Week In Review - July 5, 2022



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This report reflects the latest happenings in government relations, in and around the Ohio statehouse. You’ll notice that it’s broad in nature and on an array of topics, from A-Z. This will be updated on a weekly basis.

Please feel free to share it with anyone else you believe may find it of interest, as well. Also, please do not hesitate to contact us should you have any questions, concerns or if we can be of any assistance.


ABORTION


The U.S. Supreme Court voted 6-3 on Friday to overturn Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey, ending nearly 50 years of nationwide constitutional protections for abortion. "Abortion presents a profound moral question. The Constitution does not prohibit the citizens of each state from regulating or prohibiting abortion. Roe and Casey arrogated that authority. The Court overrules those decisions and returns that authority to the people and their elected representatives," Justice Samuel Alito wrote for the majority in Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization.


Shortly after the decision was announced Friday, Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost filed an emergency motion in federal court to lift the stay on "heartbeat" law 133-SB23 (Roegner), which bans abortion when fetal cardiac activity is detected. Gov. Mike DeWine said he had spoken with Yost about taking this action after a draft version of the Dobbs decision was leaked. Later that evening, U.S. District Judge Michael Barrett granted Yost's request, allowing 133-SB23 to go into effect. DeWine then signed an executive order immediately adopting Ohio Department of Health rule 3701-47-07 in the Ohio Administrative Code (OAC), implementing the law.


Leaders from Planned Parenthood Federation of America, Planned Parenthood of Greater Ohio, Planned Parenthood Southwest Ohio Region, American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and ACLU of Ohio issued the following statement on the enactment of 133-SB23: "The ramifications of today's Supreme Court decision have been swift, devastating and real. The state's request to vacate an injunction that blocked a 2019 abortion ban has been granted, and abortion after six weeks is now banned across the state of Ohio. Together, we will continue to do everything we can to ensure people can get the care they need. While we work to get patients the tools, resources and information to get out of state to access abortion if they can, we plan to quickly file a legal challenge in state court. The fight is not over. We will continue to do everything possible to ensure that people can control their own medical decisions."


On Tuesday, DeWine told reporters there will be a discussion over whether to have a total abortion ban in the lame duck session later this year, pointing to recent statements made by House Speaker Bob Cupp (R-Lima) and Senate President Matt Huffman (R-Lima) after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down Roe v. Wade. "I think it's important for us to have this debate, have these conversations, and that's what's occurring all across this country. We need to do it in a civil way. We need to do it in a respectful way. The fact is that you have people on both sides of goodwill, who you genuinely believe that they're right about this. I think the other thing that was important as we go forward as a state is that there are areas where we can agree. From the time I took office, we've put a lot of emphasis on reaching out to pregnant women and giving them assistance and giving them help. We doubled the number of home visits, for example, but we're not done. We can't be done. This is an ongoing process ... I'll be coming to the Legislature with specific proposals in regard to that," the governor said.


The state's highest court should halt enforcement of the Ohio law that bans abortion when fetal cardiac activity is detected, according to reproductive rights organizations and abortion providers. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), ACLU of Ohio, Planned Parenthood Federation of America and law firm WilmerHale on Wednesday filed a lawsuit in the Ohio Supreme Court seeking to block "heartbeat" law 133-SB23 (Roegner). "By eviscerating access to abortion and denying Ohioans their fundamental rights, SB23 violates the Ohio Constitution and significantly and irreparably harms their physical, mental and emotional health and well-being," the lawsuit states. "The Ohio Constitution's Due Course of Law Clause, when read together with other distinctive provisions -- including Article I Sections 1, 16 and 21 -- establishes an independent right to abortion under the Ohio Constitution. That right is infringed by SB23." Article I Section 21 includes the language of the Ohio "Health Care Freedom Amendment," which passed in 2011 in response to the federal Affordable Care Act. That section of the Ohio Constitution provides that, "No federal, state or local law or rule shall prohibit the purchase or sale of health care or health insurance." [Editor’s Note: The Ohio Supreme Court denied the request for an emergency stay on Friday, July 1.]


Planned Parenthood clinics in Ohio are still providing abortions up to six weeks' gestation, the reproductive health care organization announced Thursday. "All Planned Parenthoods are providing the procedure up to six weeks where no fetal cardiac tone is found, within the current law," Planned Parenthood said. Anti-abortion organizations have been sharing screenshots from Planned Parenthood's website showing that abortions were not currently being provided in Ohio. "Our websites are currently experiencing technical difficulties and we apologize to our patients who received the wrong information," Planned Parenthood said. "If anyone in the state of Ohio needs an abortion, they should call our Customer Contact Center at 1-800-230-7526 for personalized discussion and appointment management while we work to address the issues with our websites." Planned Parenthood added that its doors will remain open in Ohio even if abortion is completely outlawed.


