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Week in Review - July 17, 2023

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.

ARTS, SPORTS AND ENTERTAINMENT The state of Ohio will award $20 million in grants to support 104 arts-based organizations in 33 counties, Gov. Mike DeWine announced. The grants are part of the second round of the Ohio Arts Economic Relief Grant Program. The administration announced $23 million in grants in May to 139 organizations. The Ohio Arts Council (OAC) has secured a $95,000 grant to advance creative aging programs for older adults in the state, a new joint initiative of the National Assembly of State Arts Agencies (NASAA) and E.A. Michelson Philanthropy," OAC said. OAC is one of nine state arts agencies receiving competitive awards from NASAA. ATTORNEY GENERAL Attorney General (AG) Dave Yost announced Monday that Ohio law enforcement agencies now have direct access to the National Integrated Ballistic Information Network (NIBIN) through the AG's Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation (BCI). He said BCI crime labs in Bowling Green, London and Richfield can accept information on crime guns and cartridge casings after installing a hardware interface with the national network. Operated by the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), NIBIN makes three-dimensional scans of cartridge cases and compares them to millions of images in the database, identifying links to previously unconnected gun crimes in Ohio and across the country. FY22-23 BUDGET According to the Office of Budget and Management (OBM), the state of Ohio ended FY23 on June 30 with tax revenues totaling $994.2 million or 3.6 percent above estimates for the year. The Personal Income Tax led the way for FY23, bringing in $645.1 million or 6.4 percent over estimates, for a total over the year of nearly $10.8 billion. It was followed by the non-auto sales tax, coming in at nearly $110.6 million or 1.0 percent over estimates while bringing in a total of nearly $11.5 billion for the year. The Commercial Activity Tax (CAT) ended the year nearly $82.9 million or 4.0 percent over estimates, with a total of nearly $2.2 billion for FY23. The auto sale tax brought in nearly $38.7 million or 2 percent over estimates for a total of nearly $2 billion for the year. IT’S IN THE FY24-25 BUDGET Gov. Mike DeWine and officials from his administration said Ohio's implementation of the 9-8-8 suicide hotline a year ago has saved lives, with around 12,000 monthly calls and texts going to the 19 call centers around the state. DeWine and Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services (OhioMHAS) Director Lori Criss spoke at a press conference Friday to discuss the full funding of the service in HB33 (Edwards), the biennial budget. Criss said the state will be launching a new public service campaign to bring awareness to the hotline that is expected to start by the end of the calendar year. In addition to fully funding the crisis line with $46.5 million committed over the biennium in the budget, DeWine also talked about efforts in the budget to strengthen the care system to help anyone who is having a mental health or addiction crisis. Changes to the Transportation Review Advisory Council (TRAC) that included making the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) director a nonvoting member and shifting more power to the Legislature were among the items struck down by Gov. Mike DeWine earlier this month. The governor's veto message said the proposal would have changed the "historically successful membership composition" of TRAC, which was established in 1997. Sports betting companies' tax rates have been doubled less than a year into the industry's legalization in Ohio. The final version of budget bill HB33 (Edwards) increased the sports gaming receipts tax from 10 percent to 20 percent. The governor proposed the change while the House removed it in its version. However, the Senate reinstated the tax increase and it remained in the bill following the conference committee's negotiations. According to the Legislative Service Commission (LSC), the tax increase will likely generate between $100 million and $135 million per year. Revenue