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.
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As Ohio's population continues to age, Ohio's foodbanks are experiencing increasing demand for help with food from seniors. That trend is reflected in the newest research released recently by Feeding America, The State of Senior Hunger, which found that food insecurity among seniors and older adults across the country remains more prevalent than prior to the Great Recession. Ohio's rate of food insecurity among seniors age 60 and older was 7.8 percent, compared to 7.7 percent nationally. The research found that seniors are nearly four times more likely to be food insecure if they are renters rather than homeowners, and more than twice as likely to be food insecure if they have grandchildren in the home. Additionally, one in four seniors and older adults with disabilities are food insecure.
Legislation that would create a Statewide Watershed Planning and Management Program drew proponent testimony from some of Ohio's major agricultural and environmental groups on Wednesday. Ohio Farm Bureau Federation (OFBF) State Policy Director Tony Seegers told the Senate Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee that SB2 (Peterson-Dolan) would provide coordinators to assist soil and water conservation districts (SWCD) in identifying water quality impairments.
ARTS, SPORTS AND ENTERTAINMENT
The 86th National Football League (NFL) Draft will take place in Cleveland, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell announced Wednesday. Gov. Mike DeWine and Lt. Gov. Jon Husted both issued statements praising the NFL for its decision.
The Senate is aiming to unveil its substitute version of budget bill HB166 (Oelslager) by Monday, June 3 or Tuesday, June 4, according to Senate Republican Caucus spokesperson John Fortney. Fortney emphasized that timeframe is a "rough estimate," and Senate Finance Committee Chairman Matt Dolan (R-Chagrin Falls) didn't offer reporters any timeframe on the sub bill. Dolan did say the committee will hold more hearings after the sub bill is accepted and will have an omnibus amendment after that. The Senate Finance Committee already has public testimony on HB166 scheduled through Wednesday, May 29.
Witnesses turned out to testify before the full Senate Finance Committee on the provisions in the proposed FY20-21 budget, HB166 (Oelslager), dealing with higher education and taxation and general government.
Ohioans involved in the state's film industry filled a Senate hearing room Thursday during budget testimony on HB166 (Oelslager) to urge preservation and expansion of the Motion Picture Tax Credit, saying the House's plan to eliminate it will dry up an industry that's generating jobs and keeping young talent here. The Senate has already made its feelings on the topic known, with a recent unanimous vote to expand funding for the credit in SB37 (Schuring).
Ohio business leaders voiced confidence after the year's first quarter in a survey recently released by the Ohio Chamber of Commerce, following expectations of growth in the previous "Prosperity Pulse" report. The previous report, on 2018's quarter four, had the chamber's "Prosperity Pulse" rating at an "above average" 103.5. That sharply rebounded in the first quarter of 2019 to 121.8, though that is still below the 2018 third quarter's record high of 139.9. The rating is based on anticipated profits, hiring, available positions, capital expenditures and overall business outlook.
Individuals representing businesses, unions, educators, human rights groups, religious groups, local governments and other entities were among the more than 200 proponents providing testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday to support SB11 (Antonio), which would prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity or expression.
CRIME AND PUNISHMENT
Bipartisan promotion continued Wednesday for SB3 (Eklund-O'Brien), a drug sentencing reform bill described as the best parts of 2018's failed Issue 1, with Senate President Larry Obhof (R-Medina), Senate Judiciary Ranking Member Cecil Thomas (D-Cincinnati), Franklin County Prosecutor Ron O'Brien and Columbus City Attorney Zach Klein offering their perspectives to the Columbus Metropolitan Club.
The Ohio Developmental Disabilities Council (DD Council) is recruiting new members for the following categories:
Individual with a developmental disability; parent or guardian of a child with a developmental disability; or a representative from a private non-profit organization serving persons with developmental disabilities. Applications may be submitted at https://tinyurl.com/y3o7wyzk . The deadline to apply is Friday, May 31.
Gov. Mike DeWine's administration announced Monday the approval of assistance for three projects expected to create 754 new jobs and retain 1,091 jobs statewide. During its monthly meeting, the Ohio Tax Credit Authority (TCA) reviewed economic development proposals brought by JobsOhio and its regional partners. Collectively, the projects are expected to result in more than $34 million in new payroll and spur more than $16 million in investments across Ohio.
