Week In Review: March 30, 2020



PDF/Printer Friendly Version


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


Attorney General Dave Yost sent letters Friday to two Ohio abortion clinics following complaints sent to the Ohio Department of Health (ODH) that they were continuing to perform abortion procedures in violation of the ODH director’s order to halt non-essential surgeries that require the use of medical personal protective equipment (PPE). He also sent a similar letter to a urology group. Meanwhile, pro-choice advocates pointed out that abortion care is a time-sensitive medical situation.


AGING


The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is releasing more than $8.8 million to help provide senior citizens with meals and $3.2 million to help 51 Ohio community health centers during the coronavirus pandemic, according to U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH). Brown helped secure the funding in a package passed by Congress earlier in March, in addition to $15.6 million for Ohio preparedness efforts in a separate supplemental spending bill on coronavirus. The HHS Administration for Community Living (ACL) is providing funds to help local communities provide meals to senior citizens during the coronavirus outbreak, in partnership with the area agencies on aging. The Ohio Department of Aging will distribute those funds toward programs such as Meals on Wheels.


AGRICULTURE


The deadline for farmers to submit an application for the H2Ohio program has been extended from March 31 to June 2, the Ohio Department of Agriculture (ODAg) announced Wednesday.

ATTORNEY GENERAL


Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost announced the state is suing the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), seeking to recoup "improper charges billed to the state for the upkeep of Caesar Creek Lake." The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims, contends that the USACE has jacked up costs without providing complete itemized receipts to support the price increases. Receipts that have been provided list questionable charges, according to the AG's office.


The 2020 Ohio Peace Officers' Memorial Ceremony has been cancelled due to COVID-19. The event had been scheduled for Thursday, May 7, but was called off in response to recommendations from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for controlling the spread of the coronavirus, Attorney General Dave Yost's office said.


Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Ohio Justin Herdman and U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Ohio David DeVillers announced Tuesday that they're looking into allegations that some doctors have been inappropriately prescribing chloroquine and/or hydroxychloroquine for themselves, families and friends following President Donald Trump's endorsements of the drugs to treat COVID-19. On Sunday, March 22, the Ohio Board of Pharmacy (OBP) held an emergency meeting to issue a rule prohibiting pharmacists from dispensing chloroquine or hydroxychloroquine for COVID-19 unless the patient has tested positive for the virus or the prescription is otherwise approved by the pharmacy board's executive director in consultation with the OBP president.


AUDITOR OF STATE


Auditor of State Keith Faber supported a new bill introduced in the Senate that would create a procedure within the Court of Claims to hear complaints alleging violations of open meeting laws, saying passage of the bill would increase government transparency. The bill, SB293, is sponsored by Sens. Lou Blessing (R-Cincinnati) and Nathan Manning (R-North Ridgeville).


BALLOT ISSUES


Attorney General Dave Yost on Monday rejected a petition for a proposed constitutional amendment to legalize marijuana for individuals 21 and older because the petitioners did not submit the minimum number of valid signatures required. On March 17, the Ohio Attorney General's Office received a written petition to amend the Ohio Constitution, entitled "Marijuana Rights and Regulations." The submission contained part petitions with 1,248 submitted signatures. The part petitions were then submitted to the respective boards of elections for signature verification. Of the 1,000 minimum signatures required to proceed with the constitutional amendment, those boards of elections reported receiving a total of only 271 valid signatures, according to Yost's office.


FY20-21 BUDGET


Gov. Mike DeWine Monday said he is ordering a hiring freeze in state government and up to a 20 percent cut at state agencies as he looks to shore up state finances in the wake of a coronavirus outbreak. DeWine announced the measures at his daily news conference, saying that with the loss of commercial activity in the state as businesses are ordered closed to prevent the spread of COVID-19, a consequence is that state revenues will go down dramatically, and it is important to take action now.


BUSINESS/CORPORATE


Representatives of the Ohio Manufacturers' Association (OMA) were satisfied with the "stay at home" health order, saying on a conference call that OMA had worked closely with the administration to ensure that as many manufacturing and supply chain businesses as possible are allowed to continue essential work functions while the order is in effect.

