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Week in Review June 3, 2024


Ohio statehouse government affairs week in review January 2023


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

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


ABORTION


Abortion rights organization Pro-Choice Ohio will now be known as "Abortion Forward," the organization announced Thursday. The team at Abortion Forward will continue to be led by Executive Director Kellie Copeland, who has served as executive director of Pro-Choice Ohio since 2002 and who was the treasurer of the successful Ohioans United for Reproductive Rights ballot initiative campaign.


ARTS, SPORTS AND ENTERTAINMENT


The Museum of Illusions opened Friday, May 31 in Cleveland at the May Building, 186 Euclid Avenue. Part of a global chain with locations in over 25 countries, the museum features interactive and immersive installations. "Each state-of-the-art museum offers an exciting and interactive journey for all age groups while explaining the science and mechanics behind enthralling optical illusions through fun and games. The fascinating holograms, mind-bending illusion rooms, and astonishing exhibits never fail to trick visitors' minds, puzzle their perceptions, and show them a whole new world of the seemingly impossible and unbelievable," the company said on social media.


BALLOT ISSUES


A three-judge panel of the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled 2-1 Wednesday that Attorney General Dave Yost must forward a proposed constitutional amendment on qualified immunity on to the next step in the ballot initiative process, but Yost's office said Thursday he will ask the full appellate court to review that ruling. Campaign organizers have filed several times to put the qualified immunity issue on the ballot but have been repeatedly blocked by Yost's determinations that their petition summary is not an accurate representation of what the amendment would do. The Ohio Supreme Court and a federal district judge denied their requests to overrule Yost. Yost's office is asking for en banc review by all judges of the Sixth Circuit, according to a statement from his communications director, Bethany McCorkle.


DISABILITIES


The Ohio Developmental Disabilities (DD) Council will present a series of workshops around the state this summer to give individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) the opportunity to write and perform their own stories of self-advocacy and personal growth for a wide audience. The series entitled, "My Story, My Life: A Storytelling Workshop for People with Developmental Disabilities," will be facilitated by Dr. Becca Monteleone, assistant professor of disability studies at the University of Toledo. Each of the free workshops will be limited to 12 participants and their supports, if needed. Workshops will be held in five locations around Ohio, including the following:


  • Putnam County, Thursday, June 20: Leipsic Community Center, 120 E. Main St., Leipsic.

  • Medina County, Thursday, July 11: Medina County Board of Developmental Disabilities, 4691 Windfall Rd., Medina.

  • Morgan County, Wednesday, July 24: Burr Oak Lodge & Conference Center, 10660 Burr Oak Lodge Rd., Glouster.

  • Brown County, Wednesday, July 31: Union Township Public Library, 27 Main St., Ripley.

  • Morrow County, Wednesday, August 21: The Village Gathering Place, 30 S. Main St., Mt. Gilead. (Performances will be held at the Morrow County Fair on Thursday, August 29 at 1 p.m.)


EDUCATION


The Ohio Department of Education and Workforce (DEW) announced the first batch of reading intervention programs that schools will be able to use for literacy instruction under new science-of-reading standards adopted in the budget and set to take effect in the coming school year. Per HB33 (Edwards), schools are required to use curriculum, instructional materials and intervention programs aligned to the science of reading starting in the 2024-2025 academic year. DEW is charged under the budget language with developing approved lists of these programs and materials. DEW took applications through early March from those interested in having their intervention programs on the list. The lists of approved programs and materials, as well as a list of programs and materials still under review by DEW, is at https://tinyurl.com/mwk5ywf7.


The Department of Public Safety's Ohio School Safety Center (OSSC) announced that registration is now open for the 2024 Ohio School Safety Summit. This year's summit will take place on Wednesday, July 31 and Thursday, Aug. 1 at the Greater Columbus Convention Center. The School Safety Summit will host presentations and training opportunities intended to foster cross-discipline conversations regarding student safety and wellness. Specific sessions will address topics like recent online threat trends, keeping schools safe from bullying, crime prevention through environmental design and animal-assisted intervention. A full session lineup, as well as information about lodging during the summit and registering an exhibit, can be viewed at https://tinyurl.com/bdbds464.