AGRICULTURE


The Ohio Department of Taxation (ODT) Friday released its draft tables for the Current Agricultural Use Value (CAUV) over the next three years which would increase tax bills for Ohio's farmers. Andrew Winkel, the administrator of tax equalization of ODT, presented the tables during a virtual meeting as well as all the factors that went into calculating the formula that will be effective for tax years 2022, 2023 and 2024. He said according to the calculations in the model that is used based on data over a five-year period, the average yield for all three main crops in Ohio -- corn, soybeans and wheat -- have increased, and crop prices have also increased. Additionally, the average base cost for production has dropped. This year is also the last year for the implementation of CAUV reform provisions in 132-HB49 (R. Smith), and counties performing tax revaluations will have values based on the full phase in of the reforms passed in that bill.


APPALACHIA


Gov. Mike DeWine Tuesday signed HB377 (Hall-Swearingen) during a ceremony in the Appalachian Garden of the Ohio Governor's Residence and Heritage Garden, touting the $500 million in funding for Appalachian funding initiatives in the bill. The signing was attended by legislators and numerous local officials from throughout the Appalachian region and included a session held afterwards in the residence hosted by Ohio Department of Development Director Lydia Mihalik on applying for the grant funding in the bill. The $500 million development fund for Appalachian counties was proposed by DeWine in his 2022 "State of the State" address and had been amended into HB377, a COVID relief funding bill for local governments.


BALLOT ISSUES


Attorney General Dave Yost Friday announced that he has certified a petition summary for a proposed constitutional amendment in support of an individual's right to refuse medical services. Yost's office received the written petition on June 16, which proposes to add Section 22 to Article 1 of the Ohio Constitution, along with a summary of the measure. According to the amendment summary, it would provide that an individual's right to refuse any medical procedure, treatment, injection, vaccine, prophylactic, pharmaceutical, or medical device "shall be absolute."


DEATH PENALTY


Gov. Mike DeWine Friday issued a reprieve to Quisi Bryan, who was scheduled to be executed on Wednesday, Oct. 26, 2022. The new date of execution has been moved to Jan. 7, 2026. DeWine said he is issuing the reprieve due to ongoing problems involving the willingness of pharmaceutical suppliers to provide drugs to the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction (DRC), pursuant to DRC protocol, without endangering other Ohioans.


ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT


Intel Corp. this week announced it was delaying a planned ceremonial groundbreaking for its $20 billion semiconductor manufacturing facility in Licking County scheduled for next month, but the company said it is still excited about the project and is not cancelling it. The event had been scheduled for Friday, July 22, but the company has decided to delay it while raising concerns about stalled federal legislation that would provide benefits to the semiconductor industry. Regarding Intel's announcement, Gov. Mike DeWine commented later that he is not worried about the project's not coming to Ohio, but said it is important for Congress to pass federal legislation to assist the semiconductor industry.


Gov. Mike DeWine's administration announced Monday the approval of assistance for two projects expected to create 375 new jobs statewide. During its monthly meeting, the Ohio Tax Credit Authority (TCA) reviewed economic development proposals brought by JobsOhio and its regional partners. The projects are expected to collectively result in more than $22.9 million in new payroll and more than $213 million in investments across Ohio.


EDUCATION


Defunct online charter school Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow (ECOT) owes the Ohio Department of Education $106 million in state formula funding that it was overpaid across three fiscal years, the final audit of the school from Auditor Keith Faber's office says. Collection costs of more than $10 million for the attorney general's office and money owed to the College Credit Plus Program take ECOT's liability past $117 million, according to the audit report. The audit also found money is owed back to the school itself by its management and technology vendors, Altair Learning Management and IQ Innovations, whose payments from the school were calculated as a percentage of state funding. A ruling by Franklin County Common Pleas Judge Kimberly Cocroft recently determined that ECOT founder William Lager had an improper interest in the contracts between ECOT and the two vendors, to whom he also had ties.


ELECTIONS


Ohio's 88 county boards of elections will soon be required to implement additional security upgrades, according to a directive issued by Secretary of State Frank LaRose Tuesday. Security Directive 3.0 incorporates a 31-point checklist that establishes new security standards for vendors, strengthens physical security requirements, prevents purchasing of equipment from dangerous foreign entities and modernizes cybersecurity capabilities, LaRose told reporters during a media event at the Hilton Columbus at Easton. Counties must complete the requirements by Friday, Dec. 30, but some boards of elections may have them in place before the November general election.


