Week In Review - May 2, 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.


ABORTION


Legislation intended to generally prohibit abortion if the U.S. Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade would criminalize the medical procedure in all circumstances -- even to save the life of the mother, Democrats on the House Government Oversight Committee said Wednesday. During sponsor testimony on HB598 (Schmidt), Rep. Jean Schmidt (R-Loveland) said the bill is intended to provide an exception to save the life of the mother. However, Reps. Richard Brown (D-Canal Winchester), Beth Liston (D-Dublin) and Tavia Galonski (D-Akron) all pointed out that HB598's current language doesn't include an exception -- it only provides an "affirmative defense" for doctors who provide an abortion to save the life of the mother or to prevent "serious risk of the substantial and irreversible impairment of a major bodily function."


ADDICTION/SUBSTANCE ABUSE


The DeWine administration announced Friday that the Ohio Department of Public Safety (DPS) and RecoveryOhio had completed a tri-state drug enforcement and outreach campaign aimed at arresting traffickers and assisting those with substance abuse disorder in Lawrence County. DPS said 13 law enforcement and treatment agencies joined its Ohio Narcotics Intelligence Center (ONIC) and RecoveryOhio for Operation BRIDGE. They included Lawrence County's Drug and Major Crimes Unit within the county prosecutor's office, which requested help with Southern Ohio's "drug scourge."


The Ohio Board of Pharmacy (OBP) and RecoveryOhio Wednesday announced the installation of NaloxBoxes in the Riffe Center for Government and the Arts and Rhodes State Office Tower. The board and RecoveryOhio, in collaboration with the Ohio Department of Administrative Services, installed nine NaloxBoxes in publicly accessible areas in each building. The boxes provide tools to help people effectively respond to a drug overdose with naloxone.


AGRICULTURE


The Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR), Ohio Department of Agriculture (ODAg), Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (Ohio EPA), and the Ohio Lake Erie Commission celebrated Earth Day Friday, April 22 with a ribbon cutting at one of H2Ohio's newly completed wetlands, Oak Openings Preserve Wetland Restoration in Swanton. The existing Toledo Metroparks Oak Openings Preserve incorporated previously farmed land adjacent to the preserve. The property was regraded and restored to wetland habitat. Forested wetlands and prairie habitat have also been added along Ai Creek, a tributary in the Maumee Basin.


The Ohio Department of Agriculture (ODAg) agreed to move a second rule item on dog breeding to "To Be Refiled" (TBR) status after opposition testimony at Tuesday's Joint Committee on Agency Rule Review (JCARR) meeting. ODAg had previously placed a rule on removal of puppy tails and dew claws into TBR status ahead of the JCARR meeting. The submission discussed Tuesday was in regard to background checks as part of the licensing procedure for high-volume dog breeders. It would have allowed breeders to obtain the criminal background check and submit it with the license application. Vicki Deisner, state government affairs advisor at the Animal Welfare Institute, said the proposed rule violated JCARR prongs by exceeding ODAg's statutory authority and conflicting with legislative intent as it would "transfer the responsibility of background checks to the applicant themselves."


APPALACHIA


Gov. Mike DeWine and Lt. Gov. Jon Husted Thursday announced details of their proposal to make what they called "a long-overdue, comprehensive investment in the Appalachian region of Ohio." The $500 million initiative would support local initiatives to revitalize downtown districts, improve the quality of life, and help rebuild the economies of Ohio's 32 Appalachian counties. It is dubbed "Ohio BUILDS - Small Communities, Big Impact - A Plan for Appalachia." According to DeWine spokesman Dan Tierney, the funding for this program must be appropriated by the General Assembly.


CHILDREN/FAMILIES


A new report by Children's Defense Fund-Ohio (CDF-Ohio), "Measuring Transformation and Elevating Youth Voice in Child Welfare," measures outcomes for Ohio youth who were in the foster care system in their late teens, finding that these youth, at the age of 21, were much more likely to be unemployed and to have experienced incarceration than their peers in other states. Based on data from 2018, it shows that Ohio ranks in the bottom 10 percent of the U.S. on the following four indicators of wellbeing for youth aged 21 who were in foster care in their teens: graduating high school or getting a GED; being employed; being enrolled in school; and experiencing incarceration. The report also shows this group of Ohio youths experiences higher rates of homelessness than they do nationally.


The Commission on Infant Mortality Thursday heard a presentation from Groundwork Ohio on the need to bring family voices into policy decision making around early childhood issues. Lynanne Gutierrez of Groundwork Ohio said her group has been looking into why centering family voices is critical in policy discussions. She said there have been many stubborn disparities in early childhood issues, and as work moves forward, they wanted to make sure they weren't making assumptions. Discussions with families, which she dubbed an "environmental scan," led Groundwork Ohio to set up a Center for Family Voices.


