Week In Review - July 20, 2020



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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.


AGRICULTURE


The Ohio Department of Agriculture (ODAg) cleared the way Friday for soil and water conservation districts (SWCD) and other local sponsors to purchase 5,000 acres in farm easements with funding from Clean Ohio to ensure the land remains permanently in agricultural production. The easements overlap 39 family farms in 25 counties with support from local land trusts, counties and SWCDs that manage the Local Agricultural Easement Purchase Program (LAEPP).


ATTORNEY GENERAL


The state of Ohio is charging the nation's largest pharmacy benefit manager (PBM) with a corporate culture of drug overcharges and false dealings allegedly costing the Highway Patrol Retirement System (HPRS) millions of dollars. The Ohio Attorney General's Office announced legal action against Express Scripts Monday for repeatedly violating price guarantees since taking over patrol retirees' prescription needs in 2013.


AUDITOR OF STATE


Auditor of State Keith Faber Monday responded to calls from Toledo legislators for a performance audit of the University of Toledo Medical Center (UTMC). In a letter sent to each of the four lawmakers, Faber said he was "perplexed" with the "tone and tenor" of the legislators' letter to him, which he said had yet to be delivered to his office and was only provided to him late on July 8 by a member of the media. He suggested that if the lawmakers wanted to work together, they should call his office or contact him directly.


FY20-21 BUDGET


The Office of Budget and Management (OBM) released its full monthly financial report for June and for FY20 on Friday, following preliminary data released earlier that showed Ohio ended FY20 with about $1.1 billion less in tax revenue than originally projected as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. OBM says economic forecasters generally project full economic recovery by the end of calendar year 2021, with expansion expected to begin in the third and fourth quarters of this year. OBM Director Kim Murnieks recently said she expects the negative effects of the pandemic to extend into the next biennial budget.


CHILDREN/FAMILIES


With the possibility of extended school closures during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, think tank Policy Matters Ohio (PMO) urged greater federal and state support for child care facilities, which have lost capacity due to social distancing requirements and faced layoffs due to widespread economic hardship.


PMO budget researcher Will Petrik emphasized during a news conference that child care workers are the "workforce behind the workforce" that allows parents to participate in the economy. He called on lawmakers to ensure parents have safe places for their kids to stay during the day.


CIVIL RIGHTS


The Columbus Metropolitan Club (CMC) Wednesday continued its ongoing series "Racism: Where Do We Go from Here?" in a discussion with three young, Black women from the Columbus area. Olivia Pierre-Louis, a student at the Columbus Academy, and Jenae Talison, a student at the historically Black land-grant university Tennessee State, were panelists for the event, which was moderated by Brooke Rayford, public information officer and AmeriCorps VISTA member. The panelists agreed that women who are minorities have a harder time being heard than men who are minorities, noting that Black female victims of police brutality often do not get the same level of coverage as Black male victims.


CORONAVIRUS


Ohio Department of Health (ODH) coronavirus case statistics showed an increase from 62,856 cases on Friday, July 10 to 70,601 cases on Thursday, July 16. In addition, total COVID-19 deaths reached 3,103 as of Thursday, July 16.


In a Wednesday evening address to the state, Gov. Mike DeWine called on all Ohioans to wear masks but said further state orders were a topic for another time. Collective action would be more important than what could be compelled, he added. "If we do not change course, Florida and Arizona will be our future," DeWine said. He noted he'd read a book about the 1918 pandemic, "The Great Influenza" by John Barry, and said that Barry has called this current time the nation's "second chance" to stop COVID-19.


House Speaker Larry Householder (R-Glenford) emphasized the need to give Ohioans the information they need to make responsible decisions amid the pandemic in reaction to Gov. Mike DeWine's Wednesday night address, saying the speech drove that message home.


