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Week in Review March 4, 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.


AGING


The Ohio Department of Aging (ODA) announced Tuesday that the agency will provide $2.3 million beginning immediately to regional ombudsman programs designed to strengthen the support of residents of nursing homes and other long-term care facilities. The regional ombudsman programs are coordinated by ODA's Office of the State Long-Term Care Ombudsman (SLTCO), which works to resolve issues related to the health, safety, welfare and rights of individuals receiving long-term care services at facilities including nursing homes, assisted living facilities and other residential care communities.


AGRICULTURE


The Ohio Department of Development (DOD) released its official program guidelines for $10 million in grant funding to support local fair access and economic impact. Applications for the County & Independent Fairs Grant Program, funded through biennial budget bill HB33 (Edwards), are now open. DOD said the program aims to support county and independent agricultural societies in promoting and improving their annual exhibitions, ensuring that fairs remain vibrant hubs in their communities. Grant guidelines can be found at https://tinyurl.com/bdhmpv99. DOD said grants will be distributed evenly among all eligible grant applicants. Applications are available on the program webpage at http://development.ohio.gov/CountyFairs and will be accepted through 4 p.m. on Tuesday, April 30. Interested applicants can sign up for email notifications at https://tinyurl.com/47u33snf.


ATTORNEY GENERAL


The Human Trafficking Initiative Team within the Office of Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost is now accepting proposals for breakout sessions for the office's annual Human Trafficking Summit. The 2024 summit will be held at the Hyatt Regency in Columbus on Wednesday, Aug. 7, 2024, and will focus on the role a continuum of care plays in human trafficking survivors' long-term healing on the "highway to hope." More information about the 2024 Human Trafficking Summit can be found at http://tinyurl.com/4ujnpcfn, and the form to submit a session idea can be found at http://tinyurl.com/ytvtdsc3. Proposals for this year's conference must be submitted electronically on or before Sunday, March 31, 2024 to HTI@OhioAGO.gov.


AUTOMOBILE INDUSTRY


The DeWine administration announced Monday that Schaeffler, a global manufacturer of high-precision components and systems for engines and transmissions, will establish a new manufacturing facility in Dover to produce beam axles and drivetrain systems for the hybrid and electric vehicle (EV) industry. This builds on its existing manufacturing facility in Wooster and an automotive aftermarket operation in Strongsville. Schaeffler will be creating 650 new jobs between the Dover and Wooster facilities, bringing $54 million in new payroll. The company is also making over $230 million in fixed-asset investments and retaining 1,622 current jobs, with $134.8 million in associated payroll. It received a 15-year Job Creation Tax Credit with an estimated value of $17.5 million.


FY25-26 CAPITAL APPROPRIATIONS


The Ohio Senate Wednesday amended a House bill addressing college costs to appropriate $1.4 billion toward school construction and public works as the chamber works through differences in a potential capital appropriations bill. The amendment to HB27 (Mathews-Thomas) appropriates $600 million for schools, $575 million for public works, $196 million for state fair improvements requested by Gov. Mike DeWine, and $38 million for the adoption grant program. Sen. Rob McColley (R-Napoleon) said the reason for the amendment is because the fiscal year starts on July 1, so the Legislature needs to pass a bill by the end of March in order to have appropriations they usually deal with in the capital bill take effect by July 1. He acknowledged the House's passage of HB2 (Cutrona-Upchurch) and said some of the same appropriations in HB27 are also in HB2, but said the Senate has set a deadline of Monday, April 8 for capital project submissions, and there was not enough time to take up HB2 and have it done by the end of March. The bill passed 30-2. Senate President Matt Huffman (R-Lima) told reporters he doesn't think it makes a difference which bill passes between HB27 and HB2, but said the issue is passing appropriations that both chambers have already agreed with, referring to the school and public works funds.


CORRECTIONS


The ACLU of Ohio, Catholic Conference of Ohio and a woman who recently completed a 10-year prison sentence were among those testifying Tuesday in favor of legislation meant to help prisoners get IDs and other important records ahead of their release to aid in job searches. The Senate Small Business and Economic Opportunity Committee heard proponent testimony on SB198, jointly sponsored by the committee chair Sen. George Lang (R-West Chester) with Sen. Nathan Manning (R-North Ridgeville).


ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT/URBAN REVITALIZATION


Gov. Mike DeWine's administration announced Monday the approval of assistance for eight projects expected to create 1,171 new jobs and retain 3,635 jobs statewide. During its monthly meeting, the Ohio Tax Credit Authority (TCA) reviewed economic development proposals brought by JobsOhio and its regional partners. The projects are expected to collectively result in more than $101 million in new payroll and spur $269 million in investments across Ohio.


