Week In Review - May 12, 2020



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


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AGRICULTURE


Wednesday's Senate Agriculture and Natural Resource Committee meeting included a presentation from Howard Call of the Ohio Fair Managers Association (OFMAO) on how to safely hold county fairs during the COVID-19 outbreak.


The Ohio Department of Agriculture (ODAg) announced it will soon begin aerial treatments designed to control the gypsy moth population in Ohio. Treatments on 1,055 acres in Delaware, Franklin, Knox and Marion counties will begin in early May, as larva and leaf development reach the optimal threshold for treatment, the department said.


ATTORNEY GENERAL


Ohio and other states and territories redoubled pressure on telecom officials Monday to strengthen technology for tracing unsolicited robocalls that have exploded in recent years. Attorneys General Dave Yost and Dana Nessel of Michigan are leading 52 jurisdictions urging swift action on a January agreement reached with federal and industry leaders to alert law enforcement of illegal call activity in real time.


Attorney General Dave Yost announced Tuesday his office distributed $950,000 in funding to domestic violence shelters and coalitions in Ohio to assist victims during the health crisis. Other state leaders have pointed to increased risks for women and children in domestic violence situations during the pandemic due to less availability of resources and a greater chance of victims being isolated with an abuser.

FY20-21 BUDGET


Sales taxes have been a relatively stable source of revenue for states when the economy has turned downward previously, according to the Pew Charitable Trust's state fiscal health project, but the COVID-19 is presenting new challenges to state budgets that are already stressed from higher unemployment as businesses close and furlough workers.


Gov. Mike DeWine announced during his daily briefing Tuesday that his administration will be reducing General Revenue Fund spending by $775 million for the remainder of FY20 as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to affect state revenues. Preliminary April revenue data released by the Office of Budget and Management (OBM) on Wednesday showed the state finished the month $866.5 million, or about 35.3 percent, below estimates. While the state was running ahead of estimates throughout the fiscal year into February, with that month exceeding estimates by $100 million, OBM Director Kim Murnieks told reporters on a call Wednesday that the COVID-19 pandemic has led to nearly $1 billion swing in the opposite direction over the last two months.


BUSINESS/CORPORATE


While the COVID-19 pandemic has been one of the "biggest speed bumps in the world's economy in history," Columbus Partnership President and CEO Alex Fischer said Wednesday he believes a return to "the glory days of Columbus" is very possible. Fischer and area restaurateur Cameron Mitchell were both featured in a livestreamed Columbus Metropolitan Club (CMC) forum, with NBC4 co-anchor Colleen Marshall moderating the discussion. Mitchell noted Gov. Mike DeWine is expected to discuss the process for reopening restaurants and bars Thursday, and said he believed that would be allowed in around two weeks.


CENSUS


The U.S. Census Bureau announced it will begin a phased restart of some 2020 Census field operations in select areas this week. All returning staff will receive safety training to observe social distancing protocols, and the bureau has ordered personal protective equipment (PPE) for all field staff, including those that work in a field office.


CHILDREN/FAMILIES


Groundwork Ohio recently released "guiding principles" meant to be used as a lens for policy decisions affecting young children and their families during the coronavirus pandemic. The guidelines are based on research gathered by the advocacy group.


CORONAVIRUS


Over the week, coronavirus case statistics increased from 18,743 cases and 1,002 deaths reported Friday, May 1 to 22,131 total cases and 1,271 deaths reported on Thursday, May 7.

Gov. Mike DeWine's new order outlining restrictions in the COVID-19 pandemic took effect on Friday, but DeWine said not to pay attention to the expiration date as he plans to release new orders opening up parts of the economy throughout the month that will supersede it. Calling the order "Stay Safe Ohio" instead of a stay-at-home order, DeWine said he picked Friday, May 29 as an expiration date because he had to name one, but he expects to open up more of the state throughout the month. While much of the order remains the same as the previous stay-at-home order, provisions will allow some retail businesses to open sooner than Tuesday, May 12 for curbside pick-up and appointment-only service.


The Ohio Department of Health (ODH) will now provide 21-day trend data at coronavirus.ohio.gov so the public can better understand COVID-19 developments, Gov. Mike DeWine announced during his daily coronavirus briefing Monday. "We've asked the folks who do the chart and do the data to give us a 21-day trend, because a 21-day trend gives you a fairly good idea of how we are doing. Are we doing better? Are we doing worse? Are we doing the same?" DeWine said. "There are a lot of things to look at, but I always look at hospitalizations, because hospitalization is a real figure. These are people who go in because they know they have COVID-19."


