Week In Review - May 16, 2022



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

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


AGING


A recent analysis by the financial advisory website WalletHub compared all 50 states and the District of Columbia on an increasing issue: elder abuse. WalletHub's analysis compared states on many different metrics -- from the prevalence of elder abuse and elder fraud cases reported in a state, to the number of resources a state has for older citizens to turn to, and the amount of money invested in them, as well as what protections are in place for older citizens. This last factor included metrics like the quality of nursing homes and the frequency of inspections, whether surveillance cameras are allowed in nursing homes, the presence of elder abuse working groups, among others. Ohio was ranked among the top half of states with the best elder abuse protections, coming in 12th. Neighboring Indiana fared far worse coming in at 35. Other neighboring states were about even with Ohio: Michigan at 19, Pennsylvania at 14, Kentucky at 13, and West Virginia among the top in the country, coming in fifth.


AMERICAN RESCUE PLAN ACT (ARPA)


Ohio Township Association (OTA) Director of Governmental Affairs Marisa Myers fielded a number of questions Wednesday morning from members of House Finance Committee regarding HB377 (Hall-Swearingen), legislation that distributes the second half of the $844 million coming to the state for "non-entitlement units" of local governments. She reminded committee members that last year in HB168 (Fraizer) the Legislature had appropriated the first half of the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds set aside for local governments, or $422 million, leaving $422 million to be distributed in this second tranche. She also reminded the committee that ARPA split local governments into two groups: larger jurisdictions that receive funds directly from the federal government and "non-entitlement units [NEUs] of local government." At issue initially was the fact that "non-entitlement units of local government" did not include cities, villages and townships under 50,000 in population. HB168 included those units of local governments in the distribution of the first round of funding; this bill likewise includes them for the second round. The committee reported the bill out at its Thursday hearing.


ATTORNEY GENERAL


Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost Monday redoubled his recent op-ed in the Columbus Dispatch by urging legislative passage of a Republican joint resolution to place a constitutional amendment protecting cash bail on the November ballot. Yost opened the "Two Days in May" with extended comments on crime victims and the felons who harm them. He pointed to a two-year period marked not only by COVID-19 but also by a major spike in violent offenses nationwide. In comments to Hannah News, he said the issue of monetary bail and public safety is more than keeping individuals locked up who face violent criminal charges for which there is probable cause. He says the Office of Ohio Public Defender (OPD), American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and other opponents of HJR2 (LaRe-Swearingen) and SJR5 (Gavarone) ignore high-dollar bail's value in ensuring the accused keep their nose clean while out on bond and do not victimize others while awaiting trial.


CHILDREN/FAMILIES


Families who are interested in finding afterschool or summer educational programs for their children and meet income criteria can apply to the state for an account that will provide up to $500 per child. The Ohio Department of Education (ODE) opened applications in April for families to request an Afterschool Child Enrichment (ACE) Education Savings Account, a program created in the biennial budget with federal funding. Families earning at or below 300 percent of the federal poverty level can request accounts for students between the ages of 6 and 18 who attend public or private schools or are home educated by their parents. The money can go toward the likes of before and afterschool programming, day camps, tutoring, music lessons, museum admissions and other educational purposes. Organizations offering such programs can apply to become qualified providers in the ACE program.


The Legislature's Study Committee on Ohio's Publicly Funded Child Care and Step Up To Quality (SUTQ) heard a variety of recommendations from programs that train early childhood educators, business groups and others Wednesday about how to address child care availability and affordability problems, as well as about survey efforts meant to gather more information about the challenges. Kathleen Bryan, program coordinator for birth-5 online degree programs at the University of Cincinnati, testified about the efficacy of the Teacher Education and Compensation Helps (TEACH) scholarship, which provides employees the chance to earn an early childhood degree with little or no debt. She recommended reducing the share of tuition costs attributed to the employee and child care center participating in the scholarship program from 10 percent apiece to 5 percent. She told committee members there's a standard agreement between employees and child care centers whereby the employee agrees to work one additional year at the center after completing each year of studies.


