Week In Review - November 16, 2020

Updated: 4 days ago



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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.


AGRICULTURE


As part of Gov. Mike DeWine's H2Ohio initiative, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) has announced a new incentive program to encourage farmers to help with conservation and improve water quality. ODNR will be accepting applications for its Water Quality Incentive Program (WQIP) from Tuesday, Dec.1 through Friday, Jan. 29, 2021, the department said.


FY20-21 BUDGET


Strong sales tax collections offset a drop in income tax revenue to put the state $84.8 million or 4.3 percent ahead of estimates for October, according to preliminary data from the Office of Budget and Management (OBM). For the fiscal year to date, tax revenues are up $347.2 million or 4.2 percent, with $8.62 billion collected through October versus $8.27 billion expected. Sales tax collections represent the bulk of the overage, coming in nearly $268 million or 7.3 percent ahead of projections. Notwithstanding, the current overage, the pandemic and its economic effects are creating significant uncertainty for the coming months, OBM Director Kimberly Murnieks told Hannah News.


FY22-23 BUDGET


The Ohio Children's Budget Coalition (OCBC), a partnership comprised of 18 organizations across the state, has reunited to advocate for the needs of the children in Ohio's state policy and budget decisions. OCBC plans to release a children's policy agenda and accompanying issue briefs in the coming month. The briefs will make specific policy and funding recommendations to "inform decision-making, promote racial equity, and take on the considerable challenges of COVID-19 with evidence-based, effective strategies."


BUSINESS/CORPORATE


The Ohio Restaurant Association (ORA) announced the latest results in its regular survey of Ohio establishments Monday, saying that 86 percent of respondents expect a net loss for the year due to effects of the pandemic.


Broadband provider Spectrum announced new digital education grants Thursday. This year's recipients range from long-standing nonprofits to newer organizations meeting children's educational needs and include the Appalachian Center for Economic Networks, Inc. (ACEnet) and Central Community House of Columbus.


CHILDREN/FAMILIES


The Commission on Infant Mortality heard from two speakers Tuesday who said Ohio needs to make a plan to reduce the infant mortality rate for Black babies or the figures will remain the same as the have for nearly the past decade. Dr. Arthur James of Internal Medicine/Pediatrics, Obstetrics and Gynecology at Ohio State University's Wexner Medical Center and Lisa Halloway, director of Maternal and Infant Health Initiatives for the Ohio chapter of March of Dimes, a nonprofit organization focused on improving the health of mothers and babies, both pointed to health inequities across Ohio as major factors leading to a disproportionately high infant mortality rate for Black babies.


A recent report from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) examining child health amid the COVID-19 pandemic warned that school closings could increase childhood obesity due to a decrease in children's physical activity. The report, "State of Childhood Obesity: Prioritizing Children's Health During the Pandemic," states that nationwide school closings could lead to as many as 1.2 million new cases of childhood obesity, amounting to a 2.4 percent overall increase in obesity among children. Before the onset of the pandemic, as many as 75 percent of children in the United States did not get the recommended 60 minutes of physical activity per day, and with virtual schooling becoming the predominant form of primary education, the authors caution that childhood physical activity could decrease further.


CIVIL RIGHTS


Ohio was recently named among the worst states for gender equality according to an analysis by the financial advisory website WalletHub. Women's rights in the U.S. have made leaps in the 100 years since the passage of the 19th Amendment, but the gender gap in America persists. While women make up more than 50 percent of the population, they constitute only around 24 percent of legislators and 25 percent of Fortune 500 board seats, WalletHub said. In 2020, women also face inequality when it comes to unemployment during the COVID-19 pandemic. Women have been laid off at a greater rate than men and are also re-employed more slowly. In addition, the share of the workforce that is female is now at its lowest point since 2008.


CORONAVIRUS


COVID cases climbed upward substantially over the week, with new records for daily case growth again broken soon after they were set. The 5,008 cases reported Friday, Nov. 6 marked a new record at the time, one quickly overtaken by Saturday’s 5,549 cases, Tuesday’s 6,508 cases and Thursday’s 7,101 cases. The updated Ohio Public Health Advisory System map now has 68 counites that are rated as having a very high risk of exposure and spread, up from 56 counties las week and hitting the highest number of red, level three counties since the launch of the advisory system in July.


