Week In Review - February 7, 2022



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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.

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ABORTION Hamilton County Common Pleas Court Judge Alison Hatheway once again enjoined the state from enforcing 133-SB27 (Uecker), which requires fetal remains from surgical abortions to be cremated or buried. While the first injunction prevented the law from taking effect until 30 days after the Ohio Department of Health (ODH) completed the rulemaking process, Wednesday's decision found 133-SB27 likely violates abortion providers' and patients' rights to due process and equal protection. The injunction will remain in place until a final judgment is entered in the case, according to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Ohio. AGRICULTURE The Ohio Department of Agriculture (ODAg) announced a series of in-person and virtual public information meetings regarding upcoming gypsy moth treatments. General and region-specific information will be discussed at each meeting that began on Thursday, Feb. 3 and run through Thursday, Feb. 17. Voluntary nutrient management plans (VNMP) are due soon in the H2Ohio program's 10-county expansion area. Producers enrolled in H2Ohio need to submit a VNMP by Thursday, March 31 to apply for the next phase of program incentives, according to the Ohio Department of Agriculture. Approximately 800 producers in the expansion area enrolled more than 600,000 acres of cropland into the H2Ohio program last fall. This represents more than 38 percent of the cropland in the project area, which includes Crawford, Erie, Huron, Marion, Ottawa, Richland, Sandusky, Seneca, Shelby and Wyandot counties. ARTS, SPORTS AND ENTERTAINMENT The Columbus Metropolitan Club held a discussion on the role of Title IX in sports Wednesday, as it was part of civil rights legislation passed in 1972 and Feb. 2 recognized "National Girls and Women in Sports Day" this year. The panel was emceed by Columbus Dispatch sports columnist Michael Arace, who opened the forum by describing the history of Title IX and how there was not public discussion of its effects on athletics while it was being developed. He said that around 300,000 girls participated in high school sports and 30,000 women competed in college sports in 1972. In 2019, however, there were 3.5 million girls in high school sports and 200,000 women in college sports. Ohio State University (OSU) will be represented by a number of athletes in the 2022 Winter Olympics. When the first women's ice hockey games begin, five countries will 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. ATTORNEY GENERAL Attorney General (AG) Dave Yost rejected organizers' vaccine privacy petition for the third time in three months Wednesday. This time, backers secured 1,000 validated signatures but they still lacked a "fair and truthful" summary, he said, sending the "Vaccine and Gene Therapy Choice and Anti-Discrimination Act" back to square one. Yost originally declined the petition summary in December and found insufficient signatures in January, obviating the need for a review of summary language. Yost summarized those points in a follow-up statement: "The summary was rejected because the authors of the petition used language that meant the opposite of what they were trying to accomplish. Simply put, if you read the summary, you might think it would give the government more authority over vaccines, not less." Registration is open for the Ohio Attorney General's 21st Annual Emerging Trends in Fraud Investigation and Prevention Conference. Sponsored by the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners and Institute of Internal Auditors' Central Ohio chapters, the Ohio Auditor of State and attorney general's office, the two-day event will feature keynote talks by Susan Willeke of the Ohio Ethics Commission, Theranos whistleblower Erika Cheung and others. The conference is scheduled for Monday-Tuesday, May 16-17, 2022 at the Nationwide Hotel & Conference Center in Lewis Center. Space is limited to the first 350 registrants, but individuals also may participate virtually. A complete agenda, speaker bios and registration portal can be found at https://tinyurl.com/csxktyrz. AUDITOR OF STATE Three state legislators who represent school districts looking to exit state academic oversight are asking Auditor Keith Faber to expedite performance audits of the districts so they can use the resulting recommendations to help them regain local control. The General Assembly used the state budget bill, HB110 (Oelslager), to create a pathway out of academic distress for the East Cleveland, Lorain and Youngstown school districts, which have been under state oversight for several years. As part of HB110, lawmakers required Faber's office to conduct a performance audit of each district sometime within three years. However, Reps. Michele Lepore-Hagan (D-Youngstown), Joe Miller (D-Amherst) and Kent Smith (D-Euclid) asked Faber to make haste in conducting those audits. CORONAVIRUS The Ohio Department of Health (ODH) announced Friday that 175,000 tests will be available through home