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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Disagreement over the importance of going to the ballot in November 2023 is the main reason two major abortion rights groups are continuing to work on separate constitutional amendments, leaders of Protect Choice Ohio (PCO) and Ohioans for Reproductive Freedom (ORF) told Hannah News. PCO, which is led by Ohio Physicians for Reproductive Rights (OPRR), and ORF -- which includes the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Ohio, Planned Parenthood Advocates of Ohio (PPAO), Abortion Fund Ohio, Pro-Choice Ohio, New Voices for Reproductive Justice, Ohio Women's Alliance Preterm-Cleveland and URGE -- both announced their potential campaigns in December 2022. PCO President Dr. Marcela Azevedo said her organization started working on its ballot measure in July 2022, shortly after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade.
The OneOhio Recovery Foundation is currently accepting applications from individuals interested in joining its expert panel, a group of independent advisers who will help guide the distribution of millions of dollars to support addiction relief, recovery and prevention efforts across the state. Ohioans interested in applying should visit https://www.oneohiofoundation.com/expert-panel-application and submit a completed application using the online form or by emailing the PDF application to Apply@oneohiofoundation.com. All applications and applicant resumes must be received no later than Friday, Feb. 17.
Gov. Mike DeWine Friday announced the selection of Rep. Brian Baldridge (R-Winchester) as the next director of the Ohio Department of Agriculture (ODAg). Baldridge represents the 90th Ohio House District which encompasses all of Adams and Scioto counties and parts of Brown County. He succeeds another former legislator, Dorothy Pelanda, who retired at the end of 2022 after having served as ODAg director for the governor's first term. Baldridge chaired the House Transportation and Public Safety Committee in the last General Assembly and supported Rep. Derek Merrin (R-Maumee) for speaker. Baldrige must be confirmed by the Ohio Senate.
Ohio State Fair officials announced that Kidz Bop will once again take the stage in the WCOL Celeste Center for opening day of the Ohio State Fair on Wednesday, July 26 with its "Kidz Bop Never Stop Live Tour" concert. Fairgoers of all ages can sing and dance along with the Kidz Bop children as they perform. Tickets will go on sale Friday, Feb. 24.
ARTS, SPORTS AND ENTERTAINMENT
Eight winners have been selected to receive the "Governor's Awards for the Arts in Ohio" in 2023, the Ohio Arts Council (OAC) announced Tuesday. The awards recognize exceptional Ohio artists, arts organizations, leaders, patrons, educators and business support of the arts. The awardees will be honored during a ceremony on Wednesday, May 17. Award recipients include the following: Kathy Wade of Cincinnati for arts administration; Douglas Marrah of Ashland for arts education; Louella Reese of Granville for being an arts patron; Walnut Street Gallery in Wooster for business support of the arts; co-winners Michael London of Dayton and Black Swamp Arts Festival in Bowling Green for community development and participation; and Tricia Kaman of Cleveland as the individual artist. Ann Hamilton of Columbus will receive the Irma Lazarus Award.
Two of Attorney General Dave Yost's highest-ranking staff members face questioning over his relationship with the Republican Attorneys General Association (RAGA) and Rule of Law Defense Fund (RLDF) after former Chief Justice Maureen O'Connor and Democrats on the Ohio Supreme Court refused to dismiss the Center for Media and Democracy's (CMD) public records complaint against Yost. Senior Policy Advisor Kevin Servick, director of business and government for the AG, and Communications Director Bethany McCorkle must respond to CMD depositions concerning Yost's private communications with RAGA, RLFD and their corporate donors.
Individuals who solicit and purchase sex from human trafficking victims -- also known as "johns" -- are becoming less comfortable in Ohio as law enforcement has stepped up demand reduction efforts, Attorney General (AG) Dave Yost said Thursday. "I've noticed something that's happened over the last four years -- particularly on a john sting, or one of these operations where we're looking at guys that are responding to Internet ads and such -- they're really getting nervous," Yost said during the fourth annual Human Trafficking Summit at the Greater Columbus Convention Center.
With the General Assembly expected to begin debate on the FY24-25 transportation budget shortly, Greater Ohio Policy Center (GOPC) released its recommendations focusing on two programs. First, GOPC said lawmakers should invest at least $75 million per year in public transportation, or $150 million over the biennium. The group noted that the current transportation budget relies on a combination of General Revenue Funds (GRF) and federal highway "flex funding" to get a net allocation of $70 million for public transit agencies. However, a requirement that local agencies provide matching funds to draw down federal funds means the funding is inaccessible to small, rural systems, GOPC said, so it is recommending that instead of using "flex funding” lawmakers should favor 100 percent GRF spending. The group is also asking lawmakers to match Ohio's $5 million in federal funding for the "Safe Routes to Schools" Program with $5 million from the GRF for a total of $10 million per year. GOPC said the program is popular and oversubscribed and protects the lives of children.
