Week In Review: March 2, 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.


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ABORTION


While 132-HB214 (LaTourette-Merrin) is unconstitutional for banning pre-viability abortion and/or for creating an "undue burden" on a woman seeking pre-viability abortion, abortion providers argue in a filing with the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, the Down syndrome abortion ban is also unconstitutional because it allows the state to inappropriately encroach on a woman's ability to make personal medical decisions with regard to her pregnancy.


A bill that would prohibit the prescription of abortion-inducing drugs via telemedicine, SB260 (S. Huffman), was reported out by the Senate Health, Human Services and Medicaid Committee Wednesday evening despite opponents' concerns that the bill is actually about limiting coverage to abortions, rather than protecting the safety of patients.


ARTS, SPORTS AND ENTERTAINMENT


Transgender girls and women would be banned from playing for high school and college women's sports teams under HB527 proposed by Reps. Jena Powell (R-Arcanum) and Reggie Stoltzfus (R-Minerva). Under the "Save Women's Sports Act," biological males who identify as females will not be allowed to participate in women's sports at public high schools, public institutions of higher education or private schools and colleges that are members of a state or national athletic association, the lawmakers said during a press conference at the Statehouse.


ATTORNEY GENERAL


Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost told reporters Monday that he is "highly optimistic" a deal will be reached on the "One Ohio" proposal for a joint opioid settlement among the state, local governments and pharmaceutical companies. Given the number of individual jurisdictions, he said the respective elected officials are taking time to make sure their constituencies will benefit appropriately, and his office is "communicating and listening" during that process.


Attorney General Dave Yost is co-leading a group of states' attorneys general who are urging passage of federal legislation to stop corporations from "forum shopping" to gain an unfair advantage on creditors in bankruptcy court. Forty-two attorneys general have sent sponsors a letter of support for HR4421 which levels the playing field between insolvent citizens, who generally must file for bankruptcy in the judicial district where they reside, and bankrupt businesses, which can file anywhere an affiliate is located.


BALLOT ISSUES


A new group, Ohioans for Legislative Term Limits, Wednesday submitted a proposed constitutional amendment to Attorney General Dave Yost that would place a lifetime term limit on Ohio lawmakers of 16 years. The issue would amend the existing Article II, Section 2 of the Ohio Constitution, "to prohibit any person from taking or holding the office of state senator or state representative pursuant to election or appointment if as of the date that person takes office pursuant to that election or appointment the number of years in the term or unexpired term to which that person is elected or appointed, when added to the years that person has served in the General Assembly as either state senator or as state representative, or in any combination of these two offices, would exceed 16 years." Yost certified the petition language on Thursday, Feb. 27.


Earlier, Yost had certified the resubmitted summary for a proposed amendment that would make changes to Ohio's election laws. Yost had rejected the first version of the "Secure and Fair Elections" amendment last month, citing issues such as that the summary of the proposed amendment was longer than the proposed amendment itself, and that the summary included a paragraph of text that is not included in the proposed amendment.


Both issues now head to the Ohio Ballot Board, which must determine if the proposals contain one or more amendments.


CHILDREN/FAMILIES


Reps. Thomas West (D-Canton) and Terrence Upchurch (D-Cleveland) introduced a concurrent resolution Tuesday urging Gov. Mike DeWine to declare a "state of emergency on childhood trauma," modeled after Ohio's "state of emergency on opioids," which the lawmakers said helped spur legislative changes and has resulted in reductions in overdose rates. West emphasized that trauma disproportionally affects African American communities not just at home, but also in school, the criminal justice system and the state's broader "system of care."


Health, child care, policy and philanthropic groups launched a child wellness campaign Wednesday to back policies for expanding access to services they say are needed to help Ohio's infants and toddlers, particularly those living in poverty, gain strong footing for life. Spearheaded by Groundwork Ohio and supported by dozens of organizations across the state, "Ready, Set Soar Ohio" focuses on promoting policies to aid child development from gestation through age 3, when the bulk of brain development takes place -- and when the seeds of future learning and health disparities often are planted, especially for the quarter of young Ohio children who live in poverty.


ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT


Citing his prior eight years as Ohio Auditor of State, Attorney General Dave Yost said Monday that he'd had his office conduct a "more robust review" of the Development Services Agency's (DSA) economic development projects in 2018, generating recommended changes that include the following: that DSA should be required to provide a "hybrid list" of businesses that received incentives from both DSA and JobsOhio as part of the statutorily-required review; that modification of agreement terms after contracts were signed should, at the very least, require independent review; that job creation and retention expectations be required for all Roadwork Development grants when appropriate; and that the review should be conducted by the auditor of state rather than the attorney general. He also called for DSA to replace its current standard of being in "substantial compliance" by meeting 90 percent of requirements with a definition of compliance that is closer to meeting 100 percent of requirements.


Policy Matters Ohio (PMO) Research Director Zach Schiller praised these proposed changes by Yost but said more action is needed. "Loans, grants and tax breaks like those Yost reviewed cost money that could be used to fund our schools, fight infant mortality, or keep Lake Erie clean" so it is important to not waste funding on projects that don't deliver results.


Gov. Mike DeWine's administration announced Monday the approval of assistance for three projects expected to create 207 new jobs and retain 84 jobs statewide. During its monthly meeting, the Ohio Tax Credit Authority (TCA) reviewed economic development proposals brought by JobsOhio and its regional partners. The projects are expected to collectively result in more than $11 million in new payroll and spur more than $72 million in investments across Ohio.


EDUCATION


Gov. Mike DeWine pledged "just as much if not more" money for school health and wellness programs in his next budget as the $675 million available in the current biennium during remarks Tuesday to local education leaders at a social-emotional learning conference. "I will not sign a budget that does not have this money in it," the governor said at the Ohio School Boards Association's Mental Health and Social-Emotional Learning Summit in Columbus.


Attorney General (AG) David Yost announced new threat assessment training tools for schools at a Wednesday press briefing. Yost, who was joined by State Superintendent Paolo DeMaria and Lina Alathari of the U.S. Secret Service National Threat Assessment Center, unveiled a series of videos -- three hours of material across 10 videos -- meant to train schools officials, law enforcement, students and the public about using a threat assessment model to prevent violence in schools.


Federal appellate judges Monday upheld a lower court ruling against an Avon Lake Schools teacher who sought to recoup past payments to the local union under the U.S. Supreme Court's holding in Janus v. AFSCME. Judge Richard Griffin, writing for a panel that included Judges Eric Clay and Martha Daughtrey, noted that two other appellate circuits and all district courts considering the "precise issue" in Lee's case all upheld a good-faith defense against claims for return of fees collected while Abood v. Detroit Board of Education was the law of the land.


A Board of Tax Appeals (BTA) decision that doubled the valuation of a New Albany apartment development was proper, the Ohio Supreme Court ruled recently, giving a victory to Columbus City Schools in its challenge of the original valuation. A 2015 sale of the Palmer House building for more than $35 million was a closer marker of the value than the $16 million valuation assigned by the county auditor when Palmer House was constructed in 2013, the BTA determined.


The most recent panel charged with making recommendations regarding the state's dropout prevention and recovery (DOPR) schools sought to arrive at clearer definitions about what a DOPR school is and what sorts of students they serve at its Thursday meeting. Chairwoman Sen. Peggy Lehner (R-Kettering) said two of her biggest concerns for the panel include resolving whether students over age 14 can attend DOPR schools -- current law provides for students age 16 and up to attend -- and the creation of an advisory committee on DOPR schools. Members supported lowering the age of entry to DOPR schools to 14 as well as the creation of an advisory committee.


Meanwhile, the Ohio Association of Charter School Authorizers (OACSA), a trade group for charter school sponsors, this week endorsed the recommendations of a prior DOPR study group that concluded its work a few months ago. That group had been led by State Board of Education member John Hagan, a former legislator.


ELECTIONS


Auditor of State Keith Faber Wednesday reminded public officials that most local governments and public school districts may not use tax dollars to support or oppose levy or bond issues on the ballot.


