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Week in Review March 18, 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.



ADDICTION/SUBSTANCE ABUSE


OneOhio Recovery Foundation updated the March rollout of its inaugural grant cycle Wednesday with an emphasis on evidence-based programs and proposals. Ohio's opioid settlement clearinghouse held a board meeting attended by Sen. Rob McColley (R-Napoleon), Rep. Phil Plummer (R-Dayton) and other members at the Ohio Chamber of Commerce. Chairman Don Mason commended staff on its successful 2024 request for proposal (RFP) and applicant registration kick-off for up to $51.2 million in competitive grants in advance of a formal application period of Tuesday, April 2 to Friday, May 3.


ATTORNEY GENERAL


Ohio is one of a dozen states to date challenging the U.S. Security and Exchange Commission's (SEC) newly released climate rule on corporate disclosures, lodging an appeal late Wednesday with the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals. The split commission's 896-page order requires publicly traded companies to report their climate business model, greenhouse gas emissions, climate goals and governance, and business costs from severe weather including "hurricanes, tornadoes, flooding, drought, wildfires, extreme temperatures and sea level rise," among other mandates. Ohio is leading a three-state challenge with Kentucky and Tennessee in the 6th Circuit, while neighboring Indiana and West Virginia have joined eight other complainants including New Hampshire, Virginia, Georgia, South Carolina, Alabama, Oklahoma and Wyoming in the 12th Circuit.


BALLOT ISSUES


For the eighth time, Attorney General Dave Yost rejected the summary language of a proposed constitutional amendment that would repeal constitutional immunities and defenses in cases alleging a civil rights violation by government actors. The petitioners submitted the latest version of the proposed amendment that would end qualified immunity on March 5. It was last rejected in November. In his latest rejection, Yost wrote that his office had "identified omissions and misstatements that would mislead a potential signer as to the actual scope and effect of the proposed amendment."


FY25-26 CAPITAL APPROPRIATIONS


The Ohio Public Works Commission (OPWC) is hoping to avoid delay in capital appropriations legislation that could affect timing for local government infrastructure projects now in the pipeline. Both chambers have agreed to additional funding for OPWC programs, but in separate vehicles -- HB2 (Cutrona-Upchurch) in the House, HB27 (Mathews-J. Thomas) in the Senate. The House approved $400 million for the State Capital Improvement Program (SCIP), which funds road, bridge, water, sewer and other projects in local communities. The Senate followed suit in its bill, also providing $100 million in revolving loan funds and $75 million for Clean Ohio projects, also administered by OPWC.


CHILDREN/FAMILIES


The Ohio Commission on Fatherhood (OCF) announced Monday it will award up to 15 mini-grants to nonprofits and/or government entities which host father-child events in June, which is "Responsible Fatherhood" month. Selected entities will be reimbursed up to $3,000 for eligible expenses in June. The application deadline is 3 p.m. on Friday, March 22. More information is available at https://tinyurl.com/55x6jedv .


DISABILITIES


Ohio Department of Developmental Disabilities (DODD) Director Kim Hauck spoke Tuesday at a Statehouse awareness and advocacy event on developmental disabilities, telling attendees their work helped secure a "historic investment" of $1.5 billion through the budget, HB33 (Edwards). She said that funding means higher pay for direct support professionals, and people with developmental disabilities will have increased representation on county boards. Ohio also provided the nation's highest investment in universal changing tables, Hauck continued.


EAST PALESTINE DERAILMENT


The chair of the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) told a U.S. Senate committee that the federal agency doesn't believe a "vent and burn" that was used to control a chemical spill after a Norfolk Southern train derailed in East Palestine early last year was needed. NTSB Chair Jennifer Homendy was testifying Wednesday to the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee when U.S. Sen. J.D. Vance (R-OH) asked about the East Palestine derailment and whether the controlled burn that was conducted on five vinyl chloride monomer tank cars two days after the derailment was needed. The burn was approved after officials feared that the tanks would explode. Homendy confirmed that readings indicated the temperature on the rail cars had decreased and could be considered stabilized before the vent and burn.


ECONOMY


According to the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS), Ohio's unemployment rate rose to 3.7 percent in January, up from a revised 3.6 percent in December, as the state added 12,900 jobs. Friday, March 8 was the release of January's unemployment numbers for Ohio instead of in February due to the annual benchmarking revision process. Meanwhile, the U.S. Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) released the national unemployment numbers for February, showing an increase to 3.9 percent, up from 3.7 percent in January, as the nation added 275,000 jobs. ODJFS said the number of workers unemployed in Ohio in January was 212,000, up from 210,000 in December. The number of unemployed has decreased by 6,000 in the past 12 months from 218,000. The January unemployment rate for Ohio decreased 0.1 percentage points from 3.8 percent in January 2023. The U.S. unemployment rate for January 2024 was 3.7 percent, unchanged from 3.7 percent in December 2023 and up from 3.4 percent in January 2023


EDUCATION


Superintendent Paul Craft disputed Monday assertions of staff bloat at the State Board of Education (SBOE) as the board dug into its budget troubles. Craft presented a staffing overview during a meeting of the board's Budget Committee, saying the board's added three positions recently but otherwise has seen stable employment since FY15. Recently hired or soon to be hired are a human resources (HR) professional, a financial analyst and a chief lawyer.


