Week In Review - May 9, 2022



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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


Gov. Mike DeWine told reporters Tuesday evening that if the U.S. Supreme Court does strike down Roe v. Wade as a draft opinion reported by Politico suggests, he will ask the Ohio attorney general to go to a federal court and ask it to lift a stay on Ohio's heartbeat bill, which bans the procedure as early as six weeks. Calling the leak of the draft opinion "unprecedented" and saying it is "not a good thing," DeWine said he talked with Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost Tuesday morning about the state's next steps should the final opinion be consistent with the draft opinion.


The leaked draft copy of a U.S. Supreme Court opinion overturning Roe v. Wade is "authentic," the U.S. Supreme Court announced Tuesday. Late Monday night, Politico had published a draft majority opinion written by Justice Samuel Alito overruling the landmark 1973 decision, which guarantees a constitutional right to abortion across the U.S. The draft opinion would also overrule the Court's 1992 decision in Planned Parenthood v. Casey, which mostly upheld Roe. "We hold that Roe and Casey must be overruled. The Constitution makes no reference to abortion, and no such right is implicitly protected by any constitutional provision, including the one on which the defenders of Roe and Casey now chiefly rely -- the due process clause of the 14th Amendment," Alito wrote. "Roe was egregiously wrong from the start," he continues. "Its reasoning was exceptionally weak, and the decision has had damaging consequences. And far from bringing about a national settlement of the abortion issue, Roe and Casey have enflamed debate and deepened division. It is time to heed the Constitution and return the issue of abortion to the people's elected representatives." The Court addressed the leaked draft opinion, emphasizing that the opinion is not final.


AGRICULTURE


Ohio Treasurer Robert Sprague's office announced changes to the Ag-LINK program, which offers borrowing at lower rates to agricultural businesses, in response to recent statutory changes. Lawmakers passed HB440 (Swearingen-White) in April; it included an emergency clause and took effect immediately upon the governor's signature later that month. The new law made agricultural cooperatives eligible to borrow under the program; removed the $150,000 cap on individual loans, allowing the treasurer's office to set a new cap at its discretion; and eliminated the requirement that the treasurer's office attempt to place up to $165 million in agricultural linked deposits.


ATTORNEY GENERAL


Ohio has joined all other states in the nation and the District of Columbia in a $141 million settlement with TurboTax over paid "freemium" products deceptively marketed to low-income consumers eligible for federally funded free tax services. Parent company Intuit once offered two free versions of TurboTax. The Internal Revenue Service's (IRS) "Free File" program was a public-private partnership allowing military members and filers earning $34,000 or less -- a limit imposed by Intuit -- to file returns at no charge. The company also offered and continues to offer TurboTax "Free Edition" for filers with "simple" returns, as defined by Intuit.


FY22-23 BUDGET


Preliminary revenue data released Thursday by the Office of Budget and Management (OBM) for April show the state finished the month $1 billion or 45.6 percent over estimates, bringing in a total of $3.3 billion compared to estimated revenue of nearly $2.3 billion. This excess revenue was driven by personal income tax (PIT) receipts of nearly $894.7 million or 89.2 percent over estimates for April. OBM attributes the large variance to "stronger than anticipated payments from annual tax return filings." All other major sources of General Revenue Fund dollars were also over estimates. So far, through 10 months of FY22, the state has collected a total of nearly $22.9 billion or 12 percent over the estimated revenue of nearly $20.5 billion. Compared to this time in FY21, the state has collected nearly $2.1 billion more than was collected through April 2021.


CHILDREN/FAMILIES


Gov. Mike DeWine on Friday, April 29 signed an executive order providing $4.5 million to increase staff and reopen beds in licensed youth residential treatment facilities. "When treatment facilities have a hard time filling positions, they in turn serve fewer children," DeWine said. "This one-time funding will allow facilities to increase capacity and allow more young Ohioans with complex needs [to] receive the treatment and support they need."


