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Week In Review - May 18, 2020

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.


The Ohio Attorney General's Office will cut more than $4.6 million from its FY20 budget to mitigate COVID-19 revenue shortfalls. "The financial strain of COVID-19 demands a hard look at government spending," Attorney General Dave Yost said. "My office will continue to do its part to relieve the pressure weighing on the state's budget."


With efforts to collect signatures impossible due to the shutdown of Ohio's economy and concerns over the coronavirus, backers of a proposed constitutional amendment to make changes to Ohio election law have turned to a federal court for relief from Ohio's signature gathering requirements. Ohioans for Secure and Fair Elections filed to intervene in a case that was already filed in federal court seeking relief from petition requirements and is asking a federal judge to put the issue before voters in November.


Unfilled positions, cancelled purchases and delayed projects were common approaches identified by state agency leaders as they considered how to meet the budget cut targets laid out by Gov. Mike DeWine in response to the coronavirus pandemic and its economic fallout. DeWine and the Office of Budget and Management (OBM) directed all agencies to report how they would cut 20 percent from their budgets for the remainder of FY20. However, not all are being held to that standard, given the variability of budget size, mission and responsibilities in responding to COVID-19. The Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction (DRC), which is grappling with significant outbreaks in its facilities, is not being asked to make such substantial cuts, for example. DeWine and OBM announced details of $776 million in cuts for FY20 the week of May 4.


The Ohio Chamber of Commerce's quarterly "Prosperity Pulse" index fell to a historic low of 51 during 2020's first quarter, the first time "below-average" economic conditions were reported. The index has been at or above 100 since the chamber began measuring it in 2017's first quarter, and it peaked in 2018's third quarter at 139.9. Only eight percent of the 414 respondents said they expect their businesses to turn a profit over the next three months, and optimism about their company's future economic health fell to 31 percent. Health care costs had traditionally been the primary issue of concern but were replaced statewide by economic uncertainty.

After an extended staff furlough and repeated reopening delays, Honda began "gradually" resuming automobile, engine and transmission production at its plants in the U.S. and Canada on Monday. Plants were closed due to the novel coronavirus on March 23, while the most recent extension of the shutdown was announced April 23. Honda said it would "stagger the start-up at each plant, with most plants using the first day to ensure that front-line leaders are trained on new procedures and activities related to COVID-19 prevention. Prior to resuming production, associates will learn about the new safety measures and retrain on work processes after the period of suspended production."


Development Services Agency (DSA) Director Lydia Mihalik said Ohio is currently seventh in the nation for its percentage of residents who have responded to the 2020 Census, but she encouraged local government leaders to continue to ask people to participate and to emphasize its importance through awareness campaigns. Mihalik told participants in Monday online meeting of the Census 2020 Complete Count Commission that recent data shows that 62.5 percent of Ohioans have participated in the census so far, compared to 57.3 percent of U.S. residents nationally.


The Women's Suffrage Centennial Commission (WSCC) held its first virtual meeting Thursday. Though all of their projects for the upcoming months have been delayed due to the health crisis, members were still optimistic about their ability to garner support through online platforms and move other projects to 2021.

The group's plans for installing a women's suffrage memorial on Statehouse grounds have been left in limbo after the Capitol Square Review and Advisory Board (CSRAB) delayed its decision on the installation. The commission will discuss the issue at CSRAB's next meeting. However, Lindsay Randolph, of Secretary of State Frank LaRose's office, said that would likely not be until June.


Over the week, coronavirus case statistics increased from 22,131 cases and 1,271 deaths reported Thursday, May 7 to 26,357 total cases and 1,534 deaths reported on Thursday, May 14.

U.S. Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) Thursday announced that the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), an agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, awarded $17.4 million in federal grants to 51 health centers throughout Ohio to expand COVID-19 testing capacity. This grant comes from funds appropriated in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. The CARES Act appropriated a total of $25 billion for testing, with $825 million specifically for health centers.

Arts nonprofit Ohio Humanities is now accepting applications from museums, historical societies and other cultural centers for $750,000 in emergency relief grants funded by the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (CARES Act). The grants are meant to mitigate revenue losses, maintain staffing levels, and protect art and artifact collections, according to the organization.