With Ohio in the midst of a "third wave" with far higher COVID-19 numbers than the spring and summer, Gov. Mike DeWine told the public Wednesday evening that previous health orders on masks and gathering limits are being "reaffirmed" with additional provisions. He continued that another closure of restaurants, bars and fitness centers may be ordered based on how the data changes by Thursday, Nov. 19. The order on masks is being reissued with three new provisions on mandatory signage, requirements for businesses to enforce the order and creation of a state retail compliance unit. First violations will result in a written warning, while a second violation can lead to store closure for up to 24 hours.


The new record on Thursday came as Sen. Tina Maharath (D-Canal Winchester) said on Twitter that she had been reinfected with COVID-19 after having the virus in August. "The second wave is coming for my family and I urge you all to take this serious," she said. "Wear a mask, social distance, and avoid any gatherings. Even if it's with family."


DeWine announced Thursday the creation of two new dashboards. The first will expand the COVID-19 dashboard through the Ohio Department of Health (ODH) and will allow Ohioans to view data from their local communities, and filter the data by probable or confirmed case status, county, a specific ZIP code, or a specific time period. Case counts will also be available on a downloadable, filterable chart sorted from the most cases to the least. Case counts for ZIP codes with fewer than five cases or less than 100 total residents will not be displayed. He also announced a new flu dashboard that expands the statewide data that ODH shares on seasonal flu activity each year.


While Ohio health leaders said the state is in the "most significant" level of COVID-19 spread currently, there is a path out of the pandemic with the separate announcement Monday of a Pfizer vaccine candidate that appears to be at least 90 percent effective based on initial results. Cleveland Clinic Chief of Medical Operations Robert Wyllie said that means a vaccine should be widely available in "four to six months" and that people should continue safety protocols until then.


The Controlling Board approved four items added late to its agenda Monday, including $30 million in coronavirus relief funds that will go to local health departments as the state sees a spike in COVID-19 cases. Anthony Perry, the chief financial officer of the Ohio Department of Health (ODH), said the bulk of the funds will go to local health departments for epidemiology, support staff and services related to the pandemic. He said each of the local health departments is expected to receive $200,000 from the fund. Additionally, the funds will allow ODH to provide staff and contract workers to local health departments to help deal with the outbreak.


CRIME AND PUNISHMENT


In the wake of protests over the summer that led to the vandalism and looting of businesses around Ohio, two Republican lawmakers Tuesday announced legislation that will increase penalties for rioting. Reps. Cindy Abrams (R-Harrison) and Sara Carruthers (R-Hamilton) said they consider freedom of speech and freedom of assembly important parts of our democracy and said their HB784 will not infringe on the constitutional rights of Ohioans. But Abrams added that the bill would hold individuals responsible when misconduct occurs and the law is broken.


EDUCATION


Eliminating the floor for local funding shares and prioritizing aid for economically disadvantaged students are among key changes proposed for the Cupp-Patterson school funding plan, which was also introduced as a bipartisan Senate bill. Key legislative backers of the "Fair School Funding Plan" hosted a videoconference Friday to explain updates to the as-introduced version of HB305 (Cupp-Patterson) and announce the debut of SB376, sponsored by Sens. Peggy Lehner (R-Kettering) and Vernon Sykes (D-Akron).


Attorney General Dave Yost's office asked for court approval of a settlement with the former treasurer of the Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow (ECOT), saying she has agreed to provide evidence for the state's case against ECOT founder William Lager. Yost's office filed a motion Thursday, Nov. 5 for approval of a settlement with Michele Smith that would dismiss claims against her and her bonding company in exchange for her assistance in helping the state press its claims against Lager.


The average math score on the latest National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) for 12th grade students was essentially unchanged from 2015's results, while reading scores declined, according to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) within the U.S. Department of Education (USDOE). The report is generally known as the Nation's Report Card.


The return of high school football and other fall sports has not contributed to the spread of the coronavirus in the state, Ohio High School Athletic Association (OHSAA) Executive Director Doug Ute said Monday during a virtual session of the Ohio School Boards Association (OSBA) Capital Conference. "To our knowledge ... none of our events have caused the spread of the virus this fall. So that's huge to point out."


