Week In Review - July 6, 2020



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


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


ABORTION


A Louisiana law requiring doctors who perform abortions to hold admitting privileges at a nearby hospital imposes an "undue burden" on a woman's constitutional right to terminate her pregnancy, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in a 5-4 decision on Monday. Justice Stephen Breyer wrote the opinion of the Court in June Medical Services v. Russo, which was joined by Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan. Chief Justice John Roberts concurred with the decision, saying precedent requires the Court to strike the law down as unconstitutional.


AGRICULTURE


Counties undergoing Current Agricultural Use Value (CAUV) reappraisal for 2020 will have their values calculated completely under the new formula enacted in 132-HB49 (R. Smith), Ohio Department of Taxation (ODT) attorney Jacqueline St. John said Friday.


ARTS, SPORTS AND ENTERTAINMENT


Nine Ohio universities and museums received a total of $1,192,847 from the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act to fund projects and retain staff positions at institutions. Grant recipients include the Cleveland Museum of Art, which will be receiving $294,500 to retain 13 staff who will be conducting their project "Home Is Where the Art Is" to develop digital and online programming for diverse museum audiences, according to the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH).


FY20-21 BUDGET


The state of Ohio still has approximately $2.13 billion in federal funding available to distribute to agencies responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, Ohio Office of Budget and Management (OBM) Director Kim Murnieks told Hannah News in an interview. Ohio received a total of $4.5 billion from the federal Coronavirus, Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, but about $775 million of that went directly to Ohio's most populous local governments -- Franklin, Cuyahoga, Hamilton, Montgomery and Summit counties, as well as the city of Columbus. The other $3.7 billion went to the state government, and about $1.2 billion of that is the local portion. The state recently disbursed $350 million of that through HB481 (Fraizer), an emergency measure signed by Gov. Mike DeWine on June 19. The remaining $2.49 billion is for the state to distribute as it sees fit to respond to the pandemic, Murnieks said.


Ohio Office of Budget and Management (OBM) Director Kimberly Murnieks announced Monday that the Ohio Public Facilities Commission (OPFC) closed the sale of state of Ohio general obligation debt in what she called "a remarkable transaction that achieved hundreds of millions of savings ...." Loop Capital Markets, a minority-owned firm, served as senior managing underwriter on the OPFC's $780 million refunding transaction. Acacia Financial Group, a certified Women's Business Enterprise by the Women's Business Enterprise Council, served as financial advisor. Morgan Stanley & Co. served as co-senior underwriter. Additional syndicate members included BofA Securities, Citigroup, Huntington Securities, Inc., J.P. Morgan, and KeyBanc Capital Markets Inc.


CENSUS


About 85.5 percent of respondents to the U.S. Census Bureau's experimental Household Pulse Survey said they had received or expected someone in the household to receive an Economic Impact Payment or stimulus check. The majority of adults in households that received a stimulus check from the federal government say they used it or planned to use most of it on household expenses. The Household Pulse Survey is designed to quickly and efficiently deploy data collected on how people's lives have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Census Bureau said.


CHILDREN/FAMILIES


A panel of advocacy organizations offered an update Friday on the current state of child care programs, saying that more federal funding and information on positive cases at centers is needed. Advocates for Ohio's Future (AOF) and the Center for Community Solutions (CCS) organized the livestreamed discussion, which included Lynanne Gutierrez of Groundwork Ohio, Kim Tice of the Ohio Association for the Education of Young Children and Shannon Amos of the Children's Hunger Alliance-Ohio.


Business group ReadyNation Tuesday called on state and federal lawmakers to expand eligibility and bolster support for public child care programs, saying that it's currently difficult to find affordable, high quality child care, especially for infants and very young children. ReadyNation Ohio State Director Cyndy Rees added that precautions being taken due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic have further increased the cost of providing child care. At the same time, school closures due to both the pandemic and summer break have increased the importance of maintaining child care availability.


CORONAVIRUS


Ohio Department of Health (ODH) statistics showed an upward trend in new COVID-19 cases over the week. On Friday, June 26, ODH reported 897 cases, substantially up from the 21-day average of 518 cases. On Wednesday, July 1, ODH reported an increase of 1,076 cases over Tuesday, for a total of 52,865 COVID-19 cases in the state. The number of hospitalizations and intensive care unit admissions increased over that period from from 7,570 and 1,904, respectively, to 7,911 and 2,008.


