million on hand. The winner will take on U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH), who reported raising $5.4 million. He spent $3.1 million and has $14.6 million on hand.

Campaign finance reports for the Ohio Supreme Court on Wednesday also included filings for Justice Melody Stewart, who is running for re-election, and for Franklin County Common Pleas Court Judge Dan Hawkins, a Republican who is running for the seat currently occupied by Justice Joe Deters, who is challenging Stewart. According to the Secretary of State's Office, Stewart reported raising $81,239 in the last six months of 2023, spent $2,689, and has $100,631 on hand. Hawkins reported receiving $188,406 in contributions, spent $33,363, and has $176,688 on hand. He also loaned his committee $20,000.

U.S. Sen. Brown's lead is within the margin of error in prospective matchups with all three of the Republicans looking to square off with him this fall, according to a new Emerson College poll. Meanwhile, former President Donald Trump leads President Joe Biden handily in a state Trump has already won twice. The poll results reflect a tightening in the race compared to a November 2023 survey Emerson conducted. In the results released Thursday, Brown gets 38 percent to Sen. Matt Dolan's (R-Chagrin Falls) 37 percent, 39 percent to Secretary of State Frank LaRose's 37 percent, and 39 percent to businessman Bernie Moreno's 37 percent. Slightly more respondents, 20 percent, are undecided in the Brown-Dolan matchup, compared to an 18 percent rate of indecision in the other two potential matchups. The margin of error on the survey is 2.3 percent.

The following endorsements were made over the week:

  • The U.S. Senate campaign of Republican Matt Dolan announced the endorsement of Youth Prosperity Ohio.

  • The U.S. Senate campaign of Republican Bernie Moreno announced the endorsement of North Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem, Attorney General Dave Yost and Sen. Michele Reynolds (R-Columbus).

  • The state representative campaign of Republican Kellie Deeter announced the endorsement of Huron County Sheriff Todd Corbin.

  • The congressional campaign of Sen. Shane Wilkin (R-Hillsboro) announced the endorsements of the Highland County Republican Party and more than 25 local officials.

  •  The congressional campaign of Rep. Derek Merrin (R-Maumee) announced the endorsement of the Lucas County Republican Party.

  •  Americans for Prosperity-Ohio endorsed Rep. Brian Stewart (R-Ashville), Mike Dovilla, Rep. Adam Mathews (R-Lebanon), Rep. Beth Lear (R-Galena), and Mark Hiner for the Ohio House


Nearly three years before Ohioans go to the ballot to elect a new governor, Lt. Gov. Jon Husted announced what his campaign said was a record haul this far ahead of the election. Wednesday was the deadline for state and federal candidates to file their annual campaign finance totals. Husted reported raising more than $1.7 million in the previous reporting period, and has $3.3 million on hand.

Attorney General Dave Yost, who is also preparing for a gubernatorial run, reported $670,394 in contributions and $1.18 million on hand. Other potential gubernatorial candidates include Treasurer Robert Sprague, who reported nearly $293,870 million in contributions, but he has $1.9 million on hand thanks to $940,000 he loaned his campaign.


"Electricity does not respect the laws of man; it respects the laws of physics." Witnesses and policymakers at Thursday's joint hearing of Ohio House and Senate energy/public utility committees and Pennsylvania's Senate counterpart had some ranging assumptions about different generation technologies, though ReliabilityFirst's trust-the-science comment distilled the overall mood around nuclear and fossil fuel generation's importance in keeping the lights on and state and federal policy preferences supporting renewable power and increased electrification of everyday life. The House Public Utilities Committee, Energy and Natural Resources Committee and Senate Energy and Public Utilities Committee held the two-state forum after the Pennsylvania Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committee hosted Ohio legislators last fall. The joint committees heard from Lt. Gov. Jon Husted and a panel comprising of Senior Vice President Asim Haque of PJM's State Policy and Member Services, Chairwoman Jenifer French of the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO), and President, CEO Jim Robb of the North America Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC) and CEO Tim Gallagher of ReliabilityFirst, and a second panel including Energy Policy Director Tony Long of the Ohio Chamber of Commerce, President Glen Thomas of GT Power Group, and Policy Fellow Isaac Orr of the Center of The American Experiment.

Ohioans are frustrated with the lack of legislative action to address the 133-HB6 (Callender-Wilkin) corruption scandal, House Democrats said during a Statehouse press conference Tuesday. House Minority Leader Allison Russo (D-Columbus) added, "And it hasn't been because of a lack of effort." She pointed to campaign finance reform bill HB112 (Sweeney-Miranda) and HB120 (Weinstein-Brennan), which would repeal provisions of 133-HB6. The House Government Oversight Committee held one hearing on HB112, while HB120 remains in the House Rules and Reference Committee and has yet to receive a hearing. Rep. Dan Troy (D-Willowick) also discussed his recently-introduced legislation, HB363, which would make a number of changes to the composition of the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO).

