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Week in Review May 6, 2024


Ohio statehouse government affairs week in review January 2023


This report reflects the latest happenings in government relations, in and around the Ohio statehouse. You’ll notice that it’s broad in nature and on an array of topics, from A-Z. This will be updated on a weekly basis.

Please feel free to share it with anyone else you believe may find it of interest, as well. Also, please do not hesitate to contact us should you have any questions, concerns or if we can be of any assistance.


ABORTION


The General Assembly doesn't need to update the Ohio Revised Code (ORC) to carry out the will of the voters on abortion rights, House Speaker Jason Stephens (R-Kitts Hill) said Tuesday. Fifty-seven percent of voters supported reproductive rights constitutional amendment Issue 1 in November 2023, casting doubt on the popularity and/or constitutionality of the numerous anti-abortion laws passed by state lawmakers over the last 15-plus years. "A lot of those laws will therefore be in front of a judge or seven judges sooner or later," Stephens told reporters following Tuesday's House Rules and Reference Committee meeting. "How do those match, mesh or conflict with the new version of the constitution? That's much more in line with the courts to decide than the Legislature.”


ADDICTION/SUBSTANCE ABUSE


U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) Wednesday called for immediate implementation of his "FEND Off Fentanyl Act," which passed the House and Senate as part of a bipartisan national security package and was signed into law on April 24. He was joined in a press call by National Sheriffs' Association Executive Director and CEO Jonathan Thompson and Larry Cosme, former president and current executive board member of the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association. The bill contains sanctions and anti-money laundering provisions meant to combat the U.S. fentanyl crisis and save lives, including in Ohio where fentanyl was involved in 80 percent of unintentional drug deaths during 2022. It targets the illicit fentanyl supply chain, including precursor chemical suppliers in China and cartels moving the drugs into the U.S. from Mexico. Brown worked with law enforcement officials to craft the bill and it was passed on a bipartisan basis, which he said is "how things should work.”


APPALACHIA


Gov. Mike DeWine and Ohio Department of Development Director Lydia Mihalik Wednesday announced the awarding of more than $154 million in grants to fund economic development projects in Ohio's Appalachian region as they made stops in McArthur and Chillicothe. The grants will go to 30 economic development projects in Appalachian Ohio meant to revitalize downtowns and improve the area's profile as a travel destination. The 30 projects are spread across 12 counties in the region and the awards are part of the "Appalachian Downtowns and Destinations Initiative." In addition to downtown revitalization, the funds will be spent to create new opportunities for recreation, amplify the visitor experience at cultural sites and lead to hubs for education, economic development, health care and community engagement in areas that have not had them before.


ATTORNEY GENERAL


The Ohio Attorney General's Office has opened registration for the 2024 Human Trafficking Summit scheduled for Wednesday, Aug. 7 at Hyatt Regency Columbus. The daylong event, in its fifth year and previously held in January, gathers service providers, law enforcement officers, health care professionals, victim survivors and others to exchange knowledge, experiences and best practices to advance the fight against human trafficking in communities statewide. Registration is $50 before Monday, July 1 and $75 thereafter and will continue until Monday, July 15 or capacity is reached. Applications are pending for continuing education units (CEU) and continuing legal education (CLE) credits. The registration portal and additional information can be found at tinyurl.com/2f733s6n.


FY25-26 CAPITAL APPROPRIATIONS


Capital budget requests submitted by state agencies for consideration as part of FY25-26 capital appropriations legislation were provided to Hannah News this week. The Office of Budget and Management (OBM) released two dozen agency requests Wednesday night in response to a public records request. Hannah has provided a more in-depth look at the requests from specific agencies. The DeWine administration and lawmakers will ultimately decide what projects are included in the capital budget.


Administration of more than 20 additional taxes would move to the new Ohio Tax System (OTS) under the Ohio Department of Taxation's (ODT) plans for the FY25-26 capital biennium. The new system went live last year to handle personal and school district income taxes. ODT's request for the upcoming capital budget is among two dozen provided to Hannah News in response to a public records request. ODT is working with vendor Fast Enterprises, developer of the GenTax software system, used by dozens of other jurisdictions as well.


An additional $50 million for the previously authorized Cuyahoga Hills Juvenile Correctional Facility (JCF) replacement project due to inflation and $67 million for new housing at Indian Hill JCF make up the bulk of capital funding requests submitted by the Ohio Department of Youth Services (DYS). However, the official agency request for the FY25-26 capital biennium was submitted in early November, shortly before Gov. Mike DeWine launched a juvenile justice workgroup that has since recommended DYS operate more and smaller facilities rather than its three relatively larger JCFs. Asked about this dynamic, DeWine spokesman Dan Tierney said the working group deliberations and the capital budget recommendation process were on separate timelines. The total agency request is about $147 million for FY25-26.


Ohio's prison system is planning nearly $1 billion in capital spending through FY30 for "emergency" safety and security, even without the other $1 billion it would take to build a new penitentiary for the agency's decaying structures and growing population. The Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction (DRC) is seeking over $295 million in FY25-26; a 22 percent increase to more than $360 million in FY27-28; and a modest decrease from the approaching biennium to $275 million in FY29-30. Each biennial proposal of DRC's six-year plan dwarfs its $143 million capital budget in FY21-22 and follows a whopping $617 million appropriation in the current biennium.