CORONAVIRUS


Data released by the Ohio Department of Health (ODH) Thursday shows the latest COVID-19 subvariant of Omicron is increasingly present, and the federal Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention has found Omicron BA.2.12.1 to be around 25 percent more transmissible than the prior BA.2 subvariant. CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said on April 28 that those who are vaccinated and particularly those who received booster shots continue to have "strong protection" against severe disease including BA.2.12.1. Under the ODH latest data -- which covers the two weeks ending April 23 -- BA.2.12.1 represented 22.78 percent of total COVID-19 specimens collected. In the prior period, it made up 6.61 percent and this was its first appearance in the collection data. ODH case numbers rose for the fifth consecutive week, ending at 11,013 for the seven days ending May 5. Past increases include 3,828 on April 7; 4,808 on April 14; 6,890 on April 21; and 8,731 on April 28. Hospitalizations trended down, from 314 on April 28 to 296 Thursday, while ICU admissions ticked up by one from 26 to 27. The number of deaths fell slightly, from 68 to 65. Since the pandemic began, ODH has reported 2.71 million cases, 115,481 hospitalizations, 13,498 ICU admissions and 38,493 deaths.


CRIME AND PUNISHMENT


The American Conservative Union/Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) recently sent a letter to Senate President Matt Huffman (R-Lima) and House Speaker Bob Cupp (R-Lima) expressing concerns on a potential bail ballot issue while supporting bipartisan bail reform bills. David H. Safavian, general counsel for CPAC, sent the letter to the legislative leaders outlining the group's issues with HJR2 (LaRe-Swearingen) and SJR5 (Gavarone). The resolutions would put a ballot issue before voters allowing judges to take factors such as public safety into consideration when setting bail for defendants. The proposed constitutional amendment in the resolutions was introduced in response to an Ohio Supreme Court ruling that found bail should be set to prompt a defendant's appearance for court hearings. Safavian urged the Legislature to consider SB182 (McColley-Huffman) and its companion, HB315 (Leland-Hillyer), which he said recognize that for some, bail isn't necessary because their cases are so low-level that flight risks and subsequent offending are highly unlikely.


The Ohio Department of Public Safety's Office of Criminal Justice Services (OCJS) issued two requests for proposal (RFP) Monday for federal grants that seek to combat violence against women and overall crime. The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) and the Edward J. Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant (JAG) fund victim services providers and law enforcement, prosecution, court and corrections agencies. The deadline to respond to each RFP is Thursday, June 2, at 5 p.m. OCJS will release an additional VAWA RFP for racially, ethnically and culturally specific, community-based victim service providers in June. The VAWA RFP is available at tinyurl.com/4p9vh5hn and the JAG RFP at tinyurl.com/2vff8wkd. OCJS has scheduled an applicant training webinar for 10-11:30 a.m., Monday, May 16. The registration portal can be found at tinyurl.com/c5y9yaz6. The OCJS grant page can be found at www.ocjs.ohio.gov/grants.stm.


ECONOMY


Secretary of State Frank LaRose recently announced 19,337 new business filings in March 2022, a 33.4 percent increase from the previous month.


EDUCATION


Ohio voters approved 49 of 75 school funding issues on local ballots in Tuesday's primary, according to preliminary results compiled by the Ohio School Boards Association (OSBA). The 65 percent passage rate was very similar to that seen a year prior in the May 2021 primary, when 50 of 73 issues or 68 percent passed. The passage rate for new funding issues dropped, however, with 13 of 34 winning approval, compared to 20 of 40 issues passing in the May 2021 primary.


Teacher pay saw a nominal increase recently but suffered a decline in terms of buying power over the past decade, according to new data from the National Education Association (NEA), which represents teachers unions. The salary findings were among a trove of statistics released by NEA last week across four reports on general education trends and pay for teachers, support professionals and higher education employees.


The National Alliance for Public Charter Schools (NAPCS) said Friday, April 29 it's granting Gov. Mike DeWine its 2022 Champion for Charter Schools Award, citing "tireless efforts" in support of the schools. The NAPCS cited charter-friendly policies enacted during DeWine's term. He proposed creation and then expansion of a funding pool for charter schools meeting quality benchmarks across his two budgets, and signed into law the lifting of geographic restrictions on where new startup charter schools can open as well as increased facilities funding for charter schools.


New analysis by economist and school funding expert Howard Fleeter showed the operating and capital levies for schools on the May primary ballot are low compared to trends in recent years. Operating levies were at their lowest point in five years for a primary election, and capital levies at their second lowest, according to Fleeter's analysis, released by the Ohio Education Policy Institute (OEPI).