delivery, as part of a partnership with Project Access COVID Tests (Project ACT) of the Rockefeller Foundation. This is the initial allocation. Eligible communities were identified based on CDC recommendations and state data, with information available at https://accesscovidtests.org/. While case numbers trended downward in the final days, January alone represented 21.87 percent of COVID cases reported during the pandemic, along with 10.18 percent of hospitalizations, 7.64 percent of ICU admissions and 10.96 percent of deaths. The month saw 564,310 cases, 10,927 hospitalizations, 972 ICU admissions and 3,624 deaths. There have been 2.58 million cases, 107,370 hospitalizations, 12,721 ICU admissions and 33,071 deaths reported by ODH since the pandemic began. January set the record for most cases reported by almost 240,000 cases, with December 2021 in second at 325,878. The third through fifth months were December 2020 (279,317); November 2020 (205,366); and January 2021 (195,501). There have been four consecutive days with under 10,000 cases reported, though ODH previously told Hannah News that reported cases tend to be higher toward the middle and end of the week. ODH reported 8,609 cases Saturday, 5,224 Sunday and 4,160 Monday, the lowest levels in over a month. New research out of Ohio State University (OSU) examines how Americans' vaccine hesitancy has changed over time. The study found that Black Americans who were initially hesitant about receiving a COVID-19 vaccine were more likely than White Americans to warm up to the idea as the pandemic continued. The research highlights the importance of not making assumptions about race-based viewpoints regarding health care, and illustrates the likelihood that access -- not just distrust or skepticism -- is a significant obstacle to higher levels of COVID-19 protection among Black Americans, the study authors said. The study was published recently in the journal JAMA Network Open at https://tinyurl.com/59p8xt74. DISABILITIES Six years after it commenced and with funding in place for several hundred more waivers to help people with developmental disabilities live in the community, a federal lawsuit alleging Ohio didn't do enough to enable people to leave institutional care has ended, though settlement obligations stretch through this year. Related litigation brought by guardians of people in intermediate care facilities (ICFs) is still to be resolved. U.S. District Court Judge Edmund Sargus officially ended Ball v. DeWine -- known as Ball v. Kasich when it was filed in the spring of 2016 -- after approving a settlement agreement in 2020. The litigation alleged systemic violations of the state's obligation under disability law and the U.S. Supreme Court's Olmstead decision to allow people with disabilities to get services and care in the most integrated, least restrictive setting. ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT The state of Ohio's incentive package for attracting Intel to the Buckeye State totals nearly $2 billion and is in addition to incentives provided by JobsOhio and the local communities, explained Ohio Department of Development Director Lydia Mihalik in a news conference. Mihalik said the state's package falls into the following "three buckets":

  • An "onshoring" incentive grant to Intel of $600 million.

  • A $691 million investment for the local infrastructure. These funds were further broken down with $101.2 million for water and wastewater capacity upgrades; $290 million for road work; and $300 million for a "state of the art" water reclamation facility.

  • A $650 million Job Creation Tax Credit over 30 years.

Gov. Mike DeWine's administration announced Monday the approval of assistance for nine projects expected to create 982 new jobs and retain 1,640 jobs statewide. The projects are expected to collectively result in more than $64.9 million in new payroll and spur more than $76 million in investments across Ohio. EDUCATION The Ohio Department of Education (ODE) announced that the public comment period has opened for the Ohio Administrative Code (OAC) rules on the state report card system. The rules are being overhauled due to reforms passed in HB82 (Cross-Jones). Earlier, the State Board of Education's (SBOE) Performance and Impact Committee launched a two-day work session to review ODE's proposal for establishing cut scores and draft rules for elements of the new system, which replaces the A-F grading system with a new 5-star rating scheme. Gov. Mike DeWine Monday, "in consultation with the offices of the speaker of the House and Senate president," designated the boundaries for the SBOE districts based on the maps adopted by the Ohio Redistricting Commission on Saturday, Jan. 22 -- maps that are still before the Ohio Supreme Court for review. Ohio leapt a dozen spots from the middle of the pack to 12th for how the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools (NAPCS) rates the state's laws affecting charter schools, according to its latest report. NAPCS reports annually on how state laws measure up to its model law on charter schools. Ohio previously rated 24th but now is 12th. The report notes the removal