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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Roughly 65 percent of individuals involved in the state's food supply system have experienced "negative" or "very negative" effects from the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a new industry survey. The statewide Farm, Food and Agribusiness COVID-19 Impact Survey, distributed by the Ohio Farm Bureau Federation (OFBF) and a number of other agriculture groups, found that a plurality of respondents' businesses are feeling "negative" effects (39.5 percent), followed by "neutral" (30 percent), "very negative" (25.6 percent), "positive" (4.2 percent) and "very positive" (0.7 percent).
ARTS, SPORTS AND ENTERTAINMENT
The 86th National Football League (NFL) Draft will be held from Thursday, April 29, 2021 through Saturday, May 1, 2021 in downtown Cleveland, according to an announcement from the Greater Cleveland Sports Commission, Destination Cleveland and the Cleveland Browns.
The attorney general's Ohio Peace Officer Training Commission (OPOTC) has opened nominations for the 2020 Law Enforcement Awards to be presented at September's scheduled conference. Awards will recognize Distinguished Law Enforcement Lifetime Achievement, Service, Group Achievement, Civilian Leadership, Training, Valor and Community Service. The nomination form and additional information can be found at htps://tinyurl.com/ycn7wbog.
While noting that the COVID-19 pandemic has created an "unusual, extraordinary circumstance," Franklin County Judge David Young Tuesday refused to grant two ballot issue groups seeking to raise the minimum wage and to make changes to Ohio's voting laws relief regarding Ohio's signature gathering requirements to get the issues on the November ballot. He said he lacks the power to do so and that the groups failed to prove they will suffer irreparable harm.
The Ohio Restaurant Association (ORA) recently released new data on how restaurants in the state have been negatively affected by COVID-19, drawn from a nationwide survey. Ohio restaurants have now laid off or furloughed more than 300,000 employees, up from over 100,000 between March 1-22. Eighty-four percent of operators have laid off or furloughed employees, and another four percent anticipate doing so in the next 30 days. The previous ORA data at the end of March showed 67 percent of operators had laid off employees.
As of Monday, Ohio ranked 11th out of all 50 states for 2020 Census response rates. Ohio's self-response rate is 57.7 percent, up from 54.3 percent last week.
Gov. Mike DeWine’s daily coronavirus briefings for the week featured details for the first time on rules and deadlines for businesses previously deemed non-essential to begin reopening, though he quickly backtracked on one key element cloth masks or coverings. On Monday he rolled out a no mask, no work, no service, no exception protocol, but on Tuesday said it would only be required for employees, with several exceptions for health or other reasons, while customers would be recommended to wear them. The schedule of openings included health care procedures not requiring an overnight hospital stay on Friday, May 1; manufacturing, distribution, construction and general office work on Monday, May 4; and consumer, retail and service businesses on Tuesday, May 12. House Speaker Larry Householder (R-Glenford) blasted DeWine’s retail opening deadline, saying the administration was assisting in the demise of many great small businesses with rules that allowed big-box retailers to remain open while smaller shops closed. Cases of the virus over the week increased from 15,169 cases and 690 deaths on Friday, April 24 to 18,027 and 975, respectively on Thursday, April 30.
Other updates announced included the following:
A partnership with ROE Dental Laboratory and Formlabs to provide up to a million testing swabs in the coming weeks.
$16 million in grant funding from the Ohio Office of Criminal Justice Services to support local law enforcement and other agencies in virus response, including with purchase of cleaning supplies and personal protective equipment.
Workgroups on the reopening of restaurants and barbershops and salons.
Shipment of 4.1 million pieces of personal protective equipment (PPE) to local emergency management agencies.
Hammering out operational details for the administration's goal of rapid response to coronavirus hotspots is the latest assignment for Maureen Corcoran. Already in charge of key health care policies as director of the Ohio Department of Medicaid (ODM), her nursing background and other experience now have her at the center of planning for response to flareups once the state eases public health orders. "It helps that I understand Medicaid and all that, but as you've seen in a lot of the things that the governor has done, he's pulling on everyone for their expertise and their willingness to be helpful, not just relying on what our official job duties are," Corcoran said in an interview with Hannah News.
