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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ARTS, SPORTS AND ENTERTAINMENT People in the still-struggling arts industry are concerned that the governor and legislative leaders are beginning to forget about them again, Ohio Citizens for the Arts (OCA) Executive Director Angela Meleca told Hannah News on Thursday, saying that Gov. Mike DeWine, Senate President Matt Huffman (R-Lima) and House Speaker Bob Cupp (R-Lima) should act immediately to send $50 million in American Rescue Plan (ARP) funding to arts organizations. ATTORNEY GENERAL Attorney General Dave Yost recently released the Missing Children Clearinghouse Report for 2020, noting that the 21,520 people reported missing had declined by 2,772 compared to 2019. Of the 16,332 reports of missing children, 97.2 percent were recovered safely by year's end while open source data indicated seven of them died. There were six attempted child abductions in 2020 -- down by 15 -- and half involved a suspect driving a vehicle. All reported incidents occurred in public spaces. There were also seven Amber Alerts issued, each ending with the safe recovery of the child, and 10 Endangered Missing Children Alerts. Eight of those children were recovered safely, while two died due to accidental drowning. FY22-23 BUDGET The Senate GOP's version of the FY22-23 budget, HB110 (Oelslager), would reduce income taxes by 5 percent across the board, Senate President Matt Huffman (R-Lima) and Senate Finance Committee Chair Matt Dolan (R-Chagrin Falls) announced Tuesday. Other tax reform provisions in the budget include exempting employment services and placement services from the sales tax, repealing the campaign contribution tax credit starting in tax year 2021 and extending the pandemic-related work-from-home municipal income tax provisions included in 133-HB197 (Powell-Merrin) until Dec. 31, 2021 although individuals can file for a refund in tax years 2021 and 2020. The Senate also removed both the House's proposed $190 million Ohio Residential Broadband Expansion Grant Program and the requirement that licensed child care programs be rated through the Step Up to Quality (SUTQ) program in order to provide publicly-funded child care, with Huffman noting the requirements have "caused substantial damage to the child care infrastructure …." Additionally, the sub bill removes the requirement that all child care programs be rated in the SUTQ third tier or higher by June 30, 2025. However, the Senate's budget would make it easier to qualify for publicly-funded child care by increasing the limit to 142 percent of the federal poverty level instead of the current level of 130 percent or the House-proposed 138 percent level. Other significant provisions in the Senate GOP's version of HB110 include the following:
Restores the Ohio Department of Agriculture's (ODAg) H2Ohio appropriations by adding $10 million per fiscal year.
Extends Medicaid postpartum coverage for women to one year, instead of the current 60-day limit.
Increases rates by 4 percent (2 percent per fiscal year) for services in intermediate care facilities for individuals with intellectual disabilities, adult day services and residential services provided under a developmental disabilities-administered waiver.
Provides a 6 percent rate increase (4 percent in FY22 and 2 percent in FY23) for private duty nursing, nursing, personal care, home care attendant/homemaker, assisted living, speech therapy and physical therapy for waiver-funded and state-funded providers under PASSPORT, Ohio Home Care, MyCare and Assisted Living.
Building on SB108 (S. Huffman-Romanchuk) and SB109 (Manning-Rulli), provides further relief in FY22 for bars and restaurants ($100 million), the lodging industry ($25 million), entertainment venues ($20 million) and new businesses ($10 million).