Citing effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Buckeye Institute released a policy memo Monday calling on the state to offer targeted grants for high-speed broadband service in underserved areas of Ohio.

Saying he was increasingly concerned that the state's reopening plan may be "a very bad bet long term" given Gov. Mike DeWine's description of it as "a gamble" Thursday, Ohio Democratic Party Chairman David Pepper held a livestreamed forum with press and health care professionals Friday morning. Noting his early praise of DeWine's actions, Pepper said he was worried that working Ohioans weren't being heard enough and that business reopening plans were more focused on owners, particularly in light of the state's withdrawing its mask mandate.

On Monday, Gov. Mike DeWine announced that the Ohio Department of Commerce (DOC) and quasi-public development entity JobsOhio will implement a new program providing a $500 rebate on high proof spiritous liquors for qualifying businesses.

On Tuesday, the administration announced that tattoo shops and massage services would be allowed to reopen on Friday, May 15, along with salons and barber shops. Lt. Gov. Jon Husted said that massage therapy, tattoo, and piercing shops had been unaddressed earlier because those businesses are regulated differently and had other issues that needed to be resolved before they could reopen. He said those issues have now been resolved, including an agreement on what protocols the establishments will need to take to protect employees and customers during the COVID-19 pandemic, and they will be allowed to reopen on Friday.

The governor also announced Tuesday that the U.S. Department of Agriculture had notified the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODFJS) that Ohio's electronic benefit transfer (EBT) plan has been approved. The plan will allow ODJFS to distribute Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits directly to 850,000 Ohio students who rely on free and reduced lunches at school. He said the benefits will be mailed directly and families do not need to apply to be eligible. The program will give families $300 to purchase healthy foods, and DeWine said it will result in $250 million more going to grocery stores and other retailers.

Much of Tuesday's press conference focused on nursing homes and taking care of older adults. Ohio Department of Health Director Amy Acton said that the administration is asking nursing homes to talk to families about an outbreak, and that just because there is a case, it doesn't mean the nursing home did something wrong. COVID-19 is a very contagious disease, and she said there can be cases in nursing homes even with best practices. DeWine also had Ohio Department of Medicaid (ODM) Director Maureen Corcoran and Ohio Department of Aging (ODA) Director Ursel McElroy speak on efforts their agencies are taking to help older adults during the pandemic.

The health care industry, businesses and individuals would receive further protection from civil liability for COVID-19 transmission under the substitute version of HB606 (Grendell) accepted by the House Civil Justice Committee on Tuesday. During sponsor testimony, Rep. Diane Grendell (R-Chesterland) said the bill would ensure the health care industry is protected from coronavirus-related liability "barring willful or wanton misconduct." That's a higher level of protection than would be provided generally, as businesses and individuals would be liable if an infection is transmitted by “reckless or intentional conduct.”

Asked about the lawsuit filed Tuesday seeking to reopen gyms in the state at his daily briefing, Gov. Mike DeWine noted that there is a working group developing guidelines for gyms to open safely. He said the group includes a representative sample of gym owners and he expects the group's recommendations to come "very, very shortly." As he has reiterated often regarding any number of sectors looking to reopen, DeWine stressed that the state must "do it right."

Announcing the state has received a shipment of remdesivir from the federal government, the Ohio Department of Health (ODH) and Ohio Hospital Association (OHA) said Wednesday they'll work together to distribute the antiviral medication across the state. The U.S. Food and Drug Adminstration (FDA) has issued an Emergency Use Authorization for remdesivir, allowing it to be administered to COVID-19 patients. It is currently being studied in clinical trials and has been found to shorten the duration of COVID-19 from 15 to 11 days in patients treated in hospital settings.

Day care providers can reopen as of Sunday, May 31 but with fewer children than usual under their supervision and more stringent cleaning and sanitization requirements in place, Gov. Mike DeWine said Thursday at his coronavirus press briefing.

DeWine and Lt. Gov. Jon Husted articulated the dates and protocols for additional business and recreation sectors to reopen this month as well, as follows:

Thursday, May 21 - Campgrounds

Friday, May 22 - Horse racing, but without spectators

Tuesday, May 26 - Bureau of Motor Vehicles deputy registrars; Gyms and fitness centers; Non-contact and limited contact sports, such as golf and tennis; Pools, but not those at water and amusement parks, which are to be addressed soon by a working group on travel and tourism

Sunday, May 31 - Day camps as well as child care

Health protocols for all sector reopenings announced Thursday had been posted or are expected to be by the end of Friday at >Responsible RestartOhio>Sector Specific Operating Requirements.

