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Week in Review - July 24, 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.



ABORTION

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' (HHS) proposed rule to strengthen reproductive health care privacy protections could have "unintended consequences," a spokesperson for Attorney General Dave Yost told Hannah News on Thursday. Yost signed a letter written by Mississippi Attorney General Lynn Fitch and joined by 17 other attorneys general arguing that the new Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) reproductive health care privacy rule would "defy HIPAA, our constitutional system and the Administrative Procedure Act."


AGRICULTURE


The U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) has recently confirmed the detection of the box tree moth (BTM) near the border of Hamilton and Clermont counties. The box tree moth is an invasive pest from East Asia that poses a threat to boxwood plantings and the horticulture industry. Boxwood is an important ornamental shrub that is a valuable part of Ohio's nursery stock economy. Federal and state officials are asking the public and horticultural businesses to spot and report the box tree moth to the Ohio Department of Agriculture's (ODA) reporting tool at https://tinyurl.com/bdzj8e36.


ARTS, SPORTS AND ENTERTAINMENT


July brought the University of Cincinnati's official entry into the Big 12 athletic conference, a move announced about two years earlier. "The Big 12 boasts one of the biggest, most loyal fan bases in all of sports. Since their teams travel well in terms of fan support, the city, state and region will also benefit from the growing economic impact of Big 12 fans coming to Cincinnati each year," UC said on its website.


The Ohio Arts Council (OAC) approved more than $21.8 million in grants to support artists, arts/cultural organizations, students, educators and public arts programming during its summer meeting. The bulk of the funding was provided in the operating budget, HB33 (Edwards), while a portion of it was provided through the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA). OAC received more than $23 million in each fiscal year for state program subsidies -- which are used for grants -- in the budget, and approximately $2.5 million in each fiscal year for operating expenses. Sustainability program funding was denied to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, which was set to receive $674,811 to help pay for operating expenses. OAC Operations and Public Affairs Director Justin Nigro told Hannah News that the funding application was denied because the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame received a $5 million earmark in HB33, and that it's longstanding OAC policy that organizations receiving earmarks in the operating budget cannot receive Sustainability grants through OAC.


ATTORNEY GENERAL


Attorney General (AG) Dave Yost's former counsel says the Ohio Supreme Court should declare that a Republican and two Democratic judges abused their discretion by unfreezing former Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) chairman and FirstEnergy lobbyist Sam Randazzo's assets after the utility admitted to giving him a $4.3 million bribe to help pass energy subsidy 133-HB6 (Callender-Wilkin). In recent arguments before the high court, Charles Miller, deputy attorney general before his current role as senior counsel at the Institute for Free Speech, said the state had probable cause to "attach" and garnish $8 million in Randazzo assets without informing him or his attorneys. Invoking the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), Miller said the high-profile energy attorney had revealed numerous "badges of fraud" after the FBI raided his home in 2020 and FirstEnergy disclosed the $4.3 billion payment in a 2021 deferred prosecution agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice. Randazzo has yet to be charged.


Attorney General (AG) Dave Yost's Human Trafficking Commission released a directory of Ohio-based services for victims of labor and sex trafficking. The Human Trafficking Victim Services Directory is a searchable database of agencies and programs offering emergency, transitional, residential and other supports to victims and survivors. It can be searched by county or by using categories of service as keywords.


Yost joined the Federal Trade Commission and other states Tuesday to announce "Operation Stop Scam Calls," a crackdown on illegal robocalling. "Our collective efforts -- from this sweep to the Anti-Robocall Litigation Task Force and beyond -- help us to expand our playbook, allowing us to outwit and defeat these perpetrators in their own arena," Yost said. "Our secret weapon is consumers -- whom we urge to continue reporting illicit robocalls, so we can sever these unwanted illegal robocallers' connection once and for all." According to Yost's office, the effort targets telemarketers, companies that employ them and also lead generators who "deceptively collect and provide" consumers' phone numbers to robocallers, "falsely representing that these individuals have consented to receive such calls." The enforcement push also focuses on Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) providers, many of whose calls originate overseas.


IT’S IN THE FY24-25 BUDGET


After months of legislative deliberations and negotiations, Ohio's FY24-25 biennial budget ended up fairly close to Gov. Mike DeWine's proposed spending levels for state revenue sources but substantially lower when looking at federal dollars. According to the Office of Budget and Management (OBM), DeWine's 44 line-item vetoes did not affect final spending totals reflected in the Legislative Service Commission's (LSC) appropriations spreadsheet on the conference committee version of HB33 (Edwards). In terms of state-only General Revenue Fund spending, the as-enacted budget comes in at $27.9 billion for FY24 and $29.4 billion for FY25, compared to an executive proposal of $28.1 billion and $29.4 billion, respectively.


