Week In Review - June 8, 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


Attorney General Dave Yost announced winners of 2020 victims' assistance awards, including one to an Ohio Attorney General's Office supervisor. Honors recognized the state's three largest counties and a smaller county in northwest Ohio. AG Crime Victim Claims Investigation Supervisor John Martin received the AGvocate Award, presented annually to an agency employee who has performed above and beyond the call of duty. Alexandria Ruden, senior attorney at the Legal Aid Society of Cleveland, Cuyahoga County, received the Robert Denton Special Achievement Award for helping more than 5,000 survivors of domestic violence throughout her 40 years of practice. Women Helping Women in Hamilton County is being recognized with the Promising Practice Award for its Domestic Violence Enhanced Response Team, or DVERT. Kathy Mull, executive director of The Cocoon in Bowling Green, won the Special Courage Award.


Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost, along with 51 other attorneys general, Thursday encouraged the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to facilitate continued collaboration among states and telecom companies to help trace illegal robocalls to their source through the selection of a "single neutral consortium" to manage the call tracing. The AGs pledged to continue their "law enforcement efforts in cooperation with commission's selected registered consortium."


FY20-21 BUDGET


Pegging the state's looming budget deficit due to the economic fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic for the coming fiscal year, FY21, at $2.5 billion, Office of Budget and Management (OBM) Director Kimberly A. Murnieks Monday announced a number of steps to curb personnel costs, including pay cuts and step freezes.


CENSUS


Ohio's census self-response rate has reached 65.5 percent, up from 65.3 percent last week. Even as a majority of Ohioans have responded to the 2020 Census, counties in Ohio's Appalachian region continue to see response rates that lag behind the rest of the state, particularly when it comes to Internet response rates. The counties of Pike, Scioto, Lawrence, Vinton, Meigs, Athens, Morgan, Monroe and Harrison have not yet cracked 60 percent in their self-response rates, and most of them have response rates by Internet below 30 percent. On average, Ohio's self-response by Internet is 50.8 percent.


CHILDREN/FAMILIES


Ohio's reported missing children decreased by more than 6 percent in 2019 -- the good news -- while those recovered safely also fell and missing persons facing physical danger increased, the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation's (BCI) Missing Children Clearinghouse reports. Overseen by BCI's Missing Persons Unit, the clearinghouse says a total of 18,638 youth were reported missing last year, down from 19,879 in 2018 and 20,043 in 2017, with 97.9 percent recovered safely in 2019 -- a fraction off the previous year. Cases spiked in late spring and early fall of the 2018-19 and 2019-20 academic years.


CIVIL RIGHTS


Gov. Mike DeWine expressed his disgust Friday at the conduct of a Minneapolis police officer seen on video pressing his knee into the neck of George Floyd, an African-American man who screamed that he could not breath and later died. The governor said his leadership position obligates him to speak out on such injustice and that he should have done so earlier. "Speaking against injustice and racism is even more important for a leader, even more important for the governor. I missed that opportunity at [Thursday's] press conference, and I regret that. What happened to George Floyd is tragic. To watch the video of his life being taken away, second by second, is horrific and will be seared on every American's mind 'til the day they die. What about the other officers? You watch that video, you watch it again, then you look at the other officers. What were they thinking, what were they doing? Why didn't they do something?" DeWine said, standing next to his wife, Fran.


Ohio Democrats Friday issued statements after demonstrators protesting in Columbus over the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, MN led to clashes with police and vandalism on Capitol Square. The Ohio Legislative Black Caucus said it will be introducing legislation to declare racism a public health crisis. "Black America woke this morning to a nightmare that seems to never end and a continued feeling of hopelessness that nothing will ever be better," OLBC President Rep. Stephanie Howse (D-Cleveland) said. "What we are witnessing around the country is a community simply begging to be seen and heard. Racism is real and it is the biggest public health threat citizens of color face." House Democrats from Franklin County, including Reps. Kristin Boggs (D-Columbus), Richard Brown (D-Canal Winchester), Mary Lightbody (D-Westerville), Beth Liston (D-Dublin) and Allison Russo (D-Columbus) issued a statement saying the events did not start Thursday evening. "We must recognize the institutional racism in our society and the trauma it continues to cause in our community,” they said.