DEW wasted no time in devising and issuing a model policy on limiting cell phone use in schools, after lawmakers approved and Gov. Mike DeWine signed a new mandate for districts to adopt such policies. DEW and the DeWine administration announced the new policy Wednesday, two weeks after Gov. Mike DeWine signed HB250 (Miranda-Richardson), which requires schools to adopt a policy on limiting phone use during school hours by July 2025. DeWine had urged lawmakers to enact such a requirement in his "State of the State" address, citing phones' effects on student mental health and academic performance. The General Assembly obliged, appending the proposal to a bill on graduation requirements and passing it within a month of the speech. The two-page model policy includes a blanket ban on phone use on school property during school hours, with exceptions for purposes spelled out in HB250, like monitoring a health condition or using devices in furtherance of an individualized education plan (IEP). Schools are not required to prohibit all phone use during school hours under HB250.


Lawmakers were within their rights to curtail powers of the State Board of Education, a Franklin County judge wrote in a decision granting state leaders' request to dismiss litigation brought by board members. Judge Karen Phipps of Franklin County Common Pleas Court used the issue of standing to grant dismissal of the challenge to K-12 governance changes enacted in HB33 (Edwards) but she wrote that even if the board members could show standing, their arguments come down to a "public policy dispute." Board members Christina Collins and Michelle Newman had argued the HB33 changes, which relegated the board largely to educator licensure and transferred most other powers to an appointed cabinet director, violated the decades' old constitutional amendment creating the board. Phipps disagreed, noting that Article VI, Section 4 gives broad authority to lawmakers to establish the powers and structure of the board.


ELECTIONS 2024


Democratic National Committee Chair Jaime Harrison Tuesday said in a statement that the party will hold a virtual roll call ahead of Ohio's deadline for major parties to submit the names of their presidential and vice-presidential nominees in order to resolve the conflict with this year's DNC convention. Harrison's statement came amid wrangling in both Ohio legislative chambers on the first day of a special session called by Gov. Mike DeWine for the purpose of granting an exception for President Joe Biden to appear on the November ballot, as well as addressing foreign money in ballot issue campaigns. The House Tuesday introduced two separate measures to address those issues, while the Senate amended a pending bill and passed it. The issue came as Ohio law requires major parties to submit the names of their nominees by 90 days before the General Election, which falls on Wednesday, Aug. 7, before the DNC convention in Chicago, which is set to begin Monday, Aug. 19. The General Assembly had previously granted exceptions to both parties in 2012 and 2020 when there were conflicts.


The Ohio Democratic Party (ODP) Thursday announced the launch of "Organizing For Ohio" a coordinated campaign of "grassroots organizers and volunteers who will speak directly to voters across Ohio" in an effort to re-elect U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Democratic candidates in statewide to local races. "Fighting for the dignity of work means making sure hard work pays off for everyone," Brown said in a statement. "The Organizing For Ohio coordinated campaign will work to reach voters in all 88 counties and organize in communities across Ohio. With the grassroots support of Ohioans behind us, we'll continue our fight to stand up to special interests and level the playing field for Ohio workers."


ENERGY/UTILITIES


Ohio Consumers' Counsel Maureen Willis joins a small but influential crowd of Statehouse denizens scratching their heads at the slow 135th General Assembly but says the final quarter of 2024 and the 136th General Assembly could bring wanted movement in the utilities and energy sector. Willis, who says she has been establishing new relationships since her elevation as Ohio's fifth consumers' counsel last July, enters the role after two straight decades and previous tours with the agency, during which she's quietly observed a range of legislators, executives and adjudicators from the three branches of government make their mark on Capitol Square. "Because I've been in this business quite a while, I think people know me and know what they are going to get," says Willis, who is known for her candor. "Perhaps I shouldn't be so blunt. I've certainly been in the trenches with the attorneys and done a lot of Supreme Court work."


New rules from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) that are intended to reduce pollution from fossil fuel plants would endanger Ohio's energy grid, Gov. Mike DeWine and Lt. Gov. Jon Husted said in a letter to USEPA Administrator Michael Regan. DeWine and Husted said PJM Interconnection, energy users and energy producers have raised concerns about the reliability of the grid during recent meetings.