EDUCATION


Three times as many private schools are seeking a state charter this cycle compared to the prior year, according to the Department of Education and Workforce (DEW). Securing a state charter is required for private schools to enroll students participating in Ohio's EdChoice scholarship program, for which lawmakers greatly expanded eligibility in the recent biennial budget, HB33 (Edwards). A senior DEW official told Hannah News it's hard to tell precisely how much EdChoice expansion is driving the increased interest in state charters as compared to the general growth in families exploring school choice post-pandemic. The budget bill opened EdChoice to all students, although families earning in excess of 450 percent of the federal poverty level will get a reduced scholarship amount. With this year's updated poverty figures, a family of four can earn up to $140,400 before award amounts start to diminish.


ELECTIONS


The Senate Wednesday passed along party lines legislation that would bar foreign individuals from contributing to issue campaigns. SB215 (Gavarone-McColley) had cleared the Senate General Government Committee earlier in the day after its third hearing after the committee had tabled amendments proposed by Sen. Bill DeMora (D-Columbus) that would have appropriated $500,000 for the Ohio Elections Commission to enforce its provisions and removed provisions requiring certain committees to register as political action committees. The bill passed on a party-line vote of 25-7.


ELECTIONS 2024


Republican J.R. Majewski said Wednesday that he will stay in the primary for the 9th Congressional District after indicating earlier in the week that he was considering dropping out. Majewski had told Politico that he was considering ending his campaign but had not made a decision. He said he had been asked to drop out of the race after a recent controversy over disparaging comments he made about the Special Olympics on a podcast.

The following endorsements were made over the week:


  • The U.S. Senate campaign of Republican Bernie Moreno announced the endorsement of U.S. Sen. Bill Hagerty.

  • The congressional campaign of Republican Tim O'Hara announced the endorsement of the Scioto County Republican Club and former presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy.

  • The Ohio Women's Alliance Action Fund announced the endorsements of Terri Jamison for Ohio Supreme Court; Zerqa Abid for Congress; and Meredith Lawson-Rowe, Adhanet Kifle, and Desiree Tims for state representative.

  • The Toledo Blade endorsed Matt Dolan in the Republican primary for U.S. Senate.

ENERGY/UTILITIES


Energy development companies Monday won the lease rights to extract oil and gas from under state natural areas and Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) lands, generally without competition because they were the sole bidder or other bids were withdrawn or disqualified. Protestors berated members of the Oil and Gas Land Management Commission (OGLMC) as they discussed and voted on the bids, calling them criminals and shouting out the names of cancers they said would be caused by the environmental fallout of fracking. Infinity Natural Resources Ohio LLC won the lease rights for energy development under Salt Fork State Park for two out of three areas that had been nominated for leasing at a prior commission meeting, effectively without competition. Out of three potential bids, one from Encino Energy Partners was withdrawn, and a second from Ascent Resources-Utica LLC was rejected by the commission as invalid because they proposed to develop only a portion of the nominated area. Encino Energy Partners won the rights for Zepernick Wildlife Area and Valley Run Wildlife Area as the sole bidder.


FEDERAL


Members of Ohio's congressional delegation sent a letter Monday to federal and military leaders, urging them to locate a U.S. Space Force (USSF) test and evaluation mission in Ohio at NASA's Neil Armstrong Test Facility in Sandusky. Ohio is ideally suited to host the "Delta 12" mission, according to the letter from U.S. Sens. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and J.D. Vance (R-OH) and U.S. Reps. Joyce Beatty (D-Columbus), Shontel Brown (D-Warrensville Heights), Warren Davidson (R-West Chester), Marcy Kaptur (D-Toledo), Greg Landsman (D-Cincinnati), Bob Latta (R-Bowling Green), Max Miller (R-Rocky River) and Emilia Sykes (D-Akron). It was sent to Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, NASA Administrator Bill Nelson and USSF Chief of Space Operations Gen. B. Chance Saltzman. The letter promoted the Armstrong Test Facility's capabilities to test hypersonics, electric aircraft and in-space propulsion as well as simulating space environments. The location would further enable partnership with other NASA facilities and military bases such as Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, leading research universities and the aerospace industry.


U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) said President Joe Biden needs to take immediate executive action to close the de minimis loophole when it comes to foreign trade. He said he is working on this with U.S. Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL). During his Wednesday call-in with guests Anderson Warlick, CEO of Parkdale Milles, which operates U.S. Cotton in Cleveland; Jonathan Thompson, executive director and CEO of the National Sheriffs' Association; and Tom Austin, executive director of Ohio Patrolmen's Benevolent Association, he outlined his ideas on the United States's trade laws, and pushed for executive action regarding the loophole, saying countries like China have exploited it "to evade U.S. duties, taxes, fees, and inspections for years, allowing them to send deadly drugs like fentanyl into our country without any detection. And it's getting worse," said Brown.


