Week In Review - June 1, 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.


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ADDICTION/SUBSTANCE ABUSE


Gov. Mike DeWine granted the Ohio Board of Pharmacy (OBP) emergency authority Friday to outlaw the designer drug isotonitazene. The unanimous vote follows a USA Today article Wednesday linking the synthetic opioid to "overdose deaths in Ohio, Illinois and Indiana," though no fatalities have apparently been confirmed in the Buckeye State. Isotonitazene is a "highly potent" opioid derivative resembling etonitazene -- already classified as a Schedule I controlled substance in Ohio and nationally -- and was first created and studied in the 1950s with other benzimidazole opiates, according to OBP.


AGING


The Ohio Department of Aging (ODA) announced Tuesday the reception of $1.7 million from the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act designed to assist seniors during the ongoing pandemic. The grant will be used to improve accessibility to virtual senior services, connect seniors to resources, and "rapidly assess" the needs of older adults to deliver those services, according to an ODA news release.


Members of the assisted living industry grew emotional as they detailed the toll of the coronavirus pandemic on the residents and staff of their facilities, as well as the financial fallout of the health crisis. During Thursday's House Aging and Long-Term Care Committee, officials from several assisted living centers across Ohio said they were facing testing shortages, inadequate personal protective equipment (PPE), and even staffing shortages as a result of the pandemic. Many also pointed to inconsistent guidance from county health officials and an overall sense of being left by the wayside in the face of coronavirus outbreaks.


ATTORNEY GENERAL


Attorney General Dave Yost called out the Ohio Peace Officer Training Academy's (OPOTA) "woefully inadequate" and statutorily non-compliant funding Friday in announcing major changes to outdated course offerings and delivery methods. Yost says "interactive" courses will attempt to correct dwindling class size and build on state Auditor Keith Faber's ongoing audit of OPOTA, whose funding challenges since the Strickland administration are "not sustainable," he notes. "While the evaluation of how OPOTA should operate has been underway for some time, the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the implementation of a new approach," says the AG.


Attorney General Dave Yost has inserted Ohio into the "partisan scrum" over U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) efforts to halt the prosecution of former Trump national security advisor Gen. Michael Flynn, with Yost leading a Republican coalition of attorneys general accusing D.C. federal court Judge Emmet Sullivan of shredding Constitutional separation of powers.


BALLOT ISSUES


In a per curiam opinion issued Tuesday, the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals stayed a lower court ruling ordering Ohio to accept electronically collected signatures for ballot initiatives and delaying the filing deadline, writing that the district court exceeded its authority by rewriting Ohio election law. Groups collecting signatures for potential constitutional issues to go before voters in November joined a lawsuit in federal court arguing that the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and Ohio's subsequent stay-at-home orders have made it impossible to circulate petitions and obtain the signatures required by Ohio law to qualify their issues for the ballot.


FY21-22 CAPITAL APPROPRIATIONS


Both chambers opened hearings Wednesday on their versions of a capital reappropriations budget, with about half a billion dollars' difference between their proposals. The House Finance Committee called its first hearing on HB670, with sponsor Rep. Derek Merrin (R-Monclova) saying his proposal would not include previously approved projects from colleges and universities, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) and cultural/sports facilities under the Ohio Facilities Construction Commission (OFCC). The legislation proposes an estimated $698 million in reappropriations. Over in the Senate, Office of Budget and Management (OBM) Director Kim Murnieks testified before the Senate Finance Committee on its chairman's SB316, explaining to the committee that, "'Reappropriations' reauthorize the appropriation of unexpended balances from previously approved capital projects to ensure that they can continue uninterrupted toward their completion. According to Murnieks, SB316 includes an estimated $1.28 billion in reappropriations. Three agencies -- the Ohio Public Works Commission, the OFCC and the Ohio Department of Higher Education -- account for $986.6 million or 77 percent of the total.


BUSINESS/CORPORATE


Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose announced Thursday that 11,447 new businesses filed in April, a slight decrease from the month before but still above the monthly filing average in 2019. He said 99.5 of these filings were done online.


CENSUS


The National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) sent a letter to U.S. Census Bureau Director Steven Dillingham Tuesday expressing concerns regarding both the effect of the delays of the 2020 Census on redistricting and the bureau's use of differential privacy as its statistical method for protecting individual data.


CHILDREN/FAMILIES


One-third of all children screened for COVID-19 in the Ohio Department of Youth Services (DYS) have tested positive for the virus, though all have "recovered" save for two with active infections.


