Week In Review - January 31, 2022



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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


Nine individuals have been selected to receive the "Governor's Award for the Arts in Ohio" in 2022, according to the Ohio Arts Council (OAC). Winners include the following:


  • Gladisa Guadalupe of Bedford Heights (Cuyahoga County) won an award for arts administration.

  • Richard "Duarte" Brown of Columbus (Franklin County) won an award for arts education.

  • The K12 Gallery & TEJSA visual arts center in Dayton (Montgomery County) won an award for arts education.

  • Burt and Alice Saidel of Dayton (Montgomery County) won an award for being an arts patron.

  • Keybank in Toledo (Lucas County) won an award for business support of the arts.

  • William "Bill" Mullane of Warren (Trumbull County) won an award for community development and participation.

  • The Boneyfiddle Project in Portsmouth (Scioto County) won an award for community development and participation.

  • Alan Cottrill of Zanesville (Muskingum County) won an individual artist award.

  • Weichih "Rosa" Lee of Solon (Cuyahoga County) won an individual artist award.

ATTORNEY GENERAL


Attorney General Dave Yost has agreed to a $3.5 million settlement with Volkswagen over claims the auto manufacturer violated state environmental laws by manipulating the computer software in its vehicles to mask carbon dioxide emissions. The settlement resolves a lawsuit filed in Franklin County Common Pleas Court in 2016 and is separate from another related lawsuit settled in 2016 by the AG's office on behalf of consumers who were misled by Volkswagen's claims of vehicle performance. Under the terms of the settlement, the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (Ohio EPA) and the AG's office will split the award.


A proposed initiated statute that would prohibit vaccine mandates was resubmitted to Attorney General Dave Yost's office on Monday for the third time. The proposed "Vaccine and Gene Therapy Choice and Anti-Discrimination Act" would enact section 3792.02 of the Ohio Revised Code -- language similar to HB248 (Gross) -- to prohibit "a person, public official or employee, public agency, state agency, political subdivision, school, child day care center, nursing home, residential care facility, health care provider, insurer, institution, or employer from requiring any vaccine or gene therapy." Yost rejected the first submission, citing several issues with the proposed summary while the second submission was rejected for not having enough valid signatures. The group behind the proposal said it submitted approximately 2,953 signatures with its latest submission. At least 1,000 need to be valid in order for Yost to review it. He has until Wednesday, Feb. 2, to take action.


CHILDREN/FAMILIES


The Ohio Legislative Children's Caucus took a look at the economic toll of inaccessible child care during its Monday meeting, hearing from industry experts who presented the issue from different angles. One panelist, Chelsea Kiene, the director of communications and stakeholder engagement at Groundwork Ohio, estimated Ohio was losing about $1.7 billion a year in economic activity due to child care disruptions, such as when parents can't find a provider, even before the pandemic hit.


CORONAVIRUS


Ohio Department of Health (ODH) Director Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff said Thursday "signs of improvement" are present for Northeast Ohio, which was hit first by the Omicron wave, but other regions continue to struggle. The state's overall number of active hospitalizations has dropped for 17 consecutive days after a record high. Vanderhoff discussed the struggle many hospitals continue to face and the "instrumental" role of the Ohio National Guard in both clinical and non-clinical support.


The ODH's Thursday update saw 12,108 new cases, 446 hospitalizations and 47 ICU admissions. ODH had reported 24,915 cases for Tuesday and Wednesday, as the Tuesday number was underreported, and the Wednesday count was artificially high as a result. The latest 21-day averages include 20,034 cases, 376 hospitalizations and 33 ICU admissions. There have been 536,877 cases reported by ODH in January, along with 10,173 hospitalizations and 900 ICU admissions. The Ohio Hospital Association (OHA) reported 4,746 active hospitalizations and 936 ICU admissions, the first time the hospitalization count has been below 5,000 since Dec. 27.


Secretary of State Frank LaRose tested positive after taking a COVID-19 rapid test Monday morning. Spokesman Rob Nichols told Hannah News that LaRose began experiencing "very minor symptoms" Sunday evening and that those who had been in close contact with him have been informed. House Minority Leader Allison Russo (D-Upper Arlington), who had been seated next to LaRose during the weekend Ohio Redistricting Commission meeting, issued a statement that she would follow CDC guidance for close exposure.


AARP Ohio has called for nursing homes to require booster vaccination for residents and staff given the Omicron variant's spread. The organization noted that the CDC found more than 120,000 new staff cases during the two weeks ending Jan. 16, with 7,541 in Ohio. Cases among residents included at least 79,000 nationwide and 4,434 in Ohio. AARP's Nursing Home COVID-19 Dashboard also found that 43.6 percent of residents and 17 percent of direct care staff had received a booster shot, a "slight increase" from mid-November data.


ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT


Gov. Mike DeWine and Intel Corporation announced the largest single private-sector investment in Ohio history on Friday, saying the tech company will invest more than $20 billion in the construction of two new chip factories in Central Ohio. "Today's announcement is monumental news for the state of Ohio," DeWine said. "Intel's new facilities will be transformative for our state, creating thousands of good-paying jobs in Ohio manufacturing strategically vital semiconductors, often called 'chips.' Advanced manufacturing, research and development, and talent are part of Ohio's DNA, and we are proud that chips -- which power the future -- will be made in Ohio, by Ohioans." Intel CEO Pat Gelsinger said the investment will help boost production to meet the country's surging demand for advanced semiconductors. Planning for the first two factories will start immediately, with construction expected to begin late in 2022. Production is expected to come online in 2025, when the fab will deliver chips using the industry's most advanced transistor technologies, Intel said. The Ohio project is Intel's first new manufacturing site location in 40 years.


EDUCATION


Kurt Russell, an Oberlin City Schools high school social studies teacher who was named Ohio's 2022 Teacher of the Year, is one of four finalists for the National Teacher of the Year competition, according to the Council of Chief State School Officers, which conducts the competition.


The Ohio Department of Education (ODE) proposed Tuesday to give schools as much "stability" as possible for the first two years of the new report card system by generally mimicking cut scores of the previous system, given disruptions of the pandemic. The State Board of Education's Performance and Impact Committee launched a two-day work session Tuesday to review the proposal and draft rules for elements of the new system in HB82, which replaces the A-F grading with a new 5-star rating scheme. Interim Superintendent Stephanie Siddens said the department considered the proposal in the "context" of the pandemic and wanted to create a "fair and valid" measurement system. The goal is to use data from the '21-'22 and '22-'23 academic years to set new cut scores starting with the '23-'24 academic year.


ELECTIONS 2022


The Legislature Wednesday amended and passed HB93 (Abrams-LaRe) with new language that will give candidates more flexibility in their signature-gathering efforts as the Ohio Supreme Court mulls challenges to redrawn redistricting plans and sent it on to Gov. Mike DeWine for his signature. While the language added to HB93 -- a bill that originally amended the Address Confidentiality Program administered by the secretary of state -- does not delay the filing deadline for General Assembly candidates, it does allow signatures gathered on candidate petitions up to this point to count towards requirements as the new districts are sorted out so long as the signatures were gathered from voters in their respective county in the final district map. The current deadline for General Assembly candidates to file for the primary ballot is Wednesday, Feb. 2. The amendment also allows valid signatures that were collected before final maps were adopted to be counted.


Earlier in the week, House Assistant Minority Leader Thomas West (D-Canton), president of the Ohio Legislative Black Caucus (OLBC), and Rep. Lisa Sobecki (D-Toledo), chair of the Ohio Democratic Women's Legislative Caucus, introduced HB544 to delay the 2022 primary to Tuesday, June 7.


Democratic gubernatorial candidate John Cranley and his running mate, Sen. Teresa Fedor (D-Toledo), said Friday that their administration would create an Ohio Commission on Women and Girls, a permanent body responsible for advancing the representation of women and girls in state government and making Ohio a state where all women and girls are encouraged and empowered to realize their full potential.


Democrats are looking to appeals courts for their Supreme Court candidates this year, as First District Court of Appeals Judge Marilyn Zayas and 10th District Court of Appeals Judge Terri Jamison look to unseat Justices Pat DeWine and Patrick Fischer. Both candidates addressed the Ohio Democratic Party's (ODP) Executive Committee at its December meeting, saying they will bring more balance to the state.


Traci Johnson, a longtime Columbus activist and tech executive, Friday launched a bid for the Democratic nomination for U.S. Senate, according to the Associated Press. Johnson joins a Democratic field that also includes U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Niles) and attorney Morgan Harper. Johnson wants to address gun violence, affordable Wi-Fi, voting rights, and the environment.


Former Sen. Nina Turner (D-Cleveland) is once again running for Congress. Turner, who lost to U.S. Rep. Shontel Brown (D-Cleveland) in the Democratic primary in the special 11th Congressional District election last year could get a rematch with Brown depending on how Ohio's congressional districts are redrawn.


Democratic gubernatorial candidate Nan Whaley held a virtual press conference Tuesday afternoon, where new Lima Mayor Sharetta Smith endorsed her.


