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ADDICTION/SUBSTANCE ABUSE Both employers and employees now have new tools to help prevent and respond to substance abuse in the workplace, according to the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS) and RecoveryOhio. The three new online training courses, available at RecoveryOhio.Gov, were developed by ODJFS, the Governor's Office of Workforce Transformation, RecoveryOhio, the Ohio Chamber of Commerce and training and consulting firm Working Partners. They join a suite of training modules in an "Opioid Toolkit" first launched by the Ohio Chamber of Commerce in 2017, according to a news release from the DeWine administration. AGRICULTURE As part of his H2Ohio water quality initiative, Gov. Mike DeWine should change concentrated animal feeding operation (CAFO) rules to require a soil phosphorous rate of 50 parts per million (ppm), rather than the 150 ppm currently allowed, according to Northwest Ohio Democratic policymakers, conservationists and researchers. The Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) is awarding more than $5 million to 150 new projects as part of Gov. Mike DeWine's H2Ohio water quality initiative, the department announced Tuesday. The H2Ohio Water Quality Incentive Program (WQIP) accepted applications from November 2020 through late January 2021. Applicants included farmers and landowners willing to replace cropland with wetlands and riparian buffers, which act as filters to reduce nutrient loading into waterways, help reduce flooding, and/or stabilize streambanks to reduce soil erosion. ARTS, SPORTS AND ENTERTAINMENT A new organization representing Cleveland's arts community is set to launch in mid-June, advocates announced Monday. For more than a year, community partners Cuyahoga Arts & Culture, Arts Cleveland, and the Arts and Culture Action Committee -- with support from the Cleveland Foundation and the George Gund Foundation -- have led the planning for a new organization that would serve the entire creative sector: artists, nonprofits and creative businesses. ATTORNEY GENERAL Attorney General Dave Yost Wednesday rejected the summary language for a proposed constitutional amendment that would allow individuals to sue state and local government entities, including law enforcement agencies and education institutions "for depravations of rights, privileges or immunities" under the Ohio Constitution. The provisions included a prohibition on the use of qualified immunity and statutory immunity as a defense to actions brought under the amendment. It would also supersede any conflicting state and local laws, charters, and regulations or other provisions of the Constitution. All Ohio law enforcement officers who served during the COVID-19 pandemic should receive a $1,000 bonus using American Rescue Plan (ARP) dollars, Attorney General Dave Yost suggested Thursday in a letter to Gov. Mike DeWine, House Speaker Bob Cupp (R-Lima) and Senate President Matt Huffman (R-Lima).
AUDITOR OF STATE Blaine Kelly, director of special projects in the Auditor of State's Office, detailed how county-level internal controls on property tax rollbacks are reviewed during a presentation to the House Ways and Means Committee Tuesday. He said that improperly designed controls can allow rollbacks to be granted in error or "worse yet" allow fraud to go undetected. Kelly's presentation specifically focused on the non-business credit, a 10 percent rollback; the owner-occupied credit of 2.5 percent; and the homestead exemption. Together, these total nearly $2 billion per year and so he said even an error rate of "a fraction of one percent" means the state loses millions. FY22-23 BUDGET "SAL is not my gal." That's how former Rep. John Patterson expressed his sentiments recently on the latest hiccup for the Cupp-Patterson school funding plan -- the State Appropriations Limitation (SAL). Earlier iterations of the plan prioritized full funding of increased aid for economically disadvantaged students, but the version included in the House-passed budget opted for a phase in, something funding plan advocates told the Senate was a result of the SAL. The SAL caps the rate of growth in General Revenue Fund (GRF) appropriations each fiscal year, with exceptions -- notably the exclusion of federal Medicaid matching funds, which in other contexts are considered part of the GRF. The SAL cap is set at the greater of two figures: 3.5 percent, or the sum of inflation plus population growth. Given generally low inflation and Ohio's slow growth in comparison to the nation, 3.5 percent has been the norm since the SAL was adopted in 2006 and first applied in the FY08-09 biennial budget, 127-HB119 (Dolan). BUSINESS/CORPORATE Six leading business associations in Ohio recently