The Ohio Department of Development (DOD) announced that nearly $12 million is available for grants related to advancing innovation in coal technology and fostering economic growth, job creation and environmental sustainability across Ohio. The funds are provided by the Ohio Coal Research and Development Program, which helps projects with modernizing the use of coal through methods such as rare earth element extraction for manufacturing, alternate uses for coal waste and conversion of coal into high-quality materials for housing construction. The program is administered by DOD's Ohio Coal Development Office. Eligible applicants for the grants can include municipal-, rural- and investor-owned utilities, nonprofit and for-profit entities operating in Ohio, as well as educational and scientific institutions within the state.

Leading voices for ratemaking reform got the first word Wednesday in advance of PJM Interconnection's appearance before a joint meeting of Ohio and Pennsylvania's House and Senate energy/public utility committees Thursday. Joined by the Ohio Consumers' Counsel (OCC), the Ohio Manufacturers' Association (OMA) redoubled its opposition to the 13-state grid operator's electric capacity proposal and cast shade on former Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) chairman and PJM Senior Vice President Asim Haque's motivation in pushing changes to the wholesale energy market throughout 2023. OMA and OCC held a joint press conference to reinforce their skepticism over dire warnings in PJM's February 2023 report, Resource Retirements, Replacement and Risks (4Rs), and Haque's follow-up remarks last year to the Senate Energy and Public Utilities Committee and House Public Utilities and Energy and Natural Resources committees. Haque has since addressed a joint hearing of the Pennsylvania Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committee and Ohio House and Senate committees in Pennsylvania, and PJM has proposed major market reforms to electric reliability or capacity -- a baseload plant's ability to supply power at all times, including during critical winter and summer periods -- at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC).


The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency's (Ohio EPA) requests to use $12 million of Monsanto PCB settlement funds for various programs across the state were approved by the Controlling Board on Monday. Among the projects is $3 million for a new Aqueous Film Forming Foam (AFFF) Takeback Program, which will be operated by Ohio EPA, the Ohio Division of State Fire Marshal and Battelle.


As the first anniversary of the train derailment in East Palestine approaches, U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) said it is time for his Railway Safety Act, co-sponsored with U.S. Sen. J.D. Vance (R-OH), to be brought to the floor for a vote, telling reporters he is confident it has the needed votes to pass. Saturday, Feb. 4 is the anniversary of the derailment, which forced residents from their homes and caused an environmental disaster. A year later, the community is still trying to recover, though local officials said they are ready to move on and make their community better than before.


Ohio bettors placed more than $7.6 billion in wagers on sports during the first year of legal sports gambling in the state, according to the Ohio Casino Control Commission (OCCC). Sportsbooks' total taxable revenue for the year was nearly $937 million, with a handful of operators dominating the sports gambling market, OCCC said.

Ohio's four casinos reported $91.7 million in revenue in December 2023, which is a record high for the month of December, according to the Ohio Casino Control Commission (OCCC). The casinos' revenue total was significantly higher than December 2022, when it was $83.8 million.


Condolences from Gov. Mike DeWine and First Lady Fran DeWine led tributes Thursday for former Ohio Senate President Stan Aronoff on the news of his death Wednesday at age 91. Aronoff, whose name adorns the Aronoff Center for the Arts in Cincinnati -- a tribute to his long history supporting arts in his community and the state -- as well as the Aronoff Center for Design and Art at the University of Cincinnati and the Stanley J. Aronoff Laboratory of Biological Sciences at Ohio State University, served as president of the Ohio Senate from 1989 through 1996. His legislative career, however, began in 1961 when he was elected to a seat in the Ohio House -- the first of three terms. In 1966 he won a seat in the Ohio Senate where, despite attempts to win statewide or federal offices, he stayed until he retired in 1996. It was during his tenure that Republicans regained control of the Ohio Senate, which they continue to hold. He also chaired the Senate Finance Committee in multiple General Assemblies.


