Week In Review - March 21, 2022



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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.


ABORTION


Legislation that would outlaw most abortions should the U.S. Supreme Court enable such a law in upcoming rulings was introduced Tuesday in the House, following Senate introduction about a year ago.


Rep. Jean Schmidt (R-Loveland) introduced HB598, which would ban abortion except in cases where necessary to prevent death or "a serious risk of the substantial and irreversible impairment of a major bodily function." The legislation is named the "Human Life Protection Act" and functions as a so-called trigger ban, taking effect only if the Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade.


Meanwhile, Senate President Matt Huffman (R-Lima) told reporters that he expects the Senate will pass SB123 (Roegner-O'Brien), the trigger abortion ban that would outlaw abortions in Ohio if the U.S. Supreme Court strikes down Roe v. Wade, by the time the chamber breaks for the summer.


ADDICTION/SUBSTANCE ABUSE


Ohio neighborhoods with more opioid overdoses have higher rates of child welfare investigations and confirmed cases of child maltreatment, new research from Ohio State University (OSU) has found.


While other research has found this link at the county level, this study is one of the few to look at the crisis at the neighborhood level, said Bridget Freisthler, lead author of the study and professor of social work at OSU.


AGRICULTURE


Gov. Mike DeWine and Lt. Gov. Jon Husted recently announced that 40 Ohio livestock and poultry producers will receive grants totaling $10 million to help them expand capacity and meet the growing demand for meat processing services. Each company will receive a grant of up to $250,000, with half of the funds disbursed before projects are started and the other half awarded after the companies show that the initial funds were spent on eligible costs. In total, the businesses receiving awards have estimated that the funds will help them create up to 830 jobs.


ATTORNEY GENERAL


Organizations interested in developing or expanding a sex buyer education program -- commonly called a "john school" -- are encouraged to apply for grant funding available through the Ohio Attorney General's Office. The John School Fund, announced in January by Yost at the AG's 2022 Human Trafficking Summit, will support 10 successful applicants with $10,000 each. Applicants are encouraged to be creative and collaborative in their proposals, working with organizations to develop programs that will create a paradigm shift in battling human trafficking, the AG's office said. An application for the grant funding is available on the AG's website at https://tinyurl.com/22r8m3kn.


Following the decision by a Franklin County grand jury to decline to indict a law enforcement officer in the death of Ma'Khia Bryant, Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost published the complete investigative files on the web. They can be found online at https://tinyurl.com/59tsjzdw. On April 20, 2021, Ma'Khai Bryant was shot and killed by Columbus Division of Police Officer Nicholas Reardon in the area of 3171 Legion Lane, Columbus. Through a memorandum of understanding, the Columbus Division of Police requested that the Bureau of Criminal Investigation (BCI) conduct the investigation of the officer-involved critical incident.


Attorney General Dave Yost Monday marked the beginning of the annual Sunshine Week with the release of the 2022 edition of the Sunshine Laws Manual, commonly known as the "Yellow Book." The manual is a one-stop resource to help public officials and citizens understand their rights and responsibilities under the Ohio Public Records and Open Meetings acts. A copy of the manual can be found at www.ohioattorneygeneral.gov/Legal/Sunshine-Laws. "You can't have government of the people, by the people and for the people if the people don't know what their government is doing," Yost said. "That's why we need transparency in government. Transparency builds trust. We in government need to build trust with the people we serve."


BALLOT ISSUES


Citing "material omission" and "misstatements," the Ohio Attorney General's office announced Friday that a petition seeking to add language to the Ohio Revised Code (ORC) in support of vaccine choice had been rejected for a fourth time. Previous versions were rejected twice for the summary -- on Dec. 9, 2021 and Feb. 2, 2022 -- and once for insufficient signatures on Jan. 7, 2022. A response letter sent to the petitioners said, "The summary does not properly advise a potential signer of the proposed statute's character and limitations." Specifically, it purported to "impose restrictions on businesses when the proposed statute does not" and "give businesses certain legal protections that the proposed statute does not." The summary also failed to make "any indication that an 'estate' or 'trust' would be included in this protected category."


FY23-24 CAPITAL REAPPROPRIATIONS/APPROPRIATIONS


Office of Budget and Management Director Kimberly Murnieks provided members of both the House and Senate finance committees with an overview of the proposed FY23-24 reappropriations bill, which totals $2.09 billion -- an amount that is higher than usual because the FY21-22 capital appropriations had been enacted six months later than is typical. She also noted that there were pandemic-related contract delays, supplier shortages and supply chain disruptions that "reduced the timeframe for those projects." The bill, HB597 (Oelslager), addresses the reauthorization of previously approved capital projects and does not include new spending.