Gov. Mike DeWine indicated Thursday that a statewide mask mandate is on the table, though he is not taking that step yet. Ohio again saw COVID-19 cases increase by over a 1,000 overnight and eight new counties have been given a red alert level three public emergency designation for their surge in coronavirus cases. Athens, Allen, Delaware, Licking, Lucas, Richland, Scioto, and Union counties were upgraded. They join Butler, Clermont, Cuyahoga, Fairfield, Franklin, Hamilton, Lorain, Montgomery, Pickaway, Summit, and Wood counties which remain at level three. This means 19 of Ohio's 88 counties are now considered to have a very high risk of exposure and spread of the virus. With the addition of the new counties, approximately 60 percent of the state's population is now under a requirement to wear masks. Only Trumbull County was downgraded to a level two orange alert level.


About 12 million Americans -- including nearly 400,000 in Ohio -- risk missing out on the federal stimulus payments provided through the recent CARES Act if they don't file a form to receive it, according to a report from the Washington, D.C.-based Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP). Ohioans could lose out on about $358 million dollars, which -- if delivered and spent -- would help people who are struggling to make ends meet and give state and local economies a much-needed boost.


While long-term care facility (LTC) residents have made up approximately 65 percent of the state's COVID-19 deaths since April 15, industry leaders' comments to Hannah News and data from the Ohio Department of Health (ODH) shows conditions are improving. Since April 15, there have been 1,732 resident deaths reported at LTCs across the state, though the data is limited to the county level. ODH has offered numbers for the prior seven days on each Wednesday through a dashboard at the www.coronavirus.ohio.gov site.


Ohio teacher union leaders Monday criticized the Trump administration's posture on reopening schools, following comments from the president and U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos that they see as exerting pressure to return to classrooms without adequate health precautions. President Donald Trump has raised the possibility of withholding federal funding from schools that don't reopen in the fall. In a television interview over the weekend, DeVos said data do not suggest having kids in schools is dangerous, and pointed to resumption of classes in other countries.


CORRECTIONS


Union workers at the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction (DRC) are "demanding action" from the DeWine administration on hazardous conditions inside state detention centers, where five staff members and 86 inmates have lost their lives to COVID-19. Members of Service Employees International Union (SEIU) District 1199 say employees and inmates face an "unacceptable level of risk" from lack of social distancing and personal protective equipment (PPE), and that Gov. Mike DeWine, DRC Director Annette Chambers-Smith and other agency administrators "have continued to fail to hear their concerns."


Sen. Sandra Williams (D-Cleveland) called on Chairman Rep. Doug Green (R-Mt. Orab) of the Correctional Institution Inspection Committee (CIIC) to "take immediate action" regarding the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction's (DRC) response to the COVID-19 pandemic, including resuming regular meetings, prison inspections, and committee reports addressing health conditions among the state's 46,000-plus inmates.


EDUCATION


The Ohio Department of Education (ODE) unveiled a new landing page for "Reset and Restart," guidelines recently released by the state that are designed to assist schools and districts as they plan how to approach the new school year. Additional support materials and resources will be added to the site as they become available.


The State Board of Education (SBOE) plans to take a second look at Ohio Administrative Code (OAC) 3301-20-03, a rule that deals with individuals who are not licensed with SBOE or the Ohio Department of Education (ODE) but who are otherwise employed at a school and have certain criminal convictions. The rule, which was being rescinded in its current form and replaced in order to align with rehabilitation standards, had already been approved by the state board and was on its way to be permanently filed with the Joint Committee on Agency Rule Review (JCARR) before Board President Laura Kohler decided it needed further discussion.


The State Board of Education adopted a resolution Tuesday condemning racism as an impediment to the educational equity it seeks to achieve in its strategic plan for Ohio schools. The resolution calls for Ohio Department of Education staff to undergo training and for reviews of academic standards to eliminate bias. It encourages local boards of education to take similar action. The board also passed a resolution expressing support for the ability of local education and health officials to make the right decisions on reopening their buildings for learning in the fall.


