Week In Review - June 29, 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.

ATTORNEY GENERAL


The state of Ohio is seeking more than $40,000 in damages from an Athens enterprise that hoarded and sold hand sanitizer on Amazon for as much as 11 times the original retail price to exploit the COVID-19 pandemic. Officially located in Middleport on the Ohio River, Danielle's on 2nd was a women's clothing retailer when it saw an opportunity in February to profit handsomely from people's fear of contagion. Marcus and Ellen Fultz, proprietors of Danielle's on 2nd, began acquiring Purell hand sanitizer in bulk and began selling it for two and a half times to nearly 11 times its normal prices of $3.53 for an 8 oz bottle -- peaking at $40 per unit in March, when Gov. Mike DeWine declared a state of emergency from COVID-19. Attorney General Dave Yost says the Fultz's sold 600 bottles in February-March alone and reached sales totaling $26,736.27.


FY20-21 BUDGET


The Ohio Department of Administrative Services (DAS) recently sent a letter to approximately 1,400 vendors holding contracts for information technology, printers and general goods and services asking that they lower rates by 15 percent as part of expenditure reduction efforts. The letter, signed by DAS Director Matthew Damschroder, said that state agencies "have been directed to reduce expenditures due to the economic conditions created by the COVID-19 pandemic" and the reduction would assist in that goal.


Due to the forthcoming FY21 revenue shortfall, the Office of Budget and Management (OBM) has instituted several cost reduction measures that are now projected to save at least $138 million. Negotiations with public employee unions on cost-saving measures related to their members are ongoing. OBM Communications Director Pete LuPiba told Hannah News the pay and step freeze will save the state $80 million, while the cost savings days will save $58 million. Another $165,000 will be saved through 4 percent reductions in cabinet director salaries, and though state law does not allow Gov. Mike DeWine and Lt. Gov. Jon Husted to take a direct pay cut they are writing checks to the state for an equivalent amount.


CENSUS


The U.S. Census Bureau has announced a new schedule for counting people experiencing homelessness in the 2020 Census. The operation was originally scheduled for March 30, March 31 and April 1. The bureau additionally announced the resumption of several other operations postponed due to the coronavirus. The bureau's phased restart to field operations began in May. Between Sept. 22 and 24, the Census Bureau now plans to send specially trained census takers to count people at shelters, soup kitchens, regularly scheduled mobile food vans and locations previously identified by the Census Bureau where people are known to sleep outdoors (like under bridges) and at all-night businesses (such as transit stations and 24-hour laundromats). People experiencing homelessness will be counted where they are staying when census takers visit.


U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) again urged state residents to respond to the 2020 Census to ensure Ohio gets is fair share of federal funding. On a conference call with Rose Simmons, a partnership coordinator for the U.S. Census Bureau based in Ohio, Brown said with the pandemic showing "even more starkly" the shortcomings of government and society, it's important to ensure the state receives needed funding for roads, public safety, education, health care and other services.


CIVIL RIGHTS


The coalition Operation HEAL (Having Equality Advanced Locally) officially launched its efforts to eradicate systemic racism throughout Ohio on Friday, June 19 -- which happened to be Juneteenth, the annual commemoration of the abolishment of slavery in the United States and which has been celebrated by the African-American community since the late 1800s. As part of the kick-off, which was held at the Washington Gladden Social Justice Park in Columbus, the group called on Gov. Mike DeWine, Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost and the Ohio General Assembly to develop a task force to address systemic racism and police brutality in the state.


Wednesday's hearing of the Senate Health Committee saw further public support for SCR14 (Craig-Williams), which would declare racism a public health crisis in Ohio. Those offering proponent testimony included concerned citizens, as well as health care providers, business groups and other advocacy organizations. Proponent Jessica Roach, CEO of infant mortality advocacy group Restoring Our Own Through Transformation (ROOTT), emphasized that racism is a public health risk factor, rather than an individual's race or ethnicity.