Secretary of State Frank LaRose appeared before the Senate Government Oversight and Reform Committee on Tuesday to advocate for a bill that would update Ohio's voter registration system, saying lawmakers should act rather than letting a proposed ballot initiative to put it in the constitution be passed. LaRose said SB186 (Manning-Sykes) will modernize Ohio's antiquated voter registration and increase security, accuracy and convenience. The system will result in more accurate voter lists, reduce the risk of voter fraud, institute better citizenship checks, improve efficiency at county boards of elections and do more to provide Ohio voters with confidence in the election system.


ELECTIONS 2020


Secretary of State Frank LaRose Tuesday released his office's first update on early voting, saying that 149,736 absentee ballots have been requested by mail or in-person for the March primary. Absentee voting by mail or in-person for all Ohioans began on Wednesday, Feb. 19, while military and overseas absentee balloting began on Friday, Jan. 31.


The Democratic National Committee (DNC) announced Tuesday that Ohio is among six additional states that it will be spending money in as part of its "Battleground Build-Up 2020" program, aimed at laying the groundwork for the eventual Democratic presidential nominee and Democratic candidates at every level of the ballot in the general election. The DNC said the investments in Georgia, New Hampshire, Nevada, Ohio, Texas and Virginia follow its first round that targeted Arizona, Florida, Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.


Ohio Senate Democrats, the campaign arm of the Senate Democratic Caucus, announced it has launched a new campaign website, www.ohiosenatedemocrats.com. The caucus said its new website connects Ohioans to Democratic Senate candidates throughout the state, and provides more information about incumbent senators. It will be regularly updated.


President Donald Trump's re-election campaign announced Columbus and Cleveland will be Ohio locations for its new Black Voices for Trump Community Centers that it will be establishing across the country to build support for Trump among black Americans.


The following endorsements were made over the week:


  • The Ohio Senate campaign of Bill Reineke announced the endorsement of former Sen. Larry Mumper (R-Marion).

  • The Human Rights Campaign endorsed the re-election of U.S. Reps. Marcy Kaptur (D-Toledo), Joyce Beatty (D-Columbus), Marcia Fudge (D-Warrensville Heights) and Tim Ryan (D-Niles).

  • Ohioans for Secure and Fair Elections announced the endorsement of the Ohio Student Association for its proposed ballot initiative.


ENERGY


Chairman Sam Randazzo of the Ohio Power Siting Board (OPSB) says the board's upcoming five-year rule review will be different from past cycles with the addition of informal stakeholder meetings in March allowing for "open and transparent conversation" on board operations and the siting process -- the target of criticism by local opposition groups in testimony supporting wind farm referendum bills HB401 (Reineke) and SB234 (McColley). March meetings will seek to include all stakeholders, including utilities, renewable energy developers, state legislators, governor's office, local officials and community activists.


ENVIRONMENT


The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (Ohio EPA) announced two infrastructure projects aimed at improving the quality of drinking water in areas with deteriorating or no public water systems. The projects in Pike and Coshocton counties will receive a total of $1.5 million as part of Gov. Mike DeWine's H2Ohio initiative, according to Ohio EPA.


Ohio EPA on Wednesday announced $500,000 in funding to help improve sanitary sewer services for hundreds of residents in Miami County. The agency said it is providing the funding to the village of West Milton as part of Gov. Mike DeWine's H2Ohio initiative, noting the money will support a planned project to construct sanitary sewers in the village of Ludlow Falls, where failing home sewage treatment systems have caused high coliform readings in nearby Ludlow Creek.


GENERAL ASSEMBLY/STATEHOUSE


A bicameral legislative committee that saw a rocky ride through the Kasich administration is once again grabbing headlines over its executive director position. The proposed ouster of Correctional Institution Inspection Committee (CIIC) Director Charlie Adams was withdrawn as quickly as it was advanced Tuesday to give members a few more days to provide her notice of the impending vote and to rethink Adams' immediate replacement.