An alliance of organizations focused on children's wellbeing and the think tank Policy Matters Ohio (PMO) Thursday separately released their priorities for the upcoming FY24-25 biennial budget deliberations ahead of Gov. Mike DeWine’s delivering his executive proposal to lawmakers on Tuesday, Jan. 31. The Ohio Children's Budget Coalition released a report, "Creating a Vision of Child Well-Being for Ohio," which describes current policy, opportunities for improvement and specific recommendations in 15 areas spanning physical and behavioral health, nutrition, education, child care, foster care, youth incarceration and economic security. Among the coalition's recommendations is doubling funding for key lead poisoning prevention programs and moving enforcement authority for the federal Renovation, Repair and Painting (RPP) rule for pre-1978 housing to the state level and giving it to the Ohio Department of Health. Another recommendation is providing additional Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) money for rapid rehousing and wrap-around services for families and pregnant women, as well as additional money for the Healthy Beginnings at Home pilot project, which provides housing supports and other assistance to pregnant women and new mothers in an effort to improve infant mortality rates and improve birth outcomes. Expansion of this program was already identified as a priority by DeWine as part of his "Bold Beginning" initiative.
Policy Matters structures its recommendations around measuring how Ohio compares to other states in four domains: health and wellness; learning and growth; connection and community; and dignity and opportunity. The think tank frames its report around assessing a claim made by DeWine in his 2022 "State of the State" speech that "there is simply no better place to raise a family than Ohio."
Groundwork Ohio, too, released its new "Early Childhood Dashboard," which takes an in-depth, data-driven look at the health and education of young children in Ohio ahead of the release of the proposed FY24-25 budget. The dashboard, which was created in partnership with the Health Policy Institute of Ohio (HPIO), incorporates more than 60 metrics across six different domains. It compares Ohio data to national averages on a range of issues from infant and maternal health and health care access to kindergarten readiness, chronic absenteeism, exposure to traumatic events in early childhood, economic stability, and more. The dashboard "illuminates areas in need of increased investment, focused attention, and urgent action in Ohio's upcoming biennial budget and beyond; and will help inform policymakers and the public about the realities facing Ohio families," Groundwork Ohio said.
In the past two decades, researchers have made great strides in uncovering how children learn math, but little of that new knowledge has trickled down to teachers, according to a new book on math education co-authored by an Ohio State University (OSU) professor. The gap between research and practice is particularly unfortunate, given the current state of American students' math skills, said Nancy Krasa, co-author of How Children Learn Math: The Science of Math Learning in Research and Practice. Krasa, who is an adjunct assistant professor of psychology at Ohio State, said, "In 2019, only about one-fourth of high school seniors scored at or above the proficiency level in math. And all indications are that this has only gotten worse with the learning loss associated with the COVID-19 pandemic." Krasa, a licensed psychologist specializing in children with learning difficulties, said there is a way to meet these challenges, including for children who have trouble with mathematics.
Nearly three years after the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, school closures and lost instructional time continue to take a toll on students and schools. The latest National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) -- also called the Nation's Report Card -- found significant drop-offs in reading and math proficiency for fourth and eighth grade students both in Ohio and across the country. The pandemic also exacerbated existing gaps in the education system with students from low income families and Black and Hispanic students faring far worse than higher income, White students. The Columbus Metropolitan Club's (CMC) Wednesday forum sought to identify some ways to move forward. Panelist Stephane Lavertu suggested schools and policy makers might need to moderate their expectations of how much learning loss can be quickly recovered.
Former U.S. Rep. Jim Renacci Thursday announced a new a political action committee that would help "restore conservative leadership" to Ohio's school districts. The Save Our Schools Ohio (SOS Ohio) PAC will be working with and uniting dozens of statewide, education-based organizations to help elect or reelect local school board candidates in dozens of races in 2023, Renacci said. The group will work to collect data and analyze all school races to help identify crucial races to flip control of local school boards. It will also assist candidates in raising funds and targeting voters.
