Week In Review - May 26, 2020



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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


Language in the House-passed version of SB1 (McColley-Roegner) that aims to limit the Ohio Department of Health (ODH) director's pandemic-related orders may inadvertently hamper the agency's ability to enforce orders against abortion providers, according to a Columbus-based anti-abortion organization.


In a letter to Senate President Larry Obhof (R-Medina), Greater Columbus Right to Life Executive Director Beth Vanderkooi wrote, "While the current political context that has prompted the bill is obvious and I have a strong appreciation for the balance of powers between branches of government, I am concerned that 3701.13 is written so broadly that it will have unintended consequences when it comes to the proper and normal function of the ODH, specifically the director's ability to take action against licensed and permitted entities which have violated Ohio law."


AGRICULTURE


The Ohio Expositions Commission voted unanimously Thursday, May 21 to cancel the 2020 Ohio State Fair due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Members of the commission expressed concern for public health, as well as the financial feasibility of hosting a fair that would adhere to social distancing protocols. The 2020 Ohio State Fair had originally been scheduled to take place from Wednesday, July 29 through Sunday, Aug. 9 in Columbus.


Legislation seeking to modernize county fair laws received its first hearing in the House Agriculture and Rural Development Committee on Wednesday, with Rep. Don Jones (R-Freeport) saying HB665 (Jones-Wilkin) will update sections of the Ohio Revised Code that haven't been touched since the 1950s. "This bill will increase the payment from the county to the agricultural society from $800 to $1,600. It will remove the requirement that any income from alcohol sales be used to pay insurance payments, allowing for more flexibility," Jones said.


The House agriculture committee also heard from Bill Prowant and J.R. Woods of the Greater Ohio Showmen's Association (GOSA), who argued that 2020 county fairs should go on as scheduled without restrictions on the number of rides or attendees, despite the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.


BALLOT ISSUES


U.S. District Court Judge Edmund Sargus Tuesday ordered the state to accept signatures for ballot issues that were collected electronically and delayed the filing deadline for statewide issues from Wednesday July 1 to Friday, July 31. Secretary of State Frank LaRose has indicated he will appeal. The ruling came in response to a lawsuit joined by Ohioans for Secure and Fair Elections (SAFE), which is circulating a proposed constitutional amendment that would make changes to Ohio election laws, and Ohioans for Raising the Wage, which is circulating an amendment that would raise Ohio's minimum wage to $13 an hour by 2025.


FY21-22 CAPITAL APPROPRIATIONS


Rep. Derek Merrin (R-Monclova) introduced HB670 as the House version of the capital reappropriations bill with support from House Speaker Larry Householder (R-Glenford), focused on projects related to “health, safety and jobs.” This smaller package stands in contrast to plans announced by Senate Finance Committee Chair Sen. Matt Dolan (R-Chagrin Falls) to pursue the larger reappropriations bill agreed to by the Legislature and DeWine administration before the pandemic hit.


FY20-21 BUDGET


The DeWine administration isn't yet ordering cuts to GRF budgets for FY21, as it did for the current fiscal year, but wants agencies to keep a share of their budgeted spending in reserve in anticipation of further revenue shortfalls. In recent guidance, the Office of Budget and Management (OBM) told agencies to identify money that can go into a holding account for 20 percent of projected GRF spending on purchased personal services, supplies and maintenance, equipment and subsidies. Some line items, such as those for debt service and property tax reimbursements, are exempt. "Agencies will have the flexibility to determine which of their non-exempted line items should contribute a disproportionately smaller or larger share to achieve the holding target," the memo states.


BUSINESS/CORPORATE


Former Ohio Supreme Court Justice Evelyn Lundberg Stratton, testifying on behalf of the Ohio Council of Retail Merchants, voiced support for HB606 (Grendell) in the House Civil Justice Committee Tuesday, saying the bill would offer greater immunity against lawsuits regarding COVID-19 transmission not only for businesses, but also for nonprofit organizations.


CENSUS


Southeast and Appalachian Ohio mayors had a number of plans to promote full participation in the 2020 U.S. Census despite limits on broadband access for many residents -- using the Internet at libraries, schools and fast food restaurants, personal appearances on local radio, door-to-door outreach and even setting up a Ferris wheel in Athens with free rides for those who had completed the census. Then the coronavirus pandemic hit, and many of those plans were no longer available.


