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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The DeWine administration announced Monday it has begun accepting applications for the second round of the Appalachian Community Grant program, with approximately $420 million now available. The funds can be used to revitalize downtowns, enhance quality of life, and help rebuild the local economies. The grant program received a total of $500 million, of which $30 million was awarded for planning efforts and $50 million went to development grants in the first round. Second round applications must be submitted by 4 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 8. Additional information is available at https://tinyurl.com/48cs46y3. The funding comes from Ohio's designation of American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) dollars, and the program was created through 134-HB377 (Hall).
ARTS, SPORTS AND ENTERTAINMENT
Gov. Mike DeWine recently announced that 16 arts organizations in 12 counties will be receiving more than $2.4 million in grants as part of the third round of the Ohio Arts Economic Relief Grant Program. Authorized under 134-HB45 (West-Roemer), the grants are funded by the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA). Awards were calculated based on organizations' loss in revenue from 2019 to 2021 and their 2022 operating budgets. The grants will help pay for employee compensation, recruitment, rehiring, training expenses, rent or mortgage payments, and operating costs. Approximately $43 million in funding was awarded to arts organizations as part of the program's first two rounds. The first round awarded more than $23 million to 139 organizations, and round two offered $20 million in funding for 104 arts organizations.
A little more than a year after the U.S. Supreme Court ended nationwide constitutional protections for abortion, Ohio voters enshrined an explicit right to abortion into the state constitution. Ohioans approved reproductive and abortion rights constitutional amendment Issue 1 by a vote of 55.8 percent to 44.2 percent, according to numbers posted by the Ohio Secretary of State's Office late Tuesday night. Several hundred Issue 1 supporters gathered at the Hyatt Regency for an election night party Tuesday hosted by Ohioans for Reproductive Rights (OURR). When it became clear that the measure was going to pass at around 9 p.m., the crowd began cheering loudly and a number of attendees were crying tears of joy. "Ohioans can rest easy knowing that we will never again be denied timely medical care or be forced to leave our home for the care we need," said Lauren Blauvelt, co-chair of OURR and executive director of Planned Parenthood Advocates of Ohio.
Organizers of the effort in support of the reproductive and abortion rights constitutional amendment Issue 1 weren't without reason to celebrate on Wednesday. Issue 1 saw passage at over 56 percent among turnout from nearly 49 percent of registered voters, a relatively large proportion for an off-year election on Tuesday. "I think what we saw was a definitive victory for abortion access, that the majority of Ohioans support abortion access and turned out the vote to ensure that Issue 1 passed," said Blauvelt at a Wednesday news conference. "This is a solid majority of Ohio voters who have come together to speak, and we feel really confident that now this is the law of the land and it needs to be upheld," Blauvelt added. Ohio is now the seventh state in the nation where voters have affirmed abortion rights since the U.S. Supreme Court struck down Roe v. Wade in 2022. The first six states were Michigan, Vermont, Kentucky, Kansas, Montana and California. But despite different political settings, abortion rights movements have found success through grassroots measures like broad coalitions of different voter groups and support built from the bottom up, according to Veronica Ingham of Ohioans for Reproductive Freedom.
At another Wednesday news conference, a group dedicated to helping state-level Democrats across the country said Tuesday election results in Ohio and elsewhere demonstrated the potency of the abortion issue and highlighted the importance of focusing on state-level races even as the focus shifts to the White House contest in 2024. The Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee (DLCC), in a teleconference with reporters pointed to Ohio's Issue 1 victory, Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear's (D-KY) re-election victory and Democratic state legislative gains in Virginia, New Jersey and New Hampshire. DLCC Interim President Heather Williams and Senior Advisor Jessica Post said abortion is motivating voters whether the issue is being addressed directly, as with Ohio's ballot question, or as part of legislative campaigns, as with elections in Virginia. There, incumbent GOP Gov. Glenn Youngkin campaigned for full control of the Virginia Legislature with the goal of enacting a 15-week restriction on abortion, but Democrats appear instead to have won majorities in both chambers. Williams said she expects to see additional ballot measures in states on abortion following Ohio's Issue 1 result, but argued she expects further victories regardless.
Senate President Matt Huffman (R-Lima) issued a statement Tuesday night on the victory of Issue 1, saying that life "is worth fighting for. As a grandparent of eight, the life of a baby is always worth the fight. The national abortion industry funded by wealthy out-of-state interests spent millions to pass this radical language that goes far past abortion on demand. This isn't the end. It is really just the beginning of a revolving door of ballot campaigns to repeal or replace Issue 1." House Speaker Jason Stephens (R-Kitts Hill) said the Legislature has "multiple paths that we will explore to continue to protect innocent life. This is not the end of the conversation.
Yes on Issue 2 Campaign spokesman Tom Haren told reporters Tuesday night the result represented a "landslide victory" of Ohioans saying "they want marijuana regulated like alcohol." Haren added that Ohioans have seen how similar programs work in other states, including the amount of tax revenue generated and the testing of the marijuana provided through them. Asked about the number of Ohioans who voted against the issue, he said, "Those voters will see how successful the adult use program will be here in Ohio once Issue 2 gets implemented."