At a Monday COVID-19 briefing, Gov. Mike DeWine urged Ohioans to take precautions against spread of the virus in light of the recent case trends, including a doubling of hospitalizations in Hamilton and Montgomery counties. DeWine said that the increases aren't solely because Ohio is testing more, pointing to the percentage of tests that come back positive as a factor. He said as the state has opened up testing to whomever wants one, there is an expectation that the number would drop, but it has stayed around the 4 to 6 percent average that Ohio has seen over the course of the pandemic. While he said the number has not gone up dramatically, it has not dropped, indicating an increase in cases. Meanwhile, DeWine announced that beginning Monday, July 20, nursing homes will be permitted to allow outdoor visitation as long as all safety measures are taken.


Pharmacists can be paid for administering COVID-19 tests to Ohio Medicaid beneficiaries as of Monday, the Ohio Department of Medicaid (ODM) announced. Pharmacies will be reimbursed $23.46 in both the fee-for-service and managed care systems, according to the agency. ODM said pharmacies serving Medicaid managed care members will bill through each plan's pharmacy benefit management (PBM) systems. Pharmacies also are encouraged to contact each managed care plan to verify correct use of billing codes and claims processing.


Three Ohio doctors in a virtual roundtable hosted by the Ohio Democratic Party said Wednesday that they would advise Gov. Mike DeWine to adopt a mask requirement for Ohioans going out in public.


The doctors -- Rachel Morocco, Ean Bett, and Anita Somani -- shared their observations of the increases in COVID-19 cases in Ohio, saying a mask requirement is the best way for Ohio to continue reopening its economy while protecting its residents.


CORRECTIONS


Correctional Recovery Services workers with the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services (OhioMHAS) are being exposed to an "unacceptable" level of risk under current conditions in the state's prisons, according to members of Service Employees International Union (SEIU) District 1199. "Last week, with very short notice, staff members with Recovery Services, who provide drug- and alcohol-related treatment services, were ordered back to Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction (DRC) institutions after working from home since the start of the state of emergency in Ohio," the union said.


CRIME AND PUNISHMENT


The DeWine administration is rolling out a voluntary crime statistics website reflecting violent and felony theft activity in certain Ohio jurisdictions while excluding vandalism, arson, and similar property crimes and sex offenses including solicitation, gross sexual imposition and pandering obscenity involving a minor. The new Ohio Incident-Based Reporting System (OIBRS), operated by the Ohio Department of Public Safety's (ODPS) Office of Criminal Justice Services (OCJS), tracks certain crimes as defined by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and reported annually by participating local, county and state law enforcement. OIBRS, Ohio's version of the FBI's National Incident-Based Reporting System (NIBRS), then forwards the information to federal authorities.


EDUCATION


An Ohio Department of Education (ODE) working group on 12th graders without diplomas met recently to finalize the recommendations it will be making in a report to the Legislature and education leaders on how to best serve students who do not receive a diploma following their senior year of high school. The group was created as a result of budget bill HB166 (Oelsager), and seeks to tie its recommendations to ODE's strategic plan for education, "Each Child, Our Future."


A new policy brief from the Fordham Institute titled "Resetting School Accountability, from the Bottom Up" recommends flexibility for the upcoming 2020-21 school year before implementing a revised school accountability framework as well as open enrollment for districts and increased public funding for charter and private schools for the 2021-22 school year. Fordham also reversed course on its support for academic distress commissions, writing, "We doubt that lasting change can be accomplished through this intervention framework." In its recommendations for the 2020-21 school year, the group recommends repealing the current academic distress commission law.


Columbus City Schools (CCS) has hired Dionne Blue as its first-ever chief equity officer. Blue is currently chief diversity officer for the Evansville Vanderburgh School Corporation (EVSC). She will begin her assignment with the district in August. The position is newly created by CCS Superintendent/CEO Talisa Dixon. The chief equity officer will work closely with the superintendent in leading the district's efforts to address equity and inclusion for students, families, employees, and the community, CCS said.


Ohio Department of Education (ODE) staff Monday discussed plans for a grant-funded project to improve data systems to help detect students who are at risk of not graduating on time. The Education Management Information System (EMIS) Advisory Council heard from EMIS Director David Ehle on the plans for four projects to be funded by a federal grant for the statewide longitudinal data system. Previously rounds of grant funding have also been used to build out and improve EMIS.