The State Board of Education voted Tuesday to approve updates to operating standards for Ohio schools after a handful of last-minute changes, including a decision to scrap proposed amendments to rules governing a subset of private schools and simply leave the rules as they've been for years. The standards, which set minimum expectations for schools on topics from basic health and safety to staffing to graduation and course requirements, are in the midst of the five-year review mandated for all state administrative rules. The standards are contained in 10 administrative rules, 3301-35-01 through -10. The board adopted amendments Tuesday to versions of the -02, -04, -06, -07 and -08 rules that had previously cleared the Continuous Improvement Committee.


The state is distributing an initial $100 million to Ohio schools via the federal CARES Act to help defray pandemic-related expenses from March through year's end. This follows Controlling Board action on Monday, July 13. The Ohio Department of Education provided a spreadsheet with estimated distribution amounts to district schools, charter schools, private schools, STEM schools, county boards of developmental disabilities and joint vocational school districts. The funding is distributed in a base amount of $54.5 million based on student counts; $24.7 million based on the number of students who are in low-income households, have disabilities or are English learners; and $20.8 million for transportation costs.


ELECTIONS 2020


Secretary of State Frank LaRose announced Tuesday that his office will be sending $40,000 to each of Ohio's 88 county boards of elections to help implement a new security directive he issued aimed at fending off malicious attacks and promoting accessibility for the November presidential election. The directive details how counties must utilize federal funds to strengthen their election security and accessibility for disabled voters. The $40,000 disbursements are part of a nearly $13.7 million block grant authorized by the federal government through the Help America Vote Act (HAVA). LaRose said the funds build on a directive he issued last week that allocated $11.2 million in CARES Act funding tied to helping election boards prepare for the presidential election during the COVID-19 pandemic.


Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose raised bottles of beer emblazoned with the slogan "Every Vote Counts" along with Ohio craft brewers during a kickoff event for his "Raise a Glass to Democracy" voter registration initiative Wednesday at Seventh Son Brewery in Columbus. The initiative asks Ohio craft brewers to go to the website www.everyvotecounts.beer to request specialized beer bottle and can labels that contain voter registration information, including the VoteOhio.gov URL and the Monday, Oct. 5, 2020 voter registration deadline.


After a presidential primary season plagued by long lines, confusion over mail-in voting and malfunctioning equipment across the nation, election experts are increasingly concerned about the resiliency of American democracy in the face of a global pandemic, according to Stateline.org. Here in Ohio, Secretary of State Frank LaRose has already convened the bipartisan "Ready for November Task Force" of elections officials to discuss issues related to getting Ohio ready for the Tuesday, Nov. 3 presidential election.


U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) along with union leaders from across Ohio endorsed presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden's plans for an economic revival during a Friday roundtable hosted by the Ohio Democratic Party (ODP). Biden had earlier unveiled the "Build Back Better" agenda. The $700 billion plan would be the biggest investment in the U.S. economy since World War II and would "bolster American industrial and technological strength and ensure the future is 'made in all of America' by all of America's workers," Biden said.


Stymied by the Senate majority in their suggestions to adopt election reform before the presidential contest in November, two Senate Democrats Tuesday turned to Secretary of State Frank LaRose, making suggestions of moves he could make without legislation. The letter, signed by Sens. Sandra Williams (D-Cleveland) and Nickie Antonio (D-Lakewood), said that without the General Assembly acting on reforms, it is LaRose's obligation to step in. The senators introduced SB323 (Antonio-Williams) last month, but it has yet to receive a committee hearing. Among the suggestions they said LaRose could do administratively is allowing Ohioans to request an absentee ballot online. However, LaRose has been urging lawmakers to give him the authority to create such a system and has advocated for SB191 (Gavarone), but the Senate has not acted on it yet. LaRose said recently that his office is ready to move forward and implement online requests and is just waiting for authority from the General Assembly.