The Ohio Department of Higher Education's (ODHE) FY25-26 capital budget request totals nearly $57.5 million to fund campus safety and security grants, workforce training, the Ohio Supercomputer Center, the Ohio Library and Information Network (OhioLINK), and more. The request, dated Nov. 3, 2023, "contains a similar composition of projects as requested in prior capital biennia," former ODHE Chancellor Randy Gardner said in the document's introduction. Current Chancellor Mike Duffey took over in January this year. The topline request is $7.5 million for the Ohio College Safety and Security Grant Program, which was established by Gov. Mike DeWine for physical security updates to public campuses.


CORRECTIONS


The Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction (DRC) released a heavily redacted, 1,519-page dossier Friday on the department commander placed on administrative leave after the Ohio State Highway Patrol (OSHP) opened a reckless homicide probe into the April 9 shooting death of Lt. Rodney "Ozzie" Osborne at the state's Correctional Training Academy in Pickaway County. Nineteen-year DRC veteran Cmdr. David Pearson apparently was onsite at the department's tactical firing range when Osborne suffered gunshot(s) to the chest and later died. The OSHP investigation indicates his wounds were not self-inflicted. OSHP has not formally identified Pearson as the reckless homicide suspect, indicating only that a state employee is being investigated for reckless homicide.


DISABILITIES


The Ohio Developmental Disabilities Council said Monday it's offering $216,000 in federal grant funding for projects to research and advocate for policies to support people with developmental disabilities. Among the projects the council is looking to support is an independent analysis of the effects seen in other states from eliminating 14(c) certificates, which are issued by the U.S. Department of Labor to enable an employer to pay sub-minimum wages to people with disabilities. Reps. Dontavius Jarrells (D-Columbus) and Scott Lipps (R-Franklin) recently introduced legislation that would phase out the use of subminimum wage, HB427. A federal court in Ohio also recently upheld federal regulations that set a tougher standard for employers looking to use 14(c) certificates to pay subminimum wage.


DISASTERS


President Joe Biden Thursday approved a disaster declaration for Ohio areas affected by the March 14 tornadoes, directing federal assistance to supplement state and local recovery efforts. This aid can include grants for temporary housing and home repairs, low-cost loans to cover uninsured property losses, and other programs to help individuals and business owners. The recovery funds are available to affected individuals in Auglaize, Crawford, Darke, Delaware, Hancock, Licking, Logan, Mercer, Miami, Richland and Union counties. Federal funding is also available on a cost-sharing basis for hazard mitigation measures statewide. Residents and business owners who sustained losses in the designated areas can begin applying for assistance at www.DisasterAssistance.gov, by calling 800-621-FEMA (3362), or by using the FEMA App. Anyone using a relay service, such as video relay service (VRS), captioned telephone service or others, can give FEMA the number for that service.


ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT/URBAN REVITALIZATION


Gov. Mike DeWine's administration announced Monday the approval of assistance for two projects expected to create 215 new jobs and retain 353 jobs statewide. During its monthly meeting, the Ohio Tax Credit Authority (TCA) reviewed economic development proposals brought by JobsOhio and its regional partners. The projects are expected to collectively result in more than $15 million in new payroll and spur $25 million in investments across Ohio.


EDUCATION


The Ohio Department of Education and Workforce (DEW) is asking a Warren County judge not to adopt his magistrate's recommendation that the agency be enjoined from enforcing corrective action plans against the Warren County Educational Service Center (ESC) in a special education dispute. Warren County ESC sued DEW over corrective action plans it issued in response to an investigation stemming from a complaint filed by Disability Rights Ohio (DRO), a nonprofit designated by the state to advocate for people with disabilities. DRO has since filed to intervene as a party to the lawsuit as well, although the same magistrate recommended DRO not be allowed to intervene.


U.S. school funding rose by the greatest proportion in more than two decades from FY21 to FY22, according to recent Census Bureau survey results. Ohio ranked 22nd among states and Washington, D.C. in per student FY22 spending at $15,583. The No. 1 state was New York at $28,889, while the last was Utah at $9,552. Among Ohio's neighbors, Pennsylvania ranked sixth at $19,186, Michigan 21st at $15,719, West Virgina 29th at $13,858 and Indiana 38th at $12,322. From FY21 to FY22, national school spending rose 8.9 percent from an average of $14,358 per student to $15,633, the largest increase in more than 20 years. Full survey data are at https://tinyurl.com/3rynxxvm.


The Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) office of the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) is now taking applications for funding that can cover up to three quarters of the cost of certain school safety measures. Up to $73 million is available nationwide for the School Violence Prevention Program (SVPP), with a maximum federal share of a project's cost of $500,000 and a 25 percent local cost share. Among eligible projects are the following:


  • Coordination with law enforcement.

  • Training for local law enforcement officers to prevent student violence against others and self.

  • Metal detectors, locks, lighting, and other deterrent measures.

  • Technology for expedited notification of local law enforcement during an emergency.

  • Any other measure that the COPS Office determines may provide a significant improvement in security. The application process closes at 4:59 p.m. Monday, June 17, although the application entails a two-step process for which the first part is due by Tuesday, June 11. More information about the program and application process is at https://cops.usdoj.gov/svpp.