CORONAVIRUS


In a fact sheet released Wednesday, the Biden administration said there is an "urgent need" for Congress to provide funding for the national COVID-19 response, as inaction is leading to fewer vaccines, treatments and tests for the American people and less vaccination worldwide.


Moderna also said Thursday that it will request federal approval for a two-dose child vaccine in the coming weeks, with this covering children from six months to five years old.


In Ohio, COVID-19 cases continued to rise for the seven-day period ending Thursday, going from 6,890 over April 15-21 to 8,731 for April 22-28. However, the Ohio Department of Health (ODH) said hospitalizations fell from 428 to 314, while ICU admissions rose from 19 to 26. Deaths fell from 94 to 68.


The Ohio Hospital Association (OHA) reported there are 358 total hospital patients with COVID-19 and 50 ICU patients as of Thursday. These numbers represent an increase from 311 and 47 on April 21.


DISASTERS


Gov. Mike DeWine Wednesday authorized the use of the State Disaster Relief Program (SDRP) to help several counties affected by severe winter ice storms in February 2022. According to the governor's office, "The SDRP is a reimbursement program that can be used in instances where storm damage amounts do not meet the threshold for federal assistance. The program is intended to provide supplemental state assistance to local governments and eligible nonprofit organizations for costs associated with debris removal, emergency protective measures and permanent work." The following nine counties affected by the ice storm that occurred from Feb. 2 through Feb. 5, 2022 may qualify for assistance: Belmont, Harrison, Highland, Hocking, Monroe, Noble, Perry, Pike and Ross counties.


ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT


Gov. Mike DeWine's administration announced Monday the approval of assistance for five projects expected to create 733 new jobs and retain 1,344 jobs statewide. During its monthly meeting, the Ohio Tax Credit Authority (TCA) reviewed economic development proposals brought by JobsOhio and its regional partners. The projects are expected to collectively result in more than $58 million in new payroll and spur more than $563 million in investments across Ohio.


Gov. Mike DeWine, Lt. Gov. Jon Husted and Department of Development (DOD) Director Lydia Mihalik all spoke at events around the state Tuesday, announcing distribution of $60 million in the first round of Brownfield Remediation grant funds. The program has a total of $350 million and launched in December 2021. DOD will provide funds for 78 projects in 35 counties as part of the first round, including $54.8 million for 37 clean-up projects and $5.5 million for 41 assessment projects. The program focuses on industrial, commercial and institutional brownfield sites that had been abandoned, idled or underutilized because of the known or potential release of hazardous substances or petroleum.


ECONOMY


Ohio's weekly initial unemployment claims dropped below 10,000 for the first time in weeks, according to the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS). For the week ending April 23, ODJFS reported 8,283 jobless claims to the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL). The previous week, the department reported 10,884 jobless claims. The week before that it was 13,788, and three weeks ago, it was 17,662.


EDUCATION


Former State Board of Education Vice President Steve Dackin drew the support of nearly all his former colleagues Thursday in a vote on which candidates for state superintendent should be granted another interview, a list that also includes Springboro Schools Superintendent Larry Hook and Perrysburg Schools Superintendent Thomas Hosler. Board President Charlotte McGuire said the second round of interviews will take place during a closed-door executive session at the regularly scheduled May board meeting, likely on Monday, May 9. She said it's possible the board will be able to announce a final selection Tuesday, May 10.


Gov. Mike DeWine recently announced the creation of the new Ohio Student Safety Advisory Council within the Ohio School Safety Center (OSSC). The student-led council will work to identify school safety concerns and develop solutions to address them. To be eligible for the council, students must:


  • Be entering grade 11 for the 2022-2023 school year.

  • Submit a completed application and nomination letter, which must be submitted together

  • to OhioSchoolSafetyCenter@dps.ohio.gov prior to the Friday, May 6, 2022 deadline to be considered.

  • Agree to serve a one-year term and attend monthly virtual meetings and one in-person meeting in Columbus.

A nationwide survey conducted during the COVID-19 pandemic found that nearly half of teachers who responded are considering quitting or transferring jobs, with one of the main reasons being the violence and threats made against them. The results should serve as a wake-up call to policymakers and legislators about the state of education in the U.S., said Eric Anderman, a member of the task force that produced the report and a professor of educational psychology at Ohio State University (OSU). "When 49 percent of teachers nationwide say they desire or are planning to quit or transfer, that's huge," Anderman said. "This is strong national data backing up the disturbing anecdotes and stories we've been hearing from teachers. There's a crisis in the teaching profession."


