Week In Review: June 21, 2019




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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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AGRICULTURE

The Ohio Department of Agriculture's (ODAg) Voluntary Nutrient Management Plan Development Program will be expanded from two providers to all 4R certified nutrient dealers in the Western Basin of Lake Erie, the department has announced. This means more than 40 nutrient retail providers will be eligible for funding under the program, ODAg's Matt Lane told Hannah News. He said the program is fully state funded through appropriations made in 132-SB299 (Gardner).


The second sign-up period for nutrient management programs in the Western Lake Erie Basin (WLEB) funded by the passage of 132-SB299 (Gardner) has begun, the Ohio Department Agriculture (ODAg) announced. Signed in 2018, SB299 provided $23.5 million for soil and water conservation districts (SWCDs) located in the WLEB for nutrient management programs.


Buckeye Hills Regional Council is among 47 entities that will receive technical assistance to implement long-term economic development plans, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced. "USDA and its partners are bringing local leaders and economic development experts together to create opportunity in some of the nation's most economically challenged rural communities," Acting Assistant to the Secretary for Rural Development Joel Baxley said.


ARTS, SPORTS AND ENTERTAINMENT


U.S. Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) announced Friday that the Cincinnati Museum Center would be hosting a Smithsonian Institution traveling exhibit as part of the 50th anniversary of the Moon landing, including the command module Columbia that the crew returned in. Portman was joined by members of the Armstrong family, Governor's Aerospace and Defense Advisor Joseph Zeis, Smithsonian officials and local leaders in making the announcement. The display, which also includes Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin's extravehicular visor and gloves, will be in Cincinnati from Sept. 28 through Feb. 7, 2020 as the fifth and last stop on a multi-year tour.


ATTORNEY GENERAL


Attorney General Dave Yost and the Ohio Education Association (OEA) announced the selection Tuesday of Independence 11-year-old Brooke Balser's design for a new "Stop Bullying" license plate.


FY20-21 BUDGET


A new watershed management program, new high school diploma requirements, new regulatory authority over pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs), regulatory rollbacks for government agencies in general, a later presidential primary election, and additional money to prevent custody relinquishment were among dozens of final changes the Senate Finance Committee made to the budget bill, HB166 (Oelslager) Wednesday night before passing it unanimously. On Thursday, for the first time since Gov. Ted Strickland's first year in office, the full Senate unanimously passed the budget bill, sending it back to the House, which promptly rejected the Senate changes to set up a conference committee next week. Senators speaking during Thursday's floor debate generally struck the same tone, pointing out things they don't like in the bill but also saying that the good parts of the bill outweigh the bad. They thanked senators from across the aisle for working with them, and said overall the bill sends a clear message of the chamber's priorities.


A mother whose late son's good grades and athletic feats concealed struggles that led him to take his own life, a veteran whose friends confide in her their suicidal thoughts, and a man whose schizo-affective disorder led him to jump off a parking garage were among those calling Friday for senators to reverse course on a budget amendment reducing planned mental health funding in a hearing before the Senate Finance Committee. Senate changes to HB166 (Oelslager) unveiled Tuesday eliminate $36 million Gov. Mike DeWine proposed for K-12 prevention education and a multi-media prevention, treatment and stigma reduction campaign. The Senate substitute bill did preserve $5 million proposed for mental health first aid and de-escalation training in the Statewide Treatment and Prevention dedicated purpose fund. Testimony on this issue continued Monday.


Executive and legislative budget packages take meaningful steps on policies helpful to children but fall short in a few key areas, advocates said Thursday as the Senate was passing its version of HB166 (Oelsager). Members of the Ohio Children's Budget Coalition said lawmakers could do more to help children and their families through assistance to local governments and organizations for census preparation, conversion of the state's earned income tax credit (EITC) to partial refundability, and restoration of Senate cuts to home visiting programs.


CRIME AND PUNISHMENT


Bipartisan legislation would expand the list of medical professionals who can be charged with felonies for abusing their position to engage in certain sexual misconduct against those in their care. Sens. Stephanie Kunze (R-Hilliard) and Hearcel Craig (D-Columbus) are sponsoring the bill in the Senate, while Reps. Erica Crawley (D-Columbus) and Kristin Boggs (D-Columbus) filed companion legislation in the House Tuesday.