ELECTIONS


The lingering controversy over Dominion Voting Systems has returned to the Ohio Supreme Court in a battle between conservative think tank Look Ahead America and the Stark County Board of Elections. In an intra-party split, the GOP chair of the Ohio Board of Voting Machine Examiners (OBVME) who administers the elections board calls post-2020-election doubts the "great lie.” The Court previously ruled 6-1 that the all-Republican county commission chaired by Janet Weir Creighton, who also heads the Stark County GOP, had unlawfully withheld its portion of the $6.5 million Dominion price tag for 1,400 voting machines from the elections board, chaired by Stark County Democratic Party Chairman Sam Ferruccio. Commissioners including Richard Regula and Bill Smtih said they had received numerous calls from voters opposing a continuing business relationship with the Canadian company. In comments reported nationally by the New York Times, NPR and others, OBVME chair and county elections board Director Jeff Matthews called those concerns "beyond absurd."


Democrats challenged the sponsors of a wide-ranging bill introduced Wednesday in the House Homeland Security Committee intended to beef up election security throughout Ohio. Sponsor Rep. Bernard Willis (R-Springfield) referred to the ever-changing security environment surrounding elections in his testimony on HB472, which regards voter registration, voting and voting systems. After bringing up the cybersecurity team assembled by 133-SB52 (Gavarone) and the subsequent Solar Wind cyberattack of IT systems nationwide in 2020 and Executive Order 14028 on cybersecurity that followed, Willis said HB472 would establish a military-grade, statewide certification standard for all voting systems. The bill's other primary sponsor, Rep. Bob Peterson (R-Sabina) noted that HB472 is a comprehensive bill concerning Ohio's election system, with provisions about voter ID verification, allowing new commercial vendors into Ohio's elections space and weekly reports from the secretary of state's office on various errors in voter registration databases.


ELECTIONS 2024


Friday, candidates on the ballot in November released their fundraising totals for the post-primary period through Friday, April 19. Republican candidates in the three Ohio Supreme Court seats up in November outraised the Democrats, with two raising more than $100,000. Republican Justice Joseph Deters raised $131,039, spent $25,825 and has $538,776 on hand. Democratic Justice Melody Stewart raised $43,901, spent $27,244 and has $177,878 on hand. Republican Hamilton County Common Pleas Judge Megan Shanahan raised $107,533, spent $22,880 and has $181,163 on hand. Her opponent, Democratic incumbent Justice Michael Donnelly raised $37,892, spent $26,827 and has $69,670 on hand.


A Democratic candidate for Congress has been charged with a felony count of filing a false voter registration, the Youngstown Vindicator reported. Brian Bob Kenderes, who is the Democratic nominee for the 14th Congressional District, has filed an affidavit saying he is indigent and cannot afford a lawyer. He was charged in March by the Lake County Sheriff's Office with a fifth-degree felony, alleging that he lives in Strongsville, but filed candidate declarations and his voter registration with the Lake County Board of Elections saying he lives in Mentor. Kenderes is facing U.S. Rep. Dave Joyce (R-Novelty), who is running for re-election in November.


According to Secretary of State Frank LaRose, the 11 Ohio county boards of elections that are involved in the Tuesday, June 11, 2024, special congressional general election for the Sixth District have begun sending out absentee ballots to military and overseas voters. The race pits Democrat Michael Kripchak against Republican Michael Rulli for the seat vacated when U.S. Rep. Bill Johnson resigned to become president of Youngstown State University. Military and overseas voters can visit www.ohiosos.gov/secretary-office/military/ for more information on requesting a ballot for the upcoming election.


Mansfield resident Emily Adams is the new Democratic candidate for the 76th House District after she was named by the Richland County Democratic Party's Central Committee as the ballot replacement for Alomar Davenport, who withdrew after winning the primary, according to the Mansfield News Journal. She will face Rep. Marilyn John (R-Shelby), who is running for re-election. Adams has worked as an environmental consultant and researcher but currently works as an instructional assistant. She has a bachelor's degree in environmental studies from American University and a master's degree in environmental studies from Duke University.


Secretary of State Frank LaRose this week launched his office's 2024 "Grads Vote" program, a civic engagement initiative designed to assist high school seniors with learning how to become active in Ohio's election process. The initiative also encourages high school juniors and seniors to become Election Day poll workers as part of the Youth at the Booth program.


The following endorsement was made over the week:


  • The re-election campaign of U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) announced the endorsement of the United Mine Workers of America and United Steelworkers (USW).


ENERGY/UTILITIES


The DeWine administration will award $2 million from the federal Infrastructure and Investment Jobs Act (IIJA) for small-scale wind, solar and other forms of renewable generation in addition to $20 million state regulators approved for review by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). In the latest announcement, the Ohio Department of Development (DOD) will award between $250,000 to $500,000 per project to local governments, colleges and universities, businesses and/or nonprofits.