CORONAVIRUS


Ohio Department of Health reports over the week on the spread of COVID-19 showed an increase from 30,794 cases and 1,872 deaths on Friday, May 22 to 39,915 cases and 2,098 deaths on Thursday, May 28.


The Ohio National Guard (ONG) recently announced multiple new assistance efforts as part of the pandemic response, including assembling teams to help with staffing and test collection at long-term care facilities and sending nine medical personnel to the Belmont Correctional Institution. Medically-qualified personnel will support the Ohio Department of Health (ODH) with the testing at long-term care facilities, and ONG personnel are already providing similar medical support to Carlin House Assisted Living Center in Logan due to staffing shortages there.


Gov. Mike DeWine announced Friday, May 22 that the following orders had been signed by Ohio Department of Health Director Amy Acton:

  • Director's Order that Reopens Gyms, Dance Instruction Studios, and Other Personal Fitness Venues, with Exceptions

  • Director's Order that Provides Guidance for Baseball, Softball, Batting Cages, Golf Courses, Miniature Golf, Local and Public Pools and Aquatic Centers, Tennis Facilities, Skills Training for All Sports, and General Non-Contact Sports including Bowling Alleys, with Exceptions.

  • Director's Third Amended Order re: the closure of all K-12 Schools in State of Ohio. (Amendment allows facility use for day camps and activities described in the "Director's Order that Provides Guidance for Baseball, Softball,....")

Medically-trained members of the Ohio National Guard (ONG) are part of new teams being deployed to provide COVID-19 testing to the state's long-term care facilities, which have been hit particularly hard during the pandemic, Gov. Mike DeWine announced Tuesday. The 14 Congregate Care Unified Response Teams, consisting of approximately 10 members each, will include individuals from ONG, Ohio Department of Health (ODH), Ohio Department of Medicaid (ODM) and local health departments, DeWine said during his coronavirus briefing. The ONG members will conduct the swab testing, while other team members will do advance work and assist in other ways, the governor said.


Gov. Mike DeWine Thursday said his administration is expanding the criteria on who can get a COVID-19 test to include individuals in the community who are showing symptoms. He also said that the Ohio Department of Health (ODH) will be adding a map to its coronavirus website -- https://coronavirus.ohio.gov/ -- that will show COVID-19 test centers, and will include community health sites and retail sites.


CORRECTIONS


Conditions continue to improve in the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction (DRC) as the coronavirus infection rate and inmate numbers in both isolation and quarantine continue to drop. Prison fatalities from COVID-19 increased by eight over the last week to 66 total deaths, with the majority occurring at Pickaway Correctional Institution. Less than 54 percent of the Friday, May 22 updated test results were positive, compared to more than 58 percent at DRC the previous week.


DEATH PENALTY


Ohio Death Row has one less inmate after the federal appeals court in Cincinnati slammed the state judiciary for upholding Danny Hill's death sentence long after the U.S. Supreme Court outlawed executions of the intellectually disabled in Atkins v. Virginia (2002). The U.S. 6th Circuit unanimously overturned the capital conviction of Hill, now 53. He was 18 years old when Raymond Fife, a 12-year-old Boy Scout, was kidnapped, raped, tortured and murdered in 1985.


ECONOMY


Amid record unemployment claims and the disruption of commercial activity caused by the coronavirus outbreak, the public's assessment of the U.S. economy has deteriorated with extraordinary speed and severity, according to a new analysis of the issue from Pew Research Center. Just 23 percent of Americans now rate economic conditions in the country as excellent or good, down sharply from 57 percent at the start of the year. Most now say the economy is in either only fair (38 percent) or poor (38 percent) shape. In January, just nine percent of Americans said economic conditions were poor.


EDUCATION


Presenters at a webinar focused on the future of education amid the coronavirus said the pandemic did not create institutional problems in education but did exacerbate them and that more federal aid will most likely be needed to get K-12 schools and colleges and universities back on their feet. The Center for Community Solutions hosted the event Friday which featured panelists Melissa Cropper of the Ohio Federation of Teachers (OFT) and Ohio AFL-CIO, who presented on K-12 schools, and Sara Kilpatrick of the Ohio Conference of American Association of University Professors (AAUP), who presented on colleges and universities.


Sen. Steve Huffman (R-Tipp City) has followed up on his bid to find ways to convene high school graduation ceremonies with a list of suggested methods gathered from educators and health officials.