The Correctional Institution Inspection Committee (CIIC) accepted its second letter of forced resignation from an agency head on Thursday when Executive Director Charlie Adams resigned under pressure due to undisclosed concerns. Former Executive Director Joanna Saul had been forced out in 2016. Effective Wednesday, March 3, Adams' resignation letter, dated Wednesday, Feb. 26, refers obliquely to "unfortunate life-altering events" that had caused her "great sadness" and forced her resignation. Adams was a veteran state employee who moved to CIIC in October 2015.


The Sunset Review Committee heard from 20 agencies and organizations at their Tuesday evening meeting -- all for continuation.


The chamber also voted 31-1 for SCR8 (Roegner) urging Congressional enactment of federal law to make Daylight Saving Time the default year-round. The period of daylight saving time, which this year's runs from Sunday, March 8 to Sunday, Nov. 1, shifts the day so there's more daylight in the evening rather than the morning. Senators also voted 31-1 for SB125 (Hottinger-Brenner) to extend the $4,000 tax deduction for college savings to include contributions to all 529 accounts, rather than just Ohio's CollegeAdvantage plan. Also approved were SB158 (Kunze), which would create the "Ohio Bullfrog" license plate; and SB230 (Craig-Antonio), which would designate April 26 as "Diabetic Ketoacidosis Day."


Attendees crowded the Statehouse atrium Thursday for the 11th annual Human Trafficking Awareness Day. Sens. Teresa Fedor (D-Toledo), Stephanie Kunze (R-Hilliard), Hearcel Craig (D-Columbus) and Tim Schaffer (R-Lancaster) as well as Rep. Tavia Galonski (D-Akron) all helped kick off the event meant to bring together advocates from around the state to focus on efforts to end human trafficking.


In other action, the Senate Ways and Means Committee reported out HB197 (Powell-Merrin) which streamlines the tax code and overrides a provision in SB26 (Kunze) which exempted Medicaid purchases of certain incontinence items from sales tax; and SB212 (Schuring) which provides for the creation of Neighborhood Development Areas; the House Civil Justice Committee reported out HB238 (Cera-Scherer) which revises Ohio's whistleblower laws; the House State and Local Government Committee reported out HB405 (Cross) which creates the adoption linked deposit program; and the Senate Health, Human Services and Medicaid Committee reported out SCR10 (Lehner) which addresses standards and funding for local health departments; and SB260 (S. Huffman) which prohibits physicians from prescribing abortion-inducing drugs via telemedicine.


GOVERNOR


Gov. Mike DeWine told reporters Tuesday that he was "confident" there would be legislative progress on the ongoing EdChoice voucher dispute and other issues that were set to be discussed in his Wednesday meeting with Senate President Larry Obhof (R-Medina) and House Speaker Larry Householder (R-Glenford). DeWine spoke to reporters after signing HB18 (Vitale-Crawley), which provides an income tax exemption to disability severance payments for honorably discharged veterans.


Gov. Mike DeWine has contributed to historic preservation projects in the state since the 1970s, Bushnell Building owner Jim Lagos said during a speech before helping present the governor with the "Ohio History Leadership Award" during the Ohio History Connection's annual Statehood Day on Wednesday.


HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES


All common areas, lobbies and hallways in state-owned buildings will be cleaned more frequently and will be stocked with hand sanitizer to help stop or slow the proliferation of coronavirus, Gov. Mike DeWine announced Thursday as part of his administration's plan to address the new virus that has been spreading across world and is beginning to arrive in the U.S.


The number of Ohio infants who died before their first birthdays dropped to 938 in 2018 from 982 in 2017, according to a report released by the Ohio Department of Health (ODH) on Tuesday. The infant mortality rate, defined as the number of infant deaths per 1,000 live births, fell to 6.9 in 2018 from 7.2 in 2017 for all races overall. The rate among black infants fell to 13.9 in 2018, compared to 15.6 in 2017. The Ohio and national goal is 6.0 or fewer infant deaths per 1,000 live births in every racial and ethnic group, ODH Medical Director Mark Hurst and U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) Administrator Tom Engels said during a press conference at Jubilee Market and Cafe in West Columbus.