The parent agency for Ohio Government Television (OGT) recapped Thursday the state's experience with facilitating daily news conferences for Gov. Mike DeWine and his administration to share information on the COVID-19 pandemic. OGT Director Dan Shellenbarger presented to the virtual meeting of the Broadcast Educational Media Commission with a chronological lookback on the regular briefings that started March 9 and quickly drew a level of public interest that overwhelmed the technological infrastructure.


Prisoners testing positive for COVID-19 continue to drop this week, with 42 percent of all screened inmates showing no sign of infection. Those deemed contagious also have fallen by more than 700.

Coronavirus deaths in the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction (DRC) increased to 58 Thursday, however. Thursday's updated numbers show 4,479 positive, 3,207 negative and only 44 pending tests.


U.S. states have a variety of funding mechanisms to support natural disaster response, according to a Pew Charitable Trusts report released Tuesday that did not focus on the novel coronavirus but noted many of those funding sources have been adapted to cover pandemic-related costs. Colin Foard, associate manager of Pew's Fiscal Federalism Initiative, told reporters in a webinar explaining the study that they began looking into the topic before the pandemic and that natural disasters have been increasing in number and severity, as well as incurred costs. Federal policymakers have placed "increasing pressure" on states to invest more in emergency management capabilities, fiscal reserves, recovery programs and cost-saving mitigation activities as a result, Pew found. The report identified the budgeting tools to help policymakers better understand management of "these unpredictable and growing costs."


Former Ohio Gov. John Kasich had an op-ed article, co-authored with former Democratic Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire, published in USA Today Wednesday where the former executives detailed what they saw as a safe approach toward reopening American economies. Referencing President Trump's three-step plan for reopening America issued on April 16, the former governors highlighted the plan's calling for states' meeting criteria such as a downward trajectory of confirmed cases and positive tests for COVID-19. Only a few states meet these criteria, according to the op-ed, but more than half have already partially reopened or are planning to reopen by mid-May.


At the first meeting of the State Board of Education (SBOE) since the closing of school buildings because of COVID-19, members discussed in committees the rollout of expanded summer meal programs for students, as well as legislative changes that cancelled state testing previously scheduled for spring. Committees met remotely via videoconferencing. The Integrated Student Supports Committee reviewed changes to school meal programs Monday, including 22 federal waivers that have allowed the Ohio Department of Education (ODE) to expand its meal programs. The committee also discussed the pending Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer Card Program (P-EBT), which will provide additional funds to students receiving free or reduced price lunch once approved by the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS).

The Ohio Educational Service Center Association (OESCA) recognized 84 of Ohio's top students from across the state during its 31st Annual Franklin B. Walter All-Scholastic Awards Program on Tuesday, May 12.

The State Board of Education discussed Tuesday an early draft of a "Reset and Restart" guide for school operations in the 2020-2021 academic year, when as-yet-undetermined public health precautions will likely continue to disrupt the normal operation of schools. The board also asked the General Assembly to waive the annual requirement to increase the promotion score on third grade English language arts tests used for the third grade reading guarantee, and to extend its cancellation of state testing for this year to include a subset of homeschool students not covered in earlier legislation. The business meeting Tuesday and committee meetings Monday were the first virtual gatherings of the board. The April meeting had been cancelled as state government adapted to working amid the pandemic.

As Ohio's K-12 education faces roughly $300 million in FY20 state budget cuts and potentially more reductions in FY21 due the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, schools will increasingly rely on money transferred to the Lottery Profits for Education Fund, according to Ohio Lottery Commission (OLC) Chair Matthew Blair. "With recent cuts to education here in Ohio, lottery sales are going to be more important than ever in supplementing the losses to the schools," Blair said during this week's OLC meeting.

OLC Finance Director Gregory Bowers said through the first 10 months of the fiscal year, the amount of money transferred to the Lottery Profits for Education Fund is down by $25.1 million against the agency's budget commitment. Additionally, he said the amount transferred so far in FY20 is $57.9 million less than last year at this time.


