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Week in Review January 29, 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.


ADDICTION/SUBSTANCE ABUSE


The RecoveryOhio Advisory Council met Tuesday, with members receiving a briefing from RecoveryOhio Director Aimee Shadwick and state agency leaders on the work done toward the 75 recommendations made in 2019. The council also discussed a strategic plan for the next three years. Items Shadwick discussed as part of those recommendations included the "beat the stigma" campaign, parity education and training, workforce development and harm reduction including increased naloxone availability.


AGING


Ohio Department of Aging (ODA) Director Ursel J. McElroy recently announced the 10 students who have been selected as Scholars in Aging participants for 2024. "Scholars in Aging offers some of Ohio's brightest young problem-solvers the opportunity to gain firsthand experience in the field of aging and a valuable glimpse into a future career path that allows them to put their talents to use by helping others," McElroy said in a statement. "This year's cohort is made up of students with a diverse range of experiences and areas of study from universities across the state. I am excited to welcome them to the program and to tap into their energy, passion and bold visions for the future of aging in Ohio."


AGRICULTURE


Ag-LINK, the program designed to reduce interest on operating loans for Ohio farmers, saved Ohio's farming community a record amount of $14.1 million in 2023, according to Treasurer Robert Sprague. Ag-LINK was started in 1986 as a way to encourage farming in Ohio by helping farm operators and agribusiness get better financing rates for upfront costs of farming equipment. A revision passed in 134-HB440 (Swearingen-White) removed the cap on the amounts of loans eligible for financing and allowed applications to the program year-round.


Ohio State Fair officials have announced that Kidz Bop will once again take the stage in the WCOL Celeste Center for opening day of the 2024 Ohio State Fair. The Kidz Bop Live Tour concert will be held on Wednesday, July 24 at 6:30 p.m., the Ohio Expo Center & State Fair said in a news release. Tickets will go on sale on Friday, Jan. 26 at 10 a.m.


ATTORNEY GENERAL


The Ohio Attorney General's Office announced a "resounding success" at Saturday's drug disposal day hosted by the Allen County Fairgrounds, where 601 pounds of expired and unused medications were collected. The AG partnered with the Allen County Sheriff's Office, Allen County Homeland Security and Emergency Management, WLIO TV, and OSU's Ohio Sea Grant program in the sixth Drug Dropoff Day.


BALLOT ISSUES


Attorney General Dave Yost Thursday rejected the petition summary for a proposed amendment that would enshrine certain voting procedures in the Ohio Constitution, taking issue with the proposed title "Ohio Voters Bill of Rights." Yost had previously rejected the petition language for the amendment -- which would set forth the qualifications for Ohioans to vote and establish that voting is a fundamental right as well as putting certain voting procedures in the constitution -- saying the submission contained misstatements and omissions. In rejecting the petition for the second time Thursday, Yost said the title "does not fairly or accurately summarize or describe the actual content of the proposed amendment." "In the past, this office has not always rigorously evaluated whether the title fairly or truthfully summarized a given proposed amendment. But recent authority from the Ohio Supreme Court has confirmed that the title for a ballot initiative is material to voters," the attorney general wrote in the rejection letter.


Citizens Not Politicians, the group behind a proposed redistricting reform constitutional amendment, this week released an open letter from 67 business leaders in support of the effort. Those signing the letter include Jeni Britton, founder and chief creative officer, Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams; Edward B. Foley, Ebersold Chair in Constitutional Law and director of election law at the Ohio State University Moritz College of Law; Thomas Hoaglin, former chairman and CEO, Huntington Bancshares Incorporated; Gale V. King, former executive vice president and chief administrative and human resource officer, Nationwide Insurance Company and chair of the Executive Leadership Council; Nancy Kramer, chief evangelist, IBM Consulting Americas and founder and chairman and former CEO of Resource/Ammirati; John E. Pepper, former chairman and CEO of the Procter & Gamble Company and former non-executive chairman of The Walt Disney Company; and Charles (Chuck) Horowitz Ratner, director of the Max Collaborative and former board chair and CEO of Forest City Enterprises.


