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Week in Review March 25, 2024


Ohio statehouse government affairs week in review January 2023


This report reflects the latest happenings in government relations, in and around the Ohio statehouse. You’ll notice that it’s broad in nature and on an array of topics, from A-Z. This will be updated on a weekly basis.

Please feel free to share it with anyone else you believe may find it of interest, as well. Also, please do not hesitate to contact us should you have any questions, concerns or if we can be of any assistance.



ARTS, SPORTS AND ENTERTAINMENT


Twenty-five teaching artists have been selected to take part in the new Building Bridges to Sustained Communities initiative, the Ohio Arts Council (OAC) announced. The new program focuses on bringing artmaking experiences to older adults in Ohio's underserved and historically marginalized communities, OAC said. It follows similar work completed between 2021 and 2023 under the Ohio Intensive Creative Aging Training Initiative, during which an initial cohort of 25 teaching artists received training and conducted residencies at host sites around the state.


ATTORNEY GENERAL


Attorney General Dave Yost led an amicus brief signed by counterparts in two other states Tuesday that urges the U.S. Supreme Court to take the opportunity presented in former President Donald Trump's immunity case to establish a legal test to guide decisions on such cases in the future. Justices are now considering Trump's case arguing he is immune from prosecution on charges that he conspired to overturn his 2020 election loss to President Joe Biden. Trump lost that argument at trial and at the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, but those rulings are on hold pending the U.S. Supreme Court case. Alaska Attorney General Treg Taylor and Wyoming Attorney General Bridget Hill signed on to Yost's brief, which calls for a two-part test to apply in considering cases involved in presidential immunity. The test would evaluate how closely an alleged criminal act is linked to core presidential powers under Article II of the U.S. Constitution, as well as whether the urgency of the situation warranted a president's action.


Yost also filed an amicus brief Thursday in a federal lawsuit involving Texas laws on immigration enforcement, joined by 21 of his counterparts. The brief, filed in the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals case United States v. Texas, argues in favor of Texas' right to enforce its own immigration laws, now under challenge by the federal government, which argues they are pre-empted by federal law. The Texas law criminalizes illegal immigration and allows state courts to deport people who cross the border illegally. The brief leads off by citing the high volume of recent migrant encounters at the U.S. southern border.


BUSINESS/CORPORATE


The DeWine administration recently announced leadership awards and star ratings for business advisory councils in the state, in recognition of their work to develop professional skills, build partnerships and coordinate experiences that help prepare students for success. The awards were application-based and recognize the collaborative work involved in these efforts. There are 85 councils and the awards were developed by the Ohio Department of Education and Workforce (DEW) in partnership with a range of business groups.

Based on a recommendation of its Ohio Minority Development Financing Advisory Board (MDFAB), the Ohio Department of Development (DOD) recently awarded $1 million in support for two women-owned businesses in the state: both Guard Plus LLC dba Guard+ and Sydney Candle Company, LLC (Trumbull County) and Wonderland Playground LLC (Hamilton County) will receive $500,000.


CHILDREN/FAMILIES


The Ohio Legislative Children's Caucus Monday discussed chronic absence issues and how exclusionary discipline practices can affect them. Presentations were given by Patrick Hickman, the state's attendance advisor within the Department of Education and Workforce (DEW) Office of Whole Child Supports, and Kim Eckhart, data manager at the Children's Defense Fund-Ohio. Opening the discussion, Sen. Stephanie Kunze (R-Hilliard) said chronic absenteeism is "a pressing issue affecting Ohio's educational landscape." She added that she previously worked as an elementary school secretary who handled attendance and understands this has been an issue for years and was made worse during the pandemic.


Gov. Mike DeWine this week announced the award of $5 million from the Ohio Department of Health (ODH) and Ohio Department of Children and Youth (DCY) to 19 community- and faith-based organizations serving pregnant women and newly parenting families. Funds will help communities launch or expand services to improve infant and maternal health and support new families up to 12 months post-partum.


DISASTERS


Gov. Mike DeWine Sunday declared a state of emergency in 11 counties affected by tornadoes and other severe weather and activated the Ohio National Guard to help in Logan County. He previously directed the Ohio Emergency Management Agency (Ohio EMA), Ohio Department of Health (ODH), Ohio State Highway Patrol (OSHP) and Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) to lead the response. The state of emergency includes Auglaize, Crawford, Darke, Delaware, Hancock, Licking, Logan, Mercer, Miami, Richland and Union counties. As part of the declaration, all relevant state departments and agencies will lend services, equipment, supplies and personnel. In addition to the Ohio EMA, ODH, OSHP and ODOT, that includes the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services (OhioMHAS), Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) and Ohio Department of Administrative Services (DAS).


ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT/URBAN REVITALIZATION


Intel's projects in Ohio and three other states will receive up to $8.5 billion in combined funding through the CHIPS and Science Act, according to a Biden administration announcement Wednesday that received widespread praise from Ohio leaders. The announcement comes as part of a non-binding preliminary memorandum of terms (PMT) between the administration and the company. Intel will also receive up to $11 billion in loans and plans to claim a federal investment tax credit, expected to be up to 25 percent of qualified capital expenditures. Award amounts will be subject to due diligence and conditional on the achievement of certain milestones.


Leaders from communities around Central Ohio gathered in Columbus Friday to discuss the strategic framework needed for the region as the population is projected to grow to over three million people by 2050. A large part of that plan for the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission (MORPC) includes the LinkUS project that would greatly expand zero-emission mass transit throughout the region through expanded bus service, more connections to rural systems and increased on-demand transit systems. MORPC Executive Director William Murdock says that in addition to significantly improving transit service in the region, LinkUS would also include the construction of five major mass transit corridors and hundreds of miles of sidewalks and trails with the goal of better connecting people's homes and their jobs.


EDUCATION


Members of the Ohio High School Athletic Association (OHSAA) will vote on at least five referendum items this spring, the organization has announced. OHSAA's annual referendum voting period is Wednesday, May 1 through Wednesday, May 15. A majority vote is the only way that an OHSAA bylaw or constitution item can be added, deleted or changed. OHSAA staff plans to conduct meetings in each district in April to explain the referendum items that schools will be voting on.


Disability Rights Ohio (DRO) waded further into a dispute between the Warren County Educational Service Center (ESC) and Ohio Department of Education and Workforce (DEW) over alleged special education law violations and corrective actions ordered by the state. In its dismissal motion, DRO argues the court is required to dismiss the case because the ESC is obligated to exhaust administrative appeals under the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and state law before going to court.


Changes in the last capital appropriations bill continue to pose hurdles for public radio stations and reading radio services (RRS), but the Broadcast Educational Media Commission (BEMC) hopes to see a fix in the upcoming capital budget. Under 134-HB687 (Oelslager), public TV, radio, and RRS affiliates were told they need to have a joint use agreement with a state university or community college in order to receive money through capital appropriations. Some stations, such as WOSU with Ohio State University (OSU), already partner with a state institution of higher education, but for those that do not, the requirement adds an extra hurdle to receive state funding.


ELECTIONS


The ex-campaign treasurer for Sen. Stephanie Kunze (R-Hilliard) and two former Franklin County GOP elected officials is apparently under federal scrutiny and was referred for local prosecution Thursday by the Ohio Elections Commission. The commission heard three cases against William Curlis, who'd been treasurer for Kunze, former Franklin County Engineer Cornell Robertson and former Franklin County Prosecutor Ron O'Brien. They allege inaccurate reports and misappropriation of money. Phil Richter, executive director of the commission, told commission members there's an ongoing federal investigation into Curlis as well, with which Curlis is cooperating.


ELECTIONS 2024


Businessman Bernie Moreno cruised to victory in the U.S. Senate Republican primary on Tuesday night, defeating Sen. Matt Dolan (R-Chagrin Falls) and Secretary of State Frank LaRose. Moreno will now face U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) in the general election in November. As of late Tuesday night, Moreno had more than 50 percent of the vote in the three-way primary race. Dolan received 33 percent of the vote, while LaRose got 17 percent.

Eighth District Court of Appeals Judge Lisa Forbes won the only contested Supreme Court primary this year, defeating Tenth District Court of Appeals Judge Terri Jamison by a 26.4 percentage point margin in the Democratic election. She had 63.43 percent to Jamison's 36.57 percent with 95 percent of precincts reporting Tuesday night and led by over 120,000 votes. Forbes was endorsed by the Ohio Democratic Party over Jamison, who unsuccessfully ran for the Supreme Court in 2022 against Justice Pat Fischer. Forbes has a J.D. from Case Western Reserve University School of Law and a B.S. degree from Cornell University. Then on Wednesday, the three Democratic candidates for the Ohio Supreme Court, including sitting Justices Michael Donnelly and Melody Stewart, said they will make the case for voters to look past party in an election that is expected to heavily favor former President Donald Trump. Stewart and Donnelly will be running for the first time under the law that requires candidates on the general election ballot to have party affiliation appear next to their names. Democrats were swept by Republicans in all three Supreme Court races in 2022, the first year the law was in place.


Sen. Michael Rulli (R-Salem) will be the Republican candidate in the 6th Congressional District for both the special election and the general election. Rulli defeated Rep. Reggie Stoltzfus (R-Minerva) and chiropractor Rick Tsai in the race to fill the seat left by former U.S. Rep. Bill Johnson (R-Marietta), who left office to become president of Youngstown State University.