of geographic restrictions on where new startup charter schools can open as one reason for Ohio's improved rankings. That change was included in the budget bill, HB110 (Oelslager). Previously, schools could only open in districts defined as "challenged," meaning the Big 8 urban districts, districts with low performance on certain academic measures, and districts within Lucas County, the original pilot project area for charter schools in Ohio. The judge presiding over state attempts to recover money from former Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow (ECOT) leaders is delaying procedural deadlines in the case to give time for an expected Ohio Supreme Court ruling on when public officials are liable for misspending. The attorney general's office sued ECOT founder William Lager and other officials of the defunct online charter school to recover public funding, alleging Lager had an illegal interest in contracts between the school and companies also connected to him. No Ohio school districts remain in fiscal emergency after Auditor Keith Faber released Niles City Schools from that status, triggering the end of a state fiscal oversight commission to assist the district. Ohio has a three-tier fiscal distress scheme -- caution, watch and emergency -- for schools and local governments that meet certain thresholds for operating deficits. Fiscal emergency is the most serious, triggering creation of a financial planning and supervision commission to help get finances back in order. ELECTIONS 2020 Secretary of State Frank LaRose said Tuesday that his office has sent 62 referrals of potential election fraud to Attorney General Dave Yost or local county prosecutors for further investigation and potential prosecution. He said 31 of the referrals involved non-citizens allegedly registering to vote but not casting a ballot. The other 31 may have illegally cast a ballot in an election, including 27 in the 2020 general election. Those ballots may include a non-citizen voting, a person voting on behalf of a deceased voter, or double voting. LaRose notes that the 27 votes account for 0.0005 percent of the total number of votes cast in the 2020 general election. ELECTIONS 2022 Gov. Mike DeWine signed HB93 (Abrams-LaRe) Friday, following the Legislature's addition of language to give candidates more flexibility in signature-gathering efforts before passing the bill Wednesday. The bill took effect immediately, given its emergency clause. The bill did not delay the filing deadline but did allow signatures gathered on candidate petitions thus far to count toward requirements amid redistricting-related litigation before the Ohio Supreme Court. The filing deadline for all candidates except those running for the U.S. House remained Wednesday, Feb. 2. The filing deadline for those running for the U.S. House is Friday, March 4. The bill also gave the secretary of state's office flexibility regarding administration of certain deadlines before the May 3 primary -- which also remains unchanged. After raising more than $3.3 million over the last six months of 2021, Gov. Mike DeWine's re-election campaign has more than $9.2 million in cash on-hand, according to new campaign finance reports filed Monday -- the deadline for statewide candidates to file their 2021 annual campaign finance reports. One of DeWine's primary challengers, former U.S. Rep. Jim Renacci (R-Wadsworth), reported more than $4.1 million in cash on-hand, mostly from personal loans he gave to his campaign. Renacci paid off the $1 million loan he gave the campaign earlier this year, but loaned the campaign another $4.8 million over the last six months, $4 million of which was loaned on Dec. 23, 2021. On the Democratic side, Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley reported the largest amount of cash on-hand, while former Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley touted the higher contribution amount over the period. Sen. Matt Dolan (R-Chagrin Falls) has nearly $10.4 million in cash on-hand after giving his U.S. Senate campaign nearly $8 million and loaning it $2.5 million, according to his campaign finance report filed with the Federal Elections Commission (FEC) on Monday. Dolan also reported raising $361,390 from other individuals and political committees and spending $466,472. Republican businessman Mike Gibbons reported nearly $6.4 million in cash on-hand after loaning his campaign $3.5 million and raising $81,571 from individuals. His expenditures totaled more than $1.4 million. Three other Republican U.S. Senate candidates filed their year-end campaign finance reports just ahead of the deadline Monday night: former Ohio Republican Party Chair Jane Timken, former Treasurer of State Josh Mandel and author J.D. Vance. Timken reported more than $3.6 million on-hand after loaning her campaign $1.5 million and raising $592,545 from individuals and political committees in the fourth quarter of 2021. Citizens for Mandel reported nearly $6 million in cash on-hand after raising $65,416 from individuals and political committees in the fourth quarter of 2021. Mandel spokesperson Scott Guthrie told Hannah News that Mandel's fundraising