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Week in Review May 20, 2024

Updated: May 28


Ohio statehouse government affairs week in review January 2023


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


Planned Parenthood and the ACLU of Ohio are using pending litigation on telehealth services for abortion to mount additional challenges to state laws they say run afoul of Ohio's new constitutional protections for abortion and reproductive rights. On Friday, May 10, the organizations announced they've filed a motion to amend their complaint in Planned Parenthood Southwest Ohio Region v. Ohio Department of Health to expand the litigation to address laws allegedly in violation of the new Article I, Section 22 language in the Ohio Constitution, and to invoke the new amendment as justification to upend the telehealth provisions in the original lawsuit. The amended complaint would challenge two restrictions: laws that prohibit "advanced practice clinicians" like advanced practice nurses and midwives from providing medication abortion; and laws that prevent off-label prescribing of mifepristone.


AGRICULTURE


Gov. Mike DeWine, cabinet members and representatives of the Ohio Expo Center & State Fair formally broke ground on the Ohio Showcase Building and a new agriculture building on Monday. "Our vision is to build on what we've had -- build on the greatness of our agriculture, and use this as an even better opportunity to showcase our agriculture, and a better opportunity for our young people, which is really what the fair is all about," DeWine said during an event at the state fairgrounds. "It's also an opportunity to showcase this great state. When people walk in here, we want them -- whether they're from Ohio or another state -- to think, 'Wow, this gives me a real feel for what the state of Ohio is about.'" The projects are part of the long-term master plan recommended by the Expo 2050 Task Force, which DeWine created in July 2019.


ARTS, SPORTS AND ENTERTAINMENT


Thirty-five Ohio arts organizations are receiving a total of $2.7 million from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), according to the Ohio Arts Council (OAC). OAC is receiving $1.3 million of the total, the agency said in a news release.


ATTORNEY GENERAL


Attorney General Dave Yost says Ohio will share in settlements totaling $10.25 million with the country's three largest wireless carriers to resolve an investigation into deceptive and misleading advertising. All 50 state attorneys general sued Cellco d/b/a Verizon Wireless and TracFone, AT&T Mobility and Cricket Wireless, and TMobile USA for allegedly vague "unlimited" data claims, "free" phone offers, and undisclosed conditions on cash incentives to switch carriers.


The Ohio Attorney General's Office has announced a $19.8 million proposed civil penalty against Sawyer Towers' high-rise retirement complex in Columbus for violating state asbestos regulations and exposing workers without their knowledge. Franklin County Common Pleas Court Magistrate Jennnifer Hunt is recommending the penalty for work at the double highrise, 400-unit, affordable housing complex a short distance from Capitol Square. The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) referred the case to the attorney general in March 2023.


Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost marked the weekend shooting death of Euclid Police Officer Jacob Derbin with a moment of silence Monday to open the "Two Days in May" Conference on Victim Assistance. The moment recalled a saying embraced by his office, "Victim Advocates: The First to Listen, the Last to Leave," he said. "Each of you bears witness to the ugliest humanity has to offer," Yost told a packed room at Hilton Columbus Downtown. "Doesn't it make that burden a little lighter when we're all here together?"


Attorney General Dave Yost wasted little time Wednesday in embracing a philosophical shift from "law enforcement" to expanded "police services" with new virtual reality training and other reforms adopted this week by the Ohio Peace Officer Training Commission (OPOTC). Much of the curriculum requires swift action by the General Assembly, says Yost, including replacing "paramilitary" policing with "values-based" decision-making and loosening basic physical fitness standards for peace officer certification.


CHILDREN/FAMILIES


Aligning Ohio regulations to new CDC standards for lead has made hundreds more families eligible for intervention services when testing turns up evidence of lead exposure in blood, Ohio Department of Health Medical Director Dr. Mary DiOrio said Friday at a statewide conference on healthy housing. The Ohio Healthy Homes Network, which focuses on indoor environmental quality and lead hazards in particular and is led by former House Minority Leader Fred Strahorn, held its annual conference at Ohio State University's Fawcett Center, where DiOrio was the morning keynote speaker.


