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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The Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS) recently announced that a data collection and reporting system for capturing reports of elder abuse and neglect is now being used statewide. All 88 counties use the Ohio Database for Adult Protective Services (ODAPS) to record referrals, investigations and case management activities for every adult abuse, neglect and exploitation case reported in the state. According to ODJFS this "greatly improv[es] both data accuracy and availability."
Final negotiations on the budget bill, HB166 (Oelslager), stayed mostly behind closed doors through the week, as lawmakers prepared to work through the final weekend of the month to meet the June 30 deadline, or even to pass a temporary budget and return mid-July to finalize details of the FY20-21 budget. House Speaker Larry Householder (R-Glenford) said Thursday he's eyeing SB4 (Kunze-Rulli) as a vehicle for temporary extensions of the operating and Bureau of Workers' Compensation budgets. Both chambers named their conferees, who include Sens. Matt Dolan (R-Chagrin Falls), Dave Burke (R-Marysville) and Sean O'Brien (D-Cortland) and Reps. Scott Oelslager (R-North Canton), Jim Butler (R-Dayton) and Jack Cera). The conference committee met briefly Tuesday to hear updated revenue forecasts from the Legislative Service Commission and Office of Budget and Management, whose estimates are now very close to one another. OBM projects $24.13 billion in tax revenue for FY20, a $116 million increase from March forecasts, and $24.52 billion in FY21, a $72 million increase from March. LSC projects $24.1 billion in FY20, a $434 million increase, and $24.55 billion in FY21, a $260 million increase.
Gov. Mike DeWine signed HB79 (Oelslager) which makes appropriations for the Industrial Commission for the FY20-21 biennium. It is effective with the start of FY20 on July 1, 2019.
Gov. Mike DeWine is confident that the final version of the budget that will arrive on time and reflect his priorities and the needs of the state, he told attendees of the Ohio Black Legislative Foundation's 2019 conference Friday. DeWine told the audience in Columbus that this budget focuses on those issues that affect all Ohio families, but also those that particularly affect black communities. He touted how smoothly the process has gone thus far.
Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose Friday announced 11,099 new entities filed to do business in Ohio in May. All combined, the first five months of new business filings are the most on record in the state of Ohio. In 2019 alone, nearly 60,000 new businesses have filed to do business in Ohio. So far this year, 3,089 more new businesses have filed in the state of Ohio as compared to the same point last year.
While a citizenship question can lawfully be added to the 2020 Census, the Trump administration must come up with a better explanation for it to be implemented, the U.S. Supreme Court (SCOTUS) ruled Thursday. Writing for a fractured Court in U.S. Department of Commerce v. New York, Chief Justice John Roberts said the case must be remanded because the Trump administration's explanation that the question was needed to more effectively enforce the Voting Rights Act (VRA) was "contrived" and "incongruent with what the record reveals about the agency's priorities and decision-making process."
Senate priority legislation that would create legal protections and standards for organizations that help families temporarily host vulnerable children in their communities could have unintended negative consequences if passed as written, Public Children Services Association of Ohio (PCSAO) Public Policy Director Mary Wachtel said Tuesday. Speaking to the House Health Committee during interested party testimony on SB6 (Coley-Hottinger), Wachtel said the bill doesn't contain an enforcement mechanism to ensure organizations are actually conducting the required training and background checks.
The Ohio Air Quality Development Authority (OAQDA) announced Thursday that it closed on $8.7 million in air quality revenue bonds with the Ohio Facilities Construction Commission (OFCC), acting on behalf of two state-owned correctional facilities. The bond financing will be invested in new energy efficiency and conservation systems, which are designed to achieve energy savings guaranteed by Mansfield-based energy performance contractor MG Energy, Inc.
CRIME AND PUNISHMENT
The mother of slain Ohio State student Reagan Tokes urged the House Criminal Justice Committee Thursday to pass the second part of a reform package named after her daughter. Lisa McCray-Tokes told the committee that what happened to her daughter, who was kidnapped, raped and murdered by a convicted sex offender who was on ankle monitoring but not closely watched, was "absolutely horrific and completely preventable." She said that while lawmakers made great strides by passing indefinite sentencing reform in the first part of the package, the second part addressing the caseloads of parole officers and real-time ankle monitoring was a failure that led to her daughter's death.