Gov. Mike DeWine told reporters Thursday the results of Issues 1 and 2 will "certainly" be accepted in the state, while also saying the majority of Ohio voters are "somewhere in the middle" on abortion and that the General Assembly has a "responsibility" to set guardrails around recreational marijuana usage. On Issue 1, he said those majority views include support of setting exceptions for rape and incest, and opposition to having "abortion up until the time of birth." In time, he continued, they may consider how the constitutional amendment is working. DeWine also said there is a "continuum," with small numbers believing in either no abortion or abortion at any time, but Issue 1 only posed "two choices."
DeWine further told reporters that the courts will decide what other abortion laws remain in effect, and that could be part of Ohioans' view on the amendment. He also said he did not regret signing 132-SB23 (Roegner), the "heartbeat" abortion ban, and that it became "abundantly clear" after the Dobbs decision that Ohioans had "a real strong feeling" in support of rape and incest exceptions.
Regarding Issue 2, DeWine said he had spoken with Huffman and Stephens and will meet with them Monday morning as well. He has asked the Legislature to take "appropriate action" within the next 30 days to "carry out our duty to the people of the state" while respecting the voters' decision. Specific goals he detailed are to protect children, both in terms of advertising and inadvertent exposure to food products containing marijuana; to ensure people can be in public areas without smelling marijuana, as that has been an issue in other states; and to reduce the number of people who drive while under the influence.
The Office of Budget and Management (OBM) reported Monday that the state's October revenues came in $162.6 million or 7.2 percent over estimates for the month with a total of $2.4 billion collected. That takes the FY24 revenues to nearly $218.6 million or 2.4 percent over estimates. Leading the way in October was the Personal Income Tax which was nearly $133.8 million or 18.8 percent over estimates. That was followed by the Commercial Activity Tax (CAT) exceeding estimates by $16.6 million or 14.0 percent and the auto sales tax coming in at $14.8 million or 9.4 percent above projections.
A new analysis by senior officials in the Biden administration shows that federal COVID relief dollars for child care programs decreased child care expenses for families, helped women with young children re-enter the workforce, and boosted the wages of child care workers. The analysis comes as President Joe Biden pushes for an additional $16 billion for the program. The report by the President's Council of Economic Advisers (CEA) found the American Rescue Plan Act's (ARPA) Child Care Stabilization program lowered child care costs for a typical family with young children by over $1,200 per child per year. It estimated the program increased labor force participation and employment of mothers with young children by an additional 3 percentage points, and boosted the wages and employment of child care workers. ARPA, which was passed and signed in 2021, provided $24 billion in subsidies to child care providers in an effort to keep them open and help retain staff.
Steve Dackin is back atop the state’s K-12 education agency after a very brief stint last year cut short by an ethics inquiry. Gov. Mike DeWine said Thursday he's nominating Dackin to serve as the first permanent director of the Ohio Department of Education and Workforce (DEW), a renamed and reconfigured agency that's assuming many powers from the State Board of Education (SBOE) and state superintendent. Dackin is a former teacher, school administrator and community college official who served as vice president of the State Board of Education, a position he resigned to pursue the job of state superintendent. His former board colleagues chose him for the role, but he served just weeks before resigning and returning his pay. The Ohio Ethics Commission had launched an inquiry over his conduct in leading the board's search for a new superintendent but then turning around and seeking the position himself. He ultimately signed a settlement with the commission in which he agreed to complete three hours of ethics training and forego seeking the superintendent position for a year. According to the settlement, an official in DeWine's office had "invited" Dackin to seek the superintendent post.
Ohio voters approved 69 percent of school funding requests on the Tuesday ballot, according to data compiled by the Ohio School Boards Association (OSBA). Approval of 115 of 167 funding issues represents a slight decrease in the approval rate from the prior November election, when 87 of 120 requests, or 73 percent, won passage. Overwhelming approval of renewal funding requests was offset by the failure of many new funding issues, according to OSBA. OSBA maintains a database of levy results at https://tinyurl.com/bddtyemd.
State budget funding meant to address capacity limits in career-technical education programs was awarded to 35 schools Friday, the DeWine administration announced. Under HB33 (Edwards), $200 million is available in FY24 for construction projects to support establishment or expansion of career-technical education programs, with priority given to programs aligned to a list of top jobs maintained by the Office of Workforce Transformation or that qualify for the Innovative Workforce Incentive Program. Friday's announcement covers $199.8 million of the funding. Award amounts range from nearly $15 million for Four County Career Center in Northwest Ohio, for welding fabrication and electrical systems programs, to $1.6 million for Oregon City Schools for its agribusiness program. The full list of awards is at https://tinyurl.com/9mhc77j2.
A new video from the Ohio School Safety Center (OSSC) addresses the topic of school threats, both the importance of taking them seriously and the consequences they have. OSSC partnered with the Buckeye State Sheriffs' Association (BSSA) and Ohio Association of Chiefs of Police (OACP) on the effort. Featuring Ohio Department of Public Safety (DPS) Director Andy Wilson, Union County Sheriff Jamie Patton and Ottawa Hills Police Chief John Wenzlick, the video addresses repercussions of joking about violence in schools; legal consequences of making threats, even as pranks; lasting effects on one's future and opportunities; and the importance of reporting safety concerns rather than sharing them on social media.