BUSINESS/CORPORATE


Huntington National Bank intends to offer three prominent buildings on Capitol Square for redevelopment, the company announced Thursday. Through an invitation-only request for proposal (RFP) process, the sale will include the Huntington Bank Building at 17 S. High St., the Wyandotte Building at 21 W. Broad St. and the Huntington Plaza building at 37 W. Broad St., according to a news release from Huntington.


CHILDREN/FAMILIES


The Public Children Services Association of Ohio (PCSAO) announced Thursday the launch of a new shared practice model aimed at elevating family healing. The new model is called Practice in Action Together (PACT) and is being implemented as a model for county children services agencies to build relationships between caseworkers and families. PACT's mission is to elevate healing and build relationships through a behavior-driven approach to practice aimed at equity for families, workers and communities.


CRIME AND PUNISHMENT


The Ohio State Board Association released a list of recommendations Thursday that it presented to the Indigent Defense Task Force, a body created in 134-HB150 (Hillyer). The report recommends each Ohio county be given a choice to opt into a state-administered indigent defense system administered by the Ohio Public Defender's Office and funded directly by the state, or to opt out of the state structure, maintain and budget for its own system and be reimbursed by the state. Local commissioners or county councils should make the affirmative decision to opt into state services, the report says. In the case of a county wanting to opt out later, at least three years' notice should be given to the Ohio Public Defender's Office.


ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT/URBAN REVITALIZATION


The Ohio Third Frontier Commission announced Wednesday it had approved $800,000 in grants through the Technology Validation and Start-up Fund, which will help four businesses bring new technology and innovative products to the workforce. These awards focus on technology and tech-enabled products in advanced manufacturing, materials, biomedical and life sciences, energy, sensors, and software and information technology. The fund supports companies aiming to license institution-owned technology to accelerate commercialization through activities such as market research and further prototyping.


The Ohio Department of Development (DOD) announced Thursday its Minority Development Financing Advisory Board had approved over $360,000 to help three minority- and women-owned businesses in sustaining and expanding their operations. The board had its monthly meeting on Tuesday.


ECONOMY


Ohio's unemployment rate increased to 3.7 percent in December, according to the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS), rising from 3.6 percent in November. The state's nonagricultural wage and salary employment increased 7,000 over the month. ODFJS said the state's employment, which went from a revised 5,654,100 in November to 5,661,100 in December, marks the highest payroll employment reported since the series started in 1990. The number of workers unemployed in Ohio in December was 214,000, up from 212,000 in November. However, the number of unemployed has decreased by 22,000 in the past 12 months from 236,000. The U.S. unemployment rate for December was 3.7 percent, unchanged from November and up from 3.5 percent in December 2022.


Ohio is one of 23 states that experienced a record low unemployment rate at some point during 2023, according to Heather Boushey, chief economist of President Joe Biden's Invest in America Cabinet and member of the Council of Economic Advisers. "As of December, the unemployment rate in Ohio was 3.7 percent, and the 12-month change in payroll employment was 1.9 percent. And that's a pretty nice, robust number there. It's certainly not the very highest, but it's a good indication that job gains are happening across the state," Boushey told Hannah News during a phone interview. Boushey said Ohio is an extremely important part of Biden's overall plan to invest in technology and clean energy, pointing specifically to investments in computer chip facilities and clean hydrogen.


The Center for Community Solutions (CCS) has compiled county-by-county level data examining social, economic, and health indicators of women across Ohio. The "Status of Women 2023" report includes information on everything from high school graduation rates, voter registrations, and insurance coverage to wage gaps, family structures and more. While the data reveal female students graduate from high school in greater numbers and women across the state hold more bachelor's degrees than men, a persistent wage gap exists in every sector and county in Ohio, and women are more likely to be in poverty than men.


The national economy is "entering 2024 with momentum," Owens Corning economics department leader Mason Pierce said during the Ohio Chamber of Commerce's economic outlook event this week. According to a survey of the Ohio Chamber's Economic Advisory Council and Blue Chip Economic Indicators, the consensus is that the country is heading for a "soft landing," and will likely avoid a recession. Attendees of the event also heard from Ohio Office of Budget and Management (OBM) Director Kimberly Murnieks, who touted Ohio's performance recovering from the pandemic.