With a need to meet demand for the Intel development and societal advances in general, science and technology education must be more approachable and accessible for everyone, Central Ohio leaders in the sciences and transit said at Wednesday's Columbus Metropolitan Club forum.


ELECTIONS


The Ohio Elections Commission Thursday found a violation of campaign finance law against three funds run by the Ohio Republican Party (ORP) for late filings and fined the state party $150, despite calls from the activist who brought the complaint to impose the maximum amount. Chris Hicks, a conservative who has joined with others in accusing the ORP current structure of being corrupt, brought the complaints against the three funds -- the State Candidate Fund, the Levin Fund and the Restricted Fund. He said there is no dispute that the three funds filed reports late earlier this year but noted a fourth fund run by the state party did file on time. In a separate case brought by Hicks, the commission set a full hearing on a complaint against Rep. Brian Stewart (R-Ashville).


ELECTIONS 2022 PRIMARY-1 RESULTS


Gov. Mike DeWine Tuesday did not have to wait long to give a victory speech in the Republican primary for governor. Within 45 minutes of the polls' closing at 7:30 p.m., multiple news outlets including the Associated Press called the race for him. DeWine, who had drawn heat from some conservatives over the way he handled the pandemic in Ohio, easily defeated former U.S. Rep. Jim Renacci, who came in second, farmer Joe Blystone and former state Rep. Ron Hood, who was a distant fourth.


Former Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley made history Tuesday evening as the first woman to be nominated by a major party to be governor, overwhelmingly defeating former Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley to capture the nomination.


J.D. Vance won Ohio's seven-way U.S. Senate Republican primary election. The Hillbilly Elegy author, bolstered by the endorsement of former President Donald Trump, won the contest with about 32 percent of the vote Tuesday night. Former Treasurer of State Josh Mandel received 24 percent, and Sen. Matt Dolan (R-Chagrin Falls) got 23 percent. Investment banker Mike Gibbons got 12 percent, while former Ohio Republican Party Chair Jane Timken received 6 percent. Businessmen Mike Pukita and Neil Patel got 2 percent and 1 percent, respectively.


U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Niles) is the Democratic nominee in Ohio's 2022 U.S. Senate race. Ryan, widely seen as the favorite in the primary election, received about 71 percent of the vote. Attorney/community organizer Morgan Harper came in second with 17 percent, and tech executive Traci (TJ) Johnson finished with 12 percent. Ryan celebrated his victory at Firefighters Local 67 in Downtown Columbus, joined by his family, Sen. Hearcel Craig (D-Columbus), Ohio AFL-CIO President Tim Burga, Ohio Association of Public School Employees (OAPSE) Executive Director Joe Rugola and U.S. Rep. Joyce Beatty (D-Columbus), among others.


All of the sitting members of Ohio's congressional delegation who are running for re-election didn't see their campaigns come to an end on Tuesday. U.S. Reps. Brad Wenstrup (R-Cincinnati), Bill Johnson (R-Marietta), Warren Davidson (R-Troy), Shontel Brown (D-Warrensville Heights), Troy Balderson (R-Zanesville) and David Joyce (R-Twinsburg) all defeated their primary challengers. In perhaps the biggest upset, Port Clinton's J.R. Majewski defeated three others, including Sen. Theresa Gavarone (R-Bowling Green) and Craig Riedel (R-Defiance) to win the Republican nomination for the 9th Congressional District and will take on U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-Toledo), who with nearly 40 years in office is the longest serving woman in the U.S. House of Representatives.


For the second time in a year, Shontel Brown defeated former Ohio Sen. Nina Turner in the 11th District. Brown had been elected last year to replace former U.S. Rep. Marica Fudge, who is now the secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.


In the newly drawn 13th District, which covers Summit County and Canton, Madison Gesiotto Gilbert, who had the endorsement of former President Donald Trump, overcame a crowded field to get the Republican nomination. She will face Ohio Rep. Emilia Sykes (D-Akron), who was unopposed.


