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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Gov. Mike DeWine signed 133-SB260 (S. Huffman) prohibiting physicians from providing abortion-inducing drugs via telemedicine. Under the bill, which is set to become effective in mid-April following its signing over the weekend, a physician could be charged with a fourth-degree felony for a first violation. A doctor would face a third-degree felony for subsequent offenses.
Attorney General Dave Yost said Monday that his Scientific Committee on Opioid Prevention and Education (SCOPE) found the highest opioid overdose death rate in Ohio occurred in the second quarter of 2020. SCOPE said the death rate in Ohio from opioid overdose at 11.01 per 100,000 population in the second quarter of 2020 was the highest rate in 10 years. The previous 10-year high was in the first quarter of 2017 at 10.87 opioid overdoses per 100,000 population.
The 2021 Ag-LINK application period is now open, Treasurer Robert Sprague announced Wednesday. The program is intended to help Ohio farmers and agribusinesses finance the up-front costs of this year's growing season. The application period will remain open through Friday, March 19, according to the Ohio Treasurer's Office.
The Ohio Attorney General's Office announced the latest legal action Wednesday against a sham veterans' charity costing Ohioans over a half million dollars in deceptive sweepstakes entries. The state is joining 10 others in a settlement with Florida-based Healing Heroes, which promised to help wounded veterans of the Iraq and Afghan wars but instead enriched the Spiegel family. Hero Giveaways, LLC, the business behind the charity run by Stacey and Allan Spiegel and son Neal Spiegel, triggered a multistate investigation into fraudulent charitable solicitations including sweepstakes mailers and telemarketing calls.
Social distancing did not stop Attorney General Dave Yost from addressing 1,400 participants in his office's second annual Human Trafficking Summit -- a virtual affair with daylong workshops touching on human trafficking courts, the Chinese-driven "massage" industry, and "When Parents Are Pimps," among other topics.
As Gov. Mike DeWine and his staff put the finishing touches on the administration's proposed FY22-23 budget which is due to the Legislature by Monday, Feb. 1, the nonprofit policy research institute Policy Matters Ohio announced its state budget priorities Thursday in a new report, "A budget for everyone." The report identifies short- and long-term priorities addressing six main areas: getting people through the health and economic crisis; expanding opportunity and ensuring Ohioans meet their basic needs; protecting working people both on the job and if they are laid off; expanding health care and restoring Ohio's public health system; strengthening the foundation of Ohio's communities with resources for K-12 education reform, higher education, caring for seniors and more; and making government more accountable and transparent.
The application window for the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) re-opened Monday at 9 a.m., though the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) said there is an initial limit to only community financial institutions (CFIs) in order to "promote access to capital." The First Draw loan window for CFIs opens Monday, while the window for Second Draw PPP Loans opens Wednesday. The program will open to all participating lenders shortly afterward, the SBA said. This PPP round involves up to $284 billion that can be used for job retention and certain other expenses through March 31. Certain existing PPP borrowers can apply for the Second Draw loans as well, if they have less than 300 employees and can demonstrate at least a 25 percent reduction in gross receipts between comparable quarters in 2019 and 2020.
The Ohio Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday Commission hosted its 36th annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Commemorative Celebration on Thursday. Typically held at Trinity Episcopal Church in downtown Columbus, this year's event was prerecorded and can now be viewed at www.das.ohio.gov/mlk.
Scientists at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center and College of Medicine announced that they have discovered a new variant of SARS-Cov-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. While the new variant carries a mutation identical to the U.K. strain, "it likely arose in a virus strain already present in the United States," they said. The researchers also report the evolution of another U.S. strain that acquired three other gene mutations not previously seen together in SARS-CoV2.
As Ohioans age 80 and older become eligible to receive their COVID-19 vaccinations next week, the Ohio Department of Health (ODH) will launch a new online tool to assist residents in finding a provider that has been allotted vaccines, Gov. Mike DeWine said during his biweekly coronavirus briefing on Thursday.