CORONAVIRUS


Gov. Mike DeWine emphasized basic precautions like distancing and mask use Tuesday at his COVID-19 briefing, and underwent a nasal swab test alongside First Lady Fran DeWine and Lt. Gov. Jon Husted on live television. Servicemembers from the Ohio National Guard, wearing masks, face shields, gloves and gowns, administered the tests to the DeWines and Husted, shortly after the governor talked about efforts to offer more pop-up testing sites. The administration recently lifted restrictions that had limited testing to health care workers and other high-risk populations, meaning anyone can be tested now regardless of whether they're showing symptoms or have a doctor's authorization.


The 1851 Center for Constitutional Law has filed a lawsuit on behalf of 40 child care centers across Ohio to enjoin the Ohio Department of Health (ODH) from continuing to enforce its May 29 public health order limiting the number of children the facilities can legally supervise. "The May 29 order severely reduces the number of children each adult staff member may supervise and the number of children who may be in the same room at any one time, even though the statutes governing day cares expressly protect their right to care for larger groups of children," the 1851 Center said in a news release.


The Ohio Department of Health reported Thursday the highest number of daily COVID-19 cases since mid-April, an increase of 892 over the day before, the fourth-highest daily total since the beginning of the pandemic. Gov. Mike DeWine said the increase is not attributable to increased testing, according to analysts he’s consulted. While cases were up substantially, the numbers of deaths, hospitalizations and intensive care unit admissions were below their respective 21-day averages. "In essence, this is the highest number, in a sense, that we've had," DeWine said. "It is important to note that in today's case increase, almost 60 percent of these individuals are in the 20-49-year-old range."


A group of dance studios became the latest entities to sue the Ohio Department of Health (ODH) and state leaders over pandemic-related closures, filing in the Lake County Court of Common Pleas.


CRIME AND PUNISHMENT


The progressive think tank Policy Matters Ohio on Thursday released a legislative brief that had been in the works before COVID-19, and after another committee delay for drug sentencing reform bill SB3 (Eklund-O'Brien), which had been scheduled for a long-awaited and hotly contested vote in the Senate Judiciary Committee Wednesday, June 24 after five years of work and countless changes. Justice reform consultant Piet van Lier of Policy Matters said the white paper exposes felony drug sentencing's negative impact on public health both in- and outside the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction (DRC) and county jails.


ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT


The Ohio Third Frontier Commission has approved $5.34 million to support new technology and products after meeting Wednesday, with several grants awarded for health care products. "Advancing these new ideas and solutions continues Ohio's great history of innovation," said Lydia Mihalik, director of the Development Services Agency (DSA) and chair of the commission. "Innovation is in our DNA, and these are the technologies and companies that will keep Ohio moving forward."


ECONOMY


A recent report released by the American Hotel & Lodging Association (AHLA) found Ohio will lose $242.1 million in state and local tax revenue during 2020 due to the sharp drop in travel demand, hotel operations and room occupancy. There will be additional losses in excise tax, fees and property taxes that were not calculated at the state level.


EDUCATION


Management and union officials at Ohio's largest school districts detailed Monday their concerns with the academic, financial and practical challenges of returning to classrooms in the fall after spring's hasty interruption of in-person learning because of the coronavirus pandemic. Those issues range from how federal coronavirus funding will be distributed to the need to find and buy thousands and thousands of gallons of hand sanitizer. Leaders from the Ohio 8 Coalition of Urban Schools held a videoconference Monday to discuss topics including federal funding, curriculum and testing, and the logistics of social distancing and other hygiene practices.


Several Ohio charter schools run by management company Concept Schools filed a lawsuit recently in the Ohio Supreme Court alleging the Ohio Department of Education (ODE) wrongly denied them quality incentive funding provided in the recent biennial budget, HB166 (Oelslager). The budget bill provided incentive payments of $1,750 for each economically disadvantaged student and $1,000 for other students for schools that meet certain quality criteria relating to academic performance, sponsor ratings and other factors.


School management groups expressed appreciation Wednesday for the deference to local control found in Sen. Matt Huffman's (R-Lima) reopening legislation but declined to offer their support for the bill, saying sometimes statewide rules are justified. Teachers unions opposed the bill. Huffman's legislation, SB320, would leave reopening decisions solely to local school officials for the coming academic year and expressly prohibit other public officials from preventing reopening, ordering closings or requiring adoption of health safety measure and guidelines for addressing COVID-19.