A trial in the Ohio Bureau of Workers' Compensation (BWC) lawsuit against its pharmacy benefit manager (PBM) is delayed to next year, while another lawsuit between PBMs and the Ohio Department of Medicaid (ODM) could be headed for mediation. BWC and Optum, the bureau's PBM, won approval from Franklin County Common Pleas Judge Michael Holbrook for a new case schedule in the bureau's lawsuit alleging the company breached terms of its vendor contract requiring that it secure lower drug costs. Meanwhile, CVS Caremark is asking Franklin County Common Pleas Judge Jenifer French to send to mediation its lawsuit over an ODM consultants' report on PBM pricing. Optum is also a party to that lawsuit.


On Wednesday, Gov. Mike DeWine directed a team of technical assistance specialists from the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services to review, in partnership with Montgomery County Children Services, that county's alternative response cases from the previous six months after he received notice of an infant fatality there. The latest case contained numerous similarities to that of Takoda Collins, a 10-year-old boy from Dayton who died on Dec. 13, 2019. Collins passed away roughly 19 months after his alternative response case was closed by Montgomery County Children Services.


HIGHER EDUCATION


The Ohio State Board of Trustees Thursday authorized the chair of the board to approve settlement claims with victims of Dr. Richard Strauss, taking a step that could finalize settlements faster than the board's normal schedule. Ohio State is facing numerous lawsuits from sexual assault survivors of the deceased Strauss. A review by independent investigators released last year detailed acts of abuse against at least 177 former students by Strauss, who was employed by the university from 1978 to 1998. Strauss committed suicide in 2005.


HOUSING/HOMELESSNESS


A team of researchers from Case Western Reserve University (CWRU) analyzed five years' worth of eviction data from the Cleveland Housing Court and spent several weeks in court interviewing those who were evicted. They found that the threat of homelessness is just one of the worries for those losing their homes. In addition to the mental and emotional toll of uprooting families who are trying to find stable, affordable housing, children facing eviction are at a higher risk for lead exposure and poorer outcomes in the classroom, according to new research from the university's Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences.


HUMAN SERVICES


The Controlling Board Monday approved a request from the Ohio Department of Job and

Family Services (ODFSJ) that was added after the agenda was published allowing the agency to contract with a Boston, MA company to support the statewide implementation of the Family First Prevention Services Act.


JUDICIAL


The Ohio Access to Justice Foundation (OAJF) and the Ohio Supreme Court are urging more than 44,000 licensed lawyers in the state to assist thousands of Ohioans needing free legal aid. The Court and OAJF once again are asking all Ohio attorneys to complete the annual pro bono survey not only to measure the current state of volunteer legal aid but also "to increase pro bono participation."


The Ohio Supreme Court announced Tuesday that it has adopted amendments to the Rules of Professional Conduct to reflect the official name change of the former Ohio Legal Assistance Foundation (OLAF) to the Ohio Access to Justice Foundation (OAJF) by legislative enactment last fall.


A parent may lose the right to object to the adoption of a child by failing, without justifiable cause, to make child-support payments "as required by law or judicial decree," the Ohio Supreme Court ruled Wednesday in the case In re Adoption A.C.B. A divided Supreme Court rejected a child's natural father's argument that any payment of support, no matter how meager, made during the year immediately before a stepfather filed an adoption petition preserved the father's right to consent to the adoption.


Chief Justice Maureen O'Connor appointed a three-judge commission Thursday to weigh the suspension of Bridgeport Mayor David Smith, indicted this month by the Belmont County Grand Jury upon referral by the Ohio Auditor of State. The Republican is charged with one third-degree felony count each of theft in office and tampering with records and two first-degree misdemeanor counts of conflict of interest. Smith is accused of removing cash payments and corresponding traffic tickets from mayor's court records between June 2016 and November 2019 for "personal gain."


LOCAL GOVERNMENT


Ohio Inspector General (IG) Randall Meyer told the House State and Local Government Committee Wednesday that he believes the experience of his office could benefit a county that wants to investigate wrongdoing but does not have an inspector general of its own. Meyer gave proponent testimony on HB311 (Greenspan), which would allow counties to have an inspector general, or to contract with the state inspector general to conduct an investigation locally.