State Board of Education members suing over K-12 governance reforms that transferred most of their powers to the governor's cabinet are objecting to a magistrate's recommendation that they not be granted an injunction against the power transfer. In a filing from late Friday, Nov. 3, the plaintiffs urge Judge Karen Phipps to overrule Magistrate Jennifer Hunt and instead grant an injunction against provisions of the state budget that gave most of their authority to the renamed and reconfigured Department of Education and Workforce (DEW), led by a gubernatorial appointee. The lawsuit alleges the power transfer violates the 1953 constitutional amendment that created the State Board of Education (SBOE), and that lawmakers enacted the language in violation of constitutional rules on legislative procedure. Under HB33 (Edwards), lawmakers changed the Ohio Department of Education (ODE) into DEW and gave it and its director most of the powers now held by the SBOE and state superintendent. The board retained jurisdiction over educator licensure and discipline issues as well as school district territory transfers.
A report released recently from Innovation Ohio's (IO) Education Fund said there are at least 700,000 Ohioans who are registered to vote, but have not participated in the last three federal elections. The report, "Ohio's Missing Voters," said that the group of registered but inactive voters includes a higher proportion of Black, younger, and women voters, compared to all registered voters. Additionally, IO said it estimates there are approximately 2 million more eligible but unregistered voters, with a higher concentration, like the state's population overall, in the urban counties. For its report, IO analyzed publicly-maintained and commercial voter lists within the Ohio voter file.
A total of 1,766 local issues were before voters on Tuesday's ballot. These included issues addressing police and fire funding, liquor sales, operating levies, funding for parks and recreation program, human service levies for local boards of developmental disabilities, mental health and health, infrastructure issues, as well as school and library levies.
According to numbers posted on the secretary of state's website, 855,076 Ohioans cast absentee ballots ahead of Tuesday's election, with more than half of those cast in-person. The numbers show that 566,404 total votes were cast at county boards of elections, including 79,338 this past weekend. Sunday was the final day of early-in person voting after legislation passed in the last General Assembly, 134-HB458 (Hall) eliminated Monday voting to give boards of elections more time to prepare for the Tuesday election days. Those numbers may not be final as Friday and Saturday voting numbers from Cuyahoga County were not available. County boards of elections reported 223,732 ballots were returned by mail by voters, while 19,081 were personally delivered to a board of elections, and 45,859 were returned through a drop box. There were 410,600 absentee ballots mailed to voters, meaning about 121,928 absentee ballots are still outstanding.
Voting rights groups Tuesday outlined a number of issues that had been reported to them around the state as Ohioans went to the polls to decide state Issues 1 and 2, as well as a number of local issues and municipal races. Some of those issues occurred during the early voting period, with Nazek Hapasha, policy affairs manager for the League of Women Voters of Ohio, telling reporters that the group had received reports of voters who applied for an absentee ballot by mail but never received it. She said a high number of these voters are students, and added that a high number of the issues occurred in the process of getting the ballot from boards of elections to the voter. Hapasha said they have been trying to follow up with those voters, and have found the situations and reasons differ, but said overall they have concerns about the shortened time frame for requesting and returning ballots after 134-HB458 (Hall) made changes to previous law giving voters up to 10 days after an election to return a ballot as long as it had been postmarked by Election Day.
Will Ohio's embrace of reproductive and abortion rights amendment Issue 1 on Tuesday have an effect on 2024? Will the Legislature immediately try to undercut both Issue 1 and recreational marijuana initiated statute Issue 2? Those were among the questions debated by a panel assessing the results of Tuesday's election during a Columbus Metropolitan Club forum on Wednesday. The panel featured USA Today Network Ohio Bureau reporter Haley BeMiller, Wendy Smooth, Ohio State University professor of women's gender and sexuality studies and senior vice provost for Inclusive Excellence, Franklin County Republican Party Chair Meredith Freedhoff, and Julie Womack of Red, Wine and Blue. It was moderated by Associated Press reporter Julie Carr Smyth. Smooth said the passage of Issue 1 follows a trend that abortion supporters believe shows them "running the table" when it comes to ballot initiatives dealing with reproductive and abortion rights. The results of all of these issues shows that Americans are supportive of some level of choice, adding that it seems to also be driving a number of other races. She said the question is why that is the case.
Republican U.S. Senate candidate Bernie Moreno's campaign launched a $2 million advertising campaign starting on Thursday, a buy that includes broadcast, cable, radio, digital, and direct mail statewide. It will continue through December.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the nation added 150,000 nonfarm jobs in October as the national unemployment rate ticked up from 3.8 percent in September to 3.9 percent in October. BLS said the number of unemployed persons, at 6.5 million, was little changed in October, though it is up 849,000 from a recent low in April, and the unemployment rate is up from April's 3.4 percent rate. Among the major worker groups, the unemployment rates for adult men (3.7 percent), adult women (3.3 percent), teenagers (13.2 percent), Whites (3.5 percent), Blacks (5.8 percent), Asians (3.1 percent), and Hispanics (4.8 percent) showed little change in October.
The Senate Energy and Public Utilities Committee, House Public Utilities Committee and House Energy and Natural Resources Committee joined the Pennsylvania Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committee in Pittsburgh Thursday, Nov. 2 for a joint hearing on interstate relationships within the 13-state regional transmission organization (RTO) encompassing Ohio, PJM Interconnection. House Public Utilities Committee Chairman Dick Stein (R-Norwalk) and Senate Majority Floor Leader Rob McColley (R-Napoleon), vice chair of the Senate Energy and Public Utilities Committee, pushed back on the idea that Ohioans should foot the bill for new transmission infrastructure to move electricity long distances from its generation source to end users and to ensure states with aggressive renewable energy targets have access to nuclear and fossil fuel-generated baseload from neighboring states to keep the lights on 24/7.