The Senate Education Committee discussed but did not act Wednesday on a potential amendment to school safety legislation that would stem funding losses for online dropout prevention and recovery schools (DOPR) next academic year, prompted by the imminent closing of one Southwest Ohio school. Sen. Andrew Brenner (R-Powell) said Greater Ohio Virtual School's leadership is likely to vote to shut down operations soon absent assistance, but nearby school leaders in Warren County support the school and want it to be able to remain open.


The Ohio Facilities Construction Commission (OFCC) gave the go-ahead Thursday for nine local school building projects that would allow districts to get a head start on portions of larger plans using their own money, with the promise of having the state kick in funding once they become eligible for the traditional Classroom Facilities Assistance Program (CFAP). The commission also approved the state's contribution toward the new stadium for the Crew SC soccer team in Columbus.


ELECTIONS 2020


The latest Quinnipiac Poll released Wednesday looks at Ohio -- "a state that has picked the eventual presidential winner since 1964" -- and finds a dead heat. Former Vice President Joe Biden received 46 percent support, while President Donald Trump received 45 percent in a general election matchup. Among Republicans, Trump wins 92-5 percent, while Democrats go for Biden 93-3 percent. Independents are divided, with Trump receiving 44 percent and Biden getting 40 percent.


U.S. Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) said he isn't sure whether he'll attend the Republic National Convention (RNC) for the renomination of President Donald Trump or not. Portman told reporters Thursday his attendance to the Florida convention will depend on where the coronavirus is by the end of August, but he said if he does go, he will take precautions by wearing a mask.


The Democratic National Convention Committee (DNCC) announced plans for a scaled-down convention Wednesday to be held August 17-20 in Milwaukee. The convention will host virtual events and has changed locations to support a smaller crowd. Delegates have been told not to travel to Milwaukee as they will cast votes remotely, even for the presidential nomination. Organizers also announced that large-scale events, such as a welcome reception for delegates and media and a party for volunteers, are cancelled due to coronavirus concerns.


Vice President Mike Pence and Senate President Larry Obhof (R-Medina) were part of a delegation at Lordstown Motors Corporation Thursday for the unveiling of its new all-electric "Endurance" truck model. Gov. Mike DeWine and Lt. Gov. Jon Husted also visited Lordstown on Wednesday. The company, which was announced last November, is located at the former General Motors facility. It plans to have sales start in January 2021.


EMPLOYMENT/UNEMPLOYMENT


Ohio's unemployment rate was 13.7 percent in May 2020, down from a revised 17.6 percent in April, according to new data released by the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS) on Friday. Ohio's nonagricultural wage and salary employment increased 127,100 over the month, from a revised 4,704,000 in April to 4,831,100 in May 2020.


For the week ending June 20, the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS) reported 34,553 initial jobless claims to the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL). That number is slightly higher than last week's total, which was 32,788.


ENERGY


Shale oil and gas production slid 13-15 percent in January-March compared to the previous quarter, with year-over-year numbers posting a 4.6 percent decline for natural gas. Total barrels of oil, however, climbed 16 percent over January-March 2019 in the recent first quarter, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) reports.


ENVIRONMENT


The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (Ohio EPA) is now accepting public comments on its plan to study the state's largest rivers, the agency has announced. Comments will be accepted through Wednesday, July 8, according to a news release from Ohio EPA. "Large rivers are waterways that drain more than 500 square miles of land. This is the first year of Ohio EPA's statewide look at the state's largest rivers. Results will serve as a baseline for comparisons in future studies," Ohio EPA said. Public comments may be submitted to EPATMDL@epa.ohio.gov through July 8.


Forty-five local health departments and one sanitary district are sharing $795,070 in grant funding from the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (Ohio EPA) for mosquito control activities, the agency announced Monday. The grants include more than $139,000 to remove scrap tires, which can become breeding grounds for mosquito larvae. The funding will help mitigate the spread of mosquito-borne viruses such as Zika, West Nile and La Cross Encephalitis, Ohio EPA said in a news release.