The Ohio Chamber of Commerce said Friday that it has launched a Coronavirus Business Resource page on its website that provides businesses with information pertaining to the outbreak of COVID-19, also known as coronavirus. The webpage can be found at https://tinyurl.com/whwkjrb.


CORONAVIRUS/COVID-19


Gov. Mike DeWine said Friday that Ohio has entered a new phase in its battle against the coronavirus as the state confirmed its first fatality from the disease, and for many state officials including DeWine, there is a personal connection. DeWine said the first confirmed death was Lucas County resident Mark Wagoner Sr., the 76-year-old former Lucas County board of elections member and an active player in state Republican politics. His son, Mark Wagoner Jr., is a former state lawmaker who currently serves as the Lucas County Republican Party chairman.


On Friday, ODH updated its numbers to show 169 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Ohio spread out in 28 counties, and 39 hospitalizations. By Thursday, the state had 867 confirmed cases of COVID-19, with 15 deaths. A total of 223 people had been hospitalized, including 91 admissions to ICUs.


On Friday, Gov. DeWine signed an executive order that closed all senior centers and senior day care facilities effective the close of business on Monday. He said he understands how much support these facilities give to senior citizens, and said he hopes they will be able to still continue their feeding programs with meals delivered to seniors' homes, as well as continuing transportation services. He also said his administration is working to help provide assistance for seniors who use day facilities and cannot stay at home by themselves.


Lt. Gov. Jon Husted Friday outlined an order coming from the Ohio Department of Insurance (ODI) that requires state health insurers to permit employers to continue covering employees under group policies even if the employee would otherwise become ineligible due to a decrease in hours worked per week. Insurers are also prohibited from increasing premium rates based on a group's decreased enrollment or participation due to COVID-19. The Ohio Department of Insurance's order also requires health insurers to give the option of deferring premium payments coming due, interest free, for up to 60 calendar days from each original premium due date


According to an informational brief prepared by the Legislative Service Commission (LSC) and released Tuesday, March 17, Ohio Department of Health Director Dr. Amy Acton acted within the powers given her under Ohio law when she ordered the closing of polling place for Ohio's March 17 primary election on Monday night. According to the memo, Chapter 3701 of the Ohio Revised Code (ORC) "gives ODH supervision of all matters relating to the preservation of the life and health of the people. In furtherance of that authority, ODH may make special or standing orders or rules for preventing the spread of contagious or infectious diseases."


On Saturday, Gov. Mike DeWine issued an order closing adult day care centers for people with developmental disabilities. In addition, Lt. Gov. Jon Husted announced two relief measures granted at the suggestion of business leaders: a deferral of Bureau of Workers' Compensation (BWC) premiums for March, April and May, and a waiver of fees and size limits for heavy trucks if they're carrying essential goods.


On Sunday, Ohio Department of Health (ODH) Director Amy Acton signed a "stay at home" order for all Ohioans due to the coronavirus, closing all businesses besides those that are deemed "essential." It went into effect on Monday, March 23 at 11:59 p.m. and will remain in effect until at least Monday, April 6, Gov. Mike DeWine said during his daily COVID-19 press conference at the Statehouse. DeWine said the “stay at home” order is similar to “shelter in place” orders issued in other states and localities.


Not everyone supports the “stay at home” order with David Zanotti, CEO of the Ohio Roundtable and the American Policy Roundtable, calling for its immediate repeal, saying “people need jobs” and “Ohioans want their right to vote back.”


Additionally, DeWine announced Sunday that all child care facilities except for those with the new temporary pandemic child care license were to close by Thursday, March 26. He said that the number of children in day care has gone down dramatically, with those in state subsidized day care dropping to about 17,000 from 117,000.


Gov. Mike DeWine responded Tuesday to President Trump's call for a speedy return to normal business operations in the U.S., saying "it's not helpful at all" if Ohioans die from the coronavirus and can't return to work. With the predicted surge in positive cases fast approaching, the governor again stressed the importance of "flattening the curve" of rising contagion so as not to overwhelm medical facilities and health professionals.