Gov. Mike DeWine activated the Ohio National Guard to assist with the police response to protests in Columbus, where Mayor Andrew Ginther is imposing a nightly curfew from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. Demonstrators gathered downtown to speak out against racism and police misconduct in response to the death of George Floyd. But the gatherings escalated into violence with vandalism and looting, and state and local leaders said the involvement of outside agitators in that escalation prompted Saturday's announcement. DeWine, Ginther, Adjutant Gen. John Harris Jr. of the Ohio National Guard and Columbus Police Chief Thomas Quinlan announced the steps at a 5 p.m. press conference. The mayor and governor spoke Saturday morning and then again at 1 p.m. with Quinlan on the line, and DeWine said the police chief gave a "very compelling briefing." Later Saturday, DeWine answered a request from Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson to also send guard forces there.


House Minority Leader Emilia Sykes (D-Akron) implored Republicans running the General Assembly and state government to demonstrate a commitment to confronting institutional racism, both by recognizing it on its face and taking up reforms proposed years ago but yet to be enacted. "Until white communities truly look inside themselves and recognize that this is unacceptable and they would not want this for themselves, we will not have any change," Sykes said on a conference call Monday with media, whom she also asked to consider how people they know are affected by the deaths of George Floyd and others that are sparking protests nationwide. Later Monday, Rep. Bill Seitz (R-Cincinnati), the House majority floor leader, issued a statement critical of Sykes' comments, saying they misrepresented the record of the House this term.


While stressing that he empathizes with Ohioans who have taken to the streets in protest of the recent police killings of George Floyd (MN), Breonna Taylor (KY), Tony McDade (FL) and Sean Reed (IN), U.S. Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) said the violence, arson and looting must stop in order for change to occur. "This is a difficult time right now. We have the coronavirus and the economic crisis that has created, and in the midst of all that, of course, these acts of violence and injustice. I think the George Floyd video has really inflamed the situation, but the reality is -- already in the black community in Ohio there has been frustration and concern about the disproportionate impact of the coronavirus and the economic implications of it," Portman said during a conference call with reporters on Tuesday.


As demonstrations over the death of George Floyd continued outside the Statehouse, around Ohio and across the nation Tuesday, Gov. Mike DeWine announced that he will soon offer the General Assembly proposals to further address police misconduct and improve training. The "vast majority" of law enforcement do a "phenomenal" job and need support, DeWine said, adding that more accurate targeting is needed for those who should not be police officers. In particular, he said, that includes those who are fired from one police department and move on to another.


U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and U.S. Rep. Joyce Beatty (D-Columbus) characterized recent protests resulting from the death of Minneapolis resident George Floyd at the hands of police as expressions of "fear, grief and anger," and they committed to introducing resolutions to denounce racism nationally on a conference call with reporters Wednesday.


CORONAVIRUS


Coronavirus statistics reported by the Ohio Department of Health over the week increased from 34,566 cases and 2,131 deaths on Friday, May 29 to 37,282 cases on Thursday, June 4 with a total of 2,339 deaths.


The number of state prison inmates in quarantine after possible exposure to COVID-19 fell by more than 10,000 from Friday, May 22 to Friday, May 29, according to data from the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction (DRC). According to the May 29 numbers, there are currently 25,148 quarantined inmates in Ohio's prisons system. A week before, there were 35,502 in quarantine.


Long-term care facilities in Ohio including nursing homes, assisted living facilities and intermediate care facilities continue to report more cases and deaths from COVID-19, according to new totals reported Wednesday, May 27 from the Ohio Department of Health (ODH) collected from local health departments. According to ODH data, 1,487 long-term care facility residents were infected with COVID-19, while 574 long-term care facility staff also had the disease. Since April 15, 2020, ODH has reported 5,324 cumulative COVID-19 cases among residents and 2,438 cases among facility staff.