Given the prospect of another surge of coronavirus cases in the fall, House Minority Leader Emilia Sykes (D-Akron) and other Democratic leaders called on Gov. Mike DeWine, Secretary of State Frank LaRose and the Legislature to expand voting access and registration opportunities ahead of the November general election.


A new poll of Ohio voters released by Emerson College/Nexstar Media this week found 62 percent think President Donald Trump will be re-elected. The poll of 725 voters was conducted Friday, May 8 through Sunday, May 10 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percent. It found Trump with a net positive approval rating among Ohio voters, 48 percent approval to 45 percent disapproval. Gov. Mike DeWine has a 71 percent approval rating and a 15 percent disapproval rating. In a matchup with likely Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, Trump leads 46 percent to 43 percent. When undecided voters are included, Trump leads 51 percent to 49 percent.


The novel coronavirus and associated containment measures sent the nation's unemployment rate skyrocketing to historic levels in April, according to new figures released Friday by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The unemployment rate increased from 4.4 percent in March to 14.7 percent and total nonfarm payroll employment fell by 20.5 million, following a previous loss of a revised 870,000 jobs in March that was also attributed to the pandemic. BLS said the April numbers represent the "highest rate and the largest over-the-month increase in the history of the series" dating back to January 1948. The number of unemployed persons increased from 7.1 million in March to 23.1 million in April, BLS said, and employment fell sharply in all major industry sectors, with particularly heavy job losses in leisure and hospitality.

For the week ending May 9, the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS) reported 51,125 initial unemployment claims to the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL). "The number of initial jobless claims filed in Ohio over the last eight weeks (1,169,694) is more than the combined total of those filed during the last three years. Over these last eight weeks, ODJFS has distributed more than $2.4 billion in unemployment compensation payments to more than 587,000 claimants," the department said in a news release. Of the more than one million applications the agency has received, 90 percent have been processed and 10 percent are pending, according to ODJFS.

The Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS) announced Wednesday the rollout of Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA), a federally-funded program stemming from the CARES Act that will expand unemployment benefits to individuals affected by COVID-19, including those who have been diagnosed with the disease and family caregivers. Others who can receive PUA but cannot receive traditional unemployment benefits include self-employed individuals, 1099 tax filers and part-time workers. In addition, parents of children who cannot go to school because of COVID-19 can receive PUA. There is no minimum income requirement.


Senate President Larry Obhof (R-Medina) Tuesday announced the return of $1 million from the Ohio Senate's FY20 budget to the state's General Revenue Fund, as part of a plan to offset state revenue shortfalls and reduce government spending during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The House Wednesday rejected a motion along party lines to consider a resolution forcing all House members and staff to wear masks during committees and session. HR342 (Skindell) would amend House rules to require all persons over the age of 2, including any legislator, to cover their mouth and nose with a mask or cloth face covering while attending a meeting of the House or meeting of any standing committee, subcommittee, or select committee of the House. Exceptions would be made for a person unable to wear a mask or face covering due to a medical condition or if the person is otherwise exempted by the Ohio Department of Health guidance. The resolution now goes to the House Rules and Reference Committee.

Wednesday's session was also the first since the state began shutting down to prevent the spread of COVID-19 where all House members were able to attend session in the chamber. Previous sessions had members spread out, with some in committee rooms who would then come to the floor to vote on bills. Householder said they have been working on a plan for a while where all members could be in the chamber.

The House overwhelmingly passed five bills, including legislation to offer low-interest loans for families who are adopting a child, HB405 (Cross). It passed by a vote of 94-0. Other bills passing included the following:

  • HB111 (Ingram) which addresses school record transfers by a vote of 80-14.

  • HB368 (Baldridge) which enacts the Ohio Computer Crimes Act by a vote of 93-1.

  • HB404 (Manchester-Sweeney) which addresses allowing the board of trustees of a state institution of higher education to meet via electronic communication by a vote of 88-6.

  • HB421 (J. Smith-Blair) which provides immunity from civil and criminal liability for hospital police officers by a vote of 94-0.