A half million Ohio households will see a 4.8 percent increase in their natural gas bill after the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) approved new utility rates in an agreement signed by Duke Energy Ohio, commission staff and parties including the Retail Energy Supply Association (RESA). Regular residential customers will pay a fixed gas delivery charge of $43.29 each month and low-income households $39.29, regardless of actual usage, and account for 67.8 percent of Duke's revenue increase for a total revenue requirement exceeding a half billion dollars. The company's overall profit margin going forward is 6.96 percent. The $37.1 million revenue increase is significantly less than the $48.8 million Duke originally sought and removes a $4 "switching fee" to purchase actual gas consumed from a state-certified retail supplier. The agreement does continue the capital expenditure program (CEP) line item on customer bills but does not include other billing riders the utility had requested.
The Office of Ohio Consumers Counsel (OCC) is pressing state regulators to grant a subpoena of FirstEnergy's top accountant despite the U.S. Department of Justice's (DOJ) ongoing probe into the 133-HB6 (Callender-Wilkin) bribery scheme that brought down former House Speaker Larry Householder. OCC says the Public Utility Commission of Ohio (PUCO) should not allow the company to charge customers another $1.4 billion in its pending rate case without opening its books to resolve questions about internal accounting practices that led to the scandal. OCC wants to question FirstEnergy Vice President, Controller and Chief Accounting Officer Jason Lisowski as part of PUCO hearings on the utility's application for a fifth electric security plan (ESP). Among seven findings of corporate non-compliance, FERC's 2022 audit revealed that FirstEnergy had billed over a half billion dollars to construction projects, even though most employees questioned by the agency had not performed construction-related tasks.
Thirteen organizations across the state are receiving more than $244,000 in environmental education grants, the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (Ohio EPA) announced recently. The grants will support habitat restoration, sustainability, litter control, biodiversity and butterflies, among other projects, according to a news release from the agency.
U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) discussed Wednesday the importance of protections for the credit reports of military families and efforts to ensure credit reporting bureaus are taking proactive steps to help those families. On a conference call with reporters, Brown joined Kelly Hruska of the National Military Family Association to discuss the importance of securing the credit histories of military families. Brown and Hruska said deployments and frequent moves by service members and their families make them more susceptible to scams and identity theft, and increase the likelihood of delays in noticing the fraud until the damage to credit scores is done. In addition to the direct financial harms, service members also face professional repercussions, as bad credit can factor into their qualifications for a security clearance. Brown said 80 percent of clearance revocations are related to financial difficulties.
The House has just seven sessions set for the first six months of 2024, although other tentative dates are on the calendar, according to a schedule released Thursday. Little may happen before April, with just one session and two if-needed sessions scheduled before then. The schedule released by the clerk's office Thursday starts with an if-needed session Wednesday, Jan. 10 and session Wednesday, Jan. 24, and concludes with session on Wednesday, June 26. February has just one if-needed date, on Wednesday, Feb. 7. March - which this year includes the Tuesday, March 19 presidential primary and Easter on Sunday, March 31 - has no session dates at all. April includes Wednesday sessions on April 10 and April 24. May includes Wednesday sessions on May 8 and May 22. June includes Wednesday sessions on June 12 and June 26.
Two doctors in the House Democratic Caucus quickly followed Tuesday's passage of the reproductive and abortion rights amendment in Issue 1 with the announcement Thursday of a bill to repeal several abortion restrictions. Reps. Beth Liston (D-Dublin) and Anita Somani (D-Dublin), respectively a pediatrician and an OBGYN, said they'll introduce legislation known as the Reproductive Care Act. According to Liston, it will do the following:
Repeal 133-SB23 (Roegner), the six-week "heartbeat" abortion ban.
Remove mandatory waiting periods before getting an abortion.
Eliminate transfer agreement requirements for abortion clinics.
Eliminate other targeted restrictions against abortion providers, aka TRAP laws.
Create privacy protections for reproductive health information.
Prevent discrimination due to reproductive health decisions.
Protect against criminalization of reproductive health decisions.