operation is primarily run through a separate committee, called "Team Josh 2022." According to that committee's year-end FEC filing, Mandel raised more than $1.3 million in the fourth quarter of 2021. Vance reported $1.06 million in cash on-hand after raising $43,208 from individuals and political committees in the fourth quarter of 2021. U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Niles) reported more than $5 million in cash on-hand after raising more than $2.9 million from individuals and political committees. His expenditures totaled more than $1.5 million. Nelsonville City Auditor Taylor Sappington filed initial paperwork to run for state auditor, according to a report by Cleveland.com. He previously ran for the 94th House District seat against Rep. Jay Edwards (R-Nelsonville) in 2018 and lost by around 15 percentage points. Marion Mayor Scott Schertzer said Tuesday that he will run for state treasurer, rounding out the Democratic statewide ticket seeking to unseat the Republican incumbents who are running for re-election. When it comes to the job of replacing outgoing U.S. Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH), there is certainly no labor shortage in the state. There will be nine candidates on the Republican primary ballot and four candidates on the Democratic primary ballot, according to the Ohio Secretary of State's Office. The filing deadline was 4 p.m. on Wednesday. Republican U.S. Senate candidates include Sen. Matt Dolan (R-Chagrin Falls), businessman Mike Gibbons, Bill Graham, former Treasurer of State Josh Mandel, businessman Bernie Moreno [who subsequently ended his campaign], businessman Neil Patel, businessman Mark Pukita, former Ohio Republican Party Chair Jane Timken and author J.D. Vance. Democratic U.S. Senate candidates include consumer protection attorney and community organizer Morgan Harper, activist and tech executive Traci Johnson, U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Niles) and former Franklin County Department of Job and Family Services case manager LaShondra Tinsley. Michele Reynolds, a trustee for Madison Township in Southern Franklin County and until recently director of Gov. Mike DeWine's Office of Faith Based and Community Initiatives, announced her candidacy Wednesday as a Republican running for the 3rd Senate District. Republicans lost the district in 2018 after now-Sen. Tina Maharath (D-Canal Winchester) defeated Rep. Anne Gonzales (R-Westerville) for the open seat. At an event in Gahanna, Reynolds announced her candidacy with support from speakers including Senate President Matt Huffman (R-Lima) and Tina Husted, wife of Lt. Gov. Jon Husted. The gubernatorial campaign of Nan Whaley said Wednesday that she will participate in three primary debates with Democratic primary opponent John Cranley, who has claimed that Whaley has been dodging opportunities to debate him. Hudson City Councilwoman Beth Bigham Wednesday filed to run for the 34th House District, seeking to unseat Rep. Casey Weinstein (D-Hudson). Weinstein defeated Bigham in the 2020 General Election. The following endorsements were made over the week:

  • The re-election campaign of Gov. Mike DeWine and Lt. Gov. Jon Husted announced the endorsements of the Franklin County Republican Party; Coshocton County Prosecutor Jason Given; Crawford County Commissioner Tim Ley; Bucyrus Mayor Jeff Reser; Delaware County Republican Party Chairman Steve Cuckler; Fairfield County commissioners Dave Levacy and Steve Davis; Lancaster Mayor David Scheffler; Fairfield County Auditor Carri Brown; Knox County Prosecutor Chip McConville; Newark City Councilman Jeff Harris; Licking County Sheriff Randy Thorp; Morrow County Commissioner Tom Whiston; Pickaway County Prosecutor Judy Wolford; Union County Treasurer Andy Smarra; Ohio State College Republicans President Cal Ruebensaal; Coshocton County commissioners Gary Fischer and Dane Shryock; Coshocton County Engineer Fred Wachtel; Franklin County Republican Party Chairman Josh Jaffe; Franklin County Central Committee Chairman Brad McCloud; former Franklin County Prosecutor Ron O'Brien; Union County Commissioner Chris Schmenk; Ohio Trump Chair Donald Roberts; former Ohio Attorney General Betty Montgomery; Fairfield County Commissioner and Ohio Restaurant Association board member Jeff Fix; Grove City Council members Roby Schottke, Ted Berry, and Christine Houk; Licking County Commissioner Tim Bubb; former Licking County Republican Party Chairman Billie Fiore; Franklin County Engineer Cornell Robertson; Trump Ohio Sportsmen Director Michael J. Budzik; Sharon Township Trustee John Oberle; Grove City Mayor Ike Stage; Pickerington Mayor Lee Gray; Pleasant Township Trustee Nancy Hunter; Westerville City Councilman Michael Heyeck; Washington Township Trustee Stu Harris; Truro Township Trustee Chris Long; Fairfield County Clerk of Courts Branden Meyer; Union County Commissioner Dave Burke; Cap City Young Republicans Chairman Kevin Shimp; Violet Township Trustee Darrin Monhollen; Rep. Rick Carfagna (R-Columbus); Hilliard City Councilman Andy Teeter; Crawford County Commissioner Larry Schmidt; Reynoldsburg Auditor Steve Cicak; and former Rep. Jim Hughes.