Ohio's self-response rate for the 2020 Census has reached 64.8 percent, up from 62.5 percent a week ago. The national response rate has reached 59.6 percent, compared to 57.3 percent last Monday. In Ohio, Harrison and Ottawa counties have the lowest self-response rate in the state at 50.5 percent and 45.5 percent, respectively. Meanwhile Medina and Geauga counties have the highest self-response rates at 77.3 percent and 75.2 percent, respectively.


CHILDREN/FAMILIES


The DeWine administration convened a new workgroup Monday to devise recommendations on behavioral health care for children, per legislation creating the panel that was signed into law in December. The Children's Behavioral Health Prevention Network Stakeholder Group, created in HB12 (D. Manning-West), brings together state officials and representatives of health and education organizations to plan for "a comprehensive learning network to support young children and their families in facilitating social, emotional and behavioral development and to seek to reduce behavioral health disparities among young children." LeeAnne Cornyn, director of the Office of Children's Initiatives for Gov. Mike DeWine, leads the group.


The governor's Children Services Transformation Advisory Council restarted its efforts Wednesday after being sidelined by the COVID-19 pandemic with a virtual meeting outlining a roadmap for completing discussion of the remaining four focus areas on the way to preparing final recommendations by September. The group was created by Gov. Mike DeWine last November to review the state's foster care system and recommend ways to improve it for the children and families.


CORONAVIRUS


Coronavirus case statistics reported by the Ohio Department of Health over the week increased from 26,357 cases and 1,534 deaths on Thursday, May 14 to 30,167 cases and 1,836 deaths on Thursday, May 21.


Responding to reports and viral images of bar owners and patrons ignoring COVID-19 social distancing requirements over the weekend, Gov. Mike DeWine announced his administration will expand the Ohio Investigative Unit (OIU) and direct them to conduct safety compliance checks in crowded bars and restaurants. The law enforcement unit, part of the Ohio State Highway Patrol (OSHP) under the Ohio Department of Public Safety (ODPS), has the authority to impose administrative sanctions and/or work with local prosecutors to bring criminal charges against non-compliant establishments if necessary, the governor said during Monday's coronavirus briefing.


Gov. Mike DeWine Tuesday outlined a new, updated order that eases many of the restrictions in his previous "stay at home" orders and matches them to restrictions that have been outlined in recent guidance for reopening different parts of the state's economy that had been shut down to stop the spread of COVID-19. Saying the new order is more of an "urgent health advisory" and dubbing it "Ohioans Protecting Ohioans," DeWine said it reflects that his orders have evolved since the first one was issued in March, adding, "It is time for our orders to reflect the reality of where we are today." The new order replaces the previous stay-at-home order issued on April 30 that was set to expire at the end of May. He said current facts show that through social distancing, Ohioans have avoided overwhelming hospitals with COVID-19 cases and flattened the curve; that the average infection rate is currently around one person infecting one other person rather than the 1:2 it had been most recently; and that Ohioans working together have come up with best practices for businesses to reopen.


The new health orders and advisories that Gov. DeWine described at his Tuesday coronavirus briefing were officially signed by Ohio Department of Health Director Amy Acton on Wednesday. The official texts were not available when the governor discussed them Tuesday. They include the following:


  • The updated "Stay Safe Ohio" order that largely lifts stay-at-home restrictions.

  • The "Ohioans Protecting Ohioans" urgent health advisory that recommends people stay home when possible.

  • The "Camp Safe Ohio" order on protocols for campgrounds.

Gov. Mike DeWine and Lt. Gov. Jon Husted Thursday announced new plans for resuming athletic skills training and allowing catering and banquet centers to reopen under similar protocols as restaurants. The administration previously announced that gyms and fitness centers would be able to reopen on Tuesday, May 26, and that no- and limited-contact sports would be able to resume that day as well. Husted said bowling alleys, miniature golf facilities and batting cages also could reopen on May 26.


A Lake County Common Pleas Court judge issued a preliminary injunction Wednesday regarding Ohio Department of Health (ODH) Director Amy Acton's order concerning gyms, following a lawsuit by more than 30 facilities. The injunction said that Acton and the Lake County General Health District could not impose or enforce penalties "solely for non-compliance with the director's order" against "'gymnasiums,' 'health clubs,' 'fitness centers,' 'gyms' and 'workout facilities'" as long as they comply with all applicable safety regulations from local officials and in the state's order and supplemental guidelines for similar businesses.