The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) charged the Office of Ohio Consumers' Counsel (OCC) Wednesday with a "collateral attack" on controversial supplemental transmission charges folded into an American Electric Power (AEP) billing rider and expanded by commissioners in recent weeks. OCC says the basic transmission cost rider (BTCR) forces residential customers to subsidize industrial consumers' discounted service -- otherwise known as "reasonable rate arrangements" -- but PUCO argues that the pilot program is a "benefit to customers" and in the "public interest." "PRO-TEC has already made a $700 million capital investment in Ohio and has increased the number of full-time employees at the Leipsic, OH facility to 427 employees. The proposed extension of the reasonable arrangement will include an additional $6.5 million capital investment," commissioners say.


ENVIRONMENT


Eleven fire departments in the Central Ohio region are expected to turn in approximately 2,360 gallons of aqueous film-forming foam (AFFF) material containing "forever chemicals" to be destroyed, the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (Ohio EPA) announced Wednesday. Gov. Mike DeWine announced the AFFF Takeback Program in March. The initiative is the first of its kind in the country, according to Ohio EPA.


GENERAL ASSEMBLY/STATEHOUSE


Judge Jaiza Page of Franklin County Common Pleas Court put on hold this month her order allowing voucher foes to question Senate President Matt Huffman (R-Lima) about his role in the expansion of the EdChoice program, agreeing to Huffman's request for a stay pending his appeal to the Ohio Supreme Court. A coalition of school districts and families have sued the state over the constitutionality of EdChoice, alleging it violates lawmakers' obligation to create a "common" school system and the constitutional prohibition on giving control of education funding to religious sects. Families whose children attend private schools on EdChoice scholarships have been granted status as intervening parties to defend the program alongside the state. As part of the litigation, the plaintiff districts sought to depose Huffman about his legislative work to expand EdChoice. Huffman asked Page to quash the subpoena, citing the legislative privilege established in the Ohio Constitution. Page blocked the deposition but allowed the plaintiffs to submit up to 20 written questions to Huffman about whom he communicated with on the FY22-23 biennial budget, 133-HB110 (Oelslager). Huffman appealed to the 10th District Court of Appeals, saying the written questions still violate legislative privilege. Judges there called his appeal premature, saying he could not claim violations of privilege before seeing the content of the questions or facing an order compelling him to respond. Huffman then turned to the Ohio Supreme Court, which is now considering whether to accept the case.


GENERAL ASSEMBLY/SPECIAL SESSION


The House Thursday in split votes approved special session bills HB1 (Seitz), which bars foreign contributions to ballot issue campaigns, and HB2 (Dobos), which extends out the deadline for major parties to submit the names of their presidential and vice presidential candidates. Both bills now head to the Senate, which will meet in a special session at noon on Friday to take the bills up. Both bills cleared the House Government Oversight Committee earlier in the day, with HB1 sponsor Rep. Bill Seitz (R-Cincinnati) introducing a substitute bill that he said would address six points of difference with Senate versions, including HB271 (Mathews), which the Senate passed on Tuesday. Seitz said the changes to the bill put everything into a new Ohio Revised Code section and is only five pages long compared to a previous version that was 20 pages. HB1 passed 64 to 31 along party-lines.


Regarding HB2, sponsor Rep. Dave Dobos (R-Columbus) said on the House floor that it is simple and straight forward. Rep. Jamie Callender (R-Concord) said passing the bill shows the Ohio General Assembly is a "fair and just body," while Rep. Gary Click (R-Vickery) said passing it is the right thing to do, while attacking Biden and others for what he said are efforts to keep former President Donald Trump off the ballot in other states. The bill passed 63 to 31, with all the "no" votes coming from Republicans.


The special session, called by Gov. Mike DeWine on Thursday, May 23, began, like many events at the Statehouse, with House and Senate Republicans failing to agree with how they should proceed, with House Speaker Jason Stephens (R-Kitts Hill) and Senate President Matt Huffman (R-Lima) taking different stances on whether this is a self-contained special session, where bill numbering starts over or whether it would be considered a special session day that is part of the ongoing General Assembly term, enabling consideration of pending bills. Stephens' spokesman Pat Melton said in a text message it would be considered a new session, and bill numbers would start over with HB1. But Huffman spokesman John Fortney said the governor's proclamation references existing bills and noted it's still the second year of the 135th General Assembly.