The proposed changes come after a recent case where a Clintonville chiropractor could only be charged with misdemeanor sexual imposition despite dozens of victims, including minors, coming forward. As misdemeanor sentences can only be served concurrently rather than consecutively, the judge was limited to imposing a maximum of 180 days in jail.


DISASTERS


Gov. Mike DeWine announced Tuesday that Ohio has received federal assistance for individuals in 10 counties hit by tornadoes, severe storms, straight-line winds, flooding, and landslides in May. The Presidential Disaster Declaration was issued for Auglaize, Darke, Greene, Hocking, Mercer, Miami, Montgomery, Muskingum, Perry, and Pickaway counties. In addition to possible low-interest loans from the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), the declaration opens up the following assistance programs: Individual Assistance Program; Disaster Legal Services Program; and Hazard Mitigation Grant Program.


EDUCATION


If members of the State Board of Education vote to expand the number of hours and the types of activities for which they can be paid, none of them can take advantage of it until new terms commence, Attorney General Dave Yost's office said in a formal opinion released Friday. The board's Executive Committee voted earlier this year on a proposal to increase the number of hours of work members can seek reimbursement for, in order to compensate them for time they spend on constituent service and meeting preparation. Members can now receive compensation for time spent at board meetings; speaking on education panels; on professional development; visiting schools; and engaging or informing the public on board business.


The U.S. Department of Education (USDOE) recently recognized Graham Local Schools in St. Paris with a 2019 Green Ribbon School District Sustainability Award. Graham Local Schools is among 25 schools, 14 districts and four postsecondary institutions nationally honored for their innovative efforts to reduce environmental impact and utility costs, improve health and wellness and ensure effective sustainability education.


Issues concerning measures on the state report card and the types of assessments used by the state remained at the forefront of discussions Monday at the second meeting of a State Board of Education workgroup on dropout prevention and recovery (DRP) schools.


ELECTIONS 2020


Jerry Cirino, a Kirtland Republican, announced he will be running for the 18th Ohio Senate District in 2020. The seat is currently held by Sen. John Eklund (R-Chardon), who is term limited. Cirino is currently the president of the Lake County Board of Commissioners. He announced his candidacy at the Lake County Republican Party headquarters on Friday.


ENERGY


The Enbridge Line 5 pipeline provides reliable fuel and more than 1,000 jobs to residents of both Ohio and Michigan and shouldn't be eliminated, Gov. Mike DeWine and Lt. Gov. Jon Husted wrote to Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer in a letter released Tuesday. DeWine thanked Whitmer for discussing the issue during the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Governors and Premiers 2019 Leadership Summit over the weekend.


The nation's supply of natural gas has greatly increased since 2000, the House Energy and Natural Resources Committee was told Tuesday, although the number of active drilling rigs has decreased in the past 10 years. The committee heard an update on the natural gas industry from Jimmy Stewart, the executive director of the Ohio Gas Association and a former legislator.


Chairman Sam Randazzo of the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) and the Ohio Power Siting Board (OPSB) gave the House Public Utilities Committee a brief overview of both agencies Wednesday and answered questions on the location of generation plants within the 13-state regional transmission organization encompassing Ohio and the future of Ohio's system of electric billing riders.


Since 2017, FirstEnergy Companies' customers have been paying an extra $168 million to $204 million per year through a rider intended to incentivize the companies to modernize their energy-distribution systems. Wednesday, the Ohio Supreme Court ruled in a 4-3 opinion that the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) improperly authorized those charges and ordered them to be removed. None of the $442 million paid to date will be refunded, supporters of the decision rued in statements following the decision.


The Ohio Supreme Court on Thursday clarified which Ohio Power Siting Board (OPSB) alterations to a wind farm permit require a formal amendment process triggering newer, stricter property setbacks. The Court said the board was right to allow Greenwich Windpark to add three approved models to its 25-turbine project in Huron County without amending its original certification. The decision follows the Supreme Court's January rebuff of OPSB for extending Black Fork Wind Energy's five-year construction deadline in Crawford and Richland counties without an amendment.