Calling it "a gamble," Gov. Mike DeWine outlined the reopening plan for restaurants, bars and personal services such as barbershops, salons, spas and massage parlors while also stressing the importance of collective responsibility. Restaurants and bars can reopen for outdoor seating on Friday, May 15, he said, and for indoor seating on Thursday, May 21. Personal services will also be able to reopen on May 15. He said an announcement on child care services is expected Monday.


On the House changes to and passage of SB1 (McColley-Roegner), DeWine pledged to veto the bill should the Senate pass it, explaining that the current law regarding the health director's authority has been in statute for around 100 years and has been used before, he said, noting Ohio currently faces an emergency unlike anything since the 1918 influenza pandemic. In light of that, DeWine told reporters he did not understand why there was an effort to change the law to require legislative approval of health orders extending beyond 14 days. The nature of health emergencies is that they require "quick action," he continued, and the only reason the state is in a position to reopen businesses now is because of "highly successful" orders under that authority.


Cincinnati Children's Hospital announced Tuesday that it had become one of four U.S. participants in a clinical trial for vaccine candidates to prevent COVID-19. The trial, part of a global effort, started in Germany where the first participants completed dosing last week. The other U.S. testing sites are the NYU Grossman School of Medicine, the University of Maryland School of Medicine, and the University of Rochester Medical Center/Rochester Regional Health. Vaccine candidates were developed jointly by BioNTech SE and Pfizer Inc.


Small businesses would be considered "essential" during a pandemic if they sell products similar to large retailers deemed "essential" by a public health order under new legislation from Reps. Jon Cross (R-Kenton) and Shane Wilkin (R-Hillsboro). The "Ohio Business Fairness Act", HB621, would allow for any business selling items similar to those found in Walmart, for example, to continue operating as long as they also comply with health and safety protocols required for essential businesses under the order.


CORRECTIONS


The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Ohio announced late Monday that a three-judge panel on the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals had denied the Federal Bureau of Prisons' request to stay an order requiring the Elkton Federal Correctional Institution (FCI Elkton) to identify prisoners especially vulnerable to the novel coronavirus and evaluate potential transfer.

ECONOMY


Many of Ohio's "essential" workers lack employer-provided health care and receive such low wages that they need food stamps to help feed their families, according to a new report from left-leaning think tank Policy Matters Ohio (PMO). "In the face of a pandemic, many working people who are paid low wages are risking their lives to care for patients in nursing homes and to keep the grocery stores stocked. Many have lost their jobs and are still waiting for unemployment support to arrive," PMO Communications Director Caitlin Johnson said during a press call announcing the release of the report, "Working for Less 2020."


EDUCATION


School disruptions from the coronavirus pandemic are bringing to the fore inequities that predate the crisis, as well as the necessity of tailoring instruction to meet individual needs, State Board of Education President Laura Kohler told Hannah News. In a phone interview, Kohler said it's important for the General Assembly to set a clear policy direction on remote learning, which will then help the board and the Ohio Department of Education (ODE) assist local schools with implementation.


The attorney appointed by a court to supervise assets of the defunct Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow (ECOT) is seeking to use most of the school's remaining cash to pay its debt to the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS) for unemployment compensation benefits. That proposal drew an objection from former ECOT Treasurer Michele Smith, who says the law and the court's established protocols on claims against the school hold her and other creditors' claims should be reviewed before any such distributions happens.

ODE continues to share new guidance as students and schools grapple with disruptions from the coronavirus pandemic, which has shuttered all school buildings in Ohio and shifted education online. All of ODE's pandemic guidance is posted at www.education.ohio.gov/coronavirus.


ELECTIONS 2020


Secretary of State Frank LaRose Friday issued a directive ordering county boards of elections to count only provisional ballots of those who cast them in-person last Tuesday if they had applied for an absentee ballot by the deadline, or if they met the qualifications under HB197 (Powell-Merrin).


U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan's (D-Niles) re-election campaign announced that Kimberly Padilla will lead its fundraising efforts for the 2020 cycle. Padilla also works with U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and helped raise millions of dollars in contributions during his three U.S. Senate campaigns.