Those interested in keeping apprised of how the trillions of dollars of coronavirus-related federal funding is being distributed have a new tool to use, the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget (CRFB) has announced. The COVID Money Tracker, available at http://www.COVIDMoneyTracker.org, aims to track all significant financial actions taken by Congress, the Federal Reserve and executive agencies and entities, CRFB Vice President and Senior Policy Director Marc Goldwein said during a webinar, during which he also discussed the latest legislation being considered by Congress to provide further aid to businesses and entities affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
A supermajority of Ohio voters give Gov. Mike DeWine high marks for the way he has handled the state's response to the coronavirus, a new Ohio poll released Monday by Baldwin Wallace's Community Research Institute (CRI), in partnership with Oakland University and Ohio Northern University, shows.
Fans of Gov. Mike DeWine and Ohio Department of Health (ODH) Director Dr. Amy Acton can now purchase bobblehead dolls resembling the leaders who have grown in national prominence since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.
There have been 273 coronavirus-related deaths among long-term care facility residents in Ohio since April 15, according to data released by the Ohio Department of Health (ODH) that was current through Tuesday. There was a total of around 475 coronavirus deaths in the state between April 15-28. In response to the release of these numbers, Ohio Health Care Association (OHCA) Execute Director Pete Van Runkle raised concerns about its accuracy as "it relies on data reported by 113 local health departments, which apparently do not consistently verify the numbers they are reporting."
As of Friday, April 24, over two-thirds of all inmates in the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction (DRC) -- some 33,000 prisoners -- had been "exposed or potentially exposed" to the coronavirus or another contagious disease and are now in quarantine at 22 state penitentiaries. They include at least 15 confirmed and two probable deaths for an increase of nine COVID-19 fatalities since Sunday.
U.S. Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) called on U.S. Attorney General William Barr and Federal Bureau of Prisons Director Michael Carvajal to increase COVID-19 testing at Elkton Federal Correctional Institution (FCI Elkton) Monday, saying the lack of sufficient testing was "unacceptable."
As the COVID-19 pandemic spread across America between March and April, the percentage of Ohioans who perceived they were at risk of catching the virus decreased, according to a new Ohio State University (OSU) survey. But when questioned in April, these same Ohioans were more likely than they had been in March to think that an infection, if they did get sick, would seriously affect their health.
Gov. Mike DeWine and Ohio Department of Health (ODH) Director Amy Acton were joined Thursday by Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction (DRC) Director Annette Chambers-Smith to discuss the handling of the coronavirus in Ohio prisons at their daily briefing. Chambers-Smith discussed steps DRC has taken to limit the spread of the virus in prisons such as ending inmate visitations; allowing hand sanitizer and wipes containing alcohol in facilities; making PPE available for staff and, at times, the prisons' making their own PPE; moving from a breakfast, lunch, dinner schedule to a brunch/dinner schedule and allowing prisoners to take food out of dining areas; giving staff the option to either take a shower or sleep at hotels as to not endanger their families; and regularly checking prisoners and staff for symptoms.
The Correctional Institution Inspection Committee (CIIC) is moving forward on its statutory duty to audit and recommend changes in the state prison system after providing the DeWine administration emergency power for an immediate inmate release from the coronavirus-challenged Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction (DRC). The CIIC authority, comprising an administrative agency and bicameral committee, is near full staffing with former Householder aide Travis Ricketts as deputy director and Senior Corrections Analysts Rachel Helbing and Jeff Noble and Corrections Analyst Gabrielle Woodberry.
After a years-long legal battle over the appropriate use of intermediate care facilities (ICFs) for developmentally disabled individuals, a federal judge has approved a final settlement agreement between the state and Disability Rights Ohio (DRO). U.S. District Court Judge Edmund Sargus wrote that the agreement is "a fair, reasonable and adequate resolution of the class members' claims, is in the public interest, and does not harm the rights of any non-class members."