While primary voters haven't yet chosen which U.S. Senate candidates will face off this November, Democrat Morgan Harper and Republican Josh Mandel took the debate stage on Thursday night to share their views and policy proposals. Mandel, a former state treasurer who has twice lost U.S. Senate races to U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH), said he wasn't afraid to debate Harper, unlike her Democratic primary opponent, U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Niles), who he described as a "wimp. … One of the reasons I was interested in doing this debate tonight was because the establishment in the Democrat Party has been so disrespectful, and frankly, has condescended on Morgan," Mandel said. Harper, a consumer protection attorney and community organizer who lost her 2020 primary challenge against U.S. Rep. Joyce Beatty (D-Columbus), responded, "What we don't need to have happen is Josh Mandel speaking, in any way, for the Black community. I think we've got that." Harper didn't attack her primary opponent, but said she is the better choice to beat a "career politician" like Mandel.


The following endorsements were made over the week:


  • The U.S. Senate campaign of Republican J.D. Vance announced the endorsement of U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA).

  • The Franklin County Republican Party endorsed Matt Dolan for U.S. Senate.

  • The gubernatorial campaign of Democrat Nan Whaley announced the endorsements of former Columbus Mayor Michael Coleman and Columbus Council members Nick Bankston and Lourdes Barroso de Padilla.

  • The congressional campaign of Democrat Emilia Sykes announced the endorsements of U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Niles); Akron Board of Education President N.J. Akbar, Vice President Derrick Hall, and member Valerie McKitrick; Akron City Council members Nancy Holland, Phil Lombardo, Bradley McKitrick, Tara Mosley, Linda Omobien, Russel Neal, and Shammas Malik; Barberton Mayor Bill Judge; Barberton City Council members Carol Frey and Shorter Griffin; Cuyahoga Falls Mayor Don Walters; Cuyahoga Falls City Council President Russell Balthis and members Mary Nichols-Rhodes, Susan Spinner, Meika Penta, and Mike Brillhart; Reps. Tavia Galonski (D-Akron) and Casey Weinstein (D-Hudson); Sen. Vern Sykes (D-Akron); Stow Clerk of Courts Amber Zibritosky; Stow Mayor John Pribonic; Summit County Fiscal Office member Kristen Scalise; Summit County Clerk of Courts Sandra Kurt; Summit County Sheriff Kandy Fatheree; Summit County Executive Ilene Shapiro; Summit County Council members Veronica Sims, Rita Darrow, John Schmidt, and Jeff Wilhite; Tallmadge Mayor David Kline; and Twinsburg School Board member Mark Curtis.

  • Howland Republican Nick Santucci announced endorsements from a number of Republican state legislators for his Ohio House campaign, including Speaker Bob Cupp (R-Lima), Speaker Pro Tempore Tim Ginter (R-Salem), Majority Floor Leader Bill Seitz (R-Cincinnati), Assistant Majority Floor Leader Rick Carfagna (R-Westerville), and Majority Whip Don Jones (R-Freeport).

EMPLOYMENT/UNEMPLOYMENT


The Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS) said Friday that Ohio's unemployment rate dropped to 4.5 percent in December, down from 4.8 percent in November. Ohio's nonagricultural wage and salary employment increased 8,800 over the month, from a revised 5,396,600 in November to 5,405,400 in December, ODFJS said. The number of workers unemployed in Ohio in December was 256,000, down from 275,000 in November. The number of unemployed has decreased by 65,000 in the past 12 months from 321,000. The December unemployment rate for Ohio decreased from 5.6 percent in December 2020. The U.S. unemployment rate for December 2021 was 3.9 percent, down from 4.2 percent in November 2021, and down from 6.7 percent in December 2020.


ETHICS


The Ohio Ethics Commission Wednesday said they have sent a strong recommendation to the General Assembly to increase state ethics law penalties for persons or entities convicted of providing unlawful gifts or payments to any public official or employee in state or local government. The recommendation calls for adding a prohibition from participating in any future public contracts for five years for any person or entity convicted of providing unlawful payments to a public official. Additionally, the commission said courts should be given the authority to order additional fines equal to such payments, noting that violations currently only carry a fine of up to $1,000 and/or six months in prison.


FEDERAL


Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost lauded the Biden administration's decision Tuesday to withdraw its coronavirus vaccine mandate for employers with 100 or more workers. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration's (OSHA) nevertheless said the policy could return as a proposed federal rule open to public comment. The administration's announcement follows the U.S. Supreme Court's stay of the policy based on the finding Yost was likely to prevail in his multi-state action against the so-called mandate, which in fact would have allowed employees to wear masks and submit to regular testing in lieu of vaccination.


U.S. Rep. Joyce Beatty (D-Columbus), the chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, told reporters Tuesday that despite the failure of Democratic-backed voting bills in the U.S. Senate, the fight to address voting rights will continue. Holding a virtual press conference, Beatty told reporters that members of Congress "will use every avenue available to defend the most foundational pillar of American democracy." She opened her remarks by attacking new congressional and General Assembly maps passed along party lines in Ohio, saying she remains concerned about it. She said the new maps are "egregiously gerrymandered" and accused Republicans of trying to pick their voters rather than voters' picking their representatives.