announced a set of policy objectives they said would improve the state's business and job climate and increase opportunities for families. The list was offered by the Ohio Business Roundtable, Ohio Chamber of Commerce, National Federation of Independent Business-Ohio, Ohio Council of Retail Merchants, Ohio Manufacturers Association and Ohio Farm Bureau Federation. The policies cover areas including taxation, regulation, education and energy, according to a press release, and were included in a brochure sent to legislators and leaders of state agencies. A number of the recommendations are linked specifically to the post-pandemic environment, while others represent continuing priority areas. CORONAVIRUS Fans celebrating the return of minor league baseball can receive a COVID-19 shot at the Columbus Clippers' Huntington Park now through Sunday, May 16 -- the Clippers' first home stand of the season. The Clippers and Mount Carmel are offering the COVID-19 vaccine clinic at the ballpark, the team said. With a highly effective vaccine widely available and a new, younger age cohort eligible, Ohio will withdraw most pandemic restrictions in three weeks on Wednesday, June 2, Gov. Mike DeWine said in a statewide address Wednesday night. But he cautioned that many more Ohioans need to be vaccinated and announced plans for lucrative prize drawings to encourage uptake -- $1 million jackpots for adults and full-ride scholarships for children. Ohio Department of Health Director Stephanie McCloud will remove health orders except those regarding nursing homes, assisted living facilities and data collection Wednesday, June 2. Ohio now has hundreds of locations offering the Pfizer vaccination to those ages 12 to 15. Minors who are not emancipated will need parental consent for a vaccine, the governor's office said, saying a parent or legal guardian generally should accompany minors to get the vaccine, unless administration is occurring in a physician's office, school-based or school-associated clinic or similar setting. CRIME AND PUNISHMENT The Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction (DRC) should not allow victims' representatives and supporters to submit confidential statements to the Ohio Parole Board, according to a new lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Ohio and the Ohio Justice & Policy Center (OJPC). The state's policy "violates well-settled principles of Ohio law that individuals eligible for parole must receive meaningful consideration," the groups said in a news release announcing the lawsuit, which was filed in the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas. EDUCATION During an ad hoc meeting of the State Board of Education Legislative Committee Friday, members discussed school funding provisions in pending budget bill HB110 (Oelslager), including the bill's direct funding mechanisms and the remaining guarantees in the House version of the bill. The committee also sent a resolution with "guiding principles" to the full state board for a vote. Ohio Department of Education (ODE) Director of State Funding for Schools Aaron Rausch offered a brief presentation on assorted education budget provisions, saying that the current plan to phase the new "Fair School Funding Plan" in over six years would use FY18 salary data to calculate the base cost to educate students through FY27. He said the current plan is for that phase-in to start at 16.6 percent in FY22 and 33.3 percent in FY23. Members of the State Board of Education's (SBOE) Performance and Impact Committee reviewed data on Ohio students' Internet connectivity and technology access at their Monday meeting. Ohio Department of Education (ODE) Director of Research, Evaluation and Advanced Analytics Heather Boughton gave the Data Insights presentation. The State Board of Education voted Tuesday to grant the deputy superintendent a 3 percent pay raise, after some debate about whether it was appropriate given the state of the economy. The parity increase, meant to mirror raises already granted to other state employees, including those at the Ohio Department of Education (ODE), will take Deputy Superintendent John Richard's salary from $173,139 to $178,339. Like Superintendent Paolo DeMaria's pay, Richard's salary is subject to board approval. The House's decision to shift Gov. Mike DeWine's proposed Student Wellness and Success Fund dollars into the Fair School Funding Plan formula in the budget will benefit schools and policymakers, according to Akron Public Schools CFO/Treasurer Ryan Pendleton. "The governor's commitment to the wellness of our children through the Student Success and Wellness Fund initiative is greatly appreciated and commendable. The Fair School Funding Plan furthers the governor's wellness initiatives by ensuring