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Week in Review January 15, 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.



AGING


Ohio Department of Aging (ODA) Director Ursel J. McElroy announced on Tuesday $6 million in grant funding to bolster adult day services across the state of Ohio. "Adult day services provide many older Ohioans treasured moments of social interaction with their peers while empowering them to remain in their homes and communities. It also provides their caregivers the opportunity for a welcome break from their duties with peace of mind that their loved ones' needs are being met," McElroy explained. This is in addition to other recent initiatives including the Healthy Aging program and PACE expansion.


AGRICULTURE


Following Gov. Mike DeWine’s announcement of his selection of Adam Heffron as executive director of the Ohio Expo Center and State Fair following the retirement of long-time General Manager Virgil Strickler, the Ohio Expositions Commission on Wednesday unanimously approved the appointment. Heffron was among candidates sent to DeWine by the expositions commission and State Fair Search Committee. He has been director of the Alliant Energy Center, a multi-venue events center for agricultural and other large events in Wisconsin's state capital of Madison. Heffron will begin his new position in March.


ATTORNEY GENERAL


Attorney General Dave Yost's Blue Ribbon Task Force on Officer Training heard from law enforcement leaders from around Ohio Monday on a range of topics including recruitment and retention, physical fitness standards, in-person versus online learning, and pinched budgets in smaller departments.


AUDITOR OF STATE


Auditor Keith Faber's office recently released the final report from its Special Investigations Unit on improper spending by Bellbrook-Sugar Creek Local Schools in support of a levy campaign, a case that prompted criminal convictions and recovery findings of more than $8,000. The investigation began in 2019, prompted by district resident complaints and a referral from the attorney general. It found use of the school district newsletter and spending on postcards that promoted passage of a levy, as well as spending on consulting contracts.


FY24-25 BUDGET


Ohio's December General Revenue Fund tax receipts came in 11.5 percent or $263.7 million under estimates for the month, according to preliminary figures released Friday by the Office of Budget and Management (OBM). However, OBM went on to note, "Through the first six months of the fiscal year, tax receipts are essentially at estimate, just $18.9 million or -0.1 percent under forecast." The Personal Income Tax (PIT) accounted for the shortfall, coming in $266.8 million or 28.4 percent below the estimate for the month. OBM attributed the shortfall to "significant taxable year 2022 refunds. Excluding refunds, income tax receipts were $35.1 million (3.5 percent) above estimate." The auto sales tax collections were also below the December estimates by $3.5 million or 2.4 percent. This underperformance was partially offset by the non-auto sales tax collections that were $12.2 million or 1.1 percent over estimates and the Commercial Activity Tax (CAT) that was also over estimates by $2.2 million or 11.1 percent.


CHILDREN/FAMILIES


The Ohio Department of Health (ODH) Friday announced that the Public Health Fund of Ohio (PHFO) has awarded $350,000 to seven suicide prevention coalitions across Ohio. The coalitions in Cuyahoga, Darke, Hamilton, Highland/Pike, Licking, Logan, and Lucas counties each received $50,000 to be used for suicide prevention strategies and approaches aimed at helping youth and young adults ages 10 to 24. More information about PHFO can be found at http://tinyurl.com/5y7mkjzk.


Members of the House Minority Caucus unveiled legislation Tuesday requiring the state to regulate the commercialization of "kidfluencers," or children with a profitable social media presence. Democrats said not all parents have their kids' best interests at heart and suggested some homeschoolers are "monetizing" their children to support themselves. Reps. Michele Grim (D-Toledo) and Lauren McNally (D-Youngstown) gathered with former child actress and current performer Alyson Stoner at the Statehouse to introduce the "Kidfluencer Protection Act." "Without state laws to say otherwise, social media platforms are the new path for turning unregulated child labor into profit," she said, noting the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 had established long ago that kids are not an "extra paycheck" or an extra set of hands.


CITIES


The DeWine administration announced Monday the Department of Development (DOD) is now accepting proposals for the Innovation Hubs program, which provides $125 million for small and medium-sized Ohio cities to create hubs like the existing innovation districts in Columbus, Cleveland and Cincinnati. This follows the release of guidelines in November. The program is meant to make Ohio "a national leader in innovation, creating new jobs and business opportunities by supporting world-class research in industry-aligned platforms that build upon Ohio's existing legacy industries and research strengths," according to the administration.