All Funds spending in the final version ended up at $95 billion in FY24 and $95.7 billion in FY25, compared to $103.3 billion in FY24 and $99.7 billion in the executive proposal. In comparison, the budget that passed two years prior, 134-HB110 (Oelslager), included state-only GRF spending of $24.2 billion for FY22 and $26 billion in FY23, while All Funds spending was $80.8 billion and $81.1 billion, respectively.


The Ohio Department of Commerce (DOC) will be the primary regulator of the Ohio Medical Marijuana Control Program (MMCP) by the end of the year, under provisions in HB33 (Edwards). The budget requires the Ohio Board of Pharmacy (OBP) to transfer its MMCP powers -- which include the regulation of dispensaries, patients and caregivers, among other items -- to DOC no later than Sunday, Dec. 31. DOC will run MMCP under the newly-created Division of Marijuana Control (DMC), which will have its own superintendent. All MMCP rules created by OBP and DOC will remain in effect unless they are changed by DMC. Similarly, all licenses and registrations issued by OBP and DOC will remain in effect for the remainder of their terms. All forms and methods of use for medical marijuana approved by OBP will remain approved unless revoked by DMC. By Friday, March 1, 2024, DMC is required to review and propose revisions to the rules on dispensaries. The director of the Legislative Service Commission (LSC) is required to renumber the rules of OBP regulating the MMCP to reflect the transfer of the program to DOC.


The Indigent Defense System Taskforce created by 134-HB150 (Hillyer) awaits members and a first meeting as the separate panel convened by the Ohio State Bar Association (OSBA) continues work on sustainable funding to county public defenders. Both follow the FY24-25 budget that removes the House's proposal to restructure state support but also adds more than $30 million annually to county reimbursements. The right to legal counsel has long been a challenge for Ohio's state and local funding bodies and a recurring budget question that has come in for additional support under the DeWine administration. "Under Gov. DeWine, indigent defense has received long overdue funding increases that allow Ohio to meet its constitutional duties. This biennium continues this commitment and is the highest level of funding for indigent defense in Ohio's history," Ohio Public Defender Tim Young said in a July 7 memo to county officials including commissioners, public defenders, appointed counsel, judges and auditors.


CHILDREN/FAMILIES


The Ohio Youth and Family Ombudsmen Office is celebrating over a year of assisting and educating Ohioans involved in the children services system, protecting Ohio's children and elevating the needs of families. The office opened May 31, 2022, as part of Gov. Mike DeWine's Children Services Transformation (CST) Advisory Council's 37 recommendations to reform Ohio's children services system. "At the core of every positive fostering experience is the relationship between the caregiver and youth," said Ohio Department of Job and Family Services Director Matt Damschroder. "The Ohio Youth and Family Ombudsmen have found early success by ensuring both youth and caregivers have a voice, and that the relationship is built on the principles embodied in the Youth and Family Bills of Rights." The office promotes two of the other CST Advisory Council's recommendations: the Resource Family Bill of Rights, and the Foster Youth Bill of Rights. The Resource Family Bill of Rights assures foster and kinship families are heard, supported, and valued as a part of the team while the Foster Youth Bill of Rights ensures that youth have a safe place to live and an opportunity for a normal childhood.


CORONAVIRUS/MONKEYPOX


The numbers of weekly new COVID-19 cases have been below 2,000 for the past eight weeks, according to Ohio Department of Health (ODH) data, with ODH reporting 1,471 cases Thursday, July 13. The last period with over 2,000 cases was the seven days ending May 18 at 2,770. May 18 was also the last time ODH reported more than 120 hospitalizations, with that metric falling to 54 on Thursday. Other numbers in the update include five ICU admissions and 17 deaths. Since the pandemic began, ODH has reported 3.46 million cases, 141,372 hospitalizations, 15,304 ICU admissions and 42,409 deaths.


CORRECTIONS


The cash bail issue that ignited a firestorm between the Republican Legislature and former Chief Justice Maureen O'Connor is now firmly enshrined in the Ohio Revised Code with a long list of other bail specifications once requiring the curious to delve deeply into Ohio Supreme Court rules. Nothing but another constitutional amendment could reverse HB191's (Swearingen-Seitz) core tenet after last year's Issue 1 won 77 percent of the vote to add protecting public safety as a consideration for monetary bail.