A number of Ohio educators said the substitute version of school funding reform bill HB305 (Cupp-Patterson), accepted by the House Finance Committee on Tuesday, should be passed and signed into law as soon as possible to fix Ohio's unconstitutional school funding system.


Another crop of speakers weighed in Tuesday on the State Board of Education's anti-racism resolution and the use of the "1619 Project" as a teaching resource, continuing a months-long discussion and prompting board President Laura Kohler to take the topics off the table for future meetings. "I no longer believe that these discussions are productive," Kohler said after another hour-plus of discussion on the topics, following lengthy public participation sessions at recent board meetings on the same subjects.


The State Board of Education approved a resolution Tuesday to formally back lame-duck passage of legislation supporting expansion of broadband access, HB13 (Carfagna-O'Brien), but could not reach quick consensus on endorsing an overhaul of school funding.


Toledo educators did not show "perverse disregard" toward allegations of kindergarten bullying, and the parents of the bullying victim cannot sue those school employees over their response to the incidents, the Ohio Supreme Court ruled Tuesday.


ELECTIONS 2020


While the Associated Press (AP) and all the major TV news networks -- including Fox News -- called the presidential race for Joe Biden on Saturday, most of Ohio's Republican leaders are either refusing to acknowledge the former vice president's win or are backing President Donald Trump's baseless attacks on elections officials in states where he happens to be losing. While Biden is projected by the AP and other major news outlets to have taken either 279 or 290 of the 270 Electoral College votes needed to win the presidency, Trump and many of his campaign supporters have alleged, without evidence, that widespread fraud caused Trump's loss.


Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost Monday filed an amicus brief urging the U.S. Supreme Court to intervene in a lawsuit challenging the decision of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court to order the counting of mailed absentee ballots that are postmarked by Election Day but received by boards of elections up to three days after Election Day.


EMPLOYMENT/UNEMPLOYMENT


The nation added 638,000 nonfarm payroll jobs in October, and the national unemployment dropped to 6.9 percent, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) announced Friday. BLS said the improved jobs numbers "reflect the continued resumption of economic activity that had been curtailed due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and efforts to contain it."


According to the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS), if the September employment rebound after the initial COVID-19 disruptions continues throughout 2020 in a similar magnitude, total employment is predicted to increase at an annual rate of 1.66 percent for the next six months in Ohio.


ENERGY/ UTILITIES


The Senate pressed ahead Tuesday with subsidy-neutral energy legislation still to be heard in the House following Gov. Mike DeWine's repeated calls for the lame-duck repeal of HB6 (Callender-Willkin). Numerous witnesses also urged passage of SB346's (O'Brien-Kunze) alternative proposal to kill nuclear, coal and solar subsidies while retaining renewable energy and energy efficiency (EE) mandates and other provisions predating HB6, although former senator and Ohio Consumers' Counsel advisor Jeff Jacobson said OCC prefers HB772's (Romanchuk) "agnostic" approach to competing energy sources. Rep. Mark Romanchuk's (R-Mansfield) bill -- introduced on Sept. 30 but still lacking House sponsor testimony -- began "informal" hearings in the Senate Energy and Public Utilities Committee.


ENVIRONMENT


Organizations interested in obtaining recycling and litter prevention grants can begin filling out applications, the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (Ohio EPA) announced. The application deadline is Friday, Feb. 5, 2021 at 3 p.m., according to the agency. Interested applicants are encouraged to participate in a Thursday, Jan. 7, 2021, webinar to learn about Ohio EPA's Recycling and Litter Prevention Grant application process and the activities targeted by the grant program. The webinar will take place from 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. Individuals can register for the webinar at https://register.gotowebinar.com/register/7220322845457281039.


FEDERAL


U.S. Rep. Joyce Beatty (D-Columbus) announced Monday that she will be running for chair of the Congressional Black Caucus in the 117th Congress.