Education officials Monday urged the SBOE not to raise teacher licensure fees to fill an upcoming budget shortfall. Parents and other school officials also raised concerns about changes to remote services through the Jon Peterson Special Needs Scholarship and the Autism Scholarship Program. The SBOE received over 25 written submissions from superintendents and other school officials around the state asking them not to raise teacher licensure and evaluation fees to fill a budget gap caused by the board's restructuring under the state budget, HB33 (Edwards) – a possibility raised last month by State Superintendent Craft as one way to deal with the board’s budget hole.


Gov. Mike DeWine and Lt. Gov. Jon Husted Wednesday said that "every school" in the state should consider policies to limit or eliminate the use of cell phones in schools, citing research linking social media to mental health issues and worsening academic performance. DeWine, Husted, Ohio Second Lady Tina Husted, Ohio Department of Education and Workforce (DEW) Director Stephen Dackin, LeeAnne Cornyn, director of the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services (OhioMHAS), and school administrators from around the state participated in a roundtable discussion on cell phone use in schools hosted at the Dublin City Schools Emerald Campus. DeWine highlighted two major concerns over the use of phones in schools. First, that social media is harming teenagers' mental health, and second, that phones are interfering with the "teaching environment" by distracting students from the classroom.


Husted Thursday spotlighted how the EdChoice program has affected one Ohio school. He joined a roundtable discussion with parents, administrators, and a student at the Saint Mary School in German Village in Columbus. Saint Mary Principal Gina Stull told Hannah News that 99 percent of the student body uses an EdChoice or Jon Peterson Scholarship to help cover the cost of tuition. Enrollment has grown rapidly for the school, which serves students from pre-K to eighth grade. In 2021 there were 240 students; now there are 400 and next year 500 students are coming in with more on a wait list. Saint Mary's also recently completed a major expansion, including the conversion of an unused convent into a health clinic for the students. Husted toured the building and health clinic with administrators.


The point person for state literacy improvement efforts gave an overview Thursday of where DEW and local schools stand on implementing new requirements from the biennial budget, HB33 (Edwards). The DEW public hearing, required by law to take place every other month, also included remarks from a group representing educators who teach students whose native language isn't English, praising DEW for draft rules on that work but also offering suggested changes. Chris Woolard, chief integration officer for DEW, said the next public hearing is tentatively scheduled for Thursday, May 9.


The judge overseeing a special education lawsuit between Warren County Educational Service Center and DEW) extended a restraining order while he decides whether to enjoin DEW from enforcing corrective action plans issued against the ESC, or to dismiss the case as state officials asked. Judge Timothy Tepe of the Warren County Common Pleas Court issued a restraining order shortly after the ESC filed the lawsuit, and Gary Stedronsky, attorney for the ESC, said Tepe indicated during the recent preliminary injunction hearing that he would extend it for now while considering motions. The case stems from a three-way dispute among DEW, Warren County ESC and Disability Rights Ohio (DRO), which is designated by the state under federal law to advocate for people with disabilities. DRO filed a "systemic" complaint against Warren County, alleging numerous special education violations. DEW investigated and issued corrective action plans for the ESC to follow, but then reconsidered and revised those plans. DRO responded with a due process filing, saying DEW had no right to reconsider the plans and arguing the reconsideration had cost students their awards of compensatory services. The ESC responded with a lawsuit, arguing DEW had no authority to accept a systemic complaint from DRO and that families had opted in to the programming at the heart of the dispute.


ELECTIONS 2024


According to the secretary of state's office, 347,489 absentee ballots have been requested so far ahead of the Tuesday, March 19 primary, and 259,988 have been cast. The data collected through a survey of the 88 county boards of elections reflect absentee ballot activity through Monday, March 11. According to the secretary of state, 210,106 of the absentee ballots requested were by mail, while 137,383 were requested in person. Of the 259,988 cast, 92,363 were by mail, while 137,383 were cast in person. There are currently 87,501 absentee ballots outstanding. Of the ballots requested, 97,909 are Democratic ballots, 100,669 are Republican, and 11,528 are nonpartisan.


Matt Dolan should be the Republican candidate to face U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) this fall, Gov. Mike DeWine said Monday. "Today, Fran and I are endorsing Matt Dolan to be the Republican nominee in the race for the United States Senate. We believe this proven conservative is the strongest candidate to beat Sherrod Brown in the fall," DeWine wrote in a letter announcing the endorsement.