The coronavirus.ohio.gov tool, which became available on Friday, Jan. 15, is searchable by zip code and county, but it will not be updated in real-time, the governor said. Those eligible to receive a vaccine should consult local resources to determine up-to-date vaccine availability. Ohioans can find additional information about providers administering vaccines by calling their local health department or visiting their local health department website.
Roughly 800 Ohio health providers will begin administering COVID-19 vaccinations to individuals age 80 and older next week, Gov. Mike DeWine announced Tuesday. The governor said there are about 420,000 Ohioans in that age range, and the state is expecting about 100,000 vaccines to be delivered next week. The eligibility timeline for non-80-plus-year-old individuals in Phase 1B is as follows:
During the week of Monday, Jan. 25, vaccinations are anticipated to begin for those age 75 and up. Vaccinations will also be available to those with severe congenital, developmental, or early-onset medical disorders.
During the week of Monday, Feb. 1, vaccinations are anticipated to begin for those age 70 and older.
During the week of Monday, Feb. 8, vaccinations are anticipated to begin for those age 65 and up.
CRIME AND PUNISHMENT
Low-level offenders will face the possibility of softer penalties in 2021 with Gov. Mike DeWine's signing of 133-HB1 (Plummer-Hicks-Hudson), which expands intervention in lieu of conviction (ILC) for defendants alleging alcohol and/or drug use, broadens criminal record sealing, and enacts key provisions of drug sentencing reform bill 133-SB3 (Eklund-O'Brien) -- though not misdemeanor drug possession language introduced early in the 133rd General Assembly and debated into its final hours.
The Development Services Agency (DSA) announced Thursday that it had reached an agreement with General Motors (GM) on the company's $12 million investment in the Mahoning Valley. The community investment is a requirement of the settlement for GM's repayment of its Job Creation and Retention Tax Credit incentives, along with a $28 million refund to the state.
Gov. Mike DeWine named John Timothy Miller of Akron to the open 7th District seat on the State Board of Education just ahead of the board's first meeting of the year on Jan. 11 and 12. He replaces Sarah Fowler Arthur, who is the new state representative for the 99th House District.
Members of Ohio's State Board of Education (SBOE) reelected Laura Kohler and Charlotte McGuire as president and vice president at the board's first meeting of the new year Monday morning. This will be the duo's second term as board leaders. Kohler, an at-large member first appointed by former Gov. John Kasich, is won 13-5 over Hamilton County's Jenny Kilgore, who said the board's focus should be "razor sharp on a good, solid education for K through 12."
The State Board of Education (SBOE) heard testimony from members of the public, many of whom voiced concerns with current remote learning measures which they said hamper students' learning and mental health, adding that students should be in the classroom despite the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
New board members were additionally briefed on various procedures and duties of the office by Ohio Department of Education (ODE) staff.
Returning and new members of Ohio's State Board of Education (SBOE) posed questions about the state's pandemic response to officials with the Ohio Department of Education (ODE) during the board's Tuesday meeting. John Richard, deputy state superintendent, led the discussion and said the department's "underlying philosophy" for handling the pandemic has been local control.
State Sen. Teresa Fedor (D-Toledo) and the Ohio Education Association (OEA) Tuesday criticized Kirsten Hill, a state school board member and chair of the local TEA Party chapter in Lorain, who had organized a bus trip to Washington, D.C. for the rally in support of President Donald Trump that later turned violent after protestors from the rally stormed the U.S. Capitol. In a statement the next day, Hill said she went to the rally "as a private citizen with a group of like-minded people to express our concerns that there was significant voter fraud in the Nov. 3 presidential election. As you are no doubt aware, the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution affords citizens the right to petition our government for redress of our grievances while exercising our freedom of speech and the right to peaceably assemble."