CORONAVIRUS


Ohio and U.S. flags will be at half-mast until sunset Monday, May 16, honoring the approximately one million Americans -- including 38,550 Ohioans -- who've died from COVID-19. Gov. Mike DeWine ordered the flag lowering Thursday, in accordance with a statement from President Joe Biden on this grim event two years and two months into the pandemic. Biden said each death represents "an irreplaceable loss... [and] a family, a community and a nation forever changed because of this pandemic."


In the Ohio Department of Health (ODH) update Thursday, there were 15,970 new cases reported for the week, up from 11,013 for the week ending May 5 and 8,731 in the April 28 update. ODH also reported 353 hospitalizations, up from 296 on May 5 and 313 on April 28, and 36 ICU admissions, up from 27 on May 5 and 26 on April 28. Deaths fell from 68 on April 28 and 65 on May 5 to 57 in Thursday's update.


In total, there have been 2.72 million cases, 115,834 hospitalizations and 13,534 ICU admissions in Ohio.


CRIME AND PUNISHMENT


The bipartisan argument behind no-bail hearings for some of Ohio's less predatory felonies got a facelift Wednesday as overlapping efforts to restore public safety as a judicial driver of high-dollar bail cleared committee en route to the House floor. HJR2 (LaRe-Swearingen), which seeks a constitutional amendment to preserve the public safety standard, and HB607 (LaRe-Swearingen), which echoes that move in statute, won no Democratic votes in the House Criminal Justice Committee. Meanwhile, HB315's (Hillyer-Leland) no-bail alternative gained a substitute bill with two dozen additional crimes triggering pretrial detention -- along with a greatly reduced standard of proof.


DISABILITIES


Transportation remains the number one unmet need for Ohioans with disabilities, according to a recent survey from the Ohio Developmental Disabilities Council. Additionally, the study, conducted from May 17 to August 2, 2021, found new challenges to transportation accessibility have emerged as a result of the pandemic. The survey is follow-up to a separate study the council published in 2017, which also found that transportation is the largest unmet need for Ohioans with mobility-impairing disabilities, cognitive disabilities, vision-impairing disabilities, speech-related disabilities, Autism, among others. The 2021 study specifically aimed to find if recommendations from the 2017 report were implemented. "It does not appear that any of the 2017 recommendations were effectively implemented."


ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT


The tourism industry in Ohio rebounded to its second-best year in 2021, according to TourismOhio, which made the pronouncement Wednesday in conjunction with the 2022 Tourism Day event outside the Statehouse. The industry received $46.9 billion in visitor spending and 219 million visitors into and within the state. The industry supports 411,000 full-time, part-time and seasonal jobs. This represents a major increase from 2020 and neared the record numbers set in 2019 of $48 billion in spending, 226 million visits and 429,000 industry jobs.


ECONOMY


The nation added 428,000 nonfarm payroll jobs in April as the national unemployment rate remained at 3.6 percent, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) said Friday. BLS said the number of unemployed persons was "essentially unchanged" at 5.9 million. These numbers are "little different" from pre-pandemic figures of 3.5 percent and 5.7 million, respectively. The nonfarm employment is down by 1.2 million from February 2020, however. Unemployment rates for all major worker groups were little changed over the month. This includes adult men (3.5 percent), adult women (3.2 percent), teenagers (10.2 percent), Whites (3.2 percent), Blacks (5.9 percent), Asians (3.1 percent) and Hispanics (4.1 percent).


EDUCATION


Former State Board of Education Vice President Steve Dackin got the nod from most of his former colleagues Tuesday to become the next state superintendent, besting two Ohio school district superintendents who'd advanced with him to the final round of interviews. Dackin is the former superintendent of Reynoldsburg City Schools, and until the end of 2021 served as superintendent of school and community partnerships for Columbus State Community College. He also worked at the Ohio Department of Education about 20 years ago and has experience as a teacher and principal. He was also a top-three finalist to become superintendent in 2011. Dackin will be paid $215,000 annually, with the possibility to earn a performance bonus of as much as $35,000. He will receive either a monthly car allowance of $550 or the use of a state vehicle.