gains would be deposited into the Sports Gaming Profits Education Fund (98 percent) and the Problem Sports Gaming Fund (2 percent). Ohio Department of Education (ODE) Budget Chief Aaron Rausch and ODE Director of Policy and Legislative Affairs Jennie Stump Monday took the State Board of Education (SBOE) on a tour of education funding and policy initiatives, explaining what made it into the final budget and what didn't. The FY24-25 budget includes new state spending of about $2.79 billion over the biennium for K-12 education. However, due to the expiration of federal COVID relief dollars, the education department's All Funds Budget will still see a decrease from $17.4 billion in FY23 to $17.1 billion in FY24 and to $15.7 billion in FY25. Rausch said changes to state foundation funding are the major drivers behind the large increases in new state spending. The budget continues the phase-in of the new school funding formula and includes updates to student enrollment and local capacity calculations. It also uses FY22 inputs for salaries, insurance and other expenditures to increase resources to schools. Another major area of funding is around the state's school choice programs. The Senate was successful in establishing universal eligibility for the EdChoice Expansion program. Full scholarships will be available for families at or below 450 percent of the federal poverty level (which equals an income of about $135,000 for a family of four). Partial scholarships will be available for families earning above that amount with a 10 percent minimum scholarship award regardless of family income, Rausch said. Most of the powers of the SBOE will be transferred to the DeWine administration over the next six months as a result of budget bill HB33, ODE officials said Monday. "Most of the budget bill provisions are effective 91 days after the act is filed with the secretary of state. ... We do not know that date ... but we are tracking that," ODE Chief Legal Counsel Tony Palmer said during SBOE's meeting. "There is also an additional 90 days after that, so it's a period of six months altogether to complete any actions necessary to implement the transfer of powers." ODE Chief of Staff Jessica Voltolini said she and other administration officials are working on an estimate of how many staffers will be moved from ODE -- which will soon be renamed the Ohio Department of Education and Workforce (DEW) -- to SBOE in order to carry out SBOE's remaining responsibilities, which mainly include teacher licensing. Various groups and associations issued statements regarding the final version of HB33 which was signed by the governor very early on Tuesday, July 4. The bill ended up running 6,198 pages and the governor issued 44 vetoes. County boards of elections could begin processing election returns earlier than previously, will get paid sooner for poll training, and won't have to go through the state when buying electronic pollbooks, among other elections provisions in the biennial budget, HB33. A late addition to the budget bill, HB33, created the Commission on Eastern European Affairs, with the conference committee requiring commission members to affirm Ukraine's territorial sovereignty and integrity. The commission was first included in the Senate-passed version of the budget, with 11 voting members and two nonvoting members. The governor will appoint nine voting members -- two having three-year terms, four having two-year terms and three having one-year terms. The Senate president and House speaker will each appoint a private citizen as a voting member for three years, and the two nonvoting members will be legislators from each chamber. The commission must meet at least six times a year. CRIME AND PUNISHMENT Former, two-time House Speaker Larry Householder has had some time to think about his 20-year federal prison sentence over the past two weeks and came to a conclusion: He can do better. Incarcerated in the Butler County Jail since his sentencing for racketeering on June 29, Householder Wednesday submitted notice of his intent to appeal his sentence to the 6th Circuit. According to media reports, former Ohio Republican Party Chairman Matt Borges, who was convicted in the same case, is also appealing his conviction and five-year sentence. Borges, too, is being housed in the Butler County Jail. ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT The Ohio Third Frontier Commission Tuesday approved $1.1 million in grants to support "breakthrough" medical and aviation technology development by eight companies as part of the Technology Validation and Start-up Fund. The fund helps companies aiming to license institution-owned technologies "accelerate commercialization through activities such as market research and further prototyping," according to the Ohio Department of Development (DOD). "This helps companies raise funds and get the licensed technology to the marketplace faster." EDUCATION The U.S. Department of Education (USDOE) recently announced the launch of an antisemitism awareness campaign, a part of the Biden administration's broader U.S. National Strategy to Counter Antisemitism. As part of the effort, the department's Office of Civil Rights (OCR) issued a letter to state education leaders "reminding schools of their legal obligations under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to provide all students, including students who are or are perceived to be Jewish, a school environment free of discrimination based on race, color or national origin, including shared ancestry or ethnic characteristics, or citizenship or residency in a country with a dominant religion or religious identity." The letter to state education leaders is at More information about the national strategy is at The Ohio Department of Education (ODE) released the 2022-2023 third grade English Language Arts (ELA) tests scores on Monday. ODE Office of Assessment Director Lisa Chandler told the State Board of Education (SBOE) that the scores did not include exemptions or summer data. She noted that between 5,000 and 6,000 students took the test during the summer, which is a record high. A total of 122,000 students were tested, with 84 percent (about 102,000 students) doing so online and 16 percent (about 20,000 students) doing paper tests. The "proficient or higher" score increased to 63 percent in 2022-2023, up from 60 percent in 2021-2022. However, those meeting the promotion score dropped slightly from 76 percent in 2021-2022 to 75 percent in 2022-2023. However, Chandler noted that the scores needed to be promoted in 2022-2023 were slightly higher than the previous school year. The State Board of Education (SBOE) on Tuesday released a document outlining the tentative process and timeline for the board's search for its next permanent superintendent of public instruction. From Monday, July 17 through Friday, July 28, search firm Ray & Associates will conduct individual interviews with members of SBOE. On Wednesday, July 19, an online survey link for public input will be made available on the Ohio Department of Education (ODE) website, and will be active until Tuesday, Sept. 12. Lt. Gov. Jon Husted announced Wednesday that up to 535 students will participate in the High School Tech Internship program, which reimburses Ohio employers for establishing a recruitment pipeline. The goal is to provide them with needed tech talent and give students valuable and early work experience. Job duties will be similar to what is expected for entry-level roles in software development, data, cloud and IT infrastructure, cybersecurity and broadband/5G. The businesses will be reimbursed for up to 100 percent of the intern wages, up to $5,000 per intern, and encouraged to hire the student. This money comes through the Third Frontier Commission, and schools partner with local employers. The Ohio Department of Education also provided grant funding for two intermediary organizations to assist with employer outreach and student recruitment. ELECTIONS 2023 Early voting for the Aug. 8 special election for all voters began on Tuesday. Voters statewide are being asked to weigh in on Issue 1, which would raise the passage threshold of constitutional amendments to 60 percent in the future. According to the secretary of state's office, there are currently 7,947,090 registered voters in Ohio. Early, in-person voting hours at local county boards of elections will be as follows:

  • Tuesday, July 11-Friday, July 14, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

  • Monday, July 17-Friday, July 21, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

  • Monday, July 24-Friday, July 28, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

  • Monday, July 31- Friday, Aug. 4, 7:30 a.m.-7:30 p.m.

  • Saturday, Aug. 5, 8 a.m.- 4 p.m.

  • Sunday, Aug. 6, 1-5 p.m.

Polls will be open on Election Day, Aug. 8 from 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. One Person One Vote, the campaign committee opposing Issue 1, launched a new 30-second television ad and 60-second radio ad, which are now being aired. The television ad is being aired statewide, while the radio ad is airing in the Columbus, Cleveland, and Cincinnati markets. The following endorsements were made over the week:

  • The Ohio AgriBusiness Association endorsed a "yes" vote on Issue 1.

  • The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) PAC endorsed a "no" vote on Issue 1.

ELECTIONS 2024 The re-election campaign of U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) announced Monday that it has raised $5 million in the second quarter of this year. Friday is the deadline for federal candidates to report all fundraising activities from March through June 30. Brown's campaign, along with the campaign of Republican U.S. Senate candidate Bernie Moreno, announced Monday the fundraising totals they will report in their submissions to the Federal Elections Commission. Both campaigns said they have set records for incumbents and candidates in Ohio in this stage of a campaign. Brown's campaign said he has received donations from all 88 counties in Ohio in the second quarter, with 95 percent of individual contributions under $100. Moreno's campaign said he has raised $2.2 million in the second quarter, with $1.3 million coming from Ohioans. Moreno, who partially self-funded his 2022 Senate campaign before withdrawing, said the total does not include any personal funds. Orlando Sonza, a U.S. Army veteran and assistant Hamilton County prosecutor, announced Monday that he is running for Congress next year, seeking the seat currently held by U.S. Rep. Greg Landsman (D-Cincinnati). Sonza is seeking the Republican nomination for the seat, which currently covers the city of Cincinnati and Warren County. He previously ran for the Ohio Senate, losing to Sen. Catherine Ingram (D-Cincinnati) last year. EMPLOYMENT/UNEMPLOYMENT The nation added 209,000 jobs in June and the federal unemployment rate dropped to 3.6 percent, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) said Friday. The unemployment rate dropped from May's 3.7 percent level. BLS said the rate has ranged from 3.4 percent to 3.7 percent since March 2022. The number of unemployed persons at 6.0 million was little changed. Among the major worker groups, the unemployment rate for Whites declined to 3.1 percent in June. The jobless rates for adult men (3.4 percent), adult women (3.1 percent), teenagers (11.0 percent), Blacks (6.0 percent), Asians (3.2 percent), and Hispanics (4.3 percent) showed little change over the month. The number of long-term unemployed (those jobless for 27 weeks or more), at 1.1 million, changed little in June and accounted for 18.5 percent of the total unemployed. ENERGY/UTILITIES The Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) Division of Oil and Gas Resources Management responded to a natural gas release from a well in Columbiana County, Gov. Mike DeWine announced Tuesday. The incident occurred on the Tarka Pad on Fairfield School Road near Columbiana, the governor's office said. ODNR was coordinating with local first responders, the operator of the well (Hilcorp Energy Company), the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (Ohio EPA), and oil and gas emergency contractors to mitigate the situation. Hilcorp Energy Company reported that a third-party contractor struck a well head on the pad around 9 a.m. on Tuesday. Emergency shut-down devices for the remaining 12 wells on the pad were activated and all remaining wells and pipelines are deactivated. Hilcorp has secured the services of a well control specialist who is expected to begin operations to regain control of the well Tuesday evening. Ohio could eclipse its historical high for shale oil production in April-June after another solid quarter to open 2023 if "fracking" wells tipped a record 7,200,000/billion barrels (bbl) by the end of June. Horizontal drilling produced 6,549,638 bbl of oil in Q1 of this year, a double-digit increase over September-December of 2022 and a growth of 71 percent year-over-year compared to the previous first quarter. If numbers continue to rise like the start of 2023, Ohio will set a new record for shale oil output by the end of the current second quarter. The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) Wednesday ordered Ohio's investor-owned electric and natural gas utilities to suspend disconnections of customers for nonpayment if the customer has a pending application for various energy assistance programs. Specifically, utilities will be prohibited from disconnecting for nonpayment for 30 days after a customer has applied for Winter and Summer Crisis programs, Home Energy Assistance Programs (HEAP), or the Percentage of Income Payment Plan (PIPP). (Links to these energy assistance programs can be found online at This is an addition to the existing consumer protections surrounding utility disconnections for nonpayment. Those protections are outlined online at