GAMING/GAMBLING


Recently-conducted research by the Legislative Service Commission (LSC) reinforces the argument that the Ohio Lottery Commission (OLC) is the right agency to oversee sports gambling in the state, rather than the Ohio Casino Control Commission (OCCC), Rep. Dave Greenspan (R-Westlake) told Hannah News Tuesday. Another advantage HB194 (Greenspan-Kelly) has over SB111 (Eklund-O'Brien) is that the "handle" wouldn't be subject to the 25 percent federal excise tax under his bill, Greenspan said.


GENERAL ASSEMBLY/STATEHOUSE


Senate President Larry Obhof (R-Medina) gave little clue Wednesday on the chamber's plan for the energy policy overhaul in HB6 (Callender-Wilkin). The Senate quickly dispensed with its official calendar for the day, unanimously passing the budget for the Industrial Commission, HB79 (Oelslager). With no amendments, the legislation goes straight to Gov. Mike DeWine's desk for signature.


Asked about other priority legislation likely to pass before summer recess, Obhof said nine of the top 10 have already cleared the chamber. The remaining measure, criminal sentencing bill SB3 (Eklund-O'Brien), could draw at least 30 votes for passage anytime he wanted to bring it up, Obhof predicted. But he said they want to take time to work through the concerns of judges and prosecutors and will advance the measure when it's ready.


The Ohio House on Wednesday easily passed HB1 (Plummer-Hicks-Hudson), legislation to allow low-level and non-violent drug offenders to receive intervention in lieu of conviction and seal past criminal records, with a 90-6 vote. Rep. Phil Plummer (R-Dayton) said the bill will give more access to treatment, but won't take anything away from judges, who will still have the flexibility to sentence offenders as they see fit. The House unanimously passed HB133 (Perales-Weinstein), which allows military spouses in certain cases to get temporary occupational licenses or certificates when they are licensed in other jurisdictions, and HB262 (Richardson-Miller), an omnibus license plate bill.


After session, House Speaker Larry Householder (R-Glenford) said he wants to get a couple more priority bills passed before they go on break for the summer, and will also focus on finishing HB166 (Oelslager), the biennial budget; HB80 (Oelslager), the workers' compensation budget; and HB6 (Callender), the energy bill.


Members of the Ohio Legislative Black Caucus (OLBC) held a news conference Wednesday, outlining their Build Up Black Families legislative package in honor of Juneteenth -- the June 19 holiday which marks the anniversary of the first announcement of the abolition of slavery in America.


The Ohio Aerospace and Aviation Technology Committee (OAATC) held its first meeting of the 133rd General Assembly Friday, with Chair Rep. Rick Perales (R-Beavercreek) telling reporters that he hoped for greater continuity while acknowledging the unavoidable delay caused by the budget process.


Freshman legislator Rep. Bill Roemer (R-Richfield), who served on the Summit County Council for four years, told Hannah News that the transition from county to state government means vastly increased input from outside groups, such as lobbyists and associations, in addition to his wider pool of constituents. With the additional information he said he has to "assimilate" into his decision-making, Roemer said two core tenets of good policy to him are fiscally conservative monetary policy and an emphasis on local control.


The Sunset Review Committee heard testimony from the Credential Review Board, Educator Standards Board, STEM Committee, Tourism Ohio Advisory Board, Minority Development Financing Advisory Board, Ohio Housing Trust Fund Advisory Committee, Joint Select Committee on Volume Cap, Physician Assistant Policy Committee, Respiratory Care Advisory Committee, Home Medical Equipment Services Advisory Council and State Audit Committee.


Correctional Institution Inspection Committee (CIIC) Deputy Director Charlie Adams was appointed as executive director by an unanimously accepted motion at the start of Wednesday's meeting. Adams then offered an update on recent activities and future plans.