EDUCATION


The Ohio Department of Development (DOD) announced Friday that summer programs will be available to help teachers in Appalachian Ohio with science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education and to offer students opportunities in STEM and entrepreneurship. They are being offered by the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) and applications can be submitted between now and Friday, Feb. 2. The Appalachian STEM Academy is a research program for students in middle and high school, as well as high school teachers. Students collaborate with scientists at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee on science, math and computer science technology research projects. The teachers develop STEM-related curriculum with expert science practitioners. There will be two middle school STEM academy sessions, running from Saturday-Friday, July 6-12 and Saturday-Friday, July 13-19. The high school STEM Academy will be from July 6-19. More information, including how to apply, is available at http://tinyurl.com/ypaszd6c.


Dublin City Schools was recognized by a national retail organization and Lt. Gov. Jon Husted for their partnership to improve high school students' understanding of the workplace and career skills, the Ohio Council of Retail Merchants announced. The 2024 RISE Up Partner of the Year award was presented in New York City in recognition of the school district's success with the National Retail Federation (NRF) Foundation's RISE Up training and credentialing program. The Ohio Council of Retail Merchants said it has worked to expand the RISE Up program across the state.


ELECTIONS


Foreign citizens would be prohibited from donating to issue campaigns under new legislation introduced Tuesday by Sens. Theresa Gavarone (R-Bowling Green) and Rob McColley (R-Napoleon). The introduction of SB215 (Gavarone-McColley) comes after Secretary of State Frank LaRose sent a letter to legislators urging them to close a loophole in state law that he said allows non-citizens to bankroll campaigns for or against proposed statewide ballot issues. However, Gavarone said she did not consult with LaRose on the bill, and had been working with McColley to address the issue for the past few months in the wake of last year's ballot issue campaigns. The sponsors said at a Tuesday afternoon press conference that while current federal and Ohio law prohibit foreign citizens from spending on candidate campaigns, there is no such ban on state issue campaigns.


The Ohio Elections Commission Thursday largely found no violations in a case against Rep. Jean Schmidt (R-Loveland) over her campaign's finance reports, though it did rule that she should have updated her reports sooner when new information came to light and fined the campaign $50. The action wrapped up the case brought against Schmidt by Chris Hicks, who had argued that there were consultants who worked on Schmidt's behalf who did not appear on her campaign reports.


ELECTIONS 2024


Bernie Moreno touted former President Donald Trump's endorsement of him and attacked his two Republican opponents during the first U.S. Senate primary debate, while Secretary of State Frank LaRose and state Sen. Matt Dolan (R-Chagrin Falls) largely focused their attacks on Moreno. The debate, hosted by the Ohio Republican Party and Nexstar Media Group's Ohio stations, saw the three candidates agreeing on issues such as securing the southern border while showing a sharp contrast on issues such as support of Ukraine. Moreno, an immigrant from South America who opened by thanking his mom for bringing him to the United States legally, said there needs to be a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to illegal immigration and called for the deportation of anyone in the country who came illegally. He said not doing so would only continue to encourage bad behavior. Dolan said he wants to secure the border and supported policies such as "Remain in Mexico" and sealing the border, but attacked Moreno, saying he had changed his position from years ago and charging that Moreno once supported a path to citizenship for certain immigrants. Moreno said what has changed is a "full-scale invasion of the border," adding something needs to be done.


All of the candidates who filed to run for the 6th Congressional District in the next congressional term have filed to run in the special election to finish the unexpired term of U.S. Rep. Bill Johnson (R-Marietta) after he resigned to become the president of Youngstown State University. The special election primary will be held on Tuesday, March 19, while the general election for the seat will be held on Tuesday, June 11. According to the board of elections, Democrats Rylan Finzer and Michael Kripchak and Republicans Michael Rulli, Reggie Stoltzfus and Rick Tsai all filed to run in the special election. All five had also filed to run for the seat in the regular elections this year.


