Week In Review - July 18, 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.


ABORTION


The U.S. Constitution protects the right of Ohioans to travel to other states for abortion services, Ohio Right to Life (ORTL) President Mike Gonidakis said Friday. The anti-abortion leader was responding to President Joe Biden's executive order on protecting and expanding access to abortion care. However, Gonidakis indicated that he believes abortion-inducing medications can be banned by states. "There is no right, however, for illegal drugs to be shipped from one state to another. Any state that is abortion-free has the constitutional right to prohibit such activity," he said.


Legislation declaring that "personhood" begins at conception was condemned by prominent Ohio Democrats on Tuesday, with U.S. Senate candidate Tim Ryan saying it's yet another "extreme" anti-abortion measure that is opposed by the "exhausted majority." Rep. Gary Click's (R-Vickery) HB704 is very brief, and includes the following language: "The state of Ohio shall recognize the personhood, and protect the constitutional rights, of all unborn human individuals from the moment of conception. Nothing in this section shall be interpreted in any manner that would endanger the life of a mother."


Rep. Jeff Crossman (D-Parma), the Democratic candidate for attorney general, said Ohio's current six-week abortion ban is already more restrictive than laws that were on the books before Roe v. Wade. Crossman was joined at a press conference by Dr. Samantha Clark, an OBGYN who is a member of Ohio Physicians for Reproductive Rights. Clark said HB704 could prohibit certain types of contraception and imperil Ohioans' access to fertility treatments such as in vitro fertilization (IVF).


Hospitals across the U.S. are still required to provide abortion services in life- or health-saving emergency situations, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS). In a letter to health care providers, HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra clarified that the federal Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act (EMTALA) preempts any state law that restricts access to abortion in emergencies. "The EMTALA statute requires that all patients receive an appropriate medical screening examination, stabilizing treatment, and transfer, if necessary, irrespective of any state laws or mandates that apply to specific procedures. It is critical that providers know that a physician or other qualified medical personnel's professional and legal duty to provide stabilizing medical treatment to a patient who presents to the emergency department and is found to have an emergency medical condition preempts any directly conflicting state law or mandate that might otherwise prohibit such treatment," Becerra wrote.


The viral story about a pregnant Ohio 10-year-old rape victim being taken to Indiana for an abortion because of Ohio's six-week abortion ban was confirmed by media outlets on Wednesday. The Columbus Dispatch was the first to report that 27-year-old Gershon Fuentes of Columbus was arrested on charges of raping the child, verifying previous reporting by the Indianapolis Star. Shortly after the reported arrest, the campaign of Democratic gubernatorial candidate Nan Whaley called on Gov. Mike DeWine and Attorney General Dave Yost to "apologize for their role in calling into question the validity" of the story.


ADDICTION/SUBSTANCE ABUSE


OneOhio Recovery Foundation's Board of Directors approved a $10,000 monthly contract Thursday for former Kasich communications director Connie Luck of ConVista Public Affairs to take over messaging for the nonprofit under the direction of TrustDigital and by recommendation of Senate Majority Whip Robert McColley (R-Napoleon). Members also gave the thumbs up to Fifth Third and Huntington banks to each handle $222.2 million of the foundation's total funding. The board met virtually after selecting officers and approving TrustDigital as its website developer in June.


ATTORNEY GENERAL


The Ohio Attorney General's Office has extended the deadline for Teen Ambassador Board applications to Thursday, July 21. The Teen Ambassador Board provides high school juniors and seniors from public, private, charter and online schools as well as home-schooled students an inside look at state law and government.


AUTOMOBILE INDUSTRY


Lordstown Motors Corporation (LMC) recently announced new executive appointments that it said would “further strengthen” the senior leadership, with CEO Daniel Ninivaggi becoming executive chairman of the board and company President Edward Hightower taking on the role of CEO. Hightower will continue to serve as CEO of LMC’s product development joint venture with Foxconn as well. The company received significant fanfare from state leaders in 2020 but June 2021 saw the resignations of then-CEO Steve Burns and CFO Julio Rodriguez amid questions on whether the company would be able to continue. Ninivaggi became CEO in August and the company entered an initial agreement with Foxconn in October.