The Legislature reconvened Wednesday under extraordinary circumstances to address the coronavirus pandemic, quickly and unanimously passing HB197 (Powell-Merrin) that contains a number of changes addressing the closing of the polls on primary election day, state testing for school districts and the delay of Ohio's tax filing deadline, among other provisions. Specifically, amendments adopted by the Senate to House-passed HB197 extend voting for March's scuttled primary election by absentee ballot through Tuesday, April 28; allow Controlling Board-approved transfers from the Rainy Day Fund to balance the FY20 budget; suspend group size and staff-child ratio requirements of day care centers; waive state proficiency testing and school/district report cards for the 2019-2020 academic year; and "freeze" EdChoice scholarships for 2020-2021 based on voucher-eligible school buildings from the current year. The bill, with an emergency clause, passed the Senate by a vote of 26-0 while the House agreed to the amended legislation unanimously by a voice vote.


Gov. Mike DeWine, Lt. Gov. Jon Husted and Ohio Department of Health (ODH) Director Amy Acton offered more details Wednesday regarding "essential businesses" that can remain in operation and what health care systems are doing to expand the intensive care unit (ICU) capacity in the state.


Ohio Department of Health Director Amy Acton predicted Thursday that Ohio's coronavirus cases could surge to as many as 6,000 to 8,000 new cases a day at the peak. She stressed that the "stay at home" order works to "fend off" this surge as long as possible to give hospitals a chance to prepare and increase capacity because currently they do not have enough capacity to handle this number. In addition, she and the governor continued to plea for contributions of person protective equipment (PPE) because that, too, is not in sufficient supply.


CORRECTIONS


The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Ohio, Americans for Prosperity-Ohio (AFP) and a number of other organizations signed a letter sent Tuesday to Gov. Mike DeWine, the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction (ODRC) and the Ohio Department of Youth Services (ODYS) urging greater transparency on how many incarcerated adults and youth are suspected or are confirmed as having the novel coronavirus (COVID-19). Specifically, the groups asked for daily updates on the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 in any DRC or DYS facilities and the facilities where they are located; the number of suspected cases of COVID-19 and the facilities where they are located; and the number of incarcerated individuals who have been quarantined for having COVID-19 and where they are located.


EDUCATION


The U.S. Department of Education (USDOE) offered more expansive flexibility Friday for schools to dump standardized testing for the 2019-2020 school year. U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos had previously said the federal agency would consider "targeted" waivers of accountability requirements, but Friday simply said the agency will grant any state filing the "proper request" of a waiver from testing requirements. Related accountability waivers might be granted as well, USDOE said.


The State Board of Education will not hold its monthly meeting in April, the Ohio Department of Education announced, as coronavirus continues to disrupt events. The meeting was set to take place Monday, April 6 and Tuesday, April 7. The board is next set to meet Monday, May 11 and Tuesday, May 12.


Superintendent Paolo DeMaria recorded another video message to Ohio educators, this one from his home kitchen in the spirit of Gov. Mike DeWine's stay-at-home order. In it he noted allowances the Ohio Department of Health (ODH) included in the order for educational services. "Fortunately it makes allowances for several things that impact education, namely activities that relate to continuing educational services for students, as well as meal service for students, with some caveats and conditions," he said. He said the Ohio Department of Education will be working to provide more precise information about application of the order to education at its online coronavirus hub, www.education.ohio.gov/coronavirus.


Months of wrangling on changes to the EdChoice voucher system to fend off a major expansion in the 2020-2021 school year gave way to a simple freeze of eligibility Wednesday as the coronavirus response took precedence over what had been the main topic of discussion several weeks ago. Amendments to HB197 (Powell-Merrin) that passed on an emergency basis to respond to the pandemic also answered the call for testing waivers and other flexibility schools were looking for after being ordered to shut their doors and teach students remotely as a public health precaution. Lawmakers had been working furiously to fend off a looming expansion in the number of school buildings at which students are eligible for EdChoice vouchers, a list that was set to grow from more than 500 in the current academic year to 1,200-plus in the coming year. They failed to meet the deadline of enacting reforms before the Feb. 1 application period began and ended up delaying applications until April 1 to buy more time, only to find themselves in the middle of a public health emergency as that new deadline approached.


Reactions from education groups to this week's eligibility freeze for school vouchers showed acknowledgement that extraordinary times demanded a temporary solution they might not particularly like.