U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) discussed the benefits of the recent announcement that Intel would build two semiconductor factories in Central Ohio during a press call Wednesday. He also issued a statement regarding the subsequent retirement announcement by U.S. Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer. "[Breyer] understood that Supreme Court justices serve the public -- not powerful special interests -- and was unafraid to stand up for the rights of workers and their families. I'm confident President Biden will appoint a justice who will continue that legacy -- someone who understands that a commitment to the Constitution and to equal justice requires standing up for civil rights and standing up to corporations on behalf of Ohioans and citizens around the country," Brown said.


GAMING/GAMBLING


Sports gambling companies will need to pay application fees to financially support the additional staff needed to regulate the new industry, according to Ohio Casino Control Commission (OCCC) Executive Director Matt Schuler. "Because suitability is an ongoing requirement and there are daily, weekly, monthly -- you name it -- updates from our licensees on a variety of fronts, we will need to have additional members of the licensing division, as well as additional members of our regulatory compliance division," Schuler told Hannah News during a phone interview. Schuler said the sports gambling legalization law, HB29 (Wiggam-A. Miller), allows the commission to set application fees for the different license classes.


GENERAL ASSEMBLY/STATEHOUSE


Sen. Jay Hottinger (R-Newark), who can't run for re-election due to term limits, announced Monday that he doesn't plan to seek elected office this year, ending a 31-year streak of public service. "It has been the honor of my life to serve my community and Ohioans the past 31 years," he said on social media. "Loving, serving and helping people doesn't retire. I look forward to seeing in what capacity God has in store for me in my next chapter." Hottinger began his career in 1991 when he was elected to Newark City Council. He was first elected to the Ohio House of Representatives in 1994, and has served in the Ohio House and Ohio Senate since then.


Rep. Rick Carfagna (R-Westerville) announced Tuesday that he will be resigning his House seat to take a position with the Ohio Chamber of Commerce. Carfagna will likely begin his new role as the business advocacy organization's senior vice president of government affairs sometime in late February, according to the Ohio Chamber.


Sen. Theresa Gavarone (R-Bowling Green) led the Joint Committee on Agency Rule Review (JCARR) as chair in its first meeting of 2022 Tuesday, with all agenda items clearing the committee. These included a rule on the Opportunities for Ohioans with Disabilities (OOD) Business Enterprise Program. There was no public testimony.


Rep. Allison Russo (D-Columbus) was formally elected as minority leader during Wednesday's House session. The 85-0 vote to adopt HR177 (Ginter) also officially elected Rep. Thomas West (D-Canton) as assistant minority leader and Rep. Jessica Miranda (D-Cincinnati) as minority whip. House Democrats had announced the leadership changes earlier this month.


In other action, the House passed the following four bills and adopted three concurrent resolutions without much debate:


  • HCR27 (Troy) which honors and recognizes victims of Agent Orange during the Vietnam War.

  • HCR31 (Stephens) which urges the governor and the director of the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) to extend I-73 and I-74 into Ohio.

  • HCR32 (Lightbody-Lampton) which recommends that the Air Force Research Lab at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base recognize Col. William J. Cavanaugh for his contribution to the design and architecture of the Air Force Research Lab Bio Acoustics Laboratory.

  • HB428 (Pavliga-Edwards) which would establish the Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Study Commission.

  • HB449 (Carfagna-Lanese) which would designate the second Monday in October as "Italian Heritage Day."

  • SB56 (Blessing) which would regulate the use of indemnity provisions in professional design contracts for public improvements.

  • SB105 (Sykes-Schuring) which requires political subdivisions to accept state certifications of minority business enterprises, women-owned business enterprises and veteran-friendly business enterprises as proof to qualify for comparable local programs.

Public bodies that were able to convene virtually earlier in the pandemic would regain that authority under an amendment to a bill approved by a Senate committee Tuesday. The Senate Ways and Means Committee adopted an amendment to HB51 (Lampton) that would extend the ability of public bodies to meet via videoconference or teleconference through the fiscal year. Sen. Louis Blessing (R-Cincinnati) said it extends authority previously granted in 133-HB404 (Manchester-Sweeney). The amendment also contains an emergency clause. Another amendment to HB51 adopted Tuesday would conform the state tax code to recent federal changes, something lawmakers typically do on an annual basis. The full Senate unanimously passed the bill on Wednesday.