Senate Republicans said their school funding plan will use teacher salaries as the basis for calculations and will add more than $220 million on top of the House plan. The Senate plan maintains the House version's direct funding provisions for students in choice programs, and introduces a "gap aid" component for districts having trouble raising local funding, caucus leaders said. Included with the direct funding for charter, STEM school and scholarship program students are per-student increases in EdChoice funding, to $5,500 for K-8 students and $7,500 for high school students. The substitute bill also would eliminate the cap on EdChoice scholarships of 60,000 and expand eligibility for the performance-based EdChoice program to include several new criteria, opening the program to students placed as foster children or with guardians/legal custodians, or those who share a household with such students, and students who previously received the Peterson or autism scholarships but no longer need the special education services. The substitute bill would remove restrictions that prevent start-up charter schools from opening outside of "challenged" school districts. And it restores the funding pool for charter schools meeting certain quality criteria to $54 million per year as proposed by the governor; the House proposed $30 million. In addition, per-student facilities funding for brick-and-mortar charter and STEM schools would increase from $250 to $750. Weeks ago in budget hearings, Senate Finance Committee members pressed the Ohio Department of Medicaid (ODM) on the exclusion of an Ohio-based company from new managed care contracts, given its quality ratings from the agency and the economic implications. This week the Senate followed through on those concerns with a budget provision directing ODM to start the bidding process over. The new language in the substitute version of HB110 (Oelslager) accepted by the Senate Finance Committee this week requires ODM to suspend the procurement and do it over again in FY22, with new bidding criteria that "significantly take into account" factors such as whether a managed care company is based in Ohio, employment and other economic effects of contract awards, and a company's track record on service quality and customer satisfaction.
The Senate's version of the budget shortchanges schools, child care providers and low-income families, according to members of the Ohio Children's Budget Coalition. Children's Defense Fund-Ohio Executive Director Tracy Najera, Ohio Education Association (OEA) President Scott DiMauro and Pre4Cle Executive Director Katie Kelly held a press conference on Thursday to denounce many provisions in the substitute version of HB110 (Oelslager), which was accepted in the Senate Finance Committee earlier this week. As the Senate proceeds with its own school funding proposal as part of the proposed FY22-23 state budget, the "All In For Ohio Kids" coalition has launched a data tool documenting how what it terms the "four failures" of the state's current, funding system harms students in each Ohio school district, reinforcing the need for lawmakers to pass the Fair School Funding Plan in the current state budget. That plan is a part of the House version of the state budget, HB110 (Oelslager). The website can be found at https://www.allinforohiokids.com. CORONAVIRUS Following through on the governor's commitment to end many of the COVID-19 health mandates on Wednesday, June 2, ODH Director Stephanie McCloud Tuesday, June 1 signed an order to rescind several orders, specifying which health orders are being rescinded and which remain. Rescinded orders included the following:
Director's Order to Limit Access to Ohio's Jails and Detention Facilities.
Director's Order to Release Protected Health Information to Ohio's First Responders.
Director's Order Requiring the Use of Facial Coverings in Child Education Settings.
Director's Order for Retail and Business Compliance for Facial Coverings through the State of Ohio.
Second Amended Director's Order on Adult Day Support Services and Vocational Habilitation Services.
Third Amended Director's Order on the Opening of Senior Centers.
Third Amended Director's Order on the Opening of Adult Day Services Centers.
Orders remaining in effect include the following:
Order to Require Screening for Admission to State Operated Psychiatric Hospitals or to Department of Youth Services Facilities.
Director's Order Designating the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center a Public Health Laboratory.
Director's Order to Facilities to Notify Residents, Guardians and Sponsor of Positive or Probable Cases of COVID-19.
Director's Order Requiring Reporting and Notification Regarding COVID-19 Cases in Kindergarten through 12th Grade.
The second set of Ohioans to win Vax-a-Million drawing prizes Wednesday night were both from Northern Ohio, with Jonathan Carlyle of Toledo winning $1 million and Zoie Vincent -- a Mayfield Village resident in Cuyahoga County -- winning the full-ride scholarship. The Ohio Department of Health (ODH) and Ohio Lottery announced that 3.2 million Ohioans have entered the $1 million drawing, up from 2.7 million on May 26. Nearly 133,000 Ohioans age 12 to 17 have entered for the college scholarship, up from 104,000. So far, more than 5.3 million Ohioans have started the vaccination process -- an increase of around 200,000 since the last drawing announcement. Gov. Mike DeWine teased the possibility of further incentive programs to drive up vaccination rates Thursday as he again highlighted the week's winners of the state's Vax-a-Million prize drawings. DeWine said he's been in conversation with Ohio companies about ways to "sweeten this a little bit." "We hope to be able to give you some information about that in the future, something they might offer, an Ohio product that might be offered," he said.
ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT Work to improve Ohio's defense manufacturing processes is continuing, Gov. Mike DeWine and Lt. Gov. Jon Husted announced Wednesday in a release, following a previous Department of Defense designation of the state as a Defense Manufacturing Community. Partners including the Development Services Agency (DSA) have been working with two companies to improve productivity and efficiency at their facilities, according to the release, and the goal of the three-year project is to help implement advanced manufacturing technology and create a more skilled workforce for at least 26 small and medium-sized defense manufacturers. ECONOMY The Ohio Chamber of Commerce Research Foundation released its first "Prosperity Pulse" survey for 2021 at the end of May, finding there has been "continued economic improvement" for businesses but concerns remain about "further disruption and hiring woes." The prosperity pulse index rose to 112 -- an improvement from the fourth quarter 2020 reading of 93.8 -- but still trails pre-pandemic levels in 2018 and 2019. The index previously hit its lowest recorded level of 51 in Q1 of 2020 at the onset of the pandemic. ELECTIONS House Democrats Tuesday began holding town hall "Freedom to Vote" events around Ohio "to give Ohioans the opportunity to share their thoughts and concerns on" HB294 (Seitz-Ray), elections reform legislation that Democrats oppose. However, on Wednesday, Rep. Bill Seitz (R-Cincinnati) and his elections reform HB294 co-sponsor Rep. Sharon Ray (R-Wadsworth) held a press conference accusing Democrats of spreading disinformation and being disingenuous about their bill, saying Democrats are trying to obfuscate "what is a fair and balanced bill" based on the state's intended goals of making it easier to vote and hard to cheat. Holding up what he said was a copy of Democrats' talking points, he said the minority party "could care less about secure elections, they care only about it making it easier and easier" to vote regardless of the cost and regardless of the burden it puts on local elections officials. ELECTIONS 2021 Mike Carey, a Republican candidate for the 15th Congressional District, made a number of appearances with Corey Lewandowski, an advisor and former campaign manager for former President Donald Trump, around the district on Tuesday and Wednesday to promote Carey's candidacy. Carey is one of 12 Republicans and two Democrats vying to succeed former U.S. Rep. Steve Stivers (R-Columbus), who resigned last month to head the Ohio Chamber of Commerce. Citing unnamed Republican sources, the Columbus Dispatch reported former Treasurer Josh Mandel's U.S. Senate campaign has lost three fundraisers after their recent resignations. A spokesman for the campaign did not confirm the departures for the newspaper, instead pointing to internal polling he said shows Mandel "as the heavy double-digit winner of this race." Stivers this week endorsed Rep. Jeff LaRe (R-Canal Winchester) to succeed him in the 15th District Congressional District, with Stivers running ads touting that endorsement out of his congressional campaign fund. LaRe is one of 12 Republicans who have filed to run for the seat in a special election primary that will be held on Tuesday, Aug. 3 Stivers, now the head of the Ohio Chamber of Commerce, told the Lancaster Eagle-Gazette that he spoke with nearly every candidate in the race before deciding on endorsing LaRe. The following endorsements were made over the week:
The U.S. Senate campaign of Tim Ryan announced the endorsements of Rep. Terrence Upchurch (D-Cleveland); former Sen. Lou Gentile; former Sen. Sean O'Brien; former Rep. Jay Goyal; former Rep. Connie Pillich; Athens Mayor Steve Patterson; Bowling Green Mayor Mike Aspacher; Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson; Hubbard Mayor Ben Kyle; Lima Mayor David Berger; Perrysburg Mayor Tom Mackin; Ravenna Mayor Frank Seman; Reynoldsburg Mayor Joe Begeny; South Euclid Mayor Georgine Welo; Athens County Commissioners Charlie Adkins and Chris Chmiel; Athens County Prosecutor Keller Blackburn; Athens County Treasurer Ric Wasserman; Athens County Engineer Jeff Maiden; Athens County Clerk of Courts Candy Russell; Athens County Recorder Jessica Markins; Cuyahoga County Councilwoman Cheryl Stephens; Lucas County Commissioner Tina Wozniak; Montgomery County Recorder Brandon McClain; Athens City Auditor Kathy Hecht; Cincinnati City Councilman Greg Landsman; Dayton City Commissioner Chris Shaw; and Clayton City Councilman Dennis Lieberman.