The Ohio Air Quality Development Authority (OAQDA) has approved $135,000 in financing to Kroner Dry Cleaners, the agency announced. The Cincinnati-based, family-owned dry cleaning and laundry business will be using the revenue bond to purchase and install two halogen-free solvent machines that use environmentally-friendly solvents instead of perchloroethylene, a known carcinogen, OAQDA said in a news release.


FEDERAL


Ohio could see a new National Guard Readiness Center, facility improvements at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base (WPAFB) and more than $2.2 billion for upgrades to Abrams tanks and Stryker vehicles at the Joint Systems Manufacturing Center (JSMC) in Lima under the U.S. Senate's FY21 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), according to releases from U.S. Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH). The U.S. House of Representatives has its own FY21 NDAA bill, while the Senate version was filed on Tuesday.


GENERAL ASSEMBLY/STATEHOUSE


Gov. Mike DeWine Friday said the Ohio State Highway Patrol has launched a criminal investigation after protestors vandalized the Ohio Statehouse Thursday evening with red handprints on the building. DeWine issued a statement saying he has spoken with Ohio State Highway Patrol Col. Richard Fambro about security at the Statehouse, "and I shared with him my anger and disgust at the vandalism that occurred."


The Ohio State Conference of the NAACP and the A. Phillip Randolph Institute have joined the calls for Sen. Steve Huffman (R-Tipp City) to resign after comments he made during a hearing referring to the "colored population." Huffman has apologized for the comments made during a June 9 Senate Health, Human Services and Medicaid Committee hearing on SJR14 (Williams-Craig), which would declare racism a public health crisis. Senate President Larry Obhof (R-Medina) told Ohio media that he plans racial sensitivity training for the chamber.


Sen. Cecil Thomas (D-Cincinnati) said Friday that he will introduce a joint resolution to remove the exception for slavery from the Ohio Constitution. Thomas noted that Article 1, Section 6 of the Ohio Constitution states "There shall be no slavery in this state; nor involuntary servitude, unless for the punishment of crime." He said his resolution would delete the phrase "unless for the punishment of crime." "This archaic exception for slavery should be removed," said Thomas. "It speaks to the inhumane treatment of black Americans as chattel and does not belong in the supreme law of Ohio, our Constitution."


Even though Columbus State Community College (CSCC) and the city of Columbus have announced the removal of their Christopher Columbus statues because the explorer enslaved and murdered thousands of indigenous people, House Speaker Larry Householder (R-Glenford) said he personally believes the Ohio Statehouse's Columbus statue should stay where it is. "Historical figures are always subject to facts, fiction, myth and personal perspectives. Because a certain memorial has been erected to acknowledge a significant accomplishment does not mean that person was without fault -- it just recognizes that particular accomplishment," said Householder, who is chair of the Capitol Square Review and Advisory Board (CSRAB).


Draft legislation to implement recommendations of the Sunset Review Committee has been released by the office of Sen. Kristina Roegner (R-Hudson), the current chair. Sixteen entities would be abolished upon the effective date of the bill if passed as proposed. The bill recommends all other boards and commissions reviewed by the committee be renewed by the Legislature, and would "slightly" modify the committee structure according to Roegner's office. Instead of the current review of around 170 boards and commissions every four year, the committee would review half of them each biennium to learn more about their work.


Speaker of the House Larry Householder (R-Glenford) Tuesday announced the appointment of Rep. Adam Holmes (R-Nashport) as vice chair of the House Health Committee, replacing former Rep. Don Manning (R-New Middletown), who died earlier this year.


Ahead of a planned Senate committee vote on drug sentencing overhaul measure SB3 that ultimately did not go off, former Justice Paul Pfeifer of the Ohio Judicial Conference spoke with Hannah News Tuesday on an OJC proposal to Eklund and Senate President Larry Obhof (R-Medina). "We have not moved from our views that possession should remain a felony" -- a past non-starter for Eklund and other likeminded legislators -- "but I do suggest treating a first and second offense in the way we treat any medical condition or mental health diagnosis," the OJC director says, calling it "another way to look at it."