The Senate Wednesday unanimously passed legislation the expands the Agriculture Linked Deposit Program (Ag-LINK) administered by the treasurer of state. Sen. Jerry Cirino (R-Kirtland), a primary co-sponsor of SB241 (Cirino-Rulli), said the bill will provide support for the agricultural community by expanding the program beyond a previous cap of $100,000. He said the data show that the majority of farmers max out at that cap, and the bill allows the treasurer to work with the agricultural community to figure out which amount works best.


The Senate split on passing HB229 (Wilkin-Swearingen) with a vote of 25-8, with Democrats against the bill to provide qualified immunity to camp operators for harm arising from a risk inherent to camping. Sen. Teresa Fedor (D-Toledo) said the bill had been improved by the Senate but added it still goes too far to give immunity to one industry. She said it puts corporate interests over those of families vacationing in the state.


Other bills passed by the Senate are the following:


  • SB61 (Blessing-Antonio) which addresses condominiums and planned community properties.

  • SB236 (Wilson-Lang) which enables insurers to use an online platform and to automatically enroll purchasers in digital communications. The bill passed unanimously.

  • SB256 (Wilson) which updates Ohio's travel insurance law to better match national model legislation and reforms other insurance provisions. The bill passed unanimously.

In other action, the House Health Committee reported out HB60 (Brent-Seitz) which authorizes the use of medical marijuana for autism spectrum disorder; the Senate Judiciary Committee reported out HB4 (Plummer-Manchester) which reforms the state's handling of child abuse and neglect cases and creates the Youth Ombudsman Office in the Department of Job and Family Services; the Senate Ways and Means Committee reported out SB235 (Roegner) which exempts documentary service charges and income tax electronic filing fees from the sales tax; the House Commerce and Labor Committee reported out HB304 (Baldridge) which deals with the use of fire alarms; the Senate Health Committee reported out HB136 (Lipps) which deals with Medicaid coverage of chiropractic services; and HB37 (Manning) which addresses emergency prescription refills; and the Senate Local Government and Elections Committee reported out SB112 (Dolan) which deals with tax foreclosures and county land reutilization corporations; SB61 (Blessing-Antonio) which deals with condos and planned communities; and SB53 (Manning) which deals with ballot vacancies.


GOVERNOR


Appointments made during the week include the following:


  • Electra D. Paskett of Dublin (Franklin County) reappointed to the Commission on Minority Health for a term beginning Jan. 25, 2022 and ending Sept. 2, 2023.

  • Jason Paul Kucsma of Sylvania (Lucas County) to the Ohio Commission on Service and Volunteerism for a term beginning Jan. 25, 2022 and ending April 21, 2023.

  • John E. Leland of Kettering (Montgomery County) reappointed to the Ohio Aerospace and Aviation Technology Committee for a term beginning Jan. 25, 2022 and ending Dec. 31, 2022.

  • Cheryl Burchard of Hilliard (Franklin County) and Stuart Alan Young of Yellow Springs (Greene County) to the Public Utilities Commission Nominating Council for a term beginning Jan. 25, 2022 and continuing at the pleasure of the governor.

  • Michael R. Perry of Westerville (Delaware County) reappointed to the Underground Technical Committee for a term beginning Jan. 25, 2022 and ending Dec. 31, 2025.

HIGHER EDUCATION


Ohio State University (OSU) athletes are national leaders in name, image and likeness (NIL) engagement, according to OSU and endorsement services company Opendorse. "A total of 220 student-athletes have engaged in 608 reported NIL activities with a total compensation value of $2.98 million," OSU said. "All three figures rank number one nationally, according to Opendorse, the cutting-edge services company hired by Ohio State to help its student-athletes with education and resource opportunities to maximize their NIL earning potential." Language included in the budget, HB110 (Oelslager), allows student-athletes to financially benefit from their NIL.


The SAT will become an entirely digital test beginning in 2023 for international students and 2024 for students in the U.S., the College Board, the not-for-profit organization behind the admissions test, announced Tuesday. The digital SAT will also be shorter -- taking about two hours compared to the current three hours.


JUDICIAL


School districts that sued to challenge the constitutionality of EdChoice are asking the judge in the case not to admit as parties several families of EdChoice students, casting their attempted intervention as a distraction from the core legal debate. Several school districts earlier this month filed a long-planned lawsuit seeking to have EdChoice declared in violation of parts of the Ohio Constitution requiring provision of a thorough and efficient common school system, barring religious groups from controlling education funding, and guaranteeing equal protection under the law.


LIBRARIES


The Ohio Library Council announced Tom Dillie, director of the Minerva Public Library, as its new board chair, succeeding Cheryl Kuonen, director of Mentor Public Library, who will become past chair. Laura Lee Wilson, director of the Huron County Community Public Library, is the new chair-elect, and Carol Herrick, trustee for Washington-Centerville Public Library, is secretary-treasurer.