GAMING/GAMBLING


Ohio Casino Control Commission (OCCC) Executive Director Matt Schuler on Friday approved the National Collegiate Athletic Association's (NCAA) request to prohibit player-specific proposition wagers on intercollegiate athletics. "I have determined that good cause supports the NCAA's request to prohibit player-specific prop bets on intercollegiate athletics competitions because the NCAA's request will safeguard the integrity of sports gaming and will be in the best interests of the public," Schuler wrote in a letter to NCAA President Charlie Baker and Ohio sports gaming licensees.


GENERAL ASSEMBLY/STATEHOUSE


A small electrical fire under the State Street sidewalk caused the Statehouse to be evacuated for about 30 minutes on Tuesday, Capitol Square Review and Advisory Board (CSRAB) spokesperson Mike Rupert told Hannah News. The evacuation notice was sent to Statehouse employees a little after 8 a.m., Rupert said, noting the Columbus Division of Fire recommended the evacuation as a precautionary measure. Rupert said American Electric Power (AEP) workers quickly addressed the issue, and everything was back to normal later Tuesday morning.


The Senate Wednesday unanimously passed SR196 (Reineke), urging Congress to address various railway safety issues; HB269 (Holmes), designating the Sgt. Bradley J. Harper USMC Memorial Highway; SB45 (O'Brien), designating a bridge in Trumbull County as the Veterans Memorial Bridge; SB104 (Cirino-Brenner), regarding the College Credit Plus Program; and SB154 (Roegner), including Space Force in the definition of the armed forces, armed services and uniformed services of the United States. It also passed SB148 (Johnson), the Second Amendment Financial Privacy Act, on a 25-7 party line vote. This was in addition to party-line passage of SB215 (Gavarone-McColley) which bans foreign individuals from contributing to issue campaigns. (See separate entry.)


Asked about former Speaker Larry Householder's appealing his conviction, Senate President Matt Huffman (R-Lima) said what Householder did was not "politics as usual." He described how he has worked to educate legislators on how officials get in trouble, saying, "the phrase quid pro quo ... really needs to be the center of anybody's analysis." If there is a connection between action and campaign contributions, even an unintended one, "there's trouble." Regarding marijuana, he said the Senate's passage of HB86 (LaRe) represents the "working plan" as far as he is concerned and that he was not sure what more his chamber or Gov. Mike DeWine could do on the issue. He added he is not okay with waiting for regulations and believes DeWine wanted legislation to resolve the issue.


The Ohio Legislative Children's Caucus Monday heard from school-based health care providers from around the state who described their roles in filling gaps and providing students and families with a range of services from routine check-ups to social services. The virtual meeting featured panelists Javar Jackson Sr., chief operating officer (COO) with Third Street Family Health Services in Mansfield; Nancy Peppler, the supervisor of community and school partnerships at Cleveland Heights-University Heights Schools; Dina Thurman, a nurse practitioner with Dayton Children's Hospital; Sherry Shamblin, chief strategy officer of Hopewell Health Centers in Southeast Ohio; and Dr. Mona Mansour, professor of pediatrics at the University of Cincinnati (UC) College of Medicine and associate director of population health at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center. Reem Aly, executive director of the Ohio School-Based Health Alliance, moderated the forum. The panelists all provide onsite services at schools, in addition, in some cases, to telehealth and mobile services.


The Senate Democratic Caucus Wednesday dedicated a portrait of former Senate Minority Leader and Dayton Mayor Rhine McLin, which will now hang in the Minority Conference Room in the Statehouse. The conference room also now features portraits of former Gov. Dick Celeste and Margaret Mahoney, the first Democratic woman elected to the Ohio Senate. Senate Minority Leader Nickie Antonio (D-Lakewood), said they felt it was the perfect time to acknowledge some of the "trailblazing legislators who came before us" as they reflect on and celebrate the contributions of Black Ohioans during Black History Month and with the approach of Women's History Month.


As Black History Month came to an end, Democrats Wednesday hosted a Black History Month event to highlight legislative priorities that support and "lift up the Black communities across Ohio." Those in attendance included Ohio Legislative Black Caucus President Rep. Terrence Upchurch, (D-Cleveland), House Assistant Minority Leader Dontavius L. Jarrells (D-Columbus), Senate Assistant Minority Leader Hearcel F. Craig (D-Columbus), Rep. Latyna M. Humphrey (D-Columbus), Rep. Ismail Mohamed (D-Columbus), and Sen. Catherine D. Ingram (D-Cincinnati).


In other legislative action, the Senate Transportation Committee reported out SB163 (Kunze) which creates the Dublin City Schools license plate.