A former Dayton charter school director is not financially responsible for embezzlement by the school's treasurer, the Ohio Supreme Court said Tuesday in a 4-3 ruling awaited by the parties in the separate prosecution of Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow (ECOT) founder William Lager. The dispute arose from the embezzlement case of Carl Shye, who in 2012 pleaded guilty in federal court and admitted to taking more than $472,000 over several years while serving as treasurer of four charter schools, one of which was New City Community School in Dayton. New City's director was Robert Burns, and in that role he applied for funding from the state to operate the school. The money went into a bank account controlled by Shye, who was appointed by and reported to the New City board, rather than Burns.


The State Board of Education's (SBOE) Teaching, Leading, and Learning (TLL) Committee approved the long-debated Ohio Dyslexia Guidebook during a special committee meeting Thursday. The guidebook will be considered by the full board in May. Board members have been discussing the guidebook for the past three months, hearing impassioned testimony from the public in favor of its passage as well as criticism that it overreaches and disagreements over approaches.


The Ohio Department of Education (ODE) Thursday announced $89 million in Summer Learning and Afterschool Opportunities Grants to 161 community-based partners. The funds will go toward creating or expanding out-of-school services meant to address the academic needs and overall well-being of students most affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. The department received more than 700 applications from across the state for the federally supported COVID-19 relief grants. Awardees will focus on providing direct services for Ohio students who experienced greater disruptions to learning and did not engage consistently in school during the pandemic, ODE said. Organizations that are receiving funds include community centers, colleges and universities, faith-based organizations, arts centers, neighborhood outreach centers and youth activity centers.


ELECTIONS 2022


Hannah News published an updated candidate list of races that are on the May 3 primary election ballot. It does not include General Assembly races, which are still subject to court action due to challenges to maps adopted by the Ohio Redistricting Commission that were struck down by the Ohio Supreme Court.


Democrats accused Republican officeholders Friday of exploiting their elected positions to push a political agenda at the expense of everyday Ohioans. Candidates for attorney general, state auditor and treasurer say GOP misdeeds have cost the state $11 billion in recent years, led by $9 billion in business tax credits.


The "Cost of Corruption" campaign stop outside the Riffe Center included Rep. Jeffrey Crossman (D-Parma) for the Ohio Attorney General's Office, Marion Mayor Scott Schertzer for the Ohio Treasurer's Office, and Nelsonville City Auditor Taylor Sappington for the Auditor of State's Office. They drew support from Columbus City Attorney Zach Klein and Ohio Democratic Party Chairwoman Elizabeth Walters.


Former Cincinnati Mayor and Democratic gubernatorial candidate John Cranley Friday pledged to include a bill that seeks to raise the income eligibility to qualify for Ohio's homestead exemption and tie any increases to inflation in his first state budget if he is elected as governor. Cranley was joined for the news conference by Rep. Dan Troy (D-Willowick), the sponsor of HB207, who said that increasing property taxes are particularly burdensome to aging Ohioans who may be on fixed incomes. He noted that the homestead exemption program was created about 50 years ago to alleviate the tax burden on low-income aging citizens, but the program is not regularly reviewed or adjusted for inflation.


The Ohio Supreme Court has updated "Judicial Votes Count," its comprehensive website about trial and appellate court elections across the state. Along with details about candidates for the primary and general elections, the website serves as a resource for people to better understand the duties of judges and courts in Ohio, according to the Supreme Court. The content includes judicial requirements and responsibilities, distinctions between trial and appellate judges, and a roadmap of the state's court system that illustrates how cases end up at the Supreme Court. Judicial Votes Count also provides candidates an opportunity to share personal background information and their credentials with readers. Information for the public details professional experience, reasons for pursuing a judgeship, and the candidates' views on why they're the most qualified for the position. The website can be found at http://judicialvotescount.ohio.gov.


With just days to go before Ohio's Tuesday, May 3 primary, the state gained more than a thousand poll workers in the past week, according to Secretary of State Frank LaRose. As of Monday, 34,069 Ohioans had signed up to serve as a poll worker in the primary election, meaning Ohio counties are 91.6 percent of the way to reaching the statewide goal, LaRose said. Of that, 25,293 poll workers have completed their training. The minimum number of poll workers needed statewide is 30,295. Also as of Monday, 69 counties have met the minimum number of poll workers needed. In order to ensure a sufficient number of poll workers is available in case of an emergency, LaRose set a goal of 34,846 poll workers statewide, or 115 percent of the minimum.