While Republican and Democratic party leaders and political consultants didn't agree on much during the Impact Ohio 2022 Post-Primary Election Conference, there was bipartisan agreement that ranked choice voting would be an improvement over the current system. Ranked choice voting was one of many topics discussed during the Ohio Chamber of Commerce's event at the Athletic Club of Columbus on Thursday. Rex Elsass, chair of the Strategy Group, a Republican political advertising firm, and Jared Kamrass, who leads the congressional and mayoral practice for the Democratic advertising firm Technicolor Political, were joined on the panel by Mike Dittoe, a partner with Republican firm High Bridge Consulting, and Joe Rettof, a co-founder of Democratic firm RT Advisors. A separate panel hosted by Hicks Partners President and CEO Brian Hicks featured Ohio Republican Party Chair Bob Paduchik and Ohio Democratic Party senior adviser Justin Barasky.


ELECTIONS 2022


Sen. Matt Dolan (R-Chagrin Falls) held the lead in the Republican U.S. Senate primary election, according to a poll of likely Republican voters from Blueprint Polling released after President Donald Trump endorsed eventual winner J.D. Vance.


Dolan on Friday, April 29 announced the formation of the Ohio Law Enforcement Advisory Council. The group is composed of law enforcement officials from across Ohio who have formally endorsed Dolan's candidacy for U.S. Senate. According to Dolan's campaign, the law enforcement officials will advise Dolan on policy, including federal solutions capable of addressing public safety, crime reduction and mental health.


The Ohio Elections Commission Monday held a full hearing on a complaint alleging Republican gubernatorial candidate Joe Blystone did not comply with campaign disclosure laws. The hearing was held as Blystone was trying to unseat Gov. Mike DeWine in the Republican primary on Tuesday. The complaint had been forwarded to the full commission last month by its Probable Cause Panel after it had reviewed the complaint alleging violations in Blystone's annual campaign finance report filed in January.


According to the secretary of state's office, two independent candidates filed to run for governor by Monday's filing deadline for nonpartisan candidates, as did a candidate each for the U.S. Senate and secretary of state. Gubernatorial candidates include Niel J. Peterson and F. Patrick Cunnane. In the other races, Kelli Prather, who had previously run in races for governor and state auditor as a Democrat and a Green Party candidate, filed for the U.S. Senate. Terpsehore Maras, a podcaster, filed as an independent for secretary of state. She previously had filed for the race as a Republican, but her petitions were rejected by county boards of elections for lack of an accompanying declaration of candidacy. She later challenged the disqualification in the Ohio Supreme Court, but Court rejected her challenge.


Trafalgar Group released its final poll on the Republican primaries for U.S. Senate and governor Monday, showing leads for J.D. Vance and Gov. Mike DeWine, respectively. The poll was conducted from Friday, April 29 through Sunday, May 1 among 1,081 likely Republican primary voters and has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.99 percent.


Former President Donald Trump, who endorsed J.D. Vance for the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate in Ohio, mixed up Vance's name with a competitor's during a rally in Nebraska Sunday evening. "We've endorsed...J.P., right? J.D. Mandel. And he's doing great," Trump said in comments at the rally, mixing the names of Vance and Republican opponent Josh Mandel.


Shawna Roberts, a Democrat who previously had challenged U.S. Rep. Bill Johnson (R-Marietta) and who had filed to run for the party's nomination for the 6th U.S. House District this year, Monday dropped out of the race because of health reasons. Three other Democrats -- Martin Alexander, Eric S. Jones, and Louis G. Lyras -- remain in the race.


ENERGY/UTILITIES


Officials at the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) told members Wednesday that evolving energy policies during the Trump and Biden administrations, along with geopolitical and macroeconomic developments, will trigger a "perfect storm" in the cost of natural gas this winter and electricity as early as summer 2023. They said price shocks will hit at-risk communities particularly hard. Commissioners heard from Federal Energy Advocate Sarah Parrot, economist Tim Benedict, and Director Rob Fadley of PUCO's Service, Monitoring and Enforcement Department on alarming price hikes at the wholesale energy auctions administered by Ohio's 13-state regional transmission organization (RTO), PJM Interconnection, and in the New York Mercantile Exchange's (NYMEX) month-end settlement price. Year-over-year inflation in wholesale energy prices from the first weeks of the Biden administration until recent auctions for Ohio's four electric distribution utilities (EDU) runs between 59 percent for AES Ohio (Dayton Power & Light), 54 percent for FirstEnergy, 49 percent for American Electric Power (AEP) of Ohio, and 41 percent for Duke Energy Ohio. Statewide, Ohioans are facing a 50 percent price hike for electricity to start next year's summer cooling season. That's because EDU auctions are forward-looking and, at present, cover service periods through May 2023.