  • The U.S. Senate campaign of Republican Bernie Moreno (since suspended) announced the endorsement of the Clermont County Republican Party.

  • The Clermont County Republican Party endorsed GOP gubernatorial candidate Jim Renacci for governor.

  • The U.S. Senate campaign of Democrat Morgan Harper announced the endorsement of #VoteProChoice.

  • The gubernatorial campaign of Nan Whaley announced the endorsement of Matriots PAC.

FEDERAL U.S. Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) spent the bulk of his Tuesday press call with reporters discussing the need for the U.S. and other allied nations to support Ukraine as it fends off aggression from Russia. The outgoing senator is a vocal advocate for providing support to Ukraine. He co-founded and co-chairs the Senate Ukraine Caucus, and last month, he was part of a bipartisan congressional delegation who met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in a show of support for the country. U.S. Sens. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Rob Portman (R-OH) Wednesday issued a joint news release praising the confirmations of Bridget Meehan Brennan, Charles Esque Fleming and Judge David Augustin Ruiz as U.S. District Court judges for the Northern District of Ohio. The Northern District has court locations in Akron, Cleveland, Toledo and Youngstown and serves over 6 million Ohioans in the 40 most northern counties in Ohio. Public Children Services Association of Ohio (PCASO) Executive Director Angela Sausser was one of five expert witnesses to testify Wednesday before the U.S. House Ways and Means Committee in a hearing on "America's Mental Health Crisis." The meeting marked the first time in over a decade the committee has discussed mental health, Chair U.S. Rep. Richard Neal (D-MA) said, and comes as the U.S. is experiencing a crisis on multiple fronts, seeing an increase in demand for mental health services from children and adults while dealing with a workforce shortage exacerbated by the pandemic. Sausser provided the committee with information about how this crisis has affected county public children services agencies throughout the country, noting that in 11 states including Ohio, counties are fully or partially responsible for administering the child welfare systems. GAMING/GAMBLING Businesses planning to offer sports betting services in Ohio can begin advertising and recruiting users before obtaining a license, according to the Ohio Casino Control Commission (OCCC). "The commission is aware that sports gaming advertising and marketing has been present in Ohio for some time through multi-jurisdictional advertisements of online sports gaming and does not plan to prohibit either multi-jurisdictional or Ohio-specific marketing," OCCC said on its "Sports Gaming Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)" page. GENERAL ASSEMBLY/STATEHOUSE There will be a few familiar faces on the ballot this year as a number of former lawmakers seek a return to the General Assembly. They include former Rep. Dale Mallory (D-Cincinnati), who filed to represent the district now represented by Rep. Catherine Ingram (D-Cincinnati), who is running for Sen. Cecil Thomas's (D-Cincinnati) 9th District Senate seat. Meanwhile, Thomas filed to run for the new 25th Ohio House District. In Trumbull County, former Rep. Randy Law filed to run for the House. Which district he is seeking was not listed. Democrat Bria Bennett, a plaintiff in one of three redistricting lawsuits, filed for term-limited Michael O'Brien's seat. Bob Hagan, a former state senator and state representative, is also seeking a return to his former Senate seat, filing to challenge Sen. Michael Rulli (R-Salem), who is running for re-election. Former Rep. Kathleen Clyde (D-Kent), who lost her bid to retain her Portage County commissioner seat in 2020, has filed for her former House seat and will take on Rep. Gail Pavliga (R-Atwater). Former Rep. Al Landis (R-Dover) is looking to succeed term-limited Sen. Jay Hottinger (R-Newark) and is one of three Republicans in the primary. The 21st Senate District, which was redrawn to combine term-limited Sandra Williams (D-Cleveland) and Kenny Yuko (D-Richmond Heights), includes one former lawmaker -- John Barnes -- and a current one: Rep. Kent Smith (D-Euclid). Rep. Diane Grendell (R-Chesterland) did not file to run for re-election to her reconfigured seat, which currently covers portions of Geauga, Cuyahoga and Summit counties. She filed instead to run for Geauga County auditor. With Sen. Teresa Fedor (D-Toledo) joining gubernatorial candidate John Cranley as his running mate, Rep. Paula Hicks-Hudson (D-Toledo) filed for her 11th Senate District seat. No Republicans were listed for the race. The filings also include spouses of current and former lawmakers. Those are Lilli Johnson Vitale running for husband Nino Vitale's seat and Monica Robb Blasdel running for her husband Chuck Blasdel's former seat. "The answer to speech you don't like is more speech." ACLU Ohio Chief Lobbyist Gary Daniels offered the familiar adage