FY22-23 BUDGET


Tax collections generated nearly $180 million more than expected in June, bringing Ohio's revenue surplus to more than $2.7 billion at the close of FY22 on June 30, according to data from the Office of Budget and Management (OBM). The state collected $28.1 billion in taxes through the fiscal year, compared to expectations of $25.4 billion, a difference of nearly 11 percent. Personal income tax collections made up the bulk of that overage, bringing in $1.85 billion or 20.8 percent more than expected; June's collections themselves were $50.1 million or 5.1 percent ahead of estimates.


CHILDREN/FAMILIES


The General Assembly should pass legislation allowing a pregnant person to sue those responsible for causing the unintended pregnancy -- whether the sex was consensual or not -- according to Sen. Tina Maharath (D-Canal Winchester). Maharath's legislation, SB262, permits someone to bring a civil action against a person who does either of the following:

  • Causes the person to have an unintended pregnancy, regardless of the circumstances.

  • Aids or abets any other person in causing the person to have an unintended pregnancy, regardless of the circumstances.

CORONAVIRUS


The latest COVID-19 Omicron subvariant, BA.5, now makes up around half of COVID-19 cases according to sample data collected by the Ohio Department of Health (ODH) in the two weeks ending July 2. Since this information involves genomic sequencing, it is published another two weeks after the fact. ODH said Thursday that Omicron BA.5 was present in 45.1 percent of samples, up from 18.76 percent in the previous period ending June 18. The BA.4 subvariant also nearly doubled, from 5.65 percent to 10.57 percent. Two earlier subvariants, BA.2 and BA.2.12.1, are in decline as a result and totaled 11.08 percent and 32.47 percent, respectively. BA.2.12.1 previously represented over half of samples in June 18 data.


DISASTERS


Gov. Mike DeWine's office said Wednesday he's declared a state of emergency in Brown and Clermont counties because of damage and power outages caused by summer storms and tornadoes last week.


EDUCATION


Higher schoolers would face updated criteria for earning honors diplomas under a proposal approved Monday by a committee of the State Board of Education (SBOE). The changes adopted reverse a previous draft that would have reduced world language requirements, in response to public feedback in opposition to such reduction.


Staff with the Ohio Department of Education (ODE) Monday gave an update on the state's use of federal COVID-19 relief funds to support students experiencing homelessness as well as resources to help schools transition away from enhanced federal supports for school meals. While presenting to the State Board of Education's (SBOE) Integrated Student Supports Committee, Jennifer Vargo, director in ODE's Office of Whole Child Supports, said 20,922 Ohio students experienced homelessness during the 2020-2021 school year. Of the 20,922 homeless youth during the 2020-21 school year, 1,455 were unaccompanied youth, 310 were in an unsheltered situation, and 300 were preschool age. The vast majority, 79 percent, were living in doubled-up housing. About 41 percent of the students were White and another 39 percent of the students were Black. About 23 percent of the students had disabilities.


The State Board of Education debated at length Tuesday but took no concrete action on the search for a new, permanent superintendent to lead the Ohio Department of Education (ODE). Meanwhile, the interim superintendent, Stephanie Siddens, said she's not made a decision on whether she wants to seek the job, something she declined to do during her prior stint as interim leader. Also, Gov. Mike DeWine's office said that although the General Assembly maps he relied on were invalidated in Court, he can't revisit his decision on designating State Board of Education districts. During each redistricting cycle, lawmakers have the option to designate which Senate districts constitute which State Board of Education districts. If they decline to do so, the job falls to the governor, who must complete it by Jan. 31 of the following year. DeWine did so several months ago, using maps that were approved Jan. 22 by the Ohio Redistricting Commission but then invalidated by the Ohio Supreme Court on Feb. 7. DeWine's office interprets the law as not allowing him to make new designations, according to an email from spokesperson Dan Tierney.