Asked about the timeline for the capital bill, Senate President Matt Huffman (R-Lima) said the public and local entities are asked to have requests in to their individual senators by Friday, March 18, and the requests from senators to Senate Finance Chairman Matt Dolan (R-Chagrin Falls) by Friday, April 1. He said he expects the bill to pass by the end of May or the beginning of June.


CHILDREN/FAMILIES


Gov. Mike DeWine Friday announced an additional $650 million in grants for child care programs affected by the COVID-19 pandemic during an event at the Champion Avenue location of the Columbus Early Learning Center (CELC) in Columbus. The funding is in addition to $150 million in child care grants announced in December.


About two thirds of domestic violence survivors were satisfied with their experiences with law enforcement, prosecutors, courts and social services, according to a survey conducted by the Ohio Domestic Violence Network (ODVN). However, ODVN said the survey also found indicators of bias when problems were reported. The survey, which was completed with the help of local programs, included 505 domestic violence survivors across Ohio and occurred between May and August 2021. The group said it wanted to better understand how survivors, specifically women of color and other marginalized groups, experience law enforcement, courts, and other parts of social service systems.


ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT


JobsOhio's quarterly board of directors meeting Tuesday represented a victory lap over Intel's investment with President and CEO J.P. Nauseef and Chairman Bob Smith both mentioning it in their opening comments. Lt. Gov. Jon Husted also thanked JobsOhio for its efforts in short virtual remarks to the board. Smith said "quiet momentum" was being made on the Intel effort when 2021 ended, as part of repeated discussion on how that represented a "record" year for the private economic development entity


EDUCATION


The State Board of Education (SBOE) Monday morning selected Martha Manchester as its next vice president. Manchester replaces Steve Dackin, who resigned from the board earlier this month to make a bid for the state superintendent position. The board voted 10 to seven for Manchester, who was first appointed to the board in 2017, over Brendan Shea, an elected member who joined the board in January 2021.


After some last-minute technical edits, the State Board of Education voted Tuesday to approve administrative rules to implement the new 5-star report card system for evaluating local schools.


Lawmakers enacted the new system last year in HB82 (Cross-Jones) after years of discussion on changes to the A-F report card system. The deadline for the board to adopt rules putting it into effect is Thursday, March 31. Schools and districts will not receive an overall rating in report cards due out this fall, but will be rated on the various components of the report card. Ahead of Tuesday's vote, the board heard an overview of the final changes Monday from Chris Woolard and Shelby Robertson, Ohio Department of Education staffers who've been leading many of the board's report card discussions.


Meanwhile, continued debate over what to put in a statutorily required guidebook on dyslexia led the board's Teaching, Leading and Learning Committee to shelve a planned vote in favor of trying again to reach agreement with the Ohio Dyslexia Committee. The board committee did much the same thing in February, but a review of the changes adopted since and testimony heard at the board Tuesday showed major disagreements persist. Under 133-HB436 (Baldridge), a law on screening and intervention for dyslexia, the board must approve a dyslexia guidebook developed by the Ohio Dyslexia Committee, a panel of experts convened by ODE.


Interim State Superintendent Stephanie Siddens told State Board of Education (SBOE) members that a change to Ohio Revised Code (ORC) Sec. 3319.60 enacted in the most recent state budget bill, HB110 (Oelslager), affects the way the state board appoints the 10 school district teacher members to the Educator Standards Board.


Krystina "Kryssie" Pratt is the Ohio awardee for the Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching (PAEMST). Pratt has been an educator for 11 years, 10 of which were spent in the classroom. She is currently a teacher on special assignment with the Teaching & Learning Collaborative (TLC), where she serves as a professional development (PD) coordinator. Pratt previously spent five years teaching third grade at New Albany Primary School, two years at Mohawk Elementary School, and two years as an intervention specialist at Old Fort and Lincoln elementary schools, respectively, according to the Ohio Department of Education (ODE).


ELECTIONS 2022


The Ohio Debate Commission (ODC) announced its lineup of candidates who will appear in primary debates later this month at Central State University -- but those debates will not include a Republican gubernatorial primary debate after Republican candidate Jim Renacci followed Gov. Mike DeWine in declining the commission's invitation. The commission said all seven Republican primary candidates for U.S. Senate, all three Democratic primary candidates for U.S. Senate, and both Democratic gubernatorial primary candidates will appear at debates, which will be held Monday, March 28, and Tuesday, March 29 on Central State University's campus.


Attorney and conservative activist Scott Pullins filed a lawsuit against the Holmes County Board of Elections in the Ohio Supreme Court Monday after the board rejected his petition for the 98th House District. Pullins argued that he had submitted petitions with enough valid signatures to make the ballot but said the board had told him that there were issues with those petitions. Specifically, the board had told Pullins that his declaration of candidacy pages were dated Nov. 30, 2022 instead of Nov. 30, 2021, and that one of the pages had left blank the name and party areas right before where the signatures were obtained.