GOVERNOR


Gov. Mike DeWine was asked whether he had contacted or been contacted by the U.S. Department of Justice since last week's call by Senate Minority Leader Nickie Antonio (D-Lakewood), House Minority Leader Alllison Russo (D-Upper Arlington) and other prominent Democrats for the U.S. Attorney's Office to add DeWine and Lt. Gov. Jon Husted to its bribery investigation into 133-HB6 (Callender-Wilkin). He said no.


HANNAH NEWS RACES TO WATCH


Rep. Don Jones' (R-Freeport) bid for re-election in the 95th House District is being challenged in the primary by Nelson Roe, who previously ran for the House as a Libertarian in 2014. Jones is currently in his third term. Jones' website details his agricultural background, including 23 years working at Harrison Central High School as an agricultural education teacher and Future Farmers of America (FFA) advisor. He has also been a certified volunteer fireman and emergency medical technician for 27 years and served on several local boards, in addition to the Ohio FFA Board. Jones is also a member of the National Rifle Association (NRA). Jones has introduced bills on agricultural societies, reinstating the rural industrial park loan fund; EdChoice scholarships; education in regard to current events, race and sex; and natural gas pipelines. Roe does not have a campaign website but told the Independent the "Blue 22" were part of the reason he is running this year. He also pointed to inflation and school choice issues and supports abolishing the state income tax. Roe further said he is running for elected office to inspire his children to see how one person can make a difference.


After state Rep. Richard Brown (D-Canal Winchester) declined to run for re-election and run instead for Franklin County Common Pleas court judge, three Democratic candidates are vying to represent the safely blue Ohio House District 5, which attracted no Republican candidates. The Central Ohio area district includes Lockbourne, Groveport, Obetz, Canal Winchester, and Reynoldsburg. It also covers Rickenbacker International Airport. The three Democratic candidates include Leo Almeida, Ohio director of government relations at the American Cancer Society; Meredith Lawson-Rowe, president of the Reynoldsburg City Council; and Marco Miller, chair of the Ohio Police & Fire Pension Board.


Now that early voting for the March primary election is officially underway for Ohioans, the race to watch for the people of House District 65 is between David Thomas and Laurie Magyar. They are vying for the seat currently held by Rep. Mike Loychik (R-Bazetta) who is running for the Ohio Senate. Serving as the Ashtabula County auditor since 2018, Thomas plans to decrease taxes for workers in Ohio. Thomas's opponent, Laurie Magyar is a nurse manager at University Hospitals and is running as a "Trump conservative," according to her yard signs. Magyar intends to advocate for parental rights, election integrity, fiscal responsibility, and protection of life if she wins the seat. She also has the endorsement of Loychik.


Having received an Ohio Supreme Court decision in his favor, former Rep. Steven Kraus is seeking to defeat incumbent Rep. D.J. Swearingen (R-Huron) in the upcoming March primary. Kraus' candidacy had been challenged on the basis of a felony theft conviction that was sealed rather than expunged, though the ruling sidestepped that issue in clearing him to run again. Kraus' previous tenure at the Statehouse ended in 2015 following his conviction. On social media, Kraus said he was "cancelled, expunged, now working like [former President Donald] Trump to regain my seat." As far as his position on issues, Swearingen's website says he has "a proven record" protecting Lake Erie and opposed offshore wind projects, supports U.S. energy independence, helped businesses during the pandemic and favors empowering parents when it comes to their child's education. It further notes his work as vice chair on the House Criminal Justice Committee and said he "developed legislation to fix a bad Ohio Supreme Court decision" through 134-HJR2 (LaRe-Swearingen).


Rep. Sara Carruthers (R-Hamilton) faces a tough challenge on her path to her fourth and final term in the Ohio House before term limits prevent her from running again, going up against the Butler County Republican Party-backed Diane Mullins in the House District 47 primary. Mullins, a pastor at Calvary Church in Hamilton, had previously run for the Ohio House in 2019 for a different seat in an open primary won ultimately by now Rep. Thomas Hall (R-Middletown). During that campaign, she posted a video to her campaign social media, saying there needs to be people in politics "who share our same values. This is an office to serve people, to represent people in Columbus. To me, it's about you." The House Republican Alliance (OHRA), the campaign arm of the House Republican Caucus, has run ads supporting Carruthers, saying she is empowering kids in the classroom and has "led the charge to ban kids' gender-altering surgeries."


Four Republican candidates are seeking to replace term-limited Rep. Bill Dean (R-Xenia) in House District 71, which includes all of Clinton County, most of Greene County and part of Clark County. The candidates include Bob Fudge, a former mayor of Cedarville and current CEO of Evanhoe & Associates; Levi Dean, a member of Xenia City Council and Dean’s son; Joshua Day, an aerospace engineer and member of the Xenia Community Schools Board of Education; and Tyler Scott, a landlord and the founder and former commissioner of Major League Cornhole.