Former state Rep. Shalya Davis has been selected as the new president and CEO of the Ohio Legislative Black Caucus Foundation (OLBCF), the caucus announced Thursday. She succeeds Barbara Sykes, a former state lawmaker, who was recently elected to a seat on the Akron School Board. GREAT LAKES The City Club of Cleveland hosted National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) administrator Richard Spinrad Friday for its "State of the Great Lakes" forum, with a focus on how climate change has and will continue to affect Lake Erie and the region. He was joined by WKYC Chief Meteorologist Betsy Kling as the moderator. Spinrad described the scope of NOAA operations, saying they represent an "environmental intelligence agency" in light of his U.S. Navy background. That ranges from the surface of the sun to the bottom of the ocean. They work to protect lives, livelihoods and lifestyles in the U.S., he continued. Kling said that when it comes to the climate, "the extremes are getting more extreme." Spinrad agreed, saying the number of "billion dollar disasters" has increased from one every three months in the 1980s to 24 nationally so far this year as adjusted for inflation. HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES Public Children Services Association of Ohio (PCSAO) and the Ohio Association of County Behavioral Health Authorities (OACBHA) reported the outcomes of the local levy elections Tuesday night. Children services saw 12 of 14 levies pass with only the Highland and Knox counties losing. All 11 local alcohol, drug addiction and mental health (ADAMH) levies on the Tuesday ballot passed. HIGHER EDUCATION Inter-University Council (IUC) of Ohio President and CEO Laura Lanese Thursday hosted the inaugural symposium for military-connected students ahead of Veterans Day this weekend. Held in the Atrium of the Ohio Statehouse, the event drew about 75 attendees, according to IUC staff. The IUC represents the state's 14 public universities. Lanese told Hannah News one goal of the symposium was to connect university officials with each other as well as others working with military-connected students and veterans. Lanese said she hopes to turn the symposium into an annual event. The symposium included two panel discussions, one on military-connected students' campus experiences and another on military-connected students in the workforce. Both highlighted some of the specific challenges faced by military-connected students and veterans. Mike Duffey, the former lawmaker nominated by Gov. Mike DeWine to lead the Ohio Department of Higher Education (ODHE), lost his bid for Worthington City Council on Tuesday, removing a potential conflict. DeWine announced last month that he had selected Duffey, currently serving as a senior vice chancellor at ODHE, to succeed Randy Gardner as chancellor at the end of this year. However, at the time of DeWine's announcement, Duffey was still a candidate for city council, and early voting had begun. DeWine's office later told the Columbus Dispatch that the office was looking into the issue to see if a potential conflict would materialize from his serving in the dual roles. HUMAN SERVICES Ohio's Office of Criminal Justice Services (OCJS) has opened the application process for federal grants supporting emergency shelter and other services for domestic violence victims and their dependents. Funded by the FFY24 Family Violence Prevention and Services Act (FVPSA), OCJS's request for proposal (RFP) covers program eligibility and application instructions. JUDICIAL The state ethics body governing lawyers and judges says a magistrate who persisted in identifying as a "judge" during her judicial campaign after repeated admissions to Ohio Supreme Court violations should not face a public reprimand for errors she purportedly sought to correct. Myra Scheurer complained several times about her opponent's rule infractions but lost to Stephanie Lynn Williams Tuesday by a nearly two-to-one margin in the Cambridge Municipal Court election. Williams was admitted to the Ohio bar in 2001 and appointed magistrate in the Guernsey County Common Pleas Court's Domestic Relations Division in early 2021. This year, she launched a campaign for municipal court and posted a photo of herself in judges' robes on her Facebook page and campaign website. Scheurer contacted her to complain each time, and Williams responded with separate disclaimers stating she is not a judge. LIBRARIES Ohio library systems came within about 100 votes of running the table Tuesday night as 25 of 26 local funding issues won voters' support, most by healthy margins. According to preliminary results from the Ohio Library Council (OLC), the only defeat came for the 10-year, 3 mill renewal/increase levy request for Kingsville Public Library in Ashtabula County, which fell short by 93 votes in a contest involving about 2,500 ballots. Otherwise, voters approved 16 renewal levies, four new/additional levies, one renewal with increase levy, three replacement levies and one renewal with decrease levy, with an average approval rate of 63 percent. The closest win came for Fairfield County District Library, which garnered 52 percent of the vote for its 0.5 mill, 10-year replacement levy. The most lopsided victory came for McComb Public Library in Hancock County, with 84 percent approval for its 1 mill, five-year renewal levy. LOBBYISTS Capitol Square is devoid of one of its most visible lobbyists -- for a while, at least. The decision to step down from her role leading the Ohio Association of Foodbanks (OAF) was "bittersweet," Lisa Hamler-Fugitt told Hannah News during a wide-ranging interview. "One of the reasons that I'm leaving now, is I have elderly parents. Certainly, what I've seen both professionally and personally, is that we -- the collective 'we,' the citizens of the state of Ohio as well as all of America -- we have an aging problem. We have no support systems in place whatsoever for dealing with aging parents and relatives," she said. "Right now, what I'm personally dealing with is a father, who is the primary caregiver of my mother, who has dementia," Hamler-Fugitt continued. "He got COVID in March of 2020, and he has been struggling since that time with just everything -- heart, kidneys. He is just holding on right now and trying to live independently. So I'm going to be spending a lot of time doing elder caregiving." Hamler-Fugitt said she may return to Capitol Square soon after her retirement, but in a different capacity. MARIJUANA/HEMP Adults ages 21 and older could have to wait nine months to purchase recreational marijuana from a dispensary in Ohio, according to the Ohio Department of Commerce (DOC). "Non-medical cannabis will not be immediately available to purchase in dispensaries, and the general public at this