Late on Tuesday, Speaker Pro Tempore Scott Oelslager (R-North Canton) and Majority Floor Leader Bill Seitz (RCincinnati) issued the following statement regarding the special session: “As members who were present for the last special session, we cannot follow the logic being used by the Senate to conduct business during this special session. The Ohio Constitution clearly outlines the parameters for a special session, and prior precedent dictates the procedure. In consultation with the House clerk, we have reviewed all available journals from previous special sessions and have found no precedent for the actions of the Senate. While there is ample precedent for the principle that bills from the first year of a two-year General Assembly session carry over to the second year, those precedents are not applicable because a special session is not considered to be any part of the regular session.”


House Republicans introduced two new bills on the special session topics: HB1 (Seitz), an emergency measure to address foreign contributions; and HB2 (Dobos), addressing Biden's ballot access. But the Senate used pending legislation on the numbering of statewide ballot issues, HB271 (Mathews), as the vehicle for amendment language addressing both topics. The House Government Oversight Committee heard initial testimony on HB1 and HB2 Tuesday morning, while the Senate voted 21-8 to pass HB271 after amending it. Sen. Robert McColley (R-Napoleon), the Senate majority floor leader, moved the amendment to HB271, saying it would require Democrats to notify Ohio of their presidential nominee on the effective date of the legislation. He said the foreign contribution language in the amendment was narrowed from prior attempts to address objections, leaving enforcement for local ballot initiatives to county prosecutors and eliminating references to "any other funds" in the definition of contribution.


Meanwhile, the House Government Oversight Committee heard sponsor testimony on HB1 from Rep. Bill Seitz (R-Cincinnati), who said that while he believes it is illegal for foreign individuals to donate to Ohio campaigns based on federal law and an Ohio Elections Commission opinion issued in 2021, he felt it was important to codify it into Ohio law. The bill also is confined to statewide ballot initiatives and referendums. In addition, Rep. Dave Dobos (R-Columbus) gave sponsor testimony on HB2, which he said is a "simple, straightforward bill that states that a major political party shall certify to the secretary of state in writing the names of its candidates for president and vice-president nominated at its national convention not later than the 65th day before the 2024 general election. Once the nomination is received, the secretary must certify the forms of the official ballots to be used at the 2024 general election no later than the 60th day before that election."


On Wednesday, opponents and interested parties testified before the House Government Oversight Committee over concerns that foreign money in campaign legislation HB1 (Seitz) would chill citizen participation and give the attorney general an outsized role in the process. Opponents of the bill who testified included Arthur Lavin of Doctors Organized for Health Care Solutions, Spenser E. Dirrig of the Ohio Environmental Council Action Fund, citizen Laura Irvin, and D.J. Byrnes, who is better known by his online persona "the Rooster," as well as interested party Catherine Turcer of Common Cause Ohio. The committee also received written opposition testimony from eight people, and written interested party testimony from Jen Miller of the League of Women Voters of Ohio.


The Democratic National Committee's (DNC) plan to virtually nominate President Joe Biden as the party's nominee before Ohio's deadline nullified the need for a special session, House Minority Leader Allison Russo (D-Columbus) said Wednesday. "The DNC's intent to hold a virtual vote to put Biden on the ballot eliminates the urgency and, I think, primary reason of the special session," Russo said before she and other Democrats on the House Rules and Reference Committee voted against the rules report setting Thursday's special session calendar. "What we have on the table right now is a temporary fix. The real issue here, is we need a permanent fix to this issue that impacts not just this year or President Biden," Russo told reporters after the meeting. "I think the sense of urgency of doing a temporary fix is lost at this point, and frankly I'm not even sure we can get it across the finish line this week in either case. I mean, we'll see. If we're doing a permanent fix, that's one thing. I certainly don't think there is a sense of urgency about the other things they're trying to do -- the poison pill language, etc."