The State Board of Education formally adopted a guidebook for implementing Ohio's dyslexia support laws Tuesday, after months of debate among members of the board and of the Ohio Dyslexia Committee (ODC), made up of reading specialists and other education officials. State law created the ODC to develop the guidebook, but gave the board final authority to approve the guidebook. The board's Teaching, Leading and Learning (TLL) Committee recommended approval at a special meeting in late April.


Legislation from the last General Assembly, 133-HB436 (Baldridge), created the ODC and requires school districts and other public schools to administer annual dyslexia screenings beginning in the 2022-23 school year; phases in over three years dyslexia-related professional development requirements for public school teachers; and requires school districts and other public schools, beginning in the 2022-23 school year, to establish a multi-sensory structured literacy certification process for teachers.


Board leadership also granted emergency consideration to enable a vote on a resolution that passed committee a day earlier, urging that lawmakers temporarily waive certain sanctions tied to report card results, given the COVID pandemic and the recent overhaul of the report card system itself. The resolution, sponsored by member Christina Collins, urges that lawmakers temporarily suspend laws that use report card results to trigger academic distress commissions, automatic closing of charter schools and prohibitions on the ability of charter schools to switch sponsors.


Members of the State Board of Education's (SBOE) Integrated Students Supports (ISS) Committee took the first steps in tackling an apparently problematic administrative code rule on children eligible for special education during their monthly meeting held Monday. Wendy Grove, director of the Office of Early Learning and School Readiness at the Ohio Department of Education (ODE), explained that Ohio Administrative Code (OAC) 3301-51-11 is part of the operating standards for the education of children with disabilities. Due to changes in statute and feedback from stakeholders, Grove said the rule was recently revised to define what various classroom types look like across the "continuum of least restrictive environment" (LRE). The LRE is a guiding principle used in the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and it can be found in Ohio's own operating standards. It plays a role in determining where students with disabilities will spend their time in school as well as how special education services will be provided. The continuum ranges from least restrictive, such as a general education class, to most restrictive, which might look like home schooling or a special education class.


The Broadcast Educational Media Commission (BEMC) Thursday reviewed how the state plans to use federal COVID relief dollars to aid student education and combat learning loss. Commissioners heard from Jana Fornario, executive director of the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency (ESSER) State Activities Office at the Ohio Department of Education (ODE).


The judge overseeing assets of the defunct Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow (ECOT) has approved a payment of $230,000 to have sensitive school data wiped and the hardware storing it destroyed, now that the information is no longer needed. Judge Michael Holbrook of the Franklin County Common Pleas Court had previously authorized the attorneys he appointed to oversee the school's affairs to move forward with decommissioning ECOT's servers, since other state officials no longer had need for them. Auditor Keith Faber's office said in December a final audit could be expected within a few months. The attorneys overseeing the school, Myron Terlecky and Richard Kruse, submitted to Holbrook a scope-of-work document outlining how the technology vendor that was maintaining ECOT's servers, TechR2, would destroy the data in a secure fashion.


William Lager, ECOT founder, violated the law against a public official profiting from a contract, and he and his companies are liable for millions of dollars collected from the now-defunct online charter school, a trial judge ruled. However, Lager's conduct did not trigger anti-corruption laws that could have tripled the amount owed back to the state. Further proceedings will determine specifically how much Lager owes. The case, brought by the state after ECOT closed in early 2018, focused largely on Lager's ties to Altair Learning Management, the school's management company, and IQ Innovations, another school vendor.