The Ohio Department of Education (ODE) announced that the Expanding Opportunities for Each Child grant program will soon begin accepting applications for schools seeking to expand activities for low-achieving and low-income students. As a noncompetitive grant program, all traditional school districts and community schools receiving Title I, Part A funds as part of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) will receive up to 3 percent of their Title I, Part A funds to execute this grant program, according to ODE. Funds will be awarded through districts' Comprehensive Continuous Improvement Plans (CCIP) in July 2020.

The Ohio Department of Education (ODE) is seeking public comment on proposed revisions to Ohio Administrative Code (OAC) rules related to the Operating Standards for the Education of Children with Disabilities. The full text of the proposed changes is available at https://bit.ly/3gb3zyR. Comments on proposed rule changes can be sent by email to rulecomments@education.ohio.gov.


In a 5-4 decision issued Tuesday, the U.S. Supreme Court held that a Montana tax credit program could be used in conjunction with religious schools, striking down a ruling from the Montana Supreme Court that found the program violated a provision in the state's constitution prohibiting government aid to any school "controlled in whole or in part by any church, sect or denomination."


Cincinnati Public Schools, one of Ohio's largest districts, will have students in the classroom about the half the time come fall under a blended learning plan adopted by the district's board of education Monday. Students will be split into two groups, with one attending in-person classes Monday and Tuesday and the other Thursday and Friday. The groups will alternate attendance on Wednesdays. Students will learn remotely on days they're not in class. Families concerned about health risks of in-person attendance can enroll in the district's Cincinnati Digital Academy, but will be able to retain placement in their current district school for the following year. Families can also switch their choice semester by semester, the district said.


Columbus City Schools could reopen with students in classrooms only part of the time this fall, according to recommendations presented by Superintendent Talisa Dixon to the district's board of education. Akron Public Schools has a similar plan on the table, though its approach would have the youngest children in school full-time. Toledo Public Schools has a survey out to parents through Friday for feedback on how to conduct the upcoming school year.


ELECTIONS 2020


The National Democratic Redistricting Committee (NDRC), a group chaired by former U.S. Attorney General (AG) Eric Holder, announced it was investing more than $1 million in direct, individual contributions into the campaigns of its endorsed candidates in key states for redistricting. Of the $1 million, $85,000 in contributions will be going to Ohio state legislative candidates, the group said. It is also spending $50,000 in support of other candidates. Candidates receiving support include Alexis Miller, Amy Cox, Casey Weinstein, Cate Berger, Chris Stanley, Dan Troy, Emilia Sykes, Gil Blair, Jessica Miranda, Matt Shaughnessy, Monique Smith, Nancy Day-Achauer, Phil Robinson, Randi Clites, Richard Dana, Sarah Bitter, Stephanie Howse and Zach Stepp for Ohio House; and Betsy Rader, Crystal Lett, Sean O'Brien, and Vernon Sykes for Ohio Senate.


The following endorsements were made over the week:


  • League of Conservation Voters (LCV) Action Fund endorsed Desiree Tims for election to the 10th U.S. House District seat.

  • The campaign of U.S. Rep. Joyce Beatty (D-Columbus) announced the endorsement of her re-election campaign by U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA).

  • The Ohio Federation of Teachers endorsed Allison Theiss, Phil Robinson, Joan Sweeny, Kent Smith, Stephanie Howse, Mike Skindell, Bride Sweeney, Jeffrey Crossman, Monique Smith, Adam Miller, Kristin Boggs, Mary Lightbody, Richard Brown, Beth Liston, David Leland, Nancy Day-Achauer, Allison Russo, Dontavius Jarrells, Erica Crawley, Sara Bitter, Jessica Miranda, Brigid Kelly, Catherine Ingram, Emilia Sykes, Matthew Shaughnessy, Casey Weinstein, Willis Blackshear, Leronda Jackson, Cate Berger, Amy Cox, Paula Hicks-Hudson, Lisa Sobecki, Michael Sheehy, Nancy Larson, Michelle Novak, Morgan Showen, Gayle Manning, Joe Miller, Dara Atkinson, Michelle Lepore-Hagan, Chris Stanley, Adam Dudziak, Erin Rosiello, Michael O'Brien, Alan Darnowsky, Rachael Morocco, Donna Beyheydt, Kim McCarthy, Randi Clites, Garrett Westhoven, Charlotte Owens, Cynthia Richards, Ted Jones, Alexis Miller, Beth Workman, Don Jones, and Richard Dana for Ohio House; Joel O'Dorisio, Kathy Wyenandt, Mark Fogel, Louis Blessing, Charles Ballard, Ryan Ottney, Crystal Lett, Betsy Rader, Tom Jackson, Craig Swartz, Vernon Sykes, Michael Fletcher, and Sean O'Brien for Ohio Senate; and Jennifer Brunner and John O'Donnell for Ohio Supreme Court.