The Ohio Elections Commission Thursday levied a $250 fine against Rep. Terrence Upchurch's (D-Cleveland) campaign based on a referral from the secretary of state's office over a failure to respond to errors in the campaign's finance reports. Brian Katz, director of campaign finance for the secretary of state's office, said the issues with the campaign go back to 2018 and the Upchurch campaign failed to respond to multiple letters from the secretary of state's office, with the final letter leading to a referral in 2021. Among the issues he noted were expenses with an unknown vendor, multiple months of withdrawals from the campaign fund that were not properly reported, and a cash contribution above the $100 limit not reported correctly.
Democrat Tamie Wilson of Delaware announced Wednesday that she will seek the Democratic nomination to run for the 4th Congressional District in 2024, potentially setting up a rematch with U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Urbana). Jordan defeated Wilson in November with 69 percent of the vote.
According to the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS), Ohio's unemployment was 4.2 percent in December, unchanged from November's rate, as the state added 1,900 jobs over the month. ODFJS said the number of workers unemployed in Ohio in December was 244,000, up from 243,000 in November. The number of unemployed has decreased by 12,000 in the past 12 months from 256,000. The U.S. unemployment rate for December 2022 was 3.5 percent, down from 3.6 percent in November 2022, and down from 3.9 percent in December 2021.
Natural gas output from Ohio's Utica and Marcellus shale regions rose just over 1 percent in the third quarter of 2022 -- the Ohio Department of Natural Resources' (ODNR) latest reporting period -- while oil yields fell by roughly the same amount. Horizontal wells in eastern and southern Ohio produced 543 billion cubic feet (cf) of natural gas between July-September of last year compared to a revised department figure of 536 billion cf in the second quarter. Year-over-year, Q3 2022 still trailed 674 billion cf of natural gas from third-quarter 2021 and Ohio's all-time high of 685 billion cf in 2019.
The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) unanimously approved a $68.2 million rate hike for Columbia Gas of Ohio Thursday over the objection of Ohio Partners for Affordable Energy (OPAE), Environmental Law and Policy Center (ELPC) and Citizens Utility Board (CUB), which said higher residential fixed charges and eliminated energy efficiency programs for all but low-income groups were not in consumers' interests. The vote made official a three-month-old settlement between a wide range of parties including PUCO staff, Office of Ohio Consumers' Counsel (OCC), Ohio Manufacturers' Association (OMA) Energy Group, Industrial Energy Users (IEU) Ohio, Interstate Gas Supply (IGS), Northeast Ohio Public Energy Council (NOPEC), Ohio Schools Council (OSC), Retail Energy Supply Association (RESA), The Kroger Co., and Columbia Gas, which serves 1.45 million customers in 60 Ohio counties.
The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) Nominating Council forwarded four names to the governor Thursday to replace outgoing Commissioner M. Beth Trombold, including PUCO veteran and current Transportation Department Director John Williams of Columbus, a political independent who received 10 votes; Regulatory Affairs Director Christopher Healey of Enervee Corp. in Lewis Center, a former assistant consumers' counsel at the Office of Ohio Consumers' Counsel (OCC) and Democrat who received nine votes; former state representative and attorney general candidate Jeffrey Crossman of Parma, a Democrat who received eight votes; and state Rep. Mike Skindell (D-Lakewood), a longtime legislator who received five votes.
The Greater Ohio Policy Center (GOPC) Wednesday released an updated white paper which examined all three funding rounds of the Brownfield Remediation Fund. GOPC previously released a paper on the first round of the program and called for allocating another $500 million in the next budget. The fund invested a total of $341 million in environmental cleanup, with projects underway to "assess, cleanup and revitalize brownfields" in 83 Ohio counties, according to GOPC. That supports 188 clean-up projects and 125 assessments, and nearly 98 percent of the Ohio population lives in the counties which received grant awards.
A lobbying income reporting provision of Rep. Derek Merrin's (R-Maumee) proposed ethics reform bill could be problematic, according to Ohio Lobbying Association (OLA) President Josh Sanders. Part of the ethics reform bill would require all lobbying income to be reported and sourced directly to clients. "While we have not yet seen any details of the legislation, it is greatly concerning to hear part of the proposed legislation is to force private companies to reveal the terms of private contracts, which does little to improve ethics laws governing policymakers," Sanders said in a statement.