MARIJUANA/HEMP


Rep. Juanita Brent (D-Cleveland), who has been working on legislation to legalize marijuana for individuals 21 and older for months, told Hannah News that she will now break the proposal up into four bills and introduce them in late March after the primary is over.


MEDICAID/MEDICAID REFORM


The Ohio Department of Medicaid's second solicitation of feedback for the upcoming managed care bidding process shows the agency took providers' concerns to heart, numerous provider groups said in a memo to ODM Director Maureen Corcoran. More than 20 associations representing physicians, hospitals and others signed on to a letter to Corcoran last week commending ODM for the direction taken in its second request for information (RFI) in the managed care re-procurement cycle.


MENTAL HEALTH


The Ohio Department of Mental Health and Drug Addiction Services (OhioMHAS) Wednesday announced $3 million in grants to OhioMHAS certified community behavioral health centers (CBHCs) to strengthen and enhance the state's behavioral health care. OhioMHAS said the funds will support CBHC-led recruitment and retention efforts and incentivize existing professionals to attain a higher level of professional certification. CBHCs will be eligible to apply for a one-time funding maximum of $100,000 for FY20-21. The funds, which were set aside in the latest biennial budget, will be awarded to CBHCs using a randomized selection process.


NATURAL RESOURCES


Biologists with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) Division of Wildlife have proposed the following white-tailed deer hunting season dates and bag limits for the 2020-2021 season:


  • Deer archery: Saturday, Sept. 26 through Sunday Feb. 7, 2021.

  • Youth deer gun: Saturday and Sunday, Nov. 21 and 22.

  • Deer gun: Monday, Nov. 30 through Sunday, Dec. 6 and the weekend of Dec. 19-20.

  • Deer muzzleloader: Saturday, Jan. 2 through Tuesday, Jan. 5, 2021.


NONPROFIT ORGANIZATIONS


The Greater Ohio Policy Center (GOPC) recently released its Public Policy Platform for 2020-2021, "Building a Greater Ohio." The 2020-2021 Public Policy Agenda focuses on three priorities: investing in brownfields; innovating mobility and transportation; and empowering Ohio's legacy cities.


OHIO HISTORY


The Women's Suffrage Centennial Commission (WSCC) Monday reviewed its January meeting with the Capitol Square Review and Advisory Board (CSRAB) regarding installing a women's suffrage memorial on Statehouse grounds and discussed encroaching deadlines for the group's yellow bush project.


At the Ohio History Connection's Statehood Day, Sen. Tim Schaffer (R-Lancaster) received the Heritage Award from Heritage Ohio.


PEOPLE


Thomas C. Sawyer, who at one-time worked for Paul Werth Associates and then headed his own public affairs consulting firm Opinion Strategies, died Feb. 18 after a long battle with Parkinson's disease. He was 74. A memorial service has been set for Friday, April 3 at 11 a.m. at the Worthington Presbyterian Church, 773 N. High St.


The Ohio Association of Community Health Centers (OACHC) presented its inaugural Stephanie Kaylor Legislative Award to Kaylor posthumously and to four other legislative aides during the opening session of its annual conference. The senior legislative aides receiving the award are the following: Aaron Mabe, aide to Sen. Robert Hackett (R-London); Taylor Phillips, aide to Sen. Nickie Antonio (D-Lakewood); Hannah Stanberry, aide to Rep. Scott Lipps (R-Franklin); and Angie Phifer, aide to Rep. Randi Clites (D-Ravenna).


PUBLIC SAFETY


Gov. Mike DeWine signed legislation Friday meant to help protect the hearing of motorcycle

riders. HB129 (McClain) permits riders to wear earphones or earplugs while driving a motorcycle in order to protect riders' hearing. After the signing, DeWine discussed a range of topics including EdChoice, facial recognition technology and the upcoming deadline for the new federally compliant driver's licenses.


