Week In Review - January 25, 2021



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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.


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.


ARTS, SPORTS AND ENTERTAINMENT


The Ohio Arts Council (OAC) on Wednesday voted to approve $300,000 in individual excellence grants to 75 applicants. OAC Artist Programs Director Kathy Signorino said her team reviewed 465 applications and chose 75 to receive $4,000 each. She said 40 of the awardees are first-time applicants or first-time recipients of OAC grants. OAC Vice Chair James Dicke said the awards "reflect the best of the best" in the following seven artistic categories: Crafts, design, interdisciplinary, media arts, photography, two-dimensional visual arts; and three-dimensional visual arts.


BUSINESS/CORPORATE


The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) fully reopened its portal for first and second Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) applications on Tuesday, following an initial limit to only community financial institutions (CFIs) in order to "promote access to capital."


CHILDREN/FAMILIES


A recent report from the Health Policy Institute of Ohio (HPIO) found that 61 percent of Ohioans reported having at least one adverse childhood experience (ACE), a potentially traumatic experience in childhood that can have lasting impacts throughout someone's life. Multiple national studies have found that individuals with one or more ACE are at a heightened risk of poor health throughout adulthood, owing to the fact that even one ACE can disrupt a child's neurodevelopment, leading to an increased likelihood of social problems, mental health issues, preventable diseases and even premature death.


The Ohio Commission on Infant Mortality met Tuesday to hear a presentation on Mahoning Valley's efforts to address infant mortality.


Early childhood education advocates discussed the need for additional investment in the state's rural child care programs during a video conference organized by nonprofit Council for a Strong America Ohio Tuesday. Among those who spoke on the call was Delaware County Sheriff Russell Martin, who said people wind up involved with the justice system due to a lack of education, and that begins with early childhood education, including preschool and child care programs. He said that six out of 10 people in prison across the nation did not graduate high school.


The Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS) announced Tuesday it would continue providing additional food benefits for Ohio children through the end of the school year. The Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer (P-EBT) payments help children who normally receive free or reduced-price meals through the National School Lunch Program but learned remotely (or a hybrid of remote and in-person learning) during the school year, due to the COVID-19 emergency.


CITIES


In an analysis of all 50 state capitals from financial advising website WalletHub, Columbus ranked eighth in the nation based on metrics related to its safety, economy, affordability, schools and the health of its residents. The top three state capitals were Austin, TX, Madison, WI, and Raleigh, NC, while the bottom three were Baton Rouge, LA, Trenton, NJ, and Charleston, WV. While Columbus received a high aggregate score for its consistently above-average marks, other cities had more polarizing stats, such as Boston, MA, which was ranked first in the nation for "quality of life," but 49th in the nation for "affordability," resulting in an aggregate score pinning it at the 37th best state capital.


Hamilton County Clerk of Courts Aftab Pureval announced recently that he is running for mayor of Cincinnati, joining a crowded field that also includes Sen. Cecil Thomas (D-Cincinnati).


CIVIL RIGHTS


Monday, Jan. 18 was Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, the nation's annual observance of the life and teachings of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. But this year, that observance was much different as breakfasts, marches and other events across the state and nation were cancelled or moved online. This followed now 10 months of lockdowns due to the COVID-19 pandemic which has claimed a disproportionate number of African Americans and the civil unrest first fueled by the Black Lives Matter protests this summer over the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor at the hands of police and then the Jan. 6 siege of the nation's Capitol. It came, however, just ahead of the inauguration of the nation's first Black and Asian vice president in Kamala Harris.


CORONAVIRUS


Ohio Emergency Medical Services (Ohio EMS) and the Ohio Department of Health (ODH) are seeking health care professionals to volunteer for the Medical Reserve Corps to assist with administering the COVID-19 vaccine in their local communities. According to the agencies, professionals who can volunteer include physicians, physician assistants, nurses, pharmacists, pharmacy interns, emergency medical technicians, dentists, dental hygienists, optometrists, respiratory care professionals, and veterinarians. Other requirements include being over 18 years old and complying with any training requirements.