As part of National Disability Voter Registration Week, Secretary of State Frank LaRose's Ready for November Task Force Tuesday discussed making sure voting is accessible to everyone, including those with disabilities. The task force heard from Jeff Davis, director of the Ohio Department of Disabilities; Kevin Miller, director of Opportunities for Ohioans with Disabilities; Brian Harbage, the Americans with Disabilities (ADA) coordinator for LaRose's office; and Nate Fernades, the digital accessibility coordinator for LaRose.


The following endorsements were made over the week:


  • The Ohio Right to Life PAC endorsed Donald Trump for president; Steve Chabot, Brad Wenstrup, Jim Jordan, Bob Latta, Bob Gibbs, Warren Davidson, Rob Weber, Laverne Gore, Troy Balderson, Christina Hagan and Anthony Gonzalez for Congress; Judi French and Sharon Kennedy for Ohio Supreme Court; Russell Mock, William Hoffman, Jeff Furr, Charles Sulek, Julie Schafer, and Matthew Byrne for Ohio Court of Appeals; Theresa Gavarone, George Lang, Niraj Antani, Louis Blessing, Bob Hackett, Matt Huffman, Terry Johnson, Jerry Cirino, Tim Schaffer, Mark Romanchuk, Bill Reineke, Frank Hoagland and Sandra O'Brien for Ohio Senate; and Scott Wiggam, Marilyn John, Haraz Ghanbari, Bob Cupp, Tim Ginter, Tom Patton, Dustin Russell, Keven Kussmaul, Chris Baer, Laura Lanese, Patrick Manley, Tom Brinkman, Chris Monzel, Cindy Abrams, Bill Seitz, Bob Young, Beth Bigham, Bill Roemer, John Mullins, Phil Plummer, Andrea White, Tom Young, Shane Logan, Derek Merrin, Scott Oelslager, Reggie Stoltzfus, Sara Carruthers, Jennifer Gross, Thomas Hall, Paul Zeltwanger, Bradley Lacko, Dick Stein, David Simon, George Phillips, Jamie Callender, Scott Lipps, Martha Yoder, Jean Schmidt, Adam Bird, Kris Jordan, Sharon Ray, Darrell Kick, Mark Fraizer, Larry Householder, Brian Lampton, Bill Dean, Gail Pavliga, Diane Grendell, Brian Stewart, Kyle Koehler, Jena Powell, Jim Hoops, Craig Riedel, Jon Cross, Susan Manchester, Nino Vitale, Tracy Richardson, Riordan McClain, Gary Click, D.J. Swearingen, Brian Baldridge, Shane Wilkin, Mark Johnson Jason Stephens, Jay Edwards, Don Jones, Ron Ferguson, Brett Hillyer and Sarah Fowler for Ohio House. The PAC designated the following candidates as "preferred, not endorsed": Bill Johnson, Mike Turner, Dave Joyce and Steve Stivers for Congress; and Shay Hawkins, Mehek Cooke, Mary Hill and Rick Carfagna for Ohio House.

  • The League of Conservation Voters (LCV) Action Fund endorsed U.S. Rep. Joyce Beatty for re-election.