After the Ohio Department of Education (ODE) recommended to Ohio school district superintendents that graduation ceremonies and other end-of-year commemorative events be held virtually, Sen. Stephen Huffman (R-Tipp City) pushed back against ODE and called for local control. Later, ODE and the Ohio Department of Health (ODH) issued the following suggestions for local schools and health departments when considering graduation ceremonies:
Virtual graduation ceremonies are the most highly recommended.
Drive-in ceremonies where students drive to a designated location at a designated time to get their diplomas are the second-best option.
Outdoor ceremonies with 10 people or fewer while engaging in physical distancing are the third-best option.
The Ohio Department of Education (ODE) published updates Friday on how to address Ohio's standing requirements on minimum annual instructional hours for schools. While lawmakers waived restrictions on how much brick-and-mortar schools can rely on distance learning to meet those rules via HB197 (Merrin-Powell), they did not waive the underlying mandate to provide between 455 and 1,001 hours of instruction, depending on the age of the students, the agency noted.
Preliminary results show voters across Ohio approved 63 of 99 local school funding issues on the ballot in Ohio's protracted 2020 spring primary election, according to the Ohio School Boards Association's (OSBA) levy results database. The 64 percent approval rate for school funding issues marked a substantial decline from last year's primary election, when 81 of 104 issues won approval, a 78 percent passage rate, according to OSBA. Renewal requests fared the best, with 93 percent passing. Only 38 percent of new funding requests were approved, with 20 of 53 passing, down from a 60 percent passage rate in the 2019 primary.
Despite efforts by the secretary of state's office and the General Assembly to conduct a strictly vote by mail presidential primary because of coronavirus concerns, voting rights advocates Monday expressed concern that long lines could still occur at county boards of elections on Tuesday -- the deadline to return absentee ballots -- because of issues with the delivery and return of absentee ballots.
Ohio's presidential primary finally came to a close on Tuesday as voters who received last-minute absentee ballots dropped them off at their county boards of elections, and some who never received their ballots showed up to cast in-person provisional ballots. Counting went slowly into Tuesday evening in the larger counties, as reports said that thousands of ballots came into boards on the last day, and elections workers had to match the signatures on the ballots with those on record. In the races themselves most incumbents survived their primaries. Some races were very close in preliminary results, including the contests between appointed Rep. Mark Fraizer (R-Newark) and Thaddeus Claggett; former U.S. Rep. Jean Schmidt’s race versus Joe Dills in the 65th House District; and a three-way race between Adam Bird, Nick Owens and Allen Freeman in the 66th House District. In the Senate races, Reps. Bill Reineke (R-Tiffin), George Lang (R-West Chester) and Niraj Antani (R-Miamisburg) won primaries in their quests to move to the other chamber.
The Ohio Voter Rights Coalition reported Tuesday afternoon that they were receiving reports of confusion over casting provisional ballots, but there did not yet seem to be long lines at county boards of elections.
The Tuesday election saw success for most legislators looking to join their local county commissions, with the exception being Rep. John Becker (R-Cincinnati), who lost a bid for the GOP nomination for Clermont County commissioner.
Ohio Democratic Party (ODP) Chairman David Pepper said Wednesday that he hopes lawmakers on both sides of the aisle will come together in the wake of Tuesday's vote-by-mail only presidential primary to come up with a way to do it better in the fall should the need arise because of a continued COVID-19 pandemic.
Candidates for 210 Ohio judicial races are now set for the general election after this week's primary election. Nearly 300 judicial candidates were on the ballot during the primary and 265 will move on as candidates in the Nov. 3 general election, the Ohio Supreme Court reports. All incumbent judges running in the primary won their party's nominations, according to unofficial results in a primary that had been originally scheduled for March 17 but was extended six weeks due to the coronavirus health emergency.
Starting Friday, April 24, Ohioans who are unemployed as a result of the coronavirus pandemic but who don't qualify for regular unemployment benefits can begin pre-registering for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA), a new federal program that covers many more categories of workers. In addition, more than 400,000 unemployment claimants in Ohio began receiving weekly $600 supplements last week in addition to their regular benefits as a part of the new federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (PUC) program.