LaRose was joined at the event by Jen Easterly, director of the federal Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), who praised his work on election security. "One of the reasons I wanted to come to Ohio is, you just heard a secretary of state -- very unusually - be able to talk with great fluency like a cyber person," Easterly said. "The type of security directives that the secretary just described ... all of the things that are in place are really a model, quite frankly, for what we want across the rest of the country."


Former Reps. Stephanie Howse (D-Cleveland) and Martin Sweeney (D-Cleveland) both received $50 fines from the Ohio Elections Commission on Thursday. They were found to have filed campaign reports late. Howse is currently a member of Cleveland City Council, while Sweeney is a member of Cuyahoga County Council and the Ohio Lottery Commission. In addition, the commission found June Taylor in violation for filing a late report, but didn't levy a fine due to "good cause." Taylor, a Democrat, is a member of Beachwood City Council and is chair of the Ohio Casino Control Commission.


ELECTIONS 2022


The Ohio Supreme Court Friday ordered Secretary of State Frank LaRose and the boards of elections of Franklin, Montgomery and Licking counties to accept the declarations of candidacy and petitions of six candidates for the Tuesday, Aug. 2 primary ballot and certify them to the ballot if they otherwise qualify. The candidates affected by the decision are William DeMora, a Columbus Democrat who wants to run for the new 25th Ohio Senate District in Franklin County; Anita Somani, a Dublin Democrat who wants to run for the 11th House District; Elizabeth Thien, a Columbus Democrat who wants to be a write-in candidate for the 25th Senate District; Leronda Jackson, an Englewood Democrat who wants to run as a write-in candidate for the 39th House District; Bridgette Tupes, a Bexley Democrat who wants to run for the Ohio Democratic Party State Central Committee's 25th District; and Gary Martin, a Pataskala Democrat who wants to run for the Ohio Democratic Party State Central Committee's 20th District. LaRose Sunday, while harshly criticizing a decision by the Court, issued a new directive implementing the order.


Secretary of State Frank LaRose Wednesday issued a directive ordering the Hamilton County Board of Elections to accept the petition of Republican House candidate Jenn Giroux after a Hamilton County judge ordered him to do so. The decision was issued by Hamilton County Common Pleas Judge Robert Goering, who cited the Ohio Supreme Court's decision to allow six Democratic candidates for the Aug. 2 primary ballot to submit petitions because they had done so within the time frame for an August primary. In her lawsuit, Giroux had argued that she had submitted her paperwork before the same deadlines that the Ohio Supreme Court had ruled on.


Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose announced Friday that upon the completion of Ohio's county boards of elections' post May 3 primary audits, the accuracy rate for the primary election was 99.9 percent. Ohio requires its county boards of elections to audit election results after every election. The audit included 86 of Ohio's 88 counties. Mercer and Seneca counties were not included because both counties are currently conducting recounts on county wide races.


Secretary of State Frank LaRose this week expanded Ohio's poll worker recruitment efforts by notifying the state's 88 boards of elections that 17-year-olds who have completed their junior year in high school are eligible to serve as poll workers in the Tuesday, Aug. 2 primary. Prior to the guidance issued Thursday, the secretary of state's office said there was ambiguity as to whether a student was considered a senior upon the immediate conclusion of their junior year or upon entering their senior year in the fall.


Ben Leland, a Democrat who was seeking an Ohio House seat this year, announced on Twitter Monday that he was ending his campaign after the map that was implemented for this election paired him with House Minority Leader Allison Russo (D-Upper Arlington). Calling the redistricting process "the world's worst game of musical chairs," Leland said he was drawn with Russo "in an attempt to pit two strong Democratic candidates against each other," adding, "but I refuse to play their game."


Democratic gubernatorial candidate and former mayor of Dayton Nan Whaley said she plans to lead an effort for a ballot initiative codifying Roe v. Wade in the state constitution if she is elected governor in November, noting in a virtual news conference that consequences of the U.S. Supreme Court's action are already being seen.


Jim Renacci is the new chair of American Greatness PAC, the former congressperson announced Wednesday. "Today, I'm proud to announce that I will be the chairman of American Greatness, an organization that will be an active participant on the front lines to forward the MAGA policies that had businesses thriving and gave the forgotten men and women of this nation a voice."


The following endorsements were made over the week:

  • The congressional campaign of Emilia Sykes announced the endorsement of U.S. Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ).

  • The gubernatorial campaign of Nan Whaley announced the endorsement of Win the Era.

  • Tea Party Express endorsed JD Vance for U.S. Senate.