Individuals with both a severe congenital, developmental or early-onset medical disorder and a developmental or intellectual disability will be among the first people under age 65 to be eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine, Gov. Mike DeWine announced Tuesday. Those individuals, along with people age 75 and older, will be eligible to receive COVID-19 vaccinations starting on Monday, Jan. 25, the governor said during his biweekly coronavirus briefing.


Turning to the vaccination plan for adults in schools, the governor said 96 percent of public school districts have committed to resuming in-person classes, at least partially, by Monday, March 1. "So we're happy with that. We'd like to get it to 100, but 96 percent so far have told us, 'Yes, we're willing to do this,'" DeWine said. Working through the local educational service centers, school districts will have the option to choose a retail pharmacy that is secured by the state, DeWine said, noting some districts have already decided to partner with their local health department. He said either way is fine. The administration of vaccines for school personnel will begin the week of Monday, Feb. 1.


The Ohio Department of Health (ODH) Wednesday said it was immediately suspending a vaccine provider in Columbus after learning the company had potentially mishandled doses of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine, leading to 890 doses going to waste. ODH said it took immediate action to suspend SpecialtyRX and is asking the Ohio State Board of Pharmacy to open an investigation.


While children are generally less susceptible to the coronavirus, the pandemic has had other significant effects on children's health, according to Dr. Marlene Miller, who leads the data team for the Ohio Children's Hospital Association (OCHA). Miller, who is the pediatrician-in-chief at University Hospitals (UH) Rainbow Babies and Children's Hospital in Cleveland, joined Wednesday's Early Childhood Advisory Council (ECAC) to provide a "children's health update." Miller said the association only really began collecting data from their six partner hospitals (which include Akron Children's, Cincinnati Children's, Dayton Children's, Rainbow Babies and Children's, ProMedica Children's, and Nationwide Children's hospitals) in March, but they have seen "profound" effects on children.


Gov. Mike DeWine announced Thursday that the curfew order -- set to expire on Saturday, Jan. 23 -- will be extended, though the exact details of that have not been released yet. The need to continue the curfew is unfortunate, he said, but necessary due to the current level of COVID-19 spread in the state. He acknowledged the financial difficulties it causes businesses, but said they are not ready for the potential next step of having the curfew begin at 11 p.m. rather than 10 p.m. The new, more contagious variant of COVID-19 is part of the problem, and he said the curfew represents an attempt at compromise -- rather than closing bars and restaurants altogether -- and is based on scientific research. Vaccinations will be the ultimate way out of the situation, he added, but lowered numbers may enable them to loosen restrictions in the future. He also discussed "the power of the mask" to reduce spread in group settings, but that isn't possible in restaurants or bars.


DISABILITIES


The Ohio Developmental Disabilities Council (Ohio DD Council) is seeking public comment on its Five-Year State Plan that will take effect from 2022 through 2026. The plan is based on survey results collected about the problems or needs of Ohioans with developmental disabilities from the individuals themselves as well as their families and stakeholders across the state. It lists the projects that the council plans to fund to address those needs. Comments can be submitted at https://ddc.ohio.gov/state-plan-comments through Sunday, Feb. 28, 2021.


ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT


The Ohio Development Services Agency recently awarded $26,523,083 in Ohio Historic Preservation Tax Credits for the rehabilitation of 51 historic buildings. Together, the projects are expected to leverage approximately $259 million in private investments in 11 communities.


EDUCATION


Gov. Mike DeWine announced this week that 96 percent of public school districts have signed a form committing to a return to in-person learning by Monday, March 1, but teacher unions across the state say that date is too early and the form was a requirement for teachers to sign in order to receive vaccines in Phase 1B. Teacher unions wrote in a joint statement that "the timeline for vaccine distribution means that no educators and staff will be fully vaccinated by that date." The statement continued that "this commitment form was presented as a prerequisite for educators and school staff to receive vaccines during Phase 1B."


Individuals involved in winter high school sports have a better idea of where their postseason tournaments will be played and how they will be conducted following the most recent meeting of the Ohio High School Athletic Association (OHSAA) Board of Directors. The OHSAA board was updated by staff regarding the upcoming winter sports tournaments, with adjustments due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The previously established sectional tournament draw meeting dates will stay the same, along with the dates of the state tournaments, OHSAA said.