In the 9th Congressional District, Rep. Derek Merrin (R-Maumee) defeated former Rep. Craig Riedel and former Napoleon Mayor Steve Lankenau. Merrin received 52.5 percent of the vote, while Riedel got 34.4 percent and Lankenau got 13.2 percent.


In the 11-way Republican primary in the 2nd Congressional District, businessman Dave Taylor came out on top with 25.4 percent of the vote. Among those defeated were Sens. Shane Wilkin (R-Hillsboro), who received 9.6 percent of the vote, and Niraj Antani (R-Miamisburg), who got 1.7 percent. The seat is currently held by U.S. Rep. Brad Wenstrup (R-Cincinnati), but he announced he will retire at the end of his term.


In other congressional races, Rep. Adam Miller (D-Columbus) defeated small business owner Zerqa Abid 64.3 percent to 35.7 percent to win the Democratic primary in the 15th Congressional District. Miller will face U.S. Rep. Mike Carey (R-Columbus) in the general election. In the 13th Congressional District, former state lawmaker Kevin Coughlin defeated businessman Chris Banweg and Richard Morckel in the Republican primary. Coughlin will face U.S. Rep. Emilia Sykes (D-Akron) in the general election. In the 4th Congressional District, Democrat Tamie Wilson will face U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Urbana) after defeating her primary opponent, Steve Thomas. U.S. Reps. Bob Latta (R-Bowling Green), Dave Joyce (R-Novelty) and Warren Davidson (R-Troy) all easily defeated their primary challengers.


Former U.S. Rep. Dennis Kucinich filed petitions to run as an independent for the 7th Congressional District. Kucinich, who served in Congress representing the Cleveland area for 16 years as a Democrat, said he will focus his campaign on the economic needs of Americans and the challenges many families face today, including inflation driving up the cost of food, housing, health care, energy, utilities, and education, "while the cost of credit rises and more and more Americans are going into debt."


Four incumbent Republicans who voted for House Speaker Jason Stephens (R-Kitts Hill) over caucus pick Derek Merrin (R-Maumee) lost their seats in Republican primaries Tuesday, despite heavy spending by the Stephens-led Ohio House Republican Alliance (OHRA) to defend them. Of the 21 Republicans who joined with Stephens, dubbed by detractors as the "Blue 22," and all Democrats in the House to elect Stephens as speaker, 12 faced primaries on Tuesday. Those who did not succeed in retaining their seats were Reps. Sara Carruthers (R-Hamilton), who lost to Diane Mullins; Brett Hillyer (R-Uhrichsville), who lost to Jodi Salvo; Gail Pavliga (R-Atwater), who lost to Heidi Workman; and Jon Cross (R-Findlay), who lost to Ty Mathews.


Rep. Elliot Forhan (D-South Euclid) was the lone Democrat incumbent to lose his seat in the primary, coming in third behind winner Eric Synenberg and second-place finisher Angel Washington in the three-way primary.


Gov. Mike DeWine's endorsed candidate did not secure the Republican nomination for Ohio's U.S. Senate contest, but the governor said Wednesday he is committed to helping businessman Bernie Moreno and former President Donald Trump win their elections this November. DeWine said he called Moreno Wednesday morning to congratulate him on his "impressive victory."


Ahead of Election Day, U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) held a significant fundraising advantage over his potential Republican opponents. In his pre-primary campaign finance report, Brown reported $5.7 million in receipts, $6.8 million in disbursements and $13.5 million in cash on hand. Brown is seeking his fourth six-year term in office. He was first elected to the U.S. Senate in 2006, defeating then-U.S. Sen. Mike DeWine. Hannah News also reviewed the fundraising efforts of the various candidates in the congressional races.


Substantially more Ohio school funding issues were on the March primary election ballot compared to the prior two primary contests, though activity is still below recent general elections. According to the Ohio School Boards Association, 94 school funding issues were before Ohio voters this cycle. By comparison, voters saw 75 apiece in the spring 2022 and spring 2023 contests. In the two most recent general elections, voters saw 120 in 2022 and 167 in 2023.


According to the Ohio Library Council, seven funding issues were on the ballot for local library systems with five passing on Tuesday. Marysville Public Library's narrow defeat was the only close contest, with 3,174 votes against it versus 3,126 in favor. The number of voters who chose not to cast a ballot on that question, 108, exceeded the margin of defeat, according to Union County Board of Elections preliminary results. The defeat in Ashtabula County of Kingsville Public Library's request for a renewal/increase levy was decisive, just 37 percent in favor.


The following endorsement was made over the week:


  • The re-election campaign of U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) announced the endorsement of the Ohio Building Trades.