State Superintendent of Public Instruction Paolo DeMaria announced recently 41 designations for the Purple Star, which recognizes Ohio schools' commitment to serving military-connected students and families.
The Ohio departments of education and mental health and addiction services have issued a voluntary Request for Information (RFI) to better understand the status of kindergarten through grade 12 drug prevention education across the state. According to the agencies, the findings will be used to inform future investments and opportunities aimed at helping communities build and leverage partnerships to deploy prevention education practices. Ohio schools, districts and communities are encouraged to respond to the RFI by Wednesday, June 5. Questions and inquiries regarding the RFI are due by Wednesday, May 22. The RFI can be found online at https://tinyurl.com/y4wmycnb .
Senators and witnesses critiqued potential new graduation frameworks at a hearing Wednesday that featured repeated calls for a pullback from high-stakes testing requirements and also concerns that testing alternatives might not be consistently applied. Sen. Peggy Lehner (R-Kettering), chair of the Senate Education Committee, called a hearing Wednesday to air the proposals as potential budget amendments. She said lawmakers need to resolve the graduation requirement question before the next school year starts. The State Board of Education endorsed a graduation plan in November while the Alliance for High Quality Education (AHQE), Fordham Institute and Ohio Excels recently joined to meld their own ideas into one plan.
Secretary of State Frank LaRose Tuesday announced the winner of the 'I Voted' sticker design contest. The winning design used the "I" in OHIO to state "I VOTED." Emily Legg's design can be found online at https://tinyurl.com/y2vcptom>View the Finalists.
Former Rep. Dan Ramos (D-Lorain) announced on social media this week that he is running for Lorain mayor. Ramos is seeking the seat currently held by Mayor Chase Ritenauer, who will resign at the end of the month to take a job in another state. Ritenauer had just won a primary in a bid for re-election.
Ohio's unemployment rate dropped to 4.3 percent in April, down from 4.4 percent in March, according to data released Friday by the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS). The state added 1,400 jobs, from a revised 5,595,300 in March to 5,596,700 in April. The number of unemployed workers also fell, from March's 258,000 to 247,000 in April. The number of unemployed workers has decreased by 15,000 in the past 12 months, and the April 2018 unemployment rate was 4.6 percent.
Currently embroiled in a protracted debate over "clean-air" subsidies in HB6 (Callender-Wilkin), the chairman of the House Energy and Natural Resources Committee introduced separate legislation this week to "reform and modernize" the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) and the Ohio Consumers' Counsel (OCC). That is the sum of placeholder HB246, a one-sentence bill which Chairman Nino Vitale (R-Urbana) hopes will spur substantive talks between lawmakers and energy stakeholders on the future of PUCO and OCC.
The House Energy and Natural Resources Committee made substantial changes to HB6 (Callender-Wilkin) in a substitute bill Wednesday and then passed it Thursday along party lines. The new version removes wind, solar, gas- and clean coal-fired generators as potential recipients of "clean air" subsidies, leaving only FirstEnergy Solutions' two nuclear plants as beneficiaries. It also repeals Ohio's renewable energy standards and adds "national security" subsidies for plants of the Ohio Valley Electric Corporation.
U.S. Secretary of Energy Rick Perry and Gov. Mike DeWine have been in contact with each other regarding the Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion Plant, a shuttered nuclear enrichment facility just south of Piketon. Concerns over detection of some radioactive material led to a recent temporary closure of a middle school in Piketon, and Perry said Monday the Department of Energy (DOE) would continue to work closely with state and local officials to ensure community health and safety.
Veteran and fraternal organizations are not equipped to handle sports gambling operations, Penn National Gaming Senior Vice President of Public Affairs and Government Relations Eric Schippers said Thursday. "We believe it is critical that the operation of sports betting be limited to licensed casino and racetrack operators. Ohio's gaming operators have invested billions of dollars in their brick-and-mortar establishments in this state and are major drivers of job creation and economic activity in our host communities. We have well-established, rigorous compliance and responsible gaming protocols in place to ensure a safe wagering environment for consumers," Schippers told members of the House Finance Committee during proponent testimony on HB194 (Greenspan-Kelly).