ELECTIONS 2022


The Controlling Board Monday approved a request from the Ohio Secretary of State's office that will use $3 million to pay for the cost of printing and mailing absentee voter's ballots for the Nov. 8 general election. Chris Oleveti, representing the secretary of state's office, explained that the request does not affect the primaries but will be for the general election. He said it has been a standard practice for more than a decade for the secretary of state to send out the absentee ballot request forms.


ENERGY/UTILITIES


Comprehensive energy policy reform legislation introduced by House Democrats last year received its first hearing in the House Public Utilities Committee on Tuesday. Rep. Juanita Brent (D-Cleveland) joined Rep. Casey Weinstein (D-Hudson) for testimony as a primary co-sponsor of HB429, replacing former Rep. Stephanie Howse (D-Cleveland). Brent said the legislation would establish at least 15 "Clean Energy Incubators" across the state to ensure BIPOC-led projects are well-supported. The programs would prioritize BIPOC communities, individuals aging out of foster care, environmental justice communities, low-income communities and citizens re-entering society after being incarcerated. Another program under the bill would help incarcerated Ohioans gain skills to enter the clean energy industry when they are released, she said. Weinstein said the bill would "launch Ohio's largest economic development initiative in recent history," moving the state in the right direction following the 133-HB6 (Callender-Wilkin) scandal.


FEDERAL


Amid reports that some congressional Republicans wouldn't be opposed to pursuing a federal abortion ban if Roe v. Wade is overturned, U.S. Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) maintained the abortion issue belongs in the hands of elected state officials while speaking to reporters Wednesday. A report first published by Politico revealed a draft opinion being circulated in the U.S. Supreme Court showing five justices are prepared to join a ruling to overturn Roe v. Wade, sparking a nationwide conversation about what a post-Roe America might look like. Ohio's outgoing senator reiterated comments that the leaked draft opinion represents an unprecedented "breach of trust" at the nation's highest Court, and said it is unclear how the leaked document might affect justices' final opinion on the issue. Portman described himself as consistently pro-life, saying that he believes Roe was wrongly decided and the issue belongs with state governments that are more accountable to the people.


U.S. Sens. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Rob Portman (R-OH) both issued press releases Thursday on their remarks during the conference committee hearing for the Senate's U.S. Innovation and Competition Act (USICA) and the U.S. House's America COMPETES Act. The House version includes Brown and Portman's bipartisan "Leveling the Playing Field 2.0 Act" to protect American workers and the CHIPS for America Act (CHIPS Act).


U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown announced that AmeriCorps had awarded grants totaling $760,279 to two Ohio groups, funding full-time AmeriCorps Volunteers in Service to America (VISTA) members. The release also said the AmeriCorps members supported by this funding are eligible for up to $252,068 in Segal AmeriCorps Education Awards to help pay for college, vocational training or to pay student loans. The two groups are the Ohio CDC Association, which is receiving $681,919, and the Ohio Commission on Hispanic/Latino Affairs, which is receiving $78,360.


GAMING/GAMBLING


Ohio's casinos and racinos posted strong numbers in April 2022 -- similar to those reported in April 2021.


The state's four casinos took in $92.8 million in April 2022, up slightly from $92.6 million in April 2021. The state's seven racinos pulled in $122.7 million in April 2022, down slightly from $124.5 million in April 2021.


GENERAL ASSEMBLY/STATEHOUSE


The House State and Local Government Committee heard opponent testimony Tuesday from a number of local health officials and the Ohio Township Association (OTA) on HB463 (Stephens), which eliminates the district advisory councils for general health districts and transfers their duties to county commissioners. Erik Balster, president of the Association of Ohio Health Commissioners (AOHC), said current law ensures all political subdivisions served by the health district have representation and voting rights through their elected officials holding a seat on the advisory council. Under HB463, cities, villages and townships would lose that vote on board of health appointments, resulting in a "less inclusive and transparent process."