O'Connor and three Democratic justices had rejected that practice 4-3 in Dubose v. McGuffey on Jan. 6. 2022, prompting a scathing rebuke from Justice R. Patrick DeWine and the legislative majority. Sitting Chief Justice Sharon Kennedy explained to the General Assembly last month that statutory enactment of HB191 (Swearingen-Seitz) or its companion, SB122 (Manning-Hicks-Hudson), was critical because a majority of justices had voted to purge all bail language in Rule 46 from the Rules of Criminal Procedure. Kennedy was not among them, instead voting to amend the rule to reflect passage of Issue 1. HB191 went on to swift unanimous passage in the House and Senate and was signed by the governor on June 30, when it took immediate effect due to an emergency clause.


EDUCATION


Lt. Gov. Jon Husted told a statewide summit of Ohio's 100-plus Business Advisory Councils (BAC) Friday that their efforts to forge synergy between employers and K-12 is a critical part of the state's economic future. He addressed a large group of public and private sector members who had gathered at Columbus State Community College's (CSCC) Center for Workforce Development for a BAC Town Hall.


Acknowledging the appropriateness of the setting, Husted pointed to a recent ranking of states for economic health. "We would have been rated in the top 10 except for one issue: Workers. That's our mission." The Ohio Department of Education (ODE), which administers Business Advisory Councils, is working to implement the public-private panels in every school district and educational services center (ESC) in Ohio.


ELECTIONS


Rep. Jean Schmidt (R-Loveland) testified for a second time before the Ohio Elections Commission on a complaint alleging her campaign did not properly report in-kind contributions done on her behalf by the Ohio Republican Party and the campaign arm of the House Republican Caucus. Chris Hicks, who brought the complaint, argued Thursday that the failure to include that work may have been intentional. Thursday's hearing was a continuation from May, coming two years after Hicks filed the original complaint.


ELECTIONS 2023


More than 28,000 Ohioans have signed up to be poll workers for the Tuesday, Aug. 8 special election, surpassing the minimum number of 27,587 poll workers necessary, the Ohio Secretary of State's Office announced Tuesday. Poll worker recruitment stands at 89 percent of the statewide goal, with 32 counties at full recruitment and another 18 counties reaching their minimum recruitment level, Secretary of State Frank LaRose's office said. That leaves 38 counties without the minimum number of poll workers necessary at this point. Hamilton County is the furthest from reaching its minimum level, with only 1,067 poll workers signed up when the minimum number is 2,080.


A new poll released Thursday by Suffolk University and USA Today shows more than half of respondents don't support Issue 1, which would raise the threshold to pass constitutional amendments to 60 percent. The poll found 26 percent support Issue 1, while 57 percent oppose it, and nearly 17 percent are undecided. Those that support it include 13 percent of Democrats, 38 percent of Republicans, and 24 percent of independents. Those opposing it include 76 percent of Democrats, 41 percent of Republicans, and 60 percent of independents. Eleven percent of Democrats were undecided, as were 21 percent of Republicans, and 16 percent of independents.

The following endorsement was made over the week:

  • The Ohio Farmers Union endorsed a "no" vote on State Issue 1.

ELECTIONS 2024


Secretary of State Frank LaRose officially announced his candidacy for the U.S. Senate on Monday. LaRose, a native of Akron and graduate of Ohio State University, said his proven ability to win statewide elections is one of several reasons he is the best candidate to face U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) in 2024. "I'm running against two former Democrats in the Republican primary and an incumbent senator who has one of the most liberal voting records in the Congress," LaRose said. "I'm the only candidate who can point to a consistently conservative voting record. I'm also the only veteran in the race, the only member of the military and the only parent of grade-school kids. It's time Ohio had a senator who lives like us, believes like us, and fights for us, and I'm not one to back down from a fight." The other announced Republican candidates for U.S. Senate are businessman Bernie Moreno and Sen. Matt Dolan (R-Chagrin Falls).

The following endorsement was made over the week:

  • The Ohio Democratic Party announced its endorsement of President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris for re-election.

ENERGY/UTILITIES


The Ohio Consumers' Counsel (OCC) Governing Board voted unanimously Tuesday to appoint agency veteran Maureen Willis as Ohio's next consumers' counsel, effective Oct. 1. The board emerged from a three-hour executive session, during which they interviewed Deputy Consumers' Counsel Angela O'Brien and Willis, OCC's acting legal director, to take the final vote. Owens Corning Senior Counsel and Dickinson Wright of counsel Madeline Fleisher had interviewed in the first round of candidates. Members also voted to set Willis' salary at $175,000 and to raise O'Brien's to $155,000. Willis, who interned with Ohio's first consumers' counsel, Bill Spratley, in 1982, will assume office one day after outgoing Consumers' Counsel Bruce Weston's retirement becomes effective on Sept. 30.