Despite the adoption of a sub bill that was meant to address concerns about equal parenting legislation HB14 (Creech-John), advocacy organizations say they still oppose the bill, arguing it puts parental rights before the safety of children. HB14, a reintroduction of 134-HB508 (West-Creech), would encourage divorced or separated parents to work together and require courts to follow a presumption that a substantially equal parenting plan is in the best interest of the child.


CRIME AND PUNISHMENT


The governor announced $3 million in state funding for drug task forces at 42 law enforcement agencies in 36 counties. Administered by the Office of Criminal Justice Services (OCJS) and supported by Ohio's Drug Interdiction, Disruption, and Reduction Plan (DIDRP), the 2024 Ohio Drug Law Enforcement Fund targets drug trafficking, pharmaceutical diversion and other organized criminal activity around illegal drugs.


EAST PALESTINE DERAILMENT


The DeWine administration announced Wednesday three additional businesses in East Palestine will receive state financial support due to effects of the 2023 Norfolk Southern train derailment. So far, 23 businesses have received more than $3.8 million through the East Palestine Emergency Support Program. Around $1.1 million in program funds remain available out of a total of $5 million.


EDUCATION


The State Board of Education failed by one vote Monday to approve administrative rules that would implement budget bill changes shortening the period a teacher must hold an alternative resident educator license before applying for a professional license. The alternative resident educator license is an accelerated option for getting to the classroom, described on the board website as popular for people considering a second career in teaching. Under HB33 (Edwards), lawmakers reduced from four years to two the time someone must hold the alternative resident educator license before they are eligible to receive the professional educator license. Board member Katie Hofmann objected to an updated version of the rule to implement the HB33 change, 3302-24-19, when it came up for a vote Monday, and was among seven members voting against adoption of the rule versus six in favor.


State Superintendent Paul Craft Monday said conversations continue on the State Board of Education's (SBOE) request for a $10 million General Revenue Fund (GRF) transfer to fill an impending budget shortfall. "I don't have a budget update for you other than to say that a lot of good conversations continue. I still don't have a bill that I can point to, and I think part of that is just, you know, some of the challenges going on right now on the legislative side," Craft told SBOE members. "But I still am incredibly confident, and I'm hopeful that next month I'll have a much more definitive update to give to the board."


The House Higher Education Committee launched a series of hearings Tuesday on colleges and universities' implementation of new literacy instruction standards with testimony from policy research and advocacy organizations that urged lawmakers to stay the course they started on with the budget bill. Tuesday's hearing included testimony from Chad Aldis from the Fordham Institute, Shannon Holston from the National Council on Teacher Quality (NCTQ); Casey Sullivan Taylor of ExcelinEd; and David Brobeck, a literacy research professor at the University of Cincinnati Systems Development and Improvement Center, testifying on behalf of the P20 Literacy Collaborative. The committee Wednesday continued hearings on the implementation of new literacy instruction standards with testimony from the Ohio Department of Education and Workforce (DEW) Steve Dackin and Ohio Department of Higher Education (ODHE) Chancellor Mike Duffey. After the biennial budget HB33 (Edwards) required districts to shift to science of reading instruction, Dackin assured committee members that implementation is "well underway."


Praising Ohio lawmakers for quickly addressing cell phone usage in schools after he raised the issue during his "State of the State" address, Gov. Mike DeWine Wednesday signed HB250 (Miranda-Richardson), which requires school districts to come up with a cell phone policy before the 2025-26 school year.