ENERGY/UTILITIES


The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) approved an agreement between AES Ohio, University of Dayton (UD) and Tallgrass Dayton Community Power Wednesday that will allow the utility and Tallgrass to profit from electricity generated with waste heat at AES's natural gas compression plant and supply it to UD at no charge "of any kind" to other ratepayers, though commissioners appeared to equivocate on whether the utility will in fact recover the cost of infrastructure upgrades from all customers in the future. AES and Tallgrass say waste heat generation from natural gas exhaust stacks represents "sustainable," "renewable" and "emission-free" baseload power, though the latter term generally refers to 24/7 electricity available to assorted consumers within PJM Interconnection's 13-state territory rather than to a "reasonable arrangement" between one utility and a distributed generation facility.


GAMING/GAMBLING


The Ohio Lottery Commission and potential iLottery vendors argued in a study panel hearing Tuesday that the advent of online lottery products in Ohio could have a positive effect on brick-and-mortar retailers, as witnessed in other states. An advocate for bowling centers, however, urged lawmakers to make special efforts to accommodate site-based hospitality businesses in any further gambling expansion. Meanwhile, a leader in problem gambling prevention efforts said now is the time for lawmakers to consider unifying regulatory oversight of gambling now spread across multiple agencies. The Study Commission on the Future of Gaming in Ohio, established in HB33 (Edwards), led off Tuesday's hearing with testimony from Michelle Gillcrist, who's been Ohio Lottery Commission (OLC) executive director about a year.


The study commission also met on Wednesday when they heard that sports betting and fantasy sports contests should be treated equally under the law from Problem Gambling Network of Ohio (PGNO) Executive Director Derek Longmeier. "Aligning daily fantasy sports (DFS) regulations with those of sports betting and ensuring equitable taxation and consumer protections across both sectors are important steps to safeguarding the interests of Ohioans," Longmeier said.


GOVERNOR


Gov. Mike DeWine and other state leaders Friday toured the Ohio State School for the Blind and the Ohio School for the Deaf, where he spoke with students and administrators about adaptive technologies and the schools' needs.


HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES


Witnesses at the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services' (OhioMHAS) public hearing on gender transition care (GTC) rapped the General Assembly, DeWine administration and Ohio Attorney General's Office over draft changes to the Ohio Administrative Code (OAC) which they called "cruel," "dystopian" propaganda. The day's hearing formally addressed draft Rule 5122-14-12.1, barring certain gender transition services at private psychiatric providers without specific standards, and Rule 5122-26-19, imposing the same restrictions on community behavioral health providers. The administration took comments from more than a dozen witnesses who generally thanked OhioMHAS for removing adults and mandatory bioethicists from the proposed rules, among other changes, but reserved plenty of criticism for remaining provisions.


Leaders of two of Central Ohio's largest health care organizations described the region as a great environment for health care in general because of the collaboration of the region's different organizations. John Warner, CEO of the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, told the Columbus Metropolitan Club on Wednesday that type of area-wide mission unity among institutions isn't to be found everywhere, comparing Columbus favorably to his time as a health care executive in the Dallas area. In addition, Cardinal Health CEO Jason Hollar praised local and state representatives for understanding what kinds of investments are needed for health care organizations to be successful. Both CEOs mentioned the influence Gov. Mike DeWine has had in pushing for organizations to work together to research ways to address mental health issues with a $20 million investment by the state in the SOAR study.


HIGHER EDUCATION


The Kent State University Board of Trustees approved the establishment of four new majors during its regular quarterly meeting: the College of Communication and Information will establish the applied media major within the Bachelor of Arts degree and the journalism education major within the Master of Arts degree, effective fall 2024, while the College of Public Health will establish a biostatistics major and epidemiology major, both within the Master of Public Health degree, effective fall 2024. All four majors are pending approval of the Ohio Department of Higher Education.


The College Board earlier this month launched a new, entirely digital SAT to students across the U.S. The administration of the new SAT this month completes the transition of the SAT "suite of assessments" to digital testing after the new version launched internationally in March 2023, the College Board said. The new digital version of the test is shorter than the pencil and paper version of the test, lasting just over two hours compared to three hours for the previous version. It includes shorter reading passages on the reading and writing section, with one question tied to each. Calculators are allowed on the entire math section, including the option to use the built-in graphing calculator.


Ohio State University (OSU) announced the hiring of Jake Diebler as head coach of the Ohio State men's basketball program. Diebler, who becomes the 15th head coach in program history, received a five-year contract. Diebler, the first Ohioan to be named Ohio State's head coach in 35 years, is in his eighth season at Ohio State. He was named the interim head coach on Feb. 14 and led the Buckeyes to a 6-2 record over the last month of the season.