The Ohio Power Siting Board (OPSB) approved new rules on the proliferation of solar farms in the state Thursday after three years of stakeholder meetings, workshops, rules drafting, written comments, revision, and final review by the governor's Common Sense Initiative. Proposed changes to the Ohio Administrative Code are part of OPSB's five-year review and include first-time rules for solar facilities and amended language for wind and fossil fuel generation, electric transmission and natural gas infrastructure.


Washington, D.C.-based Interfaith Power and Light (IPL) hosted a briefing by U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Secretary Jennifer Granholm on the availability of $100 billion in renewable energy mandates, grants and rebates plus $250 million in loans and loan guarantees from the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA). Granholm and DOE staffers said many people of faith support the Biden administration's climate agenda and are now eligible for direct payments for clean energy upgrades in their homes and places of worship.


ENVIRONMENT


The Ohio Air Quality Development Authority (OAQDA) has approved up to $20 million in bond financing for Rocky River Hilliard LLC to support a new construction development. The development will be a five-story complex, offering 71 apartment units to increase the capacity for housing in the community while also achieving a 50 percent energy savings through design and implementation of energy improvements such as LED lighting, a high-efficiency HVAC system and hot water system, increased insulation and a roof-mounted solar electricity system.


FEDERAL


U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) Wednesday held a conference call with reporters, promoting his "Building Chips in America Act" that he said is aimed at reducing red tape that would delay the Intel project in New Albany and other projects affected by the CHIPS and Science Act of 2022. That law was written to help make the Intel project and the production of semiconductors at other plants in the U.S. happen, he said, and any delays need to be prevented. He said his bill would ensure that federal environmental reviews are done in a timely manner, saying that some big projects can be bogged down in the red tape of endless reviews. He said the review process can be redundant and cause unnecessary delay. He also argued that water and air quality reviews would not be affected by the bill, just redundant processes.


GAMING/GAMBLING


The budget does not require the Ohio Casino Control Commission (OCCC) to monitor social media for sports gamblers who are infuriated with their team for losing, OCCC Executive Director Matt Schuler said Wednesday. During his report to the commission, Schuler said he's received a number of questions about how OCCC will enforce language in HB33 (Edwards) that specifically grants OCCC the authority to exclude a person from participating in sports gambling if the person has threatened violence or harm against a person who is involved in a sporting event when the threat was related to sports betting. "What the General Assembly gave us here is a method ... that is very limited. It's very serious. It has to be related to sports gaming. The General Assembly did not ask the commission to be the Twitter police. They're talking about things that have gravity," Schuler said, noting such threats are already crimes under Ohio law. Schuler also said the OCCC will have a seat on the Study Commission on the Future of Gaming in Ohio, which was included in the budget.


GENERAL ASSEMBLY/STATEHOUSE


Rep. Bob Young (R-North Canton) has been indicted by a Summit County grand jury on two misdemeanor charges for alleged assaults on a family member. This follows an incident earlier this month when Young was accused of knowingly or attempting to cause physical harm to a victim, a family, or household member, a first-degree misdemeanor charge. He had also been charged with knowingly damaging or tampering with a communication device being used for emergency communications, a fourth-degree felony. At the time, he was asked by Speaker of the House Jason Stephens (R-Kitts Hill) to resign which he has refused to do. Young told the Akron Beacon Journal that he is guilty of poor judgment but not of any crime.


An "adult cabaret performance" that takes place outside an adults-only establishment would be a crime under HB245, legislation introduced by Reps. Josh Williams (R-Oregon) and Angela King (R-Celina). The bill creates the term "adult cabaret performance" and defines it as "a performance in a location other than an adult cabaret that is harmful to juveniles or obscene and that features topless dancers; go-go dancers; exotic dancers; strippers; performers or entertainers who exhibit a gender identity that is different from the performer's or entertainer's gender assigned at birth using clothing, makeup, prosthetic or imitation genitals or breasts or other physical markers; or other similar performers or entertainers who provide entertainment that appeals to a prurient interest, regardless of whether or not the performance is for consideration." A person who "recklessly" engages in an adult cabaret performance outside an adults-only facility would be guilty of a first-degree misdemeanor, fifth-degree felony or fourth-degree felony, depending on the circumstances. Williams told Hannah News that the bill is about prohibiting "obscene" performances in front of minors, and not about banning public drag shows generally. He said the bill is different from drag show bans in other states that have been blocked in courts for violating the First Amendment and/or being overly vague.