Gov. Mike DeWine announced Friday afternoon that Ohio Department of Health (ODH) Director Amy Acton had signed two additional public health orders related to the coronavirus pandemic. One continues the prohibition on mass gatherings of more than 10 people through July 1 and spells out a variety of sector specific protocols and restrictions. The other rescinds an April 13 order that had barred liquor sales to out-of-state residents in some Eastern Ohio border counties, issued in reaction to Pennsylvanians who were crossing the border after that state's liquor stores were closed in the pandemic.


The Ohio Manufacturing Alliance to Fight COVID-19 (OMAFC) updated its efforts Friday, saying Ohio firms have helped to produce isolation gowns for frontline workers in hospitals, nursing homes and emergency services departments in local governments. According to OMAFC, isolation gowns typically are available through overseas sources, but have been in short supply since the start of the pandemic. There has also been a shortage of materials traditionally used to make gowns.


Ohio Department of Health (ODH) Director Amy Acton signed a new order Saturday, May 30 per the administration's plan to allow child care facilities to reopen Sunday, albeit under restrictions that change how they operate as a means to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Child care facilities were ordered closed for more than two months, save those granted new pandemic licenses to care for children of health care and other essential workers.


The General Assembly should move expeditiously to distribute the $1.2 billion for local governments provided under the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, U.S. Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) said Tuesday. During a conference call with reporters, he said local officials have been asking him why the financial aid hasn't been provided yet. Only the city of Columbus and the five most populous counties received funding directly from the federal government under the federal legislation.


Witnesses who take issue with the state's coronavirus case statistics urged a House committee Tuesday to pass a measure to require changes to the data reporting. They included Judge Tim Grendell, a former legislator and the bill sponsor's spouse, as well as a Mansfield television reporter. The House State and Local Government Committee heard proponent testimony on HB624 (Grendell) for about two hours Tuesday.


The 1851 Center for Constitutional Law has moved to dismiss the criminal charges against an Ohio restaurant owner who opened her restaurant for dine-in services in violation of a public health order from Ohio Department of Health (ODH) Director Amy Acton. The motion was filed on behalf of National Road Diner owner Vicki Brearley of Cambridge, who faces 90 days in jail because, according to the prosecution, she "did violate an order the director of health issued to prevent a threat to the public caused by a pandemic" by "allowing sit-down dining" on May 6. Restaurants and bars were prohibited from allowing outdoor service until May 15 and could not provide indoor dining services until May 21.


Gov. Mike DeWine Thursday cleared the way for entertainment facilities to open Wednesday, June 10, including zoos and indoor movie theaters, after nearly three months of shutdowns due to concerns over the COVID-19 outbreak. Other facilities allowed to reopen on June 10 include aquariums, art galleries, country clubs, ice skating rinks, indoor family entertainment centers, indoor sports facilities, laser tag facilities, museums, outdoor playgrounds, public recreation centers, roller skating rinks, social clubs and trampoline parks. However, amusements parks including Kings Island and Cedar Point cannot yet open.


ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT


JobsOhio leaders said Thursday that the economic recovery to come represents a "generational opportunity" for Ohio, with President and CIO J.P. Nauseef detailing business support initiatives undertaken since the last board of directors meeting in March. This included securing nearly $70 million worth of personal protective equipment (PPE); converting planned efforts to expand airport service to instead supporting them as markets were lost; implementing the liquor buyback program and liquor rebates; addressing loan deferments and workforce retention loans; providing $50 million worth of innovation funding; creating the Community Bank Loan Guarantee Program; and financing support for Appalachian businesses.


EDUCATION


State officials "fully intend" to have students back in classrooms at the start of the next academic year, Gov. Mike DeWine announced Tuesday during the coronavirus update, and have "no intention" of delaying locally-set start dates barring an unexpected development. The Ohio Department of Health (ODH) is working with the Ohio Department of Education (ODE) and local districts to develop guidelines for reopening schools, according to DeWine and ODH Director Amy Acton, while taking into account the differing needs of each area.