The Senate Judiciary Committee Wednesday approved a substitute version of SB308 (M. Huffman), legislation changing the civil immunity for health care and service providers during a government-declared disaster. It also heard from business and health care groups in favor of the changes as well as opposition testimony from the Ohio Association for Justice. Sen. Matt Huffman (R-Lima) said the sub bill would see further changes.

House members should move expeditiously to pass legislation, SB310 (Dolan), sending roughly $350 million in federal funding to local governments dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic, Sen. Matt Dolan (R-Chagrin Falls) told the House Finance Committee on Wednesday. The bill distributes part of the state’s allocation from the federal CARES Act.

The Senate Judiciary Committee heard opponent testimony Wednesday regarding the Ohio Supreme Court's proposed amendments to the Rules of Practice and Procedure, specifically Civil Rules 26 and 53(C)(2) and Criminal Rule 46.

Rep. Bob Cupp (R-Lima) gave sponsor testimony Wednesday on a bill that would statutorily implement Marsy's Law, a constitutional amendment adopted by voters in 2017 that addresses the rights of crime victims. Cupp introduced HB610 to the House Criminal Justice Committee, saying the bill will update, clarify and synchronize Ohio's crime victims' rights laws.

Interviews of the 15 applicants for the 59th Ohio House District seat of former Rep. Don Manning (R-New Middletown) began on Monday and continued on Tuesday, according to House spokeswoman Taylor Jach. Manning died in March. Applicants include his brother and former Democratic legislator and Kasich administration appointee Jason Wilson.

The Ohio Economic Recovery Task Force Friday heard from members of the swimming pool industry and other small business owners in Ohio, with some voicing sharp criticism of Gov. Mike DeWine and Ohio Department of Health (ODH) Director Amy Acton on their response to the coronavirus pandemic. Then on Tuesday, representatives of sports and fitness providers told the task force that the COVID-19 shutdown and selective business reopening is having a disproportionate impact on their industry versus others that have continued operating at one level or another and/or will resume operations on Tuesday, May 12.

National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) Executive Director Tim Storey announced this week the cancelling of the 2020 Legislative Summit that had been set for Aug. 10-13 in Indianapolis. The next NCSL Legislative Summit is scheduled to be held Aug. 3-5, 2021, in Chicago, IL, followed by the August 2022 summit in Denver, CO.

In other action, the House Civil Justice Committee reported out SB21 (Dolan) which addresses benefit corporations and HB352 (Cross-Lang) which deals with Ohio civil rights laws related to employment; the House Higher Education Committee reported out HB371 (Merrin) which expands the “Forever Buckeye” program; the House Criminal Justice Committee reported out HB208 (Roemer-J. Miller) which increases penalties for assaulting sports officials; the House Finance Committee reported out HB282 (A. Holmes-LaRe) which permits the use of electronic instant bingo devices; the House Primary and Secondary Education Committee reported out HB409 (Koehler) which deals with student attendance at some online schools; House Public Utilities Committee reported out HB163 (Brinkman) which addresses extraterritorial water and sewer services by local governments; the Senate Health, Human Services and Medicaid Committee reported out HB203 (Lipps) which deals with mobile dental facilities; and the Senate Local Government, Public Safety and Veterans Affairs Committee reported out HB285 (Greenspan-Brent) which establishes a permanent Driver’s License Reinstatement Fee Debt Reduction and Amnesty Program.


Gov. Mike DeWine's signature program to reduce harmful algal blooms in Lake Erie will be cut by roughly 5 percent due to tax revenue shortfalls caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The administration is cutting $4 million from H2Ohio's FY20 budget, Ohio Office of Budget and Management (OBM) spokesperson Pete LuPiba told Hannah News. The program had been appropriated about $86 million for the fiscal year in the budget, HB166 (Oelslager).

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) will use the congressionally-appropriated $20 million increase in Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) funding to further address invasive species, nutrient pollution and habitat degradation, the agency announced recently. "Eliminating water pollution and boosting restoration of the Great Lakes is a priority for me," USEPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler said.


Ohio State University Friday announced details of a $40.9 million settlement reached with 162 survivors in 12 lawsuits related to sexual abuse by Richard Strauss, a university-employed physician from 1978 to 1998 who committed suicide in 2005. An independent investigation launched by the university determined in 2019 that Strauss abused students during his time at Ohio State and the university administration failed to appropriately respond at the time.