Gov. Mike DeWine Wednesday issued Executive Order (EO) 2019-17D providing for the immediate amendment of Ohio State Racing Commission rules to authorize the use of a microchip to identify horses racing in the state. The EO explains that current Ohio rules "do not permit horses with only a microchip for identification to race in Ohio." However, the EO goes on to note that "a large influx of horses ... only have a microchip for identification" these days.
The last round of four House priority bills introduced with bipartisan sponsors was rolled out by House Speaker Larry Householder (R-Glenford) and Assistant Minority Leader Kristin Boggs (D-Columbus) on Tuesday. They include:
- HB1 (Plummer-Hicks-Hudson) expands access to treatment in lieu of conviction and sealing of low-level, non-violent, non-sex offenses.
- HB5 (Hillyer-Leland) creates a Public Defender State Loan Repayment Program to recruit and retain attorneys to serve as public defenders, similar to what Ohio does to encourage physicians, dentists and dental hygienists to serve in areas facing a shortage of these professionals.
- HB9 (Jones-Sweeney) addresses higher education degree attainment, allowing students to transfer general education course credits from one public university to another; allowing students who pay for a final semester of coursework but cannot make it into that final course to have the course fee waived once the student is able to take that course; and requires institutions of higher education to identify students who have not completed a degree to find out if the student is eligible for an associate's degree or certificate and reach out to that student.
- HB12 (Manning-West) creates the Ohio Children's Behavioral Health Network, a stakeholder group that will study and help develop recommendations for a comprehensive system of programs that will support children and their families in facilitating health, social, emotional, and behavioral development. The learning network will be integrated, coordinated and deployed across the state engaging cross-sector stakeholders with a focus on prevention.
Only one bill -- HB15 -- is yet to come. Householder said the bill will be a reintroduction of Rep. Dave Greenspan's (R-Westlake) 132-HB360, an anti-bullying and hazing bill. He said he is unsure whether it will have bipartisan support.
The other bill in the first 15 is HB6 (Callender-Wilkin), an energy bill introduced in April by House Republicans without a bipartisan co-sponsor.
Much of the House Health Committee's Tuesday agenda focused on legislation identified by Democratic and Republican leadership as priority efforts to address issues related to the opioid crisis beyond addiction treatment and recovery. The committee heard sponsor testimony on four priority bills: HB8 (Galonski-Manchester), regarding foster care: HB14 (Baldridge-Boyd), regarding kinship care; HB11 (Manning-Howse), regarding prenatal care; and HB10 (Brown-Stoltzfus), to establish a Governor's Office of Drug Policy.
Tuesday's testimony before the Sunset Review Committee included the Ohio Commission on Minority Health and three panels created in statute that were never used or have been suspended by the Ohio Department of Insurance, but which the agency asked to keep in case they are needed.
The House quickly replaced Tim Schaffer (R-Lancaster) during Wednesday's session, picking businessman Jeff LaRe to fill the 77th House District after Schaffer took a Senate seat earlier this month. LaRe currently serves as the executive vice president of The Whitestone Group, where he has worked since 2000. Whitestone is a nationwide provider of asset protection and security services. Prior to his work there, he was an Ohio Peace Officer Training Academy (OPOTA) certified peace officer and an OPOTA certified corrections officer at the Fairfield County
The House also passed two bills dealing with towing practices: HB172 (Hillyer) passed 63-32 and HB113 (Patton) passed 93-1.
Seven Democrats expressed interest in the open 63rd House District seat by Friday's deadline, according to the House Democratic Caucus. The seat became vacant after Rep. Glenn Homes (D-McDonald) resigned to take an appointment to the Ohio Parole Board earlier this month. According to the caucus, the following people applied to be considered for the seat: Barry Profato, Niles councilman; Kathy DiCristofaro, chairwoman of the Ohio Democratic Women's Caucus; Jack Simon, director of governmental affairs and special projects coordinator for the Trumbull County engineer's office; Gil Blair, Weathersfield Township trustee and Warren assistant law director; Thomas Harwood, former president of the Trumbull County Senior Advisory Board; Melissa Wasser, policy analyst at the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press; and David Detec, an attorney and member of the Western Reserve Port Authority.