IMPACT OHIO


Senate President Matt Huffman (R-Lima) Thursday gave the clearest indication of his interest in becoming House speaker in the 136th General Assembly, telling reporters that no matter who becomes speaker, it must be the choice of the Republican majority caucus. Huffman was asked about the leadership race in the wake of Tuesday's primary election, which saw the defeat of four Republicans who were among 21 Republicans who went against the caucus majority and joined with Speaker Jason Stephens (R-Kitts Hill) and all House Democrats to make him speaker. His remarks came at the Impact Ohio Post-Primary Election Conference, sponsored by the Ohio Chamber of Commerce.


The Thursday conference included remarks by Speaker Jason Stephens (R-Kitts Hill), House Minority Leader Allison Russo (D-Columbus) and Senate Minority Leader Nickie Antonio (D-Lakewood) on their hopes for the November election and what they would like to achieve before the current legislative session ends this year. Stephens discussed making Ohio "the best place" to live, work and raise a family and said more work is needed. His top priority is passing "a truly historic capital budget" along with the State Capital Improvement Program (SCIP).


Huffman and, separately, former Ohio Supreme Court Chief Justice Maureen O'Connor and former Justice Yvette McGee Brown discussed a proposed redistricting amendment that would put the process of drawing General Assembly and congressional district lines in front of a panel of Ohio citizens. Huffman, who spoke last at the conference, said that under the proposal, all of the guidelines about splitting local jurisdictions and communities of interest that were adopted by voters as part of 2015 and 2018 reforms would go away. He said that is the reverse position that many of the groups advocating for the new reform had pushed for when negotiating with lawmakers during the creation of those amendments. O'Connor said the proposed amendment was written as it is because of what she called the "ridiculousness" of the redistricting process in 2021 and 2022. O'Connor was in the majority with Democrats that struck down numerous maps as a gerrymander. She said the one "giant" flaw in the 2015 and 2018 amendments is that it left the process in the hands of politicians who will always put their interests ahead of the interests of the public.

An Impact Ohio panel looking back at Tuesday's primary election and ahead to the November election seemed to agree that Speaker Jason Stephens (R-Kitts Hill) will retain his gavel in the next General Assembly. The panel featured Jai Chabria, managing director of MAD Global Strategy, Joe Rettof, co-founder of RT Advisors, Chillicothe Mayor Luke Feeney, who also serves as secretary of the Ohio Democratic Party, and Brian Osborne, executive vice president of the Strategy Group Company. Chabria said he has "zero doubt" that Stephens will remain speaker, adding that he believes the floor of the 22 Republicans who have supported him has gone up.


In a preview of the campaigns for and against a proposed constitutional amendment raising Ohio's minimum wage to $15, the pro-side argued that it will help Ohio workers to be able to have a living wage while opponents said it will end benefits such as tipped wages for restaurant and hospitality workers. Mariah Ross of One Fair Wage represented the pro-side on the panel moderated by Columbus Business First Editor-in-Chief Doug Buchanan, while Tod Bowen of the Ohio Restaurant and Hospitality Alliance argued for the opposing side. Ross said she is confident the issue, which is currently collecting signatures, will be on the ballot, and said it will pass because everyone has the right to feed their family if they are working full-time. Bowen said fast tracking significant increases to Ohio's minimum wage laws "attacks" the tipped wage, which he said is essential to tipped workers' making a good living. He argued that Ohio's current law, which is indexed to inflation, has done a good job with keeping Ohio wages on pace with inflation unlike other states where the minimum wage has languished at the federal minimum wage level.


Ohio Republican Party Chairman Alex Triantafilou said Thursday that the state party will be selling its downtown headquarters as it seeks to downsize. Calling the building, located at 211 S. Fifth St. in Columbus, "iconic," Triantafilou said the building is too much space and it is time to sell it. Triantafilou and Elizabeth Walters, chair of the Ohio Democratic Party, separately spoke to the Impact Ohio conference. Triantafilou listed winning the U.S. Senate race and Supreme Court races among his top three goals, as well as delivering the state's electoral votes for former President Donald Trump in November. Walters said the abortion issue will be integral for Democrats in 2024 with the win for Issue 1, the reproductive and abortion rights amendment last November. Besides the Supreme Court races, where Walters noted Ohio is the only state nationally that Democrats can flip control of the Court, and the U.S. Senate seat, she also said control of the U.S. House "will undoubtedly run through Ohio."