  • The Ohio State Medical Association Political Action Committee (OSMAPAC) endorsed Judith French and Sharon Kennedy for Ohio Supreme Court; Steve Chabot, Brad Wenstrup, Joyce Beatty, Bill Johnson, Bob Gibbs, Warren Davidson, Marcy Kaptur, Mike Turner, Marcia Fudge, Troy Balderson, Tim Ryan, Dave Joyce, Steve Stivers and Anthony Gonzalez for Congress; Theresa Gavarone, George Lang, Niraj Antani, Louis Blessing, Bob Hackett, Matt Huffman, Terry Johnson, Stephanie Kunze, Jerry Cirino, Tim Schaffer, Mark Romanchuk, Matt Dolan, Bill Reineke, Vernon Sykes, Frank Hoagland and Sean O'Brien for Ohio Senate; and Scott Wiggam, Marilyn John, Haraz Ghanbari, Bob Cupp, Tim Ginter, Phillip Robinson, Tom Patton, Janine Boyd, Terrence Upchurch, Stephanie Howse, Juanita Brent, Bride Rose Sweeney, Jeffrey Crossman, Dave Greenspan, Adam Miller, Kristin Boggs, Mary Lightbody, Richard Brown, Beth Liston, David Leland, Laura Lanese, Allison Russo, Erica Crawley, Jessica Miranda, Cindy Abrams, Bill Seitz, Brigid Kelly, Catherine Ingram, Emilia Sykes, Tavia Galonski, Matt Shaughnessy, Casey Weinstein, Bill Roemer, Phil Plummer, Andrea White, Tom Young, Rodney Creech, Paula Hicks-Hudson, Lisa Sobecki, Michael Sheehy, Derek Merrin, Scott Oelslager, Thomas West, Reggie Stoltzfus, Sara Carruthers, Jennifer Gross, Thomas Hall, Gayle Manning, Joe Miller, Michele-Lepore-Hagan, Al Cutrona, George Phillips, Jamie Callender, Scott Lipps, Jean Schmidt, Adam Bird, Rachel Morocco, Rick Carfagna, Sharon Ray, Darrell Kick, Mark Frazier, Larry Householder, Randi Clites, Diane Grendell, Jeff LaRe, Brian Stewart, Kyle Koehler, Jim Hoops, Susan Manchester, Tracy Richardson, Riordan McClain, Chris Liebold, D.J. Swearingen, Brian Baldridge, Mark Johnson, Jay Edwards, Adam Holmes, Brett Hillyer and Richard Dana for Ohio House.

  • The campaign of George Phillips announced the endorsement of the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 18 for the 60th Ohio House District.

ENERGY


The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) issued a marketing ban on Ontario, Canada-based SFE Energy Inc. Wednesday for what investigators describe as "deceptive and misleading tactics" by the retail electric and natural gas provider during the current public health emergency. PUCO's Service Monitoring and Enforcement Department says it has received audiovisual footage of sales agents for SFE Energy and its subsidiary, Statewise, actively violating commission orders for the resumption of door-to-door and in-person marketing under COVID-19.

ENVIRONMENT


The Ohio Air Quality Development Authority (OAQDA) announced it has closed on $2 million in bond resolution financing for energy improvements to Riverside 10 LLC's property at 1600 Dublin Rd. The business will use the revenue bond to increase the overall energy efficiency of their buildings through the purchase and installation of new HVAC components, including three condensing ultra-high efficiency hot boiler units.


Prompted by input from Ohio architects and others, the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) is considering changes to its scoring rubric to help rural school building projects meet the criteria for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) designations. Ohio is by far the leader among states in building LEED schools, and the Ohio Facilities Construction Commission (OFCC) and its predecessor agency have prioritized LEED building for more than a decade. USGBC last week facilitated a web conference with OFCC and Ohio school construction contractors to discuss the rural school proposals and highlight a LEED project in Groveport Madison Schools.


Tens of thousands of "pro-life" Christians are urging Gov. Mike DeWine and members of the General Assembly to take "bold action" to repeal legislation supporting fossil fuels and nuclear generation and to move Ohio to 100 percent renewable energy by 2030. The Evangelical Environmental Network (EEN) is delivering state leaders more than 53,000 petition signatures warning of fossil fuel threats to seniors, children and the unborn.


FEDERAL


More than 140,000 Ohio businesses received forgivable loans through the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), according to data released by the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA). The loans helped retain 1.88 million jobs, according to the SBA data, though 6.75 percent of businesses -- or 9,186 -- did not have job retention data listed. The business data was divided into two spreadsheets, one for loans in five ranges at or above $150,000 and another for those below $150,000. Businesses in the first group were identified by name and received loans in groups of A, $5-10 million; B, $2-5 million; C, $1-2 million; D, $350,000 to $1 million; and E, $150,000 to $350,000. The data on loans under $150,000 identified exact loan amounts, but businesses were listed only by city rather than name.