Schools that are losing funding due to the closure or devaluation of power plants in their districts should receive relief from the General Assembly, Sen. Terry Johnson (R-McDermott) said Wednesday. "We broached the idea of this legislation when multiple school districts within the 14th Senate District experienced significant local revenue losses from power plants that saw major decreases in their property value," Johnson told the Senate Finance Committee during sponsor testimony on SB313. The committee also heard proponent testimony from a number of school representatives.


ELECTIONS


Secretary of State Frank LaRose Tuesday held the first meeting of a task force he formed of bipartisan elections officials from around Ohio to discuss potential changes in Ohio law and other issues related to getting the state ready for the Tuesday, Nov. 3 presidential election. LaRose and members of the Ready for November Task Force said they already see some issues in one Republican House bill addressing this topic.


The House State and Local Government Committee met twice Wednesday to address legislation creating procedures for vote-by-mail elections in times of emergency. HB680 (Abrams) was eventually reported out on a party-line vote after garnering no proponent testimony during the committee's first meeting and then drawing numerous opponents in the second meeting. Major changes were made to the bill during the second committee through an amendment proposed from Rep. Steve Hambley (R-Brunswick). While all who testified indicated the changes much improved the bill, only a few, including Secretary of State Frank LaRose, switched from an opponent to proponent as a result of the amendment. LaRose said he came prepared to testify as an opponent, but the changes addressed many of his concerns with the bill. The bill passed the House on Thursday, June 4 along party lines, 61-34.


ELECTIONS 2020


Secretary of State Frank LaRose officially certified Ohio's delayed 2020 presidential primary on Friday, reporting about a 24 percent turnout among voters. In-person voting was cancelled for March 17 after Ohio Department of Health (ODH) Director Amy Acton ordered polling locations closed because of concerns over the spread of COVID-19. The General Assembly later passed HB197 (Powell-Merrin), which allowed vote-by-mail to continue until April 28. According to figures released Friday, 1.8 million of Ohio's nearly 7.8 million voters cast a ballot in the primary. Among political affiliations, 925,771 Democratic ballots were cast, 801,143 Republican ballots were cast, and 3,009 Libertarian ballots were cast from Wednesday, Feb. 19 through Tuesday, April 28.


The following endorsements were made over the week:


  • The Ohio Right to Life PAC endorsed Judy French and Sharon Kennedy for Ohio Supreme Court; Russell Mock, William Hoffman, Jeff Furr, Charles Sulek, Julie Schafer, and Matthew Byrne for Ohio Court of Appeals; and Steve Chabot, Brad Wenstrup, Jim Jordan, Bob Latta, Bob Gibbs, Warren Davidson, Rob Weber, Laverne Gore, Troy Balderson, Christina Hagan, and Anthony Gonzalez for Congress. Incumbent U.S. Reps. Bill Johnson, Mike Turner, Dave Joyce, and Steve Stivers received the group's "preferred" designation.


EMPLOYMENT/UNEMPLOYMENT


"Google stands at the ready to assist Ohio." With this pledge, Google Cloud's government services executive for mid-America told House members Wednesday that the IT giant can pinpoint Ohio's unemployment compensation problems in a week and fix the broken system in "months," instead of the biennium-busting estimate of contractors hired by the Kasich administration in 2018. The DeWine administration told lawmakers last week that the current contract will not produce fruit until 2022.


Because of the temporary retail store closures required due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Goodwill Industries owes nearly $1 million in unemployment costs, Goodwill of Greater Cleveland and East Central Ohio President and CEO Anne Richards said Wednesday. "The truth is, I have no idea how we will pay the entire bill. As it is, we are in danger of not surviving this," Richards said during interested party testimony on SJR4 (Peterson), a proposed constitutional amendment that would allow the General Assembly to provide for the issuance of obligations to repay outstanding advances made by the federal government to Ohio's unemployment compensation program.