The court-appointed attorney minding assets of the defunct Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow (ECOT) withdrew his proposal to spend down most of the former online charter school's remaining cash on technology costs and unemployment compensation debt, following the objection of the school's former treasurer. Meanwhile, in separate litigation by the state against ECOT founder William Lager, Attorney General Dave Yost filed an objection to Lager's bid to delay the case schedule in light of the coronavirus pandemic.


ELECTIONS


Sens. Nickie Antonio (D-Lakewood) and Sandra Williams (D-Cleveland) held a conference call Thursday to outline the elements they envision in a pending election reform bill they plan to introduce possibly next week. Their proposed bill would reform Ohio's vote-by-mail process, improve Election Day procedures and streamline voter registration to increase voter participation, they said.


ELECTIONS 2020


Former Democratic members of the military gathered virtually for Memorial Day Weekend Friday to rally Ohioans around the party platform as the state reopens and the General Election approaches. Ohio Democratic Party Chairman David Pepper held a news conference with U.S. Army veteran and Sen. Hearcel Craig (D-Columbus), U.S. Air Force and Ohio Air National Guard veteran and Sen. Teresa Fedor (D-Toledo); U.S. Navy veteran and Rep. Erica Crawley (D-Columbus), U.S. Navy combat veteran and congressional hopeful Hillary O'Connor Mueri, U.S. Army veteran and Ohio House candidate Joan Sweeny, former U.S. Navy aviator and "Burn the Boats" podcast host Ken Harbaugh, and U.S. Air Force veteran Mel Rodriguez.


The Ohio Democratic Party (ODP) announced late Tuesday that it had selected 89 district-level delegates for the Democratic National Convention (DNC) currently set for Monday-Thursday, Aug. 17-20 in Milwaukee, WI. Seven legislators are among those selected, as well as past members of the General Assembly.


EMPLOYMENT/UNEMPLOYMENT


Ohio's April unemployment rate increased by almost three times that of March, up from a revised 5.8 percent to 16.8 percent. The Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS) released the second month of state data since the pandemic began Friday, and has also offered weekly data on initial unemployment claims.


The director of the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS) told the House Ways and Means Committee Wednesday that she understands the frustration Ohio's unemployment claims system is causing Ohioans during an already stressful time, but the agency is gaining ground on resolving claims and improving the system. Kimberly Hall appeared before the committee to testify on HB614 (Fraizer-Richardson) -- legislation to study and reform the application, processing, and administration infrastructure of the unemployment compensation system -- spending nearly six hours fielding questions on staffing, infrastructure, and planned improvements on the system.


For the week ending May 23, the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS) reported 42,082 initial unemployment claims to the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL). "The number of initial jobless claims filed in Ohio over the last 10 weeks (1,257,838) is more than the combined total of those filed during the last three years," ODJFS said in a news release.


Holding its second hearing of the week on HB614 (Fraizer-Richardson) -- regarding study and reform of the unemployment compensation system's application, processing and administration infrastructure -- the House Ways and Means Committee received testimony from a number of public witnesses Thursday, including one who spoke in person.


ENERGY


Former FirstEnergy Solutions, now Energy Harbor Corporation, has earned a solid "B" from Standard and Poor's (S&P), three of them in fact. Energy Harbor's BBB investment grade translates into a "stable" outlook and projected "low cash flow volatility, as zeroemissions credits (ZEC), capacity payments and retail margin constitute about 75 percent of total cash flow," S&P says. "Energy Harbor plans to operate the business with minimal net leverage."


GAMING/GAMBLING


Legislation to authorize sports gambling through the Ohio Lottery Commission (OLC) at casinos, racinos and veterans and fraternal organizations passed the House Finance Committee overwhelmingly Wednesday. The legislation, HB194 (Greenspan-Kelly), underwent a few final changes before the vote. Rep. Dave Greenspan (R-Westlake), joint sponsor of the bill, offered two amendments that he said were technical and clarifying in nature, reinforcing existing language in the bill. Rep. Jack Cera (D-Bellaire), lead Democrat on the committee, offered an amendment that would require OLC to add at least 2,500 new self-service terminals for lottery sales agents who hold Class C or D liquor permits. Cera cited a previous commitment the lottery made to get terminals into more areas of the state.


GENERAL ASSEMBLY/STATEHOUSE


A threat of violence against House Minority Leader Emilia Sykes (D-Akron) and her father, Sen. Vernon Sykes (D-Akron), was made over the weekend, drawing wide condemnation from other state leaders including Gov. Mike DeWine. The family has been asked not to discuss the details of the threat publicly amid an ongoing investigation.