For the week ending April 25, the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS) reported 92,920 initial unemployment claims, taking the state's coronavirus-related six-week total to 1,057,486. "To put that in perspective, the total for the last six weeks of claims is 341,974 more than the combined total of 715,512 for the last two years," ODJFS said in a news release.
U.S. Sen Rob Portman (R-OH) said Tuesday any plan to reopen Ohio's economy will necessitate an expansion of testing capacity, as well as an increased use of personal protective equipment (PPE) and contact tracing studies, in order to prevent a second round of closures.
U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) joined Ohio corrections officers on a conference call hosted by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) where they called for the inclusion of federal assistance for states and local governments in the fourth federal stimulus responding to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
At the end of the Friday, April 24 Ohio House 2020 Economic Recovery Task Force meeting, Chair Rep. Paul Zeltwanger (R-Mason) asked members to take the weekend to compile a one- to two-page list of recommendations and potential solutions which they think are key to restarting the economy.
He asked members to send their lists to his office for compilation and said the task force would be discussing their next steps in the upcoming week.
Ohio House Democrats hosted a listening forum for small and micro business representatives late Thursday, with the latter category defined as companies of fewer than 20 employees. Rep. Allison Russo (D-Columbus) acted as a moderator during the forum. Russo said the purpose of the roundtable was to highlight the unique issues facing Ohio's micro and small businesses, with a particular focus on women- and minority-owned businesses that may be "uniquely impacted." As the economy is reopened, they want to make sure they understand the issues specific to these businesses and identify the resources available to them, as well as what needs to be improved.
The majority of Republican members of the Ohio House signed on to a framework Monday for restarting commerce "responsibly," including the leading principle that "based on current data, scientific application and actual results, we believe a responsible opening of all businesses can, and should, begin on or before May 1, 2020."
Ohio House Democratic leaders discussed their views on how the state should lift coronavirus-related restrictions in a call with reporters Monday ahead of Gov. Mike DeWine's announcement, while acknowledging they did not know his plan yet. Participants in the call included Minority Leader Emilia Strong Sykes (D-Akron), Assistant Minority Leader Kristin Boggs (D-Columbus), Minority Whip Paula Hicks-Hudson (D-Toledo) and Assistant Minority Whip Richard Brown (D-Canal Winchester).
Monday's meeting of the House 2020 Economic Recovery Task Force included testimony from the Lake Erie Shores and Islands tourism center, two restaurants, a youth sports league and a number of other groups seeking to restart business with added safety protocols.
Speaker of the House Larry Householder (R-Glenford) Wednesday announced a screening panel to review candidates wishing to fill the vacant 59th House District seat, which includes most of Mahoning County.
The vacancy is due to the death of Rep. Don Manning (R-New Middletown) in March. Individuals interested in being considered for appointment to the unexpired term in the 59th House District should email a cover letter and resume to Rep72@OhioHouse.gov by noon on Friday, May 8. Interviews will be conducted the week of May 11.
Among organizations testifying at Wednesday's meeting of the House 2020 Economic Recovery Task Force were the Center of Science and Industry (COSI), construction company Ferguson Construction and a pet grooming company, as well as Kalahari Resorts.
Appointments made during the week include the following:
Chauncey A. Cochran of Newark (Licking County), David W. Johnson of Salem (Columbiana County) and Peggy Griffith of Deerfield (Portage County) reappointed to the Bureau of Workers' Compensation (BWC) Board of Directors for terms beginning June 12, 2020 and ending June 11, 2023.
HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES
Tuesday’s election saw success for all five children services levies on the ballot; three of six developmental disabilities levies; and all but one of 11 senior services funding requests.
While rural areas and cities typically have the same number of hospital beds overall, rural areas nationwide typically have fewer intensive care unit (ICU) beds, according to a new report from the Kaiser Family Foundation. The report acknowledges that while the first COVID-19 outbreaks began in cities, they have slowly moved into rural areas as well, which Kaiser says points toward the need for robust medical capacity in rural areas.