ECONOMY


The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) announced Friday that the nation added 216,000 non-agricultural jobs in December for a stable jobless rate of 3.7 percent totaling 6.3 million people. Employment continued to improve in government, health care, social assistance and construction, while transportation and warehousing lost jobs. Among the major worker groups, the unemployment rates for adult men (3.5 percent), adult women (3.3 percent), teenagers (11.9 percent), Whites (3.5 percent), Blacks (5.2 percent), Asians (3.1 percent), and Hispanics (5.0 percent) showed little change in December, BLS said. The number of long-term unemployed (those jobless for 27 weeks or more) remained at 1.2 million persons and accounted for 19.7 percent of all unemployed persons.


EDUCATION


State Board of Education (SBOE) members unanimously oppose a proposed move from downtown Columbus to the Ohio Department of Agriculture (ODAg) campus in Reynoldsburg, about 14 miles to the east. Such a move could actually run afoul of state law establishing board headquarters in "the seat of state government," according to a resolution board members passed to express their formal opposition. A spokesperson for the Department of Administrative Services, which handles real estate for state agencies, said a decision on the move is not yet final and that DAS was not aware of board opposition before Monday. Paul Craft, on the job about a week as the new state superintendent, told board members he'd learned of the plan directly from DAS Director Kathleen Madden. He said the cost of using the ODAg space would be comparable to the roughly $287,000 annual cost of the current space at the Ohio Department of Education and Workforce (DEW) and would come with the benefit of ample parking. However, he expressed concern at losing the "synergy" of sharing space with DEW and the Ohio Department of Higher Education (ODHE) at 25 S. Front St. in Columbus.


Later in the week, Gov. Mike DeWine was asked for his thoughts on the proposed move from downtown Columbus, he said he hasn't thought much about it. "I don't really have any thoughts about it. You know, we have a department in the state, they manage where people's offices are. It's not something I micromanage. It's not something I get involved in, quite candidly. This is what they're talking about doing. We'll kind of see where that discussion goes," DeWine said.


Also on Monday, Craft discussed with the board his goals and a potential process for his annual evaluation. Among those goals are tackling the board’s $2 million funding shortfall in FY25 as well as ensuring key board responsibilities are performed in a timely and professional manner and in a way that builds trust and support for the board and building or rebuilding relationships with other stakeholders in the educational infrastructure, including the governor's office, General Assembly, DEW, ODHE and various professional associations.


State law on administrative procedure and professional discipline cases generally does not allow SBOE to reconsider past actions that permanently barred people from education professions, a top teacher conduct official told the board. Spurred by a proposal from board member John Hagan, the board has been exploring a "second-chance initiative" to revisit the permanent denial or revocation of licenses for people whose conduct did not trigger a mandatory permanent sanction. Hagan has cited workforce shortages and the general principle of providing second chances in a "civilized society" as reasons to pursue the change. Kelly Edwards, director of the board's Office of Professional Conduct, gave an overview of the board adjudicatory process for disciplinary cases involving education licensees.


ELECTIONS


A federal judge Monday ruled that sweeping elections bill 134-HB458 (Hall) provides a minimal burden to Ohio voters and granted a motion from Secretary of State Frank LaRose to grant summary judgment and dismiss the case. The lawsuit was brought by groups including the Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless, Ohio Federation of Teachers, Ohio Alliance for Retired Americans, and Union Veterans Council shortly after Gov. Mike DeWine signed the bill, arguing that it "imposes needless and discriminatory burdens on Ohioans' fundamental right to vote" and would violate the U.S. Constitution. Specifically, they challenged provisions requiring a photo ID to cast a ballot, the elimination of early voting hours on the Monday before the election, restrictions on the use of drop boxes for absentee ballots, changes to the timeline for submitting an absentee ballot request and returning it, and the elimination of the cure period after the election. In an opinion, U.S. District Judge Donald Nugent, an appointee of President Bill Clinton, cited the U.S. Supreme Court's upholding of a similar photo identification law in Indiana, and noted that many of the other provisions cited by plaintiffs are not guaranteed rights in the U.S. Constitution.