ELECTIONS 2020


A total of 523,522 votes were cast during Ohio's primary election early voting period from Wednesday, Feb. 19 through Monday, March 16, Secretary of State Frank LaRose announced Friday. LaRose's office said 590,245 absentee ballots were requested, including 325,228 by mail and 265,017 in person. A total of 359,474 voters requested Democratic ballots, while 207,594 requested Republican ballots, 1,693 requested Libertarian ballots and 21,484 requested non-partisan ballots. Of the 523,522 ballots cast, 265,017 were in person and 258,505 were by mail.


Secretary of State Frank LaRose asked lawmakers to give him permission to send absentee ballot requests to every Ohioan who has yet to cast a ballot in the 2020 primary, as well as discretion to set an in-person election day of June 2 should an Ohio Department of Health (ODH) order closing the polls be lifted. LaRose sent a letter to members of the Legislature on Saturday, defending the decision to close the polls and his subsequent directive that outlines the next steps for completing the primary by June 2. LaRose said in the letter that the actions of Gov. Mike DeWine and ODH Director Amy Acton to close the polls "saved lives."


However, under changes in the omnibus coronavirus bill passed Wednesday by the General Assembly as part of HB197 (Powell-Merrin), Ohioans will have until Tuesday, April 28 to cast an absentee ballot but will have no opportunity to cast an in-person ballot for the presidential primary unless they are disabled or do not have access to mail at their residence or another residence. Asked why the legislators took this approach, Speaker Larry Householder (R-Glenford) said the problem with opening the polls is deciding which date to pick, and the unknown of whether the same problems would arise when the next date arrived as the state continues to fight the pandemic. He also pointed out there are a number of provisions in Ohio law that are based on the election day, so by changing the date lawmakers would have had to change a multitude of other items such as when independent candidates file.


The Ohio Democratic Party (ODP) Thursday filed a motion with the Ohio Supreme Court asking for its case against Secretary of State Frank LaRose to be dismissed after the Legislature Wednesday passed HB197 (Powell-Merrin) including an extension of absentee balloting until Tuesday, April 28. ODP had filed the lawsuit in the wake of an Ohio Department of Health (ODH) order to close polling locations for the March 17 presidential primary due to concerns over the spread of the coronavirus. After the order was issued on March 16, LaRose issued a directive outlining the next steps for county boards of elections and announcing a new in-person voting date was set for June 2. ODP argued that LaRose's actions were illegal and asked the Court to order LaRose to extend absentee voting until April 28.

EMPLOYMENT/UNEMPLOYMENT


The week of March 15-21 alone would be second in the state's historical monthly rankings for highest unemployment claims, according to information released by the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS) Thursday. The department reported 187,780 initial claims to the U.S. Department of Labor for that week, and had previously detailed receiving 111,055 claims from Sunday, March 15 to Wednesday, March 18.


FEDERAL


Late Wednesday, the U.S. Senate passed a $2 trillion coronavirus emergency relief bill which now heads to the U.S. House of Representatives, which expects to vote on it on Friday. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL), among the many provisions is the creation of a $150 billion Coronavirus Relief Fund for state, local and tribal governments. Ohio is estimated to be allocated over $4 billion. In addition, it provides a $1,200 ($2,400 for married couples) direct payment to Americans making $75,000 ($150,000 for couples) or less annually. Lower payments will be made to individuals with an income between $75,000 and $99,000 annually, and those making over $99,000 ($198,000 for couples) will not receive a payment. Additionally, Americans will receive $500 for each child younger than age 17. Payments are expected to go out by Monday, April 6.


U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan (D-OH) told a small crowd in downtown Youngstown Friday he wants to issue "war bonds" to small businesses who are being hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic, including restaurants, bars and other businesses that make up "the culture of our communities." Though Ryan said specifics of the plan are still being worked through with the U.S. Department of Treasury, he said war bonds were used during World Wars I and II to support businesses, and after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, "liberty bonds" were used to do the same.


U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan (D-OH) said he would soon be formally introducing legislation to direct President Trump to utilize the Defense Production Act to mandate American companies to manufacture essential medical equipment. While Trump has "activated" the Defense Production Act, Ryan said the president has not actually utilized the act to demand companies shift production to needed medical goods and personal protective equipment (PPE).