Riverside Local School District in Logan County launched multiple projects Wednesday meant to expand affordable highspeed Internet access for underserved families of rural Northwest Ohio, according to Lt. Gov. Jon Husted's office. Husted -- who leads InnovateOhio and other initiatives -- took part in the announcement, was joined by Superintendent of Public Instruction Paolo DeMaria and Riverside Schools Superintendent Scott Mann. The projects are funded by the state's K-12 Broadband Connectivity Grant and federal CARES Act funds.
Secretary of State Frank LaRose announced that his office will offer an online portal for local candidates and campaigns to file their finance reports electronically.
The Ohio Air Quality Development Authority (OAQDA) on Tuesday approved up to $340,000 in bond financing to support Frank's Auto Body and Restoration in Lake County with its air quality improvement project.
For the first time, entities from Ohio will be invited to apply for Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA) loans, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) announced Tuesday. Those Ohio projects invited are the following:
The city of Dayton's Wastewater Infrastructure Improvements Program can seek $73 million.
The city of Lorain's water treatment plant improvements project is eligible to receive $30 million.
U.S. Rep. Anthony Gonzalez (R-Canton) was one of 10 Republican House members to vote to impeach President Donald Trump on Wednesday, the second time the president was impeached by the chamber during his term in office. This time, the House accused the president of "inciting violence" based on his comments to a crowd of supporters on Jan. 6 encouraging them to go to the U.S. Capitol and get Congress to reject the Electoral College votes of a number of swing states that he lost, falsely claiming widespread fraud. Meanwhile, U.S. Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) said Trump bears some responsibility for the violence at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 and called for the president to address the nation and urge his supporters to remain peaceful and refrain from violence.
U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) expanded on his call to remove President Donald Trump via the 25th Amendment or impeachment, saying Trump "incited" Wednesday's events at the Capitol Building that resulted in five deaths including a police officer.
U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Urbana) received the Presidential Medal of Freedom Monday in a closed-door ceremony. The White House cited his work on the House Oversight Committee during the Obama administration, including investigations of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), Green Energy Programs, the Justice Department and the IRS. Jordan was also recognized for a review of the Russia investigation and his role as ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee. The release called him "one of the most consequential members of Congress of his generation."
The state's four casinos and seven racinos are struggling as the coronavirus continues to spread and gambling facilities are forced to close between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. Gov. Mike DeWine has said his administration's COVID-19 curfew will last until at least Saturday, Jan. 23. Revenues at the casinos and racinos were also down last month due to patrons' spending less time at the facilities. The four casinos earned $59.9 million in revenue in December 2020, down from $74.4 million in December 2019 while the state’s seven racinos earned $72.7 million in December 2020, down from $94.9 million in December 2019.
The Ohio Lottery continued setting and breaking records through the holiday season, with lottery profits up 21 percent over the last year, the Ohio Lottery Commission was told Wednesday. Lottery Executive Director Pat McDonald and Finance Director Gregory Bowers updated the commission on activity through the holidays, with McDonald saying that scratch-off tickets set an all-time sales record for the week of Christmas, and Christmas Eve setting the record for daily sales. Good sales have continued into the new year, with Keno setting sales records around New Year's Day.
The Ohio Senate released its schedule for Calendar Year 2021. The first session date is scheduled for Wednesday, Feb. 3. The final session for the year is set for Wednesday, Dec. 15. A break is scheduled for Thursday, April 1 through Monday, April 19. Ohio House spokeswoman Taylor Jachs told Hannah News the House continues to work on its schedule but that it will be released in the near future.
The General Assembly should allow witnesses to provide virtual oral testimony during committee hearings and require mask-wearing in the Statehouse, 75 organizations and individuals wrote in a letter sent to House Speaker Bob Cupp (R-Lima) and Senate President Matt Huffman (R-Lima) on Thursday. The groups -- which include the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Ohio, All on the Line (AOTL) Ohio, League of Women Voters of Ohio (LWVO), Physicians Action Network and Ohio Organizing Collaborative -- praised the Legislature for its work in providing the livestreaming of all committee hearings on the Ohio Channel, saying virtual testimony is the "next logical step."