At-risk workers and those lacking child care should be able to continue collecting unemployment benefits as their employers reopen amid the pandemic, two House Democrats proposed Tuesday. Supported by Service Employees International Union 1199, the lawmakers' Worker Protection Act would apply to those at higher risk from COVID-19, those age 65 or older, and members of their households, as well as those lacking child care because a provider or school is closed due to an emergency declaration. The legislation is written to apply to those who would have to work outside the home. Reps. David Leland (D-Columbus) and Lisa Sobecki (D-Toledo) introduced the legislation, HB672, Tuesday.


A previously uncontroversial bill extending Ohio's "long arm" statute to allow Ohioans to hold out-of-state individuals or companies accountable for damage or harm caused to Ohio residents became contentious on Wednesday after most Senate Republicans voted to add a floor amendment banning a public official from delaying an election except in the case of an enemy attack. The amendment to HB272 (Hillyer-Oelslager), approved by a vote of 22-10 with Sens. Stephanie Kunze (R-Hilliard) and Peggy Lehner (R-Kettering) joining Democrats in opposing the measure, says no elected officer, appointed officer, employee, state agent, political subdivision agent, board commission, bureau or other public body are allowed to change the time, place and manner of an election set by the General Assembly. The day’s session also included passage of HB242 (Lang-Jones), a temporary prohibition on local governments’ imposition of plastic bag fees; SB126 (Manning), regarding crisis assessments of minors believed to be suicidal; SB284 (Hottinger-Peterson), regarding insurers’ receiving credit for reinsurance; and SB309 (Gavarone), regarding certified swimming classes at residential pools.


The Senate Transportation, Commerce and Workforce Committee heard from Bernie Profato, executive director for the Ohio Athletic Commission, during its Wednesday meeting as part of ongoing occupational license reviews. Profato told committee members the Ohio Athletic Commission is responsible for overseeing the regulation of unarmed combat sports in Ohio. These sports include professional boxing, mixed martial arts, karate, kickboxing, tough person contests, other new developing forms of martial arts and, to a limited degree, professional wrestling.


The House voted by comfortable margins to extend liability protection to businesses and health care providers amid the pandemic, scale back testing required for high school students and allow Ohioans to place bets on sports as part of a lengthy calendar Thursday. The session led off with a vote by Republicans to name Alessandro "Al" Cutrona, an attorney from Canfield who is chief operating officer for a medical practice, to the 59th House District seat, left vacant by the unexpected March death of Rep. Don Manning. Bills passed include COVID-19 immunity measure HB606 (Grendell); SB31 (Roegner), an address confidentiality bill that was amended to include new regulations on contact tracing; sports gambling measure HB194 (Greenspan-Kelly); academic testing reduction measure HB239 (Manning-Crawley); HB431 (Abrams-Carfagna), which addresses human trafficking; and House concurrence on Senate amendments to both HB81 (Perales) regarding workers’ compensation coverage for diagnostic testing for people exposed to others’ bodily fluids, and HB285 (Greenspan-Brent), to create a permanent fee reduction and amnesty program for driver’s license reinstatements.


House Speaker Larry Householder (R-Glenford) talked at length Thursday about his frustration with the unemployment compensation system and the need to get Ohio's economy back in gear. After fielding press questions for about half an hour following the day's House session, the speaker launched into an extended statement on a variety of topics, mentioning the marathon hearing Wednesday on unemployment compensation troubles in the House Ways and Means Committee, where Ohio Department of Job and Family Services Director Kim Hall testified. "It's something that we're very, very concerned about," he said, citing the quick swing from record-low to record-high unemployment in a matter of several weeks. He said the House wants to be part of a solution.


While representatives are not required to undergo a temperature check before taking the elevator up to their offices in the Vern Riffe State Office Tower, House staffers and guests must have their temperatures taken before doing so, according to the House Republican Caucus. The House sergeant at arms is in charge of conducting the checks, House GOP spokesperson Taylor Jach told Hannah News. If an individual has a temperature of 100 degrees or higher, they are sent home. However, Jach said nobody has been sent home as a result of these checks, at least yet.