The Republican primary for the 90th House District features three candidates characterizing themselves as political outsiders. Rep. Justin Pizzulli (R-Franklin Furnace), who was appointed in May to replace Rep. Brian Baldridge (R-Winchester) after he became director of the Ohio Department of Agriculture, said on his campaign website that "politicians in Columbus ignore us. They see us as behind the times. They see us as unable or unwilling to contribute to the state economy. As politicians running for office, they see an effort to connect with us not worth their time," he continued. Pizzulli's website also lists endorsements from the Republican Party organizations in Scioto and Adams counties; local officials in Scioto, Adams and Brown counties; the Buckeye Firearms Association; Ohio Right to Life; Ohio Young Republicans; and labor groups. His two challengers are Gina Collinsworth and Timothy Wheeler. Collinsworth has been endorsed by the Brown County Republican Party, the Scioto County Republican Club, Ohio Values Voters, Americans for Prosperity-Ohio and the Ohio Chamber of Commerce PAC. She also announced the support of U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Urbana), State Sen. Terry Johnson (R-McDermott) and State Rep. Adam Bird (R-Cincinnati). Wheeler's social media posts include criticism of Gov. Mike DeWine for vetoing HB68 (Click) and urging the voters to research candidates, particularly their past stance on Trump.


HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES


CVS will pay the Ohio Board of Pharmacy (OBP) $1.25 million as part of a settlement agreement to resolve 27 cases against 22 stores, OBP announced Thursday. The alleged violations against the stores include improper drug security, dispensing errors, prescription delays, lack of general cleanliness, understaffing and failure to report losses of controlled substances, the board said.


HIGHER EDUCATION


The Senate voted 25-7 along party lines Wednesday to approve academic council appointments to the Miami University Center for Civics, Culture, and Society -- one of five new "intellectual diversity" centers established under the state budget, HB33 (Edwards). The appointments, which were made by the university's board of trustees, were considered earlier Wednesday by the Senate Workforce and Higher Education Committee, where they were also approved along party lines. The final version of the budget included provisions from SB117 (Cirino-McColley), establishing the five centers as "independent academic unit[s]" within each university. Senate Workforce and Higher Education Chair Sen. Jerry Cirino (R-Kirtland) has previously said the centers are needed "because ideology is replacing the lessons of history on campus. And the less students learn about and embrace America's founding principles and ideals, the more free speech is disappearing from our citadels of higher education and, subsequently, our entire nation."


The Senate also unanimously approved a number of governor's appointments to various universities' boards of trustees. They also received a unanimous vote in the Senate Workforce and Higher Education Committee. The governor's appointees now respond to questionnaires as the Senate considers their appointments. The questionnaires ask about appointees' stances on the First Amendment rights of faculty and staff, what they view as significant issues facing higher education, how they plan to reduce the cost of college, their thoughts on faculty tenure and post-tenure review, how they plan to address workforce needs and more. Cirino told Hannah News the questionnaires are part of a new review process that has been in place for the last several months. It is meant to give Senate members more information about the appointees. Cirino said members would previously only get a resume at most. The questionnaires can be found at the Ohio Senate site at http://tinyurl.com/38yhfdch.


Lt. Gov. Jon Husted and Ohio Department of Higher Education (ODHE) Chancellor Mike Duffey spoke at this year's annual Choose Ohio First Scholar Showcase, with Duffey noting the program's 2007 creation makes it nearly as old as college freshmen today. Husted, who led creation of the scholarship program when he was speaker, said its evolution since then has been "very rewarding." At that time, he continued, the U.S. was falling behind and had not made the investments in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) that were needed. Real quality of life relies upon innovation and those investments, he continued. Husted also discussed the rationale behind the program, given how many students end up working within 50 miles of where they graduated from high school or college.


Ohio University (OU) announced it will pause awarding scholarships based on race after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down last year admissions programs that relied in part on race at Harvard College and the University of North Carolina (UNC) on the grounds that they violate the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Shortly after, Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost warned colleges and universities about the need to "comply strictly" with the U.S. Supreme Court's decision, sending a letter to colleges and universities that "institutions of higher education and institutional employees must immediately cease considering race when making admissions decisions."


HOUSING/HOMELESSNESS


The Ohio Housing Finance Agency (OHFA) will take applications until 4 p.m. Friday, April 5 for a new tax credit program created in the biennial budget to spur single family housing development. Under HB33 (Edwards), the Single Family Tax Credit Program provides $50 million per year for four years to encourage increased construction or rehabilitation of single family dwellings. To qualify, projects must include at least five dwellings to be built or rehabilitated, each including at least two bedrooms and 1.5 bathrooms, among other criteria. More information about the program is at https://tinyurl.com/mry4ctut.


