Week In Review - November 2, 2020



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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


A population of the invasive Spotted Lanternfly (SLF) has been found in Mingo Junction, just south of Steubenville, along the Ohio River. The initial report came from a resident who spotted a dead adult SLF on a commercial building on Oct. 19, according to the Ohio Department of Agriculture (ODAg).


APPALACHIA


The ReImagine Appalachia Coalition released a trio of reports Wednesday that went into further detail about how the Appalachian region can use federal investments in clean energy to create more high-paying jobs. The latest information is among a series of reports released by the group on how Ohio and neighboring states can use a climate change response to create jobs and bring more wealth to the region. In July, the coalition released a blueprint designed to modernize the electric grid and grow clean and efficient manufacturing in Appalachia, and just last week the group released reports showing that their blueprint could lead to about half a million jobs between Ohio and Pennsylvania. During a virtual release of the report Wednesday, researchers who worked on the plans focused on the following key items from their blueprint: manufacturing, broadband infrastructure and carbon emissions.


BUSINESS/CORPORATE


A recent study from the Connected Commerce Council (3C) found that small businesses that embraced online strategies for engaging with customers early in the pandemic significantly outperformed businesses that had less of an online presence, both in Ohio and across the nation. The report, "Digitally Driven," surveyed 7,000 medium, small and micro businesses from May 28 through July 3, 2020, and classified the most digitally savvy businesses as "digital drivers," while businesses using some online tools were dubbed "digital adopters," and businesses skeptical of online tools' value, "digital maintainers."


CHILDREN/FAMILIES


At Friday's digital meeting of the Children's Behavioral Health Prevention Network Stakeholder Advisory Group, led by LeeAnne Cornyn, director of children's initiatives for Gov. Mike DeWine, members heard from children's advocacy organizations and state agencies on the steps they're taking to prevent trauma from occurring and mitigate the effects of trauma in children.


Better data systems, a dedicated ombudsman for families and kids involved with children services, a statutory bill of rights for foster children and better oversight of court-appointed advocates for children are among dozens of recommendations sent to Gov. Mike DeWine by a panel he appointed to study how to overhaul the children services system in Ohio. DeWine and Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS) Director Kim Hall dialed in Monday to the final virtual meeting of the Children's Services Transformation Advisory Council, capping an 11-month effort to gather information and hone recommendations.


The DeWine administration started soliciting bids Wednesday for the last major piece of its Medicaid managed care overhaul, a program to better coordinate care for children with complex needs. OhioRISE (Resilience through Integrated Systems and Excellence) is meant to boost capacity and access to community services, reduce reliance on residential care settings and save families from the prospect of yielding custody of their children to the state in order to qualify for needed treatment.


ODJFS announced a new mobile app for clients to more easily access their child support case information. The app is available for free on mobile devices through the Apple App Store or Google Play Store, according to the department. The ODJFS Office of Child Support collects and distributes nearly $2 billion annually to more than one million Ohio children.


CORONAVIRUS


Ohio rocketed to a new record day of case growth Thursday with 3,590 new COVID-19 cases, capping a week where it had continued to set and then break records for daily growth in cases, with a Friday, Oct. 23 record of 2,518 broken just a day later with the 2,858 cases reported Saturday.


State leaders announced major new funding distributions to individuals, businesses, governments and institutions in response to the economic downturn caused by the coronavirus pandemic. Gov. Mike DeWine and GOP legislative leaders announced Friday, and the Controlling Board approved Monday, more than $400 million in assistance for housing and utility costs, small businesses, bars and restaurants, rural and critical access hospitals, higher education institutions, nonprofits and arts organizations. Then on Wednesday, DeWine announced plans for the Bureau of Workers’ Compensation to grant a $5 billion premium rebate, surpassing the total money returned in two previous rebate disbursements that the administration sought as a pandemic relief measure.


With 82 of the state's 88 counties meeting the federal definition of "high incidence" of COVID-19 cases as of Tuesday, Gov. Mike DeWine said he was planning to meet with leaders from each county individually to figure out better strategies to contain the fast growing spread of the coronavirus. On Thursday, he expanded on this approach by calling on community leaders in each county to form COVID-19 defense teams to assess the spread and focus on steps to slow that spread.

CRIME AND PUNISHMENT


Both Jeff Longstreth, a longtime Householder aide and advisor, and lobbyist Juan Cespedes, associates of former House Speaker Larry Householder (R-Glenford), Thursday entered into plea deals with federal prosecutors and admitted to federal conspiracy charges related to the passage of nuclear plant bailout bill, HB6 (Callender-Wilkin). They pleaded guilty to felony charges of racketeer influence and corrupt organizations (RICO) conspiracy, and could face up to 20 years in prison, up to a $250,000 fine, and other sanctions. Under the plea agreement, both admitted that a criminal enterprise existed as charged in the indictment against them; that the enterprise affected interstate or foreign commerce; that both were associated or employed by the enterprise; and that they knowingly conspired to participate in the affairs of the enterprise through a portion of racketeering activity.


A coalition of law enforcement agencies and social services groups have completed the "largest statewide anti-human trafficking operation in the history of the state of Ohio," Attorney General Dave Yost announced Monday. Operation Autumn Hope resulted in 177 traffickers and johns being and arrested, as well as 109 survivors being rescued, Yost said during a remote press conference.


DISABILITIES


Gov. Mike DeWine announced that the Ohio Department of Developmental Disabilities has partnered with his Children's Initiative to provide financial support to families who may need supplemental assistance outside of what is provided by their child's Individualized Education Programs (IEPs). Learning Aid Ohio was created to connect tutors, aides, or in-home providers who can offer distance learning support for students with disabilities on IEPs. Starting on Monday, Nov. 2, eligible families can apply for up to $1,500 in grant funding to cover costs of tutoring and other new supports.


ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT


Gov. Mike DeWine and Lt. Gov. Jon Husted Monday announced the approval of assistance for seven projects set to create 1,110 new jobs and retain 686 jobs statewide. During its monthly meeting, the Ohio Tax Credit Authority (TCA) reviewed economic development proposals brought to the board by JobsOhio and its regional partners. Collectively, the projects are expected to result in more than $47 million in new payroll and spur more than $743 million in investments across Ohio.


EDUCATION


Leila Kubesch, an English as a second language and Spanish educator at Norwood Middle School in Norwood, OH, is one of five recipients nationwide to receive the NEA Foundation's 2020 Horace Mann Award for Teaching Excellence. Awardees receive $10,000 and were recognized at the NEA Foundation's Salute to Excellence in Education Gala, which took place virtually this year.


The Ohio Department of Education (ODE) recently debuted its "Whole Child Framework" for addressing student needs beyond academics, a key plank of the department's strategic plan for education, Each Child Our Future. An advisory panel met Wednesday to discuss how to put the plan into action.


The U.S. Department of Education (USDOE) has released a digital learning guide for parents and families to help them navigate the digital and remote learning taking place during the pandemic. Many Ohio school districts are teaching students remotely all or part of the time, a situation that's likely to persist longer as COVID-19 cases surge in the state. The guide is available at https://tinyurl.com/y5gflurm .


ELECTIONS 2020


The League of Women Voters of Ohio (LWVO) and the A. Phillip Randolph Institute dropped