Secretary of State Frank LaRose this week urged legislative leaders to immediately pass legislation to close what he said is a loophole in the state's campaign finance law that allows non-citizens to bankroll campaigns for or against proposed statewide ballot issues. LaRose sent a letter to Senate President Matt Huffman (R-Lima) and House Speaker Jason Stephens (R-Kitts Hill) Tuesday, saying his staff compiled evidence showing foreign nationals had funneled hundreds of millions of dollars into 501(c) entities during the campaigns associated with two statewide constitutional ballot issues in August and November last year. Those entities then spent millions of dollars to influence the outcomes of the elections, he said.


ELECTIONS 2024


Secretary of State Frank LaRose announced that 18 candidates have been certified to appear on Ohio's Tuesday, March 19 primary ballot. Validated candidates for president include Chris Christie (R); Ron DeSantis (R); Nikki R. Haley (R); Vivek Ramaswamy (R); Donald J. Trump (R); Joseph R. Biden (D); and Dean Phillips (D).


Mercer County Republicans asked the Mercer County Board of Elections to disqualify a transgender candidate for the 84th House District because the candidate did not list her former name, also known as her "deadname" in her petitions. Arienne Childrey is the only candidate who filed for the Democratic nomination for the seat, which is currently held by Rep. Angie King (R-Celina), who is running for re-election. The board previously certified Childrey's petition before the challenge. The law was also cited by the Stark County Board of Elections when it disqualified the candidacy of 50th House District candidate Vanessa Joy, who is also transgender.


Rep. Terrence Upchurch (D-Cleveland) is running for re-election as a write-in candidate after issues with his petition forced him to withdraw it rather than have it rejected. Upchurch will need at least 50 voters to write in his name for the 20th House District, as well as exceed the number of write-in votes for Nathaniel Cory Hartfield, another Democratic write-in candidate, in order to make the November ballot. Currently, Republican Donna Walker Brown is the only certified candidate for the ballot in the heavily Democratic district.

The following endorsements were made over the week:


  • The U.S. Senate campaign of Republican Bernie Moreno announced the endorsements of U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Urbana) and U.S. Sen. Cynthia Lummis (R-WY).

  • Americans for Prosperity - Ohio endorsed Jack Daniels, Michelle Teska, David Thomas, Daniel Kalmbach, Levi Dean, Sally Culling, Ty Mathews, Wezlynn Davis, and Gina Collinsworth for the Ohio House.

ENERGY/UTILITIES 


The 13-state grid operator encompassing Ohio says the wholesale market for electric "capacity" -- a baseload generator's ability to supply power at all times, including during critical winter and summer periods -- requires urgent reform to ensure electric reliability at a "reasonable" cost in a time of increasing dominance by intermittent, renewable generation sources. The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) and leaders of the House Public Utilities Committee and Senate Energy and Public Utilities Committee agree with PJM Interconnection in filings before the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), while the Office of Ohio Consumers' Counsel (OCC) and PJM's Independent Market Monitor (IMM) mostly oppose the PJM proposal, as do Columbus-based American Municipal Power (AMP) and consumer offices in other PJM states. 


OCC asked the Ohio Supreme Court to intervene in its submetering dispute with the PUCO. Joined by Rep. Latyna Humphrey (D-Columbus) of the House Public Utilities Committee, OCC says the private resale of electricity in multi-family housing denies tenants state-regulated protections for "adequate, safe and reliable utility services at fair prices" -- PUCO's mission statement -- as well as consumer rights to bill assistance and disconnection safeguards. The consumers' counsel says the Supreme Court should recognize OCC as a party in the commission docket Ohio Power Company v. Nationwide Energy Partners, LLC and accept its appeal of PUCO's decision not to treat submeterers as public utilities subject to state regulation. 


ENVIRONMENT


 The Chagrin River's East Branch is marked for final cleanup of decades-old dredging and dumping in Lake County, according to the Ohio Attorney General's Office. Osborne Co. first dredged the river near Kirtland Hills in 2001 and eventually dumped eight piles of spoiled material eight to 20 feet high in the river and along the bank, "extensively damaging the waterway," the AG says.