Gov. Mike DeWine's administration announced Monday the approval of assistance for 10 projects expected to create 1,559 new jobs and retain 1,788 jobs statewide. During its monthly meeting, the Ohio Tax Credit Authority (TCA) reviewed economic development proposals brought by JobsOhio and its regional partners. Collectively, the projects are expected to result in more than $105 million in new payroll and spur more than $139 million in investments across Ohio.
The Ohio Air Quality Development Authority (OAQDA) recently approved tax-exempt bond financing for up to $350 Million for AMG Vanadium LLC, a recycler of resid spent catalyst waste from the petroleum industry into ferrovanadium vanadium and other specialty metals used mainly in the steel and stainless-steel industries. The company plans to essentially double its capacity in Ohio with a new solid waste recycling facility in Muskingum County near its existing operations in Cambridge, and create approximately 100 new jobs.
The likelihood lawmakers will use budget negotiations to settle the high school graduation debate increased with the Senate's inclusion of proposed diploma requirements from Ohio Excels, the Fordham Institute and the Alliance for High Quality Education. The State Board of Education endorsed its own graduation plan late last year, and just recently directed Superintendent Paolo DeMaria and Ohio Department of Education staff to try to hammer out a compromise between its proposal and the one now in the Senate version of HB166 (Oelslager). Both plans would scale back the testing requirements of the current high school graduation rules, and both would allow students to apply and demonstrate their knowledge with the likes of community service, work experience, academic and artistic projects and other options. But the differences are substantial enough to have evoked strong reactions among key education stakeholders.
The existing workgroup discussing the issues facing dropout recovery and prevention (DRP) schools in Ohio may bring on legislators and other new members should the final version of HB166 (Oelslager), the biennial budget, require a study committee on the subject. John Hagan, chair of the State Board of Education's Dropout Recovery and Prevention (DRP) workgroup and a former legislator, said Monday that he would request the board "morph" the current group into the one that may be legislatively mandated.
Several senators on the Senate Education Committee expressed concern Tuesday following sponsor testimony on HB154 (J. Miller-Jones) that the bill lacks adequate consequences for schools that fail to follow the school improvement plans the legislation requires. Rep. Don Jones (R-Freeport) provided sponsor testimony, saying that the current structure of academic distress commissions (ADCs) under 131-HB70 (Driehaus-Brenner) has led to dysfunction and chaos in school districts like Lorain, Youngstown and East Cleveland instead of any meaningful improvement.
Reps. Bob Cupp (R-Lima) and John Patterson (D-Jefferson) sought to reinvigorate their school funding reform plan Wednesday with introduction of a standalone bill, HB305, with co-sponsorships from two-thirds of their House colleagues. Many fellow lawmakers stood by them during a press conference to announce the bill's debut. The plan has been revised since its March rollout with distribution formula changes meant to answer criticisms that the original plan didn't work well for high-poverty urban schools and low-wealth rural districts. A third tier of targeted assistance funding was added for the former, and a variable measure of local funding capacity instituted to address the latter, Cupp said.
House Speaker Larry Householder (R-Glenford) told reporters Wednesday that the House would like to see a moratorium on new academic distress commissions put into HB166 (Oeslager), the biennial budget, and have more work on the issue done later. With a moratorium, Householder said the Senate could continue hearing HB154 (J. Miller-Jones), which would abolish the existing commissions and institute a new building-based school turnaround model to be led by local officials. The House had added HB154 language to its version of the budget, but the Senate removed it.
Gov. Mike DeWine appointed Reginald Wilkinson, former state prisons director, and Stephen Dackin, a Columbus State Community College executive, to vacancies on the State Board of Education.
The board of directors for Aurora Academy, which opened in 1998 as Ohio's first charter school, voted Wednesday to close the school effective immediately, in the wake of a lawsuit filed by its management company and a dispute with an affiliated company that acts as its landlord.