  • AFSCME Power in Action endorsed Jennifer Brunner and John O'Donnell for Ohio Supreme Court.

EMPLOYMENT/UNEMPLOYMENT


Policy Matters Ohio (PMO) and other advocacy organizations Tuesday called on Senate President Larry Obhof (R-Medina) to move swiftly on the House's unemployment compensation (UC) reform bill HB614 (Fraizer-Richardson) before the summer hiatus. If that does not occur, PMO Research Director Zach Schiller said, Gov. Mike DeWine should issue an executive order to create the study group in the bill but with a 90-day period rather than HB614's six months. In response, Obhof told Hannah News after session that he'd recently discussed the bill with Auditor of State Keith Faber as the bill directs his office to conduct a review.


ENERGY


The state is redoubling its call for a competitive, "market-based" approach to post-HB6 (Callender-Wilkin) energy efficiency (EE) programs while leaving the door open for Ohio's largest electric utility to charge all ratepayers -- whether standard service offer (SSO) or competitive supply customers -- what is officially referred to as "shared savings" but what the Ohio Consumers' Counsel (OCC) calls "code name for utility profits."


ENVIRONMENT


Two aquatic insects never previously recorded in Ohio were found during an Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (Ohio EPA) study of 65 streams that flow into the Ohio River in Southwest Ohio. The sampling locations found 43 uncommon macroinvertebrate species, especially in streams east of Ohio Brush Creek, Ohio EPA said. "The study shows that 29 of these small tributaries have excellent water quality and have been recommended for cold water habitat or exceptional warm water habitat designations, which are the highest quality designations. These streams have healthy and diverse fish and macroinvertebrate populations. Seventy-three percent of the locations monitored were fully meeting their water quality expectations," Ohio EPA said.


FEDERAL


Leading Ohio Republicans heralded the official start of the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) Wednesday, with U.S. Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) saying it should add a "nice shot in the arm" to the state economy during the pandemic. U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) also responded, saying in a release that he would "hold the Trump administration as well as U.S. trading partners accountable to put workers first" and that the agreement was not a perfect deal though he'd supported it.


U.S. Sen. Rob Portman continued to promote "many wins" for Ohio defense installations in the Senate version of the FY21 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) during a call with reporters Wednesday, having previously issued releases touting relevant provisions in the initial version and subsequent amendments he offered.


GAMING/GAMBLING


The Ohio State Racing Commission (OSRC) is starting to feel the financial pain from the COVID-19 pandemic, OSRC Fiscal Officer Sherry White told commissioners during a recent meeting. "While financial data at the end of April put us in positive territory for the fiscal year overall, May painted a completely different story. With tax receipts of just $800 and very minimal other revenues -- we see total revenues of only $8,700. Expenses, meantime, are $129,000, with the bulk of that being payroll expenses," White said. "Overall, we are down $65,000 for the year, but keep in mind we didn't get our usual $100,000 casino revenue boost in April that we normally do."


GENERAL ASSEMBLY/STATEHOUSE


Before moving into a summer break, the Ohio House passed several bills addressing domestic violence. The issue has garnered more attention in recent months as many experts have said the stay-at-home orders placed in Ohio and across the country have exacerbated domestic violence situations for victims who may be cut off from resources and isolated with their abuser. Ohio Domestic Violence Network (ODVN) fatality data showed that Ohio saw a 34 percent increase in domestic violence homicides between February and April of this year, compared with the same period last year. Columbus police also confirmed a 20 percent increase in domestic violence calls in March, when stay-at-home orders took effect, according to ODVN Executive Director Mary O'Doherty.


The Ohio Legislative Black Caucus (OLBC) Foundation recently held a digital conference on the disproportionate effect of COVID-19 on Black Ohioans, with Gov. Mike DeWine saying racism is a public health crisis during an appearance. The conference also included remarks from House Minority Leader Emilia Sykes (D-Akron) and a review by John Green of the University of Akron's Bliss Institute of the first statewide poll of Black voters, conducted as a joint project of the OLBC Foundation and the Bliss Institute.