EMPLOYMENT/UNEMPLOYMENT


According to the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS), Ohio's forecasted March 2020 annualized employment growth rate is -2.25 percent. The following metropolitan service areas (MSAs) are also predicted to decline: the Youngstown-Warren-Boardman MSA at -8.10 percent; the Columbus MSA at -4.76 percent; the Akron MSA at -4.62 percent; the Cleveland-Elyria MSA at -3.52 percent; the Cincinnati MSA at -2.40 percent; the Dayton MSA at -1.09 percent; and the Canton-Massillon MSA at -0.46 percent. The Toledo MSA is predicted to increase by 0.08 percent.


Policy Matters Ohio (PMO) and the Ohio Poverty Law Center (OPLC) released a joint letter to Gov. Mike DeWine Tuesday, asking him to issue an executive order to provide good cause exemptions to maintain unemployment insurance benefits for working people with "real, justifiable reasons for not returning to work, including those susceptible to COVID-19."


FEDERAL


U.S. Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) told reporters Tuesday he was "delighted" by Gov. Mike DeWine's plan to begin reopening Ohio, crediting it to the increased testing capability. He also discussed reforms he believes are needed for the federal Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), including making it inclusive of those with past criminal records and ensuring business support is given in "the most targeted way possible."


Ohio businesses received the 10th-highest share of loans and payment amounts during the second round of the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), according to data released by the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA). Between April 27 and May 1, Buckeye State companies were approved for 58,834 PPP loans totaling $4.71 billion, out of a national count of 2.2 million loans worth $175.7 billion. The top states for most loans were California, Florida, Texas, New York, Illinois, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Georgia and Michigan, while the order of highest funding levels was California, New York, Texas, Florida, New Jersey, Illinois, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Washington.


GENERAL ASSEMBLY/STATEHOUSE


The General Assembly isn't back to normal but moved in that direction this week with sessions and a handful of committee hearings, including on bills unrelated to the coronavirus pandemic.


Several Republicans in the General Assembly have apparently lost patience with Gov. Mike DeWine's approach to addressing the COVID-19 pandemic, as some lawmakers publicly expressed their intentions to rescind Ohio Department of Health (ODH) Director Amy Acton's new "Stay Safe Ohio" order.


In a string of tweets, House 2020 Economic Recovery Task Force Chair Rep. Paul Zeltwanger (R-Mason) criticized Acton for "not sufficiently taking into account ... current and future detrimental impacts to our overall hospitals and health systems" and questioned the science behind wearing face coverings to reduce the spread of the disease. He also expressed support for House Majority Floor Leader Bill Seitz's (R-Cincinnati) statements to the Cincinnati Enquirer criticizing the governor for leaning too heavily on Acton's expertise during the pandemic, and seconded the following tweet from Rep. Scott Wiggam's (R-Wooster) account: "Ohioans crushed the curve and met the goal. @DrAmyActon has moved the goal posts. The Ohio House must meet ASAP to rescind the stay at home order. I am ready to meet today. @MikeDeWine @OhioStatehouse."


Then five days later the Ohio House passed two bills that would weaken the administration's authority to enforce public health orders during a pandemic. The House passed SB1 (McColley-Roegner) by a vote of 58-37 after the House State and Local Government Committee amended the bill to limit ODH orders under Ohio Revised Code (ORC) 3701.13 to 14 days and require approval from three of the five members of each chamber on the Joint Committee on Agency Rule Review (JCARR) to extend such orders. The House also added a pandemic-related floor amendment to SB55 (Gavarone), legislation originally focused on enhancing penalties for individuals committing drug trafficking offenses near an addiction services provider. That amendment, proposed by Rep. D.J. Swearingen (R-Huron), removed criminal penalties for violating pandemic-related public health orders.


In actions unrelated to the pandemic, the House also passed HB339 (Merrin), dealing with insurance code corrections; and HB365 (Manning), revising the requirements for chemical dependency counselors.


Hearings continued over the week in the House 2020 Economic Recovery Task Force which again heard the frustrations of business owners Friday, with members hearing from a northern Ohio sound production company, a landlord, a gym owner and others. Business owners sought financial relief, expressed fears they might never reopen, and pushed the committee to address what they saw as double standards that allow big box retailers to stay open while small businesses languish. On Monday, testimony was provided by witnesses representing the hair salon, plumbing, building security, restaurant and athletic training industries. Several members, including Chair Paul Zeltwanger (R-Mason), raised questions about the legality of and continued need for restrictions related to the novel coronavirus. Those comments came in response to a question from one of the witnesses, plumber Pete St. Jean, who asked about the "constitutional rights of an entrepreneur" during this time. Zeltwanger said that he believed "unconstitutional measures" were in place but Ohioans had done their part and it was the "right time" to reopen businesses.