Ohio saw 7,547 home sales in January, a 4.4 percent increase from 7,229 seen a year earlier, according to Ohio Realtors. The average sales price, at $254,943, was up 7.4 percent from January 2023's average.


JUDICIAL


"No government -- state or local -- can opt out of the requirements of the Sixth Amendment right to counsel." With those words, the ostensibly nonpartisan Sixth Amendment Center (6AC) flipped the debate around state or local oversight of indigent defense and the appropriate mechanism to determine jurisdiction Thursday in testimony before the statewide task force convened by the governor to resolve disparities in appointed counsel and public defender offices among Ohio's 88 counties. Regardless of the jurisdictional or funding model, 6AC Founder/Executive Director David Carroll and Deputy Director Aditi Goel told the task force the pressing need in Ohio and nationwide is measurable, enforceable standards for indigent defense.


Republican Geauga County Judge Tim Grendell is rallying an impressive list of Statehouse regulars and criminal justice professionals to witness in his defense at the former lawmaker's six-day disciplinary proceeding before the Ohio Board of Professional Conduct, which launched hearings Monday on three complaints alleging nine rule violations under the Code of Judicial Conduct. State Disciplinary Counsel Joseph Caligiuri says Grendell unlawfully detained two brothers in juvenile lock-up during a custody dispute; publicly disparaged Geauga County Auditor Charles Walder and county Prosecutor James Flaiz and encouraged local Tea Party members to sue them; and closed his court early in June 2020 to testify for his wife, former Rep. Diane Grendell's Truth in COVID Statistics Act, 133-HB624.


In order to convict a politician of bribery, there must be an unambiguous quid pro quo, an appeal filed late Monday for convicted former House Speaker Larry Householder argues, adding, "There was no unambiguous agreement here." Householder was convicted last year and sentenced to 20 years in prison on federal racketeering charges related to his support of nuclear bailout bill 133-HB6 (Callender-Wilkin) and FirstEnergy's donations to a dark money group that advocated the bill's passage as well as pushed for Householder's ascension back to the speaker's dais. The 105-page appeal to the Sixth District Court of Appeals argues that Householder's conviction should be overturned because of multiple trial errors due to an overly-aggressive prosecution and a biased judge.


LOCAL GOVERNMENT


Local officials and law enforcement are urging their peers to lobby Senate President Matt Huffman (R-Lima) to retain $250 million for new jail funding in capital budget HB2 (Cutrona-Upchurch), which cleared the House in a single day with strong Democratic support and awaits hearings in the upper chamber. HB2 includes $150 million for the construction and renovation of smaller local jails and $100 million for larger jails, to be administered by the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction (DRC). They are only part of a $2 billion infrastructure bill which Huffman called "irresponsible" without further debate and which Republicans who withheld support for the House speaker's leadership bid have labeled a slush fund for his Democrat and GOP supporters. The County Commissioners Association of Ohio (CCAO) and Buckeye State Sheriffs' Association (BSSA) released a new survey of counties in support of HB2 jail funding, which follows their 2019 survey.


MARIJUANA/HEMP


The medical marijuana patient and caregiver registration fee will be $0.01 beginning on Monday, March 4, according to the Ohio Department of Commerce (DOC) Division of Cannabis Control (DCC). DCC has proposed a rule to completely eliminate the $50 fee for patients and $25 fee for caregivers. "The division is working with its software vendor to remove the fee from the medical marijuana patient and caregiver registry as soon as the technological changes can be made," DCC said. "DCC understands that a one cent charge is not ideal. However, at this time, the division feels it is appropriate and necessary to provide this immediate financial relief for patients and caregivers in the short term while working toward a full fee elimination as soon as the updates to the registry can be made."


MENTAL HEALTH


Gov. Mike DeWine appeared at former Ohio Supreme Court Justice Evelyn Lundberg Stratton's Stepping Up Steering Committee meeting Tuesday to announce a future working group on co-occurring mental illness and criminal justice involvement to address the overload of convicted individuals in state hospitals. Speaking from the Ohio Judicial Center, DeWine noted his efforts to date to address behavioral health, including RecoveryOhio, specialized dockets on mental health and substance abuse, and funding to expand them in courts around the state, but said the administration must do more to reduce the number of convicted criminals in state mental hospitals.


NATURAL RESOURCES


The Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) announced Tuesday the promotion of Andy Chow as the department's new chief of communications. Chow has spent the last year as ODNR's media and outreach specialist. He joined ODNR after working as a state government reporter for the Statehouse News Bureau and Ohio's NPR stations, as well as for Hannah News Service.


The ODNR Division of Wildlife confirmed that a female fisher, a mammal that was collected as roadkill in Ashtabula County in February 2023, was pregnant. Although that fisher did not successfully give birth, the results are a sign that fishers are colonizing Ohio.