In other legislative action, the House Civil Justice Committee reported out HB545 (Abrams-Baldridge), which addresses privileged testimonial communications; the House Commerce and Labor Committee reported out HB372 (Ray-Roemer), which updates building inspection laws and HB542 (Roemer-Sobecki) which revises the law regulating cosmetologists and barbers; House Public Utilities Committee reported out HB364 (Patton), which revises the application process for the waterworks infrastructure improvement surcharge; the House State and Local Government Committee reported out HB563 (Fowler Arthur-Ferguson), which limits local regulation of short-term rental property and HB423 (Roemer-Young), which addresses the All-American Soap Box Derby; the House Armed Services and Veterans Affairs Committee reported out SB160 (O'Brien), which requires certain entities to inform veterans about available health benefits, and indefinitely postponed HB407 (Gross-Miller), which would have established the Safe Shelter Initiative Program for Ohio veterans; and the House Criminal Justice Committee reported out HB343 (White), which revises the rights of crime victims; HB607 (LaRe), which addresses conditions for bail; and HJR2 (LaRe), which proposes a constitutional amendment on conditions for bail.


GOVERNOR


Appointments made during the week include the following:

  • Mia Citino of Dublin (Franklin County) as a student member and Nancy Drake Hammond of Washington Court House (Fayette County) to the Ohio University Board of Trustees for terms beginning May 14, 2022 and ending May 13, 2024 and beginning May 6, 2022 and ending May 13, 2030, respectively.

  • Srikanth R. Gaddam of Dublin (Franklin County) reappointed to the State Board of Career Colleges and Schools for a term beginning May 6, 2022 and ending Nov. 20, 2026.

  • Stephen Kent Williamson of Galloway (Franklin County) and William Eugene Alloway of Fresno (Coshocton County) reappointed to the Reclamation Commission for terms beginning April 29, 2022 and ending June 28, 2026, and Mitchell Edward Farley of Glouster (Athens County) appointed for a term beginning April 29, 2022 and ending June 28, 2022.

  • Paul Edward Hall II of Williamsburg (Brown County) reappointed to the Ohio Reclamation Forfeiture Fund Advisory Board for a term beginning May 6, 2022 and ending Jan. 10, 2026 and Nathan Leggett of Dover (Tuscarawas County) and Bradley James Perkins of Nashport (Muskingum County) appointed for terms beginning May 6, 2022 and ending Jan. 10, 2026 and Jan. 10, 2023 respectively.

  • Todd R. Radloff of Bellevue (Huron County) reappointed to the Ohio Home Inspector Board for a term beginning May 6, 2022 and ending April 5, 2027.

  • Gregory Stuart Miller of Cincinnati (Hamilton County) and Christopher P. Widman of Tiffin (Seneca County) reappointed and Jill D. Herron of Vermillion (Lorain County) appointed to the Board of Executives of Long-term Services and Supports for terms beginning May 28, 2022 and ending May 27, 2025.

  • Craig A. Berry of Madison (Lake County) and Steven Daniel Barnett of Carrollton (Carroll County) to the Ohio Council for Interstate Adult Offender Supervision for terms beginning May 6, 2022 and continuing at the pleasure of the governor.

  • Carlysle W. Coleman of Worthington (Franklin County) and Mark Edward Proud of Columbus (Franklin County) to the Ohio Private Investigation and Security Services Commission for terms beginning May 6, 2022 and ending Dec. 31, 2025.

  • Peter Andrew Pitts of Wellington (Lorain County) reappointed to the Ohio Home Inspector Board for a term beginning May 10, 2022, and ending April 5, 2027.

  • Karen J. Huey of Columbus (Franklin County), Melissa A. Schiffel of Galena (Delaware County), Lori Barreras of Columbus (Franklin County) and Rob Streck of Brookville (Montgomery County) reappointed to the Ohio Collaborative Community-Police Advisory Board for terms beginning May 10, 2022, and ending April 29, 2025.