Hospital-based nurse training programs have gone from an existential crisis to positioning themselves to expand thanks to recently adopted federal legislation sponsored by Ohio's U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, one college leader said Wednesday. Brown held a press conference call with Nate Brandstater, president of Kettering College, one of several Ohio programs that will benefit from the federal Technical Reset to Advance the Instruction of Nurses (TRAIN) Act, which was passed in December as part of the sweeping government funding package. Brown introduced the legislation with his GOP neighbor to the southeast, West Virginia U.S. Sen. Shelly Moore Capito. The legislation provides funding and protections for hospital-based nursing and allied health profession training programs.
In a raucous floor session Tuesday, the Ohio House elected the rest of the chamber's Republican leadership slate and adopted the rules for the chamber over the loud objections of Rep. Derek Merrin (R-Maumee) and his allied members, after House Speaker Jason Stephens (R-Kitts Hill) refused to allow debate on the resolutions. In its only unanimous vote, the House adopted HCR3 (Oelslager), which sets a joint House and Senate session for the "State of the State" address for noon Tuesday, Jan. 31.
After the vote on HR10 (Oelslager) was adopted 62-34, some Republican members refused to stand and applaud with the rest of the House as the leadership team -- Rep. Bill Seitz (R-Cincinnati) as majority floor leader, Rep. Jon Cross (R-Kenton) as assistant majority floor leader, Rep. Jim Hoops (R-Napoleon) as majority whip, and Rep. Sharon Ray (R-Wadsworth) as assistant majority whip -- was sworn in. Hoops and Ray had both supported Merrin for speaker.
On the next motion to adopt the rules, Stephens again called for a vote rather than allow amendments. The rules package as part of HR11 (Oelslager) passed 63-35. At least one concern of Merrin and his allies was addressed, stating that the "speaker shall not eliminate parking privileges or the office of a member without the member's consent and may not remove a member's staff without the member's acquiescence." Some Republicans had expressed concerns that they could be punished by losing staff or parking spots for falling out of line with the speaker. Also under those rules, the House minority leader will have more say over her own members than in previous sessions.
Stephens announced committee chairs on Monday, choosing Rep. Jay Edwards (R-Nelsonville) to lead the House Finance Committee. Rep. Jeff LaRe (R-Canal Winchester) will be vice chair. Chairing the seven House Finance subcommittees are the following:
House Finance Subcommittee on Agriculture, Development and Natural Resources, chaired by Rep. Don Jones (RFreeport).
House Finance Subcommittee on Health and Human Services, chaired by Rep. Sara Carruthers (R-Hamilton).
House Finance Subcommittee on Higher Education, chaired by Rep. Gayle Manning (R-North Ridgeville).
House Finance Subcommittee on Infrastructure and American Rescue Plan, chaired by Rep. Jamie Callender (R-Concord).
House Finance Subcommittee on Primary and Secondary Education, chaired by Rep. Tracy Richardson (R-Marysville).
House Finance Subcommittee on Public Safety, chaired by Rep. Kevin Miller (R-Newark).
House Finance Subcommittee on Transportation, chaired by Rep. Tom Patton (R-Strongsville).
House Minority Leader Allison Russo (D-Upper Arlington) released the committee assignments for her members on Thursday, with a number of freshmen getting spots as ranking members on various committees. Rep. Bride Sweeney (D-Cleveland) will again serve as the ranking member for the House Finance Committee. Ranking minority members on the subcommittees include the following:
House Finance Subcommittee on Agriculture, Development and Natural Resources – Rep. Dan Troy (D-Willowick).
House Finance Subcommittee on Health and Human Services – Rep. Beth Liston (D-Dublin).
House Finance Subcommittee on Higher Education – Rep. Dontavious Jarrells (D-Columbus).
House Finance Subcommittee on Infrastructure and American Rescue Plan – Skindell.
House Finance Subcommittee on Primary and Secondary Education – Rep. Dani Isaacsohn (D-Cincinnati).
House Finance Subcommittee on Public Safety – Rep. Adam Miller (D-Columbus).
House Finance Subcommittee on Transportation – Rep. Mike Skindell (D-Lakewood).
A change to House rules this session means subcommittee members do not have to be members of the full House Finance Committee.
In its first meeting of the new General Assembly and with a number of new faces, the Controlling Board continued to ask questions of state agencies on unbid contracts or to urge better communication with lawmakers. Among the items held for questioning but later approved was a request from the Ohio Department of Medicaid (ODM) to continue contracting with Gainwell Technologies for the use of its software for the Medicaid Information Technology System at least through the end of FY23. Sen. Jerry Cirino (R-Kirtland) asked the agency why the contract wasn't being competitively bid. Steven Alexander, legislative liaison for ODM, explained that ODM has been competitively bidding various aspects of its new enterprise system, and have been bidding out different modules of that new system piecemeal. He said as a result of doing that process incrementally, ODM will have to continue to use the Gainwell system for a little longer.