ELECTIONS


Secretary of State Frank LaRose said Tuesday that he has ordered county boards of elections to remove inactive voter registrations from the voter rolls, completing the most recent supplemental process under Ohio law that requires registrations to be removed if a voter does not cast a ballot in at least six years.


LaRose's office said 97,795 voter registrations were removed from registration databases after a four-month process that began in August 2020. The secretary of state's office had originally identified 115,816 registrations that were considered abandoned because of no voter activity for at least six years.


FEDERAL


Democratic and Republican officials from Ohio recognized the inauguration of President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris in releases from their respective offices Wednesday. In his first speech as president, Biden said that "democracy is precious," particularly given the events of Jan. 6, and called for "uniting our nation." He noted that the nation's death toll from coronavirus is now on par with U.S. military losses in World War II, and said the country faces "a rise of political extremism, white supremacy, domestic terrorism that we must confront and we will defeat."


Gov. Mike DeWine sent Biden a letter Monday, expressing gratitude for the efforts of his team and offering "my best to you" in a handwritten note. The letter also contained nine requests on ways the federal government can help Ohio during the pandemic, with "the most important" one being an increased supply of vaccines. He also called for a national vaccine strategy that includes seasonal or migrant workers; a national campaign promoting the vaccine and continued mask wearing; extended National Guard authority and 100 percent federal funding through June 30; greater flexibility in state use of federal funds; an extension of temporarily increased Medicaid supports; "significant" federal investments in public health infrastructure and better resources to address lack of broadband access.


With Democrats now controlling both chambers of Congress and the presidency, the federal government can begin addressing the generational-defining moral issues of systemic racism, wealth inequality and climate change, U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) said. Speaking during a roundtable discussion hosted by the ReImagine Appalachia coalition, Brown said the fossil fuel industry has not been honest with Americans about the region's future.


Brown later said that Biden's winning the popular vote in the election by 7 million votes as well as Democrats' getting control of the U.S. Senate while maintaining control of the House shows that the public wanted change and action on coronavirus relief, and he said he hopes that Republicans will move quickly with Democrats to pass something. Speaking to reporters on a conference call Thursday, Brown said he believes the Senate can conduct an impeachment trial for former President Donald Trump while also approving Biden's cabinet nominees and working on a coronavirus relief package. On the impeachment trial, Brown said he doesn't think it would take long, adding that he believes the evidence is clear.


GAMING/GAMBLING


The Ohio Casino Control Commission Wednesday praised the handling of the COVID-19 pandemic by Ohio's casinos, with the commission executive director saying that the casinos have not been contributing to a rise in infections around Ohio.


GENERAL ASSEMBLY/STATEHOUSE


The Ohio Senate Friday released the list of its committees for the 134th General Assembly. The number of committees at 16 is the same as in the 133rd. Three committees from the 133rd have been dropped: the General Government and Agency Review Committee and the two finance subcommittees. The three new committees are the Senate Small Business and Economic Opportunity Committee chaired by Sen. Michael Rulli (R-Salem), the Veterans and Public Safety Committee, chaired by Sen. Frank Hoagland (R-Adena) and the Financial Institutions and Technology Committee chaired by Sen. Steve Wilson (R-Maineville). Other committees have been reconfigured. Sen. Matt Dolan (R-Chagrin Falls) retains his position as chair of the Senate Finance Committee. Sen. Nathan Manning (RNorth Ridgeville) will chair Senate Judiciary while Sen. Louis Blessing III (R-Cincinnati) will chair Senate Ways and Means. Other committee chairs are as follows:

  • Agriculture and Natural Resources - Sen. Tim Schaffer (R-Lancaster)

  • Energy and Public Utilities - Sen. Bob Peterson (R-Sabina)

  • Local Government and Elections - Sen. Theresa Gavarone (R-Bowling Green)

  • Primary and Secondary Education - Sen. Andrew Brenner (R-Powell)

  • Rules and Reference - Sen. Matt Huffman (R-Lima)

  • Financial Institutions and Technology - Sen. Steve Wilson (R-Maineville)