  • Terence P. Joyce of Cleveland (Cuyahoga County) appointed and Suzanne Renee Kiggin of Powell (Delaware County), Terry Stewart Jacobs of Cincinnati (Hamilton County) and Mark J. Palmer of Columbus (Franklin County) reappointed to the Bureau of Workers' Compensation Board of Directors for terms beginning June 12, 2022, and ending June 11, 2025.

HIGHER EDUCATION


Ohio State University (OSU) President Kristina Johnson has been named to the College Football Playoff (CFP) Board of Managers. The board is made up of presidents and chancellors from the 10 Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) conferences and Notre Dame. Johnson will represent the Big 10 Conference, replacing Penn State University President Eric Barron.


The House Higher Education and Career Readiness Committee Tuesday took time to focus on the latter half of its title by hearing from Amy Schakat, the coordinator of the Career Technical Education Center at the Southwestern City School District. Chair Laura Lanese (R-Grove City) said she invited Schakat because she thought it was important for the committee to hear about different career readiness programs that are out there. Schakat told the committee that their programs provide training to adults to upscale their skills for in-demand jobs, including resume-writing, interviewing, and short-term skills training. The program is designed for adults who can't quit their job to go to a nine- or 12-month training program.


Cuyahoga Community College (Tri-C) has selected Michael A. Baston to become the institution's fifth president, effective July 1. Baston has been president of Rockland Community College (RCC) in Suffern, NY since 2017. He will succeed Alex Johnson, who will step down June 30.


HUMAN SERVICES


The Ohio State University (OSU) College of Social Work released research commissioned by the Public Children Services Association of Ohio (PCSAO) meant to help improve the recruitment and retention of frontline children services caseworkers. The study, "Building a 21st Century Children Services Workforce," relied on a staff survey of 20 representative county-led public children services agencies (PCSAs). Those participating PCSAs included Ashtabula, Carroll, Champaign, Clark, Clinton, Coshocton, Crawford, Franklin, Guernsey, Harrison, Jackson, Licking, Lorain, Ottawa, Perry, Richland, Seneca, Tuscarawas, Warren, and Wayne. The study also used focus groups, a literature review, an analysis of successful workforce strategies in similar systems and development of a county toolkit.


JUDICIAL


The Ohio Supreme Court opened a comment period Monday on rule amendments officially placing the Ohio Sentencing Data Platform (OSDP) under the Ohio Criminal Sentencing Commission (OCSC). OSDP has been under development for several years and formally launched as a pilot project encompassing Allen, Delaware, Hancock and Lawrence counties in March 2021, and added Summit, Lake and Highland counties last summer. That number has now grown to 19 counties, with another 23 preparing to join OSDP. "The purpose of the database is to provide common pleas judges with standardized forms for sentencing and reporting information about sentences for offenses. The OSDP also will allow judges to see aggregate data across the state about sentencing," the Court said.


Ohio Supreme Court Justices Pat DeWine, Patrick Fischer and Sharon Kennedy earlier in May questioned the high court's support of a judicial candidate website, saying it may bring into question the Court's independence or impartiality. The website in question is Judicial Votes Count, found at http://jvc.ohio.gov, which the three justices said is using judicial employees, judicial resources and judicial facilities to run. The website provides data about candidates for judicial office on the ballot this year, including biographical data provided by the candidates themselves. The justices said the website has the Court's address and a Court email address listed, as well as a video featuring Chief Justice Maureen O'Connor encouraging citizens to use the platform to compare judicial candidates. They said the website creates the impression that Judicial Votes Matter is a message and a project advocated by the seven justices of the Ohio Supreme Court in their official capacities, but added that the Court has not voted as a body to support the website. The justices said Judicial Votes Matter creates the appearance that the justices of the Court not only endorse its statements but also are collectively the speaker.