The Joint Education Oversight Committee considered changes to the state's school district report cards at its Thursday meeting, taking a deep dive into the "Prepared for Success" component, which is intended to measure students' preparedness for future training and professional opportunities.
Ohio lost 3,900 jobs in May, according to new figures released Friday by the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS), but the state's unemployment rate ticked down slightly as the number of unemployed workers also fell. According to ODJFS, Ohio's unemployment rate was 4.1 percent in May, down from a revised 4.2 percent in April. Ohio's nonagricultural wage and salary employment decreased 3,900 over the month, from a revised 5,597,500 in April to 5,593,600 in May 2019.
The Senate made concessions to all energy stakeholders except the natural gas and combined-cycle industries Wednesday in a substitute version of HB6 (Callender-Wilkin) that would earmark $150 million in "temporary financial relief" to bankrupt FirstEnergy Solutions (FES), $60 million to the Ohio Valley Electric Corporation's (OVEC) aging coal plants, and $10 million to all in-state renewable energy generators under existing mandates, also granting companies two more years to comply with current energy efficiency (EE) standards. "We'll do that while giving all ratepayers lower costs on their utility bills," Chairman Steve Wilson told parties attending the Senate Energy and Public Utilities Committee.
The first licenses under Ohio's fantasy sports contest laws are likely to be awarded in January 2020 after rules are finalized and various regulatory procedures are carried out, Ohio Casino Control Commission (OCCC) spokesperson Jessica Franks told Hannah News. The commission filed the rules with the Joint Committee on Agency Rule Review (JCARR) earlier in June. The rules already cleared the Common Sense Initiative (CSI) review.
Ohio's total commercial casino/racino revenue reached a record $1.86 billion in 2018, driven mostly by the success of the state's seven racinos and their video lottery terminals (VLTs), according to the American Gaming Association (AGA). "This translated into $622.6 million in tax revenue for the Buckeye State," AGA said in announcing its findings in the "State of the States 2019" report.
The House's second half schedule, released Thursday by the clerk's office, indicates committee hearings will start Tuesday, Sept. 3, and floor sessions start Wednesday, Sept. 18 and Thursday Sept. 19, with an if-needed session on Tuesday, Sept. 17. It projects a final session Thursday, Dec. 12, but with if-needed sessions scheduled the following week.
All four bills on the House's Thursday floor calendar passed with unanimous votes, including another priority bill of the chamber. HB9 (Jones-Sweeney), which addresses credit transfers and other higher education issues, became the latest priority bill with joint sponsors to clear the House, leaving just two of the 13 yet to come to the floor. HB3 (Boyd-Carruthers), addressing domestic violence, is currently in the House Criminal Justice Committee, while the House Finance Committee continues to consider HB13 (Carfagna-O'Brien) addressing residential broadband.
Hannah News' interview series with new legislators profiled Rep. Erica Crawley (D-Columbus). She has lived through some of the same struggles as her constituents -- who she makes a point of referring to as "neighbors" -- and her own experiences and volunteer work motivated her to run to represent them at the Statehouse. "I am my neighbors, they are me. I don't want them to feel like there's a disconnect. I want them to know I serve at their will and I want to be a resource to them and bring resources to them," Crawley said.
Their alliance was recently called "ungodly" by a fellow legislator. But more than six months into the 133rd General Assembly, House Speaker Larry Householder (R-Glenford) and House Minority Leader Emilia Sykes (D-Akron) said their relationship continues to work and they are accomplishing more in the Ohio House, with Sykes saying she believes it is starting to rub off on other lawmakers as well. Both sat down with former Rep. Alicia Reece (D-Cincinnati) at the Ohio Legislative Black Caucus Foundation Conference in Columbus to talk about working together and seeking bipartisanship during an hour-long question-and-answer session.
Wednesday's House session included passage of HB236 (Smith-Plummer), which would expand harsher penalties for assaulting peace officers to include hospital police; and HCR10 (Wiggam-Plummer), which urges the federal government to designate some drug cartels as foreign terrorist organizations.
Wednesday's Senate session included passage of SB39 (Schuring), which would grant insurers tax credits for participation in financing large mix-used development projects.