  • Government Oversight and Reform - Sen. Kristina Roegner (R-Hudson)

  • Health - Sen. Steve Huffman (R-Tipp City)

  • Insurance - Sen. Bob Hackett (R-London)

  • Small Business and Economic Opportunity - Sen. Michael Rulli (R-Salem)

  • Transportation - Sen. Stephanie Kunze (R-Hilliard)

  • Veterans and Public Safety - Sen. Frank Hoagland (R-Mingo Junction)

  • Workforce and Higher Education - Sen. Terry Johnson (R-McDermott)

President of the Senate Matt Huffman (R-Lima) Thursday announced his chamber's appointments to a number of joint committees. They include the following:

  • Controlling Board: Sens. Matt Dolan (R-Chagrin Falls), Bob Peterson (R-Sabina) and Vernon Sykes (D-Akron).

  • Joint Committee on Agency Rule Review: Sens. Theresa Gavarone (R-Bowling Green), vice chair; Kirk Schuring (R-Canton), George Lang (R-West Chester), Sandra R. Williams (D-Cleveland) and Hearcel Craig (D-Columbus).

  • Joint Medicaid Oversight Committee: Sens. Mark Romanchuk (R-Mansfield); Stephen Huffman (R-Tipp City); Niraj Antani (R-Miamisburg); Nickie Antonio (D-Lakewood), Ranking Member; and Cecil Thomas (D-Cincinnati).

  • Correctional Institution Inspection Committee: Sens. Antani, Nathan Manning (R-North Ridgeville), Craig and Williams .

  • Joint Legislative Ethics Committee: Sens. M. Huffman, vice chair; Jay Hottinger (R-Newark); Rob McColley (R-Napoleon); Kenny Yuko (D-Richmond Heights); Thomas; and Antonio.

The Ohio Legislative Black Caucus (OLBC) criticized the appointment of Sen. Steve Huffman (R-Tipp City) as the chairman of Senate Health Committee based on comments he made last summer regarding why African Americans are more susceptible to dying from COVID-19 that groups criticized as racist. In a statement, Senate Republican spokesman John Fortney said Huffman "is a medical doctor and highly qualified to chair the health committee. He has a long record of providing health care to minority neighborhoods and has joined multiple mission trips at his own expense to treat those from disadvantaged countries." Fortney added that Huffman "apologized months ago for asking a clumsy and awkwardly worded question. Sincere apologies deserve sincere forgiveness, and not the perpetual politically weaponized judgment of the cancel culture."


The Ohio Legislative Children's Caucus announced Thursday the selection of the following co-chairs and co-vice chairs for the 134th General Assembly: Co-Chairs Rep. Allison Russo (D-Upper Arlington) and Sen. Stephanie Kunze (R-Hilliard) and Co-Vice Chairs Rep. Susan Manchester (R-Waynesfield) and Sen. Vernon Sykes (D-Akron).


New Ohio Rep. Willis Blackshear Jr. (D-Dayton) said his path to the Legislature began as child watching his father, Willis Blackshear Sr., work in public service for decades and eventually be elected as the Montgomery County Recorder, a post he was re-elected to twice. Though his father passed away of cancer in 2018, Blackshear said he instilled in him the "importance of giving back."


Freshman Rep. Andrea White (R-Kettering) is no stranger to public service, Hannah News discovered. White, who is taking over the seat of term-limited former Speaker Pro Tempore James Butler (R-Dayton), served as the elected Clerk of Court for Kettering Municipal Court for the past 17 year and was the legislative co-chair and past president of the Ohio Association of Municipal/County Court Clerks (OAMCCC). Her husband, John, also served as a state representative from 2001 to 2008.


Newly-sworn in State Sen. Jerry Cirino (R-Kirtland) told Hannah News that he brings his experiences as a "serial medical device CEO" and Lake County commissioner to his new role representing the 18th District. He succeeds term-limited Sen. John Eklund (R-Chardon).