Rep. Beth Lear (R-Galena), who defeated incumbent Rep. Shawn Stevens (R-Sunbury) in the primary and then Louise Valentine in the general election to win the 61st House District seat, is no stranger to the Statehouse, having been a legislative aide to Reps. Jim Mason and Ron Hood, an education policy analyst and lobbyist for the Buckeye Institute and then lobbyist for the Associated Builders and Contractors of Ohio.
Rep. Tim Barhorst (R-Fort Loramie), while new to elected office, is experienced in state politics from his work with the former Ohio Association of Health Underwriters, now known as the National Association of Benefits & Insurance Professionals Ohio Chapter. That background and his experience with the rollout of the federal Affordable Care Act (ACA) prompted him to first seek office a few years ago. Barhorst made an unsuccessful run for the House in 2018 in the Columbus suburbs, losing to Rep. Mary Lightbody (DWesterville). After that, he moved back to his Shelby County hometown of Fort Loramie, saying as a single father he wanted to raise his now-teenaged son closer to family. In his 2022 run, he won a three-way primary over Rochiel Foulk and Lilli Johnson Vitale, the spouse of the term-limited incumbent he was seeking to succeed, Rep. Nino Vitale (R-Urbana). Barhorst faced no general election opponent and now holds the 85th District seat, which encompasses Champaign and Shelby counties and part of Logan County.
Sen. Bill DeMora (D-Columbus) never expected to hold elected office and previously tried to avoid the Statehouse, but he nonetheless intends to make his presence known, particularly to the GOP majority. "I have an open-door policy, I'm going to meet with anybody who wants to meet with me, but, I mean, I'm here to be the Democrat in the caucus, with a big D. That's my role," DeMora told Hannah News during an interview in his office. "I'm going to ruffle some feathers. I'm going to ruffle some Democratic feathers, I'm sure of that, but I'm certainly going to ruffle some Republican feathers." DeMora is a veteran of state politics on the campaign side, having worked for the Ohio Democratic Party and run many campaigns -- including a few while he was campaigning for his own Senate seat.
Gov. Mike DeWine and Lt. Gov. Jon Husted Thursday announced a plan to remove "duplicative, outdated and unnecessary regulations" from the Ohio Administrative Code (OAC), reducing its size by one-third. Husted said the proposal will eliminate more than five million words covering over 20,000 pages in the OAC, and gave examples of sections to be removed. They include Ohio Lottery Commission regulations on games that are no longer played; Ohio Department of Higher Education copies of university policies that are already published on each institution's website; and word-for-word replication of national building and fire code standards that can be rewritten to only identify differences between Ohio and other states. The review process was augmented by using an artificial intelligence (AI) tool. The DeWine administration is also adding a re-introduction of "Innovate the Code" provisions from the 134th General Assembly to the forthcoming budget. That language was previously offered in 134-SB279 (Wilson) and 134-HB524 (T. Hall).
Gov. Mike DeWine told reporters Thursday he believes House Republicans will work out the ongoing tensions after Rep. Jason Stephens (R-Kitts Hill) was elected speaker over Rep. Derek Merrin (R-Maumee), adding that it was not "appropriate" for him as governor to get involved in the matter. In response to a question from Hannah News on Afghan and Ukrainian refugees, DeWine discussed how language barriers can be an impediment to finding work. Among those who do speak English already, many can face challenges in obtaining licensure for careers they previously had as well. The administration is looking at how to address those problems, he added. Asked about proposed House rule changes which were not accepted, such as carrying firearms on the floor or only allowing Christian prayers, DeWine said he would defer to the House rather than giving his opinions but also noted that "just because suggestions are made or bills are introduced, doesn't mean they are going anywhere."
Fairfield County Judge Richard Berens Friday declined to issue a preliminary injunction to block recently-passed gun ordinances by Columbus City Council from taking effect, saying that Attorney General Dave Yost, who filed the lawsuit, had not demonstrated a likelihood of success at trial or that there will be an irreparable injury if the injunction is not granted. The Columbus ordinances were passed on Dec. 5 and ban magazines that hold 30 or more rounds and require safe storage of firearms around children, among other provisions. Yost filed the lawsuit in Fairfield County, where 11,000 Columbus residents live, arguing that the ordinances violate the Ohio Constitution's right to bear arms. Berens had originally granted Yost's request for a temporary restraining order last month. However, in his opinion on the preliminary injunction, Berens referred to Arnold v. Cleveland, where the Ohio Supreme Court applied a test of "reasonableness" to local gun ordinances and found that "reasonable gun control legislation is that which is fair, proper, moderate, suitable under the circumstances and not excessive."
HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES
Gov. Mike DeWine and Ohio Department of Medicaid (ODM) Director Maureen Corcoran launched Comprehensive Maternal Care (CMC) on Monday. CMC is a community-based, statewide program aimed at improving the health and well-being of mothers, infants and families covered by Medicaid. The program creates a framework for providers and community partners to work together to develop person-centered, customized interventions to support women and families who've historically lacked ready access to high-quality responsive care before and after pregnancy. To participate, obstetrical practices are required to measure and engage with patients and families through advisory councils or other means to hear firsthand accounts of how access to care, cultural competence and communication methods affect patient outcomes. Practices must use patient input to improve the patient experience and reduce disparities. They also must consider and link patients to resources that address broader factors of health -- such as housing, food instability and transportation.
Wright State University students can now learn how to design and fabricate circuit boards and other microelectronics in a new lab supported by a $29.75 million Air Force contract, the university said. Located in the Russ Engineering Center, the Digital Microelectronics Lab provides a space for hands-on training to work in the microchip and microelectronic fields. Students will also learn how to test and assure that circuit boards, microchips and microelectronics are free of malicious software and hardware. The lab is supported by the ADMETE contract awarded by the U.S. Air Force to Wright State and the University of Akron, Youngstown State, Ohio University, the University of Toledo and Lorain County Community College.
The family of Stone Foltz and Bowling Green State University (BGSU) announced Monday they have reached a $2.9 million settlement in the lawsuit over the hazing death of Stone Foltz nearly two years ago. The settlement is the largest payout ever by a public university in a hazing case in Ohio, according to the attorney for the family. Stone Foltz was a 20-year-old sophomore at BGSU when he died in March 2021 after drinking "a copious amount of alcohol" at an off-campus event organized by the BGSU chapter of Pi Kappa Alpha (PIKE) fraternity, of which Foltz was a new pledge.
Mike Rodgers will join the Ohio State University (OSU) Office of Government Affairs as the next associate vice president for state relations, effective Monday, Jan. 30, 2023. Rodgers will represent the university before the Ohio General Assembly, executive branch, and other government entities. Rodgers has nearly 20 years of experience working in state government, spending the past four as a member of Attorney General Dave Yost's executive staff, serving as director of policy and public affairs. Prior to that, Rodgers was the chief legal counsel at Opportunities for Ohioans with Disabilities, a deputy legal counsel at the Ohio Department of Natural Resources and the chief legal counsel for the Ohio Department of Agriculture. Rodgers replaces Brian Perera, who was in the role for eight years.
Capital University and Columbus State Community College (CSCC) announced an expansion of their ongoing partnership to include scholarships that cover full tuition and mandatory fees for eligible CSCC students who transfer to Capital to pursue bachelor's degrees beginning in fall 2023. This is the latest expansion of Capital's Main Street Scholarship program, which offers a minimum of a $20,000 merit-based scholarship to all accepted, full-time, undergraduate students who are entering their first year of college. The program began in fall 2022.
The Ohio Department of Insurance (ODI) announced that its director, Judith French, was named chair of the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) Life Insurance and Annuities Committee, among other ODI representation on NAIC panels. French is also a member of the Innovation, Cybersecurity and Technology Committee. The Life Insurance and Annuities Committee focuses on issues around the underwriting, pricing, and suitability aspects of life insurance and annuity products while the Innovation, Cybersecurity, and Technology Committee addresses cybersecurity, innovation, data security, and privacy protections in insurance.
Intel said in a release Monday that it had been approximately one year since the company announced it would invest an initial $20 billion to build two semiconductor chip factories in New Albany. As part of that anniversary, Intel said the site will be named "Ohio One." "The name is a nod to the state's long and storied history in manufacturing and its track record of producing firsts," Intel explained. The company also released a one-year anniversary video. In it, Vice President and Ohio General Manager Jim Evers discusses that Intel picked Ohio for its government cooperation and sources of talent. He added he believes Intel has lived up to its commitment to be a "great neighbor" so far.