Ohio Department of Education and Workforce (DEW) Director Stephen Dackin on Wednesday recommended the appointment of Jeremy Varner as deputy director of the DEW Division of Career-Technical Education and Workforce. Varner would join the department from the Iowa Department of Education, where he served as administrator of the Division of Community Colleges and Workforce Preparation, according to a news release from DEW. He has more than 15 years of experience in state education, leading the work of student-centered programs to shape secondary and postsecondary career-technical education and adult education policy. He worked to advance career and academic planning opportunities for students, facilitated pathways development, and expanded training programs.


Applications are now being accepted for the second round of grants for Ohio schools to establish or expand career technical education (CTE) programs, following $67.7 million awarded in grants earlier this year. Funding granted through the program helps schools purchase equipment to help better prepare students to be career-ready upon graduation. This round of applications for the CTE Equipment Program is open currently and will close on Friday, June 28 at 5:00 p.m. More information about the grant program can be found at https://tinyurl.com/5y26ax97


Ohio High School Athletic Association (OHSAA) member schools voted to pass all six proposed revisions to the OHSAA Constitution and Bylaws, OHSAA Executive Director Doug Ute announced Thursday.


ELECTIONS


Secretary of State Frank LaRose Friday announced updated party affiliation data in the Statewide Voter Registration Database based on voter activity from the March primary election. The data shows 8,060,554 registered voters in Ohio. Of those, 817,063 are registered as Democrats, while more than 1.5 million are Republican, and more than 5.7 million are unaffiliated.


Individuals with an Ohio court-ordered name change shouldn't have to list their previous names in a declaration of candidacy for public office, transgender candidates and others told the House Government Oversight Committee on Tuesday. Under current law, a declaration of candidacy filed with the Ohio Secretary of State's Office must include any names previously used in the five years before the date of the filing, with the exception of name changes resulting from marriage. HB467 (Grim-Piccolantonio) would exempt any name change ordered by an Ohio court. "I am one of three candidates who were directly impacted by the name change disclosure, and one of two who were allowed to remain on the ballot," said Arienne Childrey, Democratic candidate in the 84th House District, during proponent testimony on HB467.


Secretary of State Frank LaRose Tuesday issued a directive to Ohio's 88 county boards of elections to begin a confirmation and removal process of non-citizens from the state's voting rolls. LaRose also announced additional steps by his office to "conduct an annual review of the statewide voter registration database to identify persons who appear not to be United States citizens," citing a provision of state law.


Secretary of State Frank LaRose announced Thursday that his office is launching a new pilot program that will use county specific digital dashboards to help local elections officials to identify discrepancies in their voter rolls that need additional review. The program was designed by the secretary of state's Office of Data Analytics and Archives.


ELECTIONS 2024


Voters in the 11 counties that encompass the Sixth Congressional District were able beginning Tuesday to cast an absentee ballot for the upcoming special election to fill out the remaining term of former U.S. Rep. Bill Johnson (R-Marietta), who resigned earlier this year to become president of Youngstown State University. Monday was the deadline for district residents who wish to vote in the election to register to vote. Democrat Michael Kripchak and Republican Michael Rulli are running for the seat. Both are also running in the November election for the seat in the next congressional term. The district has a Republican partisan lean.


The Ohio Elections Commission Thursday fined an outside group that spent $2 million to unseat Republican Ohio House incumbents in the March primaries $200 for having not having a proper disclaimer on campaign materials. Make Liberty Win, a conservative group based out of Texas, had spent money opposing Republican incumbents who had voted along with Democrats to install Jason Stephens (R-Kitts Hill) as House speaker over caucus choice Rep. Derek Merrin (R-Maumee). Four of those incumbents -- Rep. Brett Hillyer (R-Uhrichsville), Rep. Sara Carruthers (R-Hamilton), Rep. Jon Cross (R-Findlay) and Rep. Gail Pavliga (R-Atwater) -- lost their re-election bids in the primary.


ENERGY/UTILITIES


The DeWine administration announced $3.1 million in grants from the Ohio Department of Development's (DOD) Advanced Energy Fund Wednesday for energy efficiency (EE) programs at local businesses, nonprofits, municipalities, educational institutions and other projects to reduce costs, support the environment and improve Ohioans' lives.