The State Board of Education voted Tuesday to slightly increase the cut score third graders must achieve on English language arts tests to be promoted to fourth grade. The board voted to increase the score to 685 for the 2022-2023 school year, up from 683. The board also narrowly approved updates to state learning standards for computer science after board member Brendan Shea raised objections to proposed revisions recommended by the board's Teaching, Leading and Learning Committee.


The Ohio Department of Education (ODE) was set to launch a new website this week that will give information about the state and school districts' use of COVID-19 funds. While presenting before the State Board of Education, Jana Fornario, executive director of Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) State Activities at ODE, said the department aims to launch the Future Forward Ohio website Friday, July 15.


Gov. Mike DeWine announced that 16 Ohio high school students have been selected for the inaugural Ohio Student Safety Advisory Council within the Ohio School Safety Center (OSSC). He announced plans in April for the student-led council, which will work with OSSC leadership to identify school safety concerns and develop innovative solutions to address them.


The Ohio Department of Education (ODE) has a survey open until Thursday, Aug. 4 on new industry credentials under consideration for inclusion on the list used for high school graduation requirements. The department says industry organizations' feedback helps to validate the need for credentials within a career field "to ensure students are earning credentials that are valued by businesses or tied to Ohio's Top Jobs List." The survey is posted at https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/RRBR2X8.


ELECTIONS


The Ohio Elections Commission Thursday spent the bulk of its meeting discussing a potential policy on when it will allow witnesses to testify before it through videoconferencing and when it will require them to appear in-person. Executive Director Phil Richter brought the issue before the commission, saying it is a question that has come up often since the commission began transitioning back to in-person meetings after using videoconferencing during the height of the pandemic.


ELECTIONS 2022


U.S. Senate candidate Tim Ryan raised $9.1 million in the second quarter of 2022, the Democrat's campaign announced Friday. That total is more than double the previous fundraising record for a U.S. Senate candidate in Ohio.


Aleena Starks is the new political director of the Ohio Working Families Party (Ohio WFP), the organization announced Monday. "Aleena has spent the last 10 years advocating for Cleveland's marginalized and working-class families. As an activist and organizer, field director and campaign manager, she has worked alongside progressive organizations and candidates to fight for the incarcerated, affordable housing, lead-safe homes, a living wage, voter rights and health care for all," Ohio WFP said.


Arguing that the May 3 primary and the Aug. 2 primary are one election that extends over two dates, a candidate for the Ohio Republican Party's State Central Committee has filed a lawsuit with the Ohio Supreme Court seeking to block voters from switching party ballots for the upcoming election.


Brian Ames, a Republican candidate for State Central Committee for the 28th Senate District, filed the lawsuit with the Ohio Supreme Court last week.


According to the secretary of state's office, 24,741 Ohioans have signed up to serve as a poll worker in the upcoming Tuesday, Aug. 2 primary election. The minimum number of poll workers needed statewide is 25,764, the secretary of state's office said. As of Monday, July 11, 52 counties have already met their minimum number of poll workers needed.


According to Secretary of State Frank LaRose, 44,407 absentee ballots had been requested by mail or in-person for the state legislative and political party central committee races for the Tuesday, Aug. 2 primary election, and 6,239 votes have been cast statewide in those same races. Data were collected by the Ohio Secretary of State's Office via an informal survey of Ohio's 88 county boards of elections. The information includes data reported by the county boards from the start of early voting on Wednesday, July 6 through the end of early voting hours on Friday, July 8.


The Ohio Republican Party (Ohio GOP) Wednesday announced the launch of a website highlighting attacks on Democratic gubernatorial nominee Nan Whaley's record. The party said the facts behind Whaley show that as mayor she was a "liberal who failed the people and city she was elected to serve. Ohioans want economic freedom, not nanny-state Nan." The site is www.nanwhaley.org.