The Ohio Digital Library, an online lending program for Ohio libraries, ranked second among library consortia for circulation of e-books, audiobooks and digital magazines in 2021, according to OverDrive, which runs digital reading platforms. The Ohio Digital Library was one of 121 library systems and consortia in the U.S. and six other countries to tally more than one million loans of e-books, audiobooks and digital magazines, according to OverDrive. Meanwhile, Dayton Metro Library joined the group of library systems reporting a million-plus online circulation for the first time in 2021.


LOCAL GOVERNMENT


Former state Sen. and Rep. and now Wayne County Commissioner Ron Amstutz returned to the Ohio Statehouse Tuesday to testify in support of HB101 (Stephens-Edwards), legislation that establishes a new process to fund jail construction and maintenance. He appeared before the Senate Finance Committee on behalf of the County Commissioners Association of Ohio (CCAO). He told the committee that one of the "most pressing issues" facing Ohio counties today is "replacement and renovation of aging county jail facilities." Amstutz explained that HB101 "establishes a funding formula to allocate future state support for county jail infrastructure -- a methodology somewhat parallel to the Ohio Facilities Construction Commission school construction program." He added that while HB101 does not include an appropriation, it does lay out a roadmap.


MARIJUANA/HEMP


The Ohio Lottery Commission (OLC) conducted dispensary drawings for the Ohio Medical Marijuana Control Program (MMCP) on Thursday. "The drawings cannot be viewed live by the public, but the ranked order lists will be published to the MMCP website next week," MMCP said.


MEDICAID/MEDICAID REFORM


Though the company said a pending deal to hand off its managed care contract to another insurer would lead to the end of litigation against the state, Paramount Advantage filed an appeal this week in its lawsuit challenging the multi-billion dollar re-bidding of Ohio's Medicaid managed care program.


Paramount is an incumbent managed care vendor for the state but was not awarded a new contract when the DeWine administration put those contracts out for bid again. The state said Paramount failed to tailor its bid to key elements of the redesigned managed care program, like the use of a single pharmacy benefit manager across all managed care plans and the development of a specialized managed care program for children with complex needs.


Innovation Ohio and Franklin County Commissioner Erica Crawley, who served in the Ohio House until last summer, Thursday criticized a change in the way Ohio Medicaid will enroll participants in managed care plans, saying it could negatively affect more than two million Ohioans. Innovation Ohio President Desiree Tims said currently, any managed care plan customers don't have to take any action during an enrollment period in order to stay in their plan, but the DeWine administration is changing that so that if customers don't proactively confirm their choice, they risk being assigned to a new plan by a computer algorithm.


MENTAL HEALTH


Gov. Mike DeWine announced Wednesday that $14.9 million in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) Supplemental Block Grant funds will go toward the state's mental health and addiction care services system, specifically in the areas of youth prevention and early intervention services.


NATURAL RESOURCES


The Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) Division of Wildlife has tabulated the 2021 "Fish Ohio" submissions, and the results show that 8,943 anglers reeled in at least one qualifying fish last year. Submissions were high for Lake Erie walleye, as well as saugeye, crappie and largemouth bass at Ohio's inland lakes, according to ODNR.


PENSIONS


Advisers to the State Teachers Retirement System (STRS) expect investments to yield returns a percentage point lower than the system assumes for the next decade, but still project overall improvement in the pension fund's long-term financial position. Those projections, however, do not account for potential benefit changes under consideration before the STRS Board of Trustees. Trustees heard more analysis of the effects of those benefit changes, which include cost-of-living adjustments, at a special meeting Thursday. The board heard the preliminary results of an asset liability study, with further analysis to be presented in February and a complete result expected in March. At that point, the system could set a new asset liability mix, said STRS Executive Director William Neville, who told the board that would be a highly important decision.


PEOPLE


J. Richard Lumpe, a retired attorney who practiced over 50 years and was the longtime general counsel for the Wholesale Beer and Wine Association of Ohio, died Saturday after a brief battle with cancer, according to his obituary. His work at Lumpe and Raber specialized in administrative and regulatory law and legislative representation. Lumpe was in his second appointed term on the State Employee Relations Board (SERB) when he died, and previously held public sector roles including assistant attorney general and Franklin County assistant prosecuting attorney. He was a graduate of Capital University Law School and Ohio State University.


Jonathan McCracken has been appointed rural development state director for Ohio, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced Friday. A native of Wilmington, McCracken has held various legislative positions related to agriculture, rural development, food, nutrition, energy, and environmental policy for the last 15 years. Most recently, he served as a senior advisor to U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH). He is one of seven appointed by President Joe Biden to USDA regional positions, including five Farm Service Agency state executive directors and two Rural Development state directors.