The Ohio Democratic Women's Legislative Caucus (ODWLC) announced that Rep. Lisa Sobecki (D-Toledo) will chair the caucus for the 134th General Assembly (GA). Other members of the leadership team include Rep. Tavia Galonski (D-Akron) as vice chair; Rep. Allison Russo (D-Upper Arlington) as policy chair; Rep. Mary Lightbody (D-Westerville) as secretary; and Rep. Monique Smith (D-Fairview Park) as treasurer.
In a wide-ranging interview former Senate President Larry Obhof (R-Medina) looked back on his nearly 10 years in the Senate -- and four years as Senate president -- telling Hannah News that tax cuts, regulatory reforms, anti-abortion measures, gun rights expansions, school voucher increases, human trafficking law modifications and water quality protections are among the upper chamber's most significant achievements over that time.
Freshman Rep. Thomas Hall (R-Middletown) -- the youngest member of the 134th General Assembly -- is no stranger to holding public office, telling Hannah News about his five years on the Madison Township Board of Trustees.
Former State Rep. John Becker, who introduced legislation to impeach Gov. Mike DeWine last General Assembly, complained Tuesday that his name was "mysteriously removed" both from a bill he co-sponsored and the legislative website prior to DeWine's signing 133-HB674 (Hillyer), which addresses state liquor control laws, into law. The bill had included provisions of Becker's 133-HB219, which Becker said was introduced in response to a constituent business' need related to the extensive patchwork of Sunday alcohol sales throughout Ohio.
Gov. Mike DeWine on Monday vetoed 133-SB375 (Hoagland), legislation that would have voided the Ohio Department of Health's coronavirus-related order restricting county fair activities. In his veto message, the governor said the bill "is not in the best interest of protecting the health and safety of all Ohioans."
Ohio Inspector General Randall Meyer has been reappointed to another term, Gov. Mike DeWine announced Monday. Meyer's new term began Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2021 and ends Sunday, Jan. 12, 2025, according to DeWine's office. The appointment is subject to confirmation by the Ohio Senate. Meyer was first appointed by former Gov. John Kasich in January 2011; he was reappointed by Kasich in 2015.
Gov. Mike DeWine signed the following bills into law over the course of the week:
- HB1 (Plummer-Hicks-Hudson) which modifies intervention in lieu of conviction/sealing requirements.
- HB67 (Brinkman-Kelly) creates the veterinarian student debt assistance program, and grants vet education credits for free spay and neuter services.
- HB136 (Hillyer) prohibits the death penalty if offender was mentally ill at time of offense.
- HB150 (Merrin) reduces taxes on new banks and mortgage lenders.
- HB210 (Carruthers) which requires the screening of prospective employer for tuberculosis in child care settings.
- HB263 (Koehler)revises occupation license restrictions for former criminals.
- HB264 (Wilkin-O'Brien) refinances loans for water and wastewater infrastructure projects. Passed as an emergency; became effective Jan. 9, 2021.
- HB295 (Hoops) which establishes requirements for low-speed electric scooters.
- HB308 (Patton) concerns workers' compensation and disability retirement for PTSD.
- HB352 (Cross-Lang) which modifies civil rights laws relating to employment.
- HB388 (A. Holmes) which addresses out-of-network health care.
- HB409 (Koehler) which modifies attendance and participation standards at computer-based community schools.
- HB431 (Abrams-Carfagna) creates the Sexual Exploitation Database.
- HB436 (Baldridge) provides additional tool for screening and supporting children with dyslexia.
- HB442 (Roemer-West) which modifies certified public accountant qualifications.
- HB444 (Baldridge-Abrams) revises Ohio's township laws.