In a preview to the March 19 primary election, two Ohio senators seeking a second term in office will first have to fend off primary challenges from current and former lawmakers, while two open Senate seats feature current and former lawmakers seeking to move from the House to the Senate.


The following endorsements were made over the week:


  • The congressional campaign of Republican Shane Wilkin announced the endorsement of Rep. Bob Peterson (R-Sabina).

  • The U.S. Senate campaign of Republican Bernie Moreno announced the endorsements of the Greene and Warren County Republican parties.

  • The state representative campaign of Republican Kellie Deeter announced the endorsement of the Huron County Republican Party.

  • The U.S. Senate campaign of Republican Bernie Moreno announced the endorsements of U.S. Rep. Max Miller (R-Rocky River), U.S. Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) and former Republican presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy

  • The congressional campaign of Republican Derek Merrin announced the endorsement of U.S. House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA).

  • Americans for Prosperity Action endorsed Orlando Sonza for Congress.

  • The congressional campaign of Republican Shane Wilkin announced the endorsement of Rep. Jay Edwards (R-Nelsonville).

ENERGY/UTILITIES


The Ohio Power Siting Board (OPSB) granted Scioto Farms Solar (SFS) withdrawal from a 723-acre project in Pickaway County after citizens pointed to "overwhelming opposition" and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) terminated SFS's service agreement with the 13-state regional transmission organization (RTO) encompassing Ohio, PJM Interconnection. Opposition to the failed project in Wayne Township followed complaints against the 800-hectare Yellowbud Solar Farm previously constructed in Wayne and Deercreek townships and crystalized community unhappiness with a number of pending and completed solar projects throughout Ohio. Scioto Farms Solar (SFS) first notified OPSB of the planned, 110-megawatt facility in August 2021 and argued over the next two years for its "environmental compatibility and public need."


Chairwoman Jenifer French of the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) is its Nominating Council's lead candidate for her expiring seat in Thursday's unanimous recommendation to Gov. Mike DeWine. All 12 Nominating Council members backed the former judge after morning interviews with her and four other candidates. The governor, who appoints PUCO commissioners, now will consider French, who completed former Chairman Sam Randazzo's unexpired term in the wake of the FirstEnergy/133-HB6 (Callender-Wilkin) scandal, along with nine-time commission applicant Stephen Serraino, former vice president, general counsel and corporate secretary of Upper Peninsula Power Company; four-time applicant Michael Davala, senior IT/project manager and business analyst for JPMorgan Chase; and first-time applicant Ronald Salatin, vice president of PNC Bank's Commercial Banking Group.


FEDERAL


The Biden administration is taking additional actions to ensure American women have access to contraception and medication abortion, the White House announced Monday. Those new actions include, among others, the U.S. departments of the treasury, labor and health and human services issuing new guidance to clarify standards and support expanded coverage of a broader range of contraceptives at no cost under the Affordable Care Act; the U.S. Office of Personnel Management strengthening access to contraception for federal workers, retirees and family members by issuing guidance to insurers participating int the Federal Employee Health Benefits Program; and the HHS secretary issuing a letter to private health insurers, state Medicaid and Children's Health Insurance Programs, and Medicare plans about their obligations to cover contraception for those they serve. The letter aims to address compliance with existing standards and emphasize the administration's commitment to ensuring access to affordable contraception.


GENERAL ASSEMBLY/STATEHOUSE


The Capitol Square Review and Advisory Board and Capitol Square Foundation held a series of events to celebrate the unveiling the 9-foot by 12-foot painting, "Ohioans in Space," a painting to celebrate the accomplishments of Ohioans in space travel and exploration. Commissioned by CRSAB and the foundation, the painting was unveiled officially on Wednesday, Jan. 24. It was painted by artist Bill Hinsch and features John Glenn, Neil Armstrong, Jim Lovell, Judith Resnik and Gene Kranz, and recognizes the accomplishments of Ohioans in space travel and exploration. Names of the 25 astronauts born in Ohio and others will be listed on a permanent plaque near the painting. It is the first commissioned large-scale painting to be installed permanently in the Ohio Statehouse in 66 years.