The Ohio Academy of Family Physicians (OAFP) announced Wednesday that Ann Spicer will retire as executive vice president (EVP) of the academy and its foundation effective Thursday, March 31. She will be succeeded by Kate Mahler, who has served as the deputy EVP since 2006.


Clarence J. "Bud" Brown Jr., a nine-term Republican congressman from Ohio, died Wednesday evening at his home in Urbana, the Dayton Daily News and Urbana Daily Citizen confirmed. He was 94.


Peter Range is the new executive director of Ohio Right to Life, the anti-abortion organization has announced. Range, who previously worked as the director of the Office for Life and Justice of Catholic Charities in the Diocese of Toledo, started his new job with Ohio Right to Life on Jan. 1.


POLITICS


Ohio Democratic Party (ODP) Chair Liz Walters said Monday that the party is filing a new round of public records requests with Gov. Mike DeWine's office regarding nuclear bailout bill 133-HB6 and threatened a lawsuit if they receive no response. The requests include any communications among DeWine, Lt. Gov. Jon Husted and their staff and special interest groups tied to 133-HB6; any communications between those individuals and individuals who were implicated in the scandal; any communications involving the appointment of Sam Randazzo as chairman of the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO); any communications between DeWine and/or Husted and statewide officeholders regarding HB6; and the reassignment of Laurel Dawson and the resignation of Dan McCarthy. She said previous requests for records have gone unanswered.


PUBLIC SAFETY


The governor's office announced Tuesday a combined $9 million-plus for first-responder radios and law enforcement body cameras. The administration said more than $4.7 million will go to 109 law enforcement agencies for body camera costs, with 49 of those recipients planning to create new body camera programs. In addition, the administration is also distributing $3.5 million to 212 fire departments in 57 counties for the Multi-Agency Radio Communications System (MARCS). The radios allow first responders to communicate with one another and with other agencies responding to an incident.


REDISTRICTING/REAPPORTIONMENT


Just hours before a midnight deadline on Saturday, the Ohio Redistricting Commission passed new General Assembly districts on a 5-2 party-line vote, with maps favoring Republicans in 57 House districts to 42 districts for Democrats and Senate districts favoring Republicans by a margin of 20-13. Because no Democrats voted for the maps, they will only last four years. The adoption set in place a deadline for the plaintiffs days to file any objections to the new maps with the Court, which retained jurisdiction and review over the process -- which they did late Tuesday.


At that time, the plaintiffs in all three lawsuits challenging the General Assembly maps drawn by the Ohio Redistricting Commission filed objections with the Ohio Supreme Court on the new maps, arguing that the revised General Assembly plan continues to violate Article XI of the Ohio Constitution because the commission deviated further from proportionality than required by other sections of the Constitution, and the revised maps were drawn to primarily favor the Republican Party. The Court gave members of the Ohio Redistricting Commission until noon on Friday, Jan. 28 to respond to the objections.


Meanwhile, the Senate Wednesday introduced a placeholder bill for congressional redistricting, with Senate President Matt Huffman (R-Lima) predicting the bill will be up for a floor vote in both chambers the week of Feb. 7. Huffman told reporters that the deadline for the General Assembly to adopt a new congressional map after the Ohio Supreme Court struck down SB258 is Sunday, Feb. 13. The vehicle is likely going to be SB286 (McColley), which was referred to the Senate General Government Budget Committee rather than the Local Government and Elections Committee that heard SB258. Huffman said that is due to that committee's chair, Sen. Theresa Gavarone's (R-Bowling Green) running for Congress.


SECRETARY OF STATE


The Republican Secretaries of State Committee, a caucus of the Republican State Leadership Committee (RSLC), announced its executive committee leadership team including Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose as the committee's finance chair.


STATE GOVERNMENT


The Ohio Facilities Construction Commission (OFCC) held its first meeting of 2022 Thursday. Commission members voted to retain Kimberly Murnieks, director of the Ohio Office of Budget and Management, as chair. In addition, Kathleen Madden, director of the Ohio Department of Administrative Services, was named vice chair. During the director's report, OFCC Executive Director Cheryl Lyman said the FY22 project summary, as of November 2021, includes 84 projects in design and 198 in construction for a total of over $2.6 billion in construction activity. In addition, the commission reported the completion of the Rhodes Tower modernization construction project which cost a total of $65 million.


TAXATION


The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) recently announced that the nation's tax season started on Monday, Jan. 24, 2022, when the tax agency began accepting and processing 2021 tax year returns. Other important dates taxpayers should keep in mind for this year's filing season are April 18, the due date to file 2021 tax return or request extension and pay tax owed due to Emancipation Day holiday in Washington, D.C., even for those who live outside the area, and Oct. 17 which is the due date to file for those requesting an extension on their 2021 tax returns.