- HB450 (Stephens) which addresses transition of duties of fiscal officers and treasurers.
- HB473 (J. Smith) permits the state motto, "With God, all things are Possible," to be used alongside the Ohio State Seal.
- HB665 (Jones-Wilkin) addresses agricultural societies and amusement ride safety. DeWine commented on this bill that while he disagrees with components of the bill, provisions regarding amusement ride safety could not otherwise go into effect.
- HB674 (Hillyer) which revises liquor laws.
- SB9 (M. Huffman) which releases claim information to group health plan policyholders.
- SB10 (Wilson) which expands the penalty for theft in office, and restitution for audit costs.
- SB33 (Hoagland) modifies criminal and civil law for critical infrastructure damage.
- SB68 (Williams) which allows community service in lieu of driver reinstatement fee.
- SB140 (Uecker) permits concealed carry of non-weapon knives, and revises weapons law.
- SB276 (Roegner-Manning) which enacts Ohio Revised Limited Liability Company Act.
- SB256 (Manning-Lehner) regards sentencing offenders under the age of 18.
- SB259 (Sykes) authorizes the conveyance of state-owned real property.
- SB260 (S. Huffman) regards abortion-inducing drugs.
- SB331 (Roegner) which implements recommendations of Sunset Review Committee.
- SB312 (McColley) creates the Hardin Court of Common Pleas Domestic Relations Division. Passed as an emergency; became effective Jan. 9, 2021.
Appointments made during the week include the following:
John R. Page of Lewis Center (Delaware County) reappointed to the Ohio Expositions Commission for a term beginning Jan. 8, 2021 and ending Dec. 1, 2026.
Michael F. Curtin of Marble Cliff (Franklin County) to the Ohio Expositions Commission for a term beginning Jan. 8, 2021 and ending Dec. 1, 2026.
C. Daniel Young of Springfield (Clark County) to the TourismOhio Advisory Board for a term beginning Jan. 8, 2021 and ending Sept 27, 2023.
Aliou A. Diouf of Cincinnati (Hamilton County) to the New African Immigrants Commission for a term beginning Jan. 8, 2021 and ending Oct. 7, 2023.
Tia Marcel Moretti of Commercial Point (Pickaway County) to the Commission on Minority Health for a term beginning Jan. 8, 2021 and ending Sept. 2, 2022.
The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) Act of 2019 was signed into law by President Donald Trump, paving the way for President-elect Joe Biden and Congress to continue the program for five years and increasing its annual funding from $300 million to $475 million by 2026.
Xavier University Board of Trustees Chair Vince Caponi announced that Colleen M. Hanycz has been selected as the university's 35th president, effective July 1, 2021. Hanycz currently serves as president of La Salle University in Philadelphia, a Lasallian, Catholic university. She will become the first lay (non-Jesuit) and first female president in Xavier's 190-year history, Caponi said.
Several law school deans from Ohio joined colleagues from law schools around the country in condemning the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol and addressing the 2020 election. In a joint letter signed by over 150 law school deans, the signatories say the attack on the Capitol "was an assault on our democracy and the rule of law," and continue that the "effort to disrupt the certification of a free and fair election was a betrayal of the core values that undergird our Constitution. Lives were lost, the seat of our democracy was desecrated, and our country was shamed."
Ohio University (OU) President Duane Nellis has named Candace Boeninger as the university's vice president for enrollment management. Boeninger most recently served as interim vice provost for strategic enrollment management at OU. The university's enrollment has been on the decline since 2016, and it has faced budget cuts and employee layoffs during the pandemic.
U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) said that in his new position as chairman of the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs, he will place an increased priority on "housing," eponymous to the committee. "We'll start with a COVID package, with rental assistance to make sure we can avoid the wave of evictions that will sweep this community, sweep this country," Brown told Hannah News during a conference call with reporters Wednesday.