In the final two months of the Republican primary campaign for U.S. Senate, businessman Bernie Moreno and Sen. Matt Dolan (R-Chagrin Falls) both put more of their own money into the campaign as they made their case to voters. Thursday, March 7 was the deadline for federal candidates in Ohio to report pre-primary fundraising covering the first two months of the year. According to filings with the Federal Elections Commission (FEC), Dolan reported raising $278,402, spent nearly $4.8 million, and has nearly $2.4 million on hand. He also loaned his campaign another $2 million, bringing his total to $9 million that he has loaned the campaign for the cycle. Moreno reported the most in fundraising with more than $1.1 million in contributions. He spent more than $2 million, and has nearly $2.4 million on hand. He loaned his campaign $1.2 million, bringing the total loans he has given the campaign to $4.2 million for the cycle. Secretary of State Frank LaRose trailed in cash on hand, though he outraised Dolan. His report showed $362,819 in contributions, $541,617 in spending, and he has $591,043 on hand.


Barring the filing of an independent candidate, about a dozen current lawmakers are guaranteed to have a spot in the 136th General Assembly, including 11 current incumbents and one legislative leader who is switching chambers due to term limits. Reps. Dontavius Jarrells (D-Columbus), Latyna Humphrey (D-Columbus), Allison Russo (D-Upper Arlington), Anita Somani (D-Dublin), Munira Abdullahi (D-Columbus), Veronica Sims (D-Akron), Tom Young (R-Centerville), Elgin Rogers Jr. (D[1]Toledo), Ron Ferguson (R-Winterville), and Adam Holmes (R-Nashport) as well as Speaker Jason Stephens (R-Kitts Hill) are all unopposed in the primary and currently unopposed in the general election. Joining them in the next General Assembly will be Senate President Matt Huffman (R-Lima), who is term-limited and unopposed in his run for the 78th House District. Monday, March 18, is the deadline for independent candidates to file petitions in order to appear on the November ballot, so all 12 lawmakers still may have an opponent but would be largely favored for re-election.


The campaign arm of the Ohio House Republican Caucus has spent heavy during the primary election season to defend incumbents who had voted for House Speaker Jason Stephens (R-Kitts Hill) over caucus choice Rep. Derek Merrin (R-Maumee). Their detractors have dubbed them the "Blue 22" because they joined with Democrats in choosing a speaker who was not Merrin, the choice that came out of a GOP caucus meeting. They have been censured, criticized, and unendorsed, and Tuesday, March 19's primary election will determine the fates of more than half of those 22, who are facing primaries. And while he faces no current opposition for re-election barring a long-shot independent candidate entering the race, the future of Stephens could also be affected by the upcoming primary election. Stephens has feuded with Merrin and his allies over control of the Ohio House Republican Alliance (OHRA), the campaign arm of the caucus, with Merrin and Reps. Phil Plummer (R-Dayton) and Ron Ferguson (R-Winterville) going to court to block the speaker from spending out of the fund. However, a Franklin County judge refused to issue a preliminary injunction ahead of the primary election.


Democrats will be choosing between two members of Ohio courts of appeals to be their candidate in the fall in hopes of capturing the majority on the Ohio Supreme Court in 2024. Tenth District Court of Appeals Judge Terri Jamison is making her second run for the Supreme Court after failing to unseat Justice Pat Fischer in 2022. She is taking on Eighth District Court of Appeals Judge Lisa Forbes in the Democratic primary, who has the backing of the state party. Jamison points to an extensive background, including as a day care provider trainer, eligibility worker and fraud investigator in the West Virgina Department of Welfare; a former coal miner; a small business owner; and an attorney in private practice. Forbes was elected to the bench in 2020. Her campaign website states that she has extensive experience in appeals and trial courts across Ohio, at both the state and federal levels. Forbes has a Bachelor of Science degree from Cornell University and received her juris doctor from Case Western Reserve University School of Law.


Conservation Ohio this week announced the launch of its 2024 "Climate Candidate" campaign, with the aim of electing "environmental champions" in highly contested Ohio House and Senate primaries. The group said it will support candidates in six contested Ohio House primaries and one contested Senate primary. The support includes a website -- www.OhioClimateVote.com -- as well as a direct mail campaign aimed at likely voters.


Former President Donald Trump will stop in Ohio on Saturday, March 16, when he will stump for U.S. Senate candidate Bernie Moreno, whom Trump has endorsed over Republican opponents Sen. Matt Dolan (R-Chagrin Falls) and Secretary of State Frank LaRose. The event will be held at the Dayton International Airport at Wright Bros. Aero Inc. and is being hosted by Buckeye Values PAC, a group supporting Moreno.


The National Association of Wholesaler-Distributors (NAW) this week announced it was launching an ad campaign endorsing Secretary of State Frank LaRose in the Republican primary for the U.S. Senate. NAW said the campaign underscores the group's " commitment to supporting leaders who advocate for pro-business policies and champion the interests of the wholesale distribution industry, ensuring a strong and vibrant economy for all Americans."