The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio's (PUCO) longest-serving member fired one over the bow of competitive energy suppliers Thursday after the commission dismissed a case in which a residential customer had accused CleanSky Energy of misrepresenting its prices and pretending to be his local utility, American Electric Power (AEP) of Ohio. Commissioner Larry Friedeman invoked the Consumer Sales Practices Act (CSPA) and warned that PUCO could take action against retail suppliers with "outlier" costs. FEDERAL U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) joined other U.S. senators and representatives Tuesday in introducing the "Building Chips in America Act," with his office saying it will "maximize the opportunity to bring microchip manufacturing back to America while maintaining bedrock environmental protections for clean air and water." Other sponsors included U.S. Sens. Mark Kelly (D-AZ), Bill Hagerty (R-TN) and Todd Young (R-IN), along with U.S. Reps. Jen Kiggans (R-VA), Scott Peters (D-CA), Brandon Williams (R-NY), and Colin Allred (D-TX). "By investing in Ohio semiconductor manufacturing and Ohio talent, we can restore critical supply chains, help lower costs for Ohioans, and create thousands of jobs," Brown said. "This legislation will help prevent delays to semiconductor manufacturing projects the CHIPS Act made possible and encourage future investments in American manufacturing." Brown held a call-in with reporters Wednesday to discuss bipartisan legislation he is introducing with U.S. Sen. Mike Braun (R-IN) that would require American tax dollars spent on feeding children in schools to only be used on American-made and American-grown food. Brown said there currently are basic "Buy America" provisions for school lunches, but those don't apply to breakfasts, summer meals, or other school-served meals. Additionally, he said it has been too easy for schools to get waivers to bring in food from overseas. Much of the foreign food purchased by districts is also produced in the United States, Brown said, adding there is no reason for the food to come from places like China. GAMING/GAMBLING Ohio sports gambling operators and casinos had a relatively slow month in May 2023, according to the Ohio Casino Control Commission (OCCC). Meanwhile, the state's traditional lottery and racino revenues were slightly higher year-over-year in May 2023, according to the Ohio Lottery Commission (OLC). Sports betting companies reported their lowest numbers in handle and revenue since they began operating in January. Ohioans placed $446.2 million in sports bets (handle) in May, down from $520.6 million in April, $737.2 million in March, $638.8 million in February and $1.1 billion in January. Total taxable sports gambling revenue in May was $57.9 million, down from $63.8 million in April, $95.2 million in March, $81 million in February and $209.3 million in January. Turning to casino gambling, Ohio's four casinos made $80.6 million in May 2023, down from $86.7 million in May 2022. Operating transfers to the Lottery Profits Education Fund (LPEF) for May 2023 totaled $122.6 million, up from $118 million in May 2022. Video lottery terminals (VLTs) at Ohio's seven racinos earned $115.3 million in May 2023, up from $114.9 million in May 2022. GENERAL ASSEMBLY/STATEHOUSE House Speaker Jason Stephens (R-Kitts Hill) said in a statement issued over the weekend that he asked Rep. Bob Young (R-North Canton) to resign after Young was charged with domestic violence. According to Barberton Municipal Court information, Young is accused of knowingly or attempting to cause physical harm to a victim, a family, or household member, a first-degree misdemeanor charge. He is also charged with knowingly damaging or tampering with a communication device being used for emergency communications, a fourth-degree felony. He appeared in court on Saturday and was given a $5,000 bond by Judge Todd McKenney, also a former state lawmaker. Freshman Rep. Justin Pizzulli (R-Franklin Furnace) first ran for the 90th House District in 2018, losing in the primary to Brian Baldridge. When Baldridge was named director of the Ohio Department of Agriculture, Pizzulli was selected to be his replacement, though the caucus split over that selection. Describing himself to Hannah News as “conservative as conservative can get," he said he will champion pro-life issues, Second Amendment rights, and God in families and schools. Pizzulli also calls himself a "big, big movie buff," so much so that he is working on his own script. He said he will watch anything, though he likes art house movies, citing directors such as David Lynch and Wes Anderson among his favorites. "I like to watch one movie a day, ideally," he said. "Not anymore now, lately, but if I had it my way, it'd be one movie every day." GOVERNOR Gov. Mike DeWine Friday signed SB16 (Wilson), legislation that initially expanded immunity from liability for nonprofits that donate perishable food but was amended in the House to also include updates to the state's crime victims law, Marsy's Law. Rep. Andrea White (R-Kettering), the sponsor of Marsy's Law implementation bill 134-HB343 (White), had