As campaigns moved into the final week before the May 3 election, a number of nationally known individuals came to Ohio to campaign, including U.S. Ted Cruz (R-TX), who appeared at a number of rallies for Josh Mandel; U.S. Reps. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) and Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA), U.S. Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) and Turning Point Action President Charlie Kirk on behalf of J.D. Vance; and U.S. Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) for Mike Gibbons.


The Club for Growth PAC, a conservative group supporting former Treasurer of State Josh Mandel for U.S. Senate, released a campaign ad criticizing former President Donald Trump for his endorsement of author J.D. Vance. The ad plays audio and video of Vance criticizing Trump and his supporters ahead of the 2016 election. It also mentions that Trump endorsed U.S. Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT) in the past. "How'd that turn out?" a woman in the ad asks.


Author J.D. Vance is now the frontrunner to win Ohio's Republican U.S. Senate primary election, according to a new poll from Fox News. The poll was conducted after former President Donald Trump announced his endorsement of Vance.


Secretary of State Frank LaRose has announced that 182,496 absentee ballots were requested by mail or in person and that 100,809 votes have been cast statewide through Friday, April 22. More Republican ballots (91,365) have been requested than Democratic ballots (87,693), and 3,438 voters requested nonpartisan ballots. More Republican ballots (25,099) have been cast early in person than Democratic ballots (19,789), and 754 nonpartisan ballots have been cast early in person. More Republican ballots (51,332) have been returned and submitted for counting than Democratic ballots (47,558), and 1,919 nonpartisan ballots have been returned and submitted for counting.


Republican gubernatorial candidate Joe Blystone has announced that the Ohio State Highway Patrol (OSHP) is looking into his recent encounter with Gov. Mike DeWine at the Ohio Beef Expo. The two Republicans appeared to engage in a heated exchange of words in a video of the incident, which occurred in late March. Filed weeks after the event, a DeWine spokesperson called the police report "a publicity stunt."


The following endorsements were made over the week:


  • U.S. Senate candidate J.D. Vance announced the endorsement of former candidate Bernie Moreno, who said he would support whoever was endorsed by former President Donald Trump after leaving the race.

  • The Cranley-Fedor campaign announced it received the Toledo Blade's endorsement in the Democratic gubernatorial campaign.

  • Former President Donald Trump endorsed Frank LaRose for Ohio secretary of state and Troy Balderson and Steve Chabot for Congress.

  • The U.S. Senate campaign of Republican J.D. Vance announced the endorsement of Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose.

  • SEIU District 1199 and Pro-choice Ohio endorsed Nina Turner for Congress.

  • The congressional campaign of Craig Riedel announced the endorsements of Reps. Derek Merrin (R-Monclova), Gary Click (R-Vickery), Dick Stein (R-Norwalk), Riordan McClain (R-Upper Sandusky), Jon Cross (R-Kenton), Kevin Miller (R-Newark), Bob Young (R-North Canton), Bill Dean (R-Xenia), Phil Plummer (R-Dayton), Rodney Creech (R-West Alexandria), Adam Holmes (R-Nashport), Reggie Stoltzfus (R-Minerva), Tom Young (R-Centerville), Bill Seitz (R-Cincinnati), Mark Fraizer (R-Newark), Jean Schmidt (R-Loveland), Ron Ferguson (R-Wintersville), Adam Bird (R-Cincinnati), Thomas Hall (R-Middletown), Andrea White (R-Kettering), Marilyn John (R-Shelby), Brian Lampton (R-Fairborn), Cindy Abrams (R-Harrison), Darrell Kick (R-Loudonville), Kyle Koehler (R-Springfield), Laura Lanese (R-Grove City), Mike Loychik (R-Cortland), Scott Oelsalger (R-North Canton), Scott Wiggam (R-Wooster), Kris Jordan (R-Ostrander), Tom Brinkman (R-Cincinnati) and Diane Grendell (R-Chesterland).

  • The U.S. Senate campaign of Tim Ryan announced the endorsement of the Ohio Alliance of Retired Americans.

  • We The People Convention (WTPC) President Tom Zawistowski announced WTPC's endorsement of John Adams for secretary of state.

  • NARAL Pro-Choice America announced its endorsement of Emilia Sykes for Congress.

  • Bob Hagan announced that his wife, Rep. Michele Lepore-Hagan (D-Youngstown), has endorsed his candidacy for Senate. "Lepore-Hagan said she does not believe that a promise to stay out of the house and out from under her feet had anything to do with the endorsement. Hagan was pleased," Hagan tweeted.