The Ohio Statehouse has a number of temporary exhibits currently on display in various locations around the building. They include an exhibit marking 75 years of desegregation in the U.S. Armed Forces; an exhibit of fossils including the state fossil Dunkleosteus; a 36-star Civil War flag; and artifacts from Lake Erie shipwrecks.


HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES


The Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) Division of Wildlife recommended ways Ohioans can minimize contact with ticks while outdoors this summer, noting they sometimes carry "potentially dangerous diseases." Anglers, birders, hikers and hunters should take precautions that include treating clothes worn outside with permethrin-based repellents according to label directions; wearing light-colored clothes to make it easier to spot ticks; and wearing long-sleeved shirts tucked into pants with legs tucked into socks or boots as well. The Cincinnati Health Department also recently announced its regular surveillance had led to a mosquito sample in the area, which tested positive for West Nile virus (WNV).


Ohio Department of Health Director Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff held a news conference Thursday to discuss the importance of vaccinations, particularly for school children heading back to school in the near future. He was joined by Dr. Douglas Harley, president of the Ohio Academy of Family Physicians, and Dr. Sara Bode, a primary care pediatrician and medical director of Nationwide Children's Hospital's School-Based Health Services. Vanderhoff stressed that the effects of the "back to school" regime of immunizations reaches beyond the schools, making the larger community healthier also.


HIGHER EDUCATION


The Ohio State University (OSU) Board of Trustees Friday approved a 3 percent increase to tuition and fees for incoming freshmen starting in fall 2023. That equates to a $374 annual change from last year's rate. This rate will then be frozen for four years for new in-state students. In Columbus, in-state tuition and fees would total $12,859 per year for incoming first-year students. The most common housing and dining plans will total $14,382 under the proposal, an increase of about $416 year-over-year. Housing and dining rates remain frozen for those in the Ohio State Tuition Guarantee. Similarly, both Kent State University and the University of Akron (UA) recently increased tuition by 3 percent for incoming freshman. Their tuition rate will also be locked in over the course of their education.


According to data released by the U.S. Department of Education (USDOE), 37,070 Ohioans would be eligible for a total of $1.7 million under fixes to Income-Driven Repayment (IDR) plans implemented by the Biden-Harris administration to ensure all borrowers have an accurate count of the number of monthly payments that qualify toward forgiveness. A total of 804,000 borrowers nationwide will have a total of $39 billion in federal student loans "automatically discharged in the coming weeks," USDOE had explained. After the U.S. Supreme Court struck down President Joe Biden's student loan forgiveness plan that would have affected as many as 43 million borrowers, the president Friday announced forgiveness to more than 800,000 borrowers who have been making payments for 20 years or more. "I have long said that college should be a ticket to the middle class -- not a burden that weighs down on families for decades.


Ohio Attorney Dave Yost warned colleges and universities about the need to "comply strictly" with the U.S. Supreme Court's recent decision to strike down the use of race in college admissions. The day after the Court released its decisions in Students for Fair Admissions v. Harvard and Students for Fair Admissions v. University of North Carolina, Yost sent a letter to "university and college colleagues" warning them about the dangers of failing to comply with the decisions, noting the ruling applies to all institutions that take federal funding. The Court ruled admissions programs that relied in part on race at Harvard College and the University of North Carolina (UNC) violate the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.


Kent State University recently announced the hiring of Alison Caplan as the new director of its May 4 Visitors Center, a museum that focuses on the May 4, 1970 shootings of university students by members of the Ohio National Guard. "As May 4 survivors age, I will help connect all stakeholders to the center -- from survivors to current Kent State students - and encourage that the site be used as a brave space for reflection and discussion," Caplan said in a statement. Caplan's responsibilities will include overseeing the center's budget and personnel; managing programming and events; developing outreach initiatives to community and campus audiences; and securing funding to enhance the center's public presence.