Tuesday while opposing HB441's (Wiggam-Cutrona) attack on Big Tech censorship in House testimony. Instead of Twitter or Facebook answering conservative, populist and other voices with more progressive ones, however, a second witness suggested Republicans and others make their views heard on alternative, start-up social media platforms like Parler, GETTR or former President Donald Trump's emerging Truth Social. In this way, legacy social media, as ostensible private enterprise, would continue to exercise its own speech by legally depriving libertarians, Republicans and other Trump supporters of theirs, they said. Rep. Tom Patton (R-Strongsville) said Thursday that he has introduced seven bills that will address the use, administration and requirements for photo-monitoring speed devices. He said four of the bills are similar to legislation that he introduced last session. The bills generally restrict and regulate the use of photo-monitoring devices, or traffic cameras, statewide. The Ohio Statehouse plans to celebrate Black History Month with two free performances in February, the Capitol Square Review and Advisory Board (CSRAB) announced recently. Each 45-minute performance will explore Affrilachian culture and family stories, including a brief question and answer portion. The events will be held in-person in the Ohio Statehouse Atrium and will be livestreamed via www.OhioChannel.org. Both performances are free and open to the public and scheduled for 12 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 15, and Tuesday, Feb. 22. GREAT LAKES The Great Lakes Commission (GLC) Tuesday launched a new website that allows policymakers to track the region's progress on reducing harmful algal blooms in Lake Erie and stopping aquatic invasive species. The new site, www.blueaccounting.org , tracks efforts under the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement to reduce the runoff of phosphorus from priority watersheds to Lake Erie, as well as programs and policies that stop species introduction, detect new species, and control harmful invasive species across the region. HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES The federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) announced it is taking applications for a funding pool of nearly $50 million for organizations that can help connect more children, parents and pregnant individuals to health coverage through Medicaid and the Children's Health Insurance Program. Awardees can receive up to $1.5 million for a three-year period to help reduce the number of uninsured children. Applicants can include state and local governments, tribal organizations, federal health safety net organizations, nonprofits, schools and other organizations. Applications will be accepted through Monday, March 28, 2022. Information about applying is at https://tinyurl.com/j646dtym. HIGHER EDUCATION The University of Toledo Medical Center (UTMC) was notified by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) that it will receive a higher reimbursement rate that will generate an additional $25 million in funding, the hospital announced Wednesday. The funding will be matched by $9.7 million from the state and UTMC. Going forward, the hospital said it could receive this funding on an annual basis. INSURANCE The Ohio Department of Insurance (ODI) will hold two webinars on mental health insurance benefits later this month. The first webinar, "Consumer Tips for Understanding Mental Health Insurance Benefits," will be held on Tuesday, Feb. 15 from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. The second, "Understanding Mental Health Insurance Benefits for Health Care Professionals," will be Thursday, Feb. 24 from 12 to 1 p.m. JUDICIAL Ohio Supreme Court Justice Michael Donnelly offers his classic rock and new wave picks in the latest issue of the Ohio State Bar Association's Ohio Lawyer, which follows the Clevelander's rise from aspiring musician to Cuyahoga County prosecutor to trial court judge to the state's highest court. The OSBA magazine profiles his views on everything from wrongful conviction to the perfect rock song. Donnelly says he used to watch his father, former longtime Presiding Cuyahoga County Probate Judge John Donnelly, conduct hearings before he left dreams of the music profession for the Cleveland Marshall School of Law, which recently inducted him into its hall of fame. He eventually moved from the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor's Office to private practice and then to the county common pleas court, a journey that shaped his concern for the majority of criminal cases, which in fact never go to trial. The Supreme Court of Ohio released a new publication to help court clerks and staff navigate probate issues. The Probate Court Desktop Guide provides detailed, concise instructions for training staff and helping clerks manage their docket, issue marriage licenses and certify records. It includes direct links to standard probate forms and explains court costs with citations to the Ohio Revised Code. The