GREAT LAKES


The Ohio Lake Erie Commission (OLEC) has received a $5.8 million Great Lakes Environmental Justice Grant Program award, the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (Ohio EPA) announced Thursday. OLEC is one of four recipients of the grant, which aims to improve environmental outcomes in underserved and overburdened communities in the Great Lakes Basin, Ohio EPA said. The award is part of the federal Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. OLEC will use the money to develop and implement the Lake Erie Environmental Justice Grant Program. The initiative will be carried out in collaboration with Black Environmental Leaders Association (BEL) and Rural Action (RA) to ensure that historically under-resourced communities -- from urban centers to rural areas -- have increased ability to access funding to protect and restore Lake Erie.


HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES


Drug manufacturers would be barred from restricting supplies of discounted drugs or limiting the pharmacies at which they can be obtained by patients of safety-net clinics under proposals from Sen. Bob Hackett (R-London) and Reps. Adam Holmes (R-Nashport) and Marilyn John (R-Shelby). Leaders of multiple community health centers said at a press conference Tuesday these drug manufacturer tactics are diminishing the savings they see from the federal 340B program, which requires manufacturers to offer discounts to safety-net providers as a condition of participating in Medicare and Medicaid. Clinics must reinvest savings from the 340B program into services. Lost savings jeopardize their ability to provide services like dental care and substance abuse treatment, they said. The bills, HB488 and SB269, would prevent drug manufacturers from limiting the number of contract pharmacies that can be used to fill these prescriptions and from restricting supplies of those drugs.


Ohio Department of Health (ODH) Director Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff said respiratory virus levels remain low and that data is "encouraging" when asked about the possibility of a summer increase in COVID cases. His remarks came during a virtual press conference on mental health. Vanderhoff did tell reporters that Ohioans have to be aware of the potential for a "surge" and gave "basic recommendations" that apply to all respiratory viruses. Those include staying up-to-date with vaccinations, practicing good hygiene, and taking "reasonable steps" to ensure breathing the cleanest possible air, which can include wearing a mask. During the past month, Vanderhoff said respiratory virus activity -- such as COVID-19, RSV and the flu -- remained "low" in Ohio. There has been discussion of some new COVID variants, but he said they did not seem to be causing higher levels of severe illness. ODH also released weekly COVID-19 numbers Thursday. They included the following, compared to April 25 numbers:


  • 890 cases, down from 1,350.

  • 48 hospitalizations, down from 69.

  • Four ICU admissions, up from three.

  • Six deaths, down from 17.


HIGHER EDUCATION


The Biden administration has announced $7.7 billion in additional student loan debt forgiveness for 160,500 borrowers. The discharges are for three categories of borrowers: those receiving Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF); those who signed up for the Saving on a Valuable Education (SAVE) Plan and who are eligible for its shortened time-to-forgiveness benefit; and those receiving forgiveness on income-driven repayment (IDR) as a result of fixes made by the administration. The announcement brings the total loan forgiveness approved by the administration to $167 billion for 4.75 million borrowers. According to data from the U.S. Department of Education, about 108,440 Ohioans have received some debt cancellation through the PSLF, the SAVE Plan or an IDR plan. Recently, the U.S. Department of Education also announced an update on the timing of the payment count adjustment. The administrative fix is meant to ensure borrowers get credit for progress borrowers made toward IDR forgiveness and PSLF. Borrowers who would benefit from consolidating now have until June 30, 2024 to apply to consolidate. Borrowers can find out more about the payment count adjustment at https://tinyurl.com/me6xxx57.


The University of Toledo (UT) and ProMedica Health System recently signed a new Academic Affiliation Agreement that will last nearly a decade. The new agreement replaces the previous agreement that was first created in 2015 and continues the original intent of the partnership to attract and retain medical students, residents and fellows to Toledo and support access to high-quality health care in the community. The new agreement restructures the partnership through June 30, 2033. ProMedica will continue to provide financial support for the academic mission of the UT College of Medicine and Life Sciences. And the new academic partnership specifies the number of UT residents and in which specialties they will train at ProMedica facilities.


The Inter-University Council (IUC) of Ohio, which represents the state's public universities, will host a first-of-its-kind symposium on artificial intelligence (AI) next month on Tuesday, June 11 in the Statehouse Atrium. The event will feature discussions with industry experts, university presidents and state leaders on the role of AI in disinformation, jobs, cybersecurity, higher education and more. "Increasingly policymakers from across the country are recognizing the role higher education plays as a strategic asset for economic competitiveness, national security, and workforce development. We want to showcase what's being done on our campuses by our faculty and researchers who are collaborating with industry partners and governmental agencies to propel Ohio forward in this rapidly evolving field," IUC President Laura Lanese said in a written statement to Hannah News.