"Larry Householder sold the Statehouse." Thus did Deputy Criminal Chief Emily Glatfelter of the U.S. Attorney's Office of the Southern District in Ohio frame the public corruption case against former Republican House Speaker Larry Householder Monday in her opening statement on the first day of trial before federal Judge Timothy Black. Glatfelter linked the two-time House speaker and former Ohio Republican Party Chairman Matt Borges -- on trial with Householder -- to a $61 million FirstEnergy bribe to the two men and alleged coconspirators to help pass legislation benefiting the utility with $1 billion in nuclear energy subsidies, 133-HB6 (Callender-Wilkin).
A dozen current and former Ohio Supreme Court justices and members of the General Assembly joined the attorney general and lieutenant governor Wednesday to honor Chief Justice Sharon Kennedy at her swearing-in as the state's top jurist. Speakers praised her optimism and determination, and Kennedy promised not only to uphold the rule of law and address court backlogs but also to lift up the needy. Officials present for the afternoon ceremony included Attorney General Dave Yost, Lt. Gov. Jon Husted, House Speaker Jason Stephens (R-Kitts Hill) and former House Speaker/Supreme Court Justice Bob Cupp. Justices Melody Stewart, Michael Donnelly and Joe Deters were in attendance, while Justices Patrick Fischer, R. Patrick DeWine and Jennifer Brunner submitted prepared remarks due to scheduling conflicts. Past members of the Court also included Hon. Paul Pfeifer, Hon. Mary DeGenaro and Hon. Evelyn Lundberg Stratton, who delivered the oath. Among legislators on hand were Reps. Bill Seitz (R-Cincinnati), Sara Carruthers (R-Hamilton), Thomas Hall (R-Middletown), Monica Robb Blasdel (R-Columbiana) and the outgoing Brian Baldridge (R-Winchester). Former veteran legislator Dave Johnson, a member of the Ohio Republican Party (ORP) State Central Committee and the Ohio Bureau of Workers' Compensation (BWC) Board of Directors, served as master of ceremonies.
The Ohio Supreme Court this week dismissed an appeal of a case involving an appeals court candidate and a tie-breaking vote cast by the secretary of state, saying that the case is now moot. The case, McKitrick v. LaRose, was related to the candidacy of Jill Flagg Lanzinger, a Barberton Municipal Court judge who was elected in November to the Ninth District Court of Appeals.
Laura Lee Wilson, director of the Huron County Community Library, is the new chair of the Ohio Library Council (OLC), the organization announced. Wilson succeeds Tom Dillie, director of the Minerva Public Library, who will serve as past chair. Other officers include Sarah Clevidence, director of the Findlay-Hancock County Public library, as chair-elect and Mary Ellen Icaza, director of the Stark County District Library, as secretary-treasurer. All officers serve one-year terms. New board members include Kathy Bach, public services director for Cincinnati & Hamilton County Public Library; Julianne Bedel, director of Medina County District Library; and Robert Jenkins, trustee with Dr. Samuel L. Bossard Memorial Library of Gallia County.
The Ohio Township Association (OTA) has hired Kyle Brooks as director of governmental affairs, the organization announced Friday. Brooks previously worked for former U.S. Rep. Bob Gibbs (R-Lakeville), where he served in various positions since 2016. With a focus on military and veteran services, he represented Gibbs in five of the 10 counties in the district and worked extensively on policy briefings, collaborated on strategic goals, and led roundtable discussions on current events and issues with constituents.
The Strategy Group Company announced that Billy Grant will join the company as political director. Described by the company as a "well-connected" GOP operative, Grant will be leading The Strategy Group's sales efforts in the 2024 cycle and beyond. According to the release, Grant has years of experience, including having served in 2022 as vice president of strategy at Arsenal Media Group, where he led Kari Lake's successful primary campaign.
The Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) Division of Wildlife stocked 52.3 million fish of 11 species in Ohio waters throughout 2022 at 203 locations statewide. The total represents a 15 increase over the annual production and stocking goal of 44 million fish. The division operates six state fish hatcheries that raise sport fish including saugeye, walleye, yellow perch, rainbow trout, steelhead trout, brown trout, muskellunge, hybrid-striped bass, blue catfish, channel catfish, and bluegill. The majority of Ohio's fish populations are sustained through natural reproduction; however, stocking expands and diversifies fishing opportunities in waters where existing habitats do not support some fish populations.