JUDICIAL


Former Chairman Sam Randazzo of the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) has conceded probable cause in the three-count ethics complaint against him filed Monday with the Board of Professional Conduct. Recommended disciplinary findings are still to come, though the state says the onetime FirstEnergy lobbyist and 133-HB6 (Callender-Wilkin) point man owes his other former employer, Industrial Energy Users (IEU) Ohio, more than $1.2 million in restitution beyond forfeitures sought by the U.S. Attorney's Office and Ohio Attorney General's Office in their parallel indictments of Randazzo. State Disciplinary Counsel Joseph Caligiuri's 15-page complaint draws on state and federal charges and admissions by several convicted cohorts, apparent facts well known to observers of the HB6 bribery scandal. It recounts how Randazzo created Sustainability Funding Alliance of Ohio (SFAO) IEU Administrative Company (IAC) -- not to be confused with IEU-Ohio -- in March 2010 in order to funnel money from his FirstEnergy consulting contract and to allegedly launder $1.22 million in American Electric Power (AEP) of Ohio and Dayton Power & Light (DP&L) settlements diverted from IEU-Ohio along with FirstEnergy's now infamous $4.33 million payment in January 2019 for special favors as PUCO chair.


The Ohio Supreme Court is conceding keen national interest in judicial proceedings in new rules that would allow victims and witnesses to "object" to but not prevent being videotaped and broadcasted during live and recorded hearings. The public has until Monday, April 15 to oppose or support draft changes to the Rules of Superintendence for the Courts of Ohio on the videotaping and broadcasting of court proceedings and their digital retention along with other public records.


The record retention changes begin with new definitions for "court," "court record," "case document," "final judgment" and "financial record." A court record "may be converted from its original medium to another medium," the rule states. "Upon conversion, the original or prior medium may be destroyed ...," including transfers from hard copy to digital files; and new retention schedules would apply "regardless of physical form or characteristic, manner of creation or method of storage." Courts' information management no longer would have to comply with the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) or with "nationally accepted" practices generally. Proposed public record changes also remove references to the Ohio Historical Society's State Archives Division.


Justices are recommending the following changes to continuing legal education (CLE) requirements in Rule X(4)(B)(d) of the Supreme Court Rules for the Government of the Bar of Ohio: "Cultural competency in the practice of law or the administration of justice that may include, among other topics, implicit and explicit bias, equal access to justice, serving a diverse population, diversity and inclusion initiatives in the legal profession." Current CLE language subject to repeal refers to "fairness" in matters of race, ethnicity, foreign origin, religion, gender, sexual orientation, disability, socio-economic status or "other relevant topics.

The Ohio Supreme Court says it's getting out of the business of certifying attorney specialists and joining the practice of some other states in allowing third-party organizations to formally recognize law specialties without accreditation by the Commission on Certification of Attorneys.


LIBRARIES


The Public Library Association (PLA), an affiliate of the American Library Association serving public libraries in the U.S. and Canada, will bring its biennial conference to Columbus in early April and is expecting more than 6,000 participants. The Greater Columbus Convention Center will host the conference, with programs running from Tuesday, April 2 through Friday, April 5. The schedule includes workshops and discussions on numerous topics and keynote speeches from prominent writers and researchers including Ta-Nehisi Coates, Mary Annaise Heglar, Joy Buolamwini and comedian Dulce Sloan.


MARIJUANA/HEMP


Frequent cannabis smoking may increase a person's risk for heart attack and stroke, according to an observational study supported by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI). The study, published in the Journal of the American Heart Association, uses data from nearly 435,000 American adults, according to a release from NIH. The study is among the largest ever to explore the relationship between cannabis and cardiovascular events. The study found that daily use of cannabis -- predominately through smoking -- was associated with a 25 percent increased likelihood of heart attack and a 42 percent increased likelihood of stroke when compared to non-use of the substance.


MEDICAID/MEDICAID REFORM


Ohio Department of Medicaid (ODM) Director Maureen Corcoran Thursday highlighted for the Joint Medicaid Oversight Committee (JMOC) two programs targeting Medicaid programs for children and pregnant women: the Early and Periodic Screening and Diagnosis Treatment (EPSDT) or Healthchek program, which targets services to Medicaid beneficiaries under age 21, and Pregnancy Related Services (PRS) - both federally required programs. Members also heard from Dr. Sean Gleeson of Partners for Kids (PFK) at Nationwide Children's Hospital and the Dayton Children's Hospital who described how the program works to provide care to 470,000 Medicaid children.


MEDICARE


The Ohio Department of Insurance (ODI) and representatives from ODI's Ohio Senior Health Insurance Information Program (OSHIIP) will host a free "Welcome to Medicare" virtual town hall education event from 11 a.m. to 12 p.m. on Tuesday, April 2 for Ohioans new to Medicare. The registration page for the virtual town hall can be found at https://tinyurl.com/na5m5aev. Monthly webinars from OSHIIP are also available for registration at https://tinyurl.com/4j7fd5ba. Individual Medicare counseling is also available at https://tinyurl.com/yhppzhwz.