 FEDERAL 


U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) voiced concerns to reporters Wednesday on a draft U.S. Environmental Protection (USEPA) rule that he said is intended to reduce pollution but could also risk "reliable electricity and Ohio energy jobs." Brown was joined by Pat O'Loughlin, president and CEO of the statewide group Ohio's Electric Cooperatives. In opening the press call, Brown said electric co-ops provide 380,000 homes and businesses in Ohio with "affordable and reliable" electricity, are "locally-owned" and provide "good-paying jobs." 


GAMING/GAMBLING 


The Ohio Lottery reported late Wednesday that "we now have reason to believe that an unauthorized third-party obtained access to information belonging to our customers and retailers" on Dec. 24, 2023. Specifically, the Lottery reports that it "experienced a security incident impacting some of our systems. Immediately upon detecting this activity, the Ohio Lottery took steps to mitigate the threat, including taking certain systems offline. The Ohio Lottery also quickly engaged professionals experienced in handling these types of incidents to assist us with an investigation and to assess the full scope of information impacted. The Ohio Lottery has notified law enforcement." 


GENERAL ASSEMBLY/STATEHOUSE


 On a straight party-line vote, the House Wednesday voted 65 to 28 to override Gov. Mike DeWine's veto of transgender issues bill HB68 (Click). The bill bans transgender girls from participating in girls’ and women's sports and gender affirming treatments for minors, including surgery and hormone therapies. During Wednesday's debate, Republicans argued that it protects parental rights and children and that children need to grow up before making life-changing medical decisions, while Democrats said it would take away parental rights and health care decisions of Ohioans.


 In other action, the House unanimously passed HB229 (Sweeney-Patton), which would require health care practitioners to provide information on Sudden Unexpected Death in Epilepsy to at risk-patients, and HB179 (Mathews-Stewart), addressing vicarious liability in tort actions. The lower chamber also passed HB184 (Bird-Brennan) regarding charitable solicitations 79-3 and HB258 (Carruthers), which increases fines for repeatedly selling tobacco products to minors. 


The chamber also agreed to Senate amendments to budget corrections bill HB101 (Bird), said goodbye to Rep. Mary Lightbody (D-Westerville), and seated her replacement, Beryl Brown Piccolantonio. 


House Democrats chose a new member of their caucus from a political family, but will have to make another replacement soon after Rep. Tavia Galonski (D-Akron) resigned late Wednesday to become Summit County Clerk of Courts. Piccolantonio, the president of the Gahanna Jefferson Board of Education, replaces Lightbody. She had been the lone candidate to file to run for the 4th House District in December after Lightbody announced she would not seek re-election. Lighbtbody later announced she would resign her seat early, and that she intended to move out of state to spend more time with her family. Piccolantonio is the daughter of former Ohio Supreme Court Chief Justice Eric Brown, who swore her in, and former Franklin County Commissioner Marilyn Brown. 


Galonski, who had filed to run for Summit County Clerk of Courts in December, was appointed to the role by the Summit Couty Democratic Party. She announced her resignation from the House and appointment on social media Wednesday. She replaces Sandara Kurt, who had left the job early to become Akron Municipal Court Clerk. 


Rep. Jena Powell (R-Arcanum) withdrew her name from the ballot and will not run for re-election this year, the Miami County Board of Elections confirmed Tuesday. Powell had filed by December's deadline to run for re-election to the 80th District, which would be her third term. However, she withdrew her candidacy on Monday, according to the board. As the deadline has passed to file paperwork to run and the board has certified the candidates, she would be unable to refile if she chose to.


 Members of the Ohio House Higher Education Committee Wednesday accepted a sub bill with minor changes for legislation requiring single-sex bathrooms at K-12 schools and colleges and universities across the state. The sub bill maintains the major provisions of HB183 (Bird-Lear), mandating schools and colleges to designate single-sex restrooms, locker rooms, and changing rooms, and prohibiting those institutions from allowing transgender students to use facilities aligned with their gender identity. The bill sponsors, Reps. Beth Lear (R-Galena) and Adam Bird (R-Cincinnati), appeared in committee to explain the "simple" changes in the sub bill, which committee members accepted without objection. Among the sub bill changes is one that aligns the definition of "biological sex" with the definition used in HB68 (Click), which is the "indication of male and female, including sex chromosomes, naturally occurring sex hormones, gonads, and nonambiguous internal and external genitalia present at birth, without regard to an individual's psychological, chosen, or subjective experience of gender." 