The Biden administration's proposed enforcement of new and expansive regulations on the drilling and consumption of natural gas will aggravate energy market inflation and further erode "just and reasonable" rates provided by the 80-year-old Natural Gas Act (NGA), the U.S. Chamber of Commerce said in a new filing with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). Echoing the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio's (PUCO) comments on FERC's draft policy, the U.S. Chamber says the Biden administration is trying to expand the federal commission's authority beyond its statutory oversight of "plentiful supplies of ... natural gas at reasonable prices" affirmed by the U.S. Supreme Court's watershed decision NAACP v. Federal Power Commission (1976). For more than eight decades, notes the chamber, the NGA has given economic meaning to the "public convenience and necessity" of natural gas pipelines.


GAMING/GAMBLING


Applications for most sports gaming licenses are due by Friday, July 15, Ohio Casino Control Commission (OCCC) Executive Director Matt Schuler announced during Wednesday's commission meeting. The first batch of sports gaming rules, which includes licensing provisions, is currently under consideration by the Joint Committee on Agency Rule Review (JCARR). OCCC staff expects that JCARR's jurisdiction over those rules will end on Thursday, May 26, allowing plenty of time for the rules to be presented to the OCCC for final approval during its meeting scheduled for Wednesday, June 1. The commission will begin accepting applications for type A, B and C proprietor licenses, first-designated mobile management services providers (MMSPs), management services providers and suppliers on Wednesday, June 15, Schuler said. The final versions of the applications will be available for viewing on Wednesday, June 1, he added.


GENERAL ASSEMBLY/STATEHOUSE


According to the Ohio House Democratic Caucus, three people applied for the Ohio House District 9 vacancy caused by former Rep. Janine Boyd's (D-Cleveland Heights) becoming the new regional director of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). The three applicants include teacher Vincent Stokes; Shaker Heights Recreation Department supervisor Vincent J. Rosemond; and Bishra W. Addison, director of job preparation at the Fund for Our Economic Future.


Former Rep. Stephanie Howse says she is living her "dream" after being elected to the Cleveland City Council earlier this year. In a conversation with Hannah News, Howse reflected on her time in the General Assembly (GA), saying she hopes to find more opportunities to enact change at the local level. "This is where I wanted to be. I feel like local government is where you can actually demonstrate government in action," she said. "I'm appreciative that I can even begin to engage in substantive legislative dialogue."


Jordan Plottner has returned to the House Democratic Caucus to become chief of staff under House Minority Leader Allison Russo (D-Upper Arlington). Plottner previously served as the communications director for the caucus for six years and deputy chief of staff before he left to work as a marketing and communications consultant. He also served as a legislative aide to former Rep. Bob Hagan (D-Youngstown). He has a degree from Kent State University.


In legislative action this week, the House Civil Justice Committee reported out SB61 (Blessing-Antonio) which revises laws governing condominiums; HB441 (Wiggam-Cutrona) which addresses social media censorship; and HB567 (Stewart-Brown) which deals with the availability of common pleas court documents.


GOVERNOR


Gov. Mike DeWine signed an executive order Friday, April 29 allocating more than $1.5 million for the Parenting and Pregnancy Program from the federal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families funds. The order notes state law establishes the Parenting and Pregnancy Program "to provide services for pregnant women and parents or other relatives caring for children 12 months of age or younger that meet one or more of the four purposes of the TANF program and 'promote childbirth, parenting, and alternatives to abortion.'" The funding was distributed to more than a dozen organizations, including several pregnancy resource centers, a distribution that drew criticism from abortion rights advocates.


HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES


The ACLU of Ohio announced a lawsuit Friday, April 29 to challenge a provision of the state budget on the ability of clinicians, institutions and insurers to decline to perform or pay for health care services contrary to their beliefs and principles -- the second challenge to the law launched in recent weeks. The language in HB110 (Oelslager), added in the Senate, states those entities can decline to perform or pay for a service that "violates the practitioner's, institution's or payer's conscience as informed by the moral, ethical or religious beliefs or principles held by the practitioner, institution or payer." The litigation charges that inclusion of the law in the state budget violates the Ohio Constitution's single subject rule. Columbus City Attorney Zach Klein recently filed a lawsuit challenging the same budget provision, charging violations of the single subject rule as well as constitutional home rule protections and the federal Affordable Care Act.