In other legislative action, House Transportation and Public Safety Committee reported out road naming and license plate bills HB414 (O’Brien), HB483 (Ghanbari), HB252 (Jones), HB544 (Roemer) and HB616 (Denson-Miranda); House Civil Justice Committee reported out HB496 (Stein-Hoops), regarding immunity for apiary owners; House Energy and Natural Resources Committee reported out HB104 (Stein), regarding nuclear energy development; House State and Local Government Committee reported out HB340 (Cupp), regarding drainage laws and HB450 (Stephens), regarding succession guidelines for fiscal officers; Senate Health, Human Services and Medicaid Committee reported out HB230 (Crossman), to designate May as “Brain Cancer Awareness Month”; House Commerce and Labor Committee reported out HB67 (Brinkman-Kelly), regarding continuing education for veterinarians; and House Insurance Committee reported out HB528 (LaRe), regarding reinsurance.


GREAT LAKES


The 2020 harmful algal bloom (HAB) that forms in the Western Basin of Lake Erie will likely be smaller than 2019's bloom, according to an early season projection from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). "We project that the bloom will be smaller than last year (2019), with a likely severity between 3.0 and 5.0. Uncertainty in the models and forecasts indicate a potential severity of up to 6.0 (less than 7.5 seen in 2019)," NOAA said.


GUNS


Failing to inform a police officer about a concealed handgun during a traffic stop would no longer carry a penalty under the substitute version of HB425 (Wiggam) accepted by the House Federalism Committee on Thursday. The as-introduced version had already reduced the penalty from a first-degree misdemeanor to an unclassified misdemeanor with a maximum $25 fine, but the sub bill removes the penalty altogether.


HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES


The Ohio State Medical Association (OSMA), Ohio Hospital Association (OHA) and Ohio Children's Hospital Association (OCHA) recently launched a new public awareness campaign, "Health Care Is Safe in Ohio." The campaign, which features public service announcements and social media efforts, was initiated to address a decline in non-COVID-19 doctor's appointments and hospital visits, and encourage patients to get the care they need, according to a release.


HIGHER EDUCATION


Steve Robinson, president of Owens Community College in Perrysburg, has announced he has accepted a new role as president of Lansing Community College in Michigan.


Ohio Wesleyan University (OWU) announced it is cutting $10 million in expenses to "secure its long-term future." The budget cuts come after the university announced plans for students to return in the fall. The "Safe Campus Opening Task Force" will develop plans for students to return to campus including establishing protocols, practices, and systems that minimize the risk of spreading the virus in classrooms, residence halls, dining facilities, locker rooms, work spaces and all OWU operations, the university said.


Seven Central Ohio nonprofit higher education institutions have joined together to encourage students planning for fall to consider staying within the region, even if they had originally planned to travel to attend other colleges or universities. Capital University, Columbus College of Art and Design, Columbus State Community College, Franklin University, Ohio Dominican University, Ohio Wesleyan University and Otterbein University are all part of the campaign known as "Live Local: Learn Local."


JUDICIAL


The Ohio Judicial Conference has held its first online orientation of new judges with the help of Ohio Supreme Court Chief Justice Maureen O'Connor. Compelled by the state of emergency, the live webinar for 26 new judges addressed technology's role in continued operations of the judicial branch and local initiatives to keep virtual courtroom doors open.


The Ohio Supreme Court is neglecting rising "social tension" over community-police relations by rejecting the complaint against a Cincinnati-area patrolman for allegedly detaining a pedestrian without consent and without "reasonable suspicion" required by the constitutional ban on unreasonable search and seizure, says the Court's only black member. Justice Melody Stewart dissented from the Supreme Court's refusal Wednesday to hear the 4th Amendment appeal of a man stopped by Williamsburg police and arrested for drug possession in an incident described by the state as a "consensual" encounter with law enforcement.


MILITARY AFFAIRS


Efforts to continue access to healthy meals during the pandemic carry future national security ramifications, the group "Mission: Readiness" said Friday, as 71 percent of youth ages 17 to 24 are ineligible for military service with poor nutrition and obesity as leading medical disqualifiers. The group, a nonpartisan organization of retired admirals and generals, released a report on food programs Friday and called for more state and federal funding in light of its "alarming" findings.


NATURAL RESOURCES


The Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) will not proceed with new H2Ohio projects for the remainder of FY20, according to ODNR Director Mary Mertz and ODNR spokesperson Sarah Wickham. There is $12.4 million remaining in the department's H2Ohio line item for this fiscal year, Mertz said in a budget reduction memo sent to Ohio Office of Budget and Management (OBM) Director Kim Murnieks.


The Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) has announced that it is modifying the Hocking Hills State Park trails system to better accommodate social distancing, allowing some trails to open by mid-June. Trails scheduled to open on Monday, June 15 include Cantwell Cliffs and Rock House at the state park. The park's most beloved trail, Old Man's Cave, will reopen later this summer along with other Hocking Hills State Park sites, ODNR said in a news release.


PENSIONS


A trial judge was correct to dismiss litigation challenging the freeze on cost-of-living adjustments (COLA) to pension benefits by the School Employees Retirement System (SERS), the 10th District Court of Appeals ruled.


PEOPLE


According to the Dayton Daily News, former state Rep. Clayton Luckie was released from prison as scheduled last week, after being sentenced for mail fraud as part of a federal investigation into public corruption in Dayton. This was Luckie's second time in prison. In 2013 he had been sentenced to three years for misuse of campaign funds.


The White House last week nominated Justin E. Herdman, currently the United States Attorney for the Northern District of Ohio, to serve as United States attorney for the District of Columbia. Herdman has been the U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Ohio since 2017.


PUBLIC SAFETY


Distracted drivers can make deadly mistakes in mere seconds of taking their eyes off the road, making the ability to quickly police the conduct directly as a primary offense important, the head of the Ohio State Highway Patrol told a Senate committee Wednesday. Patrol Col. Richard Fambro was joined in proponent testimony on SB285 (O'Brien-Kunze) by the highway safety program manager for the Ohio Department of Transportation, Michelle May, who shared the findings of a DeWine administration task force on distracted driving. A dozen other states with primary enforcement, which allows police officers to observe and cite the conduct directly rather than after observing other offenses, have seen reductions in traffic deaths after enactment, May said.


TAXATION


The Ohio Department of Taxation (ODT) will hold a virtual public hearing to present and hear comments on the proposed Current Agricultural Use Values (CAUV) for Tax Year 2020 on Friday, June 26 beginning at 10 a.m.


TRANSPORTATION/INFRASTRUCTURE


The Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission (MORPC) released the final report Wednesday from its "Midwest Connect" Hyperloop Feasibility Study on whether the technology could be used to connect Columbus with Chicago and Pittsburgh. "We have continued to advance the work along this corridor ever since winning the Virgin Hyperloop One Global Challenge for the Midwest Connect route, and conducting this feasibility study was one of our first, major action steps," MORPC Transportation and Infrastructure Development Director Thea Ewing said. "The main takeaway is that hyperloop technology is, indeed, feasible along this route at its optimal speeds of more than 500 mph."


As 183 of the 186 Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles (BMV) deputy registrar locations reopened on Tuesday morning, the state's Internet-based queuing system crashed due to heavy volume, BMV spokesperson Lindsey Bohrer told Hannah News. "At 8 a.m., there were 240,000 immediate hits to the 'Get in Line Online' virtual queuing system. At 8:02 a.m., we were informed that the system was down. The vendor, ACF, has been and continues to work on the system to get it back up and running. Since around 3 p.m. it appears to be working intermittently," Bohrer said. Deputy registrars are now required to offer the Get in Line Online program to allow for more social distancing due to the COVID-19 pandemic.


UTILITIES


Chairman Nino Vitale (R-Urbana) of the House Energy and Natural Resources Committee put teeth in the long-awaited provisions of HB246 to "reform and modernize" the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO), Ohio Power Siting Board (OPSB) and Office of the Ohio Consumers' Counsel (OCC) Thursday, ending initial speculation on their future. Vitale told House members that substitute language for the original placeholder bill would expand the PUCO and OPSB's regulatory powers while removing "outdated" assessments and reporting requirements; clarify OCC's statutory authority; and address -- at least in part -- the current lack of utility refunds for charges approved by the commission but declared unlawful by the Ohio Supreme Court, among other statutory changes.


WORKERS' COMPENSATION


The Ohio Bureau of Workers' Compensation (BWC) is deferring the due date for employers to pay their June, July and August premiums until Tuesday, Sept. 1. Gov. Mike DeWine made the announcement during his regular coronavirus update news conference held Thursday. BWC Administrator/CEO Stephanie McCloud noted the deferral is the second deadline extension given to employers since COVID-19 emerged in Ohio in March.

WORKFORCE


Lt. Gov. Jon Husted announced the latest round of companies approved for TechCred awards aimed at upskilling current and incoming workers Thursday, as well as changes to the program to support economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. His office also said the next application period begins Monday, June 1 and ends Tuesday, June 30.


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

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