Rep. Kent Smith (D-Euclid) resigned as House minority whip and was replaced at Wednesday's session by Rep. Paula Hicks-Hudson (D-Toledo), who was promoted from assistant whip. Democrats elected Rep. Richard Brown (D-Canal Winchester) to take Hicks-Hudson's former position.
The House State and Local Government Committee Wednesday began its review of boards after the passage of 132-SB255 (McColley), which among other provisions, requires standing committees of the General Assembly to periodically review occupational licensing boards regarding their sunset. Committee Chairman Rep. Scott Wiggam (R-Wooster) said the committee will be reviewing several boards over the next few upcoming meetings. On Wednesday, the committee began with the Historical Boiler Licensing Board and the Ski Tramway Board. Aaron Johnston of the Ohio Department of Commerce gave testimony on both.
In other legislative action, House Health Committee reported out HB203 (Lipps), regarding mobile dental facilities; House Transportation and Public Safety Committee reported out HB158 (Blessing), regarding waiver of the filing fee for seeking limited driving privileges; road naming bills HB278 (Jones) and HB284 (Hillyer); and license plate bill HB280 (Boggs); House Economic and Workforce Development Committee reported out HB252 (Greenspan) which creates the Land Reutilization Demolition Program; House Primary and Secondary Education Committee reported out HB164 (Ginter), regarding student religious expression; House State and Local Government Committee reported out HB36 (Kick), to designate the Monarch as the official state butterfly; HB118 (Upchurch), to designate Aug. 31 as "Frank Robinson Day"; SB123 (Dolan-Manning), to designate a state fossil fish; and HB242 (Lang-Jones), restricting local governments' ability to regulate plastic bags; and the Senate Judiciary Committee reported out HB61 (Lanese-Liston) which expands the Public Records Law exemptions to include mental health providers.
Gov. Mike DeWine Friday appointed J. Philip Calabrese to the Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court General Division to replace Judge Pamela Barker, who was appointed a federal judge in the Northern District of Ohio. Calabrese will take office in July and serve for the remainder of the term expiring in January 2021.
Appointments made during the week include the following:
- Barbara L. Prakup of Medina (Medina County), Carrie L. Spangler of Uniontown (Stark County), Matthew E. Starner of Thornville (Perry County) and Helen L. Mayle of Pickerington (Fairfield County) reappointed to the State Speech and Hearing Professionals Board for a term beginning March 23, 2019 and ending March 22, 2022.
- Cheryl Archer of Bowling Green (Wood County), Thomas Barracato of Akron (Summit County) and Jacqueline Goings Davis of Reynoldsburg (Franklin County) reappointed to the State Vision Professionals Board for a term beginning March 23, 2019 and ending March 22, 2022.
- Ann Womer Benjamin of Aurora (Portage County) to the Kent State University Board of Trustees for a term beginning June 21, 2019 and ending May 16, 2028.
- Allison K. Younger of Parma (Cuyahoga County) to serve as a student member on the Cleveland State University Board of Trustees for a term beginning June 21, 2019 and ending May 1, 2021.
- Remington C. Schneider of Cincinnati (Hamilton County) to serve as a student member on the Bowling Green State University Board of Trustees for a term beginning June 21, 2019 and ending May 17, 2021.
- Jonathan Seok of Rootstown (Portage County) to serve as a student member on the Northeast Ohio Medical University Board of Trustees for a term beginning June 30, 2019 and ending June 29, 2021.
Legislation removing training and licensing requirements for carriers of concealed weapons in Ohio was reported out of the House Federalism Committee on Wednesday. Lawmakers voted 7-4 to pass HB178 (Hood-Brinkman) after it was amended to remove language added last week to require gun dealers to provide weapon purchasers with a pamphlet explaining Ohio's current firearms laws. The bill won't be on the floor before summer break, however, as House Speaker Larry Householder (R-Glenford) said HB178 needs to be considered further in the House Criminal Justice Committee.
HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES
This summer, Ohio Department of Health (ODH) Director Dr. Amy Acton is urging people to take precautions to prevent mosquito bites and the diseases they may carry. Most diseases in Ohio that are caused by the bite of infected mosquitoes happen between spring and fall since mosquitoes are active during warmer months. The most common diseases spread by mosquitoes in Ohio include West Nile virus and La Crosse virus, ODH said.