The following endorsements were made over the week:


  • Former U.S. Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) endorsed Matt Dolan for U.S. Senate.

  • The U.S. Senate campaign of Republican Bernie Moreno announced the endorsement of U.S. Sen. Ted Budd (R-NC).

  • The state representative campaign of Republican Mark Hiner announced the endorsement of U.S. Rep. Max Miller (R-Rocky River).

ENVIRONMENT


The WateReuse Association has approved Ohio's charter to form a state section of the organization, the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (Ohio EPA) announced Tuesday. WateReuse Association state sections address local issues, advocate for legislation, and organize conferences and workshops, Ohio EPA said. Ohio EPA has been working with water and wastewater utilities across the state to form a chapter specifically for Ohio. John Newsome of the Columbus Department of Public Utilities will be the chapter's first president.


FEDERAL


U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Marcia Fudge, a former member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Ohio and Warrensville Heights mayor, announced Monday she plans to resign on Friday, March 22 and will be retiring from public life at age 71.


Legislation announced by U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) on Tuesday would reinstate the Section 232 tariffs on Mexican steel imports at 25 percent for at least a year. The "Stop Mexico's Steel Surge Act" would also grant the president authority to impose additional quotas and tariff rate quotas if necessary, Brown told reporters during a press conference call. The bill is needed because the Mexican government is violating a 2019 agreement with the U.S. and is harming steelworkers in Ohio and across the country, Brown said.


GENERAL ASSEMBLY/STATEHOUSE


Former Sen. Ted Gray, the longest-serving state senator in Ohio history, laid in state Wednesday in the Ohio Statehouse. Gray served 43 years in the Ohio Senate, including time as majority floor leader and president pro tempore. He died Monday, March 4 at the age of 96.


GOVERNOR


The governor signed the following bills on Wednesday, March 13; both become effective in 90 days:


SB17 (Wilson) -- To incorporate free market capitalism content into the high school financial literacy and entrepreneurship standards and model curriculum and with regard to financial literacy course credit and license validation.


SB106 (Schaffer) -- Regarding workers' compensation coverage for testing when certain medical professionals are exposed to chemical substances or bodily fluids in the course of employment and regarding medical release forms for workers' compensation claims.


HANNAH NEWS RACES TO WATCH


Over the past several weeks, Hannah News has focused on 34 "Races to Watch" for the 136th General Assembly (GA). Those articles are now compiled into a single document for easy reference. It can be found here: https://tinyurl.com/288rn2vx. The document organizes the election "snapshots" by district in an easily navigable format and will make it easier to track the outcomes election night.


The former police chief of the village of Baltimore is hoping to take down one of the "Blue 22" in the Ohio House. Mike Tussey is challenging Rep. Jeff LaRe (R-Canal Winchester) in House District 73, which includes north and northwest Fairfield County. LaRe is facing the primary challenge in large part because he is one of the Republicans who joined Democrats to elect Rep. Jason Stephens (R-Kitts Hill) as speaker of the Ohio House. Tussey recently received a boost when the third candidate in the race -- End Abortion Ohio President Austin Beigel -- decided to drop out and endorse Tussey. LaRe has served in the House since May 2019, when he was appointed to replace Tim Schaffer (R-Lancaster), who moved over to the Senate. LaRe is currently chair of the House Financial Institutions Committee and vice chair of the House Finance Committee. LaRe also co-chairs the Ohio House Republican Alliance (OHRA).


A variety of backgrounds, including multiple candidates with experience around the Statehouse, are represented by the five candidates in the open Republican primary for the 77th House District seat being vacated by term-limited Rep. Scott Wiggam (R-Wooster). The district entirely and exclusively encompasses Wayne County in North Central Ohio. Bill Albright serves on the executive boards of the Wayne County Republican Party and the Wayne County Humane Society. Previously he was a legislative aide for state Rep. Mike Henne from 2014 to 2015, then for Frank LaRose during his time as state senator. Albright also worked in the Adjutant General's Department of the Ohio National Guard and is a veteran of both Iraq and Afghanistan. Meredith Craig is director of health care policy for the Ohio Chamber of Commerce. She was previously assistant director of government affairs at the Ohio Department of Insurance, and in that role she testified before committees in the General Assembly multiple times. She also worked under Wayne County Commissioner Ron Amstutz during his time as Speaker Pro Tempore of the Ohio House and was a legislative fellow with the Legislative Service Commission. Dennis Finley is currently mayor of Dalton in Wayne County and has previously served as president of Dalton's village council. He is also a member of the county mental health and recovery board. Frank Grande says on his campaign's website that he is "passionate about protecting our homeland against outside dangers, protecting families against undue taxes, protecting children from destructive ideologies, [and] protecting our God given fundamental constitutional rights." Josh Hlavaty also brings Statehouse experience to the district's primary race. Hlavaty was a legislative aide for Rep. Riordan McClain (R-Nevada) from 2022-2023. His campaign website says he also worked on Republican political campaigns in South Carolina and Alabama, as well as Ohio.