Scioto County Common Pleas Court Judge Richard Lemons faces disciplinary charges for investigating the squalid home of two drug-involved parents after the Scioto County Children's Services Board (SCCSB) failed to remove three children from the residence. He admits his inquiry fell outside Ohio Supreme Court rules but says that SCCSB's "in-home safety plan" violated county guidelines and that he upheld state law by granting emergency custody to children's services.


MEDICAID/MEDICAID REFORM


The House Economic and Workforce Development Committee Wednesday overhauled a bill originally aimed at providing federal COVID-19 relief funds to nursing homes to instead address Medicaid payment rates for private rooms at nursing facilities. Rep. Sara Carruthers (R-Hamilton), the sponsor of HB461, outlined changes made in the substitute bill during Wednesday's hearing. "The goal of this language/substitute bill is to encourage private rooms, which will provide better experiences for patients while limiting exposure," Carruthers said, adding that it will also prevent the spread of certain infectious diseases and families would be able to visit with patients during a pandemic. She also said it would help with Esther's Law, recently passed and signed by Gov. Mike DeWine as SB58 (Antonio-Brenner), which allows long-term care facility residents or their guardians to authorize the installation of electronic monitoring devices such as cameras in the resident's room.


The U.S. Office of the Inspector General (OIG) has named a specialized team of investigators and prosecutors in the Ohio Attorney General's Office the nation's top Medicaid fraud unit. The OIG "Award for Excellence in Fighting Fraud, Waste and Abuse" recognizes the Ohio Medicaid Fraud Control Unit's performance in 2021, when it produced 197 indictments, 156 convictions and $40 million in restitution orders and settlements. Housed in the AG's Health Care Fraud Section, the unit collaborates with federal and state partners to expose and punish fraud in the Ohio Medicaid program and abuse and neglect of the elderly and mentally and physically disabled persons in long-term care facilities.


NATURAL RESOURCES


Cuyahoga Valley National Park (CVNP) announced it closed the Brandywine Falls parking lot and the upper section of the Brandywine Gorge Trail Thursday. A section of the Summit Metro Parks Bike & Hike Trail is also closed, making the waterfall inaccessible from that trail. Due to multiple construction projects in the area, this closure will be in effect until Sept. 30. Staff will regularly assess conditions and reopen sections if it is safe to do so, the park said. The boardwalk, falls viewing area and lower section of the gorge trail will remain open. Visitors may park at Boston Mill Visitor Center and take the Stanford Trail (approximately5 miles round trip) to access the falls. Parking in the Boston area typically fills between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m., especially on weekends.


The Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) Division of Wildlife has confirmed that nine additional wild white-tailed deer tested positive for Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) in northern Marion and southern Wyandot counties. Five were bucks, and four were does. Testing was performed on hunter-harvested deer during the 2021-22 season, as well as through a planned operation in February and March to obtain additional samples, ODNR said.


PENSIONS


The chair of the Ohio Retirement Study Council (ORSC) asked Thursday that council staff and leadership of the State Teachers Retirement System (STRS) publicly address claims of poor performance and data manipulation at STRS. ORSC Chair Rep. Phil Plummer (R-Dayton) posed most of his questions to Jeff Bernard, ORSC senior researcher, noting that Bernard does not work for the pension systems. Plummer asked Bernard to address several claims he'd read in emails or seen in social media posts, among them, the claim that STRS members get 77 cents of benefits per dollar paid into the system, that STRS is among the worst performing systems, and that STRS staff had manipulated data in a presentation comparing its performance to the hypothetical use of passive index investing over the past 20-plus years.


Bernard said the 77 cents-to-the-dollar claims is "verifiably false," adding in almost any retirement cohort one looks at -- he used examples of people who'd retired in 1991, 2001, 2011 and 2021 -- it takes about two years for a retiree to get back benefits equal to their contributions to the system. Bernard said a memo he'd written addressing "intergenerational equity" between retirees and active members had been misinterpreted in support of this claim. And Bernard said he found the argument that STRS performs poorly "very puzzling."