HOUSING/HOMELESSNESS


Two branches of state government are taking up the issue of "unauthorized occupants" as an emerging problem facing residential property owners. The House and Senate have heard three bills in May to prevent and remove squatters. Meanwhile, the Ohio Attorney General's Office has commenced review of owners' rights to eject interlopers from homes and apartments.


The DeWine administration announced Wednesday awards totaling $29.48 million through the Welcome Home Ohio program to improve housing access, with the funds supporting projects in 17 counties that are expected to create 263 owner-occupied, single-family homes. The announcement represents the first round of program funding, out of a total of $100 million in grants. Welcome Home Ohio also offers $50 million in nonrefundable tax credits to landbanks and eligible developers for rehab and new construction projects. It was created in the biennial budget, HB33 (Edwards), and is administered by the Ohio Department of Development (DOD).


JUDICIAL


A Cuyahoga County common pleas judge should not have taken on the wrongful death case of a woman who died after Dominion Energy Ohio shut off her gas service, because the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio was the proper venue, Ohio Supreme Court justices ruled Friday in an unsigned but unanimous opinion. The case stems from the January 2022 death of Virginia Vigrass, who'd refused Dominion's requests for a meter inspection, citing her immunocompromised status and risks of COVID-19, but was fully paid up on her bills at the time of the shutoff. Dominion shut off the gas Jan. 10 and her pipes froze and burst. J. William Vigrass, executor of Vigrass' estate, sued Dominion, claiming negligence, wrongful death and destruction of property. Dominion in turn asked Judge Peter Corrigan to dismiss the case, arguing the PUCO had exclusive jurisdiction because the case involved a utility service issue. Corrigan maintained jurisdiction on the grounds Vigrass' had brought common-law claims.


LIBRARIES


The State Library of Ohio Board announced it has awarded a combined total of $2,080,778 in federal Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) grants to go toward the statewide Libraries Connect Ohio core set of databases, to allow 17 public libraries to hire Guiding Ohio Online technology trainers, and to supplement state funding for the Ohio Library for the Blind and Print Disabled. "Awarding these federal LSTA funds to these programs represents the state library's commitment to supporting Ohio's libraries in their efforts to provide valuable programs and resources for the people who live and work in their communities," Interim State Librarian Beverly Cain said. "Many libraries have shared that it would not be possible for them to provide these services and resources without these funds."


LOCAL GOVERNMENT


Gov. Mike DeWine and Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction (DRC) Director Annette Chambers-Smith announced on Tuesday that more than $73 million has been awarded for the construction of three new jails and the renovation of two other facilities in Ohio. Funding for the new jails is being awarded through the Ohio Jail Safety and Security Program, from language included in HB33 (Edwards). The program was launched by DeWine in 2021 to help local communities with functionally obsolete and structurally failing jails. New project funding includes the following:


  • Adams County: $21,611,312

  • Jackson County: $32,819,178

  • Wyandot County: $19,475,000

  • Meigs County: $144,886

  • Morrow County: $4,318,182


MARIJUANA/HEMP


Ohio State Highway Patrol (OSHP) troopers appear to be following the state's new laws on marijuana paraphernalia, according to a report from the Ohio State University (OSU) Drug Enforcement and Policy Center (DEPC). The report, "An Examination of Marijuana Paraphernalia Incidents before and after Ohio's Vote to Legalize Recreational Marijuana," found that marijuana paraphernalia incidents dropped significantly following the implementation of Issue 2. Under the initiated statute, adults age 21 and older can legally possess marijuana paraphernalia. The report compared incident data from 29 days before passage of Issue 2, 29 days after passage but before implementation, and 29 days after implementation. The daily average number of incidents in the 29 days before passage was 4.66, while the daily average for the 29 days after passage but before implementation was 4.24. The daily average after implementation was 0.52.


Ohio Bound Inc. has been awarded a dispensary certificate of operation under the Ohio Medical Marijuana Control Program, the Ohio Department of Commerce Division of Cannabis Control announced Tuesday. The dispensary is located at 914 Cleveland Ave. in Columbus. The state of Ohio has now issued 124 medical marijuana dispensary certificates of operation.