The White House and the U.S. Department of Education this week announced a new resource for schools to use to communicate to students and parents the importance of safe firearm storage in preventing gun violence. Director Stef Feldman of the newly established White House Office of Gun Violence Prevention told an audience of school principals gathered at the White House that a large majority of gun violence in the U.S. involves guns that are stored at the home. Additionally, nearly 20 percent of childhood deaths are caused by firearms. The resource, in the form of a letter school principals can share with students' parents, explains secure firearms and ammunition storage as a way to prevent school shootings. It is available at


A list of candidates running in the Tuesday, March 19, primary with their filing addresses is now available on the Hannah News homepage at The list, in Excel format, contains candidates running for the Ohio House, Ohio Senate, U.S. House and U.S. Senate. The list will be updated throughout the 2024 election cycle.


The Ohio Department of Higher Education (ODHE) has announced a loan repayment program for newly licensed attorneys working in underserved parts of the state. The Rural Practice Incentive Program will provide loan repayment on behalf of attorneys licensed for eight or fewer years who are employed by the state public defender; the prosecuting attorney of a county; a county public defender commission; or a joint county public defender commission to represent indigent persons in areas designated as underserved communities.

The Buckeye Institute Wednesday sponsored a luncheon discussion with Ohio Sen. Jerry C. Cirino (R-Kirtland), and Richard K. Vedder, economist, historian, author, and professor emeritus at Ohio University, moderated by Robert Alt, president and CEO of the institute. In this discussion, they talked about the changes they hope to see in higher education, with Cirino's SB83's potential passing. "Higher education in the United States is in great trouble," said Vedder. He explained statistics that American college costs have risen above family incomes in the 40 years after 1980 and about 40 percent of college students attending four-year schools don't graduate in six years. He also mentioned recent news of plagiarism at Harvard University, causing the former president of the university to step down, and errors and misstatements in research from Stanford University's president, also causing him to step down. "For most of my academic career, that literally began in the 1950s at Northwestern University, I have strongly believed that colleges should be highly independent of outside sources," said Vedder. "But reluctantly, I now conclude that universities need some adult supervision."

With the General Assembly expected to begin deliberations on the capital budget this spring, State Sen. Jerry Cirino (R[1]Kirtland), chair of the Senate Workforce and Higher Education Committee, sent a letter to Ohio's public university presidents telling them to bring data to back up their requests. "Beginning in April, the Senate will begin its review of the capital budget for the upcoming budget biennium (FY25 and FY26.) As part of that process, the … [c]ommittee will begin an in-depth review of proposed/requested capital appropriations by Ohio's four-year and two-year institutions. He said this will “give the Senate much needed perspective when the Senate Finance Committee begins its work later this year in May/ June.” The letter states that each university president will be given one hour to present their capital budget request to the committee. The presentations are to include information about the need for the proposed projects, and any "cost avoidance data" and how the project will "impact the future delivery of instruction."


The Senate Select Committee on Housing Wednesday wrapped up the "study phase" of its investigation into the housing crisis in Ohio after touring the state for several months to hear from communities about local housing needs and barriers to access. The Senate formed the select committee, chaired by Sen. Michele Reynolds (R-Canal Winchester), following the passage of the state budget, HB33 (Edwards), which included new housing development incentives. Reynolds told Hannah News the committee expects to issue a report with their findings in March, and legislation may follow sometime in April.


The Ohio Supreme Court chastised the 11th Appellate District Wednesday for ignoring its order in a horizontal injection well dispute between a "fracking" wastewater disposal company and the DeWine administration. The appeals court will now consider for a third time, or the second time on remand, whether the state of Ohio must compensate American Water Management Services (AWMS) for the "regulatory taking" of its property interest in a 5.2-acre tract due to seismic activity in Trumbull County. "The court of appeals did not follow our instructions," the Court said flatly.

A unanimous Ohio Supreme Court Monday ruled that having a felony theft conviction does not prevent a person from holding the office of state representative, thus clearing the way for former Rep. Steven Kraus to appear on the March 19 primary ballot against incumbent Rep. D.J. Swearingen (R-Huron). In its decision, the Court largely sidestepped the question of whether a candidate who has a felony theft conviction can still appear on the ballot if their conviction was sealed, rather than expunged.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Ohio will file a lawsuit challenging the provision of HB68 (Click) banning gender-affirming medical care for transgender minors, the organization announced Monday. The General Assembly voted to override Gov. Mike DeWine's veto of the bill in January. The ACLU of Ohio said it will file its lawsuit to halt the law before it takes effect on Tuesday, April 23.

Beginning Monday, April 1, aspiring attorneys wishing to practice law on a limited basis will need to complete only a third of their legal education, or half the previous requirement. "The change provides people who want to become lawyers practical experience while filling a need for services in the private sector and public service, including legal aid," according to the Ohio Supreme Court. Out-of-state attorneys also will be admitted to the Ohio bar without examination if they have practiced part-time, or equivalent to roughly half the year, for five of the previous seven years, loosening the previous requirement of full-time practice for five of the last 10 years in another jurisdiction.

