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Week in Review - July 31, 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.

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AGRICULTURE Ohio's amusement ride industry now has access to training dollars under a new program through TechCred and the Greater Ohio Showmen's Association, Ohio Department of Agriculture (ODAg) officials announced Monday. Amusement ride companies are eligible for reimbursement of up to $2,000 per credential in training and certification through the National Association of Amusement Ride Safety Officials (NAARSO) Inspector and Operations certificate programs, ODAg Director Brian Baldridge and ODAg Division of Amusement Ride Safety Chief David Miran said during a press conference at the fairgrounds ahead of the Ohio State Fair's opening on Wednesday. BALLOT ISSUES The proposed initiated statute to legalize marijuana for adults ages 21 and older fell just short of the number of valid signatures required to make the ballot in November, according to the Ohio Secretary of State's Office. The Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol (CRMLA) now has 10 days to collect 679 additional valid signatures. CRMLA submitted 123,367 valid signatures, and 124,046 are required. During the first round of signature gathering, CRMLA was initially 13,062 signatures short, and the campaign was able to collect enough to satisfy the requirement during the additional 10-day period. A proposed reproductive and abortion rights constitutional amendment has enough signatures to make the November ballot, the secretary of state's office said Tuesday, though it still faces a potential barrier for passage. State Issue 1, which is on the August special election ballot, would raise the threshold for passage of future constitutional amendments to 60 percent. However, recent polling suggests that while the reproductive/abortion rights amendment has a majority of voter support, it falls short of 60 percent. Ohioans United for Reproductive Rights submitted more than 700,000 signatures earlier this month to get on the ballot. On Tuesday, Secretary of State Frank LaRose sent a letter to the ballot committee saying boards of elections certified 495,938 of the signatures for the proposed "Right to Reproductive Freedom with Protections for Health and Safety." The campaign needed at least 413,487 signatures, or 10 percent of the total votes cast for the office of governor at the last gubernatorial election, to qualify for the ballot. Additionally, the campaign met a requirement to gather valid signatures equal to at least 5 percent of the total vote cast for the office of governor in that county at the last gubernatorial election in at least 44 Ohio counties. LaRose said in his letter that the proposed initiative hit the county threshold in 55 counties. While both sides of Issue 1 debate the influence of out-of-state special interests on Ohio's Constitution, they are also all bringing in large amounts of the same out-of-state money to help in their efforts to pass or defeat the issue that will be on the Tuesday, Aug. 8 special election ballot. Thursday was the deadline for groups that are spending money to advocate for or against Issue 1, which would make it more difficult to amend Ohio's Constitution, to report their spending activity. Protect Our Constitution, the coalition supporting the "Yes" side of the Issue, reported $4.85 million in contributions, nearly $1.6 million in spending, and $3.252 million on hand. Of the money it received, $4 million has come from Richard Uihlein of Lake Forest, IL, who owns packing supplies company Uline, and has funded anti-abortion causes around the country. Uihlein had also spent more than $1 million earlier this year on lobbying for passage of SJR2 (McColley-Gavarone), which put the issue on the ballot. Meanwhile, One Person One Vote, the coalition against Issue 1, has raised $14.8 million, spending $10.4 million, with $4.4 million on hand. The largest contributor to One Person One Vote -- $2.5 million -- was the Sixteen Thirty Fund, a dark money group based in Washington, D.C., that has funded left-leaning causes and campaigns, including for President Joe Biden. Protect Our Constitution, the main coalition backing Issue 1, which would raise the threshold of passage for constitutional amendments to 60 percent, released its first ad of the campaign over the weekend. The 29-second ad, titled "We the People," notes how the founders of the United States had set a two-thirds majority threshold in order to amend the U.S. Constitution and suggests it is too easy to amend Ohio's Constitution. Retired Statehouse radio reporter and Columbus-area musician Bill Cohen has penned a song in opposition to Issue 1. According to anti-Issue 1 group We Are Ohio, Cohen wrote the song, "We Say No," to support the opposition effort for the campaign. In debates held Tuesday and Wednesday, Secretary of State Frank LaRose promoted Issue 1 as a way to protect Ohio's Constitution from what is to come rather than what has previously happened. Meanwhile, former Ohio Attorney General Betty Montgomery, an opponent of Issue 1 who appeared with LaRose at a forum hosted by the City Club of Cleveland Wednesday, argued that the issue would remove checks and balances that people have on Ohio government. Along with Montgomery, the "No" side was represented in Cleveland by former Gov. Dick Celeste. LaRose was joined by Rep. Susan Manchester (R-Lakeview). LaRose argued that it should be harder to amend Ohio's Constitution, which he said could be up for sale by out-of-state special interests. When it was noted that only 19 citizen-initiated amendments have passed since 1912, LaRose said Issue 1 is more about the future, noting not only an abortion and reproductive rights amendment on the November ballot, but also potential minimum wage and livestock care amendments that could come in the future. Montgomery called the whole issue hypocritical, especially those in support who say it will limit special interests. "Special interests are behind this because they know they can get to the Legislature. The Legislature is persuadable in ways that we have seen already," she said, pointing to the recent federal convictions of former Speaker Larry Householder and former