GENERAL ASSEMBLY/STATEHOUSE


House Speaker Jason Stephens (R-Kitts Hill) Wednesday removed six committee chairs from their positions for reportedly supporting the primary opponents of sitting Republican caucus members. The six removed were House Agriculture Chair Rep. Rodney Creech (R-Germantown), House Constitutional Resolutions Chair Rep. Phil Plummer (R-Dayton), House Energy and Natural Resources Chair Rep. Darrell Kick (R-Loudonville), House Primary and Secondary Education Chair Rep. Adam Bird (R-Cincinnati), House Public Health Policy Committee Chair Rep. Scott Lipps (R-Franklin), and House State and Local Government Chair Rep. Marilyn John (R-Shelby). A memo to House Clerk Brad Young states that the positions "shall remain vacant until further action is taken by the speaker."


With results in hand from a closed-door vote earlier this month on a resolution giving control of the campaign arm of the Ohio House Republican Caucus to Rep. Phil Plummer (R-Dayton), House Republicans again asked a Franklin County judge to issue an injunction taking control of the Ohio House Republican Alliance (OHRA) away from House Speaker Jason Stephens (R-Kitts Hill). Plummer and Reps. Derek Merrin (R-Maumee) and Ron Ferguson (R-Winterville) filed a lawsuit against Stephens and OHRA co-chair Rep. Jeff LaRe (R-Canal Winchester) last year, seeking an injunction to prevent Stephens from spending money out of the legislative campaign fund (LCF). Judge Mark Serrott denied the motion at the time, saying that freezing the funds would cause unjustifiable harm to third parties who were relying on the funds ahead of the March 19 primary.


House Democrats received two applications to fill Ohio House District 28. The seat was vacated by former Rep. Jessica Miranda (R-Cincinnati), who resigned to become the new Hamilton County auditor following the death of Brigid Kelly, who died after a two-year battle with cancer last month. Jodi Shapuras and Regina Collins have applied to fill the seat. Shapuras is an assistant professor and director of the Bachelor of Social Work Distance Learning Program for the University of Cincinnati School of Social Work while Collins is an attorney who studied law at the Ohio State University College of Law and earned a bachelor's degree in English and sociology from Mount Holyoke College in Massachusetts.


Rep. Munira Abdullahi (D-Columbus) released the following statement late Friday, April 26 concerning her attendance at Thursday night's demonstration at Ohio State University (OSU) and the injuries she sustained: "As a concerned citizen, a proud Muslim-American and an elected state representative, I thought it was important to stand with those Thursday peacefully demonstrating on the Ohio State campus against the ongoing atrocities in Gaza. … What I witnessed and how myself and other demonstrators were treated was horrific and remains to be both physically and mentally painful. What was a calm and respectful protest was quickly escalated by police officers dressed in riot gear. They surrounded us at a moment when we were supporting students who were conducting prayer. I was grabbed by my headscarf. I was pushed toward the ground on to students. Ultimately, I sustained painful bruising around my ribs and midsection.”


With the support of AARP Ohio, Rep. Sara Carruthers (R-Hamilton) is proposing a new study committee to consider whether Ohio should join other states in setting up a public-private entity to facilitate retirement plans at small businesses. Introduced and referred to the House Pensions Committee in recent weeks, HB501 would create the Joint Legislative Study Committee on Small Business Retirement Options. It would study private sector retirement plans and state-facilitated retirement savings options as ways to address retirement security for Ohio's aging population.


Correctional Institution Inspection Committee (CIIC) Director Chris Albanese announced Thursday he has hired the agency's first communications chief as well as a project manager, and unveiled CIIC's new website. Communications and Policy Coordinator Matthew Eiting previously served as legislative aide to Rep. Mark Johnson (R-Chillicothe), a member of CIIC. Project Manager Hannah Kramer brings several years of administrative experience in corrections. She interned twice with CIIC as an Ohio State University student, learning to inspect Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction (DRC) institutions and writing inspection reports, and she also served as an intake and release specialist for the Franklin County Juvenile Intervention Center.


In other legislative action, the House Civil Justice Committee reported out HB466 (Schmidt-Brennan) which addresses brokers in real estate transactions, and HB403 (Cutrona) which addresses vehicle towing after an accident; and the House Ways and Means Committee reported out HB347 (Jones) which exempts farm equipment from the sales tax.


GREAT LAKES


In its first early season projection of the year, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is predicting a "moderate to larger-than-moderate" harmful algal bloom (HAB) this summer. The bloom is expected to measure between 4.5 and 7.5 on the severity index.


HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES


Restrictions on gender transition services for minors and transgender women's and girls' participation in school sports will continue to be blocked through Monday, May 20. Franklin County Court of Common Pleas Judge Michael Holbrook on Tuesday extended his temporary restraining order (TRO), thus blocking enforcement of HB68 (Click). If not for the extension, the TRO would have expired on Tuesday, April 30.


HIGHER EDUCATION


Richard Cordray is stepping down as the chief operating officer (COO) of the U.S. Department of Education office of Federal Student Aid (FSA) as the department deals with the botched rollout of a new Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form. Cordray, the former attorney general of Ohio and first director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, took over the office in 2021. Cordray's contract was set to end in May, the Washington Post reported. While Cordray did not want to continue for another term, he agreed to stay through June at Cardona's request, according to the paper.