A recent study out of Ohio State University (OSU) suggests that even organized efforts to clean surfaces can fall short, leaving people vulnerable to viruses left behind. For five and a half weeks, researchers tagged surfaces of a small-animal veterinary practice daily with a fluorescent dye visible only under black light. They checked tagged surfaces 24 hours later to see if the marks were showing. Surfaces were considered cleaned if the dye was completely removed.
After announcing refunds for students earlier this month, Miami University gave updates on that process over the weekend in a release from Miami President Gregory Crawford. Crawford said the university has begun distributing $27 million in refunds for room, board and other fees directly to students. Additionally, Crawford will be taking a 25 percent salary reduction, and other senior leaders will be taking a voluntary 10 percent reduction in salary, with savings directed to students.
Youngstown State University (YSU) has announced plans for a virtual commencement Saturday, May 9 at 10 a.m. for spring 2020 graduates.
WGU Ohio announced recently the appointment of K.L. Allen as state director, effective May 4, 2020.
Allen is a veteran of the Army National Guard and has served as an adjunct professor of business, among other higher education and entrepreneurship roles.
Young children from low-income homes whose mothers reported frequent use of toxic chemicals such as household cleaners were more likely to show delays in language development by age 2, a recent study out of Ohio State University (OSU) found. In addition, the children scored lower on a test of cognitive development. Researchers said these developmental delays were evident even when they took into account factors such as the education and income of mothers, which are also linked to children's language and cognitive skills.
Eastern Gateway Community College (EGCC) announced Monday it is launching the EGCC Summer Guarantee, which will allow students to take their summer semester classes at EGCC with no out-of-pocket costs, including tuition, fees and books.
Ohio is joining the majority of states seeking accelerated assistance to homeowners and tenants beyond the foreclosure and eviction relief of the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act. States say the severity and scale of the pandemic require more than a limited moratorium on new lender/landlord filings and loan payments if housing providers and occupants are to meet demands.
Advocates for tenants and landlords held a joint press call Thursday, discussing their efforts to secure federal rent assistance as part of the next coronavirus relief bill. Bill Faith, executive director of the Coalition on Homelessness and Housing in Ohio (COHHIO), said they are seeking around $100 billion in funding for the temporary program, which would focus on those who have been laid off or work in low-wage jobs.
A Republican appointee of former Govs. Bob Taft and John Kasich faces disciplinary charges Monday for intervening in a sexual misconduct case involving family friends that did not list him as the assigned judge. The complaint against Lucas County Judge Michael Goulding is the Board of Professional Conduct's only May hearing and features a disciplinary panel including Democratic Judge Rocky Coss of Highland County Common Pleas Court -- his second virtual conduct board hearing in just over a week.
The Columbus Metropolitan Library (CML) announced recently it is providing a small collection of library materials to Battelle for testing as part of a partnership initiated by the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) and the Online Computer Library Center (OCLC). Battelle researchers will test strains of the COVID-19 coronavirus on the items to assess the virus's longevity. The goal is to determine best practices for the safe handling of materials moving forward.
All 14 library systems with funding requests on the Tuesday ballot saw victories Tuesday night, with most passing by double-digit margins.
Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther said Tuesday that the state has answered the capital city's key concerns about easing public health restrictions on business operations, lending his support to the "Responsible Restart" plan Gov. Mike DeWine described Monday.
City of Columbus Police Chief Thomas Quinlan gave a briefing on the Columbus Police Department's (CPD) handling of the effects of the coronavirus outbreak during a Columbus Metropolitan Club (CMC) forum streamed live Wednesday. Asked about the need for Columbus police officers to break up gatherings of people who aren't physically distancing themselves, Quinlan said he doesn't want officers to be "social enforcers" or have to issue citations or make arrests; instead, he'd prefer police be educators who can inform people of the law if they don't know it. Officers have not been issuing citations for violating social distancing laws unless a separate law is also being violated, he said.