House District 34 has become a wide-open primary with Rep. Casey Weinstein's (D-Hudson) announced run for the Ohio Senate, though not so much for Republicans in this moderately left-leaning Akron suburb. Derrick Hall, Dina Edwards and Nathan Jarosz will face each other on Tuesday, March 19 to become the Democratic nominee for communities including Hudson, Stowe and Cuyahoga Falls. Hall is president of Akron School Board, an executive of Summa Health and a Judge Advocate General (JAG) captain in the U.S. Army Reserve, holding degrees from Harvard Medical School (M.S.), Ohio State University (J.D., MBA and PharmD) and University of Akron (B.S.) He is endorsed by the Ohio Environmental Council (OEC), Ohio Chamber of Commerce Political Action Committee (OCC PAC), Akron Education Association, 314 Action Fund and a dozen council members representing various communities in the Akron area. Edwards is a veteran schoolteacher currently working with migrant children as an ESL instructor. Edwards is endorsed by Rep. Weinstein's wife, University of Akron economics Professor Amanda Weinstein, Matriots, and several Stow-Munroe Falls School Board members. Jarosz founded and operates the nonprofit Leadership Influencing Teen Empowerment (LITE) and travels nationally and internationally to deliver leadership training. He is a community organizer and president of Summit County Progressive Democrats with a master's in organizational leadership from Malone University, a B.S. in management from Thomas Edison State University, and diversity and inclusion certification from Cornell University. He is endorsed by Akron Mayor Shammas Malik, former Akron Mayor Don Plusquellic, Barberton Mayor William Judge, Stow Mayor John Pribonic, and dozens of current and former council members from the Akron area.


The primary race for Ohio House District 38 features two high-profile, experienced leaders vying for the seat being vacated by Rep. Willis Blackshear (D-Dayton), as he is running for the Ohio Senate 6th District seat. Running to fill the spot are Desiree Tims, president of Innovation Ohio, and Dayton NAACP President Derrick Foward. Tims has headed the progressive think tank Innovation Ohio since 2021. She previously ran for U.S. Congress in 2020 against U.S. Rep. Mike Turner (R-Dayton) and worked on political staffs in Washington D.C. for President Barack Obama and U.S. Sens. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY). Tims has also been chosen as a representative of Ohio's 10th Congressional District to the 2024 Democratic National Convention. Foward was president of the Dayton Unit of the NAACP since 2007 and also served as first vice president of the Ohio Conference NAACP. He has recently resigned both positions to run the House campaign. Foward has noted his record as advocating for voting rights, criminal justice reform, women's rights, union rights, education reform, youth development and economic stability.


Rep. Brett Hillyer (R-Dennison) must overcome a primary challenge from a Bolivar Republican who works in the behavioral health field in order to win election to his fourth and final term in the Ohio House. House District 51 covers all of Tuscarawas County and the southern part of Stark County. It is strongly Republican, with the Ohio Redistricting Commission giving it a Republican lean of nearly 65 percent. The primary has Hillyer, an attorney in addition to his legislative work, taking on Jodi Salvo, the director of substance use prevention services at OhioGuidestone, a nonprofit behavioral health organization. Hillyer has faced criticism from other Republicans and was censured by the Ohio Republican Party's State Central Committee after he joined with 21 other House Republicans and all House Democrats in elevating Rep. Jason Stephens (R-Kitts Hill) to speaker over Rep. Derek Merrin (R-Maumee), the winner of a closed-door caucus vote. The 22 Republicans have been dubbed the "Blue 22" by detractors. The winner faces the winner of the Democratic primary between John Bazaar and Joe Rinehart. Bazaar is a retired engineer who said on Facebook that he became involved in politics after watching "with dismay, the rapid erosion of the rights of the citizens of the state of Ohio.” Rinehart is a U.S. Marines and Vietnam veteran and a self-employed entrepreneur and consultant who started and later sold config.com Internet services.


Ohioans living in House District 69, covering parts of Coshocton, Licking and Perry counties, have a decision to make between keeping the incumbent House Rep. Kevin Miller (R-Newark) or electing Daniel Kalmbach as the Republican candidate. Miller, running for a second term, serves on the criminal justice, finance, homeland security, and transportation committees and on the House Finance Subcommittee on Public Safety. Before his work in politics, he served with the Ohio State Highway Patrol for over 20 years as a state trooper, a labor relations management advocate, and a post commander. He received a bachelor's degree from Ohio State University and attended a course for law enforcement executives at the FBI National Academy. Kalmbach is a farm and feed producer and has worked as a legislative aide for Rep. Thad Claggett (R-Newark). He says he will work towards a stronger economy, stop big government, and protect families. Kalmbach has a bachelor's degree from Cedarville University, and a law degree from Case Western Reserve University School of Law. He is newly married and lives in Arlington.