GAMING/GAMBLING


Despite a "rocky" beginning to the fiscal year and the financial harms caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, Ohio Lottery Executive Director Pat McDonald said the agency was able to meet its budget commitment to the Lottery Profits Education Fund (LPEF) for FY20.


GENERAL ASSEMBLY/STATEHOUSE


Proposals to remove monuments from the Statehouse grounds -- including the recently sought-after removal of the statue of Christopher Columbus from the Statehouse grounds -- would face the same five-year waiting period as bids to install them under a draft policy in the works at the Capital Square Review and Advisory Board. The board voted Thursday to start that five-year waiting period for a proposed monument to honor the role of women in Ohio history. In addition, the board is seeking a new operator for the Statehouse cafe after Milo's decided not to extend its contract.


GOVERNOR


Gov. Mike DeWine's office announced Tuesday that he signed SB4 (Rulli-Kunze) into law. The bill makes capital appropriations for school facilities and public works assistance and increases local authorities' power to obtain personal protective equipment (PPE). The bill also requires and clarifies that transportation improvement districts must comply with Ohio's Prevailing Wage Law, unless the amount of state and local funds the district receives for the contract or project is less than statutory thresholds specified in the law.


Gov. Mike DeWine signed an order Thursday "to extend and improve emergency rules" regarding telehealth services due to the pandemic, according to the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services (OhioMHAS). The rules permit use of audio, video and text messages to provide access to critical health care services, including for mental health and addiction services, while maintaining social distancing.


Appointments made during the week include the following:

  • Gregory E. Morrison of Columbus (Franklin Co.) to the Commission on Minority Health for a term beginning July 10, 2020, and ending Sept. 2, 2020.

  • John J. Bishop of Marco Island, Fla. and Thomas L. Williams of Naples reappointed to the JobsOhio Board of Directors for terms beginning July 6, 2020, and ending July 5, 2024.

HIGHER EDUCATION


As universities in Ohio and across the country move forward with plans to reopen for in-person classes in the fall, many have also taken steps to scale back or even cancel their athletic programs as coronavirus cases begin to surge once more. This week the Ivy League, whose members include Harvard, Yale, Brown, Princeton, Columbia, Cornell, Dartmouth College and the University of Pennsylvania, announced all sports will be postponed until 2021 due to COVID-19. The league is the first Division I athletic conference to call off the 2020 football season.


Ohio State University's (OSU) College of Education and Human Ecology has accepted its largest philanthropic donation by an individual or foundation in its history. The college received $7.5 million from OSU Professor Emerita Gay Su Pinnell. The donation will support two endowed professorships in reading and provide funds for literacy education, OSU said.


The incoming 16th president of Ohio State University (OSU) Kristina M. Johnson will begin her role on Monday, Aug. 24, about one week earlier than her original start date of Tuesday, Sept. 1.


Ohio State Provost Bruce McPheron and Wexner Medical Center CEO Hal Paz said OSU disagrees with federal guidance released last week by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to prohibit international students from taking all-online classes while staying in the U.S. Ohio State has signed on to an amicus brief filed Friday on behalf of 180 Presidents' Alliance on Higher Education and Immigration member colleges and universities in support of the Harvard/MIT lawsuit challenging ICE's new policy for international students.


Later, it was announced that President Donald Trump's administration is rescinding its directive blocking international students from staying in the U.S. while taking all online-only classes. According to media reports, U.S. District Court Judge Allison Dale Burroughs of Massachusetts announced Tuesday that the government and the plaintiffs had reached a resolution in a lawsuit brought by Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). She said federal immigration authorities agreed to pull the directive and "return to the status quo."


Capital University announced Monday the school will change its nickname and mascot -- Crusaders and Cappy. The Board of Trustees approved a resolution for the change following a 15-month process of study and discussion. The timeline for the change is still being decided.