Otterbein University announced recently that it intends to open campus for the fall 2020 semester, including in-person teaching and resuming residence life. Meanwhile, Case Western Reserve University has announced plans to move forward with "dual-delivery of courses," meaning some students will be physically present and others watching via Zoom.

The University of Cincinnati (UC) announced recently it will adopt a test-optional admissions policy for a two-year period as a result of disruptions caused by the coronavirus pandemic. The move means that students entering UC in fall 2021 will not be required to submit standardized test scores from the ACT or SAT to gain admission to the majority of programs. Though a few select programs will still require a standardized test, most applicants will be able to choose whether or not to submit scores to be considered as part of UC's new admissions review model, according to the university.


Molina Healthcare of Ohio has committed to providing over $1.5 million in grants and sponsorships to various partners launching programs designed to increase access to care, reinforce health and wellness, and support integrated care services. The funding also supports organizations helping to fill community needs around social determinants of health, which can have a lasting effect on the health outcomes of women, children and vulnerable seniors, Molina said.


In a major ruling that reopens the debate over the Ohio judiciary's duty under the Public Records Act, the Supreme Court of Ohio has rejected its own precedent for document requests affirmed as recently as 2019, at the same time reaffirming Court public records policies which Justices R. Patrick DeWine and Sharon Kennedy claim are "bereft of legal authority" and compel clerks of court to "disobey" state law. Led by Chief Justice Maureen O'Connor, a divided Supreme Court announced this week that citizens requesting court documents have no duty to cite the Ohio Public Records Act, Rules 44-47 of the judicial Rules of Superintendence, or any other authority -- contradicting State ex rel. Husband v. Shanahan (2019) and other Court precedents dating from its adoption of a separate public records policy in 2009.

The General Assembly did not violate constitutional strictures on legislative procedure with its rapid-fire enactment of a school takeover law, nor did it usurp constitutional authority of local school boards, a split Ohio Supreme Court ruled Wednesday. The decision puts the fate of the controversial law, 131-HB70 (Brenner-Driehaus), back in the Legislature, which debated changes for much of 2019 but reached no resolution. The ruling came in a jumble of opinions, with Chief Justice Maureen O'Connor writing a lead opinion joined by Justice Patrick Fischer, accompanied by two concurrences and separate dissents from both of the Democratic justices, Michael Donnelly and Melody Stewart.

Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor announced that the Supreme Court is postponing the Ohio Bar examination from July 28-29 until Sept. 9-10.


Daily medical marijuana users with severe pain -- as opposed to mild or moderate pain -- are more likely to say their health had become worse in the past year, according to a new study from researchers at Ohio State University (OSU), Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus and the University of California, San Francisco. Medical marijuana users who say they have high levels of pain are also more likely than those with low pain to say they use cannabis three or more times a day, the study says.


House members weighed support Tuesday for a year-round open season on coyotes labeled "out of control" and a threat to Ohio agriculture over two decades ago. The sponsor of new legislation conceded at the same time that pets and other animals can get caught and die in coyote traps, and that an overabundance of pelts could further glut a primary foreign market facing economic downturn.

The COVID-19 pandemic is "forcing everyone to navigate uncharted waters, including boaters," according to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR). In recognition of National Safe Boating Week, set for Saturday, May 16 through Friday, May 22, ODNR and the National Safe Boating Council are encouraging boaters to follow social distancing guidelines for safe outdoor recreation.


United Way of Central Ohio President and CEO Lisa Courtice said nonprofit organizations across Ohio and the country are being stretched thin as demand for services increases, but revenue sources are either cut off or greatly reduced during the pandemic. Courtice was joined by Charlie Gehring, president and CEO of Lifecare Alliance, for a Columbus Metropolitan Club (CMC) forum Wednesday that focused on nonprofits' response to COVID-19. The forum was moderated by Colleen Marshall of WCMH NBC4.


Speaker of the House Larry Householder (R-Glenford) notified House members Wednesday of the sudden death that morning of former Rep. Andy Thompson (R-Marietta) due to an apparent heart attack. Thompson served in the Ohio House from 2011 to 2018. He is survived by his wife, Jade, and three children.