Citizens from the southwest and central portion of Warren Country have three candidates to pick from in the primary election. House District 56 Republican candidates include incumbent Rep. Adam Mathews (R-Lebanon) and challengers Kathy Grossmann and Heather Salyer. Mathews, who is currently seeking a second term as House representative, is a member of the Aviation and Aerospace Committee, the Constitutional Resolutions Committee, the Families and Aging Committee and the Ways and Means Committee. He chairs the House Pensions Committee and is vice chair of the Civil Justice Committee. Running against him, Grossmann served on the Mason City Council from 2015-2023, serving three of those years as mayor of Mason. She also has experience as a former educator teaching fifth grade for Sycamore Community Schools. She currently serves as secretary of the Warren County Republican Party. Grossmann says she is "100 percent pro-life" and "pro-Second Amendment," according to her campaign site. She will also provide additional support for law enforcement. Salyer is also on the ballot this March running as a "pro-Trump" candidate. She criticizes Mathews, saying his views aren't conservative enough. "My decision to run was fueled by concerns about some Republicans, including our current rep, Adam Mathews aligning with Democrats and their agenda." said Salyer in a video on her campaign website. Salyer is endorsed by the Ohio Citizens PAC, the We The People Convention, Ohio Value Voters, the Buckeye Firearms Association, and the Right to Life Action Coalition of Ohio.


The Democratic primary for the 20th Ohio House District won't list any candidates for voters to choose from in the race because both three-term incumbent Rep. Terrence Upchurch (D-Cleveland) and Nathaniel Cory Hartfield are running as write-in candidates. The situation arose when the Cuyahoga County Board of Elections found 12 of the 56 signatures Upchurch submitted were from voters who now live outside the boundaries of the redrawn district, leaving him with only 44 valid signatures – short of the 50 needed. Upchurch then withdrew that paperwork before the board of elections rejected it and instead entered the race as a write-in candidate. Following Upchurch's withdrawal of his initial petition, Hartfield submitted paperwork to be a write-in candidate in the race. Hartfield is a great-grandson of Fannie Lewis, the longest-serving woman in the history of Cleveland's City Council. Hartfield previously ran in the nonpartisan primary for Cleveland City Council Ward 7 in 2021 but finished last in the field of 11 candidates.


First-term Rep. Dani Isaacsohn (D-Cincinnati) is looking to extend his Statehouse tenure this year but first needs to secure the Democratic nomination over a challenger, Stephan Pryor. Isaacsohn or Pryor would be overwhelmingly favored in November over John Sess, the only Republican candidate on the ballot for House District 24. Ohio Redistricting Commission data show the district with a Democratic index over 72 percent. Isaacsohn is the founder of Cohear, which connects decision-makers with local residents to solve problems. In campaign materials, he lists priorities including investing in K-12 education, preschool and child care; improving career pathways with apprenticeships and free community college; supporting labor rights; and advocating for gun safety. Pryor is a community activist campaigning on issues including improved education and extracurricular activities for inner-city youth; affordable housing for working families; better living accommodations for senior citizens; addressing gun violence; affordable health care and mental health services; and property and business taxes.


HOUSING/HOMELESSNESS


While shortages of affordable housing remain an issue throughout the state of Ohio, a report released Thursday shows the situation improved over the past year. The Gap Report, released jointly by the National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC) and the Coalition on Homelessness and Housing in Ohio (COHHIO), says that 444,768 households in Ohio qualify as extremely low-income, and the number of rental units that are affordable and available in 2024 for those households is short by 267,382 units. The same report from 2023 found that shortage to be 270,399 units. The 2023 figure of housing units available to the lowest-income Ohioans was 6 percent worse than the previous year. The report says the overall statewide ratio of affordable units available per low-income household remained the same from 2023 to 2024 at 40 per 100.


INSURANCE


The Ohio Department of Insurance (ODI) recently announced its Consumer Services Division and the Ohio Senior Health Insurance Information Program (OSHIIP) saved insurance consumers a total of $50.3 million in 2023. The savings came through ODI assistance in resolving coverage disputes, outlining suitable coverage options and identifying financial assistance programs. ODI Director Judith French announced. Much of that amount came through work by OSHIIP, which saved consumers $37.2 million, counseled 160,838 Ohioans and welcomed 454,700 to educational activities. The Consumer Services Division in turn saved consumers $13.1 million, handling 17,275 inquiries and 8,780 complaints. It addresses automobile, homeowners, life, health, mental health, and other insurance-type issues. Consumers can contact OSHIIP at 800-686-1578 or at oshiipmail@insurance.ohio.gov; the Consumer Services Division at 800-686-1526 or at consumer.services@insurance.ohio.gov; and MHIA at 855-438-6442 or at getmhia@insurance.ohio.gov.