Ohio Republican Party Chair Matt Borges. She also said with the 88-county requirement, one county with persuadable voters could put an end to something that is wanted by the other 87. IT’S IN THE FY24-25 BUDGET With court orders still in place to block the prior budget's attempt to penalize schools that can't consistently transport charter and private school students to class and back home on time, lawmakers took a slightly different approach to addressing the difficulties in bus transportation for school choice families in the new budget. In HB33 (Edwards), lawmakers removed references to "a consistent or prolonged period of noncompliance" and instead specified that schools are out of compliance if they experience five or more consecutive days, or more than 10 total days during an academic year, of certain behavior. That noncompliant conduct includes dropping students off more than 30 minutes before school starts; picking them up more than 30 minutes after it ends; failing to transport students entirely; or failing to comply with any other student transportation requirements in law. Regarding the litigation arguments about ODE's failure to follow rulemaking procedures when implementing the 134-HB110 (Oelslager) provisions, the department said it does not have information presently on whether the department will go through the formal rulemaking process for the HB33 provisions regarding penalties for transportation compliance problems. An improving economic outlook coupled with Ohio's initial experience in resuming eligibility renewals post-pandemic brought Medicaid caseload projections in the final budget down from the administration's initial estimates. Recent reporting by Ohio to the federal government shows procedural problems are the leading cause of people's removal from Medicaid. Near the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic in early 2020, the federal government started to provide states extra Medicaid matching funds, in exchange for a promise not to remove most people from the program. That state of affairs continued for about three years, leading Ohio's Medicaid caseload to increase by about 800,000 people and reach a peak of nearly 3.6 million people in May of this year. Upon introduction of HB33 in February, the Ohio Department of Medicaid predicted only 220,000 of those added to the program would be removed in the new biennium, citing a different overall economic environment than the pre-pandemic reality as well as coverage pullbacks and rising costs in commercial insurance. Near the conclusion of budget deliberations, ODM's updated caseload forecasts instead predicted a decline of about 280,000 people. The state budget's funding for schools to provide free feminine hygiene products in bathrooms will increase student attendance across Ohio, Senate Minority Leader Nickie Antonio (D-Lakewood), Sen. Stephanie Kunze (R-Hilliard) and Hamilton County Commissioner Denise Driehaus said Wednesday. "This appropriation in the budget will change the way periods are perceived by students in Ohio," Antonio said during a press conference in the Ladies Gallery at the Statehouse. "Menstrual products are vital to the health and wellbeing of women and girls. By having period products be both accessible and free in Ohio schools, we can expect attendance in our schools to increase," Antonio continued. "Research shows that among teenage girls in the U.S. ... often or sometimes they can't do their best schoolwork because they have lack of access to period products. It really gets in the way of them being able to rise to their fullest potential." HB33 provides $5 million in FY24 for schools to provide free period products in schools. Of the $5 million, $2 million will go toward installing product dispensers and $3 million will go toward purchasing the products. The Ohio Rail Development Commission (ORDC) Thursday was briefed on three new programs it will help oversee thanks to provisions put into biennial budget HB33. Commission Executive Director Matt Dietrich told the commission that the programs include the Grade Crossing Elimination Program proposed by Gov. Mike DeWine, the Wayside Detector Expansion Grant Program and the Orphan Rail Program, the latter two both added by lawmakers. Dietrich said the goal of the grade crossing program is to leverage federal funds, and there will be a lot of flexibility with these funds. CORONAVIRUS/MONKEYPOX Ohio Department of Health (ODH) Director Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff Thursday assured Ohioans that COVID-19 vaccines will continue to be readily available, including to those without insurance, as the vaccine supply next week begins to transition to a more traditional health care model. In May, the federal government allowed the COVID-19 public-health emergency status to expire. This means the government will no longer be the sole supplier of vaccines. After Thursday, Aug. 3, vaccine ordering through the public-health model ends, and in September, providers will start purchasing vaccines from manufacturers on the commercial market. "Ohioans who have medical insurance should not have to pay out-of-pocket costs for the vaccines, as it typically is covered as a preventive health service," said Vanderhoff, "and ODH, working with our federal partners, has several programs available to ensure that those without insurance can continue to get free vaccines, as well." DISABILITIES Gov. Mike DeWine and Opportunities for Ohioans with Disabilities (OOD) Director Kevin L. Miller announced this week that up to $7,000 per person is available to Ohioans with disabilities for college, training and credentialing programs for the 2023 fall term. The OOD Education Support Funds help students with disabilities in their pursuit of continued education. OOD will provide all eligible college and non-traditional students with disabilities up to $7,000, while participating in OOD services, to be used for tuition or educational expenses during the upcoming fall term. This includes students with disabilities participating in colleges, apprenticeships, trade schools and credentialing programs. Students with disabilities (e.g., physical, learning, mental health, sensory, hearing, vision, and more) can qualify for the OOD Education Support Funds through the following steps:

  • Apply for OOD services online at

  • OOD staff will call the applicant and schedule an in-person or virtual appointment.

  • Complete the required paperwork to finalize the application.

  • OOD staff will determine eligibility and help plan the next steps.

DISASTERS The Ohio Emergency Management Agency (Ohio EMA) recently announced a fifth round of reimbursements of over $660,000 from the State Disaster Relief Program (SDRP) for areas statewide affected by severe storms last year. The SDRP is a reimbursement program that can be used in occurrences where storm damage amounts do not meet the threshold for federal assistance. The program is intended to provide supplemental state assistance to local governments and eligible nonprofit organizations for costs associated with debris removal, emergency protective measures and permanent work. In November, Gov. Mike DeWine authorized the use of the SDRP to help provide relief to several counties that experienced severe weather in February, May, June and July of 2022. ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT The Ohio Department of Development (DOD) announced Wednesday the third application round for the Transformational Mixed-Use Development (TMUD) program has opened, providing tax credits to major projects in Ohio. The period closes at 4 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 8. The first two rounds have seen $200 million awarded to 25 projects expected to result in over $3.3 billion in new payroll and $3.7 billion in investments. Tax credits can be used to help finance new construction and/or improve vacant buildings, and the properties must have at least two mixed uses and three if one is to be a parking structure. ECONOMY Ohio's unemployment rate dropped to 3.4 percent in June, the lowest unemployment rate since unemployment rate reporting started in 1976, according to the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS). The state added 1,000 jobs over the month, going from a revised 5,621,500 in May to 5,622,500 in June. The number of workers unemployed in Ohio in June was 200,000, down from 207,000 in May. The number of unemployed has decreased by 24,000 in the past 12 months from 224,000. The June unemployment rate for Ohio decreased 0.5 percent from 3.9 percent in June 2022. The U.S. unemployment rate for June 2023 was 3.6 percent. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), unemployment rates were lower in June in 11 states, and stable in 39 states and the District of Columbia. Nonfarm payroll increased in five states, decreased in two states, and was essentially unchanged in 43 states and the District of Columbia. EDUCATION While the State Board of Education soon will hold only a fraction of its current powers, one former board member who moved on to the General Assembly thinks it can still play an important role as a conduit for public feedback on actions of the renamed and revamped Department of Education and Workforce (DEW). And it can do so better as an all-elected body, according to Rep. Sarah Fowler Arthur (R-Ashtabula). In an interview with Hannah News, she said her bill reflects the conversation in recent years about the importance of elected representation and concerns that the board's size caused difficulties. Under her HB235, the board's structure would shift from a hybrid of 19 appointed and elected members to 15 members, each of whom would be elected to represent a district aligned to Ohio's congressional district boundaries. More than $26 million in Governor's Emergency Education Relief funding will go to six tutoring vendors to provide services across the state at no cost to schools and districts, Gov. Mike DeWine announced Monday. Schools and districts should apply to the Ohio Department of Education to access the state-funded high-quality tutoring programs. The investment is a part of "Future Forward Ohio," the state plan to help students recover from pandemic learning losses. High-dosage tutoring is a key component of that plan. DeWine noted research that shows high-dosage tutoring can produce "large learning gains for a wide range of students, including those who have