ENERGY/UTILITIES


Ohio's natural gas output from horizontal wells has hit a five-year low according to new figures from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR). "Fracking" wells in Ohio's Utica and Marcellus regions managed 457 billion cubic feet (cf) of gas in the first three months of this year, falling somewhere between production numbers for the second and third quarters of 2017. Year over year, January-March 2022 totals trail natural gas yields for Q1 of 2021 by more than 22 percent.


American Electric Power (AEP) Ohio will appear before the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) on Wednesday, July 13 to address the causes of and lessons learned from June's forced blackouts in much of Columbus and Franklin County. The 13-state regional transmission organization (RTO) encompassing Ohio, PJM Interconnection, LLC, will join the state's largest utility before the commission, as will the company responsible for the large electric power corridors serving Central Ohio, AEP Transmission. The hearing is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. in PUCO offices at 180 E. Broad Street, Columbus, Room 11-B.


ENVIRONMENT


Gov. Mike DeWine and Ohio EPA Director Laurie A. Stevenson announced that the city of Nelsonville in Athens County will receive $171,000 in H2Ohio funding to improve drinking water quality and to upgrade aging water infrastructure. DeWine also announced the H2Ohio program will fund repairs and replacements for failing home sewage treatment systems in Hocking, Jackson, Portage, Ross and Seneca counties. Health districts in each county will receive $115,000 each to help low- to moderate-income homeowners repair and replace failing household sewage treatment systems.


Ohio EPA Friday issued an isolated wetlands permit for a project to construct semiconductor manufacturing facilities -- Intel -- in Licking County. The application for the permit was submitted by MBJ Holdings, LLC. Discharges from the activity will affect approximately 10 acres of isolated wetlands. MBJ Holdings, LLC will offset these impacts with more than 20 acres of wetland mitigation.


The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) does not have the authority to implement an emissions reduction policy like the Clean Power Plan under the Clean Air Act, according to a 6-3 decision from the U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday. "Capping carbon dioxide emissions at a level that will force a nationwide transition away from the use of coal to generate electricity may be a sensible 'solution to the crisis of the day.' ... But it is not plausible that Congress gave USEPA the authority to adopt on its own such a regulatory scheme in Section 111(d)," Chief Justice John Roberts wrote for the majority in West Virginia v. Environmental Protection Agency. “A decision of such magnitude and consequence rests with Congress itself, or an agency acting pursuant to a clear delegation from that representative body," Roberts continued. The Ohio Environmental Council (OEC) called the decision "devastating," condemning the decision that limits the USEPA's authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from power plants "at a time when we need all hands on deck to reduce harmful emissions and fight climate change."


ETHICS


The Ohio Ethics Commission has seen about a 27 percent increase in the number of requests for advisory opinions this year over last year according to the commission's executive director. Paul Nick told the commission Wednesday that the commission has received 109 requests so far this year when the average is about 96.


FEDERAL


An end to the federal public health emergency (PHE) will also mean an end to expanded supplemental benefits for millions of families across the country and in Ohio, a panel of advocates said Monday. June's Ohio Legislative Children's Caucus meeting focused on the impending "COVID cliff" as the federal government looks to end the COVID-19 public health emergency and rein in expanded benefits programs that have kept families afloat for the past two and a half years. The timing of the end of some of the additional enhancements and flexibilities could be particularly burdensome, they said, given rising inflation and housing costs.


GENERAL ASSEMBLY/STATEHOUSE


The funeral for former state legislator Michael Fox, 73, was held Wednesday, June 29, following his death on Thursday, June 23 following a long illness. Fox also served as a Butler County commissioner and Butler County children services executive. He was an imposing presence during his nearly 20 years in the Ohio House, a Republican in the Vern Riffe era of Democratic control, known for working across the aisle to accomplish his legislative objectives. His political career ended when he was convicted of wire and mail fraud and filing a false tax return.


GOVERNOR


Bills signed over the week include the following:

  • HB193 (Cutrona-Pavliga) addresses electronic prescriptions and Schedule II-controlled substances, terminology related to overdose reversal drugs, a pilot program for dispensing controlled substances in lockable containers, out-of-state physician consultations, and pediatric respite care programs.

  • HB206 (Ghanbari-O'Brien) permits a township police officer who serves a population between 5,000 and 50,000 to enforce specified traffic offenses on interstate highways within the township if authorized by that township's board of trustees.

  • HB371 (Schmidt-Denson), which revises the laws governing coverage of screening mammography and patient notice of dense breast tissue and makes temporary changes regarding certificates of need.

  • HB377 (Hall) establishes the Appalachian Community Grant Program, to specify certain election workers are excluded from PERS membership, expand the category of first responders of certain townships who are considered part-time for health coverage purposes, convey state-owned land, correct an outdated reference to state treasury warrants, and to make appropriations.