MENTAL HEALTH


As the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services (OhioMHAS) continues to provide outreach and programs for people struggling with their mental health, the department recently gained new leadership. Last December, Gov. Mike DeWine nominated LeeAnne Cornyn as director of OhioMHAS. Her past positions like director of children's initiatives and deputy chief of staff have given her more than 20 years of experience in Ohio's state government. She is a graduate of Miami University and holds a law degree from Ohio State University. Cornyn took the position of former Director of OhioMHAS Lori Criss, who is now working at the Ohio State University Wexner Center. Before her work in Ohio's state government, Cornyn was an eighth grade science teacher in California. She said this allowed her to see the struggles that mental health issues and addiction disorders have on families.


Citing a growing number of claims submitted by providers to private insurance as well as a statewide perinatal mental health taskforce, the national Policy Center for Maternal Mental Health graded Ohio a C- for maternal mental health (MMH) for 2024, representing a slight improvement from the state's D+ rating in 2023. The center's scale shows that the number of such insurance claims submitted in Ohio was at least 10 percent each for prenatal and postpartum patients. Their report also credits the introduction of HCR16 by Reps. Anita Somani (D-Dublin) and Sharon Ray (R-Wadsworth), urging the state to support a coordinated approach to address the challenges surrounding maternal mental health. The resolution is one of several efforts happening statewide to address maternal and perinatal mental health issues.


Ohio Department of Health (ODH) Director Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff, Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services (OhioMHAS) Director LeeAnne Cornyn and RecoveryOhio Director Aimee Shadwick noted May's status as "Mental Health Awareness Month" as the month closes, discussing the importance of addressing mental health and substance use with reporters in a virtual press conference. Vanderhoff opened by referencing the awareness month designation and discussed actions the DeWine administration has taken to improve access to mental health treatment. "Mental health is health," he said, and it needs to be part of holistic approaches to health. He further shared statistics on behavioral health in Ohio and nationally, saying rates of depression for both youth and adults have increased in recent years. The most recent CDC statistics from 2020 showed 22 percent of Ohioans age 18 or older said they had been diagnosed with depression in their lifetime. Additional results from Ohio youth surveys in 2021 found more than 42 percent of high schoolers had felt "sad or hopeless nearly every day for at least two weeks in the prior year." The rate for middle schoolers was around 37 percent as well.


NATURAL RESOURCES


Wild turkey hunters across Ohio checked 15,535 birds during the spring 2024 season which concluded on Sunday, May 26, according to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) Division of Wildlife. The total statewide harvest represents all turkeys checked from April 20 to May 26, and includes the 1,785 birds taken during the two-day youth season April 13- 14. During the 2023 season, the total number of turkeys checked was 15,673. The three-year average for the spring season (2021, 2022, and 2023) is 14,030. Turkey hunters are required to record their harvest using Ohio's game check system. The top 10 counties for wild turkey taken in the 2024 season were Ashtabula (470), Belmont (454), Tuscarawas (449), Monroe (447), Washington (410), Gallia (400), Muskingum (397), Trumbull (396), Meigs (381), and Columbiana (377).


PENSIONS


State Teachers Retirement System (STRS) of Ohio Board members should have the same ability to obtain independent legal representation as the STRS executive director, board member Pat Davidson said during Thursday's STRS Governance Committee meeting. The proposal will be revised by committee members and in-house counsel and presented during the next STRS Governance Committee meeting, committee members decided in a 3-1 vote. During the committee's discussion on the item, STRS Board Chair Rudy Fichtenbaum said it is a "clear conflict of interest" to allow the Ohio Attorney General's Office to decide whether STRS can pay Fichtenbaum's legal fees when the AG is the person who brought the lawsuit against him.


PEOPLE


Long-time Dayton mayor and 2022 Democratic gubernatorial nominee Nan Whaley has been appointed Planned Parenthood Southwest Ohio Region's next president and CEO. The organization cited her "strong leadership, relationships and organizational skills" in Thursday's announcement.