MENTAL HEALTH


The Ohio Department of Medicaid (ODM) and the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services (OhioMHAS) are working to add new mental health peer support services to the Medicaid Behavioral Health benefit package. Peer support is currently only available as a Medicaid benefit for those with substance use disorder and as a "part of several evidenced-based practices," but the new service, established through the state budget bill HB33 (Edwards), will expand coverage for mental health needs. Officials from ODM and OhioMHAS Tuesday held a stakeholder meeting on the roll out of the new benefit.


NATURAL RESOURCES


The Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) Division of Parks and Watercraft announced the opening of the 2024 Ohio State Parks Photo Contest with submissions due by midnight on Friday, May 3. The contest has five categories: Parks and People, Wildlife Wonders, Adventurers Unbound, Scenic Landscapes, and Historic Horizons. The contest is free to enter. Contestants can submit up to five photos, one per category, that were taken on or after Jan. 1, 2023. To honor the Ohio State Parks' 75th anniversary, photo entries for the Historical Horizons category can be taken on any date. Go to www.discoverohiostateparks.com/ to find submission forms. Winners will be notified between Monday, June 10 and Monday, June 17.


Ohioans can visit a state fish hatchery during this year's open houses to learn about fish production up close before they are stocked into one of Ohio's public lakes and rivers. The ODNR Division of Wildlife operates six state fish hatcheries, which raised and stocked 40.8 million fish in 2023. Sport fish species raised for stocking in public waters include cold-water fish (rainbow trout, steelhead, and brown trout), cool-water fish (saugeye, walleye, yellow perch, and muskellunge), and warm-water fish (hybrid-striped bass, channel catfish, blue catfish, and bluegill). The hatchery open houses are free of charge.


ODNR announced the reopening of Malabar Farm State Park Visitor Center's new exhibit space. The objective of the Malabar Farm State Park Visitor Center is to provide park visitors with a "positive, educational, and entertaining experience while exploring the area's unique natural and cultural history," the department said. Originally built in the early 2000s, the center has undergone a complete redesign and replacement of displays to offer interactive experiences.


PEOPLE


Hamilton County Auditor Brigid Kelly has resigned from office due to "serious health issues," the former state representative wrote in a letter to the Hamilton County Board of Commissioners. Kelly's resignation became effective on Wednesday, March 20 at 9 a.m. "Resigning from the auditor's office is a difficult decision, but one that is necessary to focus on my personal health," Kelly, who is 40, wrote. Kelly is entering hospice care, according to media reports and a statement from Ohio Legislative Black Caucus (OLBC) President Rep. Terrence Upchurch (D-Cleveland). She has reportedly recommended that Rep. Jessica Miranda (D-Cincinnati) be appointed to the office full-time.


The 2024 class of Leadership Ohio's development program has officially been selected and they will begin their eight-month long training. A press conference held in the Ohio Statehouse introduced many of the 35 individuals selected and new online tools that will allow Leadership Ohio alumni to connect with each other. The program aims to allow the selected individuals to "explore critical questions, engage in challenging social discourse, and identify opportunities that impact Ohioans and the communities in which they live and work," according to Leadership Ohio.


POLITICS


University students from around the state recently announced the launch of the Ohio Young People's Platform and an organizing coalition called the Ohio Young People's Platform Coalition. The coalition's platform includes priorities like improving access to health care, a college education, and affordable housing; protecting voting rights, LGBTQ+ rights, and reproductive and abortion rights; advancing racial justice and equity; and improving sustainability and working toward a cleaner environment.


The Conservative Political Action Conference's (CPAC) Center for Legislative Accountability recently released its scorecard of Ohio lawmakers on their votes for conservative issues, recognizing five lawmakers with its "Award for Conservative Excellence." CPAC said it selected votes by lawmakers in creating its ratings on a full spectrum of issues related to the economy, culture, national security, and government integrity. Receiving the highest recognition with a 90-100 percent voting record were Reps. Darrell Kick (R-Loudonville), Riordan McClain (R-Upper Sandusky), Derek Merrin (R-Maumee), Jena Powell (R-Arcanum), and Reggie Stoltzfus (R-Minerva).


Women of the Ohio House Democratic Caucus gathered beneath a painting of Ohio's first woman speaker of the House, Jo Ann Davidson, on Thursday to address what House Minority Leader Allison Russo (D-Upper Arlington) called ongoing work that still needs done for the dignity and opportunity of women in Ohio. Rep. Beth Liston (D-Dublin) said that for most of U.S. history, women have had limited control over their own future, noting that it's only been within her lifetime that women were allowed to open their own bank accounts. Liston said that women have made some economic advances, but without the ability to plan families independently, further opportunities are still limited.