HOUSING/HOMELESSNESS


The Ohio Housing Finance Agency (OHFA) recently published the 2023 Ohio Housing Needs Assessment and its FY24-25 Annual Plan. The report shows an "extremely tight housing market" that is putting home ownership out of reach for many. At the same time, rising rents are also outpacing incomes. The Housing Needs Assessment found that the rate of homeownership in Ohio has started to decline. The state saw a period of improvement from 2017 to 2020 when the rate reached a 10-year high of 70 percent, but by the end of 2022, the rate had fallen to 64 percent -- lower than the national average (66 percent) for the first time on record. Vacancy rates have been falling steadily since 2009. In 2021, both homeowner and rental vacancy rates hit their lowest recorded levels -- 0.4 percent and 4.0 percent respectively. At the end of 2022, these rates remained low -- 0.9 percent and 6.2 percent respectively -- indicating an extremely tight housing market, the agency said.


JUDICIAL


Justice Andrew "Andy" Douglas left his mark on many Ohioans as an attorney and judge dedicated to solving legal problems for 61 years. Family, friends, and colleagues came together to celebrate the justice's life and career during a recent portrait dedication ceremony at the Supreme Court of Ohio. "It was overwhelming to walk into the room and see the number of people and really feel what others felt about him. I loved him, but the love in the room really showed through," said his wife, Sue Douglas.


Justice Douglas, the 139th person to serve on the Supreme Court, passed away at 89 in September 2021.


NATURAL RESOURCES


The Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) unveiled the first haiku trail earlier this month at Hueston Woods State Park. "This poetic path not only brings a new educational aspect to our parks, it adds to our efforts to link literacy and a healthy lifestyle," ODNR Director Mary Mertz said. The haiku trail features 20 haikus along the park's current Sycamore Trail, a 0.5-mile path with views of Acton Lake. Three benches are situated along the trail to allow visitors to reflect on the poems, ODNR said. The haikus were selected by Haiku North America following a competition in which over 400 poems were submitted to the organization.


The ODNR Division of Wildlife is taking applications for Ohio's public land controlled hunting opportunities now through the end of July. These hunts provide special chances for people to pursue deer, waterfowl, doves, and more on public lands during the 2023-24 season. The application period is open for all hunters. The Division of Wildlife as well as the Division of Parks and Watercraft host controlled hunts on select areas around Ohio. Hunts for adults, youth, mobility impaired, and mentors with apprentices are available. Species-specific hunts include deer, waterfowl, dove, pheasant, squirrel, and quail. Firearm and archery opportunities are available for some species. Hunters may apply for controlled hunts by completing the application process online using Ohio's Wildlife Licensing System at https://oh-web.s3licensing.com/ or via phone by calling 1-800-703-1928. There is $5.50 service fee for the phone option. Each hunt requires payment of a non-refundable $3 application fee. Customers may apply for more than one hunt but can only apply to each hunt once per year.


The ODNR has opened its application process for the 2023 wetland grant program under the administration's H2Ohio program. Specifically, H2Ohio seeks to fund high quality natural infrastructure that reduces nutrient runoff and improves water quality. The H2Ohio Statewide Wetland Grant Program is a reimbursement grant program that provides up-to-100 percent funding for projects across Ohio. Each project's budget must be justified in the application, with a minimum funding request of $50,000. There is no maximum funding cap. For more information, visit the H2Ohio Statewide Wetland Grant Program webpage at https://tinyurl.com/4y88wt8e.


The Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) Division of Wildlife recently concluded an investigation into reports that Lake Fish Company of Sandusky illegally took walleyes that were supposed to be donated to a Sandusky charity in 2021. After an investigation uncovered that 112 walleyes, one steelhead, one yellow perch, and three whitefish were stolen, five defendants pleaded guilty in the case to a total of 13 misdemeanor charges of petty theft, one count of fifth-degree felony theft, two misdemeanor counts of receiving stolen property, and nine misdemeanor commercial fish violations.


NONPROFIT ORGANIZATIONS


The Ohio State Bar Foundation (OSBF) Board of Trustees recently approved $415,500 in grants for 10 Ohio nonprofit organizations. "Each project supports the OSBF's mission to educate the public about the rule of law and build a better justice system," OSBF said. Grants awarded the spring grant cycle include projects that aim to empower individuals with disabilities, expand the reach of legal resources and education to rural areas, educate survivors of domestic violence about their legal rights and support individuals navigating the mental health system, among others.


PEOPLE


July brought a change in leadership at the Ohio State Bar Association (OSBA) as attorney Michelle L. Kranz of Bowling Green began her term as 2023-2024 president, moving up from the role of president-elect in 2022-2023. Dan Griffith of North Canton is president-elect for this year.