The 15th Congressional District campaign of Bob Peterson announced the endorsements of Rep. Mark Johnson (RChillicothe); Ross County Commissioners Dwight Garrett and James "Oody" Lowe; Ross County Sheriff George Lavender; Ross County Treasurer-elect David Jeffers; Ross County Engineer Charles Ortman; Ross County Prosecutor Jeff Marks; Ross County Republican Party Chair Diane Carnes; Fayette County Commissioners Tony Anderson, Dan Dean and Jim Garland; Fayette County Auditor Brenda Mossbarger; Fayette County Clerk of Courts Sandy Wilson; Fayette County Jess Wesde; Fayette County Sheriff Vernon Stanforth; Fayette County Recorder Kim Coil Butler; Fayette County Treasurer Susan Dunn; Fayette County Treasurer Elect Penny Patton; Washington Court House council members Ted Hawk, Jim Chrisman, Dale Lynch, Caleb Johnson, Steve Shiltz and Jim Blair; former Fayette County commissioner Jack DeWeese; and former Fayette County recorder Cathy Templin.
The U.S. Senate campaign of Josh Mandel announced the endorsements of Pastor Jeremy Rands from Monclova Road Baptist Church in Monclova; Chaz Boes of Vida International Church in Toledo; Christian Mays of Stratford Heights Church of God in Middletown; and Rodney Lord of Freedom Gate Church in Marietta.
The 15th Congressional District campaign of Ruth Edmonds announced the endorsement of the Family Research Council Action PAC.
ELECTIONS 2022 Dayton Mayor and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Nan Whaley Tuesday outlined her plan to fight corruption in state government, saying Gov. Mike DeWine has been too weak to take action on the issue. At the top of her plan is the creation of a new public accountability commission that would be put over the inspector general and would investigate public corruption, as well as have the power to claw back public funds from entities found guilty of corruption. The commission would also make public valid complaints of ethics violations on a regular basis and publicize whether actions are being taken to investigate and root out corruption. It would be made up of a bipartisan group of individuals appointed by the governor, auditor, attorney general, Ohio Supreme Court, the Ohio Civil Rights Commission and the Ohio Ethics Commission. Whaley said the first task of the group would be to examine what she said are current loopholes and exemptions in Ohio's ethics laws and guidelines and provide a comprehensive report detailing the risks and recommended changes. EMPLOYMENT/UNEMPLOYMENT For the week ending May 29, the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS) reported 13,955 initial unemployment claims to the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL). That number is slightly higher than last week, when the department reported 13,661 new jobless claims. ENERGY/UTILITIES FirstEnergy fired another top executive over 133-HB6's (Callender-Wilkin) $61 million bribery investigation, citing former Senior Vice President Eileen Mikkelsen's "inaction" in the face of a $4.3 million payment linked to former Chairman Sam Randazzo of the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO). She follows last year's firing of former FirstEnergy CEO Chuck Jones; senior vice president of product development, marketing and branding, Dennis Check; senior vice president of external affairs, Michael Dowling; and two of the utility's top attorneys. The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) has set next week as the comment deadline on possible changes to customer billing for utilities' "cost of capital." The Office of Ohio Consumers' Counsel (OCC) and Northeast Ohio Public Energy Council (NOPEC) say, left unchanged, the current practice will award Dominion Energy "windfall" profits under an obsolete rate mechanism dating to the early days of the Obama administration. OCC and NOPEC have succeeded in their request for rehearing in Dominion's "alternative regulation" case, which examines the company's capital costs and return on equity, but still await the outcome of that dispute. In the meantime, PUCO has scheduled a "Cost of Capital" forum for Thursday, June 24 and a comment deadline for Wednesday, June 9 following consumer group opposition to Dominion and Duke Energy Ohio's current rate of recovery. The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) named Daymark Energy Advisors, Inc. Wednesday for a second audit of FirstEnergy Corp. -- this time, its distribution modernization rider (DMR) -- after previously selecting the Massachusetts-based firm to audit the utility's "corporate separate" compliance. FEDERAL Guidance released by the U.S. Department