  • HB430 (Cross) addresses underground utility facilities affected by construction, exempts mobile computing units from certain building regulation, makes changes relating to the landlord/tenant law, limits regulation of telecommunications, wireless, or Internet protocol-enabled service providers, revises the law governing the plugging of idle and orphaned wells, and revises the use of the Abandoned Mine Reclamation Fund, and designates April as "Ohio Work Zone Safety Awareness Month."

  • HB447 (Lampton) addresses workers' compensation for employees who work from home and other changes to the workers' compensation law.

  • HB515 (Hoops-Riedel) exempts from income tax certain gains from the sale of an ownership interest in a business and modifies the tax laws governing sports gaming.

  • HB518 (Hoops) creates the Fulton County Municipal Court in Wauseon on Jan. 1, 2024, establishes one full-time judgeship in that court, abolishes the Fulton County County Court on that date, provides for the election for the Fulton County Municipal Court of one full-time judge in 2023, adds one full-time judge to the Fairborn Municipal Court, expands the jurisdiction of the Housing Division of the Toledo Municipal Court, abolishes the East Liverpool Municipal Court in Columbiana County, expands the jurisdiction of the Portage County Domestic Relations Court, and relative to the Hamilton County Municipal Court.

  • HB537 (Abrams) designates Feb. 12 as "Cholangiocarcinoma Awareness Day."

  • HB583 (Bird-Jones) addresses substitute teachers, the school financing system, the Educational Choice Scholarship Program, the Pilot Project Scholarship Program, the ACE Educational Savings Account Program, Community Schools of Quality, community school sponsors, state funding for certain community schools, dyslexia screening requirements, tutoring programs, alternative resident education licenses, Ohio School Safety Month, the career-technical education income tax credit, practical nurse education programs, and makes an appropriation.


GUNS


President Joe Biden said Saturday that the "Bipartisan Safer Communities Act" represents the nation's first passage of "meaningful gun safety laws" in 30 years as part of remarks in signing the bill. Congress had moved swiftly to pass it with votes of 65-33 in the U.S. Senate and 234-193 in the U.S. House, following recent mass shootings in Uvalde, TX and Buffalo, NY, among others. U.S. Sens. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Rob Portman (R-OH) voted for the bill, as did Ohio's Democratic U.S. representatives and U.S. Reps. Steve Chabot (R-Cincinnati), Anthony Gonzalez (R-Canton), Dave Joyce (R-Twinsburg) and Mike Turner (R-Dayton). It was opposed by U.S. Reps. Troy Balderson (R-Worthington), Mike Carey (R-Hilliard), Warren Davidson (R-Troy), Bob Gibbs (R-Ashland), Bill Johnson (R-Marietta), Jim Jordan (R-Lima), Bob Latta (R-Bowling Green) and Brad Wenstrup (R-Cincinnati). Among provisions in the bill are the following:


  • Provides $1 billion "to help schools put in place comprehensive strategies to create safe and healthy learning environments for all students."

  • Provides $300 million "to students and educators for the training and tools they need on how to prevent and respond to violence against themselves and others."

  • Clarifies who needs a federal license to buy and sell firearms.

  • Reviews juvenile mental health records for individuals age 16 and older as part of the enhanced background check process.

A recent study by the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center and College of Medicine aims to make sure medical professionals are asking the right questions in mental health assessments, particularly for gun owners. The study found that gun owners with a recent suicide attempt are less likely than non-gun owners to report experiencing suicidal ideation, even though firearms are the most common method of suicide. Researchers concluded that gun owners and non-gun owners experience thoughts about suicide in different ways, which they said may explain why the standard questions to identify those at risk of suicide often fall short.


HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES


Members and presenters at Tuesday's Public Assistance Benefits Accountability Task Force addressed whether ongoing challenges in the $1.2 billion Ohio Benefits System are intractable or solvable with increased feedback between government staff who use the software and the private vendor, Accenture. The task force heard from Chief Auditor Debbie Liddil and Chief Medicaid Auditor Kristi Erlewine of the Ohio Auditor of State's Office and Program Integrity Director Allan Showalter of the Ohio Department of Medicaid (ODM), who spoke to the Ohio Benefits System's impact on Medicaid determinations in the state.


The Columbus Public Health Department announced it is investigating a local case of monkeypox in a 48-year-old man. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) also announced an expanded effort to vaccinate populations vulnerable to the disease. The case is the second in Ohio. The Ohio Department of Health (ODH) announced the first probable case earlier in June, which was later confirmed.