The University of Toledo (UT) announced Thursday that it is indefinitely postponing the Request for Proposals (RFP) process for the sale of the UT Medical Center (UTMC) and will instead focus on stabilizing the medical center's fiscal challenges. UT had announced it was seeking possible partnerships or sale of UTMC in April and faced backlash from Toledo legislators who called for audits of the center as a means to get a clearer picture of the financial viability of UTMC.


HOUSING/HOMELESSNESS


The Coalition on Homelessness and Housing in Ohio (COHHIO) raised renewed concerns Tuesday about the pay level for the state's 10 most common occupations in light of pandemic-related job losses. COHHIO and the National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC) said that only three of the 10 top jobs -- registered nurses, office clerks and customer service representatives -- make more than the $15.99 hourly wage needed to afford a two-bedroom apartment at the fair market rent of $832, without spending more than 30 percent of their income.


JUDICIAL


Ohio Supreme Court Chief Justice Maureen O'Connor says the final act of her judicial career will be the launch of a comprehensive, statewide criminal justice data system supporting fairness and proportionality in sentencing. If the chief left any doubt in her recent Independence Day address, she called on all members of the justice system Monday -- police, prosecutors, judges and others -- to embrace this moment in American history and together create the long-stalled, "transparent" data system proposed by the decades-old Ohio Commission on Racial Fairness.


LOCAL GOVERNMENT


Think tank Policy Matters Ohio (PMO) asked U.S. Sens. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Rob Portman (R-OH) Thursday to send more funding to local governments in the next federal stimulus package responding to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, saying that local governments may be forced to cut essential services including utilities if additional dollars are not delivered. PMO Senior Project Director Wendy Patton said the federal government has served as a "backstop" to local governments in times of economic hardship since the Great Depression, and with the U.S. House-passed Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions (HEROES) Act set for debate in the U.S. Senate at the end of July, she said local government funding should come from that bill, rather than state government, which could be facing an approximate $2 billion budget shortfall over the next 12 months.

MEDICAID/MEDICAID REFORM


Saying that health care services provided through Medicaid will be essential in combatting the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, participants in a Tuesday webinar hosted by think tank Policy Matters Ohio (PMO) urged greater federal support for Medicaid in order to allow continued funding of other government services including education. With the U.S. Senate scheduled to meet at the end of July to consider further aid to states, PMO called on U.S. Sens. Rob Portman (R-OH) and Sherrod Brown (D-OH) to support a significant increase to the Federal Medical Assistance Percentage (FMAP) as high as 14 percentage points.


NONPROFIT ORGANIZATIONS


The Ohio Domestic Violence Network (ODVN) has been awarded $309,580 to fund an economic empowerment program called the Financial Freedom Corps. ODVN was one of 26 organizations awarded a grant through ServeOhio, an affiliate of AmeriCorps and Ohio's Commission on Service and Volunteerism. Additional funding for the program will also include a 25 percent site match from ODVN's donor sites.


OHIO HISTORY


The Ohio Supreme Court has agreed to settle a turf war between the Ohio History Connection (OHC) and the Moundbuilders Country Club over ancient earthworks the golf course has stewarded since 1910. The private club holds a long-term lease on the Hopewell mound now targeted for United Nations' World Heritage status and opposes an eminent domain push to make the "Octagon" a year-round public park.


Preservation Ohio, the state's statewide historic preservation organization, recently announced its official list of Ohio's most endangered historic sites for 2020. This year, Preservation Ohio received more nominations than ever before, which the organization noted "confirms both that much of our state's historic properties remain at risk and that interest in preservation is growing across the state Ohio.


RELIGION


Bishop Edward Malesic -- the current bishop in Greensburg, PA -- was named the next bishop for the Catholic Diocese of Cleveland Thursday. He will be installed on Monday, Sept. 14 and succeeds Bishop Nelson Perez, who was named archbishop of Philadelphia in February. Malesic, 59, will be the 12th bishop of Cleveland and has been a priest for 33 years.