A portion of the recent Quinnipiac Poll addressed the pandemic with three-quarters of those polled saying the country should reopen slowly, even if it makes the economy worse, while 21 percent said the country should reopen quickly, even if it makes the spread of the virus worse. Seventy-four percent think it is unsafe to get on an airplane; 62 percent think it is unsafe to go to a restaurant; 50 percent think it is unsafe to go to a barbershop or hair salon; 49 percent think it is unsafe to go to a clothing store; and 55 percent think it is safe to go to a workplace outside of their home.


CORRECTIONS


According to the ACLU of Ohio, a federal judge Tuesday ordered the Bureau of Prisons to expedite the release of 837 medically vulnerable prisoners in Elkton Federal Correctional Institution (FCI) through home confinement and compassionate release, citing "poor progress in transferring the subclass members out of Elkton through the various means referenced in the court's preliminary injunction order."


ECONOMY


A new study released by Ohio State University suggests that actions by state governments to try to limit the spread of COVID-19 played only a secondary role in the historic spike in U.S. unemployment in March. While state actions to close schools were linked to an increase in unemployment, these effects were dwarfed by the larger national and international impact of the pandemic, according to the study by researchers at Ohio State and Indiana University.


EDUCATION


The state of Ohio will soon face litigation challenging the constitutionality of the EdChoice voucher program, Ohio Coalition for Equity and Adequacy of School Funding Executive Director Bill Phillis told Hannah News on Friday. "This egregious EdChoice law has just been kind of put on hold for a year, or less than a year now, and it needs to be stopped. This whole voucher concept is antithetical to the constitutional concept of the requirement of the state of Ohio to secure a thorough and efficient system of common schools," Phillis said in a phone interview discussing his group's forthcoming lawsuit.


The Ohio Department of Education (ODE) joined efforts to honor class of 2020 high school graduates including a commercial-free television special scheduled Saturday night. The "Graduate Together" telecast showed on more than 30 broadcast and cable networks and streaming services.


Sen. Steve Huffman (R-Tipp City) asked his Senate colleagues Monday to help him identify local school and health officials for a task force that would study how to convene high school commencement ceremonies amid the pandemic.


Arming a school employee does not make that person "security personnel" subject to statutory police training requirements, Attorney General Dave Yost argued in urging the Ohio Supreme Court to take up and overturn an appellate ruling that stymied a move to have staff carry firearms in a district that suffered a shooting in recent years. Madison Local Schools is asking the Supreme Court to accept its appeal of a 12th District decision earlier this year that sided with district resident Erin Gabbard and other parents who sued after the district board of education passed a resolution authorizing employees to carry on school grounds.


School management and union officials outlined their priorities and hopes Tuesday for how and when Ohio will bring students back into brick-and-mortar classrooms, testifying before the Senate Finance Committee on topics from scheduling to sanitation to staffing to health screenings to transportation to liability to accountability. Sen. Matt Dolan (R-Chagrin Falls), chairman of the committee, led off by saying he viewed the witnesses at Tuesday's hearing as the experts, and urged a focus on the immediate concerns of returning to in-person education, notwithstanding numerous other educational issues highlighted by the coronavirus pandemic.


The Ohio Department of Education (ODE) will soon open applications for the final round of federal grants to launch and expand charter schools. Even after preemptively declining $20-plus million of the $71 million grant award from 2015, the state appears poised to leave much of the money unspent when the grant period ends in the fall. So far, the program has distributed less than $4 million.


At the first virtual meeting of the Ohio Department of Education (ODE) Graduation Requirements Task Force on Monday, members discussed how to "reframe" high school in a post-coronavirus environment with the help of educational service centers (ESC).

ELECTIONS 2020


A new national survey released Wednesday by Quinnipiac University shows presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden leading President Donald Trump 50 percent to 39 percent in a head-to-head matchup, up from a 49 percent to 41 percent lead Biden held in an April 8 Quinnipiac Poll. Democratic respondents go for Biden 88 percent to 5 percent, while Republicans pick Trump 87 percent to 8 percent, with independents going for Biden 47 percent to 36 percent.