fallen behind academically." The state previously awarded $14 million in Statewide Mathematics and Literacy Tutoring Grants to Ohio colleges and universities planning to create or expand mathematics and literacy tutoring programs for Ohio's K-12 students in one-on-one or small-group settings. In addition, Ohio was one of only five states awarded a grant by Accelerate, a national nonprofit, to drive continued student recovery from the pandemic through evidence-based tutoring models. The 2023 Ohio School Safety Summit kicked off Tuesday at the Greater Columbus Convention Center with over 1,300 attendees for the two-day event focused on equipping school officials with strategies for improving students' physical safety and mental well-being. Gov. Mike DeWine established the Ohio School Safety Center (OSSC), housed within the Ohio Department of Public Safety's (DPS) Division of Ohio Homeland Security, in 2019 as part of an effort to combat gun violence and violence in schools. While speaking at the annual summit, DeWine touted his administration's focus on student safety and wellness, noting the introduction of Student Wellness and Success Funds (SWSF) for schools which were maintained in the most recent biennial budget, HB33 (Edwards). The budget requires schools and districts to spend at least 50 percent of SWSF on either physical or mental health initiatives or a combination of both. ELECTIONS Sen. Theresa Gavarone (R-Bowling Green) introduced legislation that would prohibit the use of ranked choice voting in Ohio. Ranked choice voting is a term used to refer to electoral systems where voters rank candidates by preference on their ballots. A candidate who wins the majority of first-preference votes is declared the winner, but if there are no candidates receiving a majority, the candidate with the lowest amount of first-preference votes is dropped off and those who voted for that candidate will have their vote count for their second choice. Proponents of the system say it works like a runoff but does not require a new election, as a person's vote automatically transfers since they ranked their preferences. They argue it ensures the winner has support from a majority of voters and allows for a greater diversity of parties and candidates. However, Gavarone maintains that the process "distorts election outcomes. If implemented in Ohio, it would undo more than two centuries of voters having the ability to cast their vote with one vote and one voice, and alter our elections to look similar to the way it's done in New York City and San Francisco." ELECTIONS 2023 Secretary of State Frank LaRose's office said that Ohio is 3,060 poll workers away from meeting its goal of 31,811 committed poll workers for the Tuesday, Aug. 8 special election. As of Tuesday, 53 counties have not met the goal set for committed poll workers. Counties still in need of poll workers include Athens, Auglaize, Butler, Carroll, Champaign, Clark, Clermont, Clinton, Columbiana, Coshocton, Defiance, Delaware, Erie, Fayette, Fulton, Greene, Hamilton, Hancock, Harrison, Highland, Huron, Jackson, Jefferson, Knox, Lake, Lawrence, Licking, Lorain, Madison, Mahoning, Marion, Meigs, Miami, Monroe, Montgomery, Muskingum, Noble, Paulding, Pike, Sandusky, Scioto, Seneca, Shelby, Stark, Summit, Trumbull, Van Wert, Warren, Washington, Wayne, Williams, Wood and Wyandot. Of those 53 counties, 24 have met the minimum number of poll workers needed to conduct the election. ELECTIONS 2024 The following endorsements were made over the week:

  • The U.S. Senate campaign of Republican Matt Dolan announced the endorsements of Clark County Sheriff Deb Burchett, Shelby County Sheriff Jim Frye and Auglaize County Sheriff Mike Vorhees.

  • Secretary of State Frank LaRose endorsed Donald Trump for president.

  • Former U.S. Sen. Norm Coleman endorsed Bernie Moreno for U.S. Senate.

  • The congressional campaign of Republican Craig Riedel announced the endorsements of U.S. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), House Majority Leader Steve Scalise (R-LA), Majority Whip Tom Emmer (R-MN) and House Republican Conference Chair Elise Stefanik (R-NY).