LOBBYISTS


Funeral services will be held Monday, March 18 for John Kozlowski who, according to his obituary, served as general counsel for the Ohio Credit Union League for more than 27 years. He died Tuesday, March 12 at the age of 73. A Mass of Christian Burial will take place Monday at St. Brigid Catholic Church in Columbus. It will begin at 11 a.m. Visitation will be held Sunday, March 17 from 2 to 5 p.m. at the Schoedinger Dublin Funeral Home.


MILITARY AFFAIRS


Ohio Department of Education and Workforce (DEW) Director Steve Dackin, Ohio Department of Veterans Services Director Deborah Ashenhurst, Major General John C. Harris Jr., Ohio Second Lady Tina Husted, and more all spoke Tuesday at the 2024 Military Signing Day held in recognition of Ohio high school students who have committed to serving in the U.S. military. The event, hosted by DEW, was held at the National Veterans Memorial and Museum in downtown Columbus. High school seniors and juniors who are entering service academies, have committed to serve as active duty, Reserve, or National Guard members, or have earned a Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) Scholarship were invited to take part in the ceremony. Just under 100 students attended the event, according to a DEW official.


NATURAL RESOURCES


The Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) has released its first "Wildflower Bloom Report" after early spring wildflowers appeared in Southern and Central Ohio due to recent record high temperatures. "The stunning display of spring wildflowers emerging across the state is a fitting way to bid goodbye to the cold, gray days of winter," said Jeff Johnson, chief of the ODNR Division of Natural Areas and Preserves. "ODNR's weekly Wildflower Bloom reports are a great source for Ohioans to learn more about our native wildflowers and when and where to enjoy their lovely blooms." Ohio's native wildflowers are triggered to bloom when temperatures gradually warm up in March and April and spring rains arrive. This year, spring wildflowers are appearing earlier because of February's extended warm temperatures.

Through the Prescribed Fire Supplies, Tools, Education, and Personal Protective Equipment (STEP) Grant program, the ODNR Division of Forestry recently approved $54,884 in grant funding for 19 projects that use "prescribed fire as a resource management tool." Prescribed Fire STEP Grant projects help land management agencies build and expand their prescribed fire programs. Items that grant recipients purchase through the program include personal protective equipment, radios, tools, weather data devices, pumps, hoses, and nozzles.


NEWS MEDIA


Republican Derek Myers, who is running in a primary for the Second Congressional District, said Thursday that he is filing a lawsuit against the Cincinnati Enquirer, as well as related Gannett publications and parent company Gannett Inc., saying a recent story about him "engaged in egregious defamation and false light portrayal, tarnishing his reputation with baseless allegations." Earlier in the week, the newspaper published a story titled "In Ohio, a congressional candidate leaves a trail of court cases and controversy." It states that Myers has been either a plaintiff or defendant in multiple civil and criminal cases covering a bevy of issues and allegations."


OHIO HISTORY


The Ohio History Fund announced that 14 grants totaling $187,600 have been awarded to community history organizations throughout the state. The grants are funded by Ohio taxpayers who donate to the "Ohio History Fund" via a checkbox on their state tax returns. The Ohio History Connection says donations average $12, and the funds help Ohio's local nonprofits preserve historical buildings, make museum collections more accessible and expand the reach of popular community history tours. More information on making a donation to the Ohio History Connection can be found at https://tinyurl.com/yuyaf93x.

The month of March rings in the national recognition of Women's History Month at the Ohio Statehouse. Capitol Square Review and Advisory Board has announced two events and an exhibit to celebrate. On Tuesday, March 26 from 12 noon to 1 p.m., musicians Steve and Lisa Ball will present "The Music of the Women of the Civil War," singing popular songs from the Civil War era and sharing the stories of women who -- as performers, musicians, activists, and writers -- worked tirelessly to transform the world during that time. It is free and open to the public in the Statehouse Atrium. It will also be livestreamed on the Ohio Channel at www.OhioChannel.org. This follows an earlier program when Christina Hartlieb of the Harriet Beecher Stowe House presented "The Beecher Sisters: 19th Century Social Reformers," performing the stories of educator Catharine, abolitionist Harriet, suffragist Isabella and Mary, the "quiet" one. The Beecher sisters represented social change in 1800s America by using their power of voice in a time when women's voices were not heard often. Both will be video recorded and available on the www.OhioChannel.org.


POLITICS


Josh Brown, an attorney and member of the Ohio Republican Party's (ORP) State Central Committee, this week followed up on his previous letter to his colleagues calling for the committee to hold a special meeting to discuss taking over the House Republican Caucus' campaign fund, saying he now has enough support among committee members for that meeting. Brown had sent a letter to other members of the committee last month, saying action was needed regarding the Ohio House Republican Alliance (OHRA), the campaign arm of the caucus, which has been running ads and sending mail to support a number of incumbents who are facing primary opponents. Most of those incumbents had supported House Speaker Jason Stephens (R-Kitts Hill) for speaker over Rep. Derek Merrin (R-Maumee), who won a closed-door caucus vote. Brown said on X (formerly Twitter), that he has the required signatures of a majority of the State Central Committee to call a meeting to deal with what he called Stephens' "illegal" use of OHRA funds.