While Cleveland voters narrowly rejected a proposed participatory budgeting measure in November 2023, residents of other cities are blocked from even considering such a measure under a bill passed with bipartisan support in the General Assembly. The House Government Oversight Committee amended SB91 (Schaffer) -- a bill originally focused on fraud, abuse and waste of public funds -- with language similar to SB158 (Cirino), which prohibits local governments from making revenue expenditures unless they have been appropriated by the local legislative authority, and are not compelled by a direct resident vote. Most Democrats voted against SB158 on the Senate floor, saying the bill likely violates home rule provisions of the Ohio Constitution. However, all Democrats except Sen. Kent Smith (D-Euclid) voted to concur with the House version of SB91. The House approved SB91 by a vote of 92-0.


House Speaker Jason Stephens (R-Kitts Hill) asked a judge to stay discovery in a lawsuit filed by caucus rivals over control of campaign funds. Stephens said Judge Mark Serrott of Franklin County Common Pleas Court should first have a chance to rule on his motion to dismiss. Discovery should also wait because Serrott asked the parties to try to mediate their claims, with a meeting on that set for Friday, Feb. 2.


House Democrats Tuesday announced the election of Rep. Michele Grim (D-Toledo) as the new minority assistant whip. This follows the resignation of former Rep. Tavia Galonski (D-Akron) from the Ohio House earlier this month to become the Summit County Clerk of Courts.


While she will "never give up" attempting to convince her Republican colleagues to allow Gov. Mike DeWine's veto of HB68 (Click) to stand, Senate Minority Leader Nickie Antonio (D-Lakewood) wasn’t optimistic they would be persuaded. "Look, if a parent weeping because of the fear of losing their child to death by suicide -- that stirred the governor, right? That really affected the governor. If that can't affect my other colleagues in the Senate ... I don't know what will move them not to do this," Antonio told Hannah News during a phone interview. "Sadly, this is using the LGBTQ community once again as a political football for votes and points ... a score on the scoreboard of who is the most conservative, who has the most conservative cred by how badly they can beat up marginalized people and marginalized communities," she said.


Senate President Matt Huffman (R-Lima) turned Tuesday to the 10th District Court of Appeals in his bid to quash a subpoena issued for him in the lawsuit over the constitutionality of Ohio's EdChoice program. Several school districts and resident families are suing the state over the voucher program, claiming it violates provisions of the Ohio Constitution requiring a "common" school system and prohibiting the control of education funding by religious sects. As part of the litigation, plaintiffs sought to depose Huffman, a longstanding supporter of school vouchers.


The Senate finalized Wednesday lawmakers’ override of two vetoes by Gov. Mike DeWine. The Senate voted 24-8 to override DeWine's veto of HB68 (Click), which restricts gender-affirming health care for minors and bans transgender women and girls from participating in women's and girls' school sports. Sen. Nathan Manning (R-North Ridgeville) joined all Democrats in opposing the override. The upper chamber also voted 24-8 to override the governor's line-item veto of HB33's (Edwards) language prohibiting local regulations of tobacco and alternative nicotine products. Sen. Louis Blessing (R-Cincinnati) joined all Democrats in voting against the override.


Gov. Mike DeWine and First Lady Fran DeWine joined with students visiting the state capitol to perform science experiments in the Statehouse Atrium Wednesday as part of Youth Discovery Day, one of a number of events at the Statehouse celebrating the unveiling of the "Ohioans in Space" artwork commissioned by the Capitol Square Review and Advisory Board and the Ohio Capitol Foundation.


The Ohio Statehouse hosted a discussion panel Wednesday moderated by Frederic Bertley, president and CEO of COSI, including formers astronauts Michael Good, Carl Walz and Don Thomas, and also Rep. Adam Holmes (R-Nashport); John Horack, the Neil Armstrong Chair at the John Glenn College at Ohio State University; Amanda Wright Lane, relative of the Wright brothers; and Casey Swails, NASA deputy associate administrator.


In other legislative action, the House Public Utilities Committee reported out HB226 (Robb Blasdel-Jarrells), regarding water service lines.


HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES


Health professionals discussed challenges and solutions related to workforce shortages during this week's Columbus Metropolitan Club (CMC) forum. Addressing the topic were Mount Carmel College of Nursing President Todd Ambrosia, Ohio State University College of Nursing Dean Karen Rose, Osteopathic Heritage Foundations Vice President Susan Beaudry and OhioHealth Dublin Methodist Hospital medical resident Chynna Smith. Greg Moody, now professional development director at OSU's Glenn College and once the top health care adviser to former Gov. John Kasich, moderated the discussion. Moody set the stage by noting two million Ohioans live in areas with major primary care shortages, not just for doctors but also dentists, nurses and home health. Even more live in an area where less than a third of mental health needs are met, he said. The result in these areas is delayed diagnoses and treatment, which exacerbate health conditions and lead to poorer outcomes.


HIGHER EDUCATION


The Ohio Department of Development (DOD) announced Tuesday companies can now apply to be part of its College Technology Internship Program in the summer of 2024. Under the program, the Ohio Third Frontier helps tech companies and other businesses with a technology need in hiring diverse talent and will pay two-thirds of each intern's salary up to $7,500. Companies can hire up to 10 interns per round and be reimbursed up to $75,000. The application window for companies will close on Monday, Feb. 12. For more information, go to http://tinyurl.com/5c7zyt2w .


Kent State University has launched four new cannabis-related certificate programs aimed at preparing students for the emerging industry. Registration for the programs is open now, and the first classes began this month with the next starting date for classes set for Monday, March 4. Kent State "Lifelong Learning's" cannabis certificate programs are open to the public to enroll and focus on four areas -- business, health care, compliance and agriculture. Green Flower, a cannabis education and training company, has partnered with the university to launch the programs. The programs were developed by industry leaders and professionals in each discipline, the university said, and instructors are selected by Green Flower based on their educational and industry expertise. Each certificate program costs $2,950. Students can enroll directly at https://cannabiseducation.kent.edu .


The University of Toledo's (UT) newly created Institute of Constitutional Thought and Leadership Wednesday hosted a conversation with two legal scholars about former president Donald Trump's eligibility to again hold public office. The institute is one of five "intellectual diversity" centers lawmakers established in the biennial budget, HB33 (Edwards). The conversation, which featured Mark Graber, a law professor at the University of Maryland, and Kurt Lash, a law professor at the University of Richmond, was the first event of the new center. The following week, the institute will co-host a discussion about the Ohio Constitution with Ohio Supreme Court Justices Melody Stewart and Patrick DeWine. That event, presented in partnership with the UT College of Law, begins at noon Tuesday, Jan. 30.


The Ohio State University (OSU) Department of Athletics reported a record-setting $279.5 million in revenue in FY23, the university announced Tuesday. That total is an 11 percent increase from FY22's record $251.6 million, OSU said in a news release.


Ohio Department of Higher Education (ODHE) Chancellor Mike Duffey Wednesday discussed some of the major obstacles in front of colleges and universities as they deal with financial hardships and a fraught political climate. The new chancellor appeared before the Senate Workforce and Higher Education Committee, where members who were present unanimously voted in favor of his appointment. The full Senate approved Duffey as the new ODHE chancellor later that day during Wednesday's session.


HOUSING/HOMELESSNESS


The Senate Select Committee on Housing Wednesday continued its investigation into housing issues across the state, hearing from housing advocates who detailed policies they said would improve access and affordability. Amy Klaben, president and CEO of Families Flourish, told the committee housing production has failed to keep pace with population growth, and the result has been rising rental prices that are surpassing income growth. Between 2009 and 2019, only one home was built for every 2.5 jobs created in Columbus, she said.


JUDICIAL


The Ohio Supreme Court is recommending major changes to its annual rules package in the face of opposition from leading voices on Capitol Square who say interpreting bail reforms in HB191 (Swearingen-Seitz) to require hearings within two days of arrest would force courts, clerks, prosecutors, public defenders and arresting officers to operate around the clock and seven days a week. The first round of proposed amendments to the Ohio Rules of Practice and Procedure also would have permitted a major expansion in litigants eligible to reopen their appeal following the Supreme Court opinion In re T.A. (2022), in which former Chief Justice Maureen O'Connor recommended that the Commission on the Rules of Practice and Procedure weigh changes to appellate Rule 26.