Ohio Consumers' Counsel (OCC) Maureen Willis introduced the agency's new lobbyist Tuesday and updated its Governing Board on the raft of legislation and utility litigation currently being heard on Capitol Square. Willis added that she could have long withheld records on FirstEnergy's internal investigation of 133-HB6 (Callender-Wilkin) as early as this week after U.S. District Judge Algenon Marbley declared them public. However, OCC said Thursday FirstEnergy would not be releasing the records as anticipated.


The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) says FirstEnergy's new five-year electric security plan (ESP) will provide customers a 14 percent price drop for default service on June 1 but won't reflect final savings or increases until the company files billing "riders" modified by Wednesday's commission order.


The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) has released its long-awaited overhaul of electric transmission infrastructure, a 1,363-page tome of federal rulemaking that concurring commissioners call "forward-looking and comprehensive" but their dissenting colleague pans as a bureaucratic green energy "policy agenda never passed by Congress." Drawing over 30,000 pages of interested-party comments, FERC's largest-ever docket concluded Monday with the stated goal of long-term regional planning and cost allocation for transmission projects facilitated by state regulators including the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO).


GAMING/GAMBLING


Casinos, racinos and the Ohio Lottery reported strong revenues in March 2024, with all three outperforming their numbers from March 2023, according to data provided by the Ohio Casino Control Commission (OCCC) and Ohio Lottery Commission (OLC).


Sports betting companies would have more time to take their first wager without the risk of losing their license under rule changes proposed by the Ohio Casino Control Commission (OCCC). Commissioners on Wednesday approved the initial filing of rules changing "use it or lose it" provisions for sports betting, which were originally implemented due to concerns that companies would sit on licenses without using them to stifle competition. However, that is not happening because the supply of licenses continues to exceed the demand. Under current rules, a sport betting operator must take a bet within the first year of receiving its license or face revocation.


GENERAL ASSEMBLY/STATEHOUSE


In legislative action, House Health Provider Services Committee reported out SB40 (Roegner), to enter the Dentist and Dental Hygienist Compact; House Ways and Means Committee reported out HB424 (Lear), regarding sales taxes on delivery network services.


GOVERNOR


Gov. Mike DeWine's office said he’s appointing Jennifer Petrella to the Montgomery County Common Pleas Court, Domestic Relations Division, to succeed retired Judge Denise Martin Cross.


The governor signed the following bills:


  • HB161 ELIMINATE SPOUSAL EXCEPTION FOR SEXUAL ASSAULT (MIRANDA J, HILLYER B) To eliminate the spousal exceptions for the offenses of rape, sexual battery, unlawful sexual conduct with a minor, gross sexual imposition, sexual imposition, and importuning and to permit a person to testify against the person's spouse in a prosecution for any of those offenses.

  • HB195 ADAPTIVE MOBILITY DEALER LICENSE (DEMETRIOU S, BRENNAN S) To create an adaptive mobility dealer license.

  • HB269 HARPER MEM HWY, ALS AWARENESS (HOLMES A) To update the name of one organization receiving contributions for the "ALS Awareness" license plate and designate a portion of State Route 60 in Muskingum County as the "Sgt Bradley J. Harper USMC Memorial Highway."

  • SB90 ENTER SOCIAL WORKER COMPACT (ROEGNER K) To enter into the Social Work Licensure Compact.