Ohio Supreme Court Justices Patrick DeWine, a Republican, and Melody Stewart, a Democrat, Tuesday discussed their views on the how the state constitution should be interpreted, the role of the judiciary in government, and more while appearing at a forum hosted by the University of Toledo's (UT) Institute of American Constitutional Thought and Leadership. The institute is one of five "intellectual diversity" centers at public universities established under the state budget bill, HB33 (Edwards). Tuesday's conversation was the institute’s second event and was moderated Lee Strang, a professor of law at UT and institute director. The justices offered differing approaches when they were asked the "right way" to interrupt the Ohio Constitution.

A $651 million opioid judgment against three of the nation's pharmacy giants could hang on a single word in a 2007 amendment to the Ohio Product Liability Act (OPLA). The Ohio Supreme Court will hear a certified question from the 6th Circuit Court of Appeal on whether the OPLA bars not only statutory claims for compensatory damages but also common law claims for a cash award to "abate" an "absolute public nuisance" -- how a federal judge has described the "oversupply of legal prescription opioids and diversion of those opioids into the illicit market outside of appropriate medical channels. In re: National Prescription Opiate Litigation encompasses numerous municipalities, counties and other authorities across the nation that have sued opioid makers, distributors and sellers over a proliferation of pain pills in their communities, the federal appeals court notes in its unanimous September 2023 decision certifying sub-litigation to the Ohio Supreme Court. Those jurisdictions include Lake and Trumbull counties, which secured a half-billion-dollar-plus in "equitable relief" against Walgreens, CVS and Walmart pharmacies from the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio in Cleveland, where many cases against the pharmaceutical industry are pending.

Applications for the Ohio Supreme Court's 2024 Technology Grant Funds are being accepted electronically through Friday, Feb. 16, with awards announced in May. The grants are to be used to implement technology-based projects "where the lack of sufficient technology is a barrier to the efficient, effective or safe administration of justice." Priority will be given to appeals, common pleas, municipal or county courts in an area "deemed to be high need due to poverty level, fiscal emergency or economic distress." Mayors' courts are not eligible.


The Juvenile Justice Working Group approved two interim proposals at its Tuesday meeting, the first of which said the Department of Youth Services (DYS) should replace its current large facilities with several smaller ones which Working Group Chair Tom Stickrath had discussed plus the second proposal for an outside consultant at an earlier meeting. He also noted Gov. Mike DeWine has voiced his support for both ideas. The first proposal called for DYS to engage in "system transformation" and work with "appropriate state agencies" to develop a master plan toward that effort. The plan would address factors including the size, number and design of facilities as well as siting, timelines and both capital and organizational costs. The second proposal said Stickrath will work with the directors of DYS, the Ohio Department of Administrative Services (DAS), Office of Budget and Management (OBM) and Ohio Department of Public Safety (DPS) to develop an RFP to hire one or more outside consultants to review operations at the three DYS facilities and a sampling of local juvenile detention centers.


More than 400,000 patients are registered in the Ohio Medical Marijuana Control Program (MMCP), according to the latest patient and caregiver update from the Ohio Department of Commerce (DOC) Division of Cannabis Control (DCC). Specifically, 410,656 patients are registered in the program.

Application materials for adult use marijuana dispensary licenses will be available no later than Friday, June 7, according to the Ohio Department of Commerce (DOC) Division of Cannabis Control's (DCC) first proposed rules package. The law approved by voters in November 2023 requires the division to issue adult use licenses by Saturday, Sept. 7. All current medical marijuana dispensaries are eligible to apply for a dual-use license to participate in both the medical and adult-use cannabis markets. There is no application fee for a dual-use application.


Gov. Mike DeWine recently announced the 2024-2026 Suicide Prevention Plan for Ohio. It lays out a three-year update to the plan that was first announced in 2019. DeWine has prioritized addressing the issue of suicide in Ohio through the RecoveryOhio Initiative and the Ohio Suicide Prevention Foundation (OSPF). The document incorporates input from more than 30 private and public organizations. The plan details strategic priorities like raising public awareness, enhancing access to timely data, expanding opportunities for health care access and providing support for families coping with the loss of a loved one to suicide. The document details the importance of collaborative efforts with behavioral health care providers, employers, health care systems, school and community organizations to stem the increasing rates of suicides in Ohio.