of Treasury this week puts the decision on Ohio townships' eligibility for direct local government funding under the federal American Rescue Plan (ARP) Act in the state's hands. Three Ohio townships were previously deemed eligible by dint of having populations above 50,000 but the status of the other 1,305 Ohio townships had been unclear in the language of the ARP until the release of the guidance. GAMING/GAMBLING Ohio could become a North American leader in the multibillion-dollar esports industry if lawmakers choose to regulate and license competitive video game facilities through SB176 (Antani-Manning), Esports Entertainment Group (EEG) Chief Financial Officer Dan Marks said Wednesday. The committee also heard from Jonah Blake, chief gaming officer of Game Fund Partners Inc., and Anthony Teresi, representing electronic table game manufacturer company I-Gaming and E-bingo Equipment. GENERAL ASSEMBLY/STATEHOUSE The Ohio Senate Wednesday passed legislation that its sponsors said would give more local input into the power siting process for wind and solar projects, but it had bipartisan opposition. Sen. Robert McColley (R-Napoleon) said SB52 (Reineke-McColley) had been introduced in response to "clamoring" and "urgent requests" from local governments and citizens regarding the process. He said under current law, projects have been allowed to proceed despite near unanimous opposition to the projects on a local level. The sub bill passed 20-13 after having been reported out of the Senate committee that morning where Ohio townships pushed back on this latest incarnation of the bill, saying the substitute version shifts home rule away from local communities to larger jurisdictions and abandons the original goal of the legislation. The Senate also passed SB113 (Rulli-Johnson), giving Ohioans more opportunities to legally set off fireworks in the state, by a bipartisan vote of 26-7. Unanimously passing the Senate was SB16 (Schaffer), which sponsor Sen. Tim Schaffer (R-Lancaster) said improves protections for Ohio's first responders. He argued that first responders have been the target of increasing menacing, intimidation, and assault, and these incidents have caused many to leave the career in increasing numbers. Three other bills on the calendar also passed unanimously: HB75 (Oelsager), enacting the Bureau of Workers' Compensation FY22-23 budget; SB105 (Sykes-Schuring), requiring political subdivisions to recognize state certification of minority business enterprises; and SB115 (Schuring), making changes to the Ohio Pooled Collateral Program. In other action, the Senate Primary and Secondary Education Committee reported out SB181 (Gavarone) which addresses student religious expression in interscholastic athletics and extracurricular activities; the Senate Veterans and Public Safety Committee reported out SB160 (O'Brien), the Veteran Information Act; and HB137 (Upchurch-Blackshear) which designates March 29 as "Ohio Tuskegee Airmen Day"; and the Senate Health Committee reported out HB106 (Cross) designating January as "Radon Awareness Month"; and HB252 (White-Plummer) entering the state into the Audiology and Speech-Language Pathology Interstate Compact. GOVERNOR Gov. Mike DeWine opened his Wednesday bill signing event by continuing to push for passage of his STRONG Ohio proposal on gun laws, citing an overnight shooting in Springfield as another example why it is needed. Six people were injured, DeWine said, and one of the two suspects in custody has been identified as a person prohibited from legally possessing firearms. Local media reports indicate those injured were at a celebration of life event for someone who had died years ago. DeWine went on to sign HB170 (Bird-Richardson), which he said would use federal funding to provide $967 million to schools, the Ohio Department of Health (ODH) and the National Guard. He also privately signed HB76 (Oelslager), the Ohio Industrial Commission budget, and HB133 (Hillyer) on modifications to commerce and property tax valuation complaints. GREAT LAKES Once an unhappy litigant before the Ohio Power Siting Board (OPSB), Lake Erie's pending six-turbine wind facility has joined the agency in opposing efforts by citizens' group Bratenahl Residents to stop Icebreaker Windpower's demonstration project eight to 10 miles off the Cleveland shoreline in an appeal to the Supreme Court of Ohio. In two separate briefs filed since last Friday, OPSB and Icebreaker mount overlapping arguments against lakeside condo owners Susan Dempsey and Robert Maloney's claim that the board failed to enforce the "minimum adverse