Members of the House Democratic Caucus outlined their ideas Friday for reforming voting in Ohio before the November election, including mailing a ballot to all registered voters and greater access to voter registration. Meanwhile, Secretary of State Frank LaRose continued to speak with news outlets around Ohio about his four-point plan to make changes before November as the state continues to deal with an ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.


The Ohio Democratic Party (ODP) said this week that it is launching paid Facebook ads criticizing Republican members of the Ohio House who voted in favor of an amendment to SB1 (Roegner-McColley) that limits stay-at-home orders that can be issued by the director of the Ohio Department of Health (ODH). ODP said it will be running the advertisements against Reps. Tom Brinkman (R-Cincinnati), Haraz Ghanbari (R-Bowling Green), Kris Jordan (R-Ostrander), Laura Lanese (R-Grove City) and D.J. Swearingen (R-Huron). All are up for re-election or running to retain their seats after an appointment this General Assembly.


Gov. Mike DeWine issued a statement over the weekend demanding Amy McGrath, a Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate in Kentucky, to stop using his likeness after McGrath launched an advertisement attacking U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY), whom she hopes to challenge in November.


County boards of elections this week completed their official canvas of the results from the presidential primary, which was completed on April 28 this year after coronavirus concerns closed the polls on the original March 17 date. According to the secretary of state's office, the data that was submitted by county boards is currently being reviewed and will be certified by Secretary of State Frank LaRose once that review is completed. The secretary of state's office hopes to complete that process by the end of next week. Among the results, Rep. Mark Fraizer (R-Newark) held on to defeat Thaddeus Claggett in the Republican primary for the 71st House District, getting 51.39 percent to Claggett's 48.61 percent. In addition, former U.S. Rep. Jean Schmidt was certified as the official winner of the 65th House District Republican primary, defeating Joe Dills and Dillon Blevins.


EMPLOYMENT/UNEMPLOYMENT


The contractor for Ohio's new unemployment compensation system for applicants usually ineligible for benefits disclosed a data breach involving about two dozen claimants, the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS) said Wednesday. The Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program, authorized by Congress to cover previously ineligible claimants like self-employed people, part-time workers and those paid by 1099s, launched a week ago. Deloitte Consulting discovered the breach Friday, and ODJFS said, once discovered, the problem was resolved within an hour. The agency said it contacted those who had "accidental access" to the data.

ENERGY


Straddling three administrations and three and a half years before the Ohio Power Siting Board (OPSB), the Lake Erie wind farm targeted within sight of Cleveland won unanimous approval Thursday despite unresolved questions over its environmental impact and a 50/50 split between opponents and supporters of the "economically significant" $85.5 million facility. Lake Erie Energy Development Corporation (LEEDCo) and Icebreaker Windpower's initial "demonstration" project will sink six offshore turbines into the lake bed 8-10 miles from the shoreline and generate 20.7 megawatts (MW) or 75,000 MWh hours per year, supplying both Cleveland Public Power (CPP) and the 14-state regional transmission organization encompassing Ohio, PJM Interconnection. However, LEEDCo objected to a condition added to the order.


ENVIRONMENT


The latest projects under the Ohio Department of Higher Education's (ODHE) Harmful Algal Bloom Research Initiative (HABRI) will focus on HAB tracking, producing safe drinking water, protecting public health and engaging stakeholders, according to the Ohio Sea Grant College Program. The program was not affected by the recent coronavirus-related FY20 budget cuts, ODHE spokesperson Jeff Robinson told Hannah News.


Ice from glaciers around the world, undisturbed for centuries, show changes in how societies functioned throughout history -- and will likely hold a record of the current effect of the coronavirus pandemic for future generations, according to researchers at Ohio State University (OSU). While the story of how the pandemic is affecting societies around the world is still unfolding, ice accumulating on high-elevation ice fields around the world is almost certainly collecting physical, chemical and biological evidence of this time, said two researchers at OSU who specialize in studying ice.


GENERAL ASSEMBLY/STATEHOUSE


The Senate Friday appointed its conferees for SB9 (Huffman), legislation addressing health claim information. Conferees are Sens. Matt Dolan (R-Chagrins Falls), Matt Huffman (R-Lima) and Hearcel Craig (D-Columbus). Dolan said in March the Senate had rejected House amendments as a process matter, as the House changes dealt with a matter the Senate was hearing in SB201 (Dolan). That legislation and the House amendment deal with tax filings by professional employer organizations (PEOs).