Magistrates will be able to preside over "drug courts" and other specialized dockets with full judicial authority -- save one exception -- and criminal defendants will be allowed to enter pleas in all courts by remote technology should changes proposed by the Commission on the Rules of Practice and Procedure win the Legislature's approval. Ohio's 12 appellate districts also would be required to make audio-visual recordings of all oral arguments, similar to Ohio Supreme Court video archives, and made available to the public upon request. These are among the commission's annual package of rule amendments to be approved by the General Assembly no later than Wednesday, June 30, 2021.
Ohio Supreme Court arguments over Madison Local Schools' arming of teachers after its 2016 student shooting explored the finer points of "residual clauses," "nomenclature issues" and obscure Latin phrases like ejusdem generis Tuesday but ultimately boiled down to the "ordinary" meaning versus the "plain language" of R.C. 109.78(D) on the view those linguistic standards were somehow different.
The Ohio Investigative Unit (OIU) continued enforcement activity regarding health orders in recent days, with 17 liquor-permitted establishments cited according to press releases. Charges for illegal sales are also pending against two other businesses that did not have a valid permit.
The Ohio Department of Medicaid (ODM) announced Monday that it has selected Gainwell Technologies to serve as the single pharmacy benefits manager (PBM) for the agency. Gainwell, which previously had been awarded a contract by ODM to serve as a fiscal intermediary for the agency, was chosen over five other vendors during the agency's request for proposal. The other vendors included Change Healthcare, Express Scripts, MagellanRx Management, Navitus Health Solutions, and RxAdvance.
The DeWine administration's focus on improved services for multi-system youth requiring "significant behavioral health services" moved forward Monday with the first meeting of the OhioRISE (Resilience through Integrated Systems and Excellence) Advisory Council. The council comprises a diverse group of members from around the state representing local system partners, associations and service providers, and families/youth offering "lived experience" with complex, multi-system needs. Members will help coordinate a single statewide behavioral health managed care plan when the contract is awarded. The request for application (RFA) went out on Oct. 28., 2020 and is slated for a final announcement in late February.
In an effort to address public safety issues in the wake of last week's pro-Trump mob attack on the U.S. Capitol that resulted in five deaths, the governor announced he signed an order activating 780 members of the Ohio National Guard (ONG) for duty in Ohio and Washington, D.C. between Thursday, Jan. 14 and Thursday, Jan. 21. He later increased the number activated by 500.
The Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) announced that its Division of Parks and Watercraft is offering $500,000 in grants to improve boating access for hand-powered watercraft at public facilities across the state. Applicants may request up to $75,000 for a single project during the grant period, which runs from Thursday, July 1, 2021 through Thursday, June 30, 2022, according to ODNR. The application, available on the ODNR website, must be submitted electronically to the grant administrator by Monday, March 1.
ODNR is forging ahead with the St. Joseph River Floodplain Restoration Project in Williams County. This project joins dozens of other H2Ohio wetland projects currently underway. In partnership with Black Swamp Conservancy and EnviroScience, the project broke ground on Wednesday, Jan. 13, according to ODNR.
The Ohio State Bar Association (OSBA) has announced a new round of certified attorney specialists in six legal practice areas, including the accreditation of Senior Assistant Attorney General Christie Collins Limbert of the Ohio Attorney General's Office in administrative agency law.
Gov. Mike DeWine announced Friday that Susan Block had stepped down from the Ohio Arts Council (OAC) board, following her controversial comments regarding President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris. Block is married to the chairman of the company which owns the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and Toledo Blade. Separately, guild writers at the Blade went on a byline strike recently in response to management orders to avoid calling rioters in the events at the U.S. Capitol Building "Trump supporters" and to suggest others may have been involved, according to a Washington Post article.
Children's Defense Fund-Ohio (CDF-Ohio) recently announced the addition of David Doyle to its State Advisory Board. He is a principal in the government and public service practice with Deloitte Consulting, LLP in Columbus. CDF-Ohio also announced that Morghan Hyatt has joined its policy team as a data/policy associate.