The Capitol Square Review and Advisory Board (CSRAB) issued an update Friday on operations of the Statehouse parking garage as legislative activity was set to ramp back up. The entrances on Third and State streets remain closed, requiring vehicles to use the Broad Street entrance on the north side of the Statehouse. The south side exits to State Street will be available, but only one will be open at a time.


The House Democratic Caucus Friday released its priorities as the General Assembly was set to return the week of May 4 to likely pass more legislation to address the COVID-19 pandemic. The caucus said that the legislation it is advocating for will help working families, addressing issues such as parents who have to return to work when they have children at home with no one to care for them with day cares and schools closed; how to keep those high-risk individuals who will remain quarantined safe when workers return home; and what protections exist for workers in and out of the workforce who do get sick with the coronavirus.


The House Finance Committee publicly met for the first time during the COVID-19 pandemic on Tuesday, with physically-distanced lawmakers -- some masked and some not -- considering testimony on out-of-network health care billing legislation HB388 (Holmes). Reporters were initially prohibited from entering Statehouse Hearing Room 313, relegated to the overflow room. However, minutes into the hearing, House Speaker Larry Householder (R-Glenford) told Hannah News and another reporter they could enter the room where lawmakers were meeting. Householder said he believed he found a way to accommodate the Ohio Legislative Correspondents Association's (OLCA) request for at least two reporters to be physically present in the rooms during the committee meetings moving forward.


At Tuesday's meeting of the House State and Local Government Committee, Ohio townships pushed for passage of HB444 (Baldridge-Abrams), an omnibus of township law changes. The bill would open up industrial development bonds to townships; allow a licensed emergency medical responder (EMR) to be a first responder when an emergency medical technician (EMT) is unavailable in a township; and allow townships to file continuous emergency medical services (EMS) and police services levies. It would additionally make changes in the areas of cemetery territory transfers, township nuisance statutes, and housing authority boards.


Speaking in a livestreamed town hall Monday night, House Minority Leader Emilia Sykes (D-Akron) and Rep. Beth Liston (D-Dublin) discussed how the novel coronavirus has demonstrated the importance of public health policy at the state level. Liston, a hospital physician, was called a "front line hero" by Sykes, though she expressed discomfort at that title and said many were heroes. Sykes also noted that Liston was completing her work toward a master's in public health and would be the third to obtain one in the House Democratic caucus, along with Rep. Allison Russo (D-Columbus) and Sykes herself.


The Senate voted unanimously Wednesday to approve SB310 (Dolan), which would send out about a quarter of the state's allocation of federal funding for local governments' pandemic expenses, with leaders saying they hoped to convince Congress or the U.S. Treasury to ease restrictions on how the money can be spent before distributing the remainder. While the House considered moves to rein in the administration's power to impose public health restrictions, Senate President Larry Obhof (R-Medina) said he wants to review those powers but did not speak of it as an urgent matter. Senators had only just seen the language of the House proposals hours earlier, he said.


The Senate also passed SB303 (S. Huffman-Manning), which addresses pharmacist consult agreements, and HB168 (Arndt), regarding liability for hazardous substances on properties.


In the first day of Senate committee hearings since the declared state of emergency, members of the Senate Local Government, Public Safety and Veterans Affairs Committee gathered under special accommodations in the South Hearing Room Wednesday to permanently enact Ohio Board of Pharmacy rules expanding "consult agreements" between doctors, pharmacists and chronically ill patients to include advanced practice nurses and physicians assistants (PAs) through SB303 (S. Huffman-Manning).


The Senate Judiciary Committee Wednesday began hearings on two bills related to the COVID-19 pandemic, but lawmakers on the panel suggested that both may need more work before the bills go to the Senate floor. Sens. Nathan Manning (R-North Ridgeville) and Steve Wilson (R-Maineville) gave sponsor testimony on SB301, which they said would prevent price gouging during a declared emergency, while Sen. Matt Huffman (R-Lima) introduced his SB308, which revises the law governing civil liability for health care providers and service providers during a government-declared disaster.


In keeping with plans to reopen government and businesses, the Statehouse Museum Shop announced it will reopen for business Tuesday, May 12.