GENERAL ASSEMBLY/STATEHOUSE


Rep. Don Manning (R-New Middletown), a first-term lawmaker, died Friday after going to the hospital while suffering chest pains, House Speaker Larry Householder (R-Glenford) announced. Manning was 54. Manning was elected in 2018 by just a few hundred votes over Rep. John Boccieri (D-Poland), flipping the traditionally Democratic Mahoning Valley seat to Republicans.


The public and the media -- save for one print pool reporter, a pool still photographer and a pool TV camera -- were barred from the House chamber this week in protocols announced by House Speaker Larry Householder (R-Glenford) late Monday night. This came as lawmakers returned to address a number of issues surrounding the coronavirus pandemic, including a delay to the March presidential primary. The Senate was less strict on allowing the public to attend the session, though they were encouraged to watch the session through public television or the live stream at www.ohiochannel.org.


House Speaker Larry Householder (R-Glenford) told reporters Wednesday that he doesn't expect the House to return to session or hold committee meetings until the danger from the coronavirus passes, but he did not rule out a return if Gov. Mike DeWine needs something done legislatively to respond to the pandemic. He said expects the Legislature to have to pass a budget correction bill when they return. He also noted he expects the re-appropriations will probably lapse while indicating a capital budget is iffy.


House Speaker Larry Householder (R-Glenford) announced Thursday that he will be creating a bipartisan task force to prepare the state to return to work after the threat of coronavirus subsides.


HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES


Ohio officials offered additional guidance Monday on how the temporary pandemic child care license program will work, following Gov. Mike DeWine's Sunday announcement that all other child care centers must close by Thursday, March 26. LeeAnne Cornyn, director of the Office of Children's Initiatives, said the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS) had already approved almost 1,000 temporary licenses as of Sunday and was working around the clock to process further applications. Only children of essential workers can be enrolled, ODJFS Assistant Director for Health and Human Services Kara Bertke-Wente said, and they are asking providers to give priority to certain fields including health care workers, first responders and certain critical services including children's services, public assistance and adult protective services.


The Ohio Board of Pharmacy (OBP) on Sunday approved an emergency rule limiting prescriptions of chloroquine or hydroxychloroquine for possible treatment of COVID-19, as patients currently need these drugs to treat conditions such as malaria, rheumatoid arthritis and lupus. During a special telephonic meeting with all members present, OBP President Shawn Wilt said the board has seen a "significant increase" in the prescribing of these medications and wanted to take action to make sure Ohioans are not hoarding them.


HIGHER EDUCATION


The University of Toledo Medical Center (UTMC) announced Tuesday that it is now able to test for COVID-19 and can deliver results in less than 48 hours. This will "significantly reduce" the waiting period to confirm diagnoses. UTMC is the first laboratory in Northwest Ohio able to conduct tests. It will be able to process 180 samples per day.


To help undergraduate and graduate students at the University of Toledo (UT) who are concerned about maintaining grades this spring semester, UT has announced several options being offered that would allow students to complete their courses without a letter grade or have more time to finish this semester's coursework.


The University of Dayton (UD) has named Alison Carr-Chellman as the new dean of the School of Education and Health Sciences. Carr-Chellman, who begins her new position Wednesday, July 1, is currently dean of the College of Education, Health and Human Sciences at the University of Idaho. Her previous experience also includes 22 years at Penn State University, where she was a full professor, department head and a leader in the area of instructional systems.


HOUSING/HOMELESSNESS


The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced this week that Ohio has received $6 million in grants to support local homeless assistance programs in the state. HUD said grants are part of the current round of its Continuum of Care grants and will provide support to 22 Ohio programs on the front lines, serving individuals and families experiencing homelessness. Along with $10.6 million for 284 projects in the first round of funding, Ohio has received $112.6 million in Continuum of Care awards for FFY19.


Ohio home sales for February were 8.8 percent ahead of the same month a year ago, though Ohio Realtors reports activity will likely change in the coming months because of coronavirus. February sales of 9,382 compared to the 8,624 sales seen in February 2019. The average sale price of $187,576 was 8 percent above the $173,696 seen a year earlier.