Former Cincinnati Mayor and Democratic gubernatorial candidate John Cranley launched his first television advertising spot Wednesday as part of a statewide buy. Cranley campaign manager Matt Schoonemaker said the spot, which introduces voters to Cranley in a biographical piece, is part of a $280,000 ad buy that will run on broadcast and cable outlets around Ohio over the next week. He said that the only polling that has been available on the race so far shows a close contest, and with more money on hand in the primary at the moment, they like the campaign's chances in the primary against former Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley. The ad highlights Cranley's work as Cincinnati mayor and with the Ohio Innocence Project.


Two days after Democratic gubernatorial candidate John Cranley launched his first television ad, former Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley went on the air with her own. Like Cranley's, Whaley's ad serves as a biographical introduction to voters, discussing her father's work at a GM plant until he was laid off. Whaley says in the ad that it is time Ohio "had a governor who puts improving the economy like ours first. That means focusing on manufacturing jobs, and wages you can actually live on." Whaley's campaign said the ad will begin airing on Thursday in the Cleveland, Columbus, Youngstown and Toledo media markets.


The Ohio Democratic Party Executive Committee on Wednesday voted to endorse candidates for attorney general, secretary of state, auditor of state and treasurer of state. All four of the down-ballot Democratic primary races are uncontested. The ODP Executive Committee endorsed Rep. Jeff Crossman (D-Parma) for attorney general, Forest Park City Councilmember Chelsea Clark for secretary of state, Nelsonville Auditor Taylor Sappington for auditor of state and Marion Mayor Scott Schertzer for treasurer of state.


Tim Ryan's U.S. Senate campaign is planning to invest more than $3 million to build a coordinated campaign that he said that can reach voters in every corner of Ohio and help elect Democratic candidates up and down the ticket.


The following endorsements were made over the week:

  • The gubernatorial campaign of Jim Renacci announced the endorsement of the Geauga County Conservative Club.

  • Former President Donald Trump announced his endorsement of Madison Gesiotto Gilbert, who is running for Congress.

  • The congressional campaign of Theresa Gavarone announced the endorsement of Value in Electing Women (VIEW) PAC.

  • The gubernatorial campaign of Nan Whaley announced the endorsement of 33 Democratic Party county chairs.

  • The Ohio Manufacturers' Association PAC announced its endorsement of Sharon Kennedy for chief justice of the Ohio Supreme Court, and its endorsements of Justices Pat Fischer and Pat DeWine for re-election.

  • The U.S. Senate campaign of Jane Timken announced the endorsement of the Columbiana County Republican Party.

  • The gubernatorial campaign of Jim Renacci announced the endorsement of the Geauga County Conservative Club.

EMPLOYMENT/UNEMPLOYMENT


The Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS) said Friday that Ohio's unemployment rate dropped to 4.3 percent in January, down from 4.5 percent in December 2021. Ohio's nonagricultural wage and salary employment increased 18,600 over the month, from a revised 5.4 million in December to 5.42 million in January. The number of workers unemployed in Ohio in January was 246,000, down from 256,000 in December. The number of unemployed has decreased by 95,000 in the past 12 months from 341,000. The January unemployment rate for Ohio decreased from 6 percent in January 2021. The U.S. unemployment rate for January was 4 percent, up from 3.9 percent in December 2021, and down from 6.4 percent in January 2021.


ENVIRONMENT


The Ohio Air Quality Development Authority (OAQDA) approved $226,000 in bond financing and $40,000 in grant awards to support the installation of new spray paint booths for Kamms Corner Autobody in Cleveland and 2-SCALE in Holland. The new equipment will eliminate hazardous emissions from the atmosphere while supporting Ohio jobs, according to OAQDA.


The Ohio Department of Natural Resources' (ODNR) Division of Oil and Gas Resources Management (DOGRM) will preside over $28.5 million in funding authority for a new program to remediate orphan wells. Construction management firms will coordinate with architectural engineers to plug 40-200 orphan wells, expanding the 350 wells remediated over the past three years under 132-HB225 (Thompson).


A split Ohio Supreme Court ruled Thursday that the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) under former Gov. John Kasich had dragged its feet on Rover Pipeline's troubled federal permit and therefore left the state no enforcement powers under the Clean Water Act (CWA) to punish the company's two-million-gallon hazardous spill in the Tuscarawas River wetlands. Unlike its three dissenting justices, however, the Court's majority said the state might still prove environmental violations under state law and sent the case back to the Stark County Common Pleas Court for further proceedings. Arguing on behalf of Ohio EPA, Attorney General Dave Yost's initial dispute with Rover and five subcontractors centered on whether the state had one year from their filed application or one year from their completed application -- Yost's position -- to certify the $4.2 billion project under federal law. More broadly, the AG framed his complaint as a matter of states' rights under the 10th Amendment to "regulate land and water."