In other legislative action, the House State and Local Government Committee reported out HB481 (Fraizer), authorizing land conveyances; and the Senate Local Government, Public Safety and Veterans Affairs Committee reported out SB259 (Sykes), a land conveyance bill.


GREAT LAKES


The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) has abandoned many of its enforcement responsibilities under the Clean Water Act for the Great Lakes region, according to a new report from the Environmental Law & Policy Center (ELPC). "In a multi-year analysis, ELPC found shrinking enforcement budgets, declining staff levels and drops in enforcement with a corresponding rise in industrial polluters' non-compliance with Clean Water Act requirements," the organization said in announcing the publication of the report, "EPA Region 5 Clean Water Enforcement Declines."


HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES


LeadingAge Ohio, which represents hundreds of long-term care facilities, hospice providers and other service providers, issued a statement in response to aggregate county-level data on COVID-19 cases and deaths in long-term care facilities. The organization noted there had been errors in weekly long-term care data reported since mid-April, which the Ohio Department of Health (ODH) was correcting as providers brought them to the agency's attention.


HIGHER EDUCATION


The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Board of Governors recently moved to support rule changes to allow student-athletes to receive compensation for third-party endorsements. The board, chaired by Ohio State University (OSU) President Michael Drake, has directed all three divisions to consider appropriate rule changes based on recommendations from its Federal and State Legislation Working Group, which is co-chaired by OSU Senior Vice President and Athletics Director Gene Smith. The divisions are expected to adopt new name, image and likeness rules by January 2021 to take effect at the start of the 2021-22 academic year.


University of Toledo (UT) President Sharon Gaber recently announced she would be resigning from her position to take a role as chancellor at the University of North Carolina Charlotte. The UT Board of Trustees said they will convene a special meeting soon to consider a national presidential search. In a letter to the UT's board, state lawmakers including Sen. Teresa Fedor (D-Toledo) and Reps. Paula Hicks-Hudson (D-Toledo), Lisa Sobecki (D-Toledo) and Mike Sheehy (D-Oregon) urged trustees to weigh public input and ensure transparency when selecting the Gaber's successor. The university later announced it has contracted with the Association of Governing Boards (AGB) Search firm to assist with hiring an interim president.


The University of Toledo (UT) announced it has experienced at least a $20.93 million loss for FY21 and expects to face a deficit of at least $36 million. As a result of the loss, UT recently announced budget reductions and furloughs; meanwhile, state legislators are calling for the forensic audit of the university to determine the financial viability of the UT Medical Center (UTMC). Sen. Teresa Fedor (D-Toledo) and Reps. Paula Hicks-Hudson (D-Toledo), Lisa Sobecki (D-Toledo) and Mike Sheehy (D-Oregon) said an audit would help find a solution to UT's financial situation.


Kent State University held a virtual 50th Anniversary Commemoration to remember the events of May 4, 1970. The program was designed to honor Allison Krause, Jeffrey Miller, Sandra Scheuer and William Schroeder, the Kent State students who lost their lives 50 years ago on the university campus after the Ohio National Guard fired on students during an anti-war protest. Nine other students were wounded.


Visitors to the virtual May 4 50th Commemoration website can view messages and interviews with past speakers, May 4 survivors as well as video tours of the May 4 Visitors Center and the National Historic Landmark site. In addition, several well-known musicians including David Crosby, Graham Nash, Jerry Casale, Jesse Colin Young and others reflect on the events of May 4, 1970, and how it affected their music and careers.


The Kent State University Board of Trustees approved three budgetary measures meant to counter revenue reductions due to COVID-19. The university additionally announced new leadership in two departments: Lamar Hylton has been selected to serve as vice president for student affairs, effective May 1. Hylton was serving as the interim vice president for student affairs since Sept. 16, 2019. In addition, Amoaba Gooden has been appointed the interim vice president for diversity, equity and inclusion, effective June 1.


JUDICIAL


Chief Justice Maureen O'Connor Friday authorized nearly $6 million in remote technology grants to allow municipal, county and appellate courts to maintain access to justice during the COVID-19 state of emergency.


University of Akron and Cuyahoga County lead the state for new bar candidates passing the February Ohio Bar Examination. The Ohio Supreme Court says 124, or 49.2 percent, of aspiring lawyers sitting for the exam passed. Of 81 first-time test-takers, 74 percent succeeded.