Members of the catering industry asked for guidance and a clear timeline in testimony before the House Economic Recovery Task Force meeting on Monday. The task force also heard from individuals working in youth sports and festival planning. Ben Elsass of Ben Elsass Photography and Mojave East Weddings and Events Venue said that without industry specific guidelines, some vendors were moving forward using safety guidelines for restaurants. He requested more information about how caterers and vendors can safely operate, and suggested that when the state does address large gatherings, they do so in terms of occupancy and not total number of people, noting that 50 people in a small boutique restaurant is not the same as 50 guests at a wedding venue that can accommodate 250.


The Joint Committee on Agency Rule Review (JCARR) met briefly Monday with no holds, questions or witnesses regarding the items on its agenda. While agency representatives normally attend, the committee's first meeting following coronavirus-related measures saw that changed to allow them to provide contact information should questions arise.


Republican members of the House Rules and Reference Committee Tuesday effectively killed a resolution, HR342 (Skindell), requiring legislators and staff to wear masks during committees and session. The resolution would have amended House rules to require all persons over the age of 2, including any legislator, to cover their mouth and nose with a mask or cloth face covering while attending a meeting of the House or a meeting of any standing committee, subcommittee, or select committee of the House. Exceptions would be made for a person unable to wear a mask or face covering due to a medical condition or if the person is otherwise exempted by the Ohio Department of Health (ODH) guidance.


The Senate Wednesday unanimously agreed to send SB1 (McColley) to a conference committee as the chamber debated whether the Legislature should be limiting the state health director's orders aimed at stemming the tide of the coronavirus outbreak. The bill originally addressed the number of regulatory restrictions in the state, but the House added a provision that would require orders issued by the director of the Ohio Department of Health to go to the Joint Committee on Agency Review (JCARR) after 14 days for review before the orders can be renewed.


The upper chamber also passed HB81 (Perales), regarding workers’ compensation coverage for diagnostic testing following bodily fluid exposure; HB203 (Lipps), regarding mobile dental facilities, which was amended to include the text of SB303 (S. Huffman) on pharmacist consult agreements; HB285 (Greenspan-Brent), regarding fee reductions and amnesty for driver’s license reinstatements; HB287 (Russo-Perales), regarding Medicaid services for active duty military members; SB248 (Schaffer), extending the moratorium on storm shelter requirements in new school construction; SB258 (Gavarone), entering Ohio into the Psychological Interjurisdictional Compact; SB25 (Sykes), a property conveyance bill; and informally passed House amendments to SB55 (Gavarone), regarding drug trafficking penalties.


Legislation aiming to create a more effective structure for the criminal justice system to address domestic violence and better protect those at high risk of becoming victims passed the House by a vote of 94-0 on Wednesday. Aisha's Law, HB3 (Boyd-Carruthers), would also expand the offense of domestic violence and specifically address the problem of strangulation, which is a common method of abuse in these situations.


The House also passed HB388 (Holmes), a compromise approach to surprise medical billing; HB609 (West), regarding tax amnesty; HB481 (Fraizer), a land conveyance bill; and HB358 (Sobecki-Sheehy), designating Aug. 17 as “Eugene ‘Gene’ F. Kranz Day.”


Passage of an amendment providing, as co-sponsor Sen. Kristina Roegner (R-Hudson) explained, that "not every little rule and regulation the state department [of health] would pass has to run through JCARR," led off the Senate Health, Human Services and Medicaid Committee's consideration of SB311 on Wednesday. She noted that the legislative intent is for the procedures laid out in the bill to apply to statewide orders issued by the Ohio Department of Health (ODH). The amendment, which was accepted by the committee, came after an anti-abortion group expressed concerns last week with similar restrictions on the ODH director's orders that the House amended into SB1 (McColley-Roegner), explaining that could inadvertently hamper the health department's ability to enforce orders against abortion providers.


The Senate Judiciary Committee accepted a substitute version Wednesday of Sen. Matt Huffman's (R-Lima) legislation proposing civil immunity for health care providers and businesses amid declared disasters like the COVID-19 pandemic. Sen. John Eklund (R-Chardon), chairman of the committee, said he intends to bring SB308 (M. Huffman) up for a vote next week. Huffman said he recognized the substitute bill's changes might not have support from all committee members but asked them to accept it as a working document, and they obliged without objection.