GAMING/GAMBLING


Ohio is continuing to see strong gambling numbers as February's casino, racino and traditional lottery revenues outpaced those from last year. The state's four casinos took in $75.3 million in February 2022, up from $67.6 million in February 2021, according to statistics provided by the Ohio Casino Control Commission (OCCC). The video lottery terminals (VLTs) at the state's seven racinos pulled in $103.6 million in February 2022, up from $91 million in February 2021, according to the Ohio Lottery Commission (OLC). Total traditional Ohio Lottery ticket sales were $324.1 million in February 2022, up from $318.2 million in February 2021, according to a report from Ohio Lottery Finance Director Greg Bowers. The operating transfer to the Lottery Profits Education Fund (LPEF) was $110.7 million in February 2022, up from $102.9 million in February 2021. February 2022's transfer is $13 million more than the Ohio Lottery's original budgeted commitment. Through February 2022, transfers to the LPEF are $107.3 million more than the Ohio Lottery's original budgeted commitment.


GENERAL ASSEMBLY/STATEHOUSE


After much debate over SR243 (Gavarone-Cirino), a resolution calling on the federal government to increase efforts to protect its borders, the Ohio Senate Wednesday approved it along party lines 22 to 8. Democrats opposed the resolution, calling it an election year stunt while, Sen. Theresa Gavarone (R-Bowling Green), one of the resolution's sponsors and a congressional candidate, noted the amount of drugs that were seized that came over the border in 2021, and said many of those drugs end up in Ohio. She also noted the effects less border security has had on human trafficking.


The Senate also passed SB224 (Cirino), which updates the state's funeral laws by a vote of 29-1. The bill had sparked a battle between funeral homes and the cemetery industry over language that created new regulations for cemeteries selling caskets as a part of pre-need contracts. That language was ultimately removed and instead, state regulators are required to study the issue and submit a report to lawmakers on pre-planned funeral casket requirements in other states.


In other floor action, the Senate unanimously passed HB138 (Baldridge), regarding the scope of emergency medical services provided by emergency medical service personnel; SB199 (Blessing), addressing estate and probate law; SB246 (Rulli-Lang), addressing pass-through entity taxes; and SB282 (O'Brien), designating a bridge in the city of Hubbard the "Purple Heart Veterans Memorial Bridge."


The Senate receded from its amendments on HB188 (Lampton-Cross), which had included language addressing military and absentee ballots, sending the bill prohibiting insurers from discriminating against living organ donors to the governor.


However, it insisted on its amendments to HB126 (Merrin), addressing the contesting of property values by local governments. Senate President Matt Huffman (R-Lima) later told reporters that he will be appointing Sens. Louis Blessing (R-Cincinnati) and Kristina Roegner (R-Hudson) to the conference committee.


In a report released Thursday morning, Policy Matters Ohio (PMO) recommended actions the General Assembly should take that would ensure Ohioans receive the maximum benefits from Intel's investments.


"Ohioans should be the chief beneficiaries of the jobs Intel creates, and the corporation should make a targeted effort to hire those who are often excluded due to their race, gender or income level," PMO Research Director Zach Schiller, who wrote the report, said in a release. Among the suggestions, PMO said at least 80 percent of all the Intel jobs should go to Ohioans and all Ohio employees should be paid "family-sustaining wages and benefits."


In other legislative action, the Senate Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee reported out HB321 (Kick-B. Young), which revises auctioneer laws; and the Senate General Government Budget Committee reported out HCR13 (Koehler-Creech), which urges Congress to make daylight saving time permanent.


GOVERNOR


Bills signed by the governor include the following:


HB136 (Lipps) regarding Medicaid coverage of chiropractic services.


HB158 (Baldridge) to prohibit the use of class B firefighting foam containing intentionally added PFAS chemicals for testing and training purposes.


HB184 (Carfagna) to revise Ohio Police and Fire Pension Fund disability determination procedures.


HB265 (Manning-Patton) regarding children's crisis care facilities and residential infant care centers.


SB215 (Johnson) regarding a concealed handgun licensee's duty to carry the license and notify a law enforcement officer if the licensee is carrying a concealed handgun, and a right of a person age twenty-one or older and not legally prohibited from firearm possession to carry a concealed handgun in the same manner as if the person was a licensee.


GREAT LAKES


The Great Lakes Commission (GLC) recently released its 2022 federal priorities, urging the Biden administration and Congress to invest in projects and programs that will protect the lakes and accelerate the national economy. Among the priorities for FY23, GLC is urging Congress and the Biden administration to build a resilient Great Lakes basin; fully fund the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative; protect against invasive species; expand efforts to address harmful algal blooms; strengthen the Great Lakes Navigation System; upgrade infrastructure to ensure equitable access to clean and safe water; support coordinated regional science and data collection; and fund the GLC to fulfill its unique role in the region. Find more information on the group's priorities at https://www.glc.org/news/federal-priorities-022822.