In the wake of the state's release of an updated plan to reduce suicide, Gov. Mike DeWine said Tuesday increasing awareness of the 9-8-8 crisis hotline is a major priority. DeWine visited the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services (OhioMHAS) and spoke to reporters after discussions with the staff there. In recent months he appointed longtime adviser LeeAnne Cornyn as director of the department, following the departure of Lori Criss for a position at Ohio State University.


The Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) Division of Forestry will establish the state's only tree-seedling nursery after Gov. Mike DeWine Monday signed budget corrections bill HB101 (Bird). The bill appropriates $1.6 million in FY24 and $1.25 million in FY25 for the Buckeye State Tree Nursery, which will be located on a Division of Forestry-owned property in Zanesville. The nursery is meant to address regional shortages of suitable tree seedlings and assist with tree conservation projects. The nursery will support various ODNR projects, including H2Ohio, the Girl Scout Tree Promise, and abandoned mine land reclamation projects.


The Columbus Partnership announced Thursday that Andy Gurd has joined its leadership team as senior vice president of investor relations, leading engagement and fundraising efforts. He will also work to drive development initiatives across the Columbus Partnership's platform. Gurd most recently served as a partner at Centric Consulting, where he worked with "high profile" brands in the city, according to the Columbus Partnership announcement. He is an Ohio State University graduate and previously was chief operating officer of the Ohio State Alumni Association.


The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) published its revised poverty guidelines for 2024 which were applicable beginning Thursday, Jan. 11. The guidelines -- or various multiples of the guidelines such 150 percent, 175 percent or 200 percent -- are used to the measure individuals' eligibility for a variety of federal and state programs including Medicaid. The HHS secretary is required, under federal law, to update the guidelines "at least annually, adjusting them on the basis of the Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers (CPI-U)." The guidelines, for various size families are as follows: for a family of 1, $15,600; for a family of 2, $20,440; for a family of 3, $25,820; and for a family of 4, $31,200.


Franklin County Auditor Michael Stinziano Tuesday released a list of the most popular dog names and breeds along with a reminder of the Wednesday, Jan. 31 deadline for purchasing a dog license without penalty. The most popular dog name of 2023 remained the same as in past years - Bella. And that doesn't include the myriad offshoots of Bella: Bella Rose, Bella Blue, Bella Bean, Bella Lincoln and the like. The other names include Lucy (1,122); Max (988); Daisy (939); and Charlie (900). The top five dog breeds are Mixed (20,153); Lab (including all variants) (9,149); Pit bull (7,909); German shepherd (4,409); and Golden retriever (4,048).


Gov. Mike DeWine's administration announced Monday the approval of assistance for three projects set to create 295 new jobs and retain 132 jobs statewide. During its monthly meeting, the Ohio Tax Credit Authority (TCA) reviewed economic development proposals brought by JobsOhio and its regional partners. The projects are expected to collectively result in more than $24 million in new payroll and spur $271 million in investments across Ohio.


Lt. Gov. Jon Husted announced Monday that 398 employers were approved for funding through the November round of TechCred, which will enable Ohioans to earn 5,925 tech-focused credentials. This marks the most credentials approved in a single funding round, passing the previous high of 5,289 credentials in September 2023. In the November round, artificial intelligence (AI) credentials were one of the top categories requested, which Husted's office said highlights businesses' need to provide AI-related training to their workers.

The Ohio Department of Development announced Friday that Ohio Third Frontier issued a request for proposals (RFP) for phase 1 and phase 2 projects of the Technology Validation and Start-up Fund (TVSF). TVSF's goal is to boost Ohio's economy by commercializing technologies invented by and developed at higher education institutions, nonprofit research institutions and federal labs. The fund also supports startups by licensing their products.


The Ohio Turnpike and Infrastructure Commission said Friday passenger car and commercial truck customers set a new record for the number of miles traveled on the toll road in 2023, rising 2.2 percent from 2022. The commission said turnpike customers traveled 3,131,669,772 miles last year, up from 3,063,794,240 miles in 2022. Separately, passenger car customers traveled 1,936,873,837 miles, up 5.2 percent in 2023 compared to 1,841,860,120 miles in 2022; and commercial truck customers traveled 1,194,795,935 miles, down 2.2 percent from a record 1,221,934,120 miles traveled in 2022.


The Ohio Bureau of Workers' Compensation (BWC) Board of Directors on Friday approved an 8.6 percent contribution rate reduction for state agencies. The reduction is expected to save agencies more than $4 million during the fiscal year, according to a summary provided by BWC. The BWC Board is also considering a private employer rate cut of 7 percent, which could save private employers nearly $67 million in premiums during the next fiscal year.





[Story originally published in The Hannah Report. Copyright 2023 Hannah News Service, Inc.]

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