these funds are accounted for in a consistent and transparent manner," Pendleton told members of the Senate Primary and Secondary Education Committee during testimony on HB110 (Oelslager) on Monday. The president of the Ohio School Boards Association (OSBA) resigned over the weekend following his comments at his local board meeting on systemic racism and critical race theory. Scott Huddle, a member of the Mad River Schools Board of Education, resigned as president and was succeeded by President-elect Robert Heard Sr., a longtime member of the Cleveland Schools Board of Education. Gov. Mike DeWine marked National Public Radio's (NPR) 50th anniversary Thursday with a collective thanks on behalf of the state for the Broadcast Educational Media Commission's (BEMC) pivotal role in connecting Ohioans to their government during COVID-19. The governor addressed BEMC's final meeting of FY21, when the commission introduced a new member, reviewed its Senate budget request, and reviewed distance learning gains over the last 14 months. ELECTIONS 2021 Rep. Allison Russo (D-Upper Arlington) announced Tuesday that she will seek the Democratic nomination for the 15th Congressional District. EMPLOYMENT/UNEMPLOYMENT According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), nonfarm payroll employment rose by 266,000 in April, less than what was predicted after a robust March report, while the unemployment rate ticked up slightly to 6.1 percent from 6.0 percent in March. The number of unemployed persons in April was at 9.8 million, which BLS said was little changed from March but was considerably down from April 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic shut down many businesses. ENERGY A shutdown of the continental Canadian pipeline in the Great Lakes region will have a grossly disproportionate impact on Ohio's economic future compared to surrounding states threatened by Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's order to halt the flow of a half million barrels of crude oil and natural gas liquids through the upper and lower peninsulas to Ontario, Canada. That was the message of the Consumer Energy Alliance (CEA) on release of its 17-page report chronicling the economic importance of the 645-mile conduit, which links the Enbridge pipeline running from Alberta, Canada through the provinces of Saskatchewan and Manitoba to Wisconsin, where Line 6 continues the journey to Ontario. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) must intervene to stop FirstEnergy investor and corporate raider Carl Icahn from exercising "clear control" over the Akron-based utility's expanded board of directors absent a separate inquiry by the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO), the nonprofit Public Citizen founded by Ralph Nader and the Citizens Utility Board (CUB) of Ohio said in a joint protest. The House Public Utilities Committee Wednesday accepted the "dash 3" substitute version of HB118 (Riedel-Stein), which addresses laws governing wind farms and solar facilities. Sen. Rob McColley (R-Napoleon), who said it is a companion bill to his SB52 and who acknowledged that he and his staff have been involved in the drafting of the sub bill, highlighted the major changes to the bill, which he said address concerns from residents and the companies seeking to build these facilities. Rather than have individual projects challenged, McColley said the sub bill permits boards of township trustees to adopt a resolution designating all or part of the unincorporated area of a township as an "energy development district" that would accommodate the construction of a large solar facility, large wind farm and an "economically significant wind farm" if approved by local voters. The bill requires this designation prior to the construction of any such facility in the unincorporated area of a township. FEDERAL The U.S. Department of Treasury published an interim final rule Monday for distribution of COVID relief funding to state and local governments under the federal American Rescue Plan (ARP) Act. Ohio is in line for $5.36 billion, according to the federal agency, while local governments in the state will share in billions more. The department said states can expect half the money this month and the remainder approximately a year from now. The federal legislation provided $350 billion for state, local, territorial and tribal governments. Guidance released Monday addresses permissible uses of the funding, which includes offsetting revenue losses as a result of the pandemic, as well as public health purposes, aid to sectors hardest hit by the pandemic, premium pay for essential workers and water/wastewater and broadband infrastructure. The federal law prohibits using the money for tax cuts or public pension systems. U.S. Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) discussed the importance of ensuring more people return to work during his call with reporters Tuesday, including ending policies from the height of the pandemic that he believes are disincentivizing that return. The jobs report released Friday was "very disappointing," Portman said, with the number of new jobs well below economists' predictions. GAMING/GAMBLING For the second month in a row, Ohio's four casinos and seven racinos have raked in the highest monthly revenues since the properties opened in 2012. The gambling facilities' revenues for April 2021 were slightly higher than the previous record amounts reported in March 2021, according to data provided by the Ohio Casino Control Commission (OCCC) and Ohio Lottery Commission (OLC). Ohio's four casinos and seven racinos will be permitted to build brick-and-mortar sportsbooks on their existing properties under the latest version of the Senate's sports gambling legalization bill. That change was one of several included in the substitute version of SB176 (Manning-Antani) accepted by the Senate Select Committee on Gaming during the bill's first hearing on Wednesday. The legislation was introduced last week, with Senate Select Committee on Gaming Chair Kirk Schuring (R-Canton) explaining many of its provisions during a press conference. The Ohio Lottery's $136.3 million transfer to the Lottery Profits Education Fund (LPEF) in April was a record high, breaking the record set in March by about $900,000, according to Ohio Lottery Finance Director Greg Bowers. Total sales from traditional lottery games were $414.7 million in April, the second most recorded for any given month, Bowers added. GENERAL ASSEMBLY/STATEHOUSE The Joint Committee on Agency Rule Review (JCARR) entered what Chair Jamie Callender (R-Concord) called a "new chapter" during its Monday hearing, as the agenda included review of what were termed "'policy to rule' discussion items" in the pre-meeting memo. Callender said the discussion was not an attempt at "playing gotcha" but reflects exercise of JCARR's new duty "to take a look at agencies that are acting in ways that were not enacted by rule but maybe should have been enacted by rule." He also said there has been "a lot of focus" on the roles of the executive and legislative branches of state government in the past 18 months, with JCARR being "the pinnacle of that balancing point." Items for this review have been solicited from the general public and other legislators, according to Callender. The House split on the passage of HB229 (Wilkin-Swearingen), providing qualified immunity to private campground operators "from harm arising from a risk inherent to camping." It passed 64-26. Other legislation passed by the House on Wednesday included HB24 (Sobecki-Sheehy) designating Aug. 17 as "Eugene 'Gene' F. Kranz Day" after the former NASA flight director during the Gemini and Apollo flight missions; HB136 (Lipps) requiring Medicaid coverage of chiropractic services; HB137 (Blackshear-Upchurch) designating March 29 as "Ohio Tuskegee Airmen Day"; HB206 (Ghanbari-O'Brien) allowing township police departments to enforce traffic offenses on interstate highways if authorized by that township's board of trustees; and SB4 (Roegner), exempting certain emergency service telecommunications and protective services workers, as well as certain Ohio National Guard members, from having residential and familial information disclosed under the public records law. Rep. Bill Seitz (R-Cincinnati) added a floor amendment to SB4 that he said codified a U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals decision authorizing the release of the names and addresses of BWC claimants to qualified journalists. The Senate held a series of unanimous votes with no debate Wednesday to pass the COVID-driven "Business Fairness Act" of SB134 (Lang) and expanded vaccine sites in HB6 (Roemer), adding custodial interrogations reforms in HB8 (West-Plummer), credit reporting changes in HB133 (Hillyer) and K-12 financial literacy curriculum in SB1 (Wilson-McColley). The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio's (PUCO) seventh chairperson in 10 years and second under Gov. Mike DeWine won Senate confirmation Wednesday after the Senate Energy and Public Utilities Committee put some tough questions to Chairwoman Jenifer French earlier in the day. She was among a half dozen appointments approved in masse on the Senate floor but drew closer scrutiny in committee, where Chairman Bob Peterson (R-Sabina) said all or most members had met with her in the days leading up to the hearing. French said she hopes her experience as a lawyer, judge and locally elected official will help her serve the "public interest." Rep. Bill Seitz (R-Cincinnati) Wednesday presented his proposal, HB285, for lawmakers to get more authority to intervene in lawsuits over constitutionality or validity of their enactments, and to have a say in the settlement of such cases. Specifically, under the legislation, the House speaker and Senate president would get the right to intervene, separately on behalf of their respective chambers or jointly on behalf of the whole General Assembly, in any action challenging a statute. The House, Senate or body as a whole would also gain the right to obtain legal counsel other than the attorney general in such cases. Rep. Scott Wiggam (R-Wooster) said Wednesday he planned to introduce a resolution to overturn executive health orders of Gov. Mike DeWine, in preparation for when SB22 (McColley-Johnson) takes full effect on June 23. That law, on which the General Assembly overrode DeWine's veto, lets the Legislature overturn emergency orders via resolution, but DeWine has argued it's unconstitutional. However, DeWine said later Wednesday in a statewide speech he will lift most health orders in three weeks by June 2. In an interview with Hannah News, Rep. Gail Pavliga (R-Atwater) said that her background in mental health treatment, higher education and small business give her the "right qualifications" to represent the 75th House District. The Ohio Democratic Women's Legislative Caucus (OWDLC) Monday held a series of roundtables to bring attention to what they said are the struggles of Ohio women, discussing topics such as employment, child care, public benefits and health care. With the theme of "Women Still Rising," and featuring members of the caucus highlighting bills they've introduced, the virtual event had speakers from groups around the state to discuss policy. The Legislature's Cancer Caucus met Monday via Zoom to hear about two new approaches to diagnosing cancer, including the multi-cancer early detection method, which is done via a blood test and which can identify a whole range of possible of cancers versus the current method of testing for one type of cancer using, for example, a biopsy. The second method is biomarker testing. Both methods are not yet available for general use, with insurance coverage for more routine use still a question. In other action, the House Health Committee reported out HB247 (West-Kelly), which amends the law governing plumbing inspections; the House Higher Education and Career Readiness Committee reported out HB77 (Manchester-Sweeney), which permits members of higher education institution boards of trustees to attend board meetings electronically; the Senate Financial Institutions and Technology Committee reported out SB115 (Schuring), which revises the Ohio Pooled Collateral Program; the Senate Judiciary Committee reported out SB56 (Blessing), which addresses indemnity in certain design contracts; the House Primary and Secondary Education Committee reported out HB244 (White-Lampton), which deals with technology-based education for military children; the Senate Insurance Committee reported out HB76 (Oelslager), which enacts the FY22-23 Industrial Commission budget; and the Senate Small Business and Economic Opportunity Committee reported out SB105 (V. Sykes-Schuring), which addresses recognition of state certifications for minority businesses. GOVERNOR Gov. Mike DeWine signed the following bills on Tuesday:
HB167 PROVIDE RENT, UTILITY ASSISTANCE (Oelslager) To provide rent and utility assistance and to make an appropriation. Eff. 5/11/21
SB28 PERMIT OWLS-FALCONRY (Hoagland) To authorize the use of owls in the sport of falconry. Eff. in 90 days.
GREAT LAKES The Ohio Department of Agriculture (ODAg) announced Wednesday that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has awarded ODAg's Division of Soil and Water Conservation a five-year, $8-million grant to assist in the state's work to improve water quality in Lake Erie. Administered by the USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP), the grant funding will support Gov. Mike DeWine's H2Ohio initiative by assisting farmers in developing nutrient management plans and conservation practices in Crawford, Erie, Huron, Marion, Ottawa, Richland, Sandusky, Seneca, Shelby and Wyandot counties. The 2021 harmful algal bloom (HAB) that forms in the Western Basin of Lake Erie will likely be "smaller than average," according to an early season projection from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and Heidelberg University's National Center for Water Quality Research. Using data collected through Sunday, May 9, researchers said the HAB is expected to have a severity index of lower than 6.0. The Lake Erie HAB in 2017 measured 8.0, while the 2019 HAB was 7.3. HIGHER EDUCATION The U.S. Department of Education (USDOE) announced Tuesday