STATE GOVERNMENT


The Controlling Board Monday approved a number of COVID-19 response-related requests that would send federal money to local entities, though the original requests were narrowed and split in what the agencies said was a more transparent way to show where money was going. The Ohio Department of Education (ODE) originally had one request to send $100 million to local districts, but split that amount over three requests to break it down by rural, urban, and suburban school districts. The Ohio Department of Higher Education's (ODHE) request for $200 million was also split out for public and private schools as well as schools with a higher population of students living on campus.


TAXATION


The Buckeye Institute recently filed a lawsuit against the city of Columbus and the state, claiming the city's taxation of income from workers who do not live in Columbus, and were prohibited from working within the city's jurisdiction during Ohio's stay-at-home order, is unconstitutional. The lawsuit was filed by three employees of the conservative think tank in Franklin County Common Pleas Court, claiming that when employees are required to work outside of the city, the direct fiscal relation between the employee and city is severed. It challenges language adopted by the General Assembly earlier this year in HB197 (Powell-Merrin) that states that work performed by an employee at his or her home as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic would be deemed to have been performed, for municipal tax purposes, at the employee's regular place of business.


TRANSPORTATION/INFRASTRUCTURE


The Ohio Rail Development Commission (ORDC) gave another push to the Hocking Valley Scenic Railway (HVSR) Thursday after the tourist attraction saw its 2020 grand opening in June. Commissioners approved funding to reconnect the passenger train and the Indiana & Ohio Railway Company, allowing HVSR to take delivery of new restored rail cars and promoting economic development in Southern Ohio. The current fiscal year already has $8 million in Grade Crossing Safety Program projects in the queue after $18.3 million was spent in FY20. Going forward, ORDC Director Matt Dietrich said the "big issues" include four Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Investment (CRISI) grants, compared to what is normally a single project during ORDC's funding round.


UNEMPLOYMENT COMPENSATION


For the week ending July 11, the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS) reported 35,422 initial unemployment claims to the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL). That number is slightly higher than last week's total of 33,483. The latest initial claims number is more than 230,000 claims below the peak earlier this year, and ODJFS said the latest number of continued jobless claims -- at 429,638 -- was nearly 350,000 claims below the peak amount.


WORKFORCE


Google announced Monday that it will create three new career certificates to provide a path into "high-growth, high-paying fields" and offer 100,000 need-based scholarships to help with training. The certificates focus on data analytics, project management and user experience (UX) design, and are in addition to two current certificates offered through the "Grow with Google" initiative. Training for the certificates is available on the online learning platform Coursera, Google said, and all five certificates will be treated as equivalent to a four-year degree in related roles at Google. Certificates are also available at career and technical education high schools and over 100 community colleges across the country, including eight in Ohio. Completion can take between three to six months.


The Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS) announced Tuesday that the state has been awarded a three-year, $9.4 million federal grant to improve the Registered Apprenticeship system and expand the number of opportunities available. The Buckeye State is already second in the nation, with more than 19,000 enrolled in registered apprenticeship programs. The U.S. Department of Labor gave higher amounts to states with "excellent performance in key policy objectives," ODJFS said, and Ohio was awarded the maximum amount available in the "Building State Capacity to Expand Apprenticeship through Innovation" grant.


Workforce training leaders in the aerospace industry said they can provide a path to high-paying careers but need to do more to make parents and prospective students aware of the opportunities available. Their comments came during Thursday's meeting of the Ohio Aviation and Aerospace Technology Committee (OAATC) which met over Zoom due to the pandemic. Rep. Adam Holmes (R-Nashport), who took over as chair at the start of the year, said he'd heard from Lt. Gov. Jon Husted about the workforce needs of the industry and said there are opportunities for reshoring efforts.


[Story originally published in The Hannah Report. Copyright 2020 Hannah News Service, Inc.]

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