While applauding Gov. Mike DeWine and Ohio Department of Health (ODH) Director Amy Acton for actions they've taken to control the spread of COVID-19, housing advocates said the state must now focus on addressing infection rates in one of the state's most vulnerable populations -- the homeless. "A stay-at-home order is meaningless if your home is a tent in the woods or a large shelter," said Barbara Poppe, former executive director of the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness, who also has a master's degree in epidemiology. Poppe, author of the Coalition on Homelessness and Housing in Ohio's (COHHIO) new report, "Double Jeopardy: The Coronavirus & Homelessness in Ohio," discussed her research during an online press conference Wednesday.


JUDICIAL


In addition to her guidance Thursday to local judges about operating their courts in a way that reduces health risks during the coronavirus outbreak, Ohio Supreme Court Chief Justice Maureen O'Connor announced $4 million in supplemental technology grants to help in that process. The Supreme Court said the newly announced $4 million in technology grants are in addition to annual grants in place for the past few years.


Chief Justice O'Connor redoubled the call Monday for Ohio courts to carefully consider a list of precautions while seeking to maintain access to justice during the pandemic. "While there is no one solution that will be appropriate for every court, there are a number of options that should be considered under existing authority," O'Connor said in a statement. She reinforced the directives issued by the Supreme Court since March 13.


Gov. Mike DeWine explained in his Thursday briefing that the coronavirus bill, HB197 (Powell-Merrin), among its many provisions provides that all civil, criminal and administrative timelines are tolled from March 9 through July 30. "What this means is that the courts have more flexibility in all cases, so let's take the question of evictions. An action to evict someone can certainly still be filed, but the courts would be relieved of the statutory duty to hear that case within a certain period of time. This will come at the discretion of the court, but the Legislature in this bill has relieved them of the obligation to move forward on those particular matters."

MARIJUANA/HEMP


Medical marijuana businesses, which the DeWine administration confirmed are "essential" in the Ohio Department of Health's (ODH) COVID-19 "stay at home" order on Sunday, have implemented a number of new procedures to ensure the safety of patients and staff, Ohio Medical Cannabis Industry Association (OMCIA) Executive Director Matt Close told Hannah News in an interview.


MEDICAID/MEDICAID REFORM


Ohio will be eligible for a temporary 6.2 percent increase in its Federal Medical Assistance Percentage (FMAP) due to enactment of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), which was signed into law on March 18. States must not increase premiums above those in place as of Jan. 1, 2020; they must not impose more restrictive Medicaid eligibility standards; and they must not terminate individuals from Medicaid until the federal state of emergency is over, if they want to be eligible for the increase. The 6.2 percent increase is effective "beginning Jan. 1, 2020 and extending through the last day of the calendar quarter in which the public health emergency declared by the [U.S.] Secretary of Health and Human Services for COVID-19, including any extensions, terminates," according to a memo from the U.S. Center for Medicaid and CHIP Services (CMCS).


MILITARY AFFAIRS


The Ohio Adjutant General's Department recently raised the number of Ohio National Guard (ONG) soldiers deployed to assist foodbanks in 12 counties, after initially planning to have around 300 activated and beginning work Monday. There are now approximately 380 personnel, including 56 members of the Ohio Military Reserve who are helping at four of the 12 locations. Adjutant General John Harris approved up to seven additional soldiers at each location to fill volunteer gaps.


NATURAL RESOURCES


In response to the developing public health situation with COVID-19 and the Ohio Department of Health's (ODH) stay at home order, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) announced it closed campgrounds, cabins, golf courses, restrooms, shower houses, playgrounds and state park marinas at all ODNR properties effective Tuesday, March 24.


POLLS/STUDIES


A new poll of voters in four Great Lakes swing states shows concerns about the coronavirus pandemic and the economy, but overall voters are giving their governors and President Donald Trump positive marks for their responses to the pandemic. According to the poll, a supermajority of voters said the coronavirus is a real threat, but Republicans were more likely to say that the pandemic has been blown out of proportion. In Ohio, 65 percent of Ohio voters said it is a real threat, with 74 percent of Democrats, 60 percent of Republicans, and 58 percent of independent voters labeling it as such. Also, nearly 47 percent of respondents have a favorable opinion of Trump, while slightly less than 47 percent have an unfavorable view. More than 50 percent of voters have an unfavorable opinion of Trump in Michigan and Wisconsin, while 48 percent of voters have an unfavorable view of the president in Pennsylvania compared to 46 percent who have a favorable view.