HIGHER EDUCATION


The University of Mount Union Board of Trustees selected Robert A. Gervasi to serve as the interim president during the 2022-2023 academic year, effective Monday, June 27. Gervasi succeeds Thomas J. Botzman, who announced his retirement in April. Gervasi most recently spent four years as president of Ohio Dominican University in Columbus, and the nine years prior at the helm of Quincy University in Quincy, IL.


JUDICIAL


A Washington state school district erred in removing a football coach who prayed at midfield after games, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled Monday, finding the district violated his First Amendment rights to free speech and free exercise of religion. "When Mr. [Joseph] Kennedy uttered the three prayers that resulted in his suspension, he was not engaged in speech 'ordinarily within the scope' of his duties as a coach. He did not speak pursuant to government policy and was not seeking to convey a government-created message. He was not instructing players, discussing strategy, encouraging better on-field performance, or engaged in any other speech the district paid him to produce as a coach ... The timing and circumstances of Mr. Kennedy's prayers -- during the postgame period when coaches were free to attend briefly to personal matters and students were engaged in other activities -- confirms that Mr. Kennedy did not offer his prayers while acting within the scope of his duties as a coach," stated the ruling, written by Justice Neil Gorsuch and joined wholly by Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Samuel Alito, Amy Coney Barrett and Clarence Thomas and partially by Justice Brett Kavanaugh. Thomas and Alito both filed concurrences as well. Justices Sonia Sotomayor filed a dissent joined by Justices Stephen Breyer and Elena Kagan.


The Ohio Supreme Court is seeking public feedback on a proposed web form for case inquiry requests. The newly revised form was approved on June 14 for publication in the Monday, July 11 Ohio Official Reports advance sheet, with a public comment period ending Friday, Aug. 12. Chief Justice O'Connor and Justices Kennedy, Fischer, Donnelly, Stewart and Brunner concurred in publishing the form for comment. Justice DeWine did not participate. The proposed web form can be found at https://tinyurl.com/3kvmk6vt.


The Ohio Supreme Court announced Wednesday that it is rescinding its COVID-19-related order from June 8, 2020 allowing courts and parties to substitute certain forms requiring notarization under the Ohio Rules of Civil Procedure, Ohio Rules of Juvenile Procedure and Rules of Superintendence for the Courts of Ohio. The Court noted COVID-19 vaccines have been widely available for over a year, with more than 70 percent of Ohio adults receiving at least one vaccine dose.


LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR


The Ohio's Broadband and Cable Association presented Lt. Gov. Jon Husted its inaugural Champion of Broadband Award, which was established to recognize those who are leading advocates of broadband connectivity. The association noted Husted's role in broadband efforts through his leadership of InnovateOhio and the Governor's Office of Workforce Transformation, as well as the DeWine administration's creation of BroadbandOhio to oversee the $270 million expansion grant program and development of a workforce strategy for expansion.


MARIJUANA/HEMP


There are more than 278,000 patients registered in the Ohio Medical Marijuana Control Program (MMCP), according to the Ohio Board of Pharmacy (OBP). Specifically, there were 278,731 patients registered through May 2022, OBP said in its updated MMCP patient and caregiver numbers document. Of registered patients, 17,732 are military veterans, 19,250 are classified as "indigent" and 1,110 are terminally ill.


MEDICAID/MEDICAID REFORM


In the lead up to launch of a unified pharmacy benefit manager (PBM) across Medicaid managed care plans, the Ohio Department of Medicaid (ODM) has released specifics of how pharmacies will be reimbursed for drug costs and dispensing expenses. ODM Director Maureen Corcoran said establishing those details paves the way for Gainwell Technology, the single PBM, and pharmacies to "proceed with all due haste" on cementing contracts ahead of an October launch, which is also the timeframe ODM targets for moving beneficiaries into new managed care plans. A specific date is yet to be determined. In an interview Monday with Hannah News, Corcoran and ODM Pharmacy Director Sean Eckard said the new structure aims to establish clear and transparent pricing and payments to fend off the types of practices that prompted lawmakers to mandate use of a single PBM in the first budget of the DeWine administration, 133-HB166 (Oelslager). It's also built with Medicaid members' access to care in mind, as the dispensing fee structure provides special consideration for both smaller, lower-volume pharmacies and for pharmacies whose patient load includes a substantial proportion of Medicaid members, they said.


MENTAL HEALTH


Gov. Mike DeWine and Interim State Superintendent Stephanie Siddens kicked off the "Stronger Together: Children's Mental Health and Resiliency Virtual Conference" Tuesday. The conference was designed to provide opportunities for teachers, school personnel, mental health service providers, health care professionals and others to learn about best practices and resources regarding mental health supports for children.