Secretary of State Frank LaRose said Thursday that county boards of elections will use State Board of Education districts as designated by Gov. Mike DeWine when they prepare for the upcoming August filing deadline and November election. Meanwhile, Democratic legislative leaders are asking DeWine to revisit the maps, rebutting his argument that he cannot do so. "Under state law, the governor has the authority to designate the boundaries of the districts 'no later than the 31st day of January of the year next succeeding such apportionment' if the General Assembly does not do so. Since the current General Assembly plan was adopted in 2022 - and there are not plans for the General Assembly to return to designate Board of Education districts before the Aug. 10 candidate filing deadline - it is presumably within your authority to designate such districts before Jan. 31, 2023 at the latest," wrote Senate Minority Leader Kenny Yuko (D-Richmond Heights) and House Minority Leader Allison Russo (D-Upper Arlington).


The following endorsements were made over the week:


  • The Human Rights Campaign endorsed the congressional campaigns of Greg Landsman and Emilia Sykes.

  • Planned Parenthood of Ohio endorsed U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan for the U.S. Senate.

  • The National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) endorsed J.D. Vance for U.S. Senate.

  • The re-election campaign of Gov. Mike DeWine announced the endorsement of Ohio State Association of Plumbers and Pipefitters.

  • Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters endorsed Chris Monzel for state representative.

  • The state representative campaign of Sam Lawrence announced the endorsement of U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH).

  • Americans for Prosperity-Ohio endorsed Sen. Nathan Manning (R-North Ridgeville) and Rep. Darrell Kick (R-Loudonville) for re-election and Tim Barhorst of Fort Loramie for House District 85.

  • Human Rights Campaign PAC endorsed Tim Ryan for U.S. Senate.

EMPLOYMENT/UNEMPLOYMENT


According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the nation added 372,000 jobs in June, and the unemployment rate remained at 3.6 percent as job gains occurred in professional and business services, leisure and hospitality, and health care. The unemployment rate was 3.6 percent for the fourth month in a row, and the number of unemployed persons was essentially unchanged at 5.9 million in June. These measures are little different from their values in February 2020 (3.5 percent and 5.7 million, respectively), prior to the coronavirus pandemic, BLS said.


ENERGY/UTILITIES


American Electric Power (AEP) Ohio President and Chief Operating Office Marc Reitter assured the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) Wednesday that the company is working with the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC) and PJM Interconnection to better understand and plan for the conditions leading up to Central Ohio's June power outages, though he didn't say AEP's transmission system required reinforcements to prevent "load dump" blackouts from recurring. Reitter appeared before the commission with company Vice President Robert Bradish of Transmission Planning and Engineering and Senior Vice President Toby Thomas and Vice President David Ball of Energy Delivery Operations. PJM, the interstate regional transmission organization (RTO) encompassing Ohio, preceded AEP in comments from Senior Vice President of Operations Michael Bryson.


Parties before the Ohio Supreme Court Tuesday debated whether the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) has authority to order the collection of a flat $20 million from all electric ratepayers for the annual solar subsidy of 133-HB6 (Callender-Wilkin) and 134-HB128 (Hoops-Stein) or must first calculate solar credits eligible generators actually have earned. The Ohio Manufacturers’ Association (OMA) and PUCO also differed over the meaning of billed “customers” – whether they constitute single entities with more than one location or individual accounts for which an entity may pay multiple charges.


FEDERAL


A Taiwanese silicon wafer company has already decided to build a new facility in Asia instead of Ohio or Texas because of Congress' inaction on the CHIPS Act, U.S. Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) said Tuesday.


"[GlobalWafers] ... was thinking of coming to Ohio, and I actually spoke to them, as did JobsOhio. They make the wafers that go into the chips that Intel and other companies make, so they are a supplier. They were going to put a big plant in Ohio, and they were also looking at Texas," Portman said during a press call with reporters, responding to a question from Hannah News.


U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) addressed youth participants at a Licking County manufacturing camp by video Tuesday. The event, focused on sixth through eighth graders, is one of at least 24 his office is helping organize this year. Brown has worked to facilitate these summer events for youth since 2013.


Federal lawmakers are "very close" to reaching a deal on the CHIPS Act, U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) said Wednesday. "I'm confident that we will get enough Republicans to get to that 60-vote margin. If we can't, we'll find a way, maybe in reconciliation," Brown told reporters during a press conference call. Intel recently delayed the ceremonial groundbreaking for its $20 billion semiconductor manufacturing facility in Licking County, citing concerns about the stalled federal legislation.