HIGHER EDUCATION


Bowling Green State University (BGSU) has named Hannah Stanbery as its new director of state government relations. The university said the role is newly created and Columbus-based. Stanbery will be responsible for state government relations and "engagement that advances the BGSU mission."


The University of Toledo (UT) has selected Dr. Pamela Heaton as the new dean of the College of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences. Heaton has spent her 24-year academic career at the University of Cincinnati (UC), serving most recently as interim dean after having served for the prior 10 years as chair of the Division of Pharmacy Practice and Administrative Sciences in the James L. Winkle College of Pharmacy.


Student-athletes at Ohio State University (OSU) will soon be eligible for "academic achievement awards" of up to $5,980 per year, OSU Department of Athletics spokesperson Jerry Emig told Hannah News on Wednesday. "Beginning with the Fall 2022 academic term, the Ohio State Department of Athletics will provide student-athletes the opportunity for financial assistance to make their education more affordable as a result of changes to NCAA and Big Ten Conference legislation related to the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in NCAA v. Alston," Emig said, referring to the Court's unanimous decision that the NCAA cannot enforce rules prohibiting institutions of higher education from providing student-athletes "education-related" benefits.


HUMAN SERVICES


All three senior services levies passed Tuesday, with votes ranging from 55 percent in support of the German Township in Montgomery County renewal levy to nearly 83 percent in support of the city of Girard renewal levy. The Harrison County renewal levy passed with 75 percent of the vote. In addition, the two children services levies on the ballot Tuesday split, with one passing and the other failing. The levy that passed was a renewal levy in Ashtabula County; it passed with 61 percent of the vote. The levy that failed was a replacement levy in Preble County; it went down 46 to 54 percent.


JUDICIAL


Government bodies in Ohio have struggled with the prospect of executive session since last year's 12th District decision granting Chris Hicks of the Clermont County Republican Party Executive Committee $80,000 in legal fees for county commissioners' apparent failure to conduct themselves lawfully, counsel told the Ohio Supreme Court in oral arguments last week. How to announce executive session under R.C. 121.22(G), how and whether public officials must show confidential proceedings didn't stray from their stated purpose, and whether the Open Meetings Act (OMA) could use an overhaul are now questions before the Court.


The Ohio Supreme Court said Friday that 47 percent of test-takers and 66.9 percent of first-time test-takers passed the Ohio Bar Examination administered in February. February's administration was done in-person for the first time in two years because of the pandemic. It was also the first in-person use of the Uniform Bar Examination, which is meant to make it easier for those who pass to practice law in jurisdictions that have also adopted the universal exam, including 38 states, Washington, D.C. and the U.S. Virgin Islands.


Greene County Probate Judge Thomas O'Diam has suffered his second defeat in two years after his appointment to the bench by former Gov. John Kasich in 2013 and second election in 2020. The Ohio Supreme Court has yanked his bar license for six months, though only on paper, and impugned his daughter's behavior in reacting to criticism of an estate matter involving the O'Diams. The disciplinary case also raises questions about the judge's ongoing relationship with Greene County commissioners.


LIBRARIES


All local libraries requesting levy funding on Tuesday's primary ballot were successful, according to preliminary results compiled by the Ohio Library Council. Most issues passed handily. The closest contest was for Mt. Sterling Public Library in Madison County, which got 53 percent support for its renewal with increase levy.


MARIJUANA/HEMP


Supporters of an initiated statute to legalize the adult use of marijuana are asking a judge to clarify whether the issue can legally be placed on the ballot in November. Specifically, members of the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol (CRMLA) are asking Franklin County Court of Common Pleas Judge Richard Frye to issue a declaratory judgment confirming that the commencement of the four-month period for the General Assembly to consider the proposed law began on Jan. 28, 2022 and ends on May 28, 2022. The Ohio Constitution states that any proposed initiated statute may be submitted 10 days prior to the beginning of a General Assembly session. "The committee met this requirement by submitting the petition with 206,943 signatures on Dec. 20, 2021," CRMLA said.


MILITARY AFFAIRS


Gov. Mike DeWine's office marked Military Appreciation Month in May by announcing the launch of a new resources page for service members and their families on governor.ohio.gov. The governor's office described the resources page as a one-stop shop to find everything from employment opportunities to county veterans service offices. There are also resources for military members who are relocating to Ohio, including how to enroll children in school, information about Purple Star Schools and how to transfer the professional license of spouses.