The Capitol Square Review and Advisory Board (CSRAB) heard updates on renovations and repairs to the Statehouse garage during its Thursday meeting, as well as on a speaker series to be held annually in the Atrium, starting next month. Laura Battocletti, executive director of CSRAB, told the board that they are on day 10 of the Statehouse garage project, with 470 more to go.
In other action, the House Insurance Committee reported out HB80 (Oelslager), the Bureau of Workers' Comp budget; the House Transportation and Public Safety Committee reported out license plate bill HB201 (Jones) and highway designation bill HB225 (Hoops); the Senate Local Government, Public Safety and Veterans Affairs Committee reported out SB68 (Williams) which addresses driver's license reinstatement; the Senate Ways and Means Committee reported out SB95 (Kunze-Peterson) which addresses state and local tax inducements for businesses making investments; the House Armed Services and Veterans Affairs Committee reported out SB77 (Hoagland-Williams) which designates June 12 as "Women Veterans' Day"; the House Commerce and Labor Committee reported out HB137 (Kelly-Vitale) which deals with employee earnings and deductions.
Following the release of a report detailing the sexual abuse of at least 177 former Ohio State University (OSU) students by the late Dr. Richard Strauss, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine Monday signed an executive order establishing a working group that will examine an unredacted version of the report to determine whether the State Medical Board of Ohio mishandled allegations against Strauss. DeWine is also calling on the Legislature to make changes to the statute of limitations for sexual crimes, including eliminating the statute of limitations for rape.
Gov. Mike DeWine Thursday announced the appointment of James Clinkscale to serve in the newly created position of state ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) coordinator to help establish Ohio as a disability inclusion state and model employer of individuals with disabilities.
Appointments made during the week include the following:
- Ann H. Womer Benjamin of Aurora (Portage County) and David A. Kosanovic of Gahanna (Franklin County) reappointed to the Ohio Tuition Trust Authority Investment Board for terms beginning Jan. 31, 2019 and ending Jan. 30, 2023.
- Patricia H. Haines of Xenia (Greene County) and Lisa Zimmerman of Marysville (Union County) reappointed to the Commercial Dog Breeding Advisory Board for terms beginning March 13, 2019 and ending March 12, 2022.
- James S. Aslanides of Coshocton (Coshocton County) and Gregory J. New of Beloit (Mahoning County) reappointed to the Technical Advisory Council on Oil and Gas for terms beginning Feb. 1, 2019 and ending Jan. 31, 2022.
- Thomas E. Stewart of Lancaster (Fairfield County) to the Technical Advisory Council on Oil and Gas for a term beginning May 21, 2019 and ending Jan. 31, 2020.
- Jonathan B. Feibel of Bexley (Franklin County) and Harish Kakarala of Akron (Summit County) to the State Medical Board for terms beginning May 21, 2019 and ending March 18, 2024.
- Robert C. Smith of Westlake (Cuyahoga County) to the Broadcast Educational Media Commission for a term beginning July 1, 2019 and ending June 30, 2023, and to serve as chairperson when his term commences.
- Seth Begeman of Wickliffe (Lake County) to the Waterways Safety Council for a term beginning May 21, 2019 and ending Jan. 31, 2024.
- Anand Shah of Centerville (Montgomery County) to serve as a student member on the Ohio State University Board of Trustees for a term beginning May 21, 2019 and ending May 13, 2021.
- Leah R. Fishman of Bowling Green (Wood County) to serve as a student member on the Bowling Green State University Board of Trustees for a term beginning May 21, 2019 and ending May 16, 2020.
A recent study conducted by the Ohio State University and published in the Journal of Great Lakes Research found that harmful algal blooms occurring in Lake Erie's Central Basin produce cyanobacteria, one variation of which can attack the human brain, while others can damage the liver, kidneys and reproductive system. Researchers raised concerns that the most harmful bacteria are not detected through routine water-safety monitoring.