The newly-formed Joint Committee on Property Tax Review and Reform met for the first time Wednesday to learn more about the current state of property taxation in Ohio. The committee was created as a part of HB33 (Edwards) with the purpose of making recommendations on pending legislation related to property taxation. The committee is co-chaired by Sen. Louis Blessing (R-Cincinnati) and Rep. Bill Roemer (R-Richfield), and Rep. Dan Troy (D-Willowick) is ranking member. Additional committee members include Sen. Bill DeMora (D-Columbus), Sen. Sandra O'Brien (R-Rome), Sen. George Lang (R-West Chester), Sen. Hearcel Craig (D-Columbus), Rep. Bride Rose Sweeney (D-Cleveland), Rep. Tracy Richardson (R-Marysville) and Rep. Tom Young (R-Dayton). Roemer said the committee reflects the importance of property tax to everyone who lives in Ohio but conceded "there's probably only two people in the state of Ohio who understand property taxes, and they disagree."


 The Joint Committee on Agency Rule Review (JCARR) cleared all of the rules on its agenda Monday without any objections from the panel, though one legislator demanded more action from the Department of Youth Services (DYS) to address its recent issues in its rules. Sen. Bill DeMora (D-Columbus) singled out DYS after the reading of the agenda, saying while he did not have any specific questions with the agency's rule package addressing local detention centers that was before lawmakers, he has concerns that rule changes have not addressed any problems within the system identified in a recent investigation by USA TODAY Ohio Bureau. 


The Senate Select Committee on Housing received testimony from over 80 witnesses at its hearing in Cleveland Thursday. This is the latest in regional hearings held by this select committee.


 Sen. Kent Smith (D-Euclid) has been selected as the 2024 interim Ohio state lead for the National Caucus of Environmental Legislators (NCEL), replacing Rep. Mary Lightbody (D-Westerville), who resigned from the Legislature. Smith previously served in the role in both 2018 and 2020. 


The Capitol Cafe in the Ohio Statehouse has a new operator: Feed Your Soul Catering under the direction of Chef Frankie Bernert will now be open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. The restaurant, on the ground floor of the Capitol building in downtown Columbus, offers a breakfast and lunch menu that includes omelets, crepes, sandwiches, soups, salads, sweets and much more, including fresh coffee.


 In other legislative action, the House Commerce and Labor Committee reported out both SB56 (Roegner), which would enter Ohio into the Interstate Massage Compact, and SB90 (Roegner), which would enter Ohio into the Social Work Licensure Compact. 


GOVERNOR 


As the state continues to implement budget policies that will change reading instruction across the state, Gov. Mike DeWine toured the Department of Education and Workforce (DEW) Thursday, dropping in on a workshop to prepare state level trainers who will teach science of reading instruction to Ohio teachers. About a third of Ohio students do not read at grade level, DeWine said. 


GUNS 


The first six months of Ohio's expanded participation in the National Integrated Ballistic Information Network (NIBIN) bode well for gun crime investigations, especially when combined with increased DNA analysis, Attorney General Dave Yost says. The AG's Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation (BCII) opened the nationwide ballistic database to all law enforcement agencies last July, spurring participation by 155 Ohio jurisdictions that had not previously submitted evidence to NIBIN. One in five of all ballistic entries produced solid leads last year -- a 46 percent increase over 2021 and 2022, noted Yost. "The expansion of NIBIN technology is enriching the dataset, which in turn is increasing its effectiveness," he said in a statement. "But we're not stopping there -- we've doubled down on our efforts by incorporating DNA analysis alongside NIBIN. The early results are very encouraging." 


HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES 


Gov. Mike DeWine signed an executive order (EO) Friday to immediately ban gender transition surgeries for minors in the state, while also updating reporters on the planned administrative rules first announced after he vetoed HB68 (Click). Regarding the executive order, DeWine said there is "very little" evidence those procedures have been performed on minors in Ohio, but this will take that issue off the table. In response to a press question, he added there is "no intention" the rule would prohibit surgery for a minor who does not have gender dysphoria and instead needs it for a condition such as cancer. He followed this EO up with a second one on Thursday that prohibits gender transition surgeries for minors from being performed in doctor's offices -- in addition to hospitals and ambulatory surgical facilities -- following the State Medical Board of Ohio’s approval Wednesday of an emergency amendment to Ohio Administrative Code 4731-25-02 to that effect. DeWine's order allows the rule amendment to take effect immediately. 