Sen. Teresa Fedor (D-Toledo) announced Friday that her Statehouse office will remain closed until new coronavirus protocols are implemented. Fedor did not attend last week’s session after learning she may have been exposed by a sick staffer. Senate President Larry Obhof (R-Medina) later said Fedor never approached him about her issues with chamber protocols but that he’d sent her a message asking to talk to her about it.


While it took much longer than Senate President Larry Obhof (R-Medina) predicted it would for his chamber to pass criminal justice reform measure SB3 (Eklund-O'Brien), senators from both parties lauded the compromise legislation on the floor Tuesday before voting to pass it 25-4. The legislation, which Obhof announced in February 2019 as a priority bill that he planned to pass in Spring 2019, received 14 hearings before being reported out of the Senate Judiciary Committee Tuesday morning after "splitting the baby" on penalties for possessing small amounts of illegal drugs.


The upper chamber also voted to concur with House changes to SB55 (Gavarone), a bill to increase penalties for drug trafficking near treatment centers that was amended to reduce criminal penalties for violating a pandemic-related public health order. Gov. Mike DeWine plans to veto the legislation, his spokesman said. The chamber also passed HB606 (Grendell), regarding civil immunity during the pandemic, and HB264 (Wilkin-O’Brien), a water development financing bill amended to include fixes to energy subsidy bill HB6 (Callender-Wilkin).


The House Democrats Tuesday released the schedule for their "Ohio Promise" Virtual Town Hall Tour, a series of virtual town halls over the summer on Facebook. These events, which began Tuesday, June 30 with one out of Cleveland hosted by Rep. Phil Robinson (D-Solon), give local residents the opportunity to speak with their lawmakers on statewide issues like COVID-19, jobs and the economy, racial justice and police reforms. The virtual tour was announced last week by House Democratic Leader Emilia Sykes (D-Akron).


In other legislative action, the Senate Education Committee reported out HB123 (Holmes-Manning), regarding school safety and security; and the Senate Judiciary Committee reported out SB276 (Roegner), regarding limited liability companies.


HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES


Where people live, work, and play affects their health, and the differences in communities result in different health outcomes for residents, Greg Moody, interim director of professional development at the John Glenn College of Public Affairs, said at Wednesday's Columbus Metropolitan Club (CMC) forum. The forum, part of CMC's optimal health series, focused on the social determinants of health.


HIGHER EDUCATION


Wright State University announced it is entering the first year of a three-year plan aimed at aligning university expenses with projected future revenue, according to the 2020-21 budget approved by the university's Board of Trustees. The university said it expects to have revenues of $210 million in FY21, compared to a projection of approximately $253 million in revenue for the current fiscal year. The decline is due largely to anticipated reductions in state support.


At Ohio University (OU), 81 employees were notified that their positions have been eliminated. OU said it expects to rehire 23 of these positions for an anticipated net reduction of 58 positions. The reduction included classified employees, which was the only employee group not affected by earlier reductions. A total of 63 classified positions, 17 administrative positions, and one hourly research position that is classified as non-bargaining unit/unclassified have been eliminated across the institution.


University of Cincinnati's (UC) Board of Trustees voted Tuesday to freeze tuition for current, degree-seeking undergraduates. Returning students attending UC's Uptown Campus who will be undergraduate seniors, juniors and pre-juniors in fall 2020 will see their tuition frozen for the sixth year in a row at the fall 2015 rate of $11,000 annual in-state tuition.


Xavier University (XU) has cancelled plans for an in-person commencement ceremony for 2020 graduates. Xavier had postponed the ceremony from May 16 until Aug. 8 in hopes of having a traditional graduation, but due to recommendations by the Centers for Disease Control, the governor's office, and their own experts, XU President Fr. Michael Graham, S.J. said the university decided to call off the event.


Ohio Dominican University (ODU) President Robert Gervasi has announced he will leave the school in June 2021 when his contract ends. Gervasi was named the university's 16th president in June 2017. He previously served as president of Quincy University in Quincy, IL.


Columbus State Community College (CSCC) is suspending all athletic programs for the 2020-2021 academic year in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. All athletic and college recreation and wellness employees will be retained and redeployed if needed into other student success initiatives, CSCC said.