Ohio State University (OSU) President Ted Carter Monday addressed the protests over the war in Gaza that took place Thursday, April 25 on the South Oval of the campus, saying "safety will not be compromised." Over three dozen students and other protestors face misdemeanor criminal charges after arrests were made as the university sought to crack down on protests and encampments, according to the Columbus Dispatch. Rep. Munira Abdullahi (D-Columbus) reported attending the protests and sustaining injuries from interactions with police. Carter released a message defending Ohio State's decision, saying, "What occurred on our campus on April 25 was not about limiting free speech. It was an intentional violation of university space rules that exist so that teaching, learning, research, service and patient care can occur on our campuses without interruption."


The University of Toledo (UT) Board of Trustees Monday announced plans to appoint Matt Schroeder, executive vice president for finance and administration and chief financial officer, to serve as interim president. The announcement comes after Gregory Postel accepted the position of senior vice president for health affairs and dean of the College of Medicine at the University of Cincinnati (UC). Postel became UT's 18th president in 2021, after serving as interim president since July 2020. While contract negotiations are ongoing, the intent is for Schroeder to begin serving as interim president on Monday, May 20, following Postel's last official duty as president to preside over the final Spring 2024 commencement ceremony for the College of Medicine and Life Sciences.


Ohio University (OU) has named Donald J. Leo as the university's next executive vice president and provost effective, July 1, 2024. Leo, who most recently served as the first dean of the College of Engineering at the University of Georgia (UGA), is a professor of mechanical engineering whose higher education career spans over 25 years. During his tenure as dean, engineering enrollment at UGA grew fourfold to over 2,700 students, research activity increased significantly, and the college developed numerous partnerships and outreach activities to enhance community engagement, according to OU.


Ohio Department of Higher Education (ODHE) Chancellor Mike Duffey Tuesday named the second group of Ohio higher education institutions to earn the Ohio Reach Postsecondary Designation, designed to recognize efforts to support foster care-connected students. Ohio Reach, which is administered through the Ohio Children's Alliance, is a network of

professionals, advocates and students who support former foster youth in their education. It provides resources to institutions of higher education, child welfare agencies, and foster care alumni enrolled in higher education to support their academic success. Campuses receiving the latest designation include Antioch College, Central Ohio Technical College, Lorain County Community College, Lourdes University, Maplewood Career Center, Malone University, Mt. Carmel College of Nursing, Owens Community College, Pickaway-Ross Career & Technology Center, Scioto County Career & Technical Center, University of Cincinnati-Blue Ash and University of Mount Union.


ODHE will receive a $3 million grant to fund a new four-year program designed to improve student performance in gateway science courses and promote degree advancement in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields. Ascendium Education Group, a nonprofit organization that invests in initiatives designed to increase the number of students from low-income backgrounds who complete post-secondary degrees, certificates, and workforce training programs, awarded the grant for the Ohio Strong Start in Science (OhioSSS). The current participating schools are the following: Central Ohio Technical College, Cincinnati State Technical and Community College, Clark State College, Columbus State Community College, Cuyahoga Community College, Lakeland Community College, Lorain County Community College, Marion Technical College, Miami University, North Central State College, Rhodes State College, Shawnee State University, Sinclair Community College, Stark State College, University of Cincinnati, Wright State University and Zane State College.


Lt. Gov. Jon Husted announced Wednesday that 463 employers were approved for funding through the March round of TechCred, which will enable Ohioans to earn 5,723 tech-focused credentials. Some of the top industries awarded in the March round included manufacturing, construction and education services. This round also saw the highest number of credentials related to artificial intelligence (AI), Husted noted. The latest TechCred application round opened Wednesday, May 1 and will close at 3 p.m. on Friday, May 31.


The Ohio State University (OSU) Office of Government Affairs announced that Tom Walsh will join the office as associate vice president for state relations, effective June 1. Walsh currently serves as interim president and CEO of the Ohio Association of Community Colleges (OACC). Before joining OACC in 2015, Walsh spent five years at Ohio State in the Office of Government Affairs where he helped develop Ohio State's public policy agenda.


HOUSING/HOMELESSNESS


In an effort to help Ohio's college graduates achieve their dreams of homeownership, the Ohio Housing Finance Agency (OHFA) offers the Grants for Grads down payment assistance program for first-time homebuyers. Grants for Grads provides a discounted mortgage interest rate to recent graduates with an associate's, bachelor's, master's, doctorate, or other post-graduate degree from an accredited school of higher education as an incentive for them to make their homes in Ohio. Down payment amounts available are 2.5 percent or 5 percent off the purchase price of a home. As long as graduates who participate in the program remain living in Ohio for a minimum of five years, OHFA forgives the down payment assistance. To apply for the Grants for Grads program, interested homebuyers should contact an OHFA-approved lender in their area. A list of program-participating credit unions and mortgage companies is available on the OHFA website at https://www.ohiohome.org/lenders/Default.aspx. For more information on Grants for Grads as well as OHFA's other available homebuyer programs, which may be combined with Grants for Grads, visit www.myohiohome.org.