  • The congressional campaign of Brad Wenstrup announced the endorsements of the Clermont County Republican Party, Scioto County Republican Party, Buckeye Firearms Association, Ohio Value Voters, Ohio Right to Life and the National Rifle Association (NRA) Institute for Legislative Action (ILA).

  • The U.S. Senate campaign of Matt Dolan announced the endorsement of the Elyria Chronicle-Telegram Editorial Board.

  • The gubernatorial campaign of Nan Whaley announced the endorsement of Congressional Black Caucus Chair U.S. Rep. Joyce Beatty (D-Columbus).

  • The gubernatorial campaign of Jim Renacci announced the endorsement of anti-abortion activist Abby Johnson.

  • The Ohio Environmental Council Action Fund announced its endorsements of Jeff Crossman for attorney general, Chelsea Clark for secretary of state and Taylor Sappington for auditor of state.

  • The Ohio House campaign of Jim Obergefell announced the endorsement of the LGBTQ+ Real Estate Alliance.

ENERGY


The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) says a new proposal out Washington, D.C. to subject future and pending interstate gas lines to an "end-use" test of greenhouse gas' impact on "environmental justice" is a power-grab by the reconfigured Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) comparable to "the most significant regulatory encroachment upon individual liberty and state sovereignty in American history." Represented by the Ohio Attorney General's Office, PUCO's Office of Federal Energy Advocate rejects FERC's March 24 draft policy on natural gas infrastructure and sides with dissenting Trump-appointed Commissioners James Danly and Mark Christie against a 3-2 majority including Commissioner Melissa Clement, a former National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) attorney and Dayton native named by the former president during his final weeks in office.


The Ohio Chamber of Commerce joined JobsOhio and Battelle Memorial Institute Thursday to urge the Biden administration to name the Buckeye State one of four Clean Hydrogen Hubs to be funded by $9.5 billion from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA). Former U.S. Rep. Steve Stivers, Ohio Chamber president, joined Battelle CEO Lewis Von Thaer, Managing Director Matt Cybulski of JobsOhio's Energy and Chemicals division, CEO Kirt Conrad of Stark Area Regional Transit Authority (SARTA) and CEO Angelo Kafantaris of Hyperion Corp., a hydrogen car manufacturer that launched in Columbus 10 years ago and is relocating its headquarters to the capital city after moving to California. The group said Ohio not only has not the shale natural gas for "blue" hydrogen production but also the biomass for renewably driven hydrogen and the generation capacity for "green" H electrolysis. The latter produces no carbon dioxide waste, which otherwise must be sequestered underground, and benefits from low- to zero-carbon electricity as the major input.


ENVIRONMENT


Ohio is the 30th "greenest" state, according to a WalletHub study released ahead of Earth Day -- Friday, April 22 -- that measured states by environmental quality, eco-friendly behaviors and climate-change contributions. It was behind Michigan (13th) and Pennsylvania (24th), but ahead of Indiana (39th), Kentucky (45th) and West Virginia (50th). For the three sub-categories, Ohio was 29th in environmental quality, 35th in eco-friendly behaviors and 24th in climate change contributions.


FEDERAL


Ohio's Republican U.S. Sen. Rob Portman discussed his recent tour around the state with reporters Wednesday, highlighting workforce initiatives and federal legislation he said will further bolster Ohio's economy.


U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) offered his thoughts Wednesday on the current state of the primary race to replace U.S. Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH), saying he is committed to working with anyone the voters choose but has concerns about the Republican candidates. Brown also said he has had a good relationship with Portman, including writing "Buy American" provisions of the infrastructure bill and cooperating on judicial selections. He said of the Republican candidates, "a bunch of millionaires are trying to buy a Senate seat," and said most had been "auditioning for the endorsement of one person." Asked about former President Donald Trump's endorsement of author and venture capitalist J.D. Vance, Brown said he wasn't surprised but didn't know if that would "tip the scales" in Vance's favor for the primary election next Tuesday.


GENERAL ASSEMBLY/STATEHOUSE


Ohio House Democrats Friday opened the application process for individuals seeking to replace Rep. Janine Boyd (D-Cleveland Heights) in House District 9. The deadline was Friday, April 29. While she had announced her resignation on the House floor on April 6, it did not become official until today, Friday, April 22. She will serve in the Biden administration as the new regional director of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).


HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES


The health and human services coalition Advocates for Ohio's Future (AOF) gathered experts Monday for an overview of how Ohioans who need assistance for health care, food or other necessities will be affected by an expected end of pandemic-era benefit policies. Among Monday's topics was the massive eligibility redetermination project facing the state and county governments. Loren Anthes with the Center for Community Solutions and Kelly Vyzral with Children's Defense Fund-Ohio gave an overview of the coming end to continuous health care coverage and the more favorable federal-state cost split for Medicaid expenses. The Biden administration has been renewing the federal pandemic health emergency on a quarterly basis, and has promised states 60 days' notice when it plans to end the emergency. That means the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) will notify states in mid-May if it plans to allow the emergency to expire in mid-July. During the emergency, enhanced federal medical assistance percentage (FMAP) has meant about $300 million per quarter in extra federal Medicaid funds. To get that that money, states had to agree to continuous coverage of Medicaid enrollees, meaning they could not remove anyone from the program unless they died, moved out of state and requested removal. That has driven up Medicaid enrollment by hundreds of thousands of people during the pandemic.


Then on Thursday, AOF outlined for reporters a $331.5 million plan to help Ohioans deal with the approaching end to COVID-19 supports. While the variety of increased federal supports that include increased benefits, waivers and program flexibilities "held families together, helped keep them safe and supported their most basic needs" during the unprecedented pandemic, the loss of these benefits when the public health emergency (PHE) ends -- perhaps as soon as July 15 unless it is extended -- means those same Ohioans face a "COVID cliff" when those additional benefits end.


HIGHER EDUCATION


Capital University announced Sunday it is reinstating its indoor mask mandate amid rising COVID-19 cases. "Capital has experienced an increase in COVID cases over the last few weeks, with several positive cases reported this weekend. This mirrors the overall trend in Ohio, which has seen week-over-week increases throughout April," the university said. Effective immediately, the university is requiring masks to be worn by everyone when inside university buildings through finals. Protocols for graduation ceremonies will be announced.


Ohio State University announced it is launching a new Gene Therapy Institute. Gene therapy techniques treat or prevent disease by replacing or correcting genetic alterations. Researchers are using these new approaches to address what were previously untreatable, or incompletely treated, life-threatening diseases, the university said. Successful translation of gene therapy is a complex process spanning research, product development and production, quality control, clinical trials, regulatory assessment and public-private collaborations. Ohio State said its Gene Therapy Institute will coordinate existing strengths to accelerate the expansion of gene therapies. Related research is being conducted by over 50 faculty across the colleges of medicine, arts and sciences, law, business, veterinary medicine, engineering and pharmacy.


Cleveland State University (CSU) announced Tuesday that President Harlan Sands is leaving his position amid reported disputes with the Board of Trustees about how the university should be run. The Board of Trustees has named Laura Bloomberg, who became CSU's provost and senior vice president for academic affairs in September 2021, as Sand's replacement.


JUDICIAL


Students in Fayette County had a front-row view Wednesday, April 27 to arguments in three appeals cases that have reached the state's top court, the Supreme Court of Ohio. This will be the first session held in 2022 as part of the Off-Site Court Program, which began in 1987. That day, the seven Supreme Court justices traveled to Miami Trace High School in Washington Court House, where public, private and home-schooled students in Fayette County including students from Miami Trace and two other high schools, attended the Court's special session. The visit is part of the Court's ongoing civic education outreach to help students and the public learn more about the judicial branch. The cases heard were the following: State v. Weaver on witness credibility; State v. Schubert on search warrants; and State v. Sanford on speedy trial.


MARIJUANA/HEMP


More than 260,000 patients are registered in the Ohio Medical Marijuana Control Program (MMCP), according to the Ohio Board of Pharmacy (OBP). Specifically, there were 261,453 patients registered through March 2022, OBP said in its updated patient and caregiver numbers document. Of registered patients, 16,882 are military veterans, 18,444 are classified as "indigent" and 1,053 are terminally ill.


Of the 261,453 registered patients, only 137,870 have an active registration and an active recommendation.


MEDICAID/MEDICAID REFORM


Already delayed Medicaid reforms will roll out on a more gradual basis in the second half of the year, rather than with the July 1 launch envisioned by the DeWine administration, the Ohio Department of Medicaid (ODM) said. For people enrolled in Medicaid managed care, this change will mean a delay of three or more months, as ODM now targets the final quarter of 2022 for moving beneficiaries into the new managed care plans. Some incumbent plans are continuing, while some new plans are entering the fold. OhioRISE, the specialized managed care program for children with complex needs, is still set to launch July 1. Then, in October 2022, ODM plans to begin centralized provider credentialing and commence use of a single pharmacy benefit manager (PBM) across managed care plans. Along with implementation of the new managed care plans, the final quarter of 2022 will also bring implementation of the fiscal intermediary, meant to improve the process of claims submission and prior authorization.