POLITICS


The Ohio Democratic Party (ODP) sued Gov. Mike DeWine Thursday to secure public records and statutory damages in the wake of a recent request to the administration for any and all communications related to energy subsidy 133-HB6 (Callender-Wilkin), $61 million in FirstEnergy payments, former lobbyist Sam Randazzo, numerous funding entities and 13 current or former staff members of the governor's office. The lawsuit kicked off the general election cycle following DeWine's primary win over three gubernatorial challengers. It claims the 156 pages of daily calendar entries produced by the governor for January 2019 to the present are "redacted to such a degree to be unresponsive" to 17 record requests included in ODP's Jan. 24, 2022 letter to DeWine.


PUBLIC SAFETY


Ohioans have one year from Tuesday to obtain a REAL ID, U.S. passport or military ID in order to board commercial airlines in the U.S., says the Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles (BMV). Effective May 3, 2023, state-issued identification presented at Transportation Security Administration (TSA) screening checkpoints must be REAL ID. "To date, only 46 percent of Ohioans have their compliant driver license," BMV Registrar Charlie Norman said.


The Ohio Attorney General's Office honored five men this week who died last year while policing their communities. The 2022 Ohio Peace Officers Memorial Ceremony was held Thursday at the Ohio Peace Officer Training Academy in London. Those honored included Ofc. Brandon M. Stalker, Deputy Donald R. Gilreath III, Ofc. Jason S. Lagore, Ofc. Scott R. Dawley and Ofc. Shane H. Bartek.


Gov. Mike DeWine Thursday announced that the Ohio Emergency Management Agency (Ohio EMA) is now accepting applications for the new Ohio First Responder Recruitment, Retention and Resilience Program, which will provide nearly $70 million in grant funding for the recruitment and wellness needs of Ohio's first responders. The $70 million in grants is part of the $250 million in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding that DeWine and the General Assembly dedicated to first responders to help them counter various pressing issues exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, including increased stress and decreased staffing levels. Law enforcement, fire and emergency medical services agencies are among the first responder entities eligible for funding, according to the governor's office. Grants may be directed toward priorities such as wellness programs addressing mental, physical and emotional health issues unique to first responders; recruitment and retention efforts to restore workforce levels; onboarding and training costs; and explorer programs to engage young adults about first responder careers. The application for the program is available on the Ohio Department of Public Safety's website. The deadline to submit a grant application is Friday, June 17 at 5 p.m.


REDISTRICTING/REAPPORTIONMENT


Secretary of State Frank LaRose sent another letter Friday, April 29 to lawmakers and his fellow members of the Ohio Redistricting Commission to suggest any course other than that contemplated by the federal courts -- ordering use of the third set of commission-adopted maps for this cycle -- would be next to impossible to put into action. LaRose expressed hopes that the commission would finally resolve the months long impasse and enact consensus maps on a fifth attempt, but said he's not convinced that will come to pass.


The Ohio Redistricting Commission saw both legislative leaders replaced this week and, as a result, a new co-chair. Speaker of the House Bob Cupp (R-Lima) appointed Rep. Jeff LaRe (R-Canal Winchester) in his stead, thus becoming a co-chair. Senate President Matt Huffman (R-Lima) appointed Sen. Rob McColley (R-Napoleon) to take his place earlier in the week.


The commission met twice this week on both Wednesday and Thursday. During its second meeting, it voted 4-3 to resubmit the third legislative maps that had previously been submitted on Feb. 24 to be used only in the 2022 elections. Auditor Keith Faber joined Co-Chair Sen. Vernon Sykes (D-Akron) and Rep. Allison Russo (D-Upper Arlington) in voting against it. Opponents, however, said the Ohio Constitution says the commission can make four or 10-year-maps and can't decide to adopt a two-year map.


Before the vote, Secretary of State Frank LaRose had said this was the "only viable option" to effectively hold the second primary election on Aug. 2, which his office and the bipartisan Ohio Association of Election Officials consider the only eligible date. The last date in which a new map could have been ordered and implemented without altering current statutory deadlines was April 20, and he had been told that there are not enough votes in the House or Senate to pass emergency legislation delaying the primary.