Legislation providing $300 million to the Ohio Facilities Construction Commission (OFCC) and $255 million to the Ohio Public Works Commission (PWC) is headed to Gov. Mike DeWine's desk following the Senate's concurrence with House amendments to SB4 (Rulli-Kunze). The OFCC will be able to use the new capital funds during the FY21-22 biennium to support school construction and renovation projects, while the PWC can use its new funding for the State Capital Improvement Program and the greenspace component of the Clean Ohio Conservation Program. Wednesday’s Senate session also included passage of SCR15 (Hackett), urging the federal government to select Ohio to host the permanent headquarters of the U.S. Space Command; HB341 (Ginter), which deals with the administration of drugs for addiction treatment; and SB288 (Gavarone), which clarifies that student athletes can wear religious apparel while participating in sports.


House Democratic Leader Emilia Strong Sykes (D-Akron) Wednesday joined Democratic lawmakers to urge House Republican leaders to call the chamber back into session to address several critical issues facing the state, including health issues and the economy amid the coronavirus pandemic, systemic racism and police reform, questions surrounding the November election and looming state budget shortfalls.


The Senate Transportation, Commerce and Workforce Committee shifted its licensing review to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) Wednesday, having previously heard from Department of Commerce representatives.


GOVERNOR


Gov. Mike DeWine signed four bills into law Friday, June 19:


  • HB11 (G. Manning-Howse), regarding maternal health.

  • HB65 (Carfagna), regarding reports of safety incidents at child care centers.

  • HB164 (Ginter), regarding pandemic flexibility for schools and student religious expression.

  • HB481 (Fraizer), an appropriations omnibus and land conveyance bill.

Appointments made during the week include the following:

  • Joseph J. Kerola of Hubbard (Trumbull County) to the Youngstown State University Board of Trustees for a term beginning June 25, 2020 and ending April 30, 2029.

  • Galatiani G. Lopuchovsky of Poland (Mahoning County) to serve as the student member on the Youngstown State University Board of Trustees for a term beginning June 25, 2020 and ending April 30, 2022.

  • Mark Hatcher of Lewis Center (Delaware County) reappointed to the Central State University Board of Trustees for a term beginning July 1, 2020 and ending June 30, 2029.

  • Donald L. Mason of Zanesville (Muskingum County) reappointed to the Kent State University Board of Trustees for a term beginning May 17, 2020 and ending May 16, 2029.

  • Russell L. Martin of Powell (Delaware County) to the Bowling Green State University Board of Trustees for a term beginning June 24, 2020 and ending May 17, 2029.

  • Estee M. Miller of Oakwood (Paulding County) to serve as the student member on the Bowling Green State University Board of Trustees for a term beginning June 25, 2020 and ending May 17, 2022.

  • Jack Cohen of New Richmond (Clermont County) to serve as the student member on the University of Cincinnati Board of Trustees for a term beginning June 25, 2020 and ending May 13, 2022.

  • Joshua Tidd of Lima (Allen County) to serve as the student member on the Northeast Ohio Medical University Board of Trustees for a term beginning June 30, 2020 and ending June 29, 2022.

  • Donald L. Plotts of Mount Gilead (Morrow County) reappointed to the Marion Technical College Board of Trustees for a term beginning April 30, 2020 and ending April 29, 2023.

  • Paul M. Booth of Cincinnati (Hamilton County) reappointed to the Ohio Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday Commission for a term beginning June 25, 2020 and ending Dec. 30, 2022.

  • Zaheer Hasan of Waterville (Lucas County), Avraham L. Goldstein of Columbus (Franklin County), Larry L. Macon Sr. of Richfield (Summit County) and Jeanne M. Bessette of Cincinnati (Hamilton County) reappointed to the Advisory Board of the Governor's Office of Faith-based and Community Initiatives for terms beginning May 5, 2020 and ending May 4, 2021.

  • Trina L. Buettner of Defiance (Defiance County) to the State Board of Pharmacy for a term beginning June 25, 2020 and ending June 30, 2023.

  • Randall Blanchard of Dublin (Delaware County) and Bruce T. Hale of Akron (Summit County) to the Ohio Board of Motor Vehicle Repair for terms beginning June 25, 2020 and ending Jan. 1, 2021 and Jan. 1, 2023, respectively.

  • Thomas W. Johnson of Columbus (Franklin County) to the Environmental Review Appeals Commission for a term beginning July 6, 2020 and ending Oct. 22, 2022.