moment is not permitted in dispensaries unless the individual is a registered patient or caregiver in the Ohio Medical Marijuana Control Program (MMCP). There are currently no entities licensed to sell non-medical cannabis in the state of Ohio," DOC said Wednesday. Voters approved adult use marijuana legalization initiated statute Issue 2 by a vote of 57 percent to 43 percent on Tuesday. Initiated statutes become effective 30 days after Election Day. The new law establishes the Division of Cannabis Control under DOC, and gives the division up to nine months to write rules and issue licenses. DOC is providing updates on the new adult use program at www.com.ohio.gov/nonmedicalcannabis. Because Ohio already has a robust medical marijuana program and because the new recreational marijuana program builds off that existing regulatory infrastructure, there won't need to be huge changes to the way the state implements the new recreational marijuana program approved by voters on Tuesday as a part of Issue 2, an attorney who worked with the pro-side of the campaign said at an Impact Ohio panel Thursday. Tom Haren, an attorney with Frantz Ward LLP who served as a spokesman for the Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, the group that brought Issue 2 to the ballot, expressed aggravation at state legislators who have floated changing the initiated statute since its passage on Tuesday. He said that the campaign was launched to put Issue 2 on the ballot two years ago, and there was no secret what it would be, but they didn't "get the time of day" from legislators until voters approved it Tuesday. He said they aren't hearing talk of repeal or gutting the law as much since Tuesday -- "that has stopped," -- and now comments are more focused on "tinkering around the edges." With the new law is expected to take effect in 30 days, the panel was asked whether lawmakers are under a deadline to make any adjustments before it takes effect with a panelist noting that anything that lawmakers pass would still take 90 days to go into effect, unless they add an emergency clause. The biggest issue could see lawmakers addressing home grow, so that people do not use it as a way to grow and sell unregulated product. There are nearly 400,000 patients registered in the Ohio Medical Marijuana Control Program (MMCP), according to the Ohio Board of Pharmacy (OBP). Specifically, there are 398,057 patients registered in the program, OBP said in its September 2023 MMCP patient and caregiver update. Of registered patients, 23,258 are military veterans, 24,233 are classified as "indigent" and 1,374 have a terminal diagnosis.Of the 398,057 registered patients, only 184,958 have both an active registration and an active recommendation from a doctor. MENTAL HEALTH Gov. Mike DeWine announced this week that his cabinet will see further changes soon with the impending departure of Lori Criss as director of the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services (OhioMHAS). Criss will serve through Friday, Dec. 1, then join Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center as behavioral health community engagement director. Criss was head of the Ohio Council of Behavioral Health and Family Services Providers before joining the DeWine administration. NATURAL RESOURCES Federal and state wildlife officials say a small, nocturnal species of catfish in Ohio called the Scioto madtom is officially extinct. The Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) Division of Wildlife said Friday the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services has declared the madtom extinct and removed it from listings under the federal Endangered Species Act. Previously found in a section of the Big Darby Creek, a Scioto River tributary, the Scioto madtom's last known sighting was in 1957. ODNR recently rededicated the A.W. Marion State Park dam after the completion of a $9.6 million rehabilitation project. This project is the first major dam rehabilitation at Hargus Lake since 1956 and is vital for bringing the dam structure into compliance with modern dam safety standards, ODNR said. A new concrete spillway was installed, which increased the dam's flow capacity by 60 percent. Additionally, the slope of the 1,500-foot-long embankment was flattened to improve long-term stability. Ohio's wild turkey poult index, a metric used to estimate nest success for the popular gamebird, was above average for the third year in a row, according to the ODNR Division of Wildlife. The 2023 Ohio index was 2.8 poults per hen, above the 10-year average of 2.7 poults per hen. The ODNR Division of Wildlife is again partnering with Farmers and Hunters Feeding the Hungry (FHFH) to support local foodbanks with donated venison. Through this program, FHFH and participating processors donate harvested deer to charitable organizations throughout Ohio. Hunters who harvest a deer and would like to donate the venison can take it to one of 26 certified deer processing shops in Ohio. Each donated deer is provided to a verified charitable organization that offers food assistance. One harvested deer yields approximately 50 pounds of venison and 200 meals. The complete list of processors accepting donations of harvested deer can be found online at www.feedingthehungry.org. Hunters who donate their deer are not required to pay for the processing of the venison. Ohio's deer archery hunting season is open until Sunday, Feb. 4, 2024. The youth gun season is Nov. 18-19, with statewide gun seasons Monday, Nov. 27 until Sunday, Dec. 3, and again Saturday-Sunday, Dec. 16-17. The muzzleloader season is from Saturday, Jan. 6 to Tuesday, Jan. 9, 2024. PARKS/RECREATION The Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) is offering $500,000 in boating safety education grants for eligible Ohio organizations, including school districts, political subdivisions, universities, and nonprofit agencies. Grant applications are due by Friday, Dec. 1 and funding is capped at $30,000 per applicant. Grants support the local purchase of safety equipment, such as vessels, life jackets and trailers. There is a 25 percent in-kind match requirement. PENSIONS About a decade after pension reforms that saw teachers have to pay more and work longer for lesser benefits, the State Teachers Retirement System (STRS) is back on an upward trajectory, says Executive Director William Neville in an interview with Hannah News. But to sustain that movement, the system wants employers to contribute more. Employer schools and institutions of higher education contribute 14 percent of an employee's pay to STRS. Teachers' own share rose from 10 percent to the 14 percent level after passage of 129-SB342 (Niehaus-Kearney), the 2012 pension reform bill for STRS. The bill removed a higher benefit multiplier for