Former Ohio Sen. Peggy Lehner (R-Kettering) has taken out paperwork to run for Kettering mayor, according to data posted on the Montgomery County Board of Elections website. Lehner, who was unable to run for her Senate seat again due to term limits, is seeking to replace Mayor Don Patterson, who is term-limited in his position as well.
The Ohio Democratic Party (ODP) needs to recognize that Black individuals are the foundation of the party and give them the respect they deserve, according to Ohio Legislative Black Caucus (OLBC) President Rep. Thomas West (D-Canton) and the other 18 members of the caucus.
The Ohio Democratic Party (ODP) Thursday evening chose Summit County Councilwoman Liz Walters to become the next chair of the party, succeeding David Pepper, who resigned last year. Walters, who had earlier in the week secured the backing of U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH), the Ohio Young Black Democrats, and labor organizations, sealed the victory when her main rival, Antoinette Wilson, backed out and endorsed her during her comments to the Ohio Democratic Party Executive Committee Thursday evening. Andre Washington, the president of the A. Phillip Randolph Institute, was elected by the committee to serve as vice chair, succeeding Rhine McLin, who had been the vice chair for the past 15 years and was serving as temporary chair after Pepper's resignation.
In its first national poll since protestors backing President Donald Trump stormed the U.S. Capitol Building as Congress was in the process of certifying President-elect Joe Biden as the winner of the 2020 election, more than half of the voters surveyed say Trump is to blame for the incident. Nearly three-quarters of respondents, about 74 percent, said democracy in the U.S. is under threat, while 21 percent said democracy is alive and well. Fifty-six percent of respondents said they hold Trump responsible for the storming of the Capitol, which occurred after a speech he gave to the crowd where he falsely claimed the election had been stolen from him and encouraged protestors to march to the Capitol. Forty-two percent said they do not hold him responsible. A slight majority of 52 percent said Trump should be removed from office, compared to 45 percent who said he should not be removed. Fifty-three percent said he should resign as president.
Ohio has added another park district to those in full compliance with state policing standards issued by the Ohio Department of Public Safety's (DPS) Office of Criminal Justice Services (OCJS). Along with the Wood County Park District, police in Bolivar (Tuscarawas County) and Wintersville (Jefferson County) are now also certified in state standards for use of force, including deadly force, and agency recruitment and hiring.
For the first time since the 1960s, Ohio will undergo a new mapmaking process for congressional and General Assembly lines that could restrain what kind of districts lawmakers can draw, and bring what some advocates hope are fairer districts. General Assembly districts are drawn by the seven-member Ohio Redistricting Commission, which includes the governor, secretary of state, and auditor, and four appointees of the General Assembly. Any map that is adopted requires a "yes" vote from at least two members representing each of the two major political parties in the General Assembly in order to be passed. In other words, there must be at least four members -- two Democrats and two Republicans -- approving the map. If the commission fails to adopt a plan due to an impasse, the deadline is extended to Sept. 15. If the commission adopts a plan by a simple majority vote by that date, the plan must be replaced after four years.
Congressional maps are drawn by the General Assembly and need the approval of two-thirds of the members of each chamber, including at least half of the members of each of the two largest political parties represented in the chamber. If lawmakers deadlock, the process is shifted to the Ohio Redistricting Commission, which must attempt to draw a plan that passes a bipartisan vote by Oct. 31. If that fails, it goes back to the General Assembly to draw a plan by Nov. 30. If the General Assembly adopts a plan by a simple majority vote, it must follow additional standards for districts including that the plan can't unduly favor or disfavor a political party or its incumbents; must not unduly split governmental units; and lawmakers must attempt to draw compact districts.