ENERGY


The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) has given competitive energy retailers the green light to "immediately" restart in-person marketing while honoring the Ohio Consumers' Counsel's (OCC) request to delay the reboot of door-to-door sales halted in response to OCC's emergency recommendation in March.


ENVIRONMENT


While Great Black Swamp tributary conditions have improved of the last 20-plus years, there are still water quality problems in many streams, according to a new study released by the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (Ohio EPA). The study examines water and sediment chemistry, habitat, fish and other aquatic life from 50 small streams that flow into the Maumee River in Northwest Ohio. These small streams drain approximately 1,040 square miles in portions of Defiance, Fulton, Hancock, Henry, Paulding, Putnam and Wood counties, Ohio EPA said.


Ohio EPA has announced that $12 million in Volkswagen (VW) settlement grants are now available to assist with replacing or repowering aging diesel fleet vehicles for emissions reductions to comply with federal ozone standards. Ohio EPA is inviting prospective applicants to participate in an informational webinar on how to apply for the grants on Wednesday, June 10 at 1 p.m. To request registration information, please email derg@epa.ohio.gov.


GENERAL ASSEMBLY/STATEHOUSE


At its Friday meeting, members of the Ohio 2020 Economic Recovery Task Force heard from county fair organizers and owners of indoor entertainment venues, such as skating rinks, indoor playgrounds and escape rooms as the state continues its tiered reopening of businesses. Theresa Call, representing the Summit County Fair, said all but three Ohio county fairs are planning on holding junior events, and many county fairs plan to hold junior and senior events. She emphasized the impact to local economies that county fairs have, given that all fair staff, food, entertainment, waste management, sanitation and safety personnel are locally sourced.


Thirteen members of the House GOP caucus wrote a letter Monday to Gov. Mike DeWine asking that he lift his administration's COVID-19 public health orders immediately. "Ohio smashed the curve long ago. Mission accomplished! The original projections were terribly off the mark and overestimated the statistical impact of the coronavirus by a wide margin. The metrics following the virus indicate that the peak of this crisis is far behind us. It's blatantly clear that the virus is most aggressively attacking the elderly and individuals with underlying health conditions. Approximately 70 percent of all of Ohio's deaths related to the virus are people who lived in long-term care facilities and nursing homes. Being 11 weeks into this we definitely know how to behave around the virus and we know who needs the most protection from it," they wrote.


Ohio would be the first state to pass legislation declaring racism as a "public health crisis" if a resolution introduced by members of the Ohio Legislative Black Caucus (OLBC) is adopted by the General Assembly. During a conference call with reporters, OLBC President Rep. Stephanie Howse (D-Cleveland) said the resolution is similar to the one adopted by the Franklin County Board of Commissioners. She noted Cleveland and Columbus are also working on their own versions of the legislation, and that OLBC wants to help build a movement at the local, state and federal level to address the issue of racism.


The House backed off its bid for a narrower capital reapproprations budget that would have excluded some previously approved higher education, state park and cultural institutions projects Wednesday, folding the broader version into SB310 (Dolan), a vehicle to distribute federal money for coronavirus expenses to local governments. The House Finance Committee unanimously passed SB310 after adopting several amendments, one of which Co-Chairman Scott Oeslslager (R-North Canton) described as "the full reappropriations bill." Another of the amendments grants Gov. Mike DeWine's request to allow for a pay freeze and freeze on step advancements for non-union state workers. Oelslager said another of the amendments settles a dispute from the budget that inspired one of DeWine's line-item vetoes on nursing home funding. Also included in the bill is a provision that requires a Transportation Improvement District to comply with the state's Prevailing Wage Law with a certain exception.