POVERTY


Foodbanks are struggling to meet Ohioans' demand for food assistance since the initial spread of COVID-19 and the subsequent quarantines that put many out of work and limited foodbanks' volunteer capacity and philanthropic funding, according to a new report from the Ohio Association of Foodbanks. The report states Ohio foodbanks have so far reported 50 to 150 percent increases in demand for food assistance, while simultaneously experiencing a loss of traditional fundraising dollars and volunteers. In-person fundraising and giving campaigns have been cancelled, and foodbanks are coping with reductions in staff due to school closures and quarantine measures.


PUBLIC SAFETY


The DeWine administration has added a major name to the state list of law enforcement agencies in full compliance with peace officer standards issued by Ohio Collaborative Community-Police Advisory Board. The Franklin County Sheriff's Office is now certified for use of force, including deadly force, and agency recruitment and hiring, the Office of Criminal Justice Services (OCJS) announced Monday, four years after the first agencies signed onto policing standards completed in 2015. The complete list of those that have and have not been certified can be found at www.ocjs.ohio.gov/ohiocollaborative.


SECRETARY OF STATE


Secretary of State Frank LaRose announced that 11,334 new businesses filed in Ohio in February, an increase of 12 percent from a year ago and 18 percent more than February 2018.


STATE GOVERNMENT


Increases in appropriation authority for the Ohio Department of Health (ODH) and the Ohio Department of Public Safety's (ODPS) Ohio Emergency Management Agency (Ohio EMA) to address the COVID-19 pandemic were approved by the Controlling Board on Wednesday. Members of the panel met in the House Finance Hearing Room, while agency representatives answered questions from the Statehouse Atrium to allow for appropriate social distancing. The meeting was broadcast live on the Ohio Channel, with cameras operating in both rooms. Many agencies chose to defer their requests, reducing the size of the agenda significantly.


TECHNOLOGY


The International Association of IT Asset Managers (IAITAM) warned businesses that the massive increase in telework due to coronavirus carries "nightmare consequences" for information security. In a recent release, IAITAM President and CEO Barbara Rembiesa said that while the impulse to have employees work from home is understandable, companies and agencies without a business continuity plan that includes strong IT asset management (ITAM) are "sitting ducks for breaches, hacking and data that is out there in the wild beyond the control of the company."

TRANSPORTATION/INFRASTRUCTURE


The Ohio Rail Development Commission (ORDC) Wednesday approved funds that it will use to match a federal Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements (CRISI) grant that has been awarded to the city of Greenfield.


TREASURER OF STATE


The state treasury will use up to $900 million to help lower costs Ohio hospitals pay on common short-term debt instruments, because rates are jumping amid financial market turmoil sparked by the coronavirus outbreak. Variable rate demand obligations (VRDO) that hospitals use have seen rates increase to their highest levels since the 2008 financial crisis, reaching 5.2 percent last week, according to Treasurer Robert Sprague's office. The VRDO market "is under significant stress" and municipal bond markets are "at a virtual standstill," even as hospitals face higher costs to fight to spread of the virus. The state treasury will submit bids of up to $100 million per qualifying hospital system at a rate of 2 percent while the coronavirus emergency declaration is in effect. "In short, this offers much needed savings to participating health systems, while providing a fair return on the treasury's investment," Sprague's office said.


UTILITIES


The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) on Friday ordered the state's electric, natural gas, water and wastewater distribution utilities to suspend in-person meter reading activities and "any other non-essential work that would create unnecessary social contact."


The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) expanded its response to the COVID-19 state of emergency Wednesday by invoking the agency's power to "regulate and promote the welfare and safety of railroad employees and the traveling public." With three members voting, the commission suspended completion deadlines for rail crossing improvements during the pandemic, "or as otherwise ordered by the commission."


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




0 views

41 South High Street, Suite 3625, Columbus, Ohio 43215, Tel. 614-782-1440

Privacy Policy  |  Disclaimer