State-managed buildings in downtown Columbus -- including the Ohio Statehouse -- will be closed to the public and employees from Sunday through Wednesday -- Jan. 17 through Jan. 20 -- Gov. Mike DeWine announced Thursday, due to the events of Jan. 6 and the possibility of further violence before and during President-elect Joe Biden's inauguration. The full list of buildings that will be closed also includes the Riffe Center, Rhodes Tower, 25 S. Front St., 246 N. High St., 35 E. Chestnut St. and the William Green Building at 30 W. Spring St. Temporary fencing is also being added around the Statehouse. DeWine held a joint press conference with Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther, who urged residents to avoid the area, particularly on Sunday, and not to counter-protest any demonstrations. Adjutant General John Harris, Ohio State Highway Patrol (OSHP) Superintendent Richard Fambro and Columbus Police Chief Thomas Quinlan also answered press questions.
The General Assembly should pass legislation allowing municipalities -- until March 2023 -- to continue collecting income taxes from employees who are not physically working in the taxing jurisdiction of their employer due to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the Greater Ohio Policy Center (GOPC). Gov. Mike DeWine should also create a task force to study how the pandemic has affected the municipal income tax system, GOPC Senior Manager of Special Projects Erica Spaid Patras said during GOPC's webinar laying out the organization's 2021 public policy platform.
Lt. Gov. Jon Husted offered an overview of state efforts to expand broadband access in Ohio during a livestreamed Columbus Metropolitan Club forum on "bridging the digital divide" Wednesday, noting those efforts began before the pandemic that has since "lit a fire under [the problem]."
The Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS) has begun sending out some of the $300 unemployment benefit payments provided under the federal Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021, ODJFS spokesperson Tom Betti told Hannah News on Thursday. The additional $300 weekly benefit under the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) program is down from the $600 benefit provided under the federal Coronavirus, Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (CARES) Act last year. The $300 benefit will be available for those who were unemployed between Dec. 27, 2020 and the week ending Saturday, March 13.
For the week ending Jan. 9, the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS) reported 37,309 initial unemployment claims to the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL). That number is higher than what was reported last week, which was 29,709. According to a news release from ODJFS, the total number of initial jobless claims filed in Ohio over the last 43 weeks (2,135,163) is more than the combined total of those filed during the last five years.
Over two million Ohio consumers already have given scandal-rocked FirstEnergy a $4.5 million insurance policy in the first 14 days of 2021 and will pay at least $102 million by year's end as part of its "perverse," "obscene" and "criminally offensive" "cash grab" if a Franklin County judge does not immediately halt the utility's 133-HB6 (Callender-Wilkin) decoupling charge, Attorney General Dave Yost advised the court in an amended filing supported by the Office of Ohio Consumers' Counsel (OCC). Yost asked Franklin County Common Pleas Court Judge Chris Brown to expand his Dec. 21 injunction against the state's collection of $150 million in HB6 nuclear subsidies to include its $310,722 per day decoupling charge, which ensures all future FirstEnergy revenues match the company's 2018 highwater mark, regardless of how much electricity it actually supplies in a given year. He says that represents an $85 million annual increase over last year's surcharge, effective Jan. 1, 2021.
Six applicants and one finalist for resigned Chairman Sam Randazzo's seat on the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) are getting a second shot at the commission as its Nominating Council begins the appointment process for the post currently held by Dennis Deters, who is finishing out the unexpired term of former Chairman Asim Haque.
Lt. Gov. Jon Husted, in his role as director of the Governor's Office of Workforce Transformation, announced Tuesday that 12 workforce partnerships will receive funding through the Industry Sector Partnership Grant. The program helps ensure Ohioans can enter the workforce and meet the needs of job creators and the local economy. The grants total $2.5 million and are being focused on partnerships located throughout Ohio across multiple in-demand industry sectors, including health care, information technology, manufacturing, construction and transportation.
[Story originally published in The Hannah Report. Copyright 2020 Hannah News Service, Inc.]