  • Michael Gonsiorowski of Bexley (Franklin County) to the Ohio Higher Educational Facility Commission for a term beginning June 25, 2020 and ending Jan. 1, 2026.

  • Gordon M. Gough of Dublin (Franklin County) reappointed to the Industrial Commission Nominating Council for a term beginning June 25, 2020 and ending Oct. 20, 2023.

Gov. Mike DeWine Thursday announced the appointment of Larry N. Heiser to serve as a judge on the Marion County Family Court and of Jon M. Ickes to serve as a judge on the Sandusky County Court of Common Pleas, General and Domestic Relations Division. Heiser, of Marion, will assume office on Monday, July 13, and must run for election on Nov. 3, 2020, for the remainder of the term ending Feb. 8, 2023. Heiser is replacing Judge Deborah Alspach, who retired from the Marion County Family Court on Feb. 1, 2020. Ickes, of Fremont, will assume office on Monday, July 6, and must run for election on Nov. 3, 2020 to retain the seat for the term ending Dec. 31, 2020. Ickes is replacing Judge John P. Dewey, who retired from the Sandusky County Court of Common Pleas, General and Domestic Relations Division on May 31, 2020.


HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES


At Tuesday's virtual RecoveryOhio Advisory Council meeting, members spent most of their time discussing the benefits and barriers to telehealth, which has seen a surge in use amid the coronavirus pandemic. Lois Hochstetler, assistant director of Community Treatment Services at the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services (OhioMHAS) gave a presentation on a series of eight listening sessions, six for professionals and two for individuals living with or recovering from mental illness, including parents of children suffering from mental illness, conducted by the department on participants' feelings about telehealth.


HIGHER EDUCATION


The Ohio Department of Higher Education (ODHE) is now collaborating with the Ohio Children's Alliance (OCA) to run the "Ohio Reach" program -- a statewide initiative to support Ohio's foster youth as they pursue a college education. ODHE is now partnering with the Ohio Children's Alliance to manage the program and take it to scale across all of Ohio's public universities and colleges, OCA explained in a released.


New research from the University of Toledo (UT) Department of Psychology suggests individuals' loneliness appears to be lessened the more they personally feel affected by the coronavirus pandemic. Researchers said the study is aimed at establishing a baseline of how COVID-19 and social distancing measures are affecting Americans' mental health.


The latest episode in "Policy Brief," a video series produced by Ohio State University's (OSU) John Glenn College of Public Affairs, featured OSU Associate Vice President for State Relations Brian Perera sitting down with Glenn College Dean Trevor Brown to offer his perspective on how the COVID-19 pandemic is affecting state finances. Perera joined OSU's government relations staff in 2014 after working at the Ohio Senate for 23 years, including as deputy chief of staff for budget and finance.


Ohio University (OU) announced new details Friday for the safety protocols the school will take as it looks to reopen for the fall 2020 semester. The university plans to use a combination of face coverings, physical distancing, hand hygiene, limited density in indoor spaces, control of the flow of traffic into and around buildings, continued employee teleworking when possible, and symptoms and contact tracing to mitigate the spread of the virus, university President Duane Nellis told the OU community in a letter.


Wright State University (WSU) announced earlier this week it has started notifying employees of involuntary position eliminations. Wright State said approximately 50 employees on campus would be affected. Some will not have contracts renewed; some are retiring, while others will be provided notice or other applicable options. The move is another step the university has taken in the face of shrinking revenues as a result of the coronavirus.


Jeffery Allen, former dean of the College of Health Sciences and Human Services at Clarion University in Pennsylvania, has been named dean of the Bitonte College of Health and Human Services at Youngstown State University (YSU). His appointment began earlier this week. Allen previously spent 20 years on the faculty at Wright State University. He replaces Joe Mosca, who retired earlier this year.


Sen. Teresa Fedor (D-Toledo) is calling for the resignation of Christopher Cooper, dean of the University of Toledo (UT) College of Medicine and Life Sciences (COMLS) and chair of the UT Physicians Board. "During your tenure, the University of Toledo Medical Center (UTMC) has seen a mass exodus of doctors, patients, programs and profits," Fedor said in a letter calling for his resignation. "Your most recent faculty evaluation shows many lack confidence in your leadership and are frustrated by the secrecy surrounding your decision-making, especially on matters involving the affiliation agreement."