ELECTIONS 2026 Attorney General Dave Yost is exploring a run for governor when Gov. Mike DeWine is term-limited, according to multiple media reports. The Columbus Dispatch reported that Yost had updated paperwork with the secretary of state's office earlier this month indicating a gubernatorial run. A spokeswoman for Yost confirmed to that Yost is preparing a gubernatorial run. Yost looks to face Lt. Gov. Jon Husted, who began laying the groundwork for a 2026 run earlier this year. ENERGY/UTILITIES The Utility Scale Solar Energy Coalition of Ohio (USSEC) -- the trade association representing utility-scale solar developers, manufacturers and industry leaders in Ohio -- announced the hiring of Will Hinman as its executive director. Hinman previously served as director of the speaker's office for former House Speaker Bob Cupp (R-Lima). He founded Forrest Hinman Capitol Consulting LLC, which he continues to operate. He also worked in Gov. Mike DeWine's administration as legislative liaison at the Ohio Department of Transportation. He is a graduate of Ohio State University. The Biden administration is providing Ohio a $14.2 million Grid Resilience Formula Grant from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) to help modernize the electric grid, mitigate extreme weather and natural disasters, and prioritize renewable energy in the Buckeye State. U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) funding seeks to ensure the reliability of energy infrastructure so that all communities have access to affordable, reliable and safe electricity, Gov. Mike DeWine said Thursday. FEDERAL U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) discussed his goals for the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) Wednesday with reporters, noting Ohio installations likely to be supported and detailing two bipartisan bills that were recently amended into the NDAA with over 90 votes in favor of each. The Promoting Agriculture Safeguards and Security (PASS) Act would prevent nations such as China and other adversaries from buying up farmland in Ohio and around the U.S., he said. GOVERNOR Judicial appointments made during the week include the following: Gov. Mike DeWine Tuesday appointed Michael DeLeone to the Lake County Court of Common Pleas, Juvenile Division. DeLeone, of Concord, will assume office on Monday, Aug. 14, and will be taking the seat formally held by the late Karen Lawson. DeLeone will serve the remainder of the unfinished term and will need to run for election in 2024 to retain the seat. DeLeone began his career in law in 2001 as an associate attorney for McIntyre, Kahn, & Kruse Company L.P.A. (now Western Hurd LLP). In July of 2022, DeLeone joined the Lake County Prosecutor's Office as an assistant prosecuting attorney. DeLeone earned his bachelor of arts degree in political science in 1995 from Kent State University. At the Cleveland-Marshall College of Law, he earned his juris doctor in 2000 and master of law degree in 2007. DeWine Thursday appointed Chris Berhalter to the Belmont County Court of Common Pleas, General and Domestic Relations Division. Berhalter, of Martins Ferry, will assume office on Friday, Sept. 1, 2023, and will be taking the seat formally held by Judge Frank Fregiato, who retired. Berhalter will serve the remainder of the unfinished term and will need to run for election in 2024 to retain the seat. He began his career in law in 1996 at Sommer, Librati & Berhalter. He became a partner of the firm in 2000. In 2004, he was elected Belmont County Prosecuting Attorney. Berhalter was elected in 2014 as Belmont County Court Judge, Northern Division and has served in the role until his latest appointment. He is a two-time graduate of Ohio State University where he received a bachelor of arts degree in journalism in 1993 and law degree in 1996. GUNS Columbus city leaders -- joined Thursday by House Minority Leader Allison Russo (D-Columbus) and Sen. Hearcel Craig (D-Columbus) -- vowed to continue defending laws on gun violence that were challenged in court, while adding that Republican legislators should support their efforts or get out of the way. The press conference was held outside the Statehouse and included Mayor Andrew Ginther, City Attorney Zach Klein and Columbus City Council members Emmanuel Remy and Shayla Favor. They called on the public to contact their state legislators and demand action as well, with Ginther saying that laws passed in the Statehouse put law enforcement at risk. JUDICIAL Throughout the history of the country, there has been "fierce political backlash" whenever the U.S. Supreme Court has been activist in its decisions, Brennan Center for Justice at NYU Law President and CEO Michael Waldman told a City Club of Cleveland audience Friday. A former director of speechwriting under President Bill Clinton who served on President Joe Biden's commission on the Supreme Court, Waldman spoke on recent decisions by the 6-3 conservative majority on the Court and his book The Supermajority: How the Supreme Court Divided America. He said he believes the country is now in one of those moments of backlash. Waldman said the Court has attained an outsized role in American policymaking, though it is a singular institution with nine officials serving for life. While language addressing it in the U.S. Constitution is one-tenth the length of provisions for Congress and the presidency, he said it has come to this role in society because we have given it the power. He said we trust it to be beyond politics. The Ohio State Bar Association has added 18 professionals to the state count of Ohio Bar Certified Paralegals, bringing the total number to 299. Bar-certified paralegals must have specific education and experience, continuing legal education (CLE) and references and pass a written exam. They are certified for four years, must meet reporting requirements to maintain certification, and can be re-certified after four years if they continue to meet CLE and reference requirements. A detailed description of paralegal certification requirements can be found at The Ohio Supreme Court is recommending that the required hours of completion for a law degree be cut in half to certify aspiring attorneys for legal internships. The Court says the change will answer the current need for