GUNS


Reps. Adam C. Miller (D-Columbus) and Thomas West (D-Canton) said Thursday that they have introduced legislation to repeal the recently passed "stand your ground" or what they dubbed "shoot first" law that permits the use of deadly force by individuals who believe their lives are endangered anywhere in the state. The law was amended into 133-SB175 (Schaffer) during the lame duck session of the 133rd General Assembly despite opposition from Democrats. It was signed into law by Gov. Mike DeWine earlier in January.


HIGHER EDUCATION


OhioHealth and Ohio University (OU) have entered into a memorandum of understanding meant to encourage and streamline their medical research collaborations. The organizations have long conducted joint medical and health research. "The agreement smooths the startup process, essentially easing the administrative burden at both institutions so we can focus on the science and the patients," Joe Shields, OU vice president for research and creative activity, said.


INAUGURATION


As President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris were sworn in on Wednesday, fewer Ohioans were in attendance than in previous years as Biden's campaign took a smaller approach to the inaugural events due to COVID and security concerns. Ohio's top elected Democrat, U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH), attended the inauguration virtually, his Senate office said, as Biden and Harris have urged Americans to do to help stop the spread of COVID-19.


INSURANCE


Former Ohio Supreme Court Justice Judith French has been nominated as the next director of the Ohio Department of Insurance (ODI), Gov. Mike DeWine announced during his coronavirus briefing on Tuesday. Having lost her re-election bid in November, she most recently had applied to fill a vacancy on the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio.


JUDICIAL


Facebook's algorithms and "Big Data" files exert Matrix-like control over the catalogued "actions, location, preferences, tendencies, activities and intentions" of users like Robert Godwin Sr.'s murderer and thus render the social media giant civilly liable for the Cleveland grandfather's 2018 slaying, his estate argues in a recent appeal to the Ohio Supreme Court in the case of Godwin v. Facebook, Inc. His daughter and executor, Debbie Godwin, says Facebook's influence over more than 2.7 billion users "is not generic" but instead targeted to achieve a particular outcome in a given individual as a form of behavior modification. Facebook countered by citing, among other arguments, that the federal Communications Decency Act (CDA), noting that, "The CDA bars claims that would hold interactive computer service providers such as Facebook liable for the harmful effects of third-party content posted online, including any claims alleging any purported failure to 'monitor' and provide warnings respecting third-party content." It acknowledged the complex algorithms supporting the company's massive data files, moreover, but denied that they provide the ability to intervene in a user's decisions or behavior.


Former Kasich appointee and presidential campaign delegate Curt Hartman appeared to agree with his primary opponent's attorney that Republican Party endorsee Karen Falter had suffered enough from last year's media lashing and landslide loss in the Hamilton County Common Pleas Court race without the Ohio Supreme Court's imposing further punishment over her admitted false statements.


LIQUOR/ALCOHOL


The Ohio State Highway Patrol (OSHP) Ohio Investigative Unit (OIU) continued its citations of liquor- permitted establishments that violated health orders on distancing and the curfew order, with 13 cases identified in the releases sent Friday through Monday.


MARIJUANA/HEMP


There are now more than 160,000 patients registered under the Ohio Medical Marijuana Control Program (MMCP), according to the Ohio Board of Pharmacy (OBP). A total of 160,228 patients are registered, OBP said in announcing December 2020's updated MMCP patient and caregiver numbers.


MEDICAID/MEDICAID REFORM


Pharmacists affiliated with the Ohio Medicaid program now have the opportunity to enroll as recognized providers, the Ohio Department of Medicaid (ODM) announced Wednesday. ODM adopted the measure authorized by the General Assembly to expand the availability of services in rural and other communities where limited access to medical care may exist. It allows an enrolled pharmacist to manage medication therapy in collaboration with a prescribing medical professional; administer a wider range of immunizations, including childhood immunizations; and administer certain injectable medications as permitted by state law.


MENTAL HEALTH


The Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services (OhioMHAS) recently announced the appointment of Malaika Brewer as health equity and cultural competency (HECC) administrator. As administrator, Brewer will provide oversight, management and organizational leadership for OhioMHAS' health equity and cultural and linguistic competency programs and associated policies, programs/special projects, and interagency partnerships.