desktop guide is a companion to probate bench cards used by judges to explain relevant laws and legal references. The guide can be found at https://tinyurl.com/3fbu3pva. MARIJUANA/HEMP The Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol (CRMLA) has satisfied the signature requirement to move into the next phase of the initiated statute process, according to the Ohio Secretary of State's Office. The group submitted an additional 29,918 additional signatures in support of its proposed law legalizing the use of cannabis by individuals ages 21 and older on Jan. 13 after their first attempt at submitting 132,877 valid signatures fell short by a little more than 13,000. The Legislature now has four months to act on the proposal. The Ohio Board of Pharmacy (OBP) on Monday announced the results of its medical marijuana dispensary drawings, but regulators will further review the top-ranked applicants before awarding any provisional dispensary licenses (PDLs). PEOPLE The Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services (OhioMHAS) Monday announced the appointment of Austin Criss as chief fiscal officer (CFO) for the department. Criss joins OhioMHAS after serving more than 18 years with the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services as a senior budget analyst, budget analyst supervisor, financial manager, and project manager. He is no relation to the department's director, Lori Criss. U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) Monday promoted Trudy Perkins to acting chief of staff for his Senate office. Perkins currently serves as Brown's communications director and will continue in that role during her time as acting chief of staff. PUBLIC SAFETY The DeWine administration joined dozens of law enforcement agencies across the nation over the Christmas-New Year's holiday in Operation CARE (Crash Awareness and Reduction Effort), a program of the International Chiefs of Police. Running Thursday, Dec. 23 - Sunday, Jan. 2, CARE resulted in 185,970 traffic stops in 19 states but mostly Ohio, which provided 53 of 81 participating agencies. REDISTRICTING/REAPPORTIONMENT Senate President Matt Huffman (R-Lima) said Wednesday a revised congressional map proposal could emerge Monday, Feb. 7 and pass his chamber later in the week. He also floated the possibility that, if the congressional process faces further delays, congressional primary elections could be held on a separate date from the contests for other offices. Huffman said mapmakers will be working through the weekend on a revised congressional map in response to the Ohio Supreme Court ruling that threw out the first attempt. The Ohio Redistricting Commission filed responses in the three lawsuits by the Friday, Jan. 28 deadline, saying the General Assembly district plan adopted Saturday. Jan. 22 complies with constitutional requirements and asking the Ohio Supreme Court to either issue a decision by Friday, Feb. 11 or stay any decision until after the 2022 general election on Tuesday, Nov. 8. The commission response said election administration deadlines for the May 3 primary are "imminent" and that candidates "need certainty as to the district in which they will run so that they can file their petitions." It also said that May 3 is the day in which primary voting "ends," with Ohio law requiring ballots to be printed and ready for mailing by Friday, March 18 under federal law. However, Democrats on the commission -- Sen. Vern Sykes (D-Akron) and Rep. Allison Russo (D-Columbus) -- filed their own pro se responses since they essentially agree with opponents of the second set of legislative district maps. That disagreement with Attorney General Dave Yost, who maintains the commission should respond as one, continued on Monday when Yost filed motions in the Ohio Supreme Court in all three redistricting lawsuits seeking to convert the Jan. 28 "Response of respondents Sen. Vernon Sykes [D-Akron] and House Minority Leader Allison Russo [D-Columbus] to the petitioners' objections" ("Response") into an amici curieae filing from their identification of it as pro se. The Democrats, in turn, filed an objection Wednesday with the Court, arguing that they are named respondents in the lawsuits, and that Chief Justice Maureen O'Connor had ordered that "respondents shall file a response, if any" to the objections. With Republicans in the General Assembly expected to unveil a new congressional redistricting map next week, Fair Districts Ohio Thursday released their "model congressional map" that they said shows a fair map can be drawn and be constitutional. The previous map adopted by the General Assembly as a part of SB258 (McColley) was struck down last month by the Ohio Supreme Court, which gave lawmakers 30 days to redraw a new map. If they do not pass a new map by Sunday, Feb. 13, it will be up to the Ohio Redistricting Commission to draw a new map. Fair Districts Ohio said its new maps were drawn with public input and a close examination to look for possible constitutional issues. The map, which can be found at