Ohio University's (OU) Scripps College of Communication and the School of Media Arts and Studies are partnering with the Nelsonville Music Festival (NMF) to bring the annual festival to audiences through a virtual collaboration called Virtual Nelsonville Music Festival (VNMF), the school announced recently. Due to COVID-19, the four-day festival that features local, regional, national and international musicians was cancelled. However, students and recent graduates were able to apply for paid internships that will allow them to work on producing the festival and gain experience in areas including audio production, music production and mixing, video and location recording, editing, event organization, publicity and photography.


Students and faculty at Ohio State University (OSU) will be required to wear masks in indoor settings and outdoor settings when social distancing is not possible, the university announced Wednesday in a letter to the OSU community.


Marietta College was recently awarded $15,545 in funding from the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS), the federal agency that leads service, volunteering, and grant-making efforts in the U.S., to support volunteer activities on the annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service.


LOCAL GOVERNMENT


The Dayton City Commission approved Wednesday night an emergency ordinance to require use of masks inside businesses and outdoors when appropriate social distancing is not possible. The policy takes effect Friday morning. It includes exemptions in cases of medical or mental health conditions or disabilities that preclude mask use, for those unable to remove a mask without assistance, and for children under 6 years old. It also does not apply to schools, in deference to pandemic policies instituted by school management and the Ohio Department of Education. Violations would be punishable by an $85 fine. Gov. Mike DeWine issued a statement endorsing the city government's move.


MARIJUANA/HEMP


There were 109,174 patients registered under the Ohio Medical Marijuana Control Program (MMCP) as of May 31, according to the Ohio Board of Pharmacy. Since the beginning of the program, doctors have made a total 136,879 recommendations for medical marijuana use. However, roughly 25,000 patients never followed through with registering, allowed their registrations to lapse, or are otherwise not registered.


MEDICAID/MEDICAID REFORM


Ahead of a statewide launch in January, Medicaid managed care plans are running pilot programs to designate pharmacists as direct care providers, providing reimbursement for services pharmacists historically performed for patients. Under 132-SB265 (Dolan), health insurers can reimburse pharmacists for direct care services within their legal scope of practice. Ohio Department of Medicaid (ODM) Director Maureen Corcoran recently told the Prescription Drug Transparency and Affordability Council her agency will fully launch implementation in January 2021. ODM Monday posted a package of draft rules for implementation of the law. The rules can be found at https://tinyurl.com/ycqk4h98.

MILITARY AFFAIRS


U.S. Sens. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Rob Portman (R-OH) announced new additions to the Senate's version of the FY21 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) Monday, following several Ohio-specific provisions in the initially filed version. The amendments include a requirement for the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) to draft a report on partnerships with facilities such as the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's (NASA) Plum Brook facility in Sandusky.


NATURAL RESOURCES


Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) officers plan to heighten their focus on removing impaired boaters from Ohio's waterways this Independence Day weekend. Alcohol is involved in nearly one in every four fatal boating-related accidents in Ohio, the department said.


Ohioans can now obtain the "Ohio State Parks Passport," the Ohio Department of Natural Resources' (ODNR) "essential" guide to all 75 state parks. Printed in full color and with a page for every park, the passport includes a full set of custom state park decal stickers that visitors can use to commemorate each new visit. State parks will also feature exclusive ink stamps that park staff can use to mark a visitor's book each time they visit.


Hunters can now apply for any of the hundreds of controlled hunting opportunities available on Ohio's public lands during the 2020-2021 season, according to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) Division of Wildlife. Controlled hunts include opportunities for white-tailed deer, waterfowl, mourning doves and more, the department said. The application period is open until Friday, July 31.


PEOPLE


Brad McLean is the new president of AT&T Ohio, the telecommunications company has announced. McLean is responsible for AT&T's public policy, philanthropy and community relations initiatives throughout Ohio, the company says on its website. McLean replaces Adam Gryzbicki, who is now president of national regulatory and external affairs at AT&T.


The National Council on Independent Living annually recognizes the advocacy efforts and work of people who advance the rights of individuals with disabilities as part of their annual conference. This year, the Region V Advocacy Award has been awarded to Renee Wood, who serves as an appointee of the governor on the Ohio Statewide Independent Living Council. Region V includes Ohio, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin.