Military servicemembers who reside in another state but are stationed in Ohio would gain the ability to open new home savings accounts with interest rates boosted by state treasury earnings, under a new proposal from Treasurer Robert Sprague and a group of lawmakers. Reps. Brian Lampton (R-Beavercreek) and Nick Santucci (R-Warren) and Sens. Terry Johnson (R-McDermott) and Brian Chavez (R-Marietta) are introducing legislation adding this option to the Ohio Homebuyer Plus program created in the biennial budget, HB33 (Edwards). The Senate version dropped at Wednesday's non-voting session as SB257. Homebuyer Plus offers enhanced interest rates on savings for deposits at participating financial institutions, and contributors can also claim a state income tax deduction. The list of participating institutions, now in the dozens, is at https://tinyurl.com/2c2udb3z. Nearly 5,500 accounts have been opened so far, according to Sprague's office.


The OHFA board recently approved financing from various programs for 10 housing developments to create or preserve affordable housing units throughout the state. Two of the projects approved received funding from the new Ohio Low-Income Housing Tax Credit Program.


INSURANCE


Gains in individual health care coverage nationwide that have followed the passage of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) are in danger of backtracking unless Congress acts before the end of 2025, according to research from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) released recently. According to CBPP, the passage of the ACA has brought down the number of people without health insurance in the United States from 45.2 million in 2013 to 26.4 million in 2022. The report shows that 21.3 million people nationwide have an ACA marketplace plan for the year 2024 after 40 states and the District of Columbia have expanded Medicaid under ACA and the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA).


JUDICIAL


Attorneys cannot soften the risk of zero recovery in a contingent fee arrangement by charging an hourly rate on paper and opting for a larger percentage of a successful settlement or judgment, even if their client agrees to an either/or scenario, the Board of Professional Conduct said Tuesday. The board was asked whether such an arrangement guaranteeing a lawyer as much revenue as possible is proper. The short answer is no, Advisory Opinion 2024-03 states. "Contingent fees are normally greater than the hourly fees that would be charged for the same representation because the lawyer bears the risk of no recovery, and the higher fee is compensation for incurring that risk," the board explains.


LIBRARIES


The Board of Trustees of the Ohioana Library Association announced Tuesday that Kimberlee Kiehl has been named executive director, effective Tuesday, May 28. Kiehl succeeds David Weaver, who has been with the Ohioana Library since 2005 and has served as executive director since 2013.


MARIJUANA/HEMP


The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has proposed to reclassify marijuana from a Schedule I drug to a Schedule III drug under the Controlled Substances Act, according to the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ). "Today, the attorney general circulated a proposal to reclassify marijuana from Schedule I to Schedule III. Once published by the Federal Register, it will initiate a formal rulemaking process as prescribed by Congress in the Controlled Substances Act," DOJ Director of Public Affairs Xochitl Hinojosa said in a statement.


MILITARY AFFAIRS


A Biden administration proposal to diminish state executives' authority over National Guard units drew opposition Monday from 53 state and territorial governors, including Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine, who had already expressed his own disapproval of the idea. DeWine, who wrote a letter to President Joe Biden earlier this month to explain his opposition, is now among signatories to a letter to Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin announced Monday by the National Governors Association. "As governors representing 53 states and territories, we are writing to express our strong opposition to Legislative Proposal 480 (LP480) submitted by the Department of Defense to the Senate Armed Services Committee. This legislation disregards gubernatorial authorities regarding the National Guard and undermines over 100 years of precedent as well as national security and military readiness," the letter states.


NATURAL RESOURCES


The Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) Division of Forestry Friday recognized Arbor Day and celebrated the department's 75th anniversary with public tree plantings statewide. Arbor Day, observed annually in Ohio on the last Friday in April, dates back to its first celebration in April 1872. Cincinnati hosted the first Arbor Day focused on school children and environmental education in 1882. The events this year were designed to highlight the importance of trees and empower communities to participate in environmental stewardship, fostering a deeper connection to nature for generations to come, the department said.


Special wild turkey hunts organized for hunters with disabilities recently took place at Pike State Forest and Blue Rock State Forest. The ODNR Division of Forestry hosts these hunts annually in Pike and Muskingum counties.


Ohio wild turkey hunters checked 4,367 birds during the opening weekend of the spring hunting season, April 20-21, according to the ODNR Division of Wildlife. In 2023, hunters harvested 4,078 turkeys during the opening weekend. The three-year average during the first two days of the spring season from 2021 to 2023 is 3,758 birds. The top 10 counties for wild turkeys checked during the opening weekend were Belmont (146), Tuscarawas (139), Carroll (128), Meigs (128), Washington (128), Adams (127), Guernsey (126), Monroe (126), Gallia (125), and Jefferson (119).


Youth wild turkey hunters in Ohio checked 1,785 birds during the special youth-only hunting weekend, Saturday-Sunday, April 13-14, according to ODNR Division of Wildlife. The three-year average for wild turkeys taken during the two-day youth season (2021-2023) is 1,466 birds. In 2023, youth hunters harvested 1,823 turkeys on the corresponding weekend.


Gov. Mike DeWine and the ODNR celebrated the fifth annual "Inland Fish Ohio Day" at Alum Creek State Park over the weekend. "You can find fantastic fishing throughout Ohio," DeWine said. "Inland fishing has never been better for saugeye, crappie, bass and catfish. I encourage all Ohioans to give inland fishing a try this summer." The event was coordinated by the ODNR Division of Wildlife and Division of Parks and Watercraft. The lake and surrounding state park are popular destinations for fishing, boating, hiking, camping and hunting, among other activities.