that more than $36 billion in emergency grants provided under the American Rescue Plan (ARP) Act is available nationally for postsecondary education. These grants will help over 5,000 institutions of higher education provide emergency financial aid to millions of students and ensure learning continues during the COVID-19 national emergency, the agency said. The Ohio Department of Higher Education (ODHE) announced Tuesday the rebranding of its Ohio Transfer Module to a new name -- Ohio Transfer 36 -- with a new logo. The Transfer Module, introduced in 1990, was meant to ensure the seamless transfer of core general education courses among Ohio public community colleges and universities. Ohio University (OU) President Dr. M. Duane Nellis announced Thursday his plans to resign as the university's 21st president effective June 30, 2021, and to transition to faculty in the College of Arts and Sciences. HOUSING/HOMELESSNESS Ohioans struggling to pay their rent, mortgage or utility bills will now have access to more assistance following Gov. Mike DeWine's signing of HB167 (Oelslager). A total of $465 million from the federal Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021 will be appropriated in FY21 to the Ohio Development Services Agency (DSA) to continue administering its emergency rental assistance program. JUDICIAL The Ohio Supreme Court's Civic Education Program won the 2021 Sandra Day O'Connor Award for the Advancement of Civics Education, marking the 40th anniversary of former U.S. Supreme Court Justice O'Connor's confirmation in 1981. The National Center for State Courts (NCSC) announced the honor on Wednesday, saying the award recognizes an organization, court, program or individual having promoted, inspired, improved or led an innovation or accomplishment in civics education highlighting the judicial system. The Ohio Supreme Court is accepting grant applications for pilot projects supporting legal representation to families at risk of involvement or involved with the child welfare system. Eligible applicants are Ohio juvenile courts, county public children service agencies, regional legal aid offices, county public defender's offices, Ohio law schools, universities or schools of social work, or "any Ohio community entity positioned to support a pre-petition/or multi-disciplinary legal representation model." Former Rep. John Becker (R-Cincinnati) is facing possible sanctions and court-ordered payment of Clermont County legal fees after the 12th District Court of Appeals dismissed his efforts to jail Gov. Mike DeWine for the state's COVID-19 response as "wholly meritless." Still pending is a magistrate's hearing to decide whether Becker, who departed the Statehouse at the end of the 133rd General Assembly, will pony up at least $4,000 to the Clermont County Prosecutor's Office and additional sanctions supported by Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost and former Prosecutor Vincent Faris, who lost to now-Prosecutor Mark Tekulve in the 2020 election. LOCAL GOVERNMENT Franklin County Commissioner Marilyn Brown Tuesday announced she is retiring after more than 14 years as a commissioner. Brown was most recently reelected in 2018. She said she will serve through the end of this week, with her retirement becoming effective Friday, May 14. State law provides for the remaining two commissioners to appoint a replacement commissioner to serve for up to 45 days. Within that time, the departing commissioner's political party appoints a replacement to serve out the remainder of the term. MARIJUANA/HEMP The Ohio Board of Pharmacy awarded its 58th provisional marijuana dispensary license to Buckeye Relief in Cleveland Heights. Individuals suffering from Huntington's disease, terminal illness and spasticity are one step closer to having the ability to legally treat their conditions with medical marijuana. The State Medical Board of Ohio's (SMBO) Medical Marijuana Committee on Wednesday voted to recommend adding those ailments as qualifying conditions under the Ohio Medical Marijuana Control Program (MMCP). MEDICAID/MEDICAID REFORM Paramount Advantage, one of two incumbent Medicaid managed care plans protesting recent contract awards that left them out of the mix of new plans, filed a complaint Friday with the Ohio Court of Claims alleging the Ohio Department of Medicaid (ODM) is not providing requested public records. Paramount and Buckeye Community Health Plan recently filed formal protests of ODM's selection of six managed care organizations for a new system commencing next year. NATURAL RESOURCES The Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) is looking for high school students to serve on the Conservation Teen Advisory Council (ConTAC), a statewide network of student leaders working together