A politically divided Ohio Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that the DeWine administration did not have to release personnel and travel receipts from the governor's 2022 Super Bowl trip to Los Angeles in response to a public records request by the Cincinnati Enquirer. Republicans said while the documents' qualification as exempt security records is not "readily apparent," as the Ohio State Highway Patrol (OSHP) conceded, they nevertheless reveal the size, movement and logistics of DeWine's entourage that could shape the governor's future security measures.


Lt. Gov. Jon Husted announced Tuesday 15 new training providers will receive a total of $6.2 million to offer workforce education at no cost through the Individual Microcredential Assistance Program (IMAP). The providers include four-year universities, two-year colleges, career centers and private education providers. They will be reimbursed up to $3,000 for each tech-focused credential earned, and the 15 new providers create an opportunity for Ohioans to earn up to 3,390 additional credentials. IMAP training can be accessed both in-person and online.


MENTAL HEALTH


Gov. Mike DeWine, Ohio State University (OSU) President Ted Carter and others Friday announced the launch of a statewide research initiative to determine the root causes of mental illness and substance abuse issues. The study will last at least a decade, but DeWine said the goal is for research to continue for decades more, following thousands of Ohioans and generations of families for a closer look at the biological, psychological, and social factors that underlie behavioral health issues. The Ohio State Wexner Medical Center and College of Medicine is leading the research project, known as the State of Ohio Adversity and Resilience (SOAR) study, with a $20 million grant from the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services (OhioMHAS), funding that was provided in the most recent state operating budget, HB33 (Edwards).


NATURAL RESOURCES


Gov. Mike DeWine officially declared 2024 as the Year of Ohio State Parks. This declaration marks the 75th anniversary of Ohio State Parks and underscores the state's commitment to preserving its natural wonders and expanding outdoor adventures. "Ohio's state parks, where admission is always free, give visitors an opportunity to gain a deeper appreciation of Ohio's natural heritage," DeWine said. "The 'Year of Ohio State Parks' is the perfect time to visit one or more of Ohio's 75 state parks, experience our state's natural beauty, and actively participate in the preservation of these treasured lands."


The Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) last week joined the Appalachia Ohio Alliance (AOA) to officially declare Bison Hollow as the 146th state nature preserve. "State nature preserves play a significant role in protecting Ohio's natural wonders," Gov. Mike DeWine said in a statement. "From the cliff faces to the towering trees, there are so many features at Bison Hollow that sum up the beauty of this state." Bison Hollow, which weaves from Hocking County to Vinton County, is the first nature preserve to be dedicated in Vinton County.


PEOPLE


The Ohio Manufacturers' Association (OMA) announced the appointment of former Ohio Senate deputy press secretary and digital media manager Tom Evans Friday as its new director of communications and marketing. An Ohio native, Evans grew up in Dallas, obtained his undergraduate degree in journalism from Abilene Christian University, served the U.S. Army in Japan, and recently received his master of public administration from Ohio University on returning to his home state.


Thomas Charles, who was the state's longest-serving inspector general and who also led the Ohio Department of Public Safety (ODPS), died Tuesday at the age of 81. His career of public service included over 31 years in the Ohio State Highway Patrol until he retired in 1994 as a lieutenant colonel. He was state inspector general from 1998 to 2011, was DPS director from 2011 to 2013, and then served as an advisor to JobsOhio regarding ethics compliance.


The Ohio Lobbying Association (OLA) Foundation announced this week that it awarded scholarships to three Ohio students studying public policy. Julia Rizzo is majoring in public management, leadership, and policy at Ohio State University. Rizzo has served as a page in the Ohio Senate and interned with Franklin County Commissioner Kevin Boyce. Emma Robinson is also a public management, leadership, and policy major at Ohio State. She has worked alongside Sen. Theresa Gavarone (R-Bowling Green) in the Ohio Senate and hopes to continue her studies and career in combating human trafficking. Kennedy Aikey is majoring in political science and criminal justice at Ohio Northern University. Aikey has interned with the Lima City Prosecutor's Office and the Ohio Northern University Legal Aid Clinic.