Following Friday’s announcement, bill sponsor Rep. Gary Click (R-Vickery) issued a statement that he was "cautiously optimistic" about the ban as it takes effect immediately rather than in 90 days. However, he disputed DeWine's statement about whether the surgeries are performed now, saying they happen "on a regular basis." DeWine further said Friday morning that the Ohio Department of Health (ODH) and Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services (OhioMHAS) would be filing rules for public comment and that they will be discussed "at length" with legislators and interested parties. The rules are meant to protect "children and adults" by ensuring "quality and consistency of care," DeWine continued. Comments on the OhioMHAS rules are due by Friday, Jan. 19, while comments on the ODH rules are due by Monday, Feb. 5. The proposed OhioMHAS rules govern procedures for gender transition care in private psychiatric hospitals and community behavioral health settings, while the ODH rules impose reporting requirements and create quality standards for hospitals and ambulatory surgical facilities.


 Planned Parenthood expressed alarm by the transgender health rules proposed by ODH and OhioMHAS. "This is the latest attempt by our lawmakers to undermine Ohioans' right to bodily autonomy. These proposed rules are not based in science, and they go against recommendations from expert medical providers. Gender-affirming care is lifesaving care, full stop," Planned Parenthood of Greater Ohio President and CEO Erica Wilson-Domer said. "It is vital that those seeking care understand that these proposed rules have not taken effect and there is no change in the way our patients receive gender-affirming care at this time," Wilson-Domer continued. 


The HB68 (Click) veto override vote shows the House is more interested in winning elections than protecting the lives of children, LGBTQ+ leaders from across the state said Thursday. "They are willing to kill children in order to win their primary elections. They have no interest whatsoever in protecting or helping. Our children are a sacrifice to them. And it's a sacrifice that they think is perfectly worth having," said Minna Zelch, who serves on the leadership team of Trans Allies of Ohio. 


Asked Thursday whether he would consider rolling back or tweaking administrative rules he announced following his veto of HB68 if the Senate also overrides his veto, DeWine responded the rules provide an "opportunity" to "hear what people have to say." He continued that people on "both sides of the issue" agree on the importance of "quality" and "comprehensive" mental health care for individuals dealing with gender dysphoria. He said that after speaking with some state legislators over the weekend, he believes "a lot of their vote" had to do with the sports provisions in HB68, which ban transgender girls and women from participating in girls' and women's sports and require single-sex sports teams at schools and colleges and universities. He said the rules for athletes are not the reason he vetoed the bill and represent a "different issue" than the questions around health care services. 


A woman who spontaneously miscarried a non-viable fetus into a toilet at her home will not be charged with felony abuse of a corpse after a grand jury in Trumbull County declined to return an indictment against Brittany Watts. Reproductive rights organizations from across the state applauded the grand jury's decision on Thursday but said Watts never should have been forced to face the possibility of criminal charges in the first place. 


The Ohio Board of Nursing (OBN) and the Department of Medicaid (ODM) Monday began the public input process for establishing standards for doula care in the state at a virtual stakeholders' meeting. HB33 (Edwards) established a 13-member doula advisory board to establish rules for doula services and insurance reimbursement to help improve the health outcomes of mothers and children in Ohio. OBN is charged with developing and processing applications for doula certification and selecting and supporting a Certification Advisory Board. For billing and reimbursement purposes, ODM will require that doulas be OBN certified.


 HIGHER EDUCATION 


John Carroll University (JCU) recently announced the creation of a new College of Health. Former University Hospitals executive and JCU Director of Nursing and Strategic Healthcare Initiatives Dr. Melissa Cole has been named interim dean. JCU President Alan R. Miciak said the new college builds on an "existing interdisciplinary Jesuit curriculum. … Our College of Health will blend the social context and global health perspective of a Jesuit, liberal arts education with the strategic approach of a business education in the Boler College of Business to train the health care leaders of the future. We will train mission-driven clinicians, executives, and leaders in the health care industry to work in team settings and embrace the growing disparities in public health," Miciak added. 