  • HB250 MILITARY ENLISTMENT, CELL PHONES IN SCHOOLS, ADOPTION GRANTS (MIRANDA J, RICHARDSON T) To amend Sections 265.550, 307.10, and 307.140 of H.B. 33 of the 135th General Assembly to revise the Military Enlistment diploma seal, regarding the High School Financial Literacy Fund and standards and model curriculum for financial literacy, regarding public school cellular telephone policies, regarding grade band specifications for properly certified or licensed teachers, regarding an educational program for parents of preschool children who are blind or visually impaired, to make changes to the Pupil Transportation Pilot Program, to correct a reference from the State Board of Education to the Director of Education and Workforce, to amend the versions of sections 3301.079 and 3314.03 of the Revised Code that are scheduled to take effect January 1, 2025, to continue the changes on and after that date, and to make an appropriation for the Adoption Grant Program.


HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES


Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services (OhioMHAS) Director LeeAnne Cornyn highlighted some of the DeWine's administration's efforts to expand capacity for mental health care Wednesday while speaking at the Columbus Metropolitan Club (CMC). The panel also featured Erika Clark Jones, CEO of the Franklin County Alcohol, Drug and Mental Health (ADAMH) Board and Andriel Ugbomeh, founder and CEO of Healing Without Limits Counseling and Consulting. Charleta Tavares, CEO of PrimaryOne Health, moderated the event.


HIGHER EDUCATION


After significant cuts to need-based aid in prior administrations, the latest state budget restored funding to the Ohio College Opportunity Grant (OCOG), the state's signature need-based aid program for students attending college.


JUDICIAL


Final language in the Ohio Supreme Court rules package submitted recently for legislative approval reaffirms Chief Justice Sharon Kennedy's expressed commitment to the General Assembly's authority in determining the substance of the law and the Court's administrative role in putting judicial statutes into "practice and procedure" -- specifically those governing civil, criminal, appellate and juvenile proceedings.


MARIJUANA/HEMP


The first round of Ohio Department of Commerce (DOC) rules regarding adult-use marijuana cleared the Joint Committee on Agency Rule Review (JCARR) Monday, with JCARR Co-Chair Rep. Jamie Callender (R-Concord) and Ohio Cannabis Coalition (OHCANN) spokesperson Tom Haren praising the action. Callender said the rules represent "one step, and it's a big step" as part of the overall pathway. The next one will be for DOCC to put together its dual-use license applications, which will be available before June 7. It is anticipated those will be available "somewhat earlier" than that, he added. Applications will then be filled out, filed and approved if they meet the standards set Monday.


NATURAL RESOURCES


The largest whitetail deer in Ohio history is at the center of a state probe stirring national attention. The 18-point buck fell on Nov. 9, 2023, in Clinton County near Wilmington on private lands, reads the state indictment of Christopher J. Alexander. An accused serial poacher, the 28-year-old allegedly shot the record whitetail on 50 acres of wood and field owned by Landrum in Oil Union Township, according to the 23 felony and misdemeanor counts -- not 12 miles away near Blanchester, where he allegedly moved the carcass and guts with the assistance of brothers Corey and Zachary Haunert to evade arrest.


The Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) Division of Wildlife confirmed 27 white-tailed deer in Allen, Hardin, Marion, and Wyandot counties have tested positive for Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) since the start of the 2023-24 deer hunting season. The Division of Wildlife tested 2,734 deer during the 2023-24 season. Positive samples were found in Allen (one), Hardin (one), Marion (four), and Wyandot (21) counties. Testing was performed on deer harvested by hunters during the 2023-24 season, as well as on deer taken through targeted removal efforts in February and March. Postseason deer removal is meant to slow the spread of CWD by reducing deer numbers in areas where the disease has been detected.


OHIO HISTORY


Members of the Ohio Historic Preservation Caucus met Thursday at the Ohio History Center to form the bipartisan, bicameral group working to support preservation efforts for historic structures, landmarks and other elements of the state's cultural heritage. It will also seek to quickly mobilize members and convey its positions on various measures and initiatives to each chamber's leadership and other government agencies. Co-chairs are Sens. Theresa Gavarone (R-Bowling Green) and Hearcel Craig (D-Columbus) and Reps. Bob Peterson (RSabina) and Joe Miller (D-Amherst). The caucus structure and mission will be similar to the Congressional Historic Preservation Caucus, which includes Ohio members of Congress from both parties and is co-chaired by U.S. Rep. Mike Turner (R-Centerville).