The ACLU of Ohio announced Friday the hiring of Elizabeth Hopkins as its new director of organizing. Hopkins, who lives in Cincinnati, most recently served as the regional field manager for Planned Parenthood of Southwest Ohio. Prior to that, she was project director and campaign manager for the AMOS Project in Cincinnati, a faith-based justice movement of the Ohio Organizing Collaborative (OOC), which she joined as a community organizer in 2016. While a member of OOC's core team, she helped develop statewide plans, strategies and fundraising goals.

Partner David Lefton of the Cincinnati law firm Barron Peck Bennie & Schlemmer will serve as the next president of the Ohio State Bar Association (OSBA). As president-elect, he will become an OSBA officer on July 1, 2020 and will take over as president in July 2021.

Sens. Peggy Lehner (R-Kettering) and Stephanie Kunze (R-Hilliard) were given Legislator of the Year Awards by the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN). Lehner was recognized for championing a provision in the 2020-21 biennial budget that expanded eligibility and increased allocation for the state's Breast and Cervical Cancer Project program. Kunze was recognized for her leadership in re-establishing the legislative Cancer Caucus, the organization said.


Gov. Mike DeWine ordered all U.S. and Ohio flags to be flown at half-staff on Friday, May 15, 2020 on all public buildings and grounds throughout the state from sunrise to sunset to honor Peace Officers Memorial Day and National Police Week. The order was issued in accordance with the orders issued by the president of the United States of America, according to a news release from DeWine.


The Controlling Board Monday continued to sign off on the use of federal funds to address the COVID-19 pandemic in Ohio, including the approval of a late add-on to the agenda that will send $12.5 million from the Federal Coronavirus Relief Fund to local health agencies to support epidemiological capacity. The request came from the Office of Budget and Management (OBM) and will be distributed by the Ohio Department of Health (ODH). The Controlling Board was told that the money will go to build capacity at the local level for epidemiological support and will allow local health departments to follow up on coronavirus cases and make sure those who are exposed can get testing to limit the spread of COVID-19. The request received no questions from the board and was approved without objection.

The state Office of Criminal Justice Services (OCJS) issued requests for proposal (RFPs) Monday for the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) and Edward J. Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant (JAG) programs funding victim service, law enforcement, prosecutors, courts and correction agencies.

The Ohio Veterans Hall of Fame is now accepting nominations for its 2020 class. Inductees must be military retirees who continue to serve at the state, local or national level through exceptional volunteerism, advocacy, professional distinction, public service and/or philanthropy. The nomination deadline is Sunday, June 1. Guidelines, a sample nomination and more information are available at


Ohio drivers encountering fewer vehicles on the roads during the COVID-19 pandemic responded by driving faster, an Ohio State University (OSU) analysis found. Researchers at Ohio State's Center for Urban and Regional Analysis (CURA) compared traffic data in Columbus, Cleveland and Cincinnati from March 28 to April 19 last year with the same time period this year, when people were staying home because of the pandemic. Ohio's stay-at-home order went into effect on March 2.


While saying they were not looking for "a scapegoat," Reps. Tracy Richardson (R-Marysville) and Mark Fraizer (R-Newark) told the House Ways and Means committee Tuesday that their HB614 "expresses the Legislature's intent to study and reform the application, processing and administration of Ohio's unemployment system." The bill, one page at the moment, was introduced May 5 and responds to the delays many Ohioans have faced as more than one million filed for unemployment due to the coronavirus pandemic in the past seven weeks.

Sen. Bob Peterson (R-Sabina) Wednesday unveiled the Senate's proposed first step to address the state's looming unemployment compensation (UC) debt. SJR4, which he introduced, would place a ballot issue before voters in November providing for the issuance of bonds to repay any federal borrowing on behalf of the unemployment compensation program. He said this is based on the approach used by Texas and other states, with the bonds retired by fees paid by employers subject to Ohio's unemployment compensation laws.


The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Thursday called on Congress to direct additional aid to states and localities in order to support public employees and maintain public sector staffing levels on a conference call with reporters. In addition, public employees who contracted COVID-19 shared their experiences. AFSCME President Lee Saunders said 20 million private sector and one million public sector jobs were lost in the month of April due to the spread of COVID-19 and the related economic downturn.

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

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