NEWS MEDIA


Disinformation is not just anything one disagrees with. Instead, disinformation is the deliberate use of lies, deception and misleading claims to mislead the public, according to Barbara McQuade, a former federal prosecutor. McQuade spoke Tuesday to the City Club of Cleveland and applauded the organization's tagline: "the citadel of free speech." She started the discussion by saying that while lies, propaganda and spin have been seen coming from American politics in the past, new technology, specifically social media, now allows disinformation to spread faster than ever. To her, that spread has led to extreme polarization and tribalization among the public, which McQuade calls "the antithesis of democracy." McQuade is a professor of practice at the University of Michigan Law School, a former U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan, and the author of the book Attack From Within, which argues that American society is strategically being pushed apart by disinformation coming from actors looking to push the public into polarization and tribalization.


NONPROFIT ORGANIZATIONS


The Ohio Association of Area Agencies on Aging announced Tuesday it's hired Kelsey Bergfeld, previously associate director of advocacy and outreach at AARP Ohio, as its new chief policy officer. She began the new role this week. Bergfeld's experience also includes time as director of Advocates for Ohio's Future and as senior legislative aide to the late Sen. Tom Sawyer. She is a graduate of Ohio State University.


POLITICS


The Ohio Republican Party (ORP) State Central Committee Friday selected Jane Timken and Jim Dicke to serve as voting members on the Republican National Committee (RNC). In addition, members selected Doug Wills as the vice chair of the ORP. Timken, former Ohio Republican Party chair and former U.S. Senate candidate, replaces Jo Ann Davidson, the first female speaker of the Ohio House, as Ohio's RNC committeewoman.


PUBLIC SAFETY


Joined by members of the Ohio Peace Officer Training Commission and law enforcement from across the state, Attorney General Dave Yost gathered Thursday with the families of nine Ohio peace officers who died in the line of duty in recent years to honor them and others lost before them. This year's Ohio Peace Officers Memorial Ceremony paid special tribute to officers who perished between 2020 and 2023 and one historical honoree. It also marked the public unveiling of a major renovation of the Fallen Officers Memorial Wall on the grounds of the Ohio Peace Officer Training Academy in London. The nine peace officers memorialized this year were Dep. Joshua I. Hamilton, Preble County Sheriff's Office; Dep. Marcus L. Zeigler, Hamilton County Sheriff's Office; Ofc. Timothy J. Unwin, Springfield Township Police Department; Dep. Terrance N. Bateman, Franklin County Sheriff's Office; Cpl. Matthew D. Mitchell, South Vienna Police Department; Ofc. Anthony E. Cloyd, University of Dayton Department of Public Safety; Dep. Billy I. Ihrig, Franklin County Sheriff's Office; Ofc. Gerald F. Lynch, Mentor Police Department; Ptlm. Mark U. Heinl, St. Henry Police Department; and Asst. Chief Orion Hale, Germantown Police Department, this year's historical honoree.


Ohio is down to only three counties with no state-certified law enforcement agencies of any kind after the Paulding County Sheriff's Office signed on to standards issued by the Ohio Collaborative Community-Police Advisory Board, bringing state-compliant sheriffs to an even 75. Law enforcement certifications announced by the Ohio Department of Public Safety's Office of Criminal Justice Services (OCJS) Wednesday also comprise two Cuyahoga County police departments in Bay Village and Brecksville. Together they patrol 30,000 inhabitants formerly without community-police protections.


REDISTRICTING/REAPPORTIONMENT


The group collecting signatures on a proposed redistricting reform amendment that would create a citizen-led redistricting panel this week touted an analysis by the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU Law that shows about 77 percent of Ohioans live in Ohio House districts that give one party a "severe advantage" in the 2024 election. The Brennan Center, which has endorsed the "Citizens Not Politicians" amendment, recently released the analysis, "Ohio's Gerrymandered State House Districts Lack Electoral Competition," which found that more than 9 million Ohioans, or about 77 percent of the state's population, live in a state House district that is not in serious dispute in the fall because either the district is uncontested or one party has a disproportionate advantage, even if it is formally contested. Among the 99 districts on the ballot in the House in November, 14 are uncontested with only one major party candidate. Of those, 11 had uncontested primaries, while four were contested primaries. The analysis rates 62 of the races as "uncompetitive" in November, where the districts are formally contested, but victory is essentially out of reach for a given major party -- distinguished by a partisan index of 55 percent or more for one party -- regardless of circumstances. Those 62 races had 36 uncontested primaries for the favored party, and 26 had contested primaries for the favored party.


SECRETARY OF STATE


Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose Friday convened a cybersecurity conference in Columbus for leaders at small and medium-sized businesses, telling Hannah News he hopes to have similar events around the state in the future as well. He additionally discussed the importance of cybersecurity for local government entities. The event included keynote remarks by Brett Johnson, a former hacker who now works as a consultant. LaRose moderated a panel with Justin Root, a special agent supervisor at the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation (BCI); Jillian Burner, an advisor at the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) and former chief information security officer in the secretary of state's office; and Amber Buening, senior vice president and security outreach director at Huntington Bank.


Secretary of State Frank LaRose has been chosen as chairman of the Republican Secretaries of State Committee (RSSC), he announced Tuesday. RSSC, one of four caucuses of the Republican State Leadership Committee, works to elect Republican secretaries of state around the country.