teachers working beyond 30 years and required using a five-year salary average to calculate pension amounts rather than a three-year average. It also empowered the STRS board to change inflationary payments on the advice of actuaries. Each of the five state retirements systems underwent substantial changes at the same time. PEOPLE The vice president of the National Association of Public Defense's (NAPD) Board of Directors and assistant director of the Office of the Ohio Public Defender (OPD) Elizabeth Miller becomes the first woman appointed as state public defender, effective Dec. 31, 2023. Miller replaces longtime state public defender Tim Young, the Ohio Public Defender Commission (OPDC) announced Tuesday. Miller first served in the public defender commission's Youth Defense Department between 2004-2010 before a two-year stint at the Hamilton County Public Defender's Office, returning to OPD as supervisor in the Appeals and Postconviction Department in 2012 before her promotion to assistant director in 2013. Rick Lucas is the next president and executive director of the Ohio Nurses Association (ONA), the organization announced Tuesday. "As a dedicated and experienced member of ONA with over 20 years of nursing experience, Mr. Lucas has brought a wealth of knowledge and passion to his roles. He has been a dynamic force within ONA, serving as president of the Ohio State University Nurses Organization (OSUNO) for five years," ONA said. Lucas has advocated for safe minimum staffing standards and ending mandatory overtime, among other priorities. The Ohio Facilities Construction Commission (OFCC) announced Tuesday three new members of its leadership staff. Joy DeMarco, previously general counsel and chief of operations for the Office of Budget and Management (OBM), joins OFCC as assistant executive director. Bill Damschroder, previously head of the Division of Environmental Response and Revitalization at the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency, is the new chief legal counsel. He also previously served as legal counsel for the Division of Industrial Compliance at the Ohio Department of Commerce and as chief legal counsel for the Ohio Department of Natural Resources. Anne Yeager, previously a communications manager for JobsOhio, is the new chief of communications. She also was public information manager for the Ohio Supreme Court and had a 25-year career as a TV journalist. POLITICS The Washington, D.C.-based Institute for Legislative Analysis (ILA) has given Senate President Matt Huffman (R-Lima) the "Defender of Limited Government Award," the Senate Republican Caucus announced Tuesday. "ILA's analysis of President Huffman's record shows he has consistently upheld the limited government principles of the U.S. Constitution while leading the Senate to cut overreaching regulations and advance prosperity for all Ohioans," ILA CEO Ryan McGowan said. Ohio's ILA scorecard can be viewed at https://scorecard.limitedgov.org/lawmakers?state=OH. Ohio Democratic Party Chair Liz Walters took a victory lap Wednesday over the passage of Issue 1 while also discussing the party's challenges and goals as it turns its attention to 2024, when Ohio's Democratic U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown will vie for re-election in what is expected to be one of the most competitive races in the country. After the Issue 1 victory, in which Ohioans voted by a double-digit margin to enshrine reproductive care and abortion rights into the state constitution, Walters said Ohio Democrats are more energized than they have been in years. She said they are focusing on the re-election of Sen. Sherrod Brown which is critical to blocking national abortion ban efforts, the re-election of Reps. Emilia Sykes (D-Akron), Marcy Kaptur (D-Toledo), and Greg Landsman (D-Lebanon) as well as Ohio Supreme Court races. The Buckeye State isn't necessarily becoming more competitive in partisan elections even though the reproductive/abortion rights amendment won by a 13-point margin, political analysts said Thursday."While I think you could look at public opinion on abortion rights as being pretty complicated over time, the Democratic Party position is just closer to where the median voter is than where the Republican Party position is," Sabato's Crystal Ball Managing Editor Kyle Kondik said during the 2023 Impact Ohio conference at the Ohio Chamber of Commerce's office in downtown Columbus. Kondik said the U.S. Supreme Court's removal of federal protections for abortion is "pretty unpopular, and I think we're seeing that at the ballot box." "It's not necessarily making everyone vote Democratic all the time on everything, but I think we've seen in Ohio that the pro-abortion rights position is certainly more popular than the Democratic Party writ large," Kondik said. The Ohio Democratic Party (ODP) this week announced that the 2024 Democratic National Convention (DNC) delegate selection process is open. ODP said Ohio Democrats can visit http://ohiodems.org/convention to learn more about the process of running for DNC delegate and fill out and submit their declaration of candidacy forms for the 2024 convention. DNC delegates help nominate the Democratic candidate for president. A total of 83 district delegates from Ohio and eight district alternates will be elected to represent Ohio at the 2024 DNC, in addition to at-large delegates and others representing the Ohio Democratic Party. Caucuses will take place in each of Ohio's 15 congressional districts on Tuesday, Jan. 9, 2024. The convention will take place in Chicago from Aug. 19 - 22, 2024. POLLS/STUDIES The latest release from the Quinnipiac University Poll shows that 84 percent of respondents are either very concerned (43 percent) or somewhat concerned (41 percent) that the United States will be drawn into a military conflict in the Middle East. The poll found 16 percent are either not so concerned (10 percent) or not concerned at all (6 percent). The degree of concern varies by party. Fifty-two percent of Republicans say they are very concerned, while 30 percent of Democrats say they are very concerned, and 47 percent of independents say they are very concerned. "American voters watching the cauldron of the Middle East reaching a furious boiling point are fearful the war, so far confined to Israel and Gaza, will metastasize to include U.S. troops," said Quinnipiac University Polling Analyst Tim Malloy. Half of respondents (50 percent) approve of the way Israel is responding to the Oct. 7 Hamas terrorist attack, while 35 percent disapprove, and 15 percent did not offer an opinion. PUBLIC SAFETY White-tailed deer activity is increasing because of the breeding season and drivers should be especially vigilant during the fall months, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) Division