brought the update to her House colleagues, along with an emergency clause, saying she had spoken with law enforcement agencies that said it would be difficult to comply with provisions involving victim's rights forms that are required under the bill. The bill went into effect with the governor’s signature on July 7. DeWine Tuesday appointed James Payne to the Vinton County Court of Pleas, General and Domestic Relations Division. Payne, of McArthur, will assume office on Monday, July 31, and will be taking the seat formerly held by James Salyer, who resigned effective June 4. Payne will serve the remainder of the unfinished term and need to run for election in November 2024 to retain the seat for a subsequent term. Payne began his career in law in 1994 as a judicial attorney in Lawrence County. In November 2020, Payne was elected prosecuting attorney for Vinton County. The governor issued a reprieve of execution for Keith Lamar. Lamar was scheduled to be executed on Thursday, Nov. 16, 2023 but will now be executed on Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2027. "Gov. DeWine is issuing this reprieve due to ongoing problems involving the willingness of pharmaceutical suppliers to provide drugs to the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction (DRC), pursuant to DRC protocol, without endangering other Ohioans," the governor's office said. DeWine told reporters Thursday that his focus will largely be on implementing changes from the budget in the near future, as the Legislature provided "a lot as far as what we asked for." That work will include setting up the new Ohio Department of Children and Youth (DCY) and filling major positions in the Ohio Department of Education and Workforce (DEW). Candidates for the new DEW positions have not been identified, but DeWine said different people have been thought about. It is important to make those decisions quickly while getting them right, he added. He also reiterated the importance of provisions on the "science of reading" and said budget language on nursing homes provides "a great opportunity" to regulate them much better than before. GUNS Gun violence hasn't been taken seriously enough by elected leaders at all levels of government, according to Live Free USA Director Michael McBride. "We must be the solution to this problem. The way the city can help, the way that the business community can help and the way that elected officials can help, is to make sure that when we step up to be the solution, that we are not doing it as volunteers. We're not doing it as charity work. It is a profession that has benefits, a retirement plan, a professional development plan. It has institutional infrastructure so that it can be scaled and sustained without having to go beg people to keep the doors open," McBride, also known as "Pastor Mike," told the City Club of Cleveland on Friday. HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Thursday announced the approval of Opill (norgestrel) tablet for nonprescription use to prevent pregnancy -- the first daily oral contraceptive approved for use in the U.S. without a prescription or over-the-counter (OTC). Approval of this progestin-only oral contraceptive pill provides an option for consumers to purchase oral contraceptive medicine without a prescription at drug stores, convenience stores and grocery stores, as well as online, FDA said. The timeline for availability and price of this nonprescription product is determined by the manufacturer. Other approved formulations and dosages of other oral contraceptives will remain available by prescription only. HIGHER EDUCATION Columbus State Community College (CSCC) and OhioHealth announced Tuesday a partnership designed to double the number of professionals trained in five health care fields and address a critical workforce shortage in Central Ohio. The joint investment totals at least $120 million. Over the next 10 years, Columbus State said it will double the number of students in nursing, surgical technology, medical imaging, respiratory therapy and sterile processing -- five fields where there is strong demand from both students and employers. U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Marcia L. Fudge will deliver the summer commencement address at Ohio State University (OSU). Fudge is a former Ohio congresswoman who earned her bachelor's degree in business from Ohio State. Approximately 1,600 degrees and certificates will be awarded at the Sunday, Aug. 6 ceremony at the Schottenstein Center. JUDICIAL The Ohio State Bar Foundation (OSBF) has announced the induction of 25 attorneys to its Fellows Program. The new class of OSBF fellows was welcomed by Chief Justice Sharon Kennedy at a ceremony at the Ohio Supreme Court, OSBF said. The class includes lawyers from private firms, prosecutors, public defenders, judges and community leaders. The Ohio Board of Professional Conduct recently affirmed the Supreme Court of Ohio's longstanding position on so-called mayors' courts: They are not courts of record under Supreme Court superintendence. For that reason, the board continued, mayor's court magistrates, like mayors operating such tribunals, may seek and hold elected office along with leadership positions in a local or state political party. Conduct board Advisory Opinion 2023-03 notes that neither Ohio statute, Court rules nor case law treat mayors' tribunals as courts exclusively within the judicial branch, and indicates that mayors and mayor's court magistrates are performing "judicial functions within a court" under the Ohio Supreme Court Code of Judicial Conduct. "Mayor's courts operate exclusively within the executive branch and are distinct from trial and appellate courts in the judicial branch in terms of their operation and oversight," the opinion states. It says mayor's court magistrates instead fall under "separate professional conduct expectations" in the Ohio Traffic Rules and Mayor's Court Education and Procedure. LOBBYISTS Ohio Association of Foodbanks (OAF) Executive Director Lisa Hamler-Fugitt will retire at the end of 2023, the OAF Board of Directors announced Wednesday. Hamler-Fugitt has led the organization for more than 20 years, OAF said. The OAF Board also announced that Joree Novotny will replace Hamler-Fugitt after a transition period. Novotny is being promoted after serving as director of external affairs and chief of staff for the organization. MARIJUANA/HEMP Individuals with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) can now treat their disorder with marijuana, the State Medical Board of Ohio (SMBO) decided Wednesday. The board unanimously voted to add IBS to the list of qualifying conditions under the Ohio Medical Marijuana Control Program (MMCP). Two other proposed conditions were unanimously rejected by the board -- autism spectrum disorder and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). There are now more than 370,000 patients registered in the Ohio Medical Marijuana Control Program (MMCP), according to the Ohio Board of Pharmacy (OBP). Specifically, there are 370,287 patients registered in the program, OBP said in its May patient and caregiver numbers update. Of registered patients, 22,039 are military veterans; 23,132 are classified as "indigent"; and 1,336 patients have a terminal diagnosis. Of the 370,287 registered patients, only 174,591 have both an active registration and active recommendation. MEDICAID/MEDICAID REFORM Problems with housing, transportation, education, employment and racism are significant factors causing Ohio's poor infant mortality rate, researchers from the Health Policy Institute of Ohio (HPIO) told the Joint Medicaid Oversight Committee (JMOC) on Thursday. HPIO President Amy Rohling McGee said social, economic and environmental issues represent 50 percent of the modifiable factors that affect health, followed by health behaviors (30 percent) and clinical care (20 percent). Ohio ranks 41 out of the 50 states in infant mortality, Rohling McGee said, noting the infant mortality rate for Black Ohioans is 164 percent higher than the rate for White Ohioans. HPIO Vice President Amy Bush Stevens said the lack of stable housing is a key driver of infant mortality. NONPROFIT ORGANIZATIONS The OneOhio Recovery Foundation Board Wednesday submitted three names to Gov. Mike DeWine for his consideration as a permanent executive director. Making the cut to potentially oversee the foundation charged with distributing the state's opioid settlement funds are Lynette Cook, the current executive director of the Association for Research on Nonprofit Organizations and Voluntary Action (ARNOVA) and previous executive director of Community Research Partners; Lisa Mertz, the current president and CEO of the Addiction Services Council in Cincinnati; and Alisha Nelson, the current director of Humana Healthy Horizons Ohio. The foundation also discussed the process for grant applications for funding. The board was told that requests for proposals could come by Oct. 1. POVERTY The COVID-19 pandemic poses long-lasting effects for the current state of poverty, Ohio Association of Community Action Agencies (OACAA) Executive Director Philip Cole said in a press conference Monday on OACAA's annual report on poverty; learning loss was one of three key problems detailed in it. Cole opened by recognizing the DeWine administration's work in distributing billions of dollars in federal aid for rent and mortgage assistance and utility payments during the pandemic, saying OACAA members participated in those efforts as well. He also noted that poverty is caused by people's poor choices in some instances, but more often it is due to societal factors which lead to unequal access to resources. STATE GOVERNMENT The Controlling Board Monday approved a request from Secretary of State Frank LaRose's office that will spend $244,500 for public service announcements (PSA) for the upcoming Tuesday, Aug. 8 special election. Rep. Bride Rose Sweeney (D-Cleveland) held the request, questioning the secretary of state's office on why the contracts were not competitively bid. Leslie Piatt, the chief financial officer for the secretary of state, explained that the vendors were used for last year's election. Piatt said they didn't have to find new vendors for the special election, and already having the pricing from the previous vendors, they just went with them again. She said they will be rebidding new vendors for the November election. The item was approved without objection. The board also approved without objection a request from the Ohio Department of Development (DOD) that will spend $6.12 million with 19 planning firms as part of the Appalachian Community Grant Program. Rep. Jay Edwards (R-Nelsonville) asked John Carey of the Governor's Office of Appalachia how the planners were found. Carey said that communities had the opportunity to select what planners they wanted to work with, and if they had a certain one, DOD will try to accommodate them. TECHNOLOGY/AEROSPACE Panelists at the Columbus Metropolitan Club discussed Wednesday the current capabilities and limits of artificial intelligence (AI), while also receiving responses from OpenAI's ChatGPT technology itself. The discussion title, "Exploring the Promise and Peril of Artificial Intelligence," was even crafted by ChatGPT. The human panelists included Padma Sastry, adjunct professor at Franklin University and vice president at JPMorgan Chase & Co.; Andrew Perrault, assistant professor of computer science and engineering at Ohio State University (OSU); and Kevin Lloyd, chief operating officer at Color Coded Labs. The discussion was hosted by David Staley, director of the OSU Center for the Humanities in Practice. Staley's initial question was what is ChatGPT, and he directed it at the chatbot first. That led to a lengthy answer, including that the technology is an "advanced language model ... designed to generate human-like responses in natural language based on the input it receives." The response also noted ChatGPT answers may be incorrect at times. TRANSPORTATION/INFRASTRUCTURE The Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) said Tuesday that it has selected a consultant and will be launching its study of the state's transportation needs in August. The transportation budget, HB23 (Edwards), earmarked $10 million for ODOT to work with the Ohio Department of Development and the Governor's Office of Workforce Transformation to study the state's transportation system. The study will analyze statewide and regional demographics, investigate economic development growth opportunities, examine current transportation systems and capacities, forecast passenger and freight travel needs over a 10-, 20-, and 30-year time frame, identify current and future transportation links, evaluate and rank current and potential risks of future system congestion, and make actionable recommendations for transportation system projects to support statewide economic growth, including improving links between Columbus and Toledo. The study is required to be completed by Dec. 31, 2024. Gov. Mike DeWine was joined by Ohio and U.S. transportation leaders Thursday in announcing plans to add 27 electric vehicle (EV) fast charging stations approximately every 50 miles along Ohio's interstates. Stations will have at least four ports and will be open 24 hours a day once they are installed in 2024, he said. The announcement makes Ohio the first in the nation to reveal its sites which will be developed through the National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure (NEVI) Program. There are currently 13 existing stations in the state, and the next round will focus on 16 to 20 for state and U.S. routes. DeWine told Hannah News that will include an emphasis on Southern Ohio, likely along U.S. 23 from Columbus to the Ohio River. WORKFORCE Lt. Gov. Jon Husted announced Monday that 367 employers were approved for funding in the May round of TechCred, which will enable Ohioans to earn 4,297 tech-focused credentials. It is the 20th round of the program. Manufacturing, Transportation and Warehousing, and Educational Services were among the top industries for awards in this round. The recent budget invests $50 million over the biennium into TechCred. The July round will be open until 3 p.m. on Monday, July 31. First Lady Jill Biden stopped in Columbus on Wednesday where she participated in the launch of the Columbus Workforce Hub - one of five hubs nationwide. Speaking at City Hall, she quoted her husband President Joe Biden as saying, "A job is about a lot more than a paycheck. It's about dignity." In remarks prepared for the day's event, she said, "Joe understands the middle class because we're from the middle class. And he's working to build the economy from the middle out and the bottom up. He's strengthening communities like Columbus -- by fueling a nationwide manufacturing boom and creating new opportunities for hard-working families.” Columbus State Community College President David Harrison, who joined with other regional leaders to welcome the First Lady, said of Biden, "With her deep background as a community college educator, she really gets the role we play in convening workforce development stakeholders. We're excited that the Columbus Workforce Hub is adding to the region's momentum." Among other goals, the hub will support the work of Columbus State and the Ohio Semiconductor Collaboration Network.

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

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