POLITICS


The Ohio Democratic Party (ODP) announced Thursday that it has hired Katie Smith to serve as senior communications advisor. In that role, ODP said Smith will support the communications of the party with a specific focus on the U.S. Senate race and what it called "Republican accountability." With Smith's hire, Reeves Oyster -- who previously filled the Ohio Democratic Party's senior communications advisor role -- will transition into her new role as communications director for the Friends of Sherrod Brown campaign. Matt Keyes will remain the primary press contact for the Ohio Democratic Party.


POVERTY


Ohio will be one of 44 states, U.S. territories and tribes to launch permanent summer grocery benefits in 2024 as part of a program by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to reduce food insecurity and boost nutrition for children while they are not in school. Following the expanded benefits from the federal government issued during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, USDA tested distributing monthly benefits to some Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) participants in the summers during 2021 and 2022. Congress approved expansion of the program to more states in December 2022. In the summer of 2024, Ohio will join 34 other states, all five U.S. territories and four Tribes in the initial launch of the Summer Electronic Benefit Transfer (Summer EBT). Participating states will provide families with $120 per eligible child ($40 per month) to buy food at grocery stores, farmers markets and other authorized sellers, similar to how SNAP benefits are currently used.


PUBLIC SAFETY


AMBER Alerts sent in Ohio will now be able to include more information about emergency situations, the Ohio State Highway Patrol announced Thursday. The Ohio AMBER Alert Advisory Committee has announced that Wireless Emergency Alerts (WEAs) sent to enabled mobile devices are now able to receive messages of up to 360 characters, up from the 90-character text messages the system previously used. The committee says that increased technology by both wireless carriers and wireless device manufacturers have enabled the change.


STATE GOVERNMENT


The Division of State Fire Marshal Monday announced Joshua Lewis has been appointed as the state's volunteer fire service coordinator, a new position recommended by the Governor's Volunteer Fire Service Task Force. Lewis will help ensure Ohio volunteer fire departments have the necessary support to identify and recruit firefighters to fill their ranks, as well as serve as a resource for training and grants.


TAXATION


Ohio would phase out its income tax entirely and eliminate the Commercial Activity Tax (CAT) as well under plans announced Tuesday. Reps. Adam Mathews (R-Lebanon) and Brian Lampton (R-Beavercreek) and Sens. Steve Huffman (R-Tipp City) and George Lang (R-West Chester) said at a Statehouse press conference they're introducing two variations on the plan, reflective of their call to put the end goal in sight but tailor the specifics to changing economic conditions.


Schools, libraries, counties, townships and other local jurisdictions are arguing against legislation ending their ability to seek replacement levies. Under HB344 (Mathews-Hall), political subdivisions could no longer seek replacement levies, which extend an existing levy at its original millage rate, as opposed to a renewal levy, which extends a levy at its effective millage rate, meaning after the application of reduction factors. The prohibition would take effect in October of this year.


Gov. Mike DeWine and First Lady Fran DeWine joined with students visiting the state capitol to perform science experiments in the Statehouse Atrium Wednesday as part of Youth Discovery Day, one of a number of events at the Statehouse celebrating the unveiling of the "Ohioans in Space" artwork commissioned by the Capitol Square Review and Advisory Board and the Ohio Capitol Foundation.


WORKERS’ COMPENSATION


The Ohio Bureau of Workers' Compensation (BWC) is now taking registrations for the 2024 Ohio Safety Congress & Expo scheduled Wednesday, March 27 through Friday, March 29 at the Greater Columbus Convention Center. OSC24, short-hand for this year's event, is billed as the country's largest work-safety conference offering free continuing education (CE) for health and safety and health professionals across 13 content tracks. CE credits are awarded exclusively for in-person attendance, though select sessions will be livestreamed.

 


 



 



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


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