HIGHER EDUCATION


The Biden administration highlighted the $1,182,235,268 Ohio colleges and universities have received through the American Rescue Plan (ARP) signed into law in March 2021. The ARP required that at least half of the provided funds be used to provide direct financial relief to students. The funds were distributed through the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund (HEERF) over the past year. According to the federal Department of Education's detailed state-by-state breakdown of the funding, Ohio community colleges received about $305 million; over $34 million was provided to two Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs); and nearly $1 million went to the state's Minority-Serving Institution (MSI), which includes Hispanic-serving institutions, predominantly Black institutions, Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian-serving institutions, Asian American and Native American Pacific Islander-serving institutions, and Native American-serving nontribal institutions.


Lt. Gov. Jon Husted announced Wednesday that the Wireless Infrastructure Association (WIA) will serve as the industry partner on Ohio State University's (OSU) $3 million Broadband and 5G Sector Partnership grant. This is the latest step in the Governor's Office of Workforce Transformation (OWT) and BroadbandOhio's "Strengthening Ohio's Broadband & 5G Workforce" strategy, first announced in September 2021. Husted's office said the WIA will give OSU "insight into the telecommunications skills gap and industry need." The grant is an effort to design and distribute curriculum and training programs around Ohio, promoting career awareness to give the broadband industry skilled workers as it expands.


As part of efforts to build the necessary manufacturing workforce, Intel announced Thursday that it will directly invest $50 million in grants to Ohio higher education institutions over the next 10 years. Gov. Mike DeWine, Lt. Gov. Jon Husted and other leaders took part in a press conference on the funding held at Columbus State Community College (CSCC). Intel will invest another $50 million for educational collaboration nationwide, to be matched by the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF). This is part of Intel's total $20 billion investment for semiconductor factories in Ohio. The Intel "Semiconductor Education and Research Program for Ohio" will fund multi-institutional research and education on semiconductor fabrication. The program will be open to Ohio-based higher education entities and staff including technical centers, academic researchers, faculty and other educators. It can be used to "address curriculum development; faculty training; laboratory equipment upgrades; novel research to advance semiconductor fabrication; and student opportunities including internships."


HOUSING/HOMELESSNESS


The General Assembly's Federally Subsidized Housing Study Committee heard from a mix of witnesses Wednesday including recently departed state representative Rick Carfagna, senior vice president of government affairs for the Ohio Chamber of Commerce (OCC), who reminded members that workforce readiness goes beyond job training and credentialing and includes items such as access to transportation, child care and affordable housing. Carfagna said only three of Ohio's most common jobs pay the hourly rate of $16.64 required for a "modest" two-bedroom apartment. "This causes a significant rent burden not only among Ohio's lowest income but also moderate-income renters across the state."


JUDICIAL


Ohio Supreme Court Justice Sharon Kennedy told a Marion Republican crowd that outside Democratic groups are attempting to unduly influence the redistricting process in Ohio, remarks that have led the campaign of her opponent to call for Kennedy's recusal in current cases. According to the Marion Star, Kennedy spoke at the Marion County Republican Party's Harding Day Dinner and called the issue "the fight of our life." She said groups such as ActBlue and the National Redistricting Action Fund, led by former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, are fighting to put judges on the Ohio Supreme Court "that would do what they're doing with redistricting." Kennedy's remarks drew criticism from Jennifer Brunner's campaign, with spokesman Chris Davey telling Ohio media in a statement, "When a candidate for chief justice of the Ohio Supreme Court calls pending litigation about the constitutionality of Ohio's districts 'the fight of our life,' she's obviously conveying her views about the case."


Gov. Mike DeWine's office Tuesday announced the appointment of Kevin T. Miles as judge on the Clermont County Court of Common Pleas, General Division. Miles will take office Monday, March 28 and must run for election in the fall to complete the remainder of the term ending Dec. 31, 2024. He succeeds Judge Jerry McBride, who retired.


MARIJUANA/HEMP


Increasing the THC content limit of extracts from 70 percent to 90 percent will allow the medical marijuana industry to create better products and doesn't increase risks for patients under the Ohio Medical Marijuana Control Program (MMCP), according to prominent cannabis attorney/consultant Ted Bibart during proponent testimony on SB261 (S. Huffman) before the House Government Oversight Committee. He described it as the MMCP "remediation" bill.


The Ohio Board of Pharmacy (OBP) on Wednesday awarded another dispensary operating license under the Ohio Medical Marijuana Control Program (MMCP). OBP issued a dispensary certificate of operation to Amplify, which is located at 1782 Coventry Rd. in Cleveland Heights. OBP has now issued a total of 58 MMCP dispensary certificates of operation across the state.