Robert F. Kennedy Jr. Wednesday joined supporters of HB268 (Hood-Kent) in highlighting reasons to back the bill, which prohibits an employer from taking "an adverse employment action" against an employee "for refusing to be vaccinated against any illness or disease because of a medical contraindication or for reasons of conscience, including religious beliefs." Introduced by Reps. Ron Hood (R-Ashville) and Bernadine Kent (D-Columbus) on May 28, HB268 was referred to the House Commerce and Labor Committee earlier this month; it has not yet been scheduled for its first hearing.
Kent State University (KSU) President-elect Todd Diacon announced recently the appointment of Melody Tankersley as the interim senior vice president and provost, effective July 1. Tankersley fills the role most recently held by Diacon, who was selected in April by the Board of Trustees to become Kent State's next president.
The Ohio Supreme Court reversed course and agreed to hear the appeal of a male teen who was 16-years-old at the time of a mutually drunken and drug-impaired encounter with a 17-year-old girl and whose rape conviction was upheld by the 6th District, amid conflicting testimony as to whether the girl's sexual encounters with the boy and a 20-year-old man also present that night were consensual. A 4-3 Court led by Chief Justice Maureen O'Connor and joined by Justices Sharon Kennedy, R. Patrick DeWine and Melody Stewart originally denied the appeal of the boy, L.S., in April of this year before Justice Stewart switched sides and voted with Justices Judith French, Patrick Fischer and Michael Donnelly to hear the case on a filing for reconsideration.
Numbers are up in every category for pro bono reporting by members of the state bar, the Ohio Legal Assistance Foundation (OLAF) says in its newest report. The number of lawyers participating in voluntary reporting, the percentage who provided free help, the average number of pro bono hours per attorney, and total financial contributions by firms and individual lawyers all saw modest to major increases in 2018.
In a new legal opinion, the Board of Professional Conduct says three provisions that have become common in settlement agreements impermissibly restrict an Ohio lawyer's right to practice law and violate the Rules of Professional Conduct. The board says counsel on either side of an agreement may not offer or agree to settlement terms meant to protect a civil defendant from future litigation.
A co-conspirator in the Cuyahoga County rape cover-up involving disbarred attorney Anthony Calabrese III will soon be practicing law again if the Ohio Supreme Court approves the Board of Professional Conduct's recommended reinstatement of suspended criminal defense lawyer Marc George Doumbas. He and Calabrese were among four men who tried to bribe two rape victims of Doumbas' client, Thomas Castro.
Nineteen dispensaries are now certified to operate under the Ohio Medical Marijuana Control Program (MMCP). The Ohio Board of Pharmacy (OBP) recently awarded a certificate of operation to Leaf Relief, located at 4323 Market St. in Youngstown (Mahoning County). There are still 37 provisionally-licensed dispensaries that have yet to receive a certificate of operation from the state.
The Hocking Hills Visitor Center is now open, Gov. Mike DeWine and Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) Director Mary Mertz announced Monday. The new Hocking Hills State Park facility includes 8,500 square feet of indoor space, as well as upper and lower covered verandas that add 5,000 square feet to the building, according to the governor's office.
Historian Doris Kearns Goodwin told a Statehouse crowd Tuesday that the United States is not living through its worst times when it comes to politics and partisanship. Kearns Goodwin spoke at the inaugural event of a speaker series hosted by the Capitol Square Foundation to help raise funds, promoting her latest book, Leadership in Turbulent Times. The title, she noted, was picked five years ago. Little could she have imaged how relevant it would be today, she said.
The Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services (OhioMHAS) Tuesday announced the appointment of Renee Tolliver as chief information officer (CIO) overseeing the department's information technology (IT) section.
In an annual coordinated effort with the National Weather Service (NWS), the Ohio Committee for Severe Weather Awareness is promoting June 23-29 as National Lightning Safety Awareness Week and encourages all Ohioans to know what to do before, during and after thunderstorms, and to practice severe weather safety and preparedness throughout the summer.