PENSIONS


Secretary of State Frank LaRose said Friday recent allegations about conduct of State Teachers Retirement System (STRS) board members shared with him by Gov. Mike DeWine will prompt expansion of an existing investigation his office is conducting into potential campaign finance violations.


Michelle Flanigan, a Brunswick Schools teacher, cruised to victory in the State Teachers Retirement System (STRS) Board of Trustees race to succeed outgoing Chair Dale Price. STRS released results of the election Saturday, showing 22,917 votes for Flanigan versus 3,932 for Streetsboro Schools teacher Sandy Smith Fischer and 72 votes for write-in candidates. Flanigan will join the board Sunday, Sept. 1 for a term that runs through August 2028. Price did not seek re-election.


The State Teachers Retirement System Board of Trustees got a new chair Wednesday who just hours earlier was named in a lawsuit in which Attorney General Dave Yost sought his removal for alleged violations of fiduciary duties. The new chair, Rudy Fichtenbaum, strongly denied accusations against him, as did Wade Steen, another trustee targeted by Yost who was only recently restored to the board after judges determined Gov. Mike DeWine wrongly removed him. Dale Price, who was due to leave the board and chair position later this year after he declined to seek re-election to his seat, was removed by a narrow majority, as was Vice Chair Carol Correthers. In his lawsuit, Yost alleged the two trustees "seek to steer as much as 70 percent of STRS's current assets (about $65 billion in teacher pension funds) to a shell company that lacks any indicia of legitimacy and has backdoor ties to Steen and Fichtenbaum themselves." The allegations refer to proposals for the pension fund to invest with QED Management. The case is assigned to Franklin County Common Pleas Judge Karen Phipps. At Thursday’s portion of the meeting, board members voted to keep Executive Director William Neville on leave through June, and have Acting Director Lynn Hoover named chief of staff for the last six months of 2024. The director has been on leave for several months following allegations of misconduct, though outside investigators largely could not corroborate complaints lodged against him anonymously.


PEOPLE


The Taft Stettinius & Hollister law firm announced Monday that former HUD Secretary and U.S. Rep. Marcia Fudge is joining the firm as a partner and chair of public policy. The firm said Fudge will dedicate "a portion of her time to the firm's ongoing efforts to combat the harmful effects of forever chemicals."


STATE GOVERNMENT


Following the completion of the project that it was authorized to administer, the Ohio Business Gateway (OBG) Steering Committee should be eliminated, the Ohio Department of Taxation said in testimony submitted Tuesday to the Sunset Review Committee. Adam Schwiebert, legislative director of the Department of Taxation, said that following the completion of the OBG modernization project in 2018, the Steering Committee's activity has largely ceased, and the committee has not convened in several years.


TAXATION


Members of the House Ways and Means Committee Tuesday debated a proposed elimination of the state's income tax with proponent Donovan O'Neil, who argued that despite the efforts of the General Assembly to get the state's number of tax brackets down to two, Ohio will still face barriers compared to other states with no income tax at all. O'Neil, representing Americans for Prosperity-Ohio, said that other states "are moving faster and pursing bolder reforms," with nine states now with no state income tax, 14 states with a flat income tax and 10 states moving toward zero income taxes.


TRANSPORTATION/INFRASTRUCTURE


The DeWine administration announced Friday, May 10 that the Brent Spence Bridge Corridor project has received environmental approval from the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), enabling it to move to design and construction phases.

After significant cuts to need-based aid in prior administrations, the latest state budget restored funding to the Ohio College Opportunity Grant (OCOG), the state's signature need-based aid program for students attending college.

 



 

 

 

[Story originally published in The Hannah Report. Copyright 2023 Hannah News Service, Inc.]



 



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