Members of the Senate Local Government, Public Safety and Veterans Affairs Committee Monday voted along party lines to approve HB242 (Lang), a bill that would prohibit cities and localities from placing fees on plastic bags, in the same hearing that sponsor Rep. George Lang (R-West Chester) provided sponsor testimony.


In a hearing Wednesday on HB308 (Patton) in the Senate General Government and Agency Review Committee, firefighters shared their personal stories of trauma they said contributed to their struggles with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and they asked senators to "reach into their hearts" in passing the bill. HB308 would permit Bureau of Workers' Compensation (BWC) coverage of PTSD without the need for the claimant to also have an accompanying physical injury.


The Senate Transportation and Workforce Committee began its biannual review process of a portion of the occupational licenses in Ohio. The House has completed its review and the Senate committee will now review the same boards and create its own report to be issued as a bill. Committee members heard from Aaron Johnston of the Ohio Department of Commerce, who testified on the Historical Boilers Licensing Board and the Ski Tramway Board.


Speaker of the Ohio House Larry Householder (R-Glenford) wasted little time after the Senate Wednesday refused to agree to his chamber's changes to SB1 (McColley-Roegner) to name his conferees to the upcoming conference committee. The Senate, however, has not named its members nor officially responded to the House request for a conference committee. House members of that committee will be Reps. Scott Wiggam (R-Wooster), Bill Seitz (R-Cincinnati) and Brigid Kelly (D-Cincinnati).


In other legislative action, House Transportation and Public Safety Committee reported out HB446 (Powell), to create a “Stop Elder Abuse” license plate; and HB474 (Hoops) and HB424 (Green), both road naming bills; Senate Health, Human Services and Medicaid Committee reported out SB126 (Manning), regarding crisis assessments for suicidal youth; and Senate Judiciary Committee reported out HB272 (Oelslager-Hillyer), regarding court jurisdiction.


GOVERNOR


While he said racial health disparities have been present for decades, Gov. Mike DeWine told reporters at his Thursday briefing on coronavirus that the pandemic "has pulled the curtain back" on some aspects of that in light of new findings by the Minority Health Strike Force on disproportionate effects of the crisis. He noted general disparities, particularly regarding at least 2.5 times higher rates of maternal and infant mortality in Ohio's African-American community compared to whites, and said it shouldn't be a surprise that communities of color have been affected more by the pandemic as well. Recommendations from the strike force's subcommittees include "establishing culturally appropriate and accessible COVID-19 exposure notification services for communities of color; expanding testing capacity and access for minorities and high-risk populations; using data to prioritize resources in the communities that have the highest need; and developing and launching a statewide, culturally-sensitive outreach campaign that educates African-Americans and communities of color on COVID-19, health disparities and social determinants of health. However, strike force member and House Minority Leader Emilia Sykes (D-Akron) called DeWine's plan "too little, too late."


Gov. Mike DeWine Friday appointed John M. Halliday to serve as a judge on the Washington County Court of Common Pleas, General and Domestic Relations Division, and Patrick T. Murphy to serve as a judge on the Crawford County Court of Common Pleas, Probate and Juvenile Division. Halliday, of Marietta, will assume office on Monday, June 15, 2020 and must run for election on Nov. 3, 2020, for the remainder of the term ending Dec. 31, 2024. He is replacing Judge John Triplett who retired on Feb. 28, 2020. Murphy, of Tiro, will assume office on Monday, June 8, 2020 and must run for election on Nov. 3, 2020 to retain the seat for the term starting Feb. 9, 2021. Murphy is replacing Judge Steven Eckstein who passed away on March 30, 2020.


HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES


The substitute version of HB388 (Holmes), which was reported out of the House Finance Committee by a unanimous vote of members present on Tuesday, represents "perhaps the first time in the country where there has been agreement" among major stakeholders on the issue of surprise medical bills, House Speaker Pro Tempore Jim Butler (R-Dayton) said before the committee vote. Butler thanked Ohio health care providers, the insurance industry and the business community for negotiating in good faith and coming to a reasonable compromise.