legal professionals in government and commerce. Proposed amendments to the Rules for the Government of the Bar of Ohio also would eliminate the fingerprint requirement for bar candidates and allow out-of-state attorneys who do not practice full-time to be licensed in Ohio without taking the bar exam. The Supreme Court is seeking public comment on rule amendments to "streamline and modernize" applications for the bar and to expand professional opportunities in the state for law students. The Ohio Supreme Court disappointed hundreds of violent felons Wednesday when it ruled 5-2 that the Reagan Tokes Law's indefinite sentencing scheme and administrative review of actual prison time do not violate the separation of executive and judicial powers or other constitutional rights. Democratic Justice Melody Stewart joined all four Republicans to hold that the broadly bipartisan 132-SB201 (Bacon-O'Brien) does not violate the Ohio or U.S. Constitutions by allowing the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction (DRC) to adjudicate whether prisoners serve a shorter or longer sentence. Inmates cannot appeal this administrative ruling. LIBRARIES As school and public libraries have increasingly become the target of groups trying to restrict or ban access to certain books, library leaders in Ohio called the attempt to censor content a "canary in the coal mine for democracy" and discussed how they are handling book challenges. Earlier this year, the American Library Association (ALA) released data showing a striking increase in book ban attempts. The organization documented 1,269 demands to remove books and resources in 2022, the highest number of challenges since the ALA began compiling data about censorship in libraries more than 20 years ago. The 2022 number is nearly double the 729 challenges reported in 2021. A record 2,571 unique titles were challenged, representing a 38 percent increase from the 1,858 unique titles targeted in 2021. The vast majority of the challenged titles were written by or about members of the LGBTQ community and people of color, the ALA said. About 58 percent of the targeted books were in school or classroom libraries or school curricula while about 41 percent book challenges targeted materials in public libraries. NATURAL RESOURCES The Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR), the Ohio Arts Council (OAC), and Great Ohio Lodges are partnering to host the Arts in the Parks workshop series over the summer, designed to bring state park visitors together with seven Ohio teaching artists. Workshops will offer activities including creating art from recyclables, writing poetry, and decorating Ukrainian eggs. Participating locations include Burr Oak, Deer Creek, Mohican, Salt Fork, and Shawnee state park lodges. Find a full list of events through July and August and register for events at ODNR and Gov. Mike DeWine recently dedicated a new fish cleaning station at the Mazurik Fishing Access in Lakeside Marblehead. The new facility was installed and is managed by the ODNR Division of Wildlife to serve the thousands of anglers who catch walleye, yellow perch, bass, and more off the coast of Lake Erie. It is one of three new stations placed along Lake Erie. The other two cleaning stations are at Huron and Avon Lake. NONPROFIT ORGANIZATIONS The Center for Christian Virtue (CCV) has purchased the former Columbus Dispatch building on East Broad Street, the organization announced Monday. The facility is located at 62 E. Broad St., directly next door to another CCV property, 60 E. Broad Street. CCV bought that property in November 2021. "CCV intends to list 60 E. Broad St. for sale while remaining open to the possibility the Lord may provide other uses for the building," the organization said. The 30,000-square-foot, five-story building will house the conservative group's "growing team," CCV said. OHIO STATE FAIR 2023 Fairgoers -- young people in particular -- now have the opportunity to engage in fun activities related to science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) at the Ohio State Fair, Gov. Mike DeWine and Lt. Gov. Jon Husted announced Wednesday. "In the Lausche Building, you're going to find some things that are really new. We asked COSI to help us put it together, and to work with some great Ohio industries, on things that kids would understand, would like to see, would like to play with -- all about STEM, all about future careers," DeWine said during the opening ceremony of the 2023 Ohio State Fair. After the opening ceremony, the governor, lieutenant governor and First Lady Fran DeWine joined COSI President and CEO Frederic Bertley for a science demonstration. The Ohio State Fair is "continuing its unwavering commitment to accessibility and ensuring that Ohioans of all abilities can fully enjoy the vibrant atmosphere, thrilling attractions and cherished traditions" of the annual event, according to Opportunities for Ohioans with Disabilities (OOD). Visitors to the 2023 Ohio State Fair have access to free wheelchair/mobility device charging stations, technology to connect people who are blind or have low vision to an agent who can help with navigation, American Sign Language (ASL) interpretation, a dedicated sensory-friendly morning, and a universal changing table, OOD said. Another new feature is the Ohio State Fair's partnership with the Ohio History Connection. "For the first time, fairgoers will have the opportunity to visit the Ohio History Center and the Ohio Village located at the Ohio History Connection. Both attractions will be free with an Ohio State Fair admission ticket. A designated on-grounds shuttle will pick up fairgoers and transport them to the entrance of the Ohio History Connection allowing participants to seamlessly enjoy both of these wonderful attractions during their fair visit," according to a document provided by Ohio State Fair Assistant General Manager Alicia Shoults. In addition, Ohio History Connection members can show their membership card for two free admissions to the Ohio State Fair at the gates. Also, a new ice cream flavor -- churro -- is only available at the Ohio State Fair. And the fair is partnering with Schmidt's to create an exclusive "Lemon Shake-Up" cream puff flavor. Other new foods include the following, among many others:

  • Avalanche Floats from the Funky Flamingo

  • Cookie Dough Explosion from the Funky Flamingo

  • Crawfish Bowls from Big G's Food Service - Deviled Eggs from the Ohio Poultry Association

The "Zero Waste Space" returned to the Ohio State Fair, the Ohio Department of Agriculture (ODAg) announced. "Fairgoers are encouraged to participate in going green once again this year by learning best practices on recycling and composting," ODAg explained. Last year's pilot program ran just three days during the fair. The 2023 Zero Waste Space is operating now through Monday, July 31. PEOPLE According to the Ohio School Boards Association (OSBA), Thomas C. Patterson, a Northwest Ohio school board member, has been selected as OSBA's president-elect nominee. If elected during OSBA's statewide conference in November, he will become OSBA president in 2025 following his term as president-elect in 2024. Patterson, who is in his 18th year on the Sandusky City Schools Board of Education, was first elected in November 2001. He currently serves on OSBA's Board of Trustees and Board Member Cabinet and is a member of the association's Northwest Region Executive Committee. He served as region president in 2020. POLLS/STUDIES New data released Monday by the Suffolk University Poll and USA Today showed Ohio voters supporting a potential abortion rights amendment in November. The results were the latest release from the statewide survey of 500 Ohio voters conducted Sunday, July 9 through Wednesday, July 12 using live telephone interviews of households. The poll found nearly 58 percent of respondents support the proposed amendment, which would enshrine certain abortion and reproductive rights in the Ohio Constitution. Another 32 percent oppose it, and 10 percent are undecided. The totals of the poll would put it below the necessary 60 percent needed to be adopted if Issue 1 passes in August. The Suffolk University/USA Today poll also found nearly 70 percent of respondents say transgender girls should not be allowed to play on female sports teams in K-12 and universities if they're taking hormones. Among respondents, just under 70 percent said transgender girls should not be able play female sports, while nearly 22 percent said they should. Another 9 percent were undecided. A majority of poll respondents also agreed that drag performances should be restricted to individuals 18 years of age or older, with nearly 66 percent saying the performances should be restricted to adults, nearly 39 percent saying they should not be restricted, and 4 percent undecided. Suffolk University and USA Today poll also found a majority of respondents would support a proposed law legalizing recreational marijuana if it is on the ballot in November. According to the poll, nearly 59 percent of respondents support the issue, while nearly 35 percent oppose it, and 7 percent are undecided. PUBLIC SAFETY The Division of State Fire Marshal has embraced a changing of the guard with the installation of "Harley" on the K9 team and the retirements of Connor and Dolan, who served the K9 force for many years. Harley, a black lab specializing in ignitable liquid-detection, was born in 2022 and received training from the Columbus Fire Department Bomb Squad K9 Unit. In addition, former investigator Tim Schreadley has been named assistant chief of the Division of State Fire Marshal. Gov. Mike DeWine announced Tuesday that local volunteer fire departments may each apply for up to $15,000 in grant funding to purchase firefighting safety gear. Following a recommendation of the governor's Ohio Volunteer Fire Service Task Force, the Ohio Bureau of Workers' Compensation (BWC) is expanding eligibility for its Firefighter Exposure to Environmental Elements Grants (FEEEG) to encompass emergency "turnout" gear for fire volunteers. The $15,000 grant limit spans three years, after which volunteer departments can reapply for funds to purchase clothing including trousers, boots, suspenders and jackets. STATE GOVERNMENT