Thursday's House session included passage of HB5 (Hillyer-Leland), to create a Public Defender Loan Repayment Fund; HB7 (Ghanbari-Patterson), to create the H2Ohio Trust Fund; HB11 (G. Manning-Howse), regarding tobacco cessation, oral health, lead contamination and prenatal care; HB211 (Arndt), regarding titles for abandoned boats; and HB276 (Ghanbari), a highway naming bill.


The House announced that Huron attorney Douglas J. Swearingen will replace Rep. Steve Arndt (R-Port Clinton) when he retires on Wednesday, July 31. Arndt announced his coming retirement earlier this year. Swearingen will be sworn in on Thursday, Aug. 1.


In other action, the House Civil Justice Committee reported out HB261 (R. Brown) addressing the term of the Franklin County Domestic Relations judge; the House Primary and Secondary Education Committee reported out HB123 (G. Holmes-G. Manning) which deals with school security and youth suicide awareness; the House Transportation and Public Safety Committee reported out HB51 (Ginter) which addresses installing rumble strips along the center line for certain undivided state highways; and HB236 (J. Smith-Plummer) to add hospital police officers to the definition of peace officer; the House Finance Committee reported out HB5 (Hillyer-Leland) which establishes the Ohio Public Defender State Loan Repayment Program; HB11 (G. Manning-Howse) which address tobacco cessation and prenatal care; and SB52 (Gavarone) creating the civilian cyber security reserve forces; the House State and Local Government Committee reported out SB107 (Rulli) to permit electronic filing of campaign finance statements; Senate Government Oversight and Reform Committee reported out SB140 (Uecker) which addresses a number of issues around the carrying and manufacture of knives; and House Criminal Justice Committee reported out HCR10, urging the federal government to designate certain drug cartels as terrorist organizations.


GOVERNOR


Appointments made during the week include the following:


- Jeffrey T. Ferriell of Columbus (Franklin County) and Larry T. Garvin of Bexley (Franklin County) reappointed to the State Council of Uniform State Laws for a term beginning June 6, 2019, and ending June 5, 2022.


- Sandra K. Barber of Wauseon (Fulton County) to the Ohio Turnpike and Infrastructure Commission for a term beginning July 1, 2019, and ending June 30, 2024.


- Charleta B. Tavares of Columbus (Franklin Co.) to the Ohio Elections Commission for a term beginning June 20, 2019, and ending Dec. 31, 2023.


GREAT LAKES


The objective for Ohio, Michigan and the Canadian province of Ontario will continue to be Lake Erie Western Basin phosphorous reductions of 20 percent by 2020 and 40 percent by 2025, Gov. Mike DeWine told Hannah News on Monday. DeWine, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and Ontario Minister of the Environment, Conservation and Parks Rod Phillips (representing Ontario Premier Doug Ford), recommitted to the terms of the Western Basin of Lake Erie Collaborative Agreement during the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Governors and Premiers 2019 Leadership Summit over the weekend.


The Ohio Lake Erie Commission awarded two grants totaling nearly $100,000 to fund research into nutrient reduction and algae effects on Lake Erie, according to the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (Ohio EPA). Funding for the awards comes from donations and proceeds from the sale of Lake Erie Ohio license plates, Ohio EPA said.


GUNS


The House Federalism Committee delayed an expected vote on concealed weapons reform bill, HB178 (Hood-Brinkman), at its Wednesday meeting, with committee Chairman John Becker (R-Cincinnati) saying the measure would be heard for a vote next week, with the possibility of amendments but no additional testimony. Becker said Wednesday there would be "zero" chance of the full House considering the bill before legislators' summer break, while House Speaker Larry Householder (R-Glenford) told reporters after session Wednesday the bill will go to the House Criminal Justice Committee for more hearings in the fall.


Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost Thursday rejected the summary of a ballot issue petition for a proposed law that would expand background checks, finding inconsistencies with some of the summary's language. Supporters of the proposal say they plan to revise and refile.


HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES


Sponsors of a bill intended to give Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists (CRNAs) more freedom to practice outside the operating room while maintaining physician supervision said a substitute version accepted Tuesday has strengthened the legislation through a healthy process of working with interested parties. However, the Ohio State Medical Association (OSMA) appeared before the House Health Committee to express their lingering concerns about several provisions of the substitute bill, though the committee accepted it.