LOCAL GOVERNMENT


The family fight that escalated three years ago when the General Assembly and former governor followed deep cuts to the Local Government Fund by centralizing municipal tax collection and punishing recalcitrant cities and villages will go before the Ohio Supreme Court on Wednesday, May 13, as some 200 municipalities accuse the legislative and executive branches of a statutory attack on constitutional home rule.


NATURAL RESOURCES


The Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) is looking for highly motivated high school students to serve on the Conservation Teen Advisory Council (conTAC), a statewide network of student leaders working together to improve ODNR's youth outreach and program efforts. Students enrolled in high school for the 2020-2021 school year are eligible. They can apply at www.ohiodnr.gov/teens, with applications due by Friday, June 5.


The 2020 Ohio River Sweep has been rescheduled to multiple dates this summer and fall because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Ohio River Sweep occurs in the six states which border the Ohio River, and these six state have different timelines for allowing group activities due to the coronavirus precautions. Each community will select a date that is permitted within its state, according to the Ohio River Valley Water Sanitation Commission (ORSANCO).


PEOPLE


Cable telecommunications provider Charter Communications Inc. (Spectrum) announced Tuesday that Alex Coorey has joined the company as manager of state government affairs. In this newly-created position, Coorey will report to Charter Spectrum's regional senior director of government affairs, Connie Luck, and support the company's legislative, regulatory and community affairs efforts across Ohio.


Ohio Realtors announced the election of Ralph Mantica of Dayton as 2021 treasurer of the group, via the first-ever electronic vote of its board of directors. The organization had cancelled its annual spring legislative conference because of the pandemic. He will be installed at the group's annual convention and expo Sept. 21-23 in Cleveland. Mantica is broker/owner of Kinzeler Realty in Dayton and has been licensed since 1985. He was previously president of Dayton Realtors and has been on the state organization's board of directors since 2006.


The Ohio School Boards Association (OSBA) announced that it recently promoted Will Schwartz to deputy director of legislative services and named Nicole Piscitani as its new lobbyist. Schwartz joined OSBA in 2018 as a lobbyist. Prior to coming to the association, he served for eight years with the Ohio Legislative Service Commission (LSC), where he was the principal drafter on several key education-related bills. Piscitani previously served as a government relations coordinator with The Options Clearing Corporation (OCC) in Washington, D.C. Prior to her role at OCC, she was manager of government relations for the Columbus Chamber of Commerce.


POLLS/STUDIES


As tax returns may be of particular importance to many Americans dealing with the financial effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, the financial advisory website WalletHub analyzed which states give taxpayers the best return on investment (ROI) for their tax dollars. Ohio ranked among the top 10. According to WalletHub's Taxpayer Survey, 60 percent of U.S. adults feel they pay too much in taxes and 88 percent don't think that the government uses tax revenue wisely. While federal income-tax rates are uniform across the nation, state tax rates differ drastically. WalletHub contrasted state and local tax collections with the quality of the services residents receive in each of the 50 states within five categories: education, health, safety, economy, and infrastructure and pollution.


SECRETARY OF STATE


Secretary of State Frank LaRose said Monday he's reopened the client service center for business filings at his office at 22 N. Fourth St. in Columbus. The center had been closed since issuance of the stay-at-home order in March. The center now has "significantly upgraded physical protection" plus health protocols, including a physical safety shield that LaRose and two of his daughters constructed.


UNEMPLOYMENT COMPENSATION


For the week ending May 2, the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS) reported 61,083 initial unemployment claims to the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL). "The number of initial jobless claims filed in Ohio over the last seven weeks (1,118,569) is 1,112 more than the combined total of 1,117,457 for the last three years," ODJFS said. ODJFS said it has distributed more than $1.9 billion in unemployment compensation payments to more than 536,000 Ohioans during the last seven weeks.


UTILITIES


Acting for the first time on utilities' emergency response to COVID-19, the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) vetoed American Electric Power's (AEP) plan to "socialize" commercial/industrial costs deferred by the state of emergency in charges to all ratepayers, including residential, also rejecting the Ohio Hospital Association's (OHA) request to devote AEP over-charges on all customer classes to struggling medical facilities. The commission ruled on AEP Ohio's seven-point plan addressing a series of emergency PUCO orders in response to the pandemic, including withdrawn disconnections and expedited reconnections, expanded electronic filing, and suspended meter readings and other "non-essential services."


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

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