Pedestrians at crosswalks without special lights or signage could secure their right-of-way by stepping up to the curb rather than when they first enter the road under legislation approved unanimously Wednesday in the Senate. Sen. Andrew Brenner (R-Powell) said his SB73

stemmed from concerns brought to him by Delaware City Police about the safety of pedestrians at such crosswalks near Ohio Wesleyan University.


SECRETARY OF STATE


Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose Tuesday gave the keynote address at a naturalization ceremony held at the Ohio Statehouse for 219 new Americans from 54 countries. LaRose encouraged all in attendance to perform their civic duty to register to vote and have their voice heard in the November election


STATE GOVERNMENT


The Controlling Board Monday approved a request from the Auditor of State to spend $589,727 to hire the Kercher Group Inc. as a subject matter expert to provide expertise for a performance audit of the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT), and a request from Attorney General Dave Yost's office to release $36,611.73 to pay invoices through Jan. 27, related to the prosecution in the Rhoden family murder case in Pike County.


Two Ohio prisons are saving money on operations, boosting safety and looking to increase inmates' re-entry prospects with energy efficiency upgrades, the Ohio Facilities Construction Commission (OFCC) was told Thursday. Commission and Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction (DRC) staff briefed the panel on energy performance contract projects at Mansfield Correctional Institution and Richland Correctional Institution, neighboring facilities with more than 2,500 inmates apiece. Upgraded boilers, chillers, pumps, water controls and lighting are projected to save nearly $24 million over 15 years compared to the nearly $20 million project cost, said OFCC's Patrick Love, presenting alongside DRC's Jacqueline Langhals and Tony Shaffer.


The Broadcast Educational Media Commission plans to revisit its formula for distributing operational support funding to public TV and radio stations. Geoffrey Phillips, executive director of the commission, said 2007 is the last time the agency, then known as the eTech Ohio Commission, conducted a detailed review of the formula.


TRANSPORTATION/INFRASTRUCTURE


The Ohio Turnpike and Infrastructure Commission is adding Ohio's "Find it Here" motto to all 14 of the Ohio Turnpike Service Plazas. Turnpike Executive Director Ferzan Ahmed told the commission Monday that the motto is being added at the request of Development Services Agency Director Lydia Mihalik.


UTILITIES


A unanimous Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) gave its blessing Thursday to a hard-fought rate agreement among a broad range of interests including the Ohio Consumers' Counsel (OCC), Interstate Gas Supply, Direct Energy Services, Ohio Partners for Affordable Energy (OPAE), Retail Energy Supply Association, and Dominion Energy Solutions/Dominion Energy Ohio, which agency analysts had panned for a monthly variable rate (MVR) imposing "unconscionable" charges on natural gas customers. A top priority of Consumers' Counsel Bruce Weston, the settlement resolves what he had dubbed a competitive retail natural gas supplier (CRNGS) "rip-off" costing some Ohio consumers two to four times their utility's standard offer.


VETERANS


Joined by legislators, cabinet directors and veterans, Gov. Mike DeWine Tuesday signed HB18 (Vitale-Crawley), which exempts disability severance payments received by honorably discharged veterans from the state income tax. The bill sponsors, Reps. Nino Vitale (R-Urbana) and Erica Crawley (D-Columbus), were present along with several of their family members. Both spoke as well.


Attorney General Dave Yost joined former legislator and current Aurora Mayor Ann Womer Benjamin Tuesday to announce an arrest and indictment in the theft of nearly three quarters of a million dollars from a Portage County VFW post. Yost, Aurora Police Chief Brian Byard and Womer Benjamin said Dan Molnar, 74, exploited his access to VFW Post 2629 bank accounts to defraud a lottery machine and issue improper checks.


WORKFORCE


The Governor's Office of Workforce Transformation (OWT), led by Lt. Gov. Jon Husted, announced Thursday that January's TechCred application period had resulted in approval for 255 Ohio employers. The first round of applications ended with 234 approved employers while the third round will open on Monday, March 2. The awards being distributed through this second round will enable current Ohio workers to receive 1,611 credentials as part of the program's upskilling efforts. OWT also said on social media that 45 employers had approved applications in both rounds.


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




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