HIGHER EDUCATION


Attorney General Dave Yost announced a multi-state settlement with a former loan partner of ITT Tech Friday that will provide $6.8 million in debt relief to roughly 870 former students of the defunct for-profit college. The 43-state agreement will award $168 million in total relief to more than 18,000 former students nationwide, accounting for 89 percent of the lender's ITT Tech financing over three years.


The University of Cincinnati (UC) recently announced the appointment of two new deans to head its colleges of Engineering and Applied Sciences and Arts and Sciences. They are John Weidner to the College of Engineering and Applied Sciences and Valerio Ferme to the McMicken College of Arts and Sciences. Both appointments will be voted on by the UC Board of Trustees in August.


JUDICIAL


The Ohio Supreme Court achieved a 30 percent case reduction last year for a docket clearance rate of 118 percent, its latest annual report states. The Court received 1,858 appeals in 2018 and disposed of 2,188 cases, leaving 552 matters on the docket at year's end.


The Ohio Supreme Court is taking public comment on two proposed amendments to the Rules for the Government of the Bar of Ohio. One would define how bar members can remain in "good standing," and the second would alter rules for out-of-state attorneys registered as corporate counsel in the state.


LAW ENFORCEMENT


Reps. Thomas West (D-Canton) and Phil Plummer (R-Dayton) introduced HB277 Tuesday, saying it would increase transparency and accountability for police officers and decrease wrongful convictions for suspects through mandating audio or visual recordings of suspect interrogations for serious crimes, such as murder or sexual assault.


Cuyahoga County lawmakers outlined a series of reforms to state oversight of county jails Tuesday, saying deaths and criminal probes into employees at their county's local jail are "symptomatic" of the need for change in a system of more than 300 facilities statewide. Sen. Nickie Antonio (D-Lakewood) and Rep. Jeff Crossman (D-Parma) said legislation they're preparing would complement efforts announced recently by Gov. Mike DeWine to boost state corrections staffing for jail inspections to otherwise ramp up state oversight. Antonio said they applaud the governor's move to increase staffing but aren't yet assured it will be sufficient.


LIBRARIES


Broadband Internet access is so lacking in some parts of the state that families often spend their evenings in cars parked outside of local libraries so children can complete homework assignments, Ohio Library Council (OLC) Government and Legal Services Director Michelle Francis said Wednesday. "Many of our members do not turn off the Wi-Fi signals at night after the library has closed because they know there is a need," Francis told the House Finance Committee during proponent testimony on HB13 (Carfagna-O'Brien), which would establish the Residential Broadband Expansion Program. "In one library branch in particular in Southeast Ohio, 50 percent of their Wi-Fi usage is when the library is closed."


MARIJUANA/HEMP


The Cincinnati City Council voted 5-3 to decriminalize possession of 100 grams or less of marijuana, ordinance sponsor Cincinnati Vice Mayor Christopher Smitherman has announced.


Cannabis entrepreneurs Jimmy Gould and Ian James have abandoned their plan to place a marijuana legalization constitutional amendment on the Ohio ballot in 2020, James told Hannah News on Thursday. James said he and Gould -- both top executives at Green Light Acquisitions (GLA) -- are currently too busy with their hemp and cannabidiol (CBD) companies to run a statewide pot legalization campaign. A separate marijuana legalization proposal will also fail to make the ballot, as Ohio Families for Change's "Marijuana Rights and Regulations" amendment "fizzled out," according to campaign manager Jonathan Varner. Backers of that amendment were aiming to make the ballot in 2019.


NATURAL RESOURCES


Thirteen marinas achieved base, gold or platinum certification status in the Ohio Clean Marinas Program over the past year, according to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) and Ohio Sea Grant.


The House's proposed H2Ohio program could annually disburse $100 million -- up from $50 million -- for water quality projects across the state under the substitute version of HB7 (Ghanbari-Patterson) accepted by the House Finance Committee Tuesday. It was reported out on Wednesday.