PUBLIC SAFETY


Gov. Mike DeWine signed an executive order Thursday officially creating the Ohio Collaborative Law Enforcement Accreditation Program to administer 31 best practices that build on peace officer standards released over the last eight years by the Ohio Collaborative Community-Police Advisory Board and overseen by the Office of Criminal Justice Services (OCJS). DeWine joined representatives of the accreditation program's 10 pilot agencies at the Ohio Department of Public Safety (DPS): Ohio State Highway Patrol (OSHP); sheriffs' offices for Stark, Mahoning and Van Wert counties; and police departments for Dayton, Dublin, Fairborn, Sidney, Springfield and University of Toledo.


The latest 6-state Trooper Project joined by the Ohio State Highway Patrol (OSHP) focused on drug interdiction and criminal enforcement in the Buckeye State as well as Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, Pennsylvania and West Virginia. A total of 643 citations in neighboring states included 46 for drugs and nine for illegal weapons in Ohio. Indiana led with 231 total enforcement actions; Pennsylvania, 153; and Kentucky, 105.


Gov. DeWine Monday launched a first-of-its-kind initiative to destroy hazardous per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in firefighting foam. During an event at Wright State University's Calamityville training facility in Fairborn, DeWine announced details of the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency's (Ohio EPA) new Aqueous Film-Forming Foam (AFFF) Takeback Program. AFFF is primarily used by fire departments to smother flammable liquid fires, but its high concentrations of PFAS compounds -- often called "forever" chemicals -- resist typical environmental degradation processes and cause long-term contamination of water, soil, and air.


REDISTRICTING/REAPPORTIONMENT


The group behind a proposed constitutional amendment that will create a citizens' redistricting commission to draw the state's General Assembly and congressional lines held a panel discussion on the proposal at Ohio State University Monday, saying it is not a complicated proposal. Despite expected strong opposition, they expressed confidence that they will not only be able to make the November ballot, but also will be able to convince voters to make a change despite recent reforms passed in 2015 and 2018. Former Ohio Supreme Court Chief Justice Maureen O'Connor said the difference between the reforms adopted previously and the current "Citizens Not Politicians" proposal is that the 2015 and 2018 proposals were written by the Legislature and were not citizen initiated. She also said the amendments were centered on the Ohio Redistricting Commission, which gives the power to politicians to draft districts in the General Assembly and Congress that benefit their party.


TRANSPORTATION/INFRASTRUCTURE


The Ohio Turnpike and Infrastructure Commission Monday approved the selection of Chris Matta as the deputy executive director of the commission. Currently the chief engineer for the turnpike, he will continue in that role as well. In its regular business, the commission approved 12 resolutions addressing engineering and maintenance items. Matta told the commission that the items include three for construction contracts, one for the toll collection system, four for engineering services, and four for maintenance equipment materials.

The Ohio Rail Development Commission (ORDC) is recommending that its federal counterpart adopt a Columbus-Cleveland-Pittsburgh route for a long-distance inter-city passenger train as part of the nationally proposed Dallas/Ft. Worth-New York rail connection -- one of two including Detroit-New Orleans proposed for Ohio by the Federal Rail Administration (FRA) as part of a congressionally mandated study. ORDC provided the update Thursday at its March meeting and further approved $88 million in federal grant applications for seven projects led by a $33.3 million proposal for the Ohio Grade Crossing Elimination Program (OGCEP) project at Hilliard-Rome Road, which incorporates a 10 percent match from the city of Columbus.


TREASURER OF STATE


Ohio Treasurer Robert Sprague Friday announced the $15 million purchase of a two-year, fixed-rate Israel Bond. The bond will mature on March 1, 2026, with an interest rate of 5.09 percent. Since Israel Bonds was established in 1951, Israel has maintained a perfect record of interest and principal payments, the treasurer’s office noted.


VETERANS


The Ohio Department of Veterans Services (ODVS) is recognizing outstanding military service by women during Women's History Month with a forum entitled "Sharing Our Stories." It will be moderated by ODVS Director Deborah Ashenhurst, a retired major general with 37 years of service in the U.S. Army. The panel will center around the panelists' military service, leadership and how they have applied the principles learned in the U.S. Armed Forces to their personal and professional lives. The Ohio Women Veterans Forum will take place on Wednesday, March 27 in the Lobby Hearing Room of the Rhodes Tower, 30 E. Broad St., Columbus


WORKFORCE


Lt. Gov. Jon Husted announced Thursday that 438 employers were approved for funding through the January round of TechCred, which will enable Ohioans to earn 4,947 tech-focused credentials. Some of the top industries awarded during this round include manufacturing, construction and education services.


 


 


 



 


 



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


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