Lori E. Varlotta will step down as president of Hiram College effective September 30, 2020, the college announced recently. Varlotta has accepted a position as president of California Lutheran University in Thousand Oaks, California. Varlotta became the college's 22nd president and first female president in July 2014 after serving as senior vice president for planning, enrollment management and student affairs at California State University, Sacramento.


Ohio University's Scripps College of Communication is offering new communications-related graduate certificate programs designed to educate graduate students and professionals in practical applications of communication, beginning with crisis communication.


Ohio State University (OSU) announced Monday submissions of SAT or ACT test scores are optional for current high school students and transfer students applying to the Columbus campus for 2021.


Research has shown that children who are at high risk of being mistreated at home -- who live in poverty or have parents who use drugs or have mental health problems -- are more likely to start smoking. Because abused and neglected children are often unsupervised, these teens may have easy access to cigarettes and other substances that they use to deal with anxiety and other trauma-related symptoms. A recent study out of Ohio State University (OSU) shows that physical abuse of children in high-risk homes, especially when they're toddlers or teens, dramatically increases the odds that their adolescent experimentation with cigarettes will lead to a heavy smoking habit.


The rapid politicization of the COVID-19 pandemic can be seen in messages members of the U.S. Congress sent about the issue on Twitter, a new analysis out of Ohio State University (OSU) found. Using artificial intelligence and resources from the Ohio Supercomputer Center, researchers conducted an analysis that covered all 30,887 tweets that members sent about COVID-19 from the first one on Jan. 17 through March 31.


HOUSING/HOMELESSNESS


Ohio saw just three quarters as many home sales in May as in the same year last month as the pandemic slowed the market, according to Ohio Realtors. The 11,794 sales in May compare to 15,723 sales a year earlier. Year-to-date sales also lag activity for the same period of 2019, with 53,330 sales in the first five months of this year versus 57,330 last year.


JUDICIAL


The Board of Commissioners overseeing attorney theft is awarding restitution to defrauded former clients of the capital-area lawyer who aided and abetted Tattoo-Gate informer and onetime Ohio State University (OSU) football player Christopher Cicero in the unauthorized practice of law.


Ohio courts cannot impose unlimited restraints on future social media posts even when someone under a civil stalking protection order (CSPO) has a history of abusive speech approaching defamation, the Ohio Supreme Court ruled unanimously last week.

As states continue opening up businesses and other aspects of daily life after a shutdown to contain the spread of COVID-19, the U.S. courts system released a new comprehensive report on how to conduct federal jury trials and convene grand juries during the pandemic. The report details a number of factors to consider, from changes to prospective juror questionnaires to creating safe spaces for jurors to deliberate safely. "Jury trials are the bedrock of our justice system, expressly provided for in the Constitution and in the Sixth and Seventh Amendments," the report says. "When each court determines that the time is right, the judiciary must reconstitute jury trials during the COVID-19 pandemic."


The Ohio Board of Professional Conduct says law firms retained by government agencies cannot also represent landowners opposing agency-backed projects unless counsel secures written consent from both parties waiving any conflicts of interest. In one of two "non-binding" opinions, the attorney conduct panel responds to a formal opinion request involving a community mental health board, a proposed zoning variance for a board-funded domestic violence shelter, a citizens' group opposing the shelter, and a law firm retained both by the landowners and the mental health board.


PENSIONS


William J. Neville will become executive director of the State Teachers Retirement System (STRS) following the retirement of Michael Nehf next month, the system's Board of Trustees decided unanimously Tuesday. Neville is now chief legal officer for STRS, leading the legal and governmental relations departments. Nehf will remain as executive director until the transition process is completed, likely sometime in July.


PEOPLE


The Ohio Farm Bureau Federation informed Hannah News on Friday that its vice president of public policy, Yvonne Lesicko, died unexpectedly Thursday evening. She was 48. She is survived by her husband Scott and son Oscar.


The Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services Friday announced the appointment of Frank Beel as chief executive officer (CEO) of Twin Valley Behavioral Healthcare (TVBH). Beel will replace Bob Short, who has been serving as interim CEO since February 2020 following the retirement of Veronica Lofton.


Sheila Trautner of Taste Hospitality Group has been installed as the 91st chairperson of the Ohio Restaurant Association's (ORA) Board of Directors, the group announced recently. Trautner began her role last week during a Zoom call for the ORA annual meeting and a board of directors meeting.


POLITICS


The Ohio Republican Party's State Central and Executive Committee Friday passed a resolution condemning the party's former chairman and revoking his honorary title that was given after he was forced out three years ago. The resolution comes after Matt Borges told media outlets that he had formed a political action committee, known as Right Side PAC, that will target Republican voters to convince them to vote against President Donald Trump in November.


POLLS/STUDIES


As the U.S. is in the throes of the COVID-19 pandemic and a heated 2020 presidential election year, a recent Pew Research Center report found that Republicans and Democrats place their trust in two nearly inverse news media environments. Overall, Republicans, and Republican-leaning independents, view many popular sources of news across a range of platforms as untrustworthy. At the same time, Democrats, and independents who lean Democratic, see most of those sources as credible and rely on them to a far greater degree, according to the survey of 12,043 U.S. adults conducted Oct. 29 to Nov. 11, 2019, on Pew's American Trends Panel.


PUBLIC SAFETY


Ohio Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) President Gary Wolske said mayors and city council members are adding to the "chaos" being seen across the state as protesters continue to demonstrate against the police killings of George Floyd and other unarmed Black individuals. "Policing is dangerous enough work without politicians creating conditions that make it even more difficult. We understand the unrest. We won't stand with officers who tarnish the badge. But we can't stand by, either, and allow politicians to put police in danger through arbitrary actions - many of which were meant to -- but don't -- calm the protests," Wolske said in a news release.


Senate Democrats said Thursday that lawmakers should press for reforms to restore Ohioans' trust in police, including bolstering training requirements for peace officers, prohibiting citation quotas and enacting statewide policing and reporting standards. Minority Leader Kenny Yuko (D-Richmond Heights) commented that such reforms are "400 years overdue," and that protests following the death of George Floyd are the result of pent-up frustrations being felt nationwide. He said Floyd's death was not an isolated incident.


STATE GOVERNMENT


While it is shifting gears to aid the pandemic recovery efforts, Lt. Gov. Jon Husted said the InnovateOhio initiative's overall mission to advance new technology in the state will remain the same. He spoke during Tuesday's meeting of the InnovateOhio Executive Committee, where Husted and committee members said the recovery could provide opportunities to further advance the state's position.

TRANSPORTATION/INFRASTRUCTURE


Ohio drivers face the possibility of more speed traps and less power to fight traffic tickets in the wake of a high court opinion upholding laser technology without trial evidence and Ohio House legislation empowering townships to stop drivers on interstate highways crossing their jurisdictions. The Ohio Supreme Court ruled 6-1 this month that police laser guns -- distinct from traffic radar -- can be considered "sufficiently reliable" from generally held scientific principles and without expert testimony, similar to the Court's holding on police radar in East Cleveland v. Ferrell (1958), which was decided two years before the development of laser technology, 33 years before its adoption by law enforcement (1991), and 22 years before the state's first official evidentiary standards in the Ohio Rules of Evidence (1980).


UTILITIES


Leading voices on Capitol Square say HB246's (Vitale) overhaul of utility ratemaking will politicize the Ohio Consumers' Counsel (OCC) Governing Board with House and Senate appointees compromised by campaign donations and further slant the playing field against everyday Ohioans, including the elderly and the poor, in favor of wealthy corporate interests before the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO).


WORKERS' COMPENSATION


The Bureau of Workers' Compensation (BWC) has seen a $456 million decrease in net position over the fiscal year through May 31, members of the BWC Board of Directors were told Thursday, but the bureau still had $10.8 billion. Administrator/CEO Stephanie McCloud also discussed continued pandemic response efforts and measures taken as a result of protests over the killings of George Floyd and several others recently. Following a recommendation from the audit committee, the board approved the FY21 budget totaling $342 million.


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

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