The U.S. Supreme Court put partisan gerrymandering out of bounds for the federal judiciary Thursday. While arising from challenges to other states' maps, the decision effectively sinks Ohio litigation that sought to upend congressional district boundaries set in 2011. Chief Justice John Roberts led the 5-4 ruling in Rucho v. Common Cause, a case consolidating challenges to congressional boundaries in North Carolina and Maryland, the former labeled as discriminatory against Democrats, the latter against Republicans. Unlike in matters involving racial discrimination or the one person, one vote principle, partisan gerrymandering is a political problem, not a legal one, Roberts argued.
SECRETARY OF STATE
Secretary of State Frank LaRose will involve community and grassroots organizations in the process to update voter rolls. Under a new directive issued Wednesday, local boards of elections will compile a list of inactive voter registrants into the Registration Reset List, which will then be provided to community organization partners of the secretary of state In addition, the county boards are to send each of the inactive voters on the list a mailing by Monday, July 29, notifying them of the Sept. 6, 2019 voter registration cancellation date unless some action is taken.
Inspector General Randall Meyer's office said that a former employee of the Ohio Occupational Therapy, Physical Therapy and Athletic Trainers Board, Lisa Navarro, was indicted in Franklin County on charges of theft in office, tampering with records and unauthorized use of property, after an investigation by Meyer's office. The probe was prompted by a complaint that Navarro, who transferred to the Ohio Department of Health from the licensing board in late 2018, used state equipment for outside employment on state time.
The Ohio Facilities Construction Commission (OFCC) Thursday gave final approval to four guidelines revisions discussed at its May meeting and heard the first presentation on revisions to the Maintenance Program Guidelines. The commission also approved settling a lawsuit against the insurance company and contractor for claims regarding faulty work in the Grand Valley School District in Ashtabula, waiving the interest payment in lieu of receiving the $1.6 million judgement in the suit which has been going on since 2013.
Small retailers, tobacco shops and stores with heavy tobacco-related advertising are less likely to ask young people for identification to buy tobacco products, according to new study from Ohio State University (OSU). When visiting a randomly-selected list of 103 Columbus retailers in the summer of 2017, two researchers -- one age 20 and the other age 21 -- found that 60 percent of cashiers didn't ask for ID before selling tobacco products. The findings are published in the American Journal of Health Promotion.
Memorial Day tornadoes cost the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) more than $500,000, Director Jack Marchbanks told the House ODOT Oversight Study Committee on Tuesday. Marchbanks gave the committee -- made up of members of the House Finance Transportation Subcommittee and created to get regular updates on ODOT's activities -- an overview of what the agency has done since the passage of HB62 (Oelslager), the transportation budget, earlier this year.
The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) is seeking public comment on draft rules that would alter utility practices for customer disconnection and security deposits for failure to pay, and that would reduce required payments for low-income customers to rejoin the natural gas Percentage of Income Payment Plan (PIPP).
Contentious policy provisions in the Bureau of Workers' Compensation (BWC) budget, HB80 (Oelslager), were removed by the Senate Insurance and Financial Institutions Wednesday, with Vice Chair Jay Hottinger (R-Newark) saying they increased the original bill from six pages to 115. Then on Thursday, the Senate passed HB80 33-0 without expanded coverage for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), though Senate President Larry Obhof (R-Medina) said concerns over the issue would be addressed in the proper forum. Before the vote, Sen. Hearcel Craig (D-Columbus) again called for PTSD treatment for first responders absent accompanying injury as he did earlier in committee but said he would support HB80 as written.
A combination of low unemployment, looming reduction in working-age population and criminal justice reform initiatives are driving new approaches to help people re-enter society and the workforce after incarceration or overcoming addiction, Lt. Gov. Jon Husted said Tuesday at a "Second Chance Hiring" event promoting certificates of qualification for employment (CQEs) in Columbus.
Three Ohio public institutions of higher education are among the recipients of nearly $183.8 million from the U.S. Department of Labor (USDOL) to expand apprenticeship programming, the most of any single state in the country.
Story originally published in The Hannah Report on June 28, 2019. Copyright 2019 Hannah News Service, Inc.