TAXATION


The House Ways and Means Committee Tuesday reported out HB344 (Mathews-Hall) on replacement property tax levy authority and property tax complaints over Democratic opposition. Discussion included what to do about the "LLC loophole," as Democrats called it, with Republican members saying that issue should be addressed in a separate bill. In response to Ranking Member Dan Troy (D-Willowick), opponent witness Bethany Sanders, director of policy and strategic initiatives in the Franklin County Auditor's office, described how the "loophole" is sale of an LLC which owns a property. That is not reported to the auditor in the way a property sale is and it is an "empty spot" in Ohio law, she added.


The passage rate for township levies has fallen during the last two election cycles as the General Assembly considers eliminating replacement property tax levies, Ohio Township Association (OTA) Executive Director Heidi Fought said Wednesday. "The reduction in levies' passage rates alarms us. It is critical that townships have all three types of levies -- renewal, replacement and additional -- to provide residents with options that best suit the individual township. The OTA encourages the General Assembly to retain all three levy types for township usage," Fought told the Joint Committee on Property Tax Review and Reform. According to Fought's testimony, renewal levies had a 96.6 percent passage rate in May 2023, a 97.9 percent passage rate in November 2023 and a 90.3 percent passage rate in March 2024. Replacement levies had a 92.8 percent passage rate in May 2023, an 89 percent passage rate in November 2023 and a 70 percent passage rate in March 2024. Additional levies had a 65.6 percent passage rate in May 2023, a 46 percent passage rate in November 2023 and a 40.9 percent passage rate in March 2024.


TECHNOLOGY/AEROSPACE


The DeWine administration announced Tuesday it had awarded $86 million to 11 professionally-managed investment funds as part of the Ohio Venture Fund and Ohio Early Stage Focus Fund. The programs will support early-stage, tech-based companies in underserved communities and populations across Ohio. The funds are investing in companies in the health care, manufacturing and food technology sectors. The Early Stage Focus Fund supports companies that are woman- or minority-owned or based in an area that has been underserved by venture capital as well. Both funds were announced in August 2023, with a combined $111 million between them.


State Chief Information Officer (CIO) Katrina Flory was recently recognized in a Government Technology (GovTech) magazine list of "Top 25 Doers, Dreamers and Drivers" for government IT officials. "Doing. Dreaming. Driving. These are the skills we award 25 IT leaders for every year, and each cohort represents legions of other people working on the ground to usher government into the future. 2024 is no exception. We're honoring CIOs, privacy officers, security chiefs, accessibility advocates and educators working at all levels of the public sector in jurisdictions across the country. These winners work on the frontlines and behind the scenes to make sure government serves all of its residents," GovTech said in its announcement of the list. Flory has worked in the public sector for almost 30 years, with 20 at the Department of Administrative Services (DAS) where she is currently assistant director overseeing the Office of Information Technology.


TRANSPORTATION/INFRASTRUCTURE


The Ohio Department of Public Safety's Ohio Traffic Safety Office (OTSO) opened the grant process Wednesday for a new round of funding to government jurisdictions and nonprofits to reduce traffic fatalities. OTSO said supported projects must address alcohol/drug-impaired driving, occupant protection, speed management, non-motorized travelers, and/or other traffic issues causing fatal or serious injuries. Examples of allowable costs include personnel/coordination expenses, contractual services, equipment, supplies and materials, and public information and education. General grant proposals must demonstrate cost effectiveness, measurable results and the potential to advance traffic-related goals at the state and local levels. The application deadline is Thursday, May 23, 2024. Proposals must be submitted to OTSO's Ohio GRANTS Plus webpage at tinyurl.com/y27jhpxp by requesting a new user account.


U.S. SEMIQUINCENTENNIAL/AMERICA 250-OHIO


Gov. Mike DeWine and Ohio First Lady Fran DeWine Wednesday helped kick off the "Ohio Goes to the Movies" event series, which is part of the state's participation in the nation's 250th, or semiquincentennial, anniversary on July 4, 2026. The Ohio Commission for the U.S. Semiquincentennial, also known as America 250-Ohio, was formed in 2022 after details on the commission were laid out in 134-HB110 (Oelslager). The commission is led by Co-Chairmen Doug Preisse and Michael B. Coleman, both appointed by DeWine. Todd Kleismit, the former director of community and government relations for the Ohio History Connection, serves as the executive director. In the lead up to America's 250th birthday, the commission has been preparing programs and events around the state to commemorate the founding of the country and the "impact of Ohioans on the nation's past, present, and future." This movie series highlights films that were made in Ohio, feature Ohio-born actors, transpire in an Ohio city or town, or center on Ohioans. Films will be screened in all 88 counties in the lead up to July 4, 2026. More information about America 250-Ohio can be found at https://america250-ohio.org/.


WORKERS’ COMPENSATION


Ohio Bureau of Workers' Compensation (BWC) Administrator/CEO John Logue told board members Friday the BWC prescription benefit system managed by Change Healthcare has resumed full operations after a February cyberattack affecting pharmacies and consumers nationwide. The latter included the bureau's 190,000 active claimants, who were forced to pay out of pocket or delay insurance reimbursement following the breach.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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


 



 


 


 


 



 


 



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


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