PEOPLE


Ohio will have the "largest inter-connected park system in the country" if RAPID 5's public-private collaborative led by former Ohio Department of Health (ODH) Director Amy Acton succeeds in turning Central Ohio waterways and trails into a single, connected greenspace. Acton will provide her "unique ability to inspire people to live their best lives" at RAPID 5 (Rivers and Parks + Imagination and Design) with support from the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission (MORPC), Columbus/Franklin County Metro Parks, Urban Land Institute (ULI) of Columbus, and other public and private partners across the capital region. The RAPID 5 nonprofit seeks to connect Big Darby Creek, Scioto River, Olentangy River, Alum Creek and Big Walnut Creek with greenways, waterways, trails and parks to give more Ohio residents access to transportation and recreation including kayaking, mountain biking, running and hiking.


The Public Employee Retirees, Inc. (PERI) Board of Trustees Wednesday announced the appointment of Lezlie Garcia as the group's new administrator. She has worked in financial and banking management for most of her professional career and holds a bachelor's degree in business management and leadership.


PUBLIC SAFETY


State-level law enforcement agencies, sheriffs' offices, and municipal and township police are not the only employers of peace officers coming into compliance with the Ohio Community-Police Collaborative Advisory Board. The Ohio Department of Public Safety's (DPS) Office of Criminal Justice Services (OCJS), which administers the statewide standards, announced the certification of Holden Arboretum police in Lake County Monday. First-time OCJS certifications also include police in Franklin (Warren County), Green Springs (Seneca County) and Hartford (Licking County). Monday's recertifications, which occur on a three- to four-year cycle, include Preble and Darke County sheriffs' offices and police in Bellevue (Huron County), Canal Fulton (Stark County), Sebring (Mahoning County) and South Euclid (Cuyahoga County).


The peace officer standard for youth interactions adopted by the Ohio Collaborative Community-Police Advisory board Thursday is now one of nine standards that aren't required for state certification of law enforcement agencies. Wording changes since Sen. Sandra Williams (D-Cleveland) and others voiced concern about "race and officers' use of force" with minors in February now place more burden on agencies to instruct staff in age-appropriate policing and less on officers to make unilateral determinations in the field. In addition to youth interactions, other community-police standards not required for certification include bias-free policing, officer misconduct investigations, mass protests and demonstrations, body-worn cameras, community engagement, high-speed pursuits, officer health and wellness, and telecommunications-dispatch. State law enforcement certification administered by the Ohio Department of Public Safety's (DPS) Office of Criminal Justice Services (OCJS) is currently limited to standards for use of force, including deadly force, and agency recruitment and hiring.


REDISTRICTING/REAPPORTIONMENT


Democrats on the Ohio Redistricting Commission this week joined the plaintiffs in three redistricting lawsuits calling for their Republican colleagues on the commission to be held in contempt for not adopting a new constitutional General Assembly districting plan per the Court’s orders. In calling for the show cause order, House Minority Leader Allison Russo (D-Upper Arlington) and Sen. Vern Sykes (D-Akron) said they do so with “sadness” but see no other reasonable choice to get the commission to comply. The new motion to have the members of the commission show cause was filed Tuesday, just days after the plaintiffs had objected to the commission’s recent adoption of the third rejected plan by the Court in preparation of a federal court order to use that plan for the upcoming General Assembly primary election expected to be held on Tuesday, Aug. 2. The Republican commissioners told the Court in filings that they had no other choice but to readopt the plan for this election only, saying it was the only viable option and that the move should not be seen as an attack on the Court’s previous orders.


UKRAINE


Gov. Mike DeWine announced Friday that 45 helmets, 71 vest carriers and 1,880 pieces of body armor are being donated by Ohio law enforcement agencies to Ukrainian civilian territorial defense personnel. The Fund to Aid Ukraine is a Parma-based nonprofit affiliated with the United Ukrainian Organizations of Ohio, a member of the Ukrainian Congress Committee of America.

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


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