NATURAL RESOURCES


Gov. Mike DeWine Friday issued a proclamation recognizing Friday, April 22 through Friday, April 29 as Ohio State Parks Week. "From Maumee Bay to Forked Run, our state parks add so much to our quality of life and make Ohio a great place to live," DeWine said in statement. "I encourage you to celebrate our state parks by taking time to get outside and enjoy a walk along a Storybook Trail with your family, a day on the water with friends, or a hike to some of Ohio's most scenic spots."


PEOPLE


Former state legislator Ron Young announced Thursday that he would retire from his position as a Lake County commissioner effective Wednesday, May 4, after not seeking re-election in November. The news was reported by the (Willoughby) News-Herald. Young was elected to the county office in November 2018, after serving in the Ohio House from 1997 to 2004 and 2011 to 2018. The News-Herald attributed his decision to the 2020 death of his wife Kathy and health issues including leukemia and two COVID-19 diagnoses. It also said Young's future plans include writing a book on religion and speaking engagements.


Michelle Unangst began as the new development director at Policy Matters Ohio in April. Previously, Unangst worked with Policy Matters' close partner, Northern Ohioans for Budget Legislation Equality (NOBLE), as well as neighborhood social service hubs such as the West Side Community House and Merrick House. She assisted the organizations in grant writing, organizational storytelling, budgeting, donor management, program development and coordination, and community-based practice.


POLLS/STUDIES


A new Quinnipiac Poll released Wednesday found that a slight majority of respondents say people should not be required to wear masks on airplanes, though a majority said they would still wear a mask on an airplane. The poll comes after a federal judge in Florida struck down a national mask mandate on airplanes, trains, buses, and other public transportation. Among respondents, 51 percent said people should not be required to wear masks on airplanes, while 46 percent say they should be required. The poll found a large partisan divide, with 84 percent of Republicans and 52 percent of independent voters saying people should not be required to wear masks on airplanes, while 80 percent of Democrats said there should be a requirement.


Nearly half of Quinnipiac Poll respondents (49 percent) think that rising prices in the United States is a crisis, while 47 percent think rising prices is a problem but not a crisis. Only 3 percent think rising prices is not a problem at all. Twenty-two percent of Americans say the economy is either excellent (1 percent) or good (21 percent), while 76 percent say it's either not so good (36 percent) or poor (40 percent).


Quinnipiac respondents gave President Joe Biden a negative 38 percent to 52 percent job approval rating, with 10 percent not offering an opinion. Registered voters gave Biden a negative 40 percent to 51 percent job approval rating with 9 percent not offering an opinion.


PUBLIC SAFETY


Appalachia and farming areas of Western Ohio top DeWine administration awards totaling $1.08 million in Fire Department Equipment Grants announced Monday. The Ohio Department of Commerce's (DOC) Division of State Fire Marshal says grants averaging nearly $10,000 each will go to 113 fire departments in 52 counties dominated by rural and suburban communities. This year's awards are led by a total of $68,811 to Gettysburg, Greenville Twp., New Madison, North Star, Pittsburgh, Rossburg and Union City fire departments in Darke County; $59,969 to Brookside, Cumberland Trail, Holloway, Powhatan Point, Spirit of '76 and Sunset Hts. departments in Belmont County; $59,950 to Brilliant, Empire, Richmond, Tiltonsville, Wintersville and Yorkville departments in Jefferson County; $39,860 to Fearing Twp., Little Muskingum, Newport and Oak Grove departments in Washington County; and $36,195 to Columbus Grove, Glandorf, Miller and Ottoville departments in Putnam County.


REDISTRICTING/REAPPORTIONMENT


The two Democrats on the Ohio Redistricting Commission stood outside a locked House Finance Committee Hearing Room Monday calling for Republicans to hold hearings on passing a new General Assembly redistricting map. Rep. Allison Russo (D-Upper Arlington) and Sen. Vern Sykes (D-Akron) noted that it was the halfway point between when the Ohio Supreme Court struck down the fourth General Assembly redistricting map and the Friday, May 6 deadline by which the Court ordered the commission to draw a new map. The two Democrats had put out a letter Friday that they said they had sent to their Republican colleagues on the commission calling for them to meet at 10 a.m. Monday.