MILITARY AFFAIRS


Gov. Mike DeWine expanded the state's contingent of National Guard personnel deployed to the Washington, D.C. area to around 1,000 soldiers and airmen Friday, fulfilling a request from the National Guard Bureau for additional assistance ahead of Wednesday's presidential inauguration. There were "peaceful protests" outside the Ohio Statehouse Sunday, Ohio State Highway Patrol (OSHP) Staff Lt. Craig Cvetan told Hannah News, but "no arrests" or "significant incidents."


NATURAL RESOURCES


As part of Gov. Mike DeWine's H2Ohio initiative, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) has begun construction on two wetland projects in Hancock County. "To cut down on the amount of algal-bloom-causing phosphorus making its way into Lake Erie, we must be aggressive in reducing this runoff in a variety of ways," DeWine said. Specifically, ODNR is partnering with the Hancock Park District to create the Oakwoods Nature Preserve East and Oakwoods Nature Preserve West. Combined, both preserves will cover a continuous 142 acres.


The Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) announced it will partner with the Medina County Park District to help eliminate toxic algal blooms in Chippewa Lake, the state's largest glacial lake.


NONPROFIT ORGANIZATIONS


The Cleveland-based Center for Community Solutions (CCS) announced recently that David Miller has been elected as chair of the organization's board of directors. Miller is an associate professor at the Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences at Case Western Reserve University.


The Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission (MORPC) announced its public policy agenda for the 134th General Assembly Thursday, saying that it includes a "new focus on racial and social justice." The agenda was recently adopted by the MORPC board of representatives from local governments throughout Central Ohio.


OHIO HISTORY


The Ohio Development Services Agency recently awarded $26,523,083 in Ohio Historic Preservation Tax Credits for the rehabilitation of 51 historic buildings. Together, the projects are expected to leverage approximately $259 million in private investments in 11 communities.


The Women's Suffrage Centennial Commission (WSCC) met for its first meeting of the new year Tuesday. The group had been originally set to expire at the end of 2020, but has been extended for another year under legislation recently signed by the governor, 133-SB318 (Kunze-Williams). Almost all the group's plans for honoring the 100th anniversary of the 1920 adoption of the 19th Amendment allowing women to vote were put on hold due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and commission members are now looking to reinvigorate interest in their plans and move forward with an event at the Ohio Statehouse this summer.


PEOPLE


University of Cincinnati (UC) Health and the UC College of Medicine announced the recipients of their 2021 Humanitarian Awards Monday as part of their virtual 48th Annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day Celebration. Former Ohio Department of Health (ODH) Director Amy Acton is among the winners. Other humanitarian award recipients include Jiahao Guo, founder and executive director of the Coronavirus Relief Project, and Renee Mahaffey Harris, president and CEO of the Health Gap.


POLITICS


The Ohio Republican Party Friday unanimously gave Chairman Jane Timken another term. Timken, who took the helm in 2017 from Matt Borges after Republicans became unhappy with his criticism of President Donald Trump during the 2016 campaign, faced no opposition when she was re-elected by the State Central and Executive Committee.


The Ohio Democratic Party (ODP) announced Friday that Malik Hubbard will serve as interim executive director for the state party. ODP said Hubbard, who is the first Black executive director for ODP, will help oversee the transition process as Liz Walters, recently elected to become the first woman chairman, takes over and implements her agenda for the party.


POLLS/STUDIES


A majority of respondents in the latest national Quinnipiac Poll support the impeachment of President Donald Trump for the second time by the U.S. House of Representatives, while two out of three Republican voters don't see President Joe Biden's win as legitimate. According to the poll, 59 percent of respondents said Trump should not be allowed to hold elected office in the future, but there remained a stark political divide, with 96 percent of Democrats and 59 percent of independent voters saying Trump should not be allowed to hold elected office, and 80 percent of Republican voters saying Trump should be allowed to hold elected office in the future.


PUBLIC SAFETY


U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) said Friday that the Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles (Ohio BMV) is receiving $112,006 for its initiative to notify Ohio drivers of open vehicle recalls when they renew their vehicle registrations.