environmental impact" and the Public Trust Doctrine in reversing course and approving the wind project last fall without the mandatory "feathering" of turbine blades to protect avian activity -- a previous condition that would have required their overnight deactivation between March-November. GUNS The "overwhelming majority" of Ohioans support universal background checks and increased gun laws, the Giffords organization said in announcing the results of polling it commissioned. Eighty-two percent of Ohioans voiced their support for federal HR8, the "Bipartisan Background Checks Act," in the survey of hundreds of 2020 voters conducted by Global Strategy Group. The Giffords organization, which focuses on gun safety issues, was founded by former U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) after she was shot at a 2011 constituent meeting. The release called for U.S. Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) to support HR8 as well, as he was a specific focus of the poll. HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES While most health orders ended Wednesday, June 2, Ohioans should still be taking measures to avoid contracting and spreading COVID-19, most notably by getting vaccinated, the state's top physician and colleagues treating the youngest and oldest patients said Wednesday. More than 5.3 million Ohioans have been vaccinated so far, a rate of about 45 percent, substantially below the 62.8 percent reported nationally by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Despite the lag, Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff, chief medical officer for the Ohio Department of Health, said he's "far from discouraged" about vaccination progress and noted that it would be premature to draw conclusions from recent days' data because of the holiday weekend. HIGHER EDUCATION Ohio State University (OSU) announced Thursday that Melissa L. Gilliam will be the land-grant institution's next executive vice president and provost, effective Aug. 1. Gilliam will join OSU from the University of Chicago, where she is vice provost, the Ellen H. Block Distinguished Service Professor of Health Justice, and professor of obstetrics and gynecology and pediatrics. At OSU, she will become the first woman of color to serve as provost. OSU at Lima and the Ford Lima Engine Plant recently announced a partnership to establish a new training center meant to provide learning and laboratory experiences for students in Ohio State's Bachelor of Science in engineering technology (BSET) program. The Ohio State Lima Engineering Education and Manufacturing Center (EEMC) at the Ford Lima Engine Plant Training Center will utilize an existing center originally built in 1994 to address local training needs. Case Western Reserve University's (CWRU) Center for Innovative Practices (CIP) has been awarded a two-year, $3.6 million contract from the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services (OhioMHAS) to coordinate a new statewide Child and Adolescent Behavioral Health Center of Excellence. Sukh Sidhu has been named executive director of the University of Dayton Research Institute (UDRI), effective immediately. Sidhu had been UDRI's director of research and development. The Ohio University (OU) Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine and Cleveland Clinic have partnered to train primary care physicians through a medical education program meant to improve patient care. The first cohort of eight students to complete the Transformative Care Continuum (TCC) graduated in May, three years after they started medical school rather than the traditional four. At the end of its recent commencement ceremony, Wilberforce University President Elfred Anthony Pinkard announced to the new 2020 and 2021 alumni that their debt owed to the university had been settled and carries a zero balance. The university's debt erasing dollars were resourced from various scholarships and other institutional funding to help students from last year's spring and fall semesters and spring 2021 with their higher education finances, the historically Black university announced. The total tally that has been cleared exceeds $375,000, the university said. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security's Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and Ohio Emergency Management Agency (Ohio EMA) announced Wednesday that over $2.4 million in federal funding has been made available to OSU for costs related to the state's response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The funding will reimburse the university for costs related to medical care and COVID-19 testing at multiple sites. It also covers costs for warehouse space for centralized receiving and distribution of COVID-19 testing and treatment materials. Kent State University announced it has selected Versie Johnson-Mallard for the position of dean of the College of Nursing and Diane H. Petrella for the position of dean of the College of the Arts. IMMIGRATION A recent report by New American Economy (NAE) found that Central Ohio immigrants paid over $2.1 billion in 2019 taxes, including $729.5 million to Social Security and $204.3 million to Medicare. The NAE also said that the region's immigrant population grew by 22.2 percent from 2014 to 2019, compared to an overall increase of 6.4 percent. Other findings included that immigrants made up 8.7 percent of the population but 10.7 percent of the employed labor force; 22.4 percent of STEM workers; nearly 21 percent of transportation and warehouse workers; 14.7 percent of manufacturing workers; and 12.8 percent of health care workers. That has made them especially valuable as essential workers during the pandemic, NAE noted. JUDICIAL The Supreme Court of Ohio will not take "judicial notice" of former Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) Chairman Sam Randazzo's role in approving generation startup FirstEnergy Advisors and his apparent receipt of $4.3 million to act "at the request or for the benefit of" FirstEnergy Corp., as disclosed by FirstEnergy Corp. in its third quarter 2020 filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). The Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction (DRC) must pay yet-to-be determined legal fees and statutory damages of $500 after delaying three months its response to a records request for information on state-sponsored executions. The Ohio Supreme Court ordered DRC to pay those amounts to international law firm Hogan Lovells, which had submitted a second request for records documenting drugs intended or considered for lethal injection. The Court said it also would determine Hogan Lovells' legal fees when it submits evidence of their reasonableness. Ohio Supreme Court tech grants to courtrooms statewide top $8.6 million in 2021 for a figure over three times the available funding in 2015, the grant program's first year. Awards went to 143 projects. "During COVID, Ohio courts needed upgraded technology more than ever," Chief Justice Maureen O'Connor said in a release. "If this pandemic taught us anything, it's that remote technology is crucial to ensuring our courts are open for those who need to be there, and for the public and the press to be afforded virtual access to court sessions." LIBRARIES The State Library of Ohio announced Wednesday the launch of the American Rescue Plan (ARP) Outreach Grant "to support all types of libraries in outreach and recovery initiatives across the state." The state library said the grant program will help libraries assist their communities as they respond to and address economic and community needs resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic and is encouraging Ohio libraries of all types to apply for this competitive grant program revolving around the concept of "outreach." Applicants may request up to $100,000 in federal funds. Due to the nature of ARP funds, no local cash match of the total project cost is required. LOCAL GOVERNMENT Two local elected city officials face a possible permanent suspension from office while criminal charges go forward in state and federal court. Cleveland City Councilman Kenneth Johnson is appealing a 15-count indictment including six charges of federal program theft, two charges of conspiracy to commit federal program theft, five charges of aiding and assisting in the preparation of false returns, one charge of tampering with witnesses, and one charge of falsification of records in a federal investigation while Cincinnati City Councilman Wendell Young -- one of its "Gang of Five" -- has been charged in state court with felony records tampering for deleting texts with other members outside of council meetings. NATURAL RESOURCES The Muskingum River Beverly Lock at Muskingum River State Park is expected to be fully operational later this fall, according to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR). Although the lock wall stabilization has been completed, ODNR said rehabilitation work will continue into the summer. That work includes inspecting the structure and addressing the underlying issues preventing the safe operation of the lock, the department said. PENSIONS The Ohio Supreme Court Wednesday directed the