of Wildlife said. The frequency of deer-vehicle collisions in Ohio increases in October, November, and December.White-tailed deer are more active from late October through December during the fall breeding season. The breeding season, known as the rut, may cause deer to unexpectedly dart into roadways with little caution. Additionally, deer may move around more frequently, across wider areas, and at all hours of the day at this time of year. All these factors increase the risk of deer-vehicle collisions. REDISTRICTING/REAPPORTIONMENT Attorney General Dave Yost Thursday certified the petition summary language of a resubmitted constitutional amendment that would create a citizens' redistricting commission to draw state legislative and congressional district lines. The Citizens Not Politicians coalition had resubmitted its proposal last month over what it said was a typographical error in the previous language that had been approved by Yost and the Ohio Ballot Board. The group said the full text of the amendment sets the date for a citizens' redistricting commission to adopt new legislative maps as Sept. 19, 2025. However, previously approved summary language inadvertently stated the deadline would be Sept. 15. The new language corrected that error. STATE GOVERNMENT Ahead of the football game between Ohio State and Michigan, the Ohio Department of Commerce (DOC) Division of Unclaimed Funds is challenging Michigan Unclaimed Property to see which state's residents can find and claim the most forgotten funds. From now through Saturday, Nov. 25, Ohioans are encouraged to visit www.MissingMoney.com to scoop up lost or forgotten cash or property. The DOC Division of Unclaimed Funds currently has nearly $4 billion in unclaimed funds waiting to be recovered.Last year, the division returned $134 million to Ohioans and has returned more than $549 million over the last five years. STUDIES/POLLS Ohio was ranked 10th nationally among "most charitable states," according to a report released Monday by personal finance site WalletHub. That placed it second among neighboring states, as Pennsylvania was ranked seventh nationally. Other ranks for the region included Indiana, 33rd; Michigan, 36th; Kentucky, 38th; and West Virginia, 44th. The top five states were Utah, Wyoming, Minnesota, Maryland and Maine. The five lowest were Nevada, Rhode Island, Mississippi, New Mexico and Arizona. WalletHub also ranked states in the subcategories of "volunteering and service" and "charitable giving," with Ohio coming in 13th and 17th, respectively. That placed it first among neighbors for volunteering and service, and second to Pennsylvania for charitable giving. The Buckeye Institute recently released its third "Opening Doors" report on occupational licensure, saying the state could reform 20 license or certificate requirements and eliminate 27 to better enable Ohioans to succeed. This would also align Ohio with several neighboring states. The report further recommended expanding the statutory definition of "occupational license"; keeping the requirements for continuing education "limited and focused"; and moving toward inspections and bonding rather than licensure. Buckeye Institute Research Fellow Greg Lawson also noted the Ohio Legislature has acted on their recommendations in the past, including for lowering requirements and license reciprocity. VETERANS The Department of Administrative Services (DAS) and Department of Veterans Services (DVS) have joined to present a photo exhibit in the lobby of the Rhodes Tower that highlights nearly 100 state employees who identify as veterans. The photos will remain on display through November, in recognition of Veterans Day and National Veteran and Military Families Month. Gov. Mike DeWine and Ohio Department of Veterans Services (ODVS) Director Deborah Ashenhurst took part Thursday in recognizing this year's 20 inductees to the Ohio Veterans Hall of Fame. Three members of this year's class were inducted posthumously. "Listening to what all these men and women have accomplished is absolutely so inspiring," DeWine said. "As we prepare to observe Veterans Day this year, it really is my honor to be a part of this ceremony, my honor to welcome the latest class of the Ohio Veterans Hall of Fame." He added the inductees were "truly exceptional Ohioans" and described how former Gov. George Voinovich created the Hall of Fame to recognize what veterans do after they come home. "This Hall of Fame, and today's program, shine a spotlight on not just [the inductees] but on all our veterans. In Ohio, we understand what we owe to our veterans and to all of our military members who are currently serving today," DeWine continued. Ashenhurst also said "the heart of service continues" after leaving the military, saying the class members represent that heart. The 20 represented 14 Ohio counties and had served in conflicts including World War II, the Korean and Vietnam wars, the Gulf War and the Global War on Terrorism. Surviving inductees range in age from 56 to 86 and had gone on to careers in communications, engineering, science, health care and law, as well as local government. WORKFORCE The Ohio Manufacturers' Association (OMA) Workforce Summit Wednesday included discussion of a range of ways the industry can cultivate needed workers, both in the short-term and for the next generation.In initial remarks, Lt. Gov. Jon Husted described how a strong manufacturing industry and the associated workforce are part of keeping the U.S. as a world leader, and said Ohio is "critical" in efforts to rebuild the national industry. He urged businesses to promote careers, rather than just jobs, and noted the sector can't offer work-from-home opportunities in the way other sectors can. Husted further detailed the role of government in promoting manufacturing, including with industry sector partnerships, and said there has already been a change in attitudes regarding career centers and whether a college degree was the only pathway available. He additionally noted the $300 million in budget funding for career tech programs and talked about the over 70,000 credentials offered through TechCred, with manufacturing a lead industry as far as utilizing the program. Husted also said he hoped the federal government will recognize this lifelong training and adapt the Pell grant program for it. He closed by calling on manufacturers to help develop new ideas. In response to press questions, he said the most important part of building the manufacturing industry for the future is to ensure workers are available. That includes ensuring high school students graduate career ready, helping adults get reskilled and providing career pathways.
[Story originally published in The Hannah Report. Copyright 2023 Hannah News Service, Inc.]