MILITARY AFFAIRS


The Ohio National Guard announced Monday that approximately 30 members of the Headquarters and Headquarters Battery, 174th Air Defense Artillery Brigade will deploy to the U.S. capital region. The brigade's personnel "will provide command and supervisory oversight support to the homeland defense mission, which includes the use of radar, ground-based air defense systems, and communications equipment to protect the National Capital Region (NCR)."


NATURAL RESOURCES


The Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) has started work on two new wetland projects in Northwest Ohio as part of Gov. Mike DeWine's H2Ohio initiative. The Sugarcamp 7 Blanchard Habitat Project in Putnam County and the Weisgerber-Pohlmann Nature Preserve project in Williams County broke ground in early March.


The ODNR Division of Natural Areas and Preserves has acquired approximately 15 acres of land adjacent to the existing Goll Woods State Nature Preserve located in western Fulton County for the development of the new Goll Woods Wetland Extension. Once complete, the extension will consist of wetland areas that filter phosphorus and nitrogen from the water before it enters the Tiffin River and flows into Lake Erie.


Ohio anglers now have access to registration information and results about fishing tournaments across the state, according to the ODNR Division of Wildlife. The new online application is available at https://fishtournaments.ohiodnr.gov/. ODNR explained the new application allows individuals to access the schedule of upcoming tournaments without logging into the system. Anglers or other recreational users can find out when and where events are scheduled by filtering the list by waterbody (such as a lake, reservoir, or river), name, county, species (including black bass, crappie, and muskellunge), or a range of dates.


The ODNR Division of Wildlife has confirmed cases of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) in two bald eagles and a herring gull in Northwest Ohio. The results were detected by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Veterinary Services Laboratory. The herring gull was confirmed HPAI positive in Erie County on Wednesday, March 9. The first bald eagle was confirmed HPAI positive on Friday, March 11, and the second on Tuesday, March 15, ODNR said. Both bald eagles came from Ottawa County. All three birds are deceased, and the department said additional tests are pending.


ODNR announced it has recommended that six local communities receive a combined $2.6 million in funding to improve and increase outdoor recreation opportunities. The money is provided through federal matching grants from the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF).


PENSIONS


The State Teachers Retirement System (STRS) Board of Trustees Thursday approved a one-time, 3 percent cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) for retirees, the first since the board suspended COLAs in 2017.


The board also voted to repeal a requirement set to take effect in 2026 for members to reach age 60 before qualifying for full retirement, regardless of when they'd accumulated the 35 years of service needed for full retirement. But the board did not act on another proposal to reduce employees' contribution toward their pensions from 14 percent to 13 percent of pay. The motion making all these changes also included a commitment to follow up with consideration of further changes within a year.


PEOPLE


Voting rights advocate Peg Rosenfield died Friday at 90 years old, 12 days after her husband of 61 years, Al Rosenfield. Hours earlier, the Columbus Dispatch had printed Rosenfield's final letter to the editor, in which she urged that the state's primary election be held in June this year. Rosenfield's obituary noted her legacy on voting rights, saying the death came "after a long battle with the Ohio Legislature." The obituary also noted her efforts lasted more than 55 years and were inspired by Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. Rosenfield worked in the Ohio Secretary of State's office for 12 years, testified before Congress on voting rights and wrote four publications for the Federal Elections Commission.


Geno Natalucci-Persichetti, former director of Ohio's Department of Youth Services (DYS) from January 1987 through December 2004, died Monday, according to his obituary and a statement by Gov. Mike DeWine. Natalucci-Persichetti, 77, was the longest-serving director in the department's 41-year history. He served under Govs. Richard Celeste, George Voinovich, Nancy Hollister and Robert Taft.


PUBLIC SAFETY


Ohio and Pennsylvania generated the largest number of drug busts and weapons charges in a six-state sting operation completed over the weekend. The Ohio State Highway Patrol (OSHP) participated in the 6-State Trooper Project from Thursday, March 10 at 12:01 a.m. to Saturday, March 12 at 11:59 p.m. with the Michigan, Indiana, Kentucky, West Virginia and Pennsylvania state police. Ohio troopers seized 264 grams of cocaine on S.R. 823 in Scioto County with the help of a K9 and 198 pounds of marijuana on I-80 in Ottawa County based on probable-cause search.