In honor of the life and service of Toledo Police Officer Brandon Stalker who was killed in the line of duty Monday, Gov. Mike DeWine ordered that all U.S. and Ohio flags be flown at half-staff upon all public buildings and grounds throughout Lucas County and at the Ohio Statehouse, the Vern Riffe Center, and Rhodes State Office Tower in Columbus. Flags shall remain lowered until sunset on the day of Officer Stalker's funeral.


SECRETARY OF STATE


According to Secretary of State Frank LaRose, 13,735 new business filings were filed in December with the Ohio Secretary of State Business Services Division. LaRose's office said that with the 2020 numbers now final, Ohioans have created a record 171,073 new business filings surpassing 2019's record of 130,621 new business filings.


TRANSPORTATION/INFRASTRUCTURE


The Ohio Rail Development Commission (ORDC) approved funding for four grant projects in its meeting Wednesday, and also recognized the service of former Chairman Mark Policinski and staff members Catherine Stout and Gloria Howard. Stout served as safety programs manager while Howard was a fiscal specialist.


UNEMPLOYMENT COMPENSATION


The Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS) will be issuing 1.7 million 1099-G tax forms throughout the month of January pursuant to federal law that requires reporting of unemployment compensation (UC) benefits. Lt. Gov. Jon Husted said on Thursday that 44,000 UC claims have been flagged for potential fraud. However, in the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program, 796,000 out of 1.4 million were flagged. Persons receiving the 1099-G tax form in the mail stating that they received unemployment benefits in 2020 when, in fact, they did not, should notify ODJFS they believe their identity was stolen via a new online portal at unemployment.ohio.gov, click on the "Report Identity Theft" button, and complete the reporting form.


The Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS) said Tuesday it has begun issuing supplemental weekly $300 Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) payments to eligible unemployment claimants following a new system programming update. The payments were made possible by the federal Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021, which was signed on Dec. 27, 2020.


For the week ending Jan. 16, the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS) reported 42,975 initial unemployment claims to the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL). That total is higher than the number reported last week, which was 37,309. According to ODJFS, the total number of initial jobless claims filed in Ohio over the last 44 weeks (2,178,138) is more than the combined total of those filed during the last five years.


UTILITIES


The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) Nominating Council announced it will meet Friday, Jan. 22, to interview six candidates for a new term on the PUCO, including the current occupant of the seat. The nominating council narrowed down the finalists to six from the 14 who had applied for the seat earlier this month including Dennis Deters, who currently holds the seat as he finishes out the unexpired term of former Chairman Asim Haque; Angela Amos, a Democrat and a senior policy advisor of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission's (FERC) Office of Energy Market Regulation; George Elmaraghy, and Independent and member of the Ohio River Valley Water Sanitation Commission (ORSANCO) and the International Joint Commission Water Quality Board; Louis Tosi, a Republican and partner at Shumaker, Loop & Kendrick in Toledo; Ronald Russo, a Democrat who serves as development manager for First Solar Corp.; and Stephen Serraino, an Independent who serves as general counsel, corporate secretary, and chief compliance and ethics officer for Michigan's Upper Peninsula Power Company.


In a rare development Wednesday, Gov. Mike DeWine rejected the first round of nominees to replace former Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) Chairman Sam Randazzo and exercised his statutory right to request a second and final list from the PUCO Nominating Council. State law allows him to name a commissioner from either group, and DeWine said he will consider previous applicants as well as new ones, leaving the door open to further consideration of Executive Director Greg Poulos of Consumer Advocates of the PJM States (CAPS), Senior Policy Advisor Angela Amos of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission's (FERC) Office of Energy Market Regulation and the governor's assistant policy director, Anne Vogel. That list had grown one person shorter Tuesday with the governor's appointment of former Ohio Supreme Court Justice Judith French as director of the Ohio Department of Insurance (ODI).


WORKERS' COMPENSATION


The Bureau of Workers' Compensation (BWC) issued a reminder for Ohio employers to cash the dividend checks mailed in December, saying that checks worth more than $500 million have not been cashed yet. The list of still-active checks includes more than 23,000 employers, the release continued. The total dividend amount was $5 billion to nearly 180,000 private and public employers.


[Story originally published in The Hannah Report. Copyright 2021 Hannah News Service, Inc.]

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