NATURAL RESOURCES


Gov. Mike DeWine and Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) Director Mary Mertz broke ground on Ohio's 76th state park during a ceremony Monday. The Great Council State Park, located just north of Xenia, was once home to Oldtown, one of the largest-known Shawnee settlements in the state. More than 1,000 people called Oldtown home from approximately 1777 to 1780. Their stories directly intersect with that of historic settlers like Daniel Boone, who was held captive in Oldtown for a period of time, DeWine said. Great Council State Park will feature a 12,000-square-foot interpretive center with an architectural design based on the traditional council house form that was historically used by the Shawnee tribes. Inside, visitors will find three floors of exhibits, a theater area, a living stream and a gallery. All the displays are intended to honor the Shawnee tribes of the past and allow present-day members to share their stories.


The Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) announced free events at state parks across Ohio celebrating the Fourth of July holiday.


PENSIONS


The Ohio Police & Fire Pension Fund (OP&F) reiterated its commitment Wednesday to pursuing legislation that would boost employer contribution rates for the first time in decades, answering a request from the Ohio Retirement Study Council (ORSC) to start work on a long-term funding plan and to provide additional information on the legislative proposal. The OP&F Board of Trustees Finance Committee voted unanimously to submit calculations from the system's contracted actuary, Cavanaugh McDonald, estimating that the contribution rate increases called for in HB512 (Abrams-Baldridge) would bring the system into compliance with the statutory requirement to be on track to pay down its unfunded liabilities within 30 years. Cavanaugh McDonald estimates OP&F is currently on track to pay down liabilities in 39 years, after the board's decision earlier this year to drop the long-term investment return assumption from 8 percent to 7.5 percent. An upcoming five-year review of actuarial assumptions to be submitted this fall could prompt the board to drop that rate even further. With HB512 in place, the system would be on track to pay down liabilities within 25 years, the actuary estimates.


PEOPLE


The Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services (OhioMHAS) recently announced the appointment of Doug Jackson as Ohio's 988 system administrator. In this capacity, he will oversee the development, implementation and administration of policies, programs and services related to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline and its Ohio provider network; ensure compliance with all state and federal regulations, laws and budgetary requirements; oversee grants, contracts and allocation processes; supervise staff; assist OhioMHAS leadership with legislation and/or administrative rules; develop and maintain relationships that support collaboration with other local, state and federal agencies and organizations; share information related to crisis and prevention services across interdepartmental and interdisciplinary teams and workgroups; and communicate the philosophies and goals of 988, suicide prevention and the crisis response continuum.


Ohio University recently recognized graduate and longtime advocate for Appalachian Ohio John Carey with its John Whisman "Vision" Award for his work making Appalachian Ohio a better place to live and experience. The Development District Association of Appalachia gives the Vision Award to individuals who, through intergovernmental cooperation, make Appalachia a better place to live. Carey was nominated by colleague Jeannette Wierzbicki, executive director of the Ohio Mid-Eastern Governments Association.


Zaino Hall & Farrin LLC (ZHF), an Ohio-based law firm focusing on multistate and local tax, federal tax and government affairs, announced recently that Robert C. Maier has joined the firm as senior attorney. Maier brings more than 30 years of experience as a tax lawyer and litigator. Most recently, he worked as a master commissioner with the Ohio Supreme Court, focusing on tax matters for the Court. Prior to his work at the Supreme Court, Maier served as chief of the Taxation Section of the Ohio Attorney General's office.


PUBLIC SAFETY


The Ohio Department of Commerce's Division of State Fire Marshal urged Ohioans to practice safety first while discharging 1.4G consumer fireworks on July 4, which will be allowed under a new law except where limited by local restrictions. Related provisions of HB172 (Baldridge-O'Brien) take effect Friday. "We encourage Ohioans to celebrate the July 4 holiday, but we want them to do it safely," said Ken Klouda, chief of the State Fire Marshal's Fire Prevention Bureau. "While certain fireworks are legal, they still pose serious dangers, including severe burns, injuries to the hands, eyes and face and even blindness or hearing loss." The division recommends the following "important safety tips" for these trick and novelty fireworks:

  • Only handle and discharge trick and novelty devices under adult supervision.

  • Educate yourself on the hazards of each type of device being used.

  • Carefully read and follow the label directions on the packaging of a trick and novelty device.

  • Light only one sparkler at a time and hold it away from your body, as well as others.

  • Sparklers should only be used by someone 12 years of age or older.

  • Sparkler wires should immediately be placed in a bucket of water to avoid injury, because they remain hot for a few minutes after burnout.

  • Consider substituting sparklers for a safer alternative, such as glow sticks.