The Senate Wednesday passed legislation largely along party lines that would grant civil liability immunity for certain health care and service providers during and after a government-declared disaster, and rejected House amendments to a bill that would require written permission from an individual in order for health agencies to conduct contact tracing. SB308 (M. Huffman) was adopted 24-9 but also included an emergency clause that was adopted 25-8. Sponsor Sen. Matt Huffman (R-Lima) gave an overview of the bill, saying it updates Ohio law and addresses professions and facilities that largely didn't exist when the law was written. After session, Senate President Larry Obhof (R-Medina) said that there are some differences between SB308 and the House version, HB606 (Grendell), but expressed optimism that those differences could get worked out. The Senate also rejected House amendments to SB31 (Roegner), despite the urging of the bill's sponsor to accept them. Sen. Kristina Roegner (R-Hudson) said she believes the language added by the House, including a provision that prevents local boards of health from doing contact tracing on individuals without the written consent of those individuals, "creates common sense protections."


The upper chamber also passed SCR13 (Johnson), urging branches of government not to exceed their constitutional authority; SB204 (Schuring-Sykes), authorizing the creation of airport development districts; SB252 (Hackett-Craig), prohibiting "fail first" coverage of drugs used to treat stage four advanced metastatic cancer; SB277 (Schuring), to make changes to the Ohio Pooled Collateral Program; and SR406 (Craig-Antonio), to designate April 26 as Diabetic Ketoacidosis Day.


Local governments across the state are a step closer to receiving millions of dollars in federal funding to address coronavirus-related issues, as the House passed SB310 (Dolan) on Thursday. The bill also includes the "full capital reappropriations bill" and language allowing Gov. Mike DeWine to freeze pay and step advancements for non-union state workers, after being amended in the House Finance Committee. The bill passed 87-8 with Speaker of the House Larry Householder (R-Glenford) predicting it is headed to a conference committee with the Senate even though they have been working with the senators on the bill's revisions.


Also passing the House Thursday were pandemic elections bill HB680 (Abrams) along party-lines, 61-34; fireworks legalization bill HB253 (D. Manning-O'Brien) by a vote of 77-17; and the reinsurance law reform bill HB528 (LaRe) unanimously.


Thursday, the Ohio House observed a moment of silence for George Floyd, the black Minnesota man who was killed by police after being apprehended as a suspect in a minor crime. Floyd's death, along with several other recent police killings of unarmed black individuals in other states, has led to protests in Ohio and across the country. This was followed at the end of session by passionate floor speeches from Reps. Stephanie Howse (D-Cleveland) and Thomas West (D-Canton).


Capitol Square Review and Advisory Board (CSRAB) Executive Director Laura Battolcletti estimated that the cost to repair the Statehouse and Capitol Square due to the damage caused by recent demonstrations will be in the range of $200,000. A total of 28 Statehouse window panes were shattered along the west and south sides of the Statehouse, as well as damage to the wood frames around the windows. There was also damage to the State Street and West Rotunda doors and some offices were vandalized.


The Senate Transportation, Commerce and Workforce Committee continued its review of state licensing boards Wednesday, hearing from Stephanie Loucka, executive director of the State Medical Board of Ohio (SMBO). She said the testimony and questionnaire were only slightly updated from that presented to the House committee last September.


In other legislative action, House Health Committee reported out SB59 (Antonio), regarding naloxone dispensing; House Transportation and Public Safety Committee reported out license plate bill HB537 (Sheehy-Sobecki) and road naming bill HB678 (Ghanbari); House Primary and Secondary Education Committee reported out HB367 (Miranda-Manchester), regarding school counselors; Senate Finance Committee reported out SB316 (Dolan), the Senate’s capital reappropriations budget; Senate Judiciary Committee reported out HB136 (Hillyer), prohibiting capital sentences for offenders with serious mental illness; and the House Commerce and Labor Committee reported out HB442 (Roemer-West) which addresses requirements for obtaining a certified public accountant certificate.


GUNS


Legislation removing the penalty for failing to inform a police officer about a concealed handgun during a traffic stop was reported out of the House Federalism Committee on Wednesday. The as-introduced version of HB425 (Wiggam) proposed reducing the penalty from a first-degree misdemeanor to an unclassified misdemeanor with a maximum $25 fine, but a substitute version of the bill removed the penalty altogether. Committee Chairman Rep. John Becker (R-Cincinnati) noted that concealed handgun license (CHL) holders who lie to a police officer about whether they are carrying a weapon could still be charged with other crimes.


HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES


The Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS) announced Wednesday that Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) recipients can now use Ohio Direction cards to purchase food online from Walmart and Amazon. ODJFS had previously enabled SNAP recipients to order groceries online from Giant Eagle, Walmart and some Kroger stores, but they have to pay inside the stores or at curbside. Federal approvals led ODJFS to successfully test online purchasing with Walmart and Amazon, which are the only retailers that currently allow online purchasing with EBT cards.


HIGHER EDUCATION


The University of Akron (UA) announced dramatic shifts in how the university will operate in the wake of the pandemic. Late last month, the university announced plans to welcome students back to campus for the fall 2020 semester, and last week, the Board of Trustees approved plans to consolidate the school's 11 colleges into five, according to multiple media reports. The five colleges vary widely in scope, with College 3 containing just the School of Law and College 1 containing subjects ranging from art to biology to statistics. Other measures were also taken to fill the approximately $65 million gap UA reported between expected revenues and anticipated expenditures for the next school year.


David L. Kaufman, immediate past CEO of Encova Insurance (formerly Motorists Insurance Group), has been named interim president of Capital University after the university ended its search last month for a permanent president.


The Ohio State University (OSU) Board of Trustees Wednesday appointed Kristina M. Johnson as the 16th president in university history. Johnson has served as chancellor of the State University of New York (SUNY) since 2017. She will begin her tenure as president on Sept. 1, 2020 and succeeds Michael V. Drake, who has served as president since June 2014. Meanwhile, the university also announced Wednesday it plans to resume in-person classes in the fall after finishing the spring semester with only online courses as a result of the pandemic.


HOUSING/HOMELESSNESS


U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) joined Coalition on Homelessness and Housing in Ohio (COHHIO) Executive Director Bill Faith and other housing advocates in a call with press to raise concerns about resumed evictions as the pandemic and related economic difficulties continue.


Recent research from Ohio State University (OSU) looked into how housing prices and neighborhood values have become polarized in some urban areas, with the rich getting richer and the poor becoming poorer. The results of the study, done in Columbus, suggest that some of the factors long thought to affect neighborhood values -- such as the distance to downtown, nearby highways, or attractions like city parks -- no longer matter much to changing housing prices in an area. Instead, what drives neighborhood values are the unique, local amenities and characteristics of each area, such as local businesses, schools, crime rates and social networks, and these features are self-reinforcing over time, said Jinhyung Lee, lead author of the study and graduate student in geography at OSU.


JUDICIAL


The Thomas J. Moyer Ohio Judicial Center was closed Monday after weekend vandalism related to protests over the death of George Floyd while in police custody. Windows were broken throughout the first and part of the second floors at 65 South Front St., Columbus, where the Ohio Supreme Court sits, with graffiti including "Black Lives Matter" scattered around the building, pavement and reflecting pool.


Chief Justice Maureen O'Connor has issued a new COVID-19 order allowing oaths or affirmations required by Ohio Supreme Court rules to be administered remotely via teleconference or video-conference.


NATURAL RESOURCES


Nine lodges at Ohio State Parks reopened on Friday, June 5, according to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR). Additionally, many deluxe state park cabins opened on Monday, June 1, the department said.


ODNR is now accepting nominations for the Ohio Natural Resources Hall of Fame. "For more than 50 years, the Ohio Natural Resources Hall of Fame has been the state's top honor for individuals who have improved the quality of life in Ohio through natural resources management, environmental education or scientific achievement," ODNR said. For more information on selection criteria and to request a nomination form, email Stephanie O'Grady at Stephanie.O'Grady@dnr.state.oh.us. Online and mail-in nominations must be received by Monday, July 20. Nominations submitted by mail should be sent to ODNR Communications, 2045 Morse Road, Building D-3, Columbus, OH 43229, Attn: Hall of Fame.