POLLS


A poll released by Emerson College Polling/The Hill on Wednesday shows Sen. Matt Dolan (R-Chagrin Falls) in a statistical tie with businessman Bernie Moreno in the Republican primary for the U.S. Senate race, with Dolan holding a slight edge. The poll was conducted Thursday, March 7 through Sunday, March 10 among 1,300 registered voters, with a margin of error of plus or minus 2.6 percentage points. It found Dolan leading at 26 percent, followed by Moreno at 23 percent and Secretary of State Frank LaRose with 16 percent, with another 32 percent undecided. Emerson said that Dolan's support has grown by 10 points since its January poll, while Moreno has gained one and LaRose has lost five points.


On Thursday, the Institute for Civics and Public Policy (ICAPP) at Ohio Northern University (ONU) released its latest poll on the U.S. Senate Republican primary among Moreno, Dolan and LaRose which continues to show a tight race that is still up for grabs largely on the number of undecided voters. The ICAPP poll, conducted Wednesday, March 6 through Monday, March 11, showed Moreno continuing to get a bump from the endorsement of former President Donald Trump, but Dolan is surging. Moreno is the choice of 22 percent of respondents, while Dolan has 18 percent and LaRose has 16 percent. However, 44 percent of likely Republican voters were undecided. ONU said the rise of Moreno and Dolan is a major change from its previous polls that had LaRose ahead for much of the past year. Dolan polls best among the three against incumbent U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) in hypothetical head-to-head matchups.


PUBLIC SAFETY


The DeWine administration has announced the addition of eight sheriffs' offices to the more than 600 law enforcement agencies certified under Community-Police Collaborative Advisory Board standards. Summit County leads newly added agencies with nearly 500 deputies, leaving 14 sheriffs' offices without certification in every quadrant of the state, topped once again by Madison County in Central Ohio. The Ohio Department of Public Safety's (DPS) Office of Criminal Justice Services (OCJS) released a long list of first-time signers to state policing standards on use of force, deadly force, and agency recruitment and hiring. They include the following sheriffs' offices: Athens, Butler Coshocton, Fairfield, Ottawa, Summit, Van Wert and Wood counties. Butler and Fairfield follow Summit County with 232 and 200 deputies, respectively.


Eleven certified crime laboratories will receive $3.4 million as part of the Ohio Crime Lab Efficiency Program, Gov. Mike DeWine announced recently. DeWine created the program in 2022 to help Ohio crime labs reduce and eliminate backlogs, increase overall lab efficiency and decrease evidence processing time. Crime laboratories receiving funding include labs in Cuyahoga, Franklin, Lake, Licking, Lorain, Lucas and Montgomery counties. Eligible grant expenses include hiring additional staff, purchasing new technology and outsourcing lab work.


SOLAR ECLIPSE


Gov. Mike DeWine signed an executive order on Wednesday that directs all state departments and agencies to be prepared to ensure the health and safety of all Ohioans and visitors before, during and after the forthcoming solar eclipse. The total solar eclipse on Monday, April 8 will cross a 124-mile-wide band in the state of Ohio, the governor's office said. The Ohio Emergency Management Agency (Ohio EMA) is coordinating the state's preparation and response to the event, and all law enforcement agencies are prepared to respond with necessary personnel and resources to assist local law enforcement in contributing to the safety and security of Ohio residents and tourists. Travelers are urged to arrive early and stay late to avoid the heaviest traffic. Additional preparedness resources are available at www.eclipse.ohio.gov and events surrounding the eclipse can be found at www.ohio.org/eclipse.


STATE GOVERNMENT


The Ohio Board of Nursing (OBN) moved its headquarters effective Monday, March 11. The board's new headquarters are now at 8995 E. Main St., Reynoldsburg after previously being at 17 S. High St., Columbus. The office can still be reached at the previous phone number, 614-466-3947, and OBN contact information will not change.


TECHNOLOGY/AEROSPACE


The Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) announced recently that its Uncrewed Aircraft Systems (UAS) Center has received approval to conduct a beyond-visual-line-of-sight drone operations over part of the U.S. 33 corridor northwest of Columbus. The Federal Aviation Administration's (FAA) permission was required for the planned flight and will be valid for four years. The drone weighs 20 pounds with a wingspan of 7.5 feet and will be the first aircraft of its size approved for this type of operation. It is expected to fly along four miles of U.S. 33 between U.S. 42 and Watkins Road, testing the capability of drone use in traffic monitoring and incident management. Visual observers will supplement the drone's system to detect and avoid other aircraft, and ODOT said safety will remain "paramount" during the trial period.

 


 


 



 


 



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


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