The temporary expansions to the Child Tax Credit (CTC) aided many families and reduced the number of children experiencing poverty, Census Bureau data and other research has shown. But now that those payments have ended, there are still ways families can benefit from the program. The Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP) this month detailed how families can receive their remaining CTC payments in 2022. First, CLASP said families who received six months' worth of payments (from July through December 2021) can get the rest of their 2021 credit only by filing a 2021 tax return.


TRANSPORTATION/INFRASTRUCTURE


The Ohio Turnpike and Infrastructure Commission said it is investigating an incident involving one of its snow plows in Erie County after approximately 40 vehicles were reportedly damaged Sunday. Ferzan Ahmed, executive director of the commission, said, "During our snow and ice operations, a plow truck driver was travelling westbound plowing snow in the left lane and in the left shoulder with the wing plow deployed. Beginning near the 117 milepost, which is close to the State Route 250 interchange, the plow truck operator was throwing snow, ice and slush over the median divider wall onto oncoming traffic. This appears to have occurred over a couple miles, resulting in damage to approximately 40 cars and trucks, caused accidents, and unfortunately injuries."


Meanwhile, the turnpike commission met Monday where it considered 12 resolutions for various projects. Ahmed also provided an update on Ohio Turnpike operations, including the opening of Tesla supercharger stations at the Ohio Turnpike's Blue Heron and Wyandot service plazas in Sandusky. He said he believes it is Telsa's first project with a public agency in Ohio. He said the Ohio Turnpike closed out 18 projects in 2021, paying out about $63.3 million for the contracts on those projects. The original contract values were nearly $64.5 million. He said the main reason for the lower final contract values is due to contingency items that were not necessary for the final project.


UNEMPLOYMENT COMPENSATION


The Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS) announced Tuesday that individuals who have told the department they were victims of unemployment-related identify theft can receive free credit monitoring for one year. This will include identity theft monitoring, restoration and insurance. Approximately 410,000 individuals who reported they had been victims of identity theft will be notified about their eligibility. Other who believe they were victims but have not reported it to ODJFS can do so at https://unemploymenthelp.ohio.gov/ or by calling 833-658-0394.


UTILITIES


Daniel Conway is seeking a second five-year term on the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO), while eight others also submitted applications for his seat by Thursday's deadline. Conway, a Republican appointed to the commission by former Gov. John Kasich in 2017, was the head of the energy and telecommunications practice group at Porter, Wright, Morris & Arthur before taking the seat. He also is an adjunct law professor at Ohio State University. The new commission term will begin Monday, April 11, 2022. Other applicants include the following:


  • Dan Bradshaw of Akron, a Republican, who has engineering and business degrees and works at TSRC Specialty Materials.

  • Alex Chapman of Strongsville, a Republican, who works at a wealth advisor firm, Ridge Creek Global.

  • Chalsie Cloud of Cleveland, a Democrat, fleet administrator for public transportation contractor Provide A Ride.

  • Michael Hines of Columbus, a Democrat, who is on commission staff as a transportation compliance officer.

  • Richard Rolwing of Reynoldsburg, who did not list a party affiliation in his application letter, and who described himself as the founding president of the National Institute for the Study of the Declaration of Independence and U.S. Constitution.

  • Stephen Serraino of Holland, a political independent, is vice president and general counsel of Upper Peninsula Power Company in Michigan.

  • Dan Wilczynski of Walbridge, a Republican, process safety manager at Marathon Petroleum.

  • David Yarnell of Westerville, a Republican, senior project manager and gas distribution and utilities manager for SAM LLC.

The energy industry will have no voice on the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) Nominating Council when it meets to vet eight challengers to former energy counsel and sitting Commissioner Daniel Conway -- an appointment process warranting a major reset in light of late-breaking changes to council membership, the Ohio Consumers' Counsel (OCC) said Wednesday. On Tuesday, Gov. Mike DeWine accepted the resignation of former Nominating Council Chairman Mike Koren, a former FirstEnergy lobbyist. The governor simultaneously appointed former OCC Governing Board Vice Chair Stuart Young and Ohio Telecom Association (OTA) Government Relations Director Cheryl Burchard, who now holds the council seat for utility industry representative.


Ohioans will see falling energy costs this spring after the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) approved auction results Wednesday for Columbia Gas of Ohio, the state's largest natural gas provider serving 1.4 million customers, and Centerpoint Energy Ohio, accounting for more than 300,000 Ohio ratepayers.

[Story originally published in The Hannah Report. Copyright 2022 Hannah News Service, Inc.]


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