HOUSING/HOMELESSNESS


 The new program to help Ohioans save for home purchases officially launched Monday with eight financial institutions on board and more expected in the coming weeks. Institutions currently participating include The Community Bank, Farmers & Merchants Bank, KEMBA Financial Credit Union, Pathways Financial Credit Union Inc., Quest Federal Credit Union, The Savings Bank, Superior Credit Union and Telhio Credit Union Inc. Treasurer Robert Sprague's office said the list of participating institutions will be updated regularly and posted at http://tinyurl.com/3p3r5f5a


The DeWine administration announced Thursday that it is now taking grant applications for the Welcome Home Ohio program, which will provide $150 million toward improving access to housing in the state. Guidelines were released by the Ohio Department of Development (DOD) in December. The program offers $100 million in grants for landbanks to purchase, rehabilitate or build qualifying residential properties for income-eligible Ohioans; and $50 million in nonrefundable tax credits for landbanks and eligible developers toward qualifying property rehabilitation and new construction once a property is sold. The application period for grants will close at 11:59 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 9, with rolling applications accepted from Monday, Feb. 12 to Friday, May 31 as funds are available. Tax credit applications will be accepted on a rolling basis until funds are expended.


 JUDICIAL 


The COVID-19 emergency and its statutory impact on government workforce decisions went before the Ohio Supreme Court during oral argument Tuesday, Jan. 9. The Court is considering whether collective bargaining agreements can preempt civil service employees' statutory right to judicial appeal, or whether the city of Cincinnati's coinage of the term "temporary emergency leave" (TEL) in spring 2020 attempted an end run around the normal meaning of "layoff" subject to appeal in R.C. 2506.01.


 Chief Judge Algenon Marbley of the U.S. District Court issued a temporary restraining order Tuesday to block enforcement of a state law set to take effect next week that would require parental consent for those under 16 to create social media accounts. NetChoice, a trade association representing the likes of Google, Facebook parent company Meta, X (formerly Twitter), Nextdoor and Pinterest, filed the lawsuit in the Southern District of Ohio over the social media law, which was included in the biennial budget and due to take effect Monday, Jan. 15. The new law is "troublingly vague," wrote Marbley, who wrote of a "particularly acute" need for statutory clarity when speech restrictions are involved. Specifically, he noted language stating sites that "target children" are "reasonably anticipated to be accessed by children." 


JUVENILE JUSTICE 


Ohio Department of Medicaid (ODM) Director Maureen Corcoran and several others joined the Ohio Juvenile Justice Working Group Tuesday, discussing behavioral health programs and health care coverage issues. Gov. Mike DeWine created the working group late last year to review safety, staffing, and other challenges in the juvenile justice system after affiliates of the USA TODAY Ohio Bureau published an investigation into the state's youth prison system, finding youth deaths and injuries, high rates of recidivism, and significant understaffing. Corcoran discussed the overlap between youths involved in the juvenile justice and public assistance systems. Both groups have high rates of behavioral health issues such as conduct disorders, substance use disorders and ADHD, among others, she said. She noted a substantial increase from 2016 to 2019 in foster care-connected youth using emergency rooms for behavioral health services.


 MARIJUANA/HEMP 


Gov. Mike DeWine Thursday also put pressure on the General Assembly to move forward with marijuana legislation, saying lawmakers have an obligation to regulate the sale of legal marijuana after voters approved Issue 2 last November. DeWine also said he is concerned about unregulated, but legal, strains of marijuana like Delta 8, Delta 9 and Delta 10. 


NATURAL RESOURCES 


Seven nominations for land leasing on Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) properties are up for bid on the Ohio Oil and Gas Land Management Commission (OGLMC) website. Three nominations include land in Valley Run Wildlife Area, and three other nominations include land in Salt Fork State Park. One nomination includes land in Zepernick Wildlife Area. 