REDISTRICTING/REAPPORTIONMENT


The Ohio Supreme Court Wednesday evening struck down the third General Assembly redistricting map by a vote of 4-3 and ordered the Ohio Redistricting Commission to draw a new map no later than Monday, March 28. The ruling puts a May 3 primary for General Assembly districts further in doubt. In a per curiam opinion, the Court said the plaintiffs in the case showed beyond a reasonable doubt that the latest plan violates Article XI Sections 6(A) and 6(B) of the Ohio Constitution, but refused to weigh in on an argument that the plan also violates Section 1(C). Additionally, the Court did not take additional steps that had been argued by the plaintiffs and Democrats, including declaring another submitted plan to the commission as constitutional. The majority opinion, joined by Justices Michael Donnelly, Jennifer Brunner and Melody Stewart and Chief Justice Maureen O'Connor, said that there was "substantial and compelling evidence" showing that the main goal of the drafters of the latest plan "was to favor the Republican Party and disfavor the Democratic Party." They sided with plaintiffs in these as well as Democrats who argued that the newest plan contains a disproportionate number of toss-up districts that are labeled Democratic leaning with no Republican toss-up districts.


A day after the Ohio Supreme Court struck down the third Ohio General Assembly redistricting map, members of the Ohio Redistricting Commission said they were still reviewing the decision. One of the members, Gov. Mike DeWine, told reporters Thursday that he believes the three mapmakers used by the commission -- Republican staffers Ray DiRossi and Blake Springhetti and Democratic consultant Chris Glassburn -- should work together on a new plan, saying the Court's suggestion of hiring an independent consultant to help draw the map would be difficult to do in the short time frame given by the Ohio Supreme Court. "There are other options," DeWine said. "But the Supreme Court only gave us 10 days to do this. The idea that we're going to be able to go out and hire someone new and have them do this work, and do this work in 10 days, presents some very significant challenges." The governor suggested the commission pass a resolution instructing the three mapmakers to work together while following the Ohio Supreme Court decision and the Ohio Constitution. He said their work would be made accessible to any of the members of the commission. He said he is speaking to House Speaker Bob Cupp (R-Lima) and Senate President Matt Huffman (R-Lima) about his suggestions. He said he's willing to take the lead after generally deferring to Cupp and Huffman previously.


Before the Supreme Court's invalidation of the third map iteration, Secretary of State Frank LaRose, in a filing in federal court made Wednesday, sought to answer Judge Algenon Marbley's question on whether the latest redistricting litigation could go without federal court intervention, saying the date to intervene has already passed. LaRose also told the court that he has reached a tentative agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) that allows the county boards of elections to send out military and overseas ballots later after the General Assembly adopted changes for this election only as a part of SB11 (Brenner). LaRose said the agreement is expected to be memorialized this week, and the DOJ has indicated that the changes in SB11 are sufficient enough that it would not seek court enforcement of federal deadlines against the state.


SB11 (Brenner) had been signed by Gov. Mike DeWine Friday, March 11, bringing to a close the week of drama as Republicans in the Legislature sought over three days to pass language giving both county boards of elections more time to send out ballots to military and overseas voters and those voters more time to return those ballots as they seek to keep the May 3 primary on track. Along the way, the secretary of state picked up $200,000 to help him implement those provisions as the appropriation


provided a way around the need to pass the bill with an emergency clause, which would have required a super majority margin -- a margin that was not possible in the Ohio House without a number of Democratic votes that were not forthcoming.


Earlier in the week on Monday, Judge Marbley had temporarily delayed action on a federal redistricting lawsuit involving state legislative districts, while a separate lawsuit before the Ohio Supreme Court challenging congressional districts sought over the weekend to add the Ohio Redistricting Commission as defendants. Marbley had held a hearing Monday on the federal lawsuit filed by several conservatives who are asking for the court to order a previous General Assembly redistricting plan to be used for the upcoming Tuesday, May 3 primary. The groups filed the lawsuit last month, arguing that delays in the process would either leave them in malproportioned districts or without any candidate to vote for. The plaintiffs in the federal suit have asked for a three-judge panel to intervene in the process.


Meanwhile, plaintiffs in a second lawsuit challenging the new congressional map filed a motion over the weekend seeking to add the Ohio Redistricting Commission as defendants, following a similar filing in the League of Women Voters of Ohio, et al. v. Ohio Redistricting Commission, et al lawsuit made on Friday.


The plaintiffs in the second lawsuit, Adams v. DeWine, said in their Saturday filing that they don't think the step is necessary and argued that the Court has the power to enforce its previous order striking down the map passed as a part of SB258 (McColley), but said they are making the request "to avoid an unnecessary procedural and jurisdictional distraction."


A response filing on Tuesday from Senate President Matt Huffman (R-Lima) and House Speaker Bob Cupp (R-Lima) said granting a request from plaintiffs in two lawsuits challenging a congressional district map to add the Ohio Redistricting Commission as a defendant "will guarantee election chaos" for candidates and voters. The filings also came after Cupp and Huffman argued that the Ohio Supreme Court no longer had jurisdiction in the case after it had previously dismissed the Ohio Redistricting Commission as a defendant in the proceedings. Cupp and Huffman Tuesday argued there is no support for such a request in law or in equity. In addition to causing chaos and confusion for congressional candidates and Ohio voters, they said granting the relief requested by the plaintiffs "may cause Ohio to default on federally mandated election deadlines that could possibly result in the disenfranchisement of military voters overseas."