GENERAL ASSEMBLY/STATEHOUSE


Hannah News subscribers can get a preview of the what the next General Assembly will look like in its updated "Faces of the 134th General Assembly" on the front page of www.hannah.com. Other resources available on the front page include a list of winners for the General Assembly and Congress with district addresses listed in an Excel spreadsheet, as well as a list of preliminary results from the election.


The Senate Republican Caucus unanimously elected Sen. Matt Huffman (R-Lima) as the chamber's president for the 134th General Assembly (GA), the Senate GOP announced Tuesday. Sen. Jay Hottinger (R-Newark) will serve as president pro tempore; Sen. Kirk Schuring (R-Canton) will serve as majority floor leader; and Sen. Rob McColley (R-Napoleon) will serve as majority whip, according to the caucus. All leadership members will formally be elected by their colleagues and sworn in during the opening session of the Senate on Monday, Jan. 4, 2021.


Rep. Bill Seitz (R-Cincinnati) Wednesday released a statement endorsing the re-election of Speaker of the House Bob Cupp (R-Lima) to that office. Then caucus dean, Rep. Tom Brinkman (R-Cincinnati), announced that House Republicans will meet at 10:30 a.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 18, in the Vern Riffe Center to select their leadership team for the 134th General Assembly.


The Capitol Square Foundation (CSF), the organization which raises funds to maintain and restore the Ohio Statehouse, is hosting a virtual conversation with writer and journalist David Brooks on Tuesday, Dec. 1 at 11:30 a.m. Brooks, an op-ed columnist for the New York Times (NYT), will discuss "patriotism, nationalism and idea of American," according to the Statehouse website. For additional information, go online to http://ohiostatehouse.org/calendar/event?id=1434.


In other action, the House Criminal Justice Committee reported out HB299 (Greenspan) which increases penalties for certain crimes against law enforcement officers and parole board members; HB302 (Perales) which includes certain child abuse offenses in the violent offender database; HB350 (Hoops) which reenacts laws governing animal fighting and bestiality; HB441 (Plummer-West) which requires peace officers and emergency medical personnel to receive training on interacting with individuals with dementia; and HB558 (Abrams) which requires public children services to report child abuse in military families to military authorities; House Health Committee reported out SB178 (Schuring) which gives podiatrists authority to administer flu vaccines; the House State and Local Government Committee reported out HB444 (Baldridge-Abrams) which revises township laws; HB621 (Cross-Wilkin) which enacts the Business Fairness Act; and HB311 (Greenspan) which provides for county inspector generals; the House Transportation and Public Safety Committee reported out HB550 (Hoops) which revises laws related to motorcycle safety and education; and HB677 (Powell), a highway naming bill; and the House Ways and Means Committee reported out HB273 (Ryan-Lipps) which permits publishing the second notice of a county delinquent property tax list online; and HB467 (Scherer) which reduces the pass-through entity withholding tax rate.


GOVERNOR


Appointments made during the week include the following:

  • Jessie M. Tower of Lorain (Lorain County) to the Minority Development Financing Advisory Board for a term beginning Nov. 9, 2020 and ending Sept. 30, 2026.

  • Paul M. Kalmbach of Arlington (Hancock County) to the JobsOhio Board of Directors for a term beginning Nov. 9, 2020 and ending July 5, 2021.

  • Steven M. Griffin of Lewis Center (Delaware County) to the State Speech and Hearing Professionals Board for a term beginning Nov. 9, 2020 and ending March 22, 2023.

  • Thomas F. Needles of Whitehall (Franklin County) reappointed to the Motor Vehicle Dealers Board for a term beginning Nov. 9, 2020 and ending Oct. 4, 2023.

  • Gregory A. Warner of Wheelersburg (Scioto County) reappointed to the Board of Building Standards for a term beginning Nov. 9, 2020 and ending Oct. 13, 2024.

  • Joshua J. Agin of Zanesville (Muskingum County) to the Ohio Reclamation Forfeiture Fund Advisory Board for a term beginning Nov. 9, 2020 and ending Jan. 10, 2024.

  • Jackie Stewart of Canfield (Mahoning County) to the Technical Advisory Council on Oil and Gas for a term beginning Nov. 9, 2020 and ending Jan. 31, 2023.