POLLS/STUDIES


Former President Donald Trump would defeat President Joe Biden 44 percent to 38 percent in Ohio if those were the Republican and Democratic candidates in the 2024 General Election, according to a new Suffolk University/USA Today poll. Trump performs better in Ohio than Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis would if he were to become the Republican nominee. In a Biden-DeSantis matchup, DeSantis (39 percent) narrowly led Biden (37 percent), 10 percent would vote for an independent, 10 percent were undecided and 2 percent would support Green Party candidate Cornel West.


In the U.S. Senate race, most Republicans are undecided (57 percent) on their candidate, but Secretary of State Frank LaRose (19 percent) has a small lead on Sen. Matt Dolan (R-Chagrin Falls) (14 percent) and businessman Bernie Moreno (9 percent). Among the three GOP hopefuls, LaRose appears to be the most competitive at this stage, polling in a statistical dead heat with incumbent U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH), 45 percent to 45 percent. Brown leads Dolan 46 percent to 43 percent and leads Moreno 48 percent to 41 percent. Nearly 51 percent approve of Brown's job performance. However, even among those who approve of him, 16 percent would not vote for him in a matchup against LaRose.

Former President Donald Trump remains the frontrunner to win the Republican presidential nomination for 2024 with 54 percent in the latest Quinnipiac University poll, but respondents give President Joe Biden an edge in a rematch between the two, with Biden up 49-44. Respondents were split, however, on whether they'd consider a third party challenger -- 47 percent would, the same proportion would not.


Independents say 64 percent to 30 percent they would consider voting third-party in 2024, while Democrats are against the proposition 61-35 and Republicans also are against it, 57-38. In the Democratic primary, Biden gets 71 percent, followed by Robert F. Kennedy Jr. at 14 percent and Marianne Williamson at 7 percent.


The U.S. Supreme Court has a negative job approval rating of 35-55 in the Quinnipiac Poll, up from 29-58 in June. Seventy percent said justices are too influenced by politicians.


PUBLIC SAFETY


The Ohio State Highway Patrol (OSHP) is in the midst of an extra enforcement effort in partnership with neighboring state law enforcement agencies focused on violations of their "move over" laws, requiring drivers to move to an adjacent lane when approaching a vehicle with flashing or rotating lights parked on the roadside. Those who cannot move over safely are to slow down and proceed with caution. OSHP cruisers were struck in 61 crashes related to Ohio's "move over" law since 2018, and the agency issued nearly 27,000 citations for "move over" law violations. The crashes resulted in the deaths of two civilians and 56 injuries to officers and civilians. According to OSHP, a version of the "move over" law exists in all states. In partnership with Indiana State Police, Kentucky State Police, Michigan State Police, Pennsylvania State Police and West Virginia State Police, OSHP began the high-visibility enforcement Sunday, July 16 and will continue through Saturday, July 22. The agencies are part of the 6-State Trooper Project, a multi-state enforcement partnership.


The OSHP Training Academy became the 19th law enforcement organization in the state recognized as a STAR Academy by Attorney General Dave Yost Wednesday. Since Yost introduced the STAR program two years ago, 19 of Ohio's 59 academies have earned the designation. It signifies that the patrol academy, like others before it, has embraced excellence in the basic training of peace officers. Its policies and methods also have passed rigorous review by the Ohio Peace Officer Training Academy (OPOTA).


Gov. Mike DeWine announced Tuesday that 20 local first responder agencies will receive a total of nearly $4 million to help support wellness and staffing needs. The grants represent the seventh round of the Ohio First Responder Recruitment, Retention and Resilience Program. To date, a total of nearly $65 million has been awarded to 250 Ohio agencies as part of this program, which aims to address burnout caused by understaffing and overall job stress.


The Ohio State Highway Patrol (OSHP) has entered the nation's 10th annual "Best Looking Cruiser" contest with an orange sleeper sporting black wheels and the patrol's characteristic winged insignia. Voting for the best-looking cruiser began Monday, July 17 at 10 a.m. and will end on Monday, July 31 at 12 p.m. Visit the patrol's Facebook, Twitter or Instagram pages and hit the link in any of its contest posts or visit SurveyMonkey to show your Buckeye bona fides by selecting OSHP as the best-looking cruiser. At SurveyMonkey, scroll to the bottom of the page and select Ohio from the drop-down menu. SurveyMonkey's "Best Looking Cruiser" page can be found at www.surveymonkey.com/r/bestlookingcruiser2023. The daily vote tally can be found at www.statetroopers.org.