to enhance ODNR's youth outreach and program efforts, the department said. First Lady Fran DeWine and Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) Director Mary Mertz visited Ross County, Montgomery County and Lorain County to unveil three new Storybook Trails that teach children about the importance of literacy, a healthy lifestyle and connecting with nature. The new trails are located at Great Seal State Park in Chillicothe, Sycamore State Park in Brookville and Findley State Park in Wellington. Later in the week another Storybook Trail was opened at Burr Oak State Park. PENSIONS Ohio's five public employee pension funds performed well in 2020 compared to their long-term investment assumptions, their internal benchmarks and the gains seen by peer systems, an investment consultant told the Ohio Retirement Study Council (ORSC) Thursday. Jim Voytko of RVK, the council's independent investment consultant, presented the annual investment performance review. "They have performed well over the last five years, but keep in mind this has been in mostly favorable markets, with some downturns but quick recoveries," he said. PEOPLE The Public Children Services Association of Ohio (PCSAP) announced that Mike Kenney is joining the organization's staff as director of strategic initiatives. Kenney is the co-founder and former executive director of Kinnect (formerly Waiting Child Fund), a Cleveland-based nonprofit that leads innovative statewide initiatives that improve permanency outcomes for children in foster care. POLITICS The Ohio Republican Party's State Central Committee Friday voted to censure U.S. Rep. Anthony Gonzalez (R-Canton) and other members of the U.S. House of Representatives who voted to impeach former President Donald Trump earlier this year after the U.S. Capitol riot on Jan. 6. The group then called for Gonzalez to resign as well. Gonzalez was the only Republican member of Ohio's delegation to vote in favor of impeaching Trump, releasing a statement saying that he had concluded that Trump "helped organize and incite a mob that attacked the United States Congress in an attempt to prevent us from completing our solemn duties as prescribed by the Constitution. In doing so, five people died -- including a Capitol police officer -- many more have been injured, and our democracy has been shaken." U.S. Reps. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) and Lauren Bobert (R-CO) are headlining an event Saturday, May 15 hosted by the Strongsville Republican Party that will also feature many Republican candidates for governor and U.S. Senate in 2022. Author Candace Owens is also scheduled to speak. Titled the "Ohio Political Summit," the event will be held from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Michaud's Event Center in Strongsville. The hosts said the general event is sold out but will have a simulcast broadcast. The Democratic National Committee (DNC) announced it has reached an agreement with state Democratic parties that it said will guarantee more investment into those parties and grassroots infrastructure than in previous cycles. The DNC said at a minimum, the investment will put $23 million into state parties as part of its 2022 midterm strategy, and creates a new program to focus additional investments in historically red states to build on Democrats' 57 states and territories strategy. PUBLIC SAFETY Nearly six out of 10 law enforcement agencies in Ohio are now certified for use of force, including deadly force, and agency recruitment and hiring after the addition of five jurisdictions that have adopted state standards for community policing. Newcomers recognized by the Ohio Department of Public Safety's (DPS) Office of Criminal Justice Services (OCJS) are Perrysburg (Wood County), Mifflin Township (Franklin County), Willard (Huron County), Leesburg (Highland County) and Waynesfield (Auglaize County) police. The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) says the application period for the 2021 Hazardous Materials Training Grant program will continue through Monday, May 31. Grants support the training of public safety and emergency services personnel in proper techniques for managing hazardous material (hazmat) spills and releases during transportation, including first response awareness, incident command, incident response, intermodal training, planning and survey studies, "train the trainer" instruction, and railroad hazmat training, including rail/highway incident response. Funded training also includes hazmat operators and technicians, highway response specialists, and tank car specialists. REDISTRICTING/REAPPORTIONMENT Rep. Paula Hicks-Hudson (D-Toledo) announced Monday that she will be introducing legislation she said would strengthen transparency requirements