Earlier in the Thursday session, Russo had sought the commission's acceptance of a new map developed by University of Stanford Professor Jonathan Rodden as a modification to the one made by the independent map-makers. McColley, however, raised concerns, saying Rodden was a "paid expert" of the petitioners and "Eric Holder-aligned groups." Russo argued in turn that the Rodden map represented a constitutional map that could satisfy the court deadline of 9 a.m. Friday and had been available since early April. In addition to McColley's objection, Faber also said it was inappropriate to vote on a map that had been completed by the petitioner's lawyers. The motion on accepting that map failed by a party-line vote.


Even as the Ohio Redistricting Commission met Thursday and voted to use a General Assembly redistricting plan struck down earlier by the Ohio Supreme Court, members of the commission filed motions with the Court saying they should not be held in contempt for not meeting before this week. The ACLU of Ohio, representing the League of Women Voters of Ohio and the A. Phillip Randolph Institute, had filed a motion asking the Court to order the members of the commission to appear and show cause as to why they should not be held in contempt for not calling a meeting after the Court had struck down the fourth map passed by the commission. The Court, when issuing its order, had given the commission until Friday, May 6, to create a new General Assembly plan. In response to that motion, members of the commission said that it met Wednesday, rendering the motion moot, while also saying it was premature to have been filed in the first place.


TRANSPORTATION/INFRASTRUCTURE


Gov. Mike DeWine and Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) Director Jack Marchbanks Thursday announced the release of $51 million for 44 new safety improvement projects to specifically address an increase in pedestrian-involved traffic crashes and fatal roadway departures on state and local roads. The funds come as fatal crashes involving pedestrians and roadway departures both hit their highest levels in 2021, compared to the previous decade.


TREASURER OF STATE


Ohio Treasurer Robert Sprague Monday announced the purchase of $22.5 million in five-year, fixed-rate Israel Bonds. "With competitive interest rates and reliable payments, Israel Bonds remain a valuable investment for Ohio's taxpayers," Sprague said in a prepared statement. "The Buckeye State is among the largest government holders of Israel Bonds in the country, and we're proud to continue the office's long-standing tradition."


VETERANS


AARP recently launched the AARP Veterans Fraud Center, a new online education and resource center to help protect veterans, service members and their families against fraud. To learn more about the AARP Veterans Fraud Center and to download a free copy of the new Watchdog Alert Handbook: Veterans' Edition, go to https://campaigns.aarp.org/vets-fraud-center.


WORKERS' COMPENSATION


The number of injured workers with an opioid prescription is down in 2021 compared to 2020, according to Ohio Bureau of Workers' Compensation (BWC) Pharmacy Program Director Tracey Archibald. However, opioids remain the top medication used by injured workers under the program, Archibald's report says. The annual pharmacy program report was one of several items discussed during the BWC Board of Directors meeting on Friday, April 29 in downtown Columbus.


WORKFORCE


Education and business leaders discussed Wednesday how Ohio can prepare for the future workforce needs triggered by Intel's semiconductor production facilities in Central Ohio, as part of a wider forum on workforce and education hosted by Ohio Excels and the Governor's Office of Workforce Transformation. The hour-long panel was moderated by JobsOhio Senior Managing Director Kristi Clouse and included John Berry, president of Central Ohio Technical College (COTC); John Trott, executive director of the Area 7 Workforce Investment Board; Jack Thomas, president of Central State University (CSU); Jeff Spain, director of the Manufacturing Extension Partnership at Columbus State Community College (CSCC); Joyce Malainy, superintendent of the Career and Technology Education Centers of Licking County; and Steve Ringel, executive director of the Ohio State University (OSU) Institute for Materials Research.


Results for the March round of TechCred applications were announced Thursday, with Lt. Gov. Jon Husted saying 342 Ohio employers were approved for funding that will provide 4,121 tech-focused credentials. This is the second consecutive period with over 4,000 credentials. It is the 13th round and included 95 employers approved for the first time. In total, 1,822 employers have been approved for funding to support 40,824 credentials. The program is on track to exceed its 20,000 credential goal for the fiscal year. The 14th application round opened Monday, May 2 and will end at 3 p.m. on Tuesday, May 31.

[Story originally published in The Hannah Report. Copyright 2022 Hannah News Service, Inc.]


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