Despite a provision of the Ohio Constitution prohibiting any court from ordering the adoption of a particular General Assembly district plan, the U.S. Constitution provides the Ohio Supreme Court with the power to do so under the circumstances, according to Capital University Law School professor Mark Brown. "Eventually, with the General Assembly maps, you're pushing up against the federal Constitution, which requires ... under Reynolds v. Sims, 'one person, one vote.' The districts as currently exist don't satisfy that, so at some point, the federal Constitution says we've got to fix it," Brown said during a Statehouse press conference on Tuesday. "The Ohio Supreme Court, as a matter of federal constitutional law, does have the authority to -- at the end, if necessary -- draw the General Assembly maps, in my professional opinion. I think that's pretty clear. And I think it's going to have to exercise that power."


However, Brown said the Ohio Supreme Court's authority to draw congressional districts is less clear.


TECHNOLOGY/AEROSPACE


The State Committee on Computer Science met recently in what Battelle Senior STEM Relationship Manager Kelly Gaier Evans called the second in a "two-part meeting series," continuing discussions from its Feb. 16 meeting on how to make Ohio a leader in computer science (CS) education. During the two meetings, the committee focused on how to measure and report on K-12 CS education, address challenges that prevent districts from offering CS and what items to include in a final report.


UKRAINE


Gov. Mike DeWine Thursday pledged to welcome any Ukrainian refugee who settles in Ohio during the Ohio Summit on Ukrainian Refugees held at the St. Vladimir Grand Hall in Parma. The Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS) hosted the event to bring together various organizations, such as resettlement agencies, faith-based organizations, charities, and others that may play a role in the relocation of Ukrainian families to Northeast Ohio. In opening comments, DeWine called the Russian invasion of Ukraine "brutal" and "unjustifiable," noting the civilian deaths and casualties and particularly the deaths of Ukrainian children. DeWine said Ohio has a large Ukrainian population so the federal government may look to the state to resettle incoming Ukrainian refugees.


Gov. Mike DeWine announced Friday that he has requested state and local law enforcement agencies to review if they have any surplus or expired personal protective gear that could be donated to Ukraine. The request comes in response to a request the National Guard Bureau made to the Ohio National Guard, according to a release from DeWine's office. The letter also said the preference is for Level 3+ or Level 4 body armor and helmets, but any available and serviceable items are acceptable. Agencies that can make donations should contact the Guard's Joint Operations Center at 614-734-7551 or 614-734-7550 and provide a name, organization, phone number and the amount and type of equipment to be donated.


UNEMPLOYMENT COMPENSATION


Both chambers Wednesday heard their iteration of legislation enacting recommendations of the Unemployment Compensation Modernization and Improvement Council (UCMIC) to, as Council Vice Chair Rep. Mark Fraizer (R-Newark) told the House Finance Committee, do the following:

  • "Elevate the visibility and public understanding of unemployment compensation.

  • "Improve accuracy in the claim process and authentication.

  • "Improve system transparency for claimants.

  • "Utilize Ohio's wealth of resources, both public and private."

Referencing the approximately $5.6 billion in fraud and overpayments that was paid out through Ohio's overwhelmed and antiquated unemployment compensation system over the course of the pandemic, Fraizer said his bill -- HB568 (Fraizer-Merrin) -- is based on the final report of the UCMIC and an audit of the system by State Auditor Keith Faber, and seeks to prevent the exploitation of Ohio's systems by fraudsters at home and abroad. The Senate bill is SB302 (Hackett-Reineke).


UTILITIES


The proposed revival of energy efficiency (EE) programs halted by 133-HB6 (Callender-Wilkin) has revived the debate at the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) over mandatory customer charges or billing "riders." The agency has launched a workshop series to explore the switch from 127-SB221's mandatory EE program to a "market-based paradigm," though electric distribution utilities (EDU) are redoubling their call for "non-bypassable" charges to all residential customers. PUCO held the second of five scheduled EE workshops last week, with additional dates following on Wednesdays, March 23 and 30 and April 6. Two dozen corporate, governmental and nonprofit stakeholders have responded to a detailed set of questions from PUCO, and a number have presented at the first two workshops.


WORKERS' COMPENSATION


The Ohio Bureau of Workers' Compensation (BWC) announced the expansion of the School Safety and Security Grant (SSSG) to help cover educational costs for improvements to heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) improvements. BWC is adding another $15,000 to individual awards for any qualifying entity to pay for HVAC inspections, assessments, maintenance and improvements and other, secondary devices to control the spread of airborne contaminants, including viruses.

[Story originally published in The Hannah Report. Copyright 2022 Hannah News Service, Inc.]


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