  • Thomas E. Stewart of Lancaster (Fairfield County) reappointed to the Technical Advisory Council on Oil and Gas for a term beginning Nov. 9, 2020 and ending Jan. 31, 2023.

  • Maria Cruz-Lucio of Findlay (Hancock County) to the Commission on Hispanic-Latino Affairs for a term beginning Nov. 9, 2020 and ending Oct. 7, 2021.

  • Manuel Lopez Ramirez of Springfield (Clark County) and Mary J. Santiago of Lorain (Lorain County) reappointed to the Commission on Hispanic-Latino Affairs for terms beginning Nov. 9, 2020 and ending Oct. 7, 2023.

  • Gregory E. Morrison of Columbus (Franklin County) reappointed to the Commission on Minority Health for a term beginning Nov. 9, 2020 and ending Sept. 2, 2022.

  • Randi M. Thomas of Oxford (Butler County) to the Ohio Commission on Fatherhood for a term beginning Nov. 9, 2020 and ending July 30, 2022.

  • Semanthie B. Brooks of Macedonia (Summit County) and John A. Begala of Granville (Licking County) reappointed to the Ohio Advisory Council for Aging for a term beginning Nov. 22, 2020 and ending Nov. 21, 2023.

  • Salli Bollin of Toledo (Lucas County), Rhonda R. Johnson of Minford (Scioto County), Jennifer C. Drost of North Canton (Summit County), Leanne K. Smith of Tiffin (Seneca County), Lisa Brockman of Milford (Clermont County), Pamela J. Reese of Ashville (Pickaway County), Tina Hochwalt of Cincinnati (Hamilton County) and Diane F. Pekunka of Dublin (Franklin County) to the Alzheimer's Disease and Related Dementias Task Force for terms beginning Nov. 9, 2020 and continuing at the pleasure of the governor.

  • Randy Gardner of Bowling Green (Wood County) and Paolo A. DeMaria of Columbus (Franklin County) to the Education Commission of the States for terms beginning Nov. 9, 2020 and continuing at the pleasure of the governor.

  • Jerome C. Revish II of Powell (Delaware County) to the Columbus State Community College Board of Trustees for a term beginning Nov. 9, 2020 and ending Aug. 31, 2025.

  • Carol H. O'Brien of Delaware (Delaware County) and Leah R. Amstutz of Richwood (Union County) reappointed to the Ohio Peace Officer Training Commission for terms beginning Nov. 9, 2020 and ending Sept. 20, 2023.

  • Michael P. Bell of Toledo (Lucas County) appointed to the Ohio Collaborative Community-Police Advisory Board for a term beginning Nov. 9, 2020 and ending April 29, 2021.

  • Daniel J. Massey of Columbus (Franklin County) reappointed to the Industrial Commission Nominating Council for a term beginning Nov. 9, 2020 and ending Oct. 20, 2021 and Timothy W. Burga of Westerville (Delaware County) reappointed for a term beginning Nov. 9, 2020 and ending Oct. 20, 2024.

  • Kevin Shimp of Columbus (Franklin County) appoint to the Industrial Commission Nominating Council for a term beginning Nov. 9, 2020 and ending Oct. 20, 2024.


GREAT LAKES


While a federal judge has already invalidated Toledo's Lake Erie Bill of Rights (LEBOR) and the city has dropped its appeal due to coronavirus-related budget constraints, the municipal ordinance will receive a hearing on the merits in the Lucas County Court of Common Pleas, according to a University of Toledo (UT) legal expert. Kenneth Kilbert, director of the UT College of Law's Legal Institute of the Great Lakes, said the Ohio Sixth District Court of Appeals recently reversed the Lucas County Court of Common Pleas' decision to dismiss for "failure to state a claim," ordering the lower court to further consider LEBOR.


GUNS


A new lawsuit targets Ohio's Bureau of Criminal Investigation (BCI) in an effort to fill gaps in the criminal background check system. BCI has the statutory duty to procure information on criminal convictions and is failing to fulfill it, according to the suit filed Monday in Franklin County Common Pleas Court by Columbus, Dayton and Everytown Law, an adjunct of Everytown for Gun Safety. An Ohio mother and gun owner who volunteers with Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, Meghan Volk, is also among the plaintiffs. Attorney General Dave Yost's office, which oversees BCI, criticized the lawsuit, saying it is “high drama, low substance, and no solutions.”


HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES


The Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services (OhioMHAS) announced Monday the launch of Behavioral Health Connection, or B-CON, an online psychiatric bed registry meant to help with timely admissions to psychiatric units in Northeast Ohio.


Community health centers and other federally qualified health centers Tuesday asked the Senate Finance Committee to end a practice by pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) that they said takes money the centers save through a federal drug pricing program, preventing the nonprofits from putting those savings toward other programs. The witnesses also testified on the topic during the House Health Committee's hearing Tuesday.


HIGHER EDUCATION


This winter term, Miami University is offering a virtual study abroad program -- MiamiConnects Virtual Global Learning. As part of the program, some courses will be taught by Miami staff members, and students will also choose one of three location courses: Malaysia, Immigration from Central America, or Tech in Kenya. Each class will connect with students in those parts of the world.


Rep. Rick Carfagna (R-Columbus) was elected vice chair of the Midwestern Higher Education Compact (MHEC) at the commission's annual meeting. One of four regional higher education compacts in the United States, MHEC brings together midwestern states to develop and support best practices, collaborative efforts, and cost-sharing opportunities.


JUDICIAL


School police reports and education files generated before or after a student's attendance are not protected by the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), the Ohio Court of Claims says, ordering the University of Cincinnati (UC) to release a registered sex offender's records to the Cincinnati Enquirer. Though the Ohio Supreme Court recently denied a raft of media outlets and Attorney General Dave Yost access to the late Dayton shooter Connor Betts' K-12 records, the claims court says the same FERPA protections, as codified in the Ohio Student Privacy Act, do not apply to a UC graduate whose academic honors prompted a backlash against the university.


MARIJUANA/HEMP


The Medical Marijuana Advisory Committee welcomed a new member Thursday and heard presentations on a patient survey, the status of licensees and effects of the pandemic. Robert Kowalski, a disabled combat veteran, was recently appointed to represent patients by House Speaker Bob Cupp (R-Lima). Presentations were given by Ohio Pharmacy Board (OBP) Medical Marijuana Operations Director Sharon Maerten-Moore, Department of Commerce (DOC) Senior Policy Adviser Greg McIlvaine and State Medical Board of Ohio (SMBO) Chief Communications Officer Tessie Pollock.


MEDICAID/MEDICAID REFORM


The Ohio Department of Medicaid (ODM) has started soliciting proposals for a pharmacy operational support vendor (POSV), the last contract to go to bid in a series of procurements meant to overhaul the Medicaid managed care system. The contractor will help ODM with pharmacy reimbursement and benefit design, and monitoring of pharmacy program performance and financial oversight. The contractor will be independent of the single pharmacy benefit manager (PBM) for Medicaid and will help ODM monitor that other vendor. The request for proposals for the POSV contract will be posted until Friday, Dec. 18 and is available at https://medicaid.ohio.gov/RESOURCES/Legal-and-Contracts/RFPs.


NATURAL RESOURCES


As part of the H2Ohio initiative, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) announced that it's teaming up with the Black Swamp Conservancy to transform 54 acres of frequently-flooded farmland located along the Sandusky River into a public nature preserve.


Ohio's white-tailed deer archery hunters have taken 53,922 white-tailed deer through Sunday, Nov. 8, according to the ODNR Division of Wildlife. Ohio's archery season opened in late September, and bow hunters are taking advantage of excellent hunting conditions, including fantastic weather. Ohio's deer-archery season is open until Sunday, Feb. 7, 2021.


The National Park Service (NPS) will close the Station Road Bridge from Monday, Nov. 16 through Friday, March 26, 2021, according to Cuyahoga Valley National Park (CVNP). Contractors will remove and replace the bridge deck and paint the steel structure, CVNP said.