NEWS MEDIA


Two bipartisan bills would annually designate the week containing March 16 as "Ohio Black Media Week" if passed. This aligns with efforts by the National Newspapers Publishers Association (NNPA) to promote African-American journalism and continue the legacy of the Black Press, according to Sen. Vernon Sykes (D-Akron). Sykes and Sen. Michele Reynolds (R-Canal Winchester) introduced SB210 in late December, while Reps. Elgin Rogers (D-Toledo) and Josh Williams (R-Sylvania) offered HB368. Both bills have been referred to committee, but have not yet been heard.


PENSIONS


Senate President Matt Huffman (R-Lima) told reporters Wednesday the state's retirement systems are "very good" but "not quite as healthy" as they could be, emphasizing how it is a complicated issue for legislators to address. The Senate's most knowledgeable member on the topic is Sen. Kirk Schuring (R-Canton), who Huffman said has not been able to attend a lot of the meetings due to health reasons. Sen. Mark Romanchuk (R-Ontario) has worked to fill that gap, he continued. "I'm going to give you a very general answer which is we want the pension systems to be healthy. We want people to be able to depend on the money. Not just people that are about to retire but the people who aren't going to retire for 30 years.”


PEOPLE


John Kronour is the new Ohio High School Athletic Association (OHSAA) director of sport management, OHSAA Executive Director Doug Ute announced Thursday. Kronour has 39 years of experience as a teacher, administrator, basketball official and member of the OHSAA Southwest District Athletic Board, OHSAA said in a news release. Beau Rugg, who has served as both the OHSAA director of sport management and officiating since 2011, will now lead one department as director of officiating. Rugg will also continue as OHSAA's football administrator.


POLITICS


A member of the Ohio Republican Party's State Central Committee sent a letter to his colleagues Monday calling for the committee to hold a special meeting to discuss taking over the House Republican Caucus' campaign fund over its running of negative ads in the upcoming Tuesday, March 19 primary. The Ohio House Republican Alliance (OHRA), the campaign arm of the caucus, began running ads in the past several weeks in support of a number of Republican incumbents and attacking the primary challengers to those incumbents. Many of the incumbents are among the House Republicans who joined Democrats to elect Speaker Jason Stephens (R-Kitts Hill) over caucus choice Rep. Derek Merrin (R-Maumee) at the beginning of the session. In the letter, attorney Josh Brown, a member of the Ohio Republican Party's State Central Committee, complained about the negative ads against Republican candidates, "including some endorsed" by the committee.


PUBLIC SAFETY


The State Fire Marshal's office announced a new state-of-the art management solution that it said will significantly upgrade and revolutionize how fire departments manage and report incidents. The technology, known as 3Di Engage, is developed by 3Di Systems and is an online platform that features a variety of built-in tools to help organizations modernize and streamline operations, the fire marshal's office said. In addition to incident reporting, the 3Di-powered OFIRMS program offers a comprehensive suite of station-management functions free of charge. These include training record collection, truck checks, apparatus inventory and maintenance, scheduling and leave application, geographic information system (GIS) hydrant locations, high-risk building preplans, personnel management, volunteer hours logging, and the management of the Ohio Public Safety Decal program.


SOLAR ECLIPSE


The University of Toledo's (UT) Ritter Planetarium will host programs on the upcoming total solar eclipse on Fridays and Saturdays in March. "Totality" is all about eclipses, exploring the physics and astronomy behind both types. Solar eclipses occur when the moon passes between the sun and the Earth, casting a shadow on the Earth, while lunar eclipses are more common and occur when the same three bodies align so that the moon is in the shadow of the Earth. "Totality," recommended for middle school students through adults, will screen at 7:30 p.m. on Fridays in March. "Lights Out! Eclipses - Whys, Wonders, Wows!" is a family-oriented program that introduces eclipses and explores some of the stories surrounding them. "Lights Out!" is recommended for elementary and middle school students and will screen at 1 p.m. on Saturdays in March.


STATE GOVERNMENT


Changes to the Ohio building, mechanical and plumbing codes went into effect March 1 and reduced the three codes by a combined 610,000 words. The changes put forth by the Ohio Board of Building Standards follow a plan from the DeWine administration set out in 2023 to reduce the Ohio Administrative Code (OAC) by one-third in size. According to the administration, the new rules reflect significant reductions in both word count and regulations intended to streamline processes and to make it easier for Ohio businesses to comply. Lt. Gov. Jon Husted, who oversees the Common Sense Initiative plan to identify sections of the OAC that are duplicative, unnecessary or no longer used, said the initiative has removed 1.5 million words in total from the OAC, including these latest changes.