Ohio House Democrats offered a slate of firearm-related proposals to increase community safety Wednesday, including requiring safe storage in homes with children and enacting more stringent background check requirements and creating a process for firearm access to temporarily be restricted in extreme risk situations while maintaining due process. Members, particularly House Federalism Ranking Member Adam Miller (D-Columbus), also raised concerns about provisions of HB178 (Hood-Brinkman) in advance of opponent testimony on the bill that would eliminate licensure requirements for concealed carry and expand it beyond handguns.
Opponents of HB178 (Hood-Brinkman) told the House Federalism Committee Wednesday that the law would make Ohioans less safe and increase gun violence throughout the state. HB178 would allow individuals to carry concealed weapons without a concealed handgun license (CHL); would remove an armed individual's duty to notify a law enforcement officer that they are carrying a deadly weapon during police interactions; and expand the weapons covered by CHL permits to include blades and all other deadly weapons not otherwise prohibited by law. Opponents included the Buckeye State Sheriffs' Association, the Ohio Prosecuting Attorneys Association and other groups such as Moms Demand Action, League of Women Voters and the Ohio Coalition against Gun Violence.
HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES
Ohio Department of Health (ODH) Director Dr. Amy Acton Thursday announced a one-time commitment of $650,000 in state funding to be shared with local health departments to combat the ongoing hepatitis A outbreak in the state. "It's a new day in public health in Ohio as these funds are targeted to help local health departments prevent and control hepatitis A through education, surveillance and vaccination of high-risk groups in our state," Acton said in a prepared statement. "We must work together at the state and local level to protect and improve the health of all Ohioans."
Ohio State University (OSU) Friday released a report from independent investigators that details acts of sexual abuse against at least 177 former students by Dr. Richard Strauss during his employment with the university from 1978 to 1998. Strauss died in 2005. The report concludes that university personnel at the time had knowledge of complaints and concerns about Strauss' conduct as early as 1979 but failed to investigate or act meaningfully. In 1996, Ohio State removed Strauss from his role as a physician in both the Department of Athletics and Student Health Services. His actions were reported to the State Medical Board of Ohio that same year. The report found that the university failed to report Strauss' conduct to law enforcement. He was allowed to voluntarily retire in 1998 with emeritus status.
Following in the footsteps of other Methodist universities in Ohio, the University of Mount Union announced this week it is ending its affiliation with the United Methodist Church following its decision to continue disallowing LGBTQ clergy and marriages. Alliance-based Mount Union joins Baldwin-Wallace University in ending its affiliation, while Ohio Wesleyan University and Otterbein University have taken steps to reconsider their relationship following the February decision of the church's general conference.
Ohio Supreme Court Chief Justice Maureen O'Connor has received the Ohio Bar Medal from the Ohio State Bar Association (OSBA) for lifetime achievement including access to justice, bail reform and specialized drug dockets.
The Ohio Board of Pharmacy (OBP) issued another medical marijuana dispensary certificate of operation on Thursday. Bloom Medicinals LLC, located at 382 Blackbrook Rd. in Painesville Township (Lake County), is the 17th dispensary that OBP has certified to operate in Ohio so far.
The Southwest Ohio region, which before last week lacked any state-approved medical marijuana dispensaries, now has a second facility for patients to legally purchase cannabis. The Ohio Board of Pharmacy (OBP) on Wednesday awarded a certificate of operation to Mad River Remedies, located at 5604 Airway Rd. in Riverside (Montgomery County).
The Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) announced Friday the creation of a new task force designed to evaluate Ohio's state park system. The Blue Ribbon Panel on Ohio's State Parks will "complete a comprehensive customer experience review" of Ohio's 75 state parks, according to an ODNR news release. Recommendations from the review will be used to improve management, incorporate visitor needs and interests and improve overall visitor experience.
There is still time for high school students to register for "Camp Canopy," which is held from Sunday, June 9 through Friday, June 14, according to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) Division of Forestry. For more information about Camp Canopy, visit their website at campcanopy.com. Camp costs $375 per student, and some scholarship funding is available.
Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) Director Mary Mertz has named Glen Cobb as chief of the Division of Parks and Watercraft.