State Teachers Retirement System (STRS) and an investigator hired by the Ohio Retired Teachers Association (ORTA) to review the pension fund's investment costs to go to mediation for a dispute over public records. ORTA had hired Edward Siedle of Benchmark Financial Services last year for a "forensic investigation" of STRS. Siedle in turn requested numerous records from the pension fund, some of which were redacted, prompting a lawsuit from Siedle's attorneys, who include former Ohio Attorney General Marc Dann. PEOPLE The Ohio State Bar Association (OSBA), recognizing excellence in the legal profession, presented its Ohio Bar Medal -- its highest honor -- to Judge Mary Jane Trapp of the 11th District Court of Appeals at its 2021 Virtual Annual Meeting. In addition, Ohio Supreme Court Justice Melody Stewart received the OSBA Women in the Profession Section's Nettie Cronise Lutes Award. The OSBA's Eugene Weir Award for Ethics and Professionalism went to Cleveland attorney Karen E. Rubin. And the Ohio Access to Justice Foundation presented its Presidential Award to Janica Pierce Tucker of Columbus. The Columbus Downtown Development Corporation (CDDC) and Capitol South Community Urban Redevelopment Corporation (Capitol South) will now both be led by Greg Davies as CEO and Amy Taylor as president, according to a release from the two organizations, following the May 31 retirement of President and CEO Guy Worley. POLLS/STUDIES A recent study out of Ohio State University (OSU) suggests the vast majority of Americans would support guaranteed paid leave for parents after the birth or adoption of a child. In a recently released study about attitudes among U.S. adults regarding paid leave based on data from 2012, 82 percent of Americans supported parents' receiving paid leave. PUBLIC SAFETY The Ohio Department of Public Safety's (DPS) Office of Criminal Justice Services (OCJS) announced Friday that the Lake Waynoka Police Department (Brown County) has adopted and implemented state standards established by the Ohio Collaborative Community-Police Advisory Board. Lake Waynoka makes 527 agencies now certified by OCJS, with another 13 in process to be certified for use of force, including deadly force, and agency recruitment and hiring. Ohio's first responders should receive a one-time bonus payment for their work during the COVID-19 pandemic, Reps. Craig Riedel (R-Defiance) and Phil Plummer (R-Dayton) said Wednesday. Under their forthcoming legislation, full-time police officers, firefighters, Ohio State Highway Patrol officers, county deputy sheriffs, Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation (BCI) agents, jail officers and emergency medical technicians (EMTs) would be eligible for the $1,000 bonus. Part-time first responders and volunteer firefighters would be eligible for a $500 bonus, Riedel said during a Statehouse press conference. Those eligible for the bonus must have been continuously employed from March 1, 2020 and cannot have disciplinary problems. Each employer would be required to certify who is eligible to the Ohio Attorney General's Office within 30 days of the bill's effective date. The Ohio State Highway Patrol reported nine deaths on Ohio's roadways during the 2021 Memorial Day weekend according to provisional statistics. This Memorial Day saw fewer fatalities than last year, when there were 20 traffic deaths during the weekend. The Ohio State Highway Patrol announced a recent effort with other members of the 6-State Trooper Project resulted in 4,500 motorists in Ohio being cited for failing to wear an available safety belt. The high-visibility enforcement included the Indiana State Police, Kentucky State Police, Michigan State Police, Pennsylvania State Police and the West Virginia State Police, as well the patrol. The initiative began on Monday, May 24 at 12:01 a.m. and continued through Monday, May 31 at 11:59 p.m. WORKFORCE The TechCred program has now passed 23,000 approved credentials, Lt. Gov. Jon Husted announced Thursday. This comes around eight months after the announcement it had exceeded the first-year goal of funding 10,000 credentials. Applications for the eighth round -- which saw changes to the program -- were accepted in April, resulting in approval of 310 Ohio employers and 3,882 tech credentials. In total, 1,310 businesses and 23,723 credentials have been approved for funding under the program. The latest round included applications from 124 small businesses requesting credentials, the highest number for a round thus far.
[Story originally published in The Hannah Report. Copyright 2021 Hannah News Service, Inc.]