RELIGION


The Center for Christian Virtue (CCV) announced the hiring of Chris Lightfoot as executive director of its Church Ambassador Network, an effort to connect, equip and empower churches, pastors and ministries.


Lightfoot's experience includes work in financial advising and charitable giving strategies, including his recent work as relationship manager with the National Christian Foundation from 2017 to 2023.


STATE GOVERNMENT


All of the rules before the Joint Committee on Agency Rule Review (JCARR) cleared the committee without discussion or testimony on Thursday. JCARR considered rules on kinship programs and the Ohio Adoption Grant Program, among other items.


TECHNOLOGY/AEROSPACE


Gov. Mike DeWine announced Friday that a new Ohio Persistent Cyber Improvement (O-PCI) program will provide free services to local governments on cybersecurity preparedness and resilience. The program was developed by CyberOhio with help from the state's Homeland Security Advisory Committee - Cyber (HSAC-Cyber), led by DeWine's Cybersecurity Strategic Advisor Kirk Herath. It will guide local government agencies through three preparedness levels, with each including the steps of education, training, exercising, mentoring and improvement. O-PCI is funded by a grant from the U.S. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), with $4.9 million provided during the first year.


TRANSPORTATION/INFRASTRUCTURE


The "Silicon Heartland" will receive $90 million for transportation infrastructure improvements, Gov. Mike DeWine announced Monday. The bulk of the investment -- $66 million -- will fund projects on local roads in Delaware, Franklin and Licking counties, the governor said during a press conference at the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) Westerville Maintenance Facility. DeWine was joined by Lt. Gov. Jon Husted and ODOT Director Jack Marchbanks. The governor said the $66 million -- $20 million of which was included in budget law HB33 (Edwards) -- will be used for reconstructing roadways, improving the safety and efficiency of intersections, and making sure the local roadway network has the capacity to meet the demands of the rapidly growing area. The remaining $24 million will be used by ODOT to advance projects that create safer intersections and expand key corridors in Central Ohio as it prepares for the new Intel plant.


The Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) is looking to use information technology solutions as part of its analysis and review of Ohio's airport system. ODOT and its consultant, AECOM, held a virtual public meeting Wednesday to outline its process for the Ohio Airport System Plan Update (OASP). An update to a 2014 Ohio Airport Focus Study, the current effort will provide ODOT's Office of Aviation and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) with a methodology for prioritizing and funding airport development project decisions within the state's airport system. Jim Bryant, the Office of Aviation administrator, said during the presentation that the study will help with both moving forward and being able to catch changes in aviation as they occur.


The state announced nearly $10 million in grants Thursday to make walking and biking routes to school safer for children. The $9.8 million for the Safe Routes to School program will support the likes of new sidewalks and path extensions, crosswalks, flashing beacons, bicycle lanes and other improvements around schools. It also provides programming to help encourage and enable K-12 students who live within two miles of school to walk or bike. According to the DeWine administration, it is the largest single-year total for the Safe Routes to School program.


The Ohio Department of Public Safety's Ohio Traffic Safety Office (OTSO) is strengthening efforts to prevent injury to senior drivers with new funding from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Federal dollars will allow the Central Ohio Area on Aging (COAAA) to deploy the state's first statewide CarFit coordinator. "As Ohio's population ages, it becomes more important than ever to educate drivers on how the fit of their restraint system, visibility and knowledge of vehicle controls can make a huge difference in their safety and comfort behind the wheel," OTSO Assistant Director and CarFt instructor Kimberly Schwind said in a release. "These are precisely the points CarFit covers, and why we believe CarFit is such an important part of the state's older road user safety and occupant protection efforts."


WORKFORCE


Manufacturing and economics experts discussed how Ohio is handling a "super cycle" of industry development and attendant challenges like workforce during Wednesday's Columbus Metropolitan Club forum. Panelists for the discussion included economist Bill Lafayette of Regionomics, President Ryan Augsburger of the Ohio Manufacturers' Association (OMA), Senior Vice President Damon Richardson of American Nitrile, and Human Resources Director Daniela Villaca of Acoust-A-Fiber. Lafayette led off with an overview of the sector's ups and downs in recent decades and its role in Ohio's economy. While there's been much talk lately of growth given some high profile projects in Ohio, the trend of employment growth dates back to 2010 -- "the first sustained manufacturing employment growth in 20 years." However, he noted, national manufacturing job growth of about 1.5 million does not match the multimillion-job losses of the early 2000s and the Great Recession. Contrary to popular wisdom, he said technology and automation were actually greater factors in employment reductions in the early 2000s than offshoring.






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


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