PUBLIC SAFETY


In a letter to President Donald Trump, U.S. Attorney General William Barr and congressional leaders, Ohio Attorney General David Yost and 16 other state attorneys general called for a rebuilding of trust between law enforcement and communities rather than efforts to "defund" police departments. In addition to Yost, the letter was signed by the Republican attorneys general of Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Utah and West Virginia.


Fireworks safety advocates led by Sherry Williams, president and CEO of Prevent Blindness Ohio, discussed the dangers of consumer-grade fireworks at a news conference held the week of the Fourth of July holiday, saying that most fireworks-related injuries affect children and bystanders. Williams drew attention to the pending HB253 (Householder-O'Brien), which would legalize the discharge of consumer-grade fireworks in Ohio and make a number of other changes to fireworks law in the state. The bill passed the House and is now pending committee hearings in the Senate.


Wednesday is the first day that Ohioans won't be required to have a license plate on the front of their cars, a change that sparked battles for years in the Legislature before it was passed and signed into law as a part of the transportation budget, HB62 (Oelslager).


The Ohio Department of Public Safety (DPS) announced Wednesday that three more communities have joined the ranks of counties, townships, municipalities and other law enforcement jurisdictions having achieved state certification by the Ohio Collaborative Community-Police Advisory Board. Police departments in Marion (est. 40,000 residents), Hilliard (est. 40,000) and Sylvania (est. 20,000) are newcomers to a certification begun five years with the help of DPS's Office of Criminal Justice Services (OCJS).


STATE GOVERNMENT


Lt. Gov. Jon Husted and Ohio Treasurer Robert Sprague Tuesday announced completion of ohiocheckbook.gov/, which combines the OhioCheckbook.com site previously run by the treasurer's office and the Ohio interactive budget site operated by the Office of Budget and Management (OBM).


TAXATION


Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost Tuesday filed an amicus brief with the Ohio Tax Credit Authority spelling out the reasons he believes General Motors (GM) should be required to pay back the entire $60 million the company received in state tax credits after "breaking its promise to the state and the Mahoning Valley."


TECHNOLOGY


Attorney General Dave Yost is weighing state intervention into Internet search engines slanted toward the providers' preferred content by way of a regulatory "toggle switch" allowing users to screen results. The Republican seeks public comment on a proposal that would turn the tables on search engine websites by empowering Ohioans to effectively screen the screeners who favor providers' products and services over third parties.


TRANSPORTATION/INFRASTRUCTURE


A new study from DriveOhio, an initiative of the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT), outlines a statewide strategy to expand electric vehicle (EV) access throughout the state. The study, Electric Vehicle Charging Study, identifies various sites to build EV-friendly corridors throughout the state with a key recommendation to have EV charging stations installed at least every 50 miles at strategic locations along interstate, state and U.S. route corridors.


In coordination with DriveOhio's study, the Ohio EPA on Wednesday opened the application process for $3.5 million in grant funds to install publicly accessible "Level 2" chargers in counties that Ohio EPA has identified as eligible to receive funds from the grant program. Those counties include Ashtabula, Butler, Clermont, Cuyahoga, Delaware, Erie, Fairfield, Franklin, Geauga, Greene, Hamilton, Lake, Licking, Lorain, Lucas, Madison, Mahoning, Medina, Montgomery, Ottawa, Portage, Sandusky, Stark, Summit, Trumbull and Warren.


UTILITIES


The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) held off a major push by distribution utilities Wednesday to impose more 127-SB221-sanctioned billing charges on Ohioans for a lead role in the build-out and regulation of electric vehicle charging stations (EVCS) supporting the growth of alternative-powered vehicles. Commissioners ruled 5-0 that EVCS operators do not supply electricity for "power purposes" and are not public utilities subject to state regulation, granting victory to a long list of consumer-interest stakeholders including Industrial Energy Users-Ohio (IEU-Ohio), Ohio Partners for Affordable Energy (OPAE), Ohio Environmental Council (OEC) and Ohio Consumers' Counsel (OCC), among others.


WORKFORCE


The Governor's Executive Workforce Board held its first meeting of the year Tuesday afternoon, with Gov. Mike DeWine offering brief remarks on the pandemic response and answering member questions. Lt. Gov. Jon Husted also discussed how the coronavirus has affected workforce development efforts. DeWine opened by saying they are looking at the pandemic through the lenses of safety and restarting the economy, adding that the two are linked and both necessary. He also pointed to spikes in Texas and Florida as examples of what they do not want to see as the state reopens.


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

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