PUBLIC SAFETY


Gov. Mike DeWine announced a "significant advancement" in the future of Ohio's firefighter and EMS training Tuesday as the administration broke ground on a five-story search and rescue tower at the State Fire Marshall's (SFM) Fire Academy. The $16.7 million investment at SFM's Reynoldsburg academy facility will provide firefighter and EMS trainees with a controlled, realistic environment for a range of rescue scenarios, the governor said.

Memorial Day weekend in Ohio saw substantially fewer traffic fatalities in 2024 than Memorial Day weekend in 2023, according to provisional numbers from the Ohio State Highway Patrol (OSHP). OSHP reported 17 deaths resulting from 14 crashes during the four-day period between Friday, May 24 and Monday, May 27, down from the 26 reported deaths during Memorial Day weekend 2023. Of the 14 fatal accidents, five involved a driver operating a vehicle under the influence, seven did not, and that status is unknown in two accidents. Four of the reported five fatalities in motorcycle accidents were not wearing helmets.


Over the holiday weekend from Friday, May 24 to Monday, May 27, the Ohio State Highway Patrol (OSHP) joined troopers from Ohio's five neighboring states to focus on seatbelt enforcement efforts. In Ohio, the effort resulted in 3,459 people who were issued seatbelt violations and an additional 97 people receiving child safety belt citations. The 6-State Trooper Project included officers from the Indiana State Police, Kentucky State Police, Michigan State Police, Pennsylvania State Police and West Virginia State Police in addition to OSHP. The multi-state effort ended in a total of 8,159 safety belt citations issued and 415 child safety seat violations.


VETERANS


The Biden administration recently announced one million claims have been granted through legislation that significantly expanded benefits and services for toxin-exposed veterans. The PACT Act, or Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics, was named for Sgt. 1st Class Heath Robinson of Columbus, who deployed to Kosovo and Iraq with the Ohio National Guard and died in 2020 from cancer as a result of toxic exposure during his military service. The act was signed in August 2022. The administration also said over 888,000 veterans and survivors across all 50 states and U.S. territories are now receiving new service-connected disability benefits. Ohio-specific data include 52,015 total claims received, 31,945 claims granted and 3,917 new U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) health care enrollees related to specific PACT Act authority.


The Ohio Department of Veterans Services (ODVS) recently announced registration has opened for the Ohio Veterans Conference, bringing together former service members and supporters across the state to connect them to resources, inspirational speakers, breakout sessions and networking opportunities. The event will be held from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 3 at the Ohio Union on the Ohio State University campus. Register via Eventbrite at https://tinyurl.com/yc8dfsmb. There will be day-long access to a resource fair, information on key services and remarks from several subject matter experts on health care, financial wellness, tax benefits and updates on relevant legislation. The keynote speaker is retired U.S. Army Gen. Dr. Rhonda Cornum, a surgeon, health care executive, author and former prisoner of war during the Gulf War. Her story will "illustrate the importance of pursuing resiliency and embracing whole health in our lives," ODVS said.


WORKFORCE


Ohio employers can now take advantage of federal tax credits of up to $9,600 for hiring individuals from certain designated groups, including restored citizens, public assistance recipients, individuals with disabilities and others who may face barriers to employment, according to Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS) Director Matt Damschroder. The federal Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC) provides tax credits ranging from $1,200 to $9,600 for employers of new hires, depending on the designated group. According to the IRS, an employer may claim the WOTC for an individual who is certified as a member of any of the following targeted groups:


  • The formerly incarcerated or those previously convicted of a felony.

  • Recipients of state assistance under part A of Title IV of the Social Security Act (SSA).

  • Veterans.

  • Residents in areas designated as empowerment zones or rural renewal counties.

  • Individuals referred to an employer following completion of a rehabilitation plan or program.

  • Individuals whose families are recipients of supplemental nutrition assistance under the Food and Nutrition Act of 2008.

  • Recipients of Supplemental Security Income benefits under Title XVI of the SSA.

  • Individuals whose families are recipients of state assistance under part A of Title IV of the SSA.

  • Individuals experiencing long-term unemployment.


More information about the WOTC from the IRS is available at https://tinyurl.com/44nhabb6.

 



 



 

 

 

[Story originally published in The Hannah Report. Copyright 2023 Hannah News Service, Inc.]



 



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