PEOPLE


A legend of Statehouse reporting, a coach in sports and life to his sons, a cheerleader for Gahanna Special Olympics athletes and a friend and partner from grade school onward to his wife -- these were among the memories shared Monday as hundreds gathered in the Statehouse Atrium at a memorial service for journalist Jim Siegel. The veteran Columbus Dispatch reporter, who died Tuesday at age 46, was recalled repeatedly as someone who earned trust from elected officials who knew he'd do his research and report fairly, from readers who relied on him to translate legislative intricacies and from journalistic colleagues who respected him.


The Ohio State Cosmetology and Barber Board announced Wednesday the appointment of Margaret "Margie" Rolf as its new executive director effective Monday, June 24. Rolf currently serves as associate vice president for government relations at the University of Cincinnati (UC).


POVERTY


Access to a good job, an affordable place to live and a reliable way to get from one to the other are key means to self-sufficiency, but attaining all three at once is a challenge that keeps many Ohioans struggling with poverty, according to a new report commissioned by the Ohio Association of Community Action Agencies (OACAA). OACAA hired Strategic Research Group, a Columbus area firm, to produce this year's version of its annual "State of Poverty in Ohio" report.


SECRETARY OF STATE


Secretary of State Frank LaRose invited his Michigan counterpart, Jocelyn Benson, to his office's summer conference for local elections officials Tuesday to discuss their joint efforts to promote civility in government and fight misinformation campaigns meant to erode confidence in democracy. The two said they plan soon to pitch a task force of their colleagues in partnership with the National Institute for Civil Discourse to focus on those efforts. They'll present the idea to fellow state election overseers at the National Association of Secretaries of State conference later this month in New Mexico.


STATE GOVERNMENT


While Lt. Gov. Jon Husted had previously voiced concerns over a backlog in rules pending before the Common Sense Initiative (CSI), he said Thursday that the hard work of CSI staff had led to clearing of 1,000 rules in 100 days. Now, he told the CSI's Small Business Advisory Council, it is time to "play offense" in addressing further regulatory concerns, and he welcomes council members' input


TELECOMMUNICATIONS


Citing frustration over lack of action in the private sector, Lt. Gov. Jon Husted announced Thursday that InnovateOhio and the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) had released a Request for Information (RFI) to expand broadband in Ohio, particularly rural areas. The RFI will be open to responses for 21 days starting Thursday. Husted said there may be ways to leverage public infrastructure as part of broadband expansion, and a press release offered further details. The RFI considers potentially opening rights of way along ODOT-maintained state highways to broadband providers in exchange for private investment improving access to underserved Ohioans.


TRANSPORTATION/INFRASTRUCTURE


Ohioans dreading the thought of standing in line to renew their driver's licenses can now skip that process if they go to one of 12 Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles (BMV) deputy registrar locations testing the DeWine administration's new "Get in Line Online" program. The new system will enable customers to virtually get in line using a mobile device or computer, allowing them to advance in the queue without physically waiting in the office. Customers choose which service they are seeking ahead of time, selecting "vehicle registration, "driver license or ID card, "reinstatement" or "other." Customers can see the deputy registrars in their area and which locations have the shortest wait times. After checking in online, customers will receive a text message and will have a four-hour window to arrive at the deputy registrar location, check in at a self-service kiosk and claim their spot in line.


WORKERS' COMPENSATION


The Senate Insurance and Financial Institutions Committee heard from several police and fire associations during proponent testimony Tuesday on HB80 (Oelslager), the Bureau of Workers' Compensation budget, with testimony focused on support for coverage of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) for those professions without an accompanying physical injury.


Then on Wednesday, business groups voiced their opposition to the proposal to expand BWC coverage of PTSD to include first responders' claims without an accompanying physical injury. Representatives of the Ohio Chamber of Commerce, National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) in Ohio and the Ohio Manufacturers' Association (OMA) all testified in opposition to that provision and others, with the chamber and NFIB Ohio saying they would favor a return to the House's as-introduced version even though that would eliminate changes they'd supported as well.


Story originally published in The Hannah Report on June 21, 2019.  Copyright 2019 Hannah News Service, Inc.

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