GAMING/GAMBLING


Ohio's gambling entities brought in less revenue in June 2022 than they did the same month last year, according to reports from the Ohio Casino Control Commission (OCCC) and Ohio Lottery Commission (OLC). The state's four casinos made $81.5 million in June 2022, down from $84.7 million in June 2021. Ohio's seven racinos made $107.7 million in June 2022, down from $112.1 million in June 2021. Total traditional Ohio Lottery ticket sales for June 2022 were $330.1 million, down from $351.8 million in June 2021.


GENERAL ASSEMBLY/STATEHOUSE


The Controlling Board Monday approved an additional $100 million in spending for rental and utility assistance from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA). The request was an emergency add-on by the Ohio Department of Development (DOD). Markee Osborne, legislative director for the agency, told the Controlling Board that the funds are the second round of emergency rental assistance dollars from APRA. The funds will be used by eligible households for regulated gas and electric utility payments and for community action agencies to use for rental assistance. She said $196 million is available to the state through the second round of funding, with Ohio set to receive around $496 million through 2025.


The Joint Committee on Agency Rule Review (JCARR) allowed all agenda items to move forward without any discussion or testimony on Monday. Among items clearing the committee were rules on sports gambling and the administration of the Refugee Cash Assistance (RCA) program.


Ohioans’ “fundamental individual right” to bear arms will soon include knives – alongside guns, firearms components and ammunition. Gov. Mike DeWine signed knife legislation SB156 (Roegner) in mid-June, and it will become effective in mid-September. Sen. Kristina Roegner (R-Hudson) said the bill was necessary to “rid Ohio of its vague and troublesome knife laws,” thanking the lobbyists at Knife Rights for helping with SB156. “Together, we have made Ohio a free state for knife owners and also created jobs and opportunities for business here in Ohio,” Roegner said.


HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES


The Nursing Facility Payment Commission heard presentations on the state of the long-term care (LTC) industry and reimbursement calculations in its first meeting Tuesday. Co-chair Sen. Mark Romanchuk (R-Ontario) told Hannah News the next three scheduled meetings will focus on topics including rebasing, quality and bed buybacks. The commission was created in the biennial budget, HB110 (Oelslager), which set a report deadline of Aug. 31, 2022. With the last scheduled presentation set for Tuesday, Aug. 30, Romanchuk said they will "probably not" meet that deadline.


HIGHER EDUCATION


A group of physicians and nurses from the University of Toledo (UT) will soon travel to Poland to lead a pair of Advance Trauma Life Support classes to train Ukrainian doctors and other health care providers how to better manage serious battlefield injuries, the university announced recently.


Ohio University (OU) announced a new partnership with Guild, a career opportunity platform, to help increase access to in-demand degrees, such as nursing and allied health care. “Guild connects forward-thinking employers with education and learning programs, career development resources and one on-one coaching. Funding is provided by the respective employer, helping to ensure learners can access their education and learning programs without facing significant financial barriers that present a hurdle to degree enrollment and completion,” the university said.


LIBRARIES


Columbus Metropolitan Library's (CML) Main Library is included on Fodor's Travel's recent list of the "11 most beautiful libraries in the United States." According to the article, "Ohio may have numerous public libraries to enjoy (like The Mercantile Library in Cincinnati, which may be haunted, and the Cleveland Public Library's historic Main Library Building, known for its impressive interiors), but the Columbus Metropolitan Library might be the most impressive.”


NATURAL RESOURCES


The Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) announced a new website, the Ohio Resource Connection, that is meant to build a network of forestry and wildlife professionals, habitat vendors, and landowners in the Buckeye State. The Ohio Resource Connection is a partnership between ODNR's Division of Wildlife and Division of Forestry, along with the Ohio Society of American Foresters and The Nature Conservancy. Learn more at https://www.ohioresourceconnection.com/.