The Blue Ribbon Panel on Ohio's State Parks at the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) got to work Monday looking at ways to improve Ohio's 75 state parks, including by examining how the public already shares its opinions on the park system. ODNR Director Mary Mertz opened up the meeting at ODNR's headquarters in Columbus, telling the task force that the agency wanted to get a baseline of what people think of the parks and where the state could do better. She said some recommendations from the task force will likely involve capital improvements, which will need to be ready for ODNR to submit its capital request in September, though she said she wants the recommendations to look at more than just capital needs.
The League of Women Voters of Ohio's (LWVO) recent "Inspire! Gala" celebrated the organization's 100th anniversary by honoring local leagues, members and partner organizations and by presenting a series of LWVO Trailblazer Awards. According to LWVO, "This year's honorees have embodied the league's mission to 'Make Democracy Work.'" Among those recognized were Peg Rosenfield, Joan Lawrence and Mary Lazarus.
Jordan Plottner, who has served on the staff at the Ohio House of Representatives for the last 10 years, most recently as the communications director for the House Democratic Caucus, has resigned to take a job as a senior marketing and communications consultant with the Ohio Colleges of Medicine's Government Resource Center.
The Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA) announced the appointment of Eric D. Fingerhut, currently the president and chief executive officer (CEO) of Hillel International, as JFNA's next president and CEO. Fingerhut is a former state senator, U.S. representative and chancellor here in Ohio.
Mark T. Gavin, Sr. has joined the ACLU of Ohio as campaigns director. In this new senior-level role, he will lead a new staff team focused on building people power, and growing and mobilizing the ACLU of Ohio's grassroots networks, especially working to achieve the ACLU's criminal justice reform goals, the organization said.
Democrats were energized about their prospects for 2020 at the Ohio Democratic Party's (ODP) Legacy Dinner Friday, with U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) among those saying their efforts were bolstered by a recent federal decision that the state's congressional map was unconstitutional.
Mike Gibbons, a Northeast Ohio businessman who lost a primary bid for U.S. Senate against Jim Renacci last year, announced this week that he is forming Ohio Strong Action. Gibbons said Ohio Strong Action will be "an independent organization dedicated to promoting free enterprise, limited government, and a return to our nation's founding principles." He said that it will build on the grassroots efforts of his campaign and will recruit activist leaders around the state and work to support conservative candidates at every level.
The Controlling Board approved all items on its agenda at its Monday meeting despite two holds, one from Sen. Jay Hottinger (R-Newark) regarding the Ohio Lottery Commission's renewal of its no-bid contract with vendor Intralot, and one from Rep. Jack Cera (D-Bellaire) regarding approval of a "blanket waiver" from the Department of Administrative Services (DAS).
The Ohio Facilities Construction Commission (OFCC) Thursday recognized the over two decades of public service of Executive Director David Williamson at his last meeting ahead of his retirement on June 1. In addition to bringing forth a resolution recognizing Williamson's service, OFCC Chair Kim Murnieks presented Williamson a proclamation signed by Gov. Mike DeWine and Lt. Gov. Jon Husted thanking him for his work at both OFCC and his past posts at the Ohio Department of Commerce and the Ohio Board of Cosmetology. He has been with OFCC for the past three and a half years.
Ervan D. Rodgers II, Ohio's new chief information officer (CIO), was named a "State Up & Comer of the Year" by State News Group. The organization's StateScoop Awards are presented each year to projects and leaders driving state government technology and cybersecurity.
Ohio joined 46 other states Thursday in urging Congress to amend the decades-old Communications Decency Act (CDA) so that state and local authorities can protect Ohioans and take action against e-criminals. The 1996 CDA sought to encourage growth of the Internet through free expression, particularly on online message boards. Its intent was to allow companies sponsoring message boards to remain immune to repercussions from inappropriate posts. Due to a misinterpretation of Section 230 of the act, however, some federal court opinions have interpreted it so broadly that individuals and services that knowingly aid and profit from illegal activity have evaded prosecution, the Ohio Attorney General's Office says.
The Ohio Consumers' Counsel (OCC) Governing Board responded to placeholder HB246's (Vitale) call to "modernize" the agency and the Public Utiliti