The majority of Hocking Hills State Park is scheduled to reopen by Thursday, July 2, according to ODNR. "ODNR met with members of the Hocking Hills Tourism Association on June 1 to outline a plan to reopen most of the currently-closed areas of Hocking Hills State Park -- including the campground, cabins and Old Man's Cave -- in time for the Independence Day holiday weekend," the department explained.


Hunters checked 17,891 wild turkeys during Ohio's 2020 spring hunting season, according to the ODNR Division of Wildlife. In 2019, hunters harvested 19,168 wild turkeys during the same time period, ODNR said.


Anglers are about to enter the most optimal months to fish on Lake Erie, according to the ODNR Division of Wildlife. The top Lake Erie walleye catch rates from 2019 were in June, July and May, respectively, according to surveys conducted by the division. An estimated 116 million walleye older than two years are found in Lake Erie. Many of these two-year-old walleye will reach the 15-inch minimum size length necessary to be included in the daily bag limit during the summer.


OHIO HISTORY


Executive Director Burt Logan announced that the Ohio History Connection would be eliminating positions of 15 percent of its staff and reducing pay for museum leaders beginning June 20 because of budget cuts and loss of earned revenue.


An historic 36-star American flag is on display in the Ohio Statehouse Rotunda that was flown over Capitol Square in 1865 when the body of Abraham Lincoln lay in repose in the Rotunda. The exhibit contains other Civil War artifacts and will be open to the public until Veterans Day, according to the Capitol Square Review and Advisory Board (CSRAB).


PEOPLE


American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Ohio Chief Lobbyist Gary Daniels is a mainstay in Statehouse legislative committees, where the Kent State political science grad can be found tackling issues ranging from criminal justice reform, voting issues, abortion, religion, to any other issue that could affect Ohioans' civil liberties -- the inalienable rights of U.S. citizens named in the U.S. Constitution's Bill of Rights. "For policy wonk type people, it makes it a fairly fascinating job," Daniels told Hannah News in an interview. His work in the advocacy nonprofit sphere began right out of college, when he began volunteering in 1995 while working side gigs.


Prevention Action Alliance (PAA) Executive Director Marcie Seidel announced her retirement effective June 30, 2020 after working with the addiction prevention advocacy nonprofit for 13 years. "This is a difficult decision to step away from an organization and mission I love, but it is much easier knowing that Fran will be my replacement," Seidel said. Current Assistant Executive Director Fran Gerbig will assume the role of executive director, according to the nonprofit.

STATE GOVERNMENT


Two items on the Controlling Board agenda received questions before passing without objection Monday, while one that had been filed by the Ohio Department of Agriculture (ODAg) was withdrawn. The other 100 items received blanket approval, including an Ohio Department of Health (ODH) request for over $200 million to fund a COVID-19 epidemiological study.


TRANSPORTATION/INFRASTRUCTURE


Motorists have struck five Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) crews working on the road in eight days, ODOT said Thursday, prompting the agency to issue a reminder to motorists to move over for workers. Two of the crashes resulted in injuries to ODOT workers.


UNEMPLOYMENT COMPENSATION


For the week ending May 30, the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS) reported 34,575 initial unemployment claims to the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL). "The number of initial jobless claims filed in Ohio over the last 11 weeks (1,292,413) is more than the combined total of those filed during the last three years," ODJFS said.


UTILITIES


The Ohio Supreme Court Tuesday took up the controversy concerning the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission's (FERC) authority over public utilities otherwise regulated by the state. The Court must determine whether a utility's failure to report accurate usage for Competitive Retail Electric Service (CRES) customers to PJM Interconnection is a violation of the Public Utility Commission of Ohio's (PUCO) "supplier" mandate and the Legislature's "adequate service" requirement, and therefore a state matter, or a violation of Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) reporting requirements, and thus a federal matter. PUCO has sided with the CRES Direct Energy -- at the same time denying it $1.6 million in restitution -- while Duke Energy accuses PUCO of shredding the Federal Powers Act and Direct Energy of posing as a "customer" or "consumer" entitled to nonexistent appeal rights before the state commission.


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

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