TAXATION


A veteran of Ohio tax administration told the General Assembly's property tax study panel Wednesday that the flagship policy for preventing spikes in tax bills no longer works well. The Joint Committee on Property Tax Review and Reform hearing included testimony provided by experts at Zaino Hall & Farin, including former Ohio Department of Taxation (ODT) Commissioner Tom Zaino, former Senate majority budget director Brian Perera and tax attorney Stephen Hall, former ODT assistant counsel. Zaino said that HB920 of the 111th General Assembly, enacted in 1976 to prevent large run-ups in property values from driving proportionate property tax increases, isn't achieving its intended purpose anymore because of school districts' ability to seek voted millage not subject to HB920 limitations. "Based on research and available data, we believe school districts have done their own type of 'tax planning' by utilizing levies that have been enacted over the last 48 years but which are exempt from HB920. As a result, HB920 is broken. We will show why HB920 is broken and why it no longer works to protect Ohioans from inflationary increases in property taxes," Zaino said.


TECHNOLOGY/AEROSPACE


Lt. Gov. Jon Husted told Hannah News Thursday artificial intelligence (AI) is expected to create a "huge demand" for semiconductor chips in the coming years, saying that is part of the industry's expected growth from $500 billion to $1 trillion according to McKinsey. He added Intel's Ohio facilities will likely help meet the need for increased capacity once it is completed, noting the company recently signed a $15 billion deal to make chips for Microsoft. Intel also announced Thursday it had launched a standalone company, Altera, whose work will include AI efforts.


TRANSPORTATION/INFRASTRUCTURE


The Transportation Review Advisory Council (TRAC) Wednesday signed off on 18 major transportation projects in 13 counties at the cost of $127.3 million over the next four years. The council had released the list of projects earlier this month for public comment, narrowing down 28 submissions to 18. On Wednesday, TRAC approved the final list. According to the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT), the list includes $21 million in new construction funding, $35.5 million in additional funding for construction, $33.4 million in new funding for preliminary engineering, and $28.4 million in additional funding for development of projects.


UNEMPLOYMENT COMPENSATION


The Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS) announced Thursday that some unemployment applicants can now visit one of 726 participating post offices if they are prompted to provide copies of documents verifying their identity. The option was launched on Jan. 26, and is only available for those who applied for benefits on or after that date. The new process has no cost for claimants and no appointment is required. Individuals have up to seven days to provide the documents. ODJFS said it can be a good option for those without an OHID account, who lack an address, or have an out-of-state ID. In certain cases if identity verification at a post office is unsuccessful or incomplete, they may be asked to submit documents directly to ODJFS. The department said early results show the program is "proving successful" with around 4,100 claimants electing to use it in the first month. More than 3,000 completed the process and 98 percent passed the in-person verification. That reduced verification-related calls and duplication of efforts, enabling staff to focus on more complex customer issues. It also appears to be reducing fraud attempts.


WORKERS’ COMPENSATION


The Ohio Bureau of Workers' Compensation (BWC) Board of Directors approved a 7 percent premium rate reduction for private employers on Friday, Feb. 23. The state's private employers will save nearly $67 million as a result of the board's action, according to BWC. The BWC Board approved an 8.6 percent rate cut for state agencies during its last meeting.

On another topic, BWC Administrator/CEO John Logue told the board that BWC is being affected by the cyberattack on Change Healthcare, which has caused pharmacy disruptions across the country. Logue said BWC's main concern is how this will affect injured workers who need prescriptions filled and it is taking action to address any issues.


WORKFORCE


Senate Minority Whip Kent Smith (D-Euclid) and Sen. Paula Hicks-Hudson (D-Toledo) introduced two bills Tuesday they said offer a "carrot and stick" approach to addressing the gender pay gap in Ohio. SB231 would establish a hotline for anonymous reports of wage discrimination, while SB232 would create a fair paycheck workplace certificate which businesses can receive through state evaluation of their payroll. Smith said statistics from the Women's Institute for Policy Research released in 2003 found the wage gap for women overall wouldn't close until 2053 if progress continued at the same rate since 1960. An additional comparison using the rate of progress since 2000 found the gap may not close until 2066, while Smith added Ohio's gender pay gap may not close until 2067.


The Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS) recently released data for openings posted on OhioMeansJobs.com from Dec. 14, 2023 through Jan. 13, 2024, saying there were 179,412 during the period. That reflected an increase of 2,166 from the previous period and a decrease of 11,642 from the same time period one year ago. Salary ranges for the postings included 13.4 percent under $30,000; 29.2 percent $30,000 to $49,000; 26.8 percent $50,000 to $79,000; 12.1 percent $80,000 to $99,000; and 18.4 percent over $100,000. A GED or high school diploma was required for 44.4 percent of postings, while 35 percent needed a bachelor's degree, 14.4 percent needed an associate degree and 6.3 percent needed a master's or doctoral degree.

 


 



 


 



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


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