Hunters checked 13,617 white-tailed deer during Ohio's muzzleloader season that concluded on Tuesday, Jan. 10, according to the ODNR Division of Wildlife. This total accounts for all deer taken with a muzzleloader or archery equipment during the four-day season. Over the last three years, an average of 11,429 deer were taken during the muzzleloader season. In 2022, hunters checked 12,912 deer in the same period. Deer hunters found success in all 88 of Ohio's counties during the season. The top 10 counties for harvest were Coshocton (518), Muskingum (468), Tuscarawas (452), Knox (397), Licking (390), Guernsey (375), Washington (345), Carroll (338), Meigs (335), and Ashtabula (288). Coshocton County was top in the state during the 2022 season with 489 deer harvested.
It is now illegal to sell, grow, or plant Callery pear (also known as Bradford pear) in Ohio because of its invasive qualities and likelihood to cause economic or environmental harm. There is no requirement for the removal of existing plants, but the ODNR Division of Forestry is encouraging control and removal to benefit native forest ecosystems. "Callery pear often dominates young, regenerating forest areas and inhibits the growth and establishment of native plant species," Division of Forestry Chief Dan Balser said. Callery pear is an ornamental species native to regions of Asia. It was introduced to North America in the early 1900s for agricultural use. It quickly became a favorite in landscaping for its adaptability, flowering, fall color, and rounded crown.
The investment expert appointed to the State Teachers Retirement System (STRS) Board of Trustees by Treasurer Robert Sprague has resigned, and a new appointment is in the works. Scott Roulston, the appointee of the treasurer's office, resigned near year's end, citing "other commitments" in a letter to STRS leadership.
Natural Allies for a Clean Energy Future, a 501(c)(4) organization that supports the use of natural gas, announced that former U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan (D-OH) is joining its leadership council alongside former U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA). Ryan left Congress last year after he lost a bid for the U.S. Senate against J.D. Vance. He served 10 terms in the U.S. House.
Fire departments across the state will receive $3.5 million in Multi-Agency Radio Communications (MARCS) grants, according to the Ohio Department of Commerce's (DOC) Division of State Fire Marshal. The grants go to 325 fire departments in 76 counties, DOC said.
SECRETARY OF STATE
Secretary of State Frank LaRose announced that 2022 saw the second highest number of business filings since his office began tracking the data. According to the secretary of state's office, there were 179,636 new business filings in 2022, down 18,374 filings from the all-time record-setting year in 2021. December 2022 saw 13,012 new business filings, 496 more filings than December 2021.
Ohio Office of Budget and Management (OBM) Director Kimberly Murnieks and Ohio Department of Administrative Services (DAS) Director Kathleen Madden were both reelected to their positions as chair and vice chair respectively of the Ohio Facilities Construction Commission (OFCC) Thursday. OFCC oversees school facility programs and capital projects for state agencies and higher education institutions. Both Murnieks and Madden were reelected by a unanimous vote. Murnieks told Hannah News the agency is still experiencing some supply chain issues from the pandemic but has been successful with moving projects forward and continues to do "tremendous work" for students and schools across Ohio.
Patricia Harris will be the next commissioner of the Ohio Department of Taxation (ODT), Gov. Mike DeWine announced Tuesday. Harris currently serves as chief operating officer of the Ohio Bureau of Workers' Compensation (BWC). If the nomination is confirmed by the Senate, Harris will replace Jeff McClain, who retired as ODT commissioner in 2022.
The Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) is researching alternative ways to pay for road and bridge maintenance in the state and has launched a website seeking public input on the issue. According to the website, www.OhioRoadFunding.com , the state needs to look at how it currently pays for bridges and highways because the current method which draws mostly from proceeds of the state's gas tax is not sustainable "More Ohioans are driving high-mileage gas vehicles or hybrid or electric vehicles, which has welcomed environmental benefits but decreases the amount of gas being purchase," ODOT states on the website, adding that it is "evaluating a variety of funding options to replace the fuel tax and stabilize transportation revenues in Ohio well into the future." ODOT said the information it collects through its research effort will be put together in a report that will be sent to the General Assembly in late spring of this year. It will ultimately be up to lawmakers to create any new funding option.
A total of $15 million in grants is being offered by the state Workforce Safety Innovation Center (WSIC), the Ohio Bureau of Workers' Compensation (BWC) announced Thursday. The grants can be used for the research and development of personal protective equipment (PPE) and personal protective technology (PPT) to enhance workplace safety, BWC said. Utilizing data from BWC claims, workforce safety innovation grants focus on new ideas that help reduce the frequency and severity of on-the-job injuries. The grant is administered with a goal of accelerating the process for innovations from proof-of-concept to the marketplace.
[Story originally published in The Hannah Report. Copyright 2022 Hannah News Service, Inc.]