REDISTRICTING/REAPPORTIONMENT


In what was described by a Court spokesperson as an "update" to the docket, the Ohio Supreme Court Wednesday denied motions for the Ohio Redistricting Commission members to show cause as to why they should not be held in contempt for not following Court orders. However, the Wednesday rulings in the three separate lawsuits do not apply to the most recent motions by plaintiffs to the Court. In February, after the Court had struck down the second map passed by the Ohio Redistricting Commission, it gave the commissioners until Feb. 17 to come up with a new plan. On that date, commissioners declared an impasse, leading to motions from the plaintiffs to show cause. The Court did not officially rule on those motions, and instead Chief Justice Maureen O'Connor issued an order sua sponte -- a term to indicate a court's action on an issue of its own accord -- for commissioners to appear before the Court and explain why they did not meet the Feb. 17 deadline. After the commission met and adopted a third plan, O'Connor cancelled that hearing. On Wednesday, the Court finally ruled on those February motions to show cause, ruling them moot as the commission had adopted new plans that were later ruled on by the Court, though the majority also struck those plans down as well.


TELECOMMUNICATIONS/BROADBAND


The DeWine administration recently announced four teams representing 11 counties would serve as the first cohort in a planning and capacity-building program to help leverage "historic" funding for broadband infrastructure as part of a "community-driven" broadband expansion. Participants in the BroadbandOhio Community Accelerator Cohort include individual teams from Defiance, Shelby and Tuscarawas counties and Adams, Brown, Fayette, Highland, Lawrence, Pike, Scioto and Vinton counties as members of the Ohio Valley Regional Development Commission (OVRDC). The program is a collaborative effort between BroadbandOhio, Heartland Forward, the Benton Institute and Ohio State University's (OSU) Office of Extension. Heartland Forward initiated and funded it.


TRANSPORTATION/INFRASTRUCTURE


Gov. Mike DeWine announced that several state and local agencies are joining forces on a pilot program to make transit in Coshocton, Guernsey, Muskingum and Tuscarawas counties easier to navigate and more efficient. The new program, Mobility Ohio, will be a one-stop hub that will rely on agency coordination and next-generation software tools to allow people to conveniently schedule trips by phone or online. The $2.8 million grant to create and fund Mobility Ohio is part of the Federal Transit Administration's Innovative Coordinated Access and Mobility Program. For decades, state agencies across the U.S. have acted independently to develop their own programs and policies to provide transportation to eligible customers.


Over 2.3 million Ohioans will benefit from safer rail crossings after the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) Wednesday approved state funding to replace incandescent with LED lights at 100 locations in eight counties including Cuyahoga, Lucas and Lorain. PUCO will provide up to $750,000 in budget appropriations, or $7,500 per crossing, with Norfolk Southern Railway covering any additional costs.


According to AAA Ohio, a record 2.2 million Ohioans will travel this Independence Day holiday weekend that begins Thursday, June 30 and ends Monday, July 4, an increase of 3.8 percent over last year. The Ohio State Highway Patrol said it will be "highly visible" over the weekend and cracking down on impaired drivers. Nationally, AAA expects more than 47.9 million Americans to travel, an increase of 3.7 percent over 2021 but shy of the record in 2019.


VETERANS


U.S. Sens. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Rob Portman (R-OH) said earlier this week that plans to close the Chillicothe Veterans Affairs (VA) in Chillicothe will not move forward after they joined a group of 10 other senators in opposing the process that would further review the plans. The facility had in March been recommended to be closed and replaced by outpatient services as part of recommendations to the Asset and Infrastructure Review (AIR) Commission. The commission was created under the VA MISSION Act, a 2018 law signed by President Donald Trump as part of a modernization effort for the VA system. However, a number of lawmakers opposed the recommendations and this week, Brown and Portman joined Jon Tester (D-MT), Joe Manchin (D-WV), Mike Rounds (R-SD), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), John Thune (R-SD), Patty Murray (D-WA), Steve Daines (R-MT) and Ben Ray Lujan (D-NM) in saying they would block the process by refusing to support appointments to the AIR Commission.


WORKERS' COMPENSATION


The Ohio Bureau of Workers' Compensation (BWC) Board of Directors on Friday approved its FY23 administrative budget, which has an appropriation of $369.2 million. "This total is a combination of $361.9 million approved in BWC's biennial budget HB75 (Oelslager) and an additional $7.3 million dollars provided by the Ohio Office of Budget and Management (OBM) in May 2022 representing a net amount for cost-of-living adjustments (COLA) and health care savings," a BWC budget summary document says. The BWC FY23 total budget appropriation is $4.4 million or 1.2 percent greater than the FY22 total appropriation of $364.8 million.

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


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