HIGHER EDUCATION


Gov. Mike DeWine gave a virtual commencement address for Miami University's online graduation ceremonies over the weekend. DeWine was originally scheduled to be the speaker for the in-person ceremony in Oxford, which was canceled due to the pandemic. DeWine and his wife, First Lady of Ohio Fran DeWine, are both graduates of Miami and this year three of their grandsons, David, Mathew, and Jacob, are members of the Miami class of 2020.


JUDICIAL


In light of the recent bar examination delay until September, the Ohio Supreme Court announced that law school graduates who'd been scheduled to take the exam in July would be able to practice temporarily under supervision. Supervising attorneys must be in good standing and have practiced for at least three years, according to the order, and their name and bar ID number will appear on all papers filed with a court. The temporary practice begins Monday, June 15, and requires submission of an Application to Practice Pending Admission to the Office of Bar Admissions.


Ohio will adopt the Uniform Bar Exam (UBE) this July in keeping with task force recommendations announced by Chief Justice Maureen O'Connor in 2018 and adopted by rule last month. "The UBE addresses the demand for lawyer mobility across jurisdictions in America today, and uniform licensing helps increase efficiency through the sharing of resources and expertise," O'Connor said Tuesday.

LIQUOR/ALCOHOL


Reps. Jeff LaRe (R-Canal Winchester) and D.J. Swearingen (R-Huron) unveiled legislation Wednesday meant to give greater flexibility and to generate more revenue for bars, restaurants, breweries and wineries during the coronavirus pandemic. The "Business Expansion and Safety Act" (HB669) has three main components, LaRe explained during a press conference. It allows establishments to expand outdoor seating to private and public property such as parking lots or adjacent private property with written consent from a neighbor. And retail permit holders could expand outdoor seating to any outdoor, public area immediately adjacent to their premise, with written consent from the municipal corporation. The bill also codifies the current carry-out drinks allowance by the Ohio Liquor Control Commission, meaning establishments that have been serving to-go alcoholic drinks during the pandemic would be able to continue to do so. Lastly, the legislation allows for the third-party delivery of alcohol. Third-party vendors such as GrubHub and DoorDash currently do not have permission to deliver alcohol sales from restaurants and bars.


MARIJUANA/HEMP


Rep. Juanita Brent (D-Cleveland) announced Friday that she will be introducing two cannabis-related bills in the near future. One bill would authorize the use of medical cannabis for autism spectrum disorder, while the other would repeal criminal prohibitions for possession and trafficking of cannabis, including vacating cannabis possession sentences and expunging cannabis possession offenses from the record.


More than 100,000 individuals are now registered patients in the Ohio Medical Marijuana Control Program (MMCP), according to the latest patient and caregiver numbers released by the Ohio Board of Pharmacy (OBP). Through April, there are 101,427 patients registered in the program. A total of 125,117 patients have received doctor recommendations to use medical marijuana. OBP officials have said there are a number of reasons an individual might receive a recommendation and then choose not to register, at least right away.


The Ohio Department of Agriculture (ODAg) has issued 195 cultivator licenses under the Ohio Hemp Program, according to a spreadsheet obtained by Hannah News through a public records request. Among those receiving a license was Taundra Householder, the wife of House Speaker Larry Householder (R-Glenford).


NATURAL RESOURCES


Hunting dates and bag limits for seasons that begin this September have been approved by the Ohio Wildlife Council, according to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) Division of Wildlife. "Ohio's hunting and trapping seasons are developed by wildlife biologists, combining public input with the best science available," ODNR Division of Wildlife Chief Kendra Wecker explained. "Our population safeguards are designed to support the important activities of hunting and trapping, while sustaining Ohio's wildlife. The Buckeye State has some of the best hunting opportunities in the nation, and we are proud to continue serving all Ohioans."


NONPROFIT ORGANIZATIONS


According to a recent survey from the Center for Community Solutions (CCS), groups including direct service provider agencies, nonprofits, think tanks, local government agencies, faith-based groups and philanthropic funders have shifted the way they deliver services in response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Most agencies have shifted to providing services via telephone or video chat service because their brick-and-mortar offices are closed to clients. Among agencies surveyed, 69 percent said they are delivering services by phone and 65 percent said they are using video chat services, such as Zoom. Another 32 percent said they are delivering services outside of clients' homes, while another 11 percent said they continue to deliver services in homes.