Ohio Auditor Keith Faber Tuesday echoed his Democratic colleagues on the Ohio Redistricting Commission in calling for a meeting to be scheduled as soon as possible in order to meet the Friday, May 6 deadline set by the Ohio Supreme Court. Faber, in a letter to other commission members released Tuesday afternoon by his office, said that scheduling a meeting has been challenging due to Gov. Mike DeWine's COVID-19 diagnosis and other members preparing for the May 3 primary. He noted that the commission has shown the ability to conduct meetings remotely and encouraged that option to be afforded for each meeting moving forward to increase availability and participation of members. He also proposed the commission ask the Ohio Supreme Court to extend the deadline until Friday, May 13, for a new legislative redistricting map; set a firm meeting schedule moving forward, subject to recess, with a virtual option; and deliberate over which redistricting plan will serve as the starting point for the commission's adoption of a plan, including agreeing on a process for commission member to offer formal amendments to any plan adopted subject to amendment, while also providing sufficient time for commission members and the public to review and consider the plan prior to final adoption.


Faber's letter came after the ACLU of Ohio, representing the League of Women Voters of Ohio and the A. Phillip Randolph Institute, asked the Ohio Supreme Court to order members of the commission to show cause as to why they should not be held in contempt for not beginning work on a new redistricting plan after the Court rejected the fourth set of maps drawn by the commission.


The Ohio Redistricting Commission issued a notice Thursday, April 27 that its next meeting will be at 2 p.m. on Wednesday, May 4 in Statehouse Room 313. This came after Co-Chair Speaker Bob Cupp (R-Lima) told the Democratic Co-Chair, Sen. Vernon Sykes (D-Akron), that May 4 was the earliest feasible time in a letter responding to Sykes' earlier request for a meeting as soon as possible.


Sykes and Russo in turn told reporters that waiting until May 4 was "unacceptable" before hosting a public forum on the redistricting process in the Senate's Minority Conference Room. Fair Districts Ohio and Equal Districts Ohio also hosted a rally Thursday outside the Ohio Supreme Court building before attendees marched to the Statehouse.


Speakers at the rally included faith leaders and members of the Ohio Citizens' Redistricting Commission. They called for the commissioners to work on developing "fair" maps, with Rev. Jack Sullivan Jr. of the Ohio Council of Churches calling it a moral and religious effort to ensure that all people and zip codes matter. Akii Butler of the Ohio Student Association discussed the citizens' commission, saying it mirrored what the Ohio Redistricting Commission "was supposed to do." Pastor Derrick Holmes of the AMOS Project questioned the value of his vote under gerrymandered maps.


STATE GOVERNMENT


The Ohio Controlling Board approved all 101 items listed on its Monday agenda, including federal funding from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) to support nonpublic schools, and other requests in support of programs for Ohio youths involved in multiple state agencies. The board approved the Ohio Department of Education's (ODE) request for a waiver of competitive selection for a total of nearly $107 million. The ARPA funds will be used by the department to support 149 nonpublic schools through the American Rescue Plan Emergency Assistance to Nonpublic Schools (ARP EANS) Program. According to the request, only schools that have a "significant" percentage of low-income students are considered eligible for ARP EANS. Rep. Bride Rose Sweeney (D-Cleveland) noted that all of the 149 schools that applied for this funding were approved, though she said 205 schools were eligible for the program.


Another request from ODE totaled $121,250,000. The board approved ODE's request for a waiver of competitive selection to contract with Merit International Inc. to operate the Afterschool Child Enrichment (ACE) educational savings account program. Created in the latest state budget, the program uses Elementary and Secondary Schools Emergency Relief (ESSER) funds to provide access to afterschool enrichment activities for low-income students in an effort to combat learning loss. To qualify, children must be at least six years of age but no older than 18 and have a family income at or below 300 percent of the federal poverty guidelines.


TECHNOLOGY/AEROSPACE


Gov. Mike DeWine announced Tuesday that he had appointed Kirk Herath for the newly created role of cybersecurity strategic advisor, overseeing efforts across agencies including the Adjutant General's office, Ohio Department of Administrative Services (DAS) and Ohio Department of Public Safety (ODPS). Herath is chairman of the CyberOhio advisory board, first established in the Ohio Attorney General's office in 2016 during DeWine's tenure and now part of InnovateOhio. The board will have a "significant role" in advising Herath for his new position. The cybersecurity strategic advisor position was created through Executive Order 2022-07D.


TRANSPORTATION/INFRASTRUCTURE


The Ohio Turnpike and Infrastructure Commission (OTIC) has announced it will invest up to $233 million on toll road modernization, mainline pavement replacement, resurfacing, bridge work and other projects in 2022.


UTILITIES


The Office of Ohio Consumers' Counsel (OCC) says the General Assembly should reform the appointment process for the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) by giving OCC the same nominating authority for commissioner that the consumer advocate has for the Ohio Power Siting Board (OPSB). The consumers' counsel points no further than Gov. Mike DeWine's recent OPSB appointment of former OCC Senior Energy Analyst Gregory Slone, one of three of agency nominees to the siting board this year.

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


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