NONPROFIT ORGANIZATIONS


The House State and Local Government Committee held a first hearing Wednesday on Rep. John Rogers' (D-Mentor-on-the-Lake) HB531, which would require the taxpayer-funded economic development nonprofit organization JobsOhio to submit to audits by the auditor of state. According to Rogers, who said he has spoken extensively with Auditor of State Keith Faber on the matter, JobsOhio currently has a "gentleman's agreement" with the auditor's office to undergo an audit from a third-party firm and provide certain information to the state, but the agreement is not codified, nor is an audit of JobsOhio currently required by law.


A survey of Ohio charitable nonprofit organizations found that while they fared better in August 2020 than they did in April, funding challenges still remain as a marked decrease in individual and corporate donations persists. Conducted by researchers at Ohio State University's John Glenn College of Public Affairs and in partnership with the Ohio Attorney General's office, the Ohio Association of Nonprofit Organizations and Philanthropy Ohio, the survey of over 7,500 public charity organizations across the state found that more than 50 percent reported a decrease in individual donations, 44 percent reported a decrease in corporate donations, and 33 percent, a decrease in earned income for services provided.


OCCUPATIONS/PROFESSIONS


The Ohio State Bar Association (OSBA) is expanding certification under its paralegal program, announcing new members Thursday. "OSBA Certified Paralegals" now total some 250 professionals statewide.


POLITICS


According to political consultant Mark Weaver, "the bellwether has rung" for Ohio. Speaking at a Columbus Metropolitan Club forum sponsored by Hannah News Wednesday, Weaver said the notion that Ohio is a purple state is disappearing. Meanwhile, he said Pennsylvania, once a blue state, is now considered purple. For Ohio, that means less competition for Republican officeholders, he said, and he predicted the stronger Democratic challengers may not run for statewide office because of a fear of losing.


PUBLIC SAFETY


Throughout the month of November, the Ohio State Highway Patrol (OSHP) is conducting an online survey meant to identify traffic safety concerns and obtain feedback about interactions with the agency. The 2020 Public Survey is anonymous and takes about five minutes to complete. It is designed to be used as a platform for organizational learning, asking specific questions related to traffic safety issues and previous interactions with OSHP employees. The survey is created in accordance with standards of the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies (CALEA). To take the survey, visit https://www.statepatrol.ohio.gov.


The Ohio Department of Public Safety (ODPS) Office of Criminal Justice Services (OCJS) has announced the release of Federal Violence Prevention Service Act (FVPSA) requests for proposals (RFPs) in an effort to provide funding to victim service providers throughout Ohio.


The Ohio State Highway Patrol (OSHP) announced it is taking part in a six-state project aimed at enforcement and increased awareness of seat belt usage. The initiative began at 12 a.m. Monday, Nov. 9 and will end at 11:59 p.m. on Monday, Nov. 16. Participants include the OSHP and the respective state police in Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, Pennsylvania and West Virginia.


TAXATION


Even though the General Assembly recently repealed the sales tax exemption for bullion in the last budget, HB166 (Oelslager), Rep. Riordan McClain (R-Upper Sandusky) advocated for its reinstatement during a presentation to the House Ways and Means Committee on Tuesday. McClain said he's still waiting on a report showing the revenue gained from these taxes since its effective date of Oct. 1, 2019. McClain's father, former Rep. Jeff McClain, is currently the commissioner of the Ohio Department of Taxation.


TRANSPORTATION/INFRASTRUCTURE


Gov. Mike DeWine Thursday called damages to the Brent Spence Bridge that connects Cincinnati to Northern Kentucky "severe" and asked for motorists to be patient as the state works with Kentucky to repair the bridge. The bridge was closed on Wednesday after a crash involving two semi-trucks after one of the trucks jackknifed while going north on the lower deck of the bridge. Another truck crashed into it, causing a fire. A separate bridge, the John A. Roebling Suspension Bridge between Ohio and Kentucky was also closed due to semi-trucks', diverted by the closed Brent Spence Bridge, using it and violating the Roebling Bridge's weight limit.


As the Road to Our Future Joint Legislative Study Committee nears the release of its report, various groups around the state submitted written testimony weighing in on topics ranging from public transit to the state's taxing structure. The joint committee, created in 133-HB62 (Oelslager), is scheduled to meet on Tuesday, Nov. 17 to review an initial draft of its report, and will meet again on Tuesday, Dec. 1, to approve its final report.


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

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