PEOPLE


Annie Glenn, a longtime advocate for people with communication disorders and the wife of late U.S. Sen. John Glenn, died Tuesday at the age of 100. The news was announced by Ohio State University (OSU), where she had worked as an adjunct professor of speech-language pathology. OSU said she had moved to a senior living facility in Minnesota and died of complications from COVID-19. John Glenn died in December 2016, and the two -- married 73 years -- are survived by their daughter Lyn and son David.


Bill Keating, the former congressman, newspaper publisher and business owner, died Wednesday at the age of 93. In addition to serving as a U.S. representative from Ohio, Keating was also former president of the Cincinnati Enquirer as well as president of Enquirer parent company Gannett.


TELECOMMUNICATIONS


The COVID-19 pandemic has created a heightened sense of urgency to address what was already a pressing issue -- increasing access to broadband Internet statewide, Reps. Rick Carfagna (R-Westerville) and Michael O'Brien (D-Warren) said Tuesday. Explaining the substitute version of HB13, Carfagna said Gov. Mike DeWine and House Speaker Larry Householder (R-Glenford) encouraged them to build on their original proposal, which was much more modest. The original version would've provided $2 million, while the new version would provide $20 million from the Facilities Establishment Fund in the Ohio Development Services Agency (DSA) to the newly-created Ohio Residential Broadband Expansion Grant Program Fund in the Ohio Department of Commerce (DOC).


TRANSPORTATION/INFRASTRUCTURE


The Ohio Turnpike and Infrastructure Commission has reopened all of its outdoor service plaza patios as of May 15, Executive Director Ferzan Ahmed told the commission during its meeting on Monday. The patios had been closed since March due to concerns over the spread of the coronavirus, but Ahmed said patio seating has returned, with every other outdoor table closed off to ensure social distancing guidelines. Food court seating inside the plazas began Thursday, May 21 with one-quarter to one-third of the total seating, resulting in at least 10 feet of spacing between tables. He said additional tables will be added in phases, as necessary, while maintaining the prescribed social distancing guidelines. Additionally, Ahmed told the commission that the maintenance department has resumed normal operations across all 10 turnpike facilities. The 15 toll plazas that had been unstaffed since March are now staffed to increased traffic volumes. All toll booths have been equipped with plastic shields to protect toll collectors and customers.

UNEMPLOYMENT COMPENSATION


For the week ending May 16, the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS) reported 46,062 initial unemployment claims to the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL). "The number of initial jobless claims filed in Ohio over the last nine weeks (1,215,756) is more than the combined total of those filed during the last three years," ODJFS said. Over the last nine weeks, the state has distributed more than $2.8 billion in unemployment compensation payments to more than 619,000 claimants. Of the more than 1 million applications the agency has received, more than 92 percent have been processed, with less than 8 percent pending, ODJFS said. "In addition, more than 161,000 Ohioans have applied for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA), and ODJFS has issued more than $21 million in PUA payments," ODJFS said. The PUA program was created under the federal CARES Act, and is open to 1099 filers, self-employed workers and other individuals otherwise ineligible for state unemployment benefits. ODJFS started accepting PUA applications last week.


UTILITIES


Tens of thousands of Ohio consumers are being denied the same government protections enjoyed by utility customers during the COVID-19 state of emergency because the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) has failed to classify their submetering companies or resellers as "public utilities" under state law, opponents of marked-up electric, gas and water service told the Ohio Supreme Court this week. Lawyers for the state countered that American Electric Power (AEP) of Ohio would in fact have charged more than reseller Nationwide Energy Partners (NEP) for the same service -- a claim affirmed by PUCO last year -- but Columbus attorney Mark Whitt and others cite a Legislative Service Commission (LSC) analysis showing a 10-25 percent mark-up over AEP, even as NEP pocketed a 25 percent savings for the same energy load as a bulk buyer to the state's largest electric utility.


VETERANS


Twenty-four residents and two staff at the Ohio Veterans Home (OVH) in Sandusky have tested positive for the novel coronavirus as of Monday afternoon, according to data from the Ohio Department of Veterans Services (ODVS), with those residents moved to the Enhanced Care Unit (ECU). Additionally, there are 100 residents in quarantine and 123 residents have pending tests. ODVS initially announced Saturday that eight residents had tested positive and 76 results were pending, saying those in the ECU were receiving "around-the-clock care." On Tuesday, Gov. Mike DeWine announced that the first resident of an Ohio veterans' home had died from COVID-19.


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

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