NEWS MEDIA


 Ideastream Public Media Wednesday named Daniel Shellenbarger as the new general manager of Ohio Public Media Services effective Monday, Jan. 15. In this role, Shellenbarger will lead the services that Ideastream manages on behalf of all Ohio public television and radio stations as well as statewide content endeavors that include The Ohio Newsroom (TON), Ohio Government TV (OGT)/The Ohio Channel, the Ohio Public Radio and Television Statehouse News Bureau and the recently formed statewide news collaborative. 


PENSIONS 


The Ohio Retirement Study Council (ORSC) did not object Thursday to a proposed amendment to an omnibus education bill that would lower notice requirements on certain employees who retire and are immediately rehired, though it followed a staff recommendation that the amendment apply to all five pensions, not just the ones that deal with school employees and teachers. The proposed amendment to SB168 (Reynolds), which has passed out of the Senate, would change the public notice requirements of a board or commission that employs a member of the State Teachers Retirement System (STRS) or the School Employees Retirement System (SERS) who has retired and then is rehired to 30 days in the case of an urgent hiring need, rather than the current 60-day notice requirement. 


PEOPLE


 Mary Yost, a longtime journalist and former editorial page editor for the Columbus Dispatch, died Sunday at age 71, after fighting cancer. In addition to reporting and editing at the Dispatch, her career included serving as editor of Columbus CEO and leading communications for the Ohio Hospital Association. According to the Dispatch, Yost's family is planning a small, private memorial in her honor with a celebration of life event to be announced later. 


Former state treasurer and state legislator Kevin Boyce was elected as the 2024 president of the Franklin County Board of Commissioners. Boyce, who was first elected a county commissioner in 2016, has served as president in 2018 and 2021. 


Former Rep. Bob Young was formally sentenced to probation Friday, according to the Akron Beacon Journal, after being convicted on one count of domestic violence in October and accepting a plea deal in November on three counts of violating a protection order. Conditions of the probation sentence include that Young wear a device monitoring him for alcohol consumption. Violation of the conditions could result in up to two years in jail or additional time on probation. The first year will be supervised probation and the second will be unsupervised, with the possibility that the probation department could deem it unnecessary. 


POLITICS 


The Ohio Democratic Party Thursday announced the winners of the Tuesday elections for district-level delegates for President Joe Biden for the 2024 Democratic National Convention that will be held in Chicago Monday-Thursday, Aug. 19- 22. 


TECHNOLOGY/AEROSPACE 


The DeWine administration Tuesday announced its plans to provide "high-speed, dependable" Internet throughout Cleveland that is more accessible and affordable, in partnership with the city and nonprofit DigitalC. The project will include $10 million from BroadbandOhio, up to $20 million from the city and approximately $23 million from donors including the Jack, Joseph, and Morton Mandel Supporting Foundation and the David and Inez Myers Foundation to meet the total estimated cost of $53 million. DigitalC plans to officially break ground on the project later in January and hopes to provide low-cost broadband access to all 170,000 households in Cleveland by mid-2025. The price for service will be locked in at $18 per month for at least 10 years, though there is allowance for changes due to inflation after the fifth year. 


TRANSPORTATION/INFRASTRUCTURE 


A new report released Tuesday by national transportation research nonprofit TRIP found that the combination of additional state and federal transportation funding has helped Ohio move forward numerous road projects to improve the condition of its surface transportation network, but the state still faces a funding shortfall that could hurt its ability to make additional repairs and improvements to roads and bridges in the future. Rocky Moretti, director of policy and research for TRIP, said Ohio's increase in the gas tax, as well as a boost of 30 percent in federal funding through the federal infrastructure bill passed in 2021, has allowed Ohio to move forward with significant projects. At the same time, there are significant challenges on the horizon, including an increase in highway cost inflation, as well as an increase in vehicle fuel efficiency standards and an increase in the use of electric vehicles that make the gas tax less effective. He said that while some states including Ohio have begun levying fees on electric vehicles, there has not been a move to do something similar on the federal level. 


WORKFORCE


 The U.S. Department of Labor (USDOL) Wage and Hour Division announced Wednesday it has an online search tool meant to help over 4,200 Ohio workers receive back wages they are due totaling more than $1.7 million. A "significant portion" of the money has been unclaimed because the workers cannot be located, USDOL said. The search tool is available at https://webapps.dol.gov/wow.


 







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


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