The Ohio Municipal League (OML) announced Wednesday that it had sent a memo to Gov. Mike DeWine and Ohio House and Senate leaders regarding its policy recommendations for economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. The recommendations "cover the need for municipal funding to sustain public services, investment in infrastructure and the need for expanded furlough authority as well as concerns regarding federal financial relief and the Local Government Fund (LGF)," OML said in a release.
The Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation (BCI) can now perform quantitative analyses of cannabis seized by law enforcement, Attorney General Dave Yost announced Thursday. "BCI's new ability to differentiate between marijuana and hemp creates a valuable resource for officers who depend on our laboratory services, offered at no cost to them," Yost said in a news release. "This major achievement bolsters our reputation as the leading crime lab in the state."
Lab testing by the Ohio Medical Marijuana Control Program (MMCP) concluded that the substance found in recalled cannabis drops was Aspergillus, a pathogenic fungus. Aspergillus can pose a health risk to patients, specifically those with weakened immune systems, according to a news release from MMCP.
Hunters checked 2,430 birds during the state's opening day of wild turkey hunting season in the South zone on Monday, April 20, according to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) Division of Wildlife. Hunters harvested 2,979 wild turkeys during the 2019 South zone opening day, ODNR said in a news release.
After receiving more than 2,500 reports from citizen scientists during February and March, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) Division of Wildlife has confirmed 707 bald eagle nests in the state. The nest census was the first undertaking to discover all such sites in eight years, ODNR said in a news release. The results show an increase of 151 percent from the 2012 census, when 281 nests were recorded in Ohio.
Top officials at the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) -- including former Director Jim Zehringer -- inappropriately accepted a free fishing trip from charter boat captains regulated by the agency, according to a report from Ohio Inspector General (IG) Randall Meyer's office. Joint Legislative Ethics Committee (JLEC) Executive Director Tony Bledsoe told Hannah News that lawmakers who participated in the event didn't violate ethics laws.
The Catholic Conference of Ohio (CCO) announced Tuesday that the state's bishops had extended the temporary suspension of masses and liturgies to Friday, May 29, with the hope of holding Pentecost services on May 30 and 31.
The Controlling Board pulled two dozen agenda items addressing capital expenditures Monday during its fourth virtual meeting in a month under COVID-19, including requests from state universities, the Ohio Expositions Commission, Ohio History Connection and other authorities, also amending several items related to the pandemic. Members thanked the DeWine administration for its flexibility on deferred items in uncertain times.
The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) says the PowerForward investigation into consumer-driven grid modernization -- the brainchild of former Chairman Asim Haque -- is complete and that the state should now plan for cost-effective investments into electric competition and system innovation.
PUCO's unanimous order says 2018's PowerForward: A Roadmap to Ohio's Electricity Future and follow-up reports from the Distribution System Planning Workgroup (PWG) and Data and Modern Grid Workgroup (DWG) have shed valuable light on industry forecasting, new technologies and regulatory ratemaking.
The Ohio Consumers' Counsel (OCC) Governing Board assessed the pandemic's impact Thursday on a large swath of Ohioans' ability to cover utilities and rent going forward as deferred bills become due and job prospects remain cloudy.
The Ohio Bureau of Workers' Compensation (BWC) Board of Directors got a sobering picture of the agency financial position Friday -- a $2.0 billion drop in assets over a single month -- reflecting stock downturns and delayed premium payments under COVID-19 that are partly offset by a 30 percent decrease in injury claims since January. Partial rebounds in the market and good overall investment strategy is allowing BWC to hand employers this month's $1.6 billion refund and to meet projected claims and administrative costs going into FY21 and beyond, Chief Financial Officer Kevin Giangola told the board in its second virtual meeting under the state of emergency.
A county judge granted the recent request of the Bureau of Workers' Compensation (BWC) to file exhibits under seal in its lawsuit against pharmacy benefit manager (PBM) OptumRx, while the two sides try to work out a protective order to shield confidential information moving forward.
[Story originally published in The Hannah Report. Copyright 2020 Hannah News Service, Inc.]