during the redistricting process and "help Ohio fulfill its duties under the fair redistricting reforms voters passed in 2015 and 2018." She said the bill would do the following: provide for the constitutionally required submission of district plans from the public through a service and website hosted by the Legislative Service Commission; create the constitutionally required joint committee to hold hearings on new districts; and provide for the constitutionally required public hearings both before and after the introduction of state and congressional district plans. STATE GOVERNMENT Opponents of SB133 (Roegner), a bill to reduce the hour requirements for cosmetology and barber licenses, testified before the Senate Small Business and Economic Opportunity Committee Wednesday. TAXATION On Wednesday, Sen. Kristina Roegner (R-Hudson) gave sponsor testimony before the Senate Ways and Means Committee on SB97, her municipal income tax COVID-19 rules correction bill. Joining her were Tony Long, director for tax and economic policy for the Ohio Chamber of Commerce (OCC); and Greg Saul, director of tax policy, and Thomas Zaino, attorney, for the Ohio Society of CPAs (OSCPA). SB97 as submitted would simply repeal Section 29 of 133-HB197. Roegner spoke to an anticipated substitute version of HB197, which has been circulated but not voted on for acceptance. TECHNOLOGY Ohio's "Emerging Trends in Fraud Investigation & Prevention Conference" still has spots remaining for its 20th annual gathering on Monday-Tuesday, May 17-18. The agenda, speaker bios and additional details are available at https://tinyurl.com/ym8uyyck. UNEMPLOYMENT COMPENSATION The Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS) requirement for all Ohioans to carry out weekly work-search activities as part of future unemployment payment applications resumes the week of May 23, according to the department. From the height of the pandemic in mid-March through Dec. 1, 2020, the federal government authorized states to waive these requirements. ODJFS then resumed the requirement for new unemployment claims on and after Dec. 6 while exempting existing claims. Effective May 23 all claimants, regardless of when they first filed a claim, must search for work. Echoing the concerns of businesses who say they are having difficulties hiring employees, Gov. Mike DeWine said Thursday that his administration has informed the federal government that Ohio will stop participating in the program that provides unemployed residents an extra $300 a week. The funding comes through the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) program, and DeWine said he has told the U.S. Department of Labor that Ohio will cease its participation on Saturday, June 26, earlier than the September end date currently planned by the Biden administration. For the week ending May 8, the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS) reported 19,926 initial unemployment claims to the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL). That number is higher than last week, when the department reported 18,642 new jobless claims. The total number of initial jobless claims filed in Ohio over the last 60 weeks (3,302,876) is more than the combined total of those filed from 2013 to 2019, according to ODJFS. The DeWine administration's efforts to draw more Ohioans back into the workforce led to questions for Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS) Deputy Director Julie Smith at Thursday's meeting of the Unemployment Compensation Modernization and Improvement Council. Bob Hinkle, chief deputy auditor to Ohio Auditor Keith Faber, also discussed their review of ODJFS practices with the council. WORKERS' COMPENSATION The House Wednesday on a near unanimous vote of 92-2 sent the workers' compensation budget to the Senate after delays while lawmakers worked on amendments to the bill. This came after the House Finance Committee had, earlier Wednesday, reported it out following the initial consideration of the bill in the House Insurance Committee. The chairman of that committee, Rep. Tom Brinkman (R-Cincinnati), said HB75 (Oelslager) includes several reforms aimed at helping both workers and business. Those reforms include moving the statute of limitations for occupational disabilities from two years to one year, which he said would bring more uniformity to workers' compensation law. The bill also includes language preventing claimants who had been previously denied a permanent disability benefit from reapplying unless the claimant can show a change in circumstances, which Brinkman said would keep a claimant from reapplying in hopes for a new hearing officer who would apply the law differently.
[Story originally published in The Hannah Report. Copyright 2021 Hannah News Service, Inc.]