The state announced Friday $135 million in grants for 90 water and sewer infrastructure projects spanning 64 counties. The money comes from the fifth round of grants through Ohio BUILDS (Broadband, Utilities and Infrastructure for Local Development Success). Federal pandemic recovery funding through the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) supports the program. Lawmakers appropriated a total of $500 million across the FY22-23 budget, 134-HB110 (Oelslager), and spending omnibus 134-HB45 (West-Roemer). Examples of projects funded in this latest round include the following:

  • $352,000 for the village of Seven Mile in Butler County to replace faulty meters and install an automated meter reading system.

  • $2.4 million for the city of New Carlisle to replace about 160 lead service lines.

  • $500,000 for the city of Coshocton for a waterline extension in the village of Warsaw.

TECHNOLOGY/AEROSPACE Focusing on artificial intelligence (AI), attracting innovation, preparing talent and the challenges state and local government leaders face, the 2023 Innovation Summit was held Tuesday through a partnership by the Ohio Innovation and Technology Association (OITA), Lt. Gov. Jon Husted's office and InnovateOhio. TELECOMMUNICATIONS/BROADBAND The DeWine administration Monday announced the member organizations for six regional hubs that will help expand efforts of Ohio's Broadband and 5G Sector Partnership around the state, as well as recipients for nine grants totaling $654,590 as part of the Digital Inclusion Pilot Project. Each regional hub consists of two higher education institutions, a workforce board and a local community action entity. They are based around JobsOhio's state regions. TRANSPORTATION/INFRASTRUCTURE Gov. Mike DeWine and Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear Thursday held a press conference in Covington, KY, to announce that Walsh Kokosing has been awarded the design-build contract for the Brent Spence Bridge Corridor Project. "It's great that Kokosing, an Ohio-based company, will play a pivotal role in the Brent Spence Bridge Corridor Project," said DeWine. "Both Kokosing and Walsh have a long history of working with the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT), and I'm confident that we have the best people on both sides of the river to see this project to completion." As prime contractor, the Walsh Kokosing team will continue to recruit participant companies and workers for the $3.6 billion project, which is one of the most significant infrastructure megaprojects in the nation, the governors said. Approximately $3.1 billion will be spent on the design-build portion of the project. The rail line behind the East Palestine train derailment is among three railroads approved for grade crossing upgrades by the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) Wednesday. Norfolk Southern Railway will shell out more than $500,000 of its own money and spend another $2 million in federal funds to install or modernize warning devices at eight crossings in the Sandusky County town of Fremont by July 26, 2024. UNEMPLOYMENT COMPENSATION The Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS) said Monday that it has discovered and fixed a security flaw that fraudsters had attempted to use to exploit Ohio's unemployment system, an issue that led to the lockdown of thousands of accounts. ODJFS Director Matt Damschroder said in a statement that the department had been experiencing an increased number of attempts to fraudulently access the state's unemployment system. The root cause of the system vulnerability was determined to be a code flaw in the Ohio Job Insurance (OJI) system, specifically the linking of identity and authentication functionality between OJI and the state's OH|ID single sign-on system. As a precaution, ODJFS said it had locked more than 28,000 accounts with suspicious activity. When an account is locked, the legitimate user cannot access their unemployment account and payments on the accounts are suspended. The Buckeye State is in last and second-to-last place in the rankings of U.S. states and the District of Columbia in two key jobless claims metrics, according to financial advisory website WalletHub. Ohio ranks 51 in unemployment claims per 100,000 people in the labor force, and 50 when measuring which states saw the largest decreases in jobless claims. Among Ohio's neighbors, Kentucky ranked the best for states where jobless claims decreased the most (2). The Bluegrass State was followed by Michigan (6), Indiana (28), Pennsylvania (39) and West Virginia (46).

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

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