https://tinyurl.com/bdeevrs6, favors Republicans in eight districts, including strongly in six districts. Democrats are favored in five districts, including three where they are strongly favored covering Hamilton, Franklin and Cuyahoga counties. The other four are more competitive, especially a proposed district covering Toledo, Bowling Green and counties bordering Lake Erie, a district covering Akron and Kent, and one that includes Lorain County and portions of Cuyahoga County. STATE GOVERNMENT The Controlling Board approved all agenda items Monday, with the exception of an Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS) submission that was deferred at the agency's request. Also on the agenda were Ohio Department of Health (ODH) requests of $75 million for COVID-19 testing services, $71 million for COVID rapid home tests and $17 million in federal funding "to support the state's COVID-19 response to reduce health disparities among Ohio's most vulnerable communities." Members of the TourismOhio Advisory Board received an update on 2022 plans -- including a return of the "Ohio Tourism Day" exhibition at the Statehouse -- during their Thursday meeting, along with a review of 2021 public relations efforts and related social media metrics. TourismOhio Director Matt MacLaren told the board the event would be held on Wednesday, May 11 and that the hope is to have around 100 exhibitors on the Ohio Statehouse lawn. There will also be press conferences associated with the day around the state, rather than limiting it to Columbus. TECHNOLOGY/AEROSPACE The Ohio Third Frontier Commission Tuesday approved $850,000 in funding for tech startup companies including several grants to businesses in the medical field. The grants were part of Third Frontier's Technology Validation and Start-up Fund, which helps Ohio companies "aiming to license institution-owned technologies to accelerate commercialization through activities such as market research and further prototyping." UNEMPLOYMENT COMPENSATION The number of Ohioans filing initial unemployment claims has fallen over the last three weeks, according to the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS). For the week ending Jan. 29, ODJFS reported 10,313 new jobless claims. That's down from 15,158 the week ending Jan. 22; 15,398 the week ending Jan. 15; and 17,469 the week ending Jan. 8. The current eight-week average of traditional unemployment claims is 12,637. UTILITIES Sitting PUCO Commissioner Daniel Conway is currently scheduled to kick off interviews with the PUCO Nominating Council on Monday, Feb. 7. Others being interviewed are Michael Hines of Columbus, a six-time PUCO candidate, Democrat and transportation compliance officer at PUCO; David Yarnell of Westerville, a Republican and gas distribution and utilities manager at SAM LLC; Stephen Serraino of Holland, MI, a seven-time applicant and five-time nominee to the governor, self-identified independent and vice president and general counsel of Upper Peninsula Power Company; Dan Wilczynski of Walbridge, a Republican and process safety manager at Marathon Petroleum; Dan Bradshaw of Akron, a six-time applicant, Republican, engineer and polymer sales manager at TSRC Specialty Materials; and AlexanderChapman of Strongsville, a Republican and strategy manager for Ridge Creek Global's Carbon Neutral 2050. Not making the cut were private transportation professional Chalsie Cloud of Cleveland, a Democrat and fleet administrator for public transit contractor Provide A Ride, and Richard Rolwing of Reynoldsburg, a three-time applicant, former oil and gas driller, president of the National Institute for the Study of the Declaration of Independence and U.S. Constitution, and author of more than 20 books. WORKERS' COMPENSATION The Ohio Bureau of Workers' Compensation (BWC) Board of Directors discussed another 10 percent cut in private employer costs Friday while passing the first increase in state agencies' combined insurance rate in three years. The governor's latest proposed savings of $106 million for private employers would be his fourth rate cut since taking office. That's based on $140.2 billion in projected payroll for July 2022-June 2023 -- an annual figure that will grow considerably once Intel Corp. completes construction of two microprocessor plants in Central Ohio. WORKFORCE Lt. Gov. Jon Husted announced Thursday that 14 training providers will be awarded $2.93 million in total to support 2,336 credentials through the Individual Microcredential Assistance Program (IMAP). This is the second IMAP round. The program "helps Ohioans who are low income, partially unemployed, or totally unemployed participate in a training program and receive one or more technology-focused credential(s) for free," according to Husted's office. Training providers -- including four-year universities, career centers and private businesses -- are reimbursed up to $3,000 for each completed tech-focused credential issued.

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


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