NONPROFIT ORGANIZATIONS


George Gund Foundation President Tony Richardson said he sees positives for the philanthropic community after the pandemic, when giving organizations figured out that they don't have to continue working the way they always had been. Speaking at a City Club of Cleveland forum Tuesday, Richardson said he is energized by how philanthropies responded to the pandemic. He said they got out of their own heads in terms of lowering barriers to access and began really thinking collaboratively around how they addressed systemic issues and showed up as a community while not being constrained by their own agendas and own missions.


PENSIONS


An investigator hired by retired teachers to scrutinize the State Teachers Retirement System (STRS) has relaunched a legal dispute on public records access in the 10th District Court of Appeals after dropping his earlier challenge in the Ohio Supreme Court. Late in June, Siedle and former Attorney General Marc Dann filed a new case in the 10th District, arguing that the records STRS has produced in response to requests don't include documents responsive to several categories in the request, including contracts between STRS and investment managers and information on STRS investments in limited partnerships, among several others. According to lawsuit filings, STRS told Siedle his request was "overly broad."


PEOPLE


Debbie Tully, the director of professional issues for the Ohio Federation of Teachers (OFT), is set to retire at the end of August. During Tuesday's State Board of Education (SBOE) meeting, Board President Charlotte McGuire commended Tully for her decades of work in education. Tully has been with OFT for 25 years and before that was a teacher for 23 years.


Daphne Hawk is the new superintendent of the Division of Real Estate and Professional Licensing, the Ohio Department of Commerce (DOC) announced Thursday. Hawk, who has more than 25 years of experience as a real estate agent, will officially start her new job on Monday, July 18. She replaces Anne Petit, who retired in June, according to a news release from DOC.


Interim Superintendent Stephanie Siddens told the State Board of Education this week that Colleen Grady recently joined the Ohio Department of Education (ODE) as senior program officer in the Office of Educational Options. She will oversee the areas of community schools, non-public options and school sponsorship, Siddens said. Grady previously worked at ODE from 2015 to 2019, serving as executive director of school options. Grady served on the State Board of Education as an elected member to what was once District 5. Following that, she served as a member of the Ohio House of Representatives. She was also senior policy adviser to the late House Speaker William Batchelder.


Jason Koma is the new executive director of the Charitable Healthcare Network (CHN), the Columbus-based statewide organization has announced. “We are thrilled Jason Koma is bringing his 20 years of experience in health care, advocacy and communications to our 55- member free clinics of Charitable Healthcare Network,” CHN Board President Isi Green said in a news release. “From the moment we met Jason, we were confident of his genuine commitment to supporting and advocating for quality care for vulnerable populations.” Koma held various roles at Mount Carmel over the last decade, including leading government relations and regional development for the health system. He also served as a lead member of Mount Carmel’s COVID-19 response team and worked directly on the organization’s public vaccine distribution.


POLITICS


Quipping that polarization has been present in the U.S. since "the '90s...the 1790s," The New Republic Editor Michael Tomasky discussed with the Columbus Metropolitan Club Wednesday how political parties have changed over time and what he thinks should be done to improve the federal government. Tomasky spoke at length about how early American political parties had considerable "ideological overlap" compared to those that emerged in European countries. Winning elections required support in both the North and South, and that kept them from taking a firm position on slavery. He added that the growth of the U.S. as territories became states required the parties to make alliances.


PUBLIC SAFETY


Gov. Mike DeWine Friday announced an additional $9.9 million in grants that will go to 25 local law enforcement agencies to help combat violence in their communities. The grants are part of the fourth round of the Ohio Violent Crime Reduction Grant Program. To date, the administration has awarded $19.5 million to 69 Ohio law enforcement agencies. A total of $58 million will be awarded as part of the grant program overall.


WORKFORCE


Results for the May round of TechCred applications were announced Tuesday, with Lt. Gov. Jon Husted saying 293 employers were approved for funding that will provide up to 3,953 tech-focused credentials. Nearly 1,900 credentials in the May round were related to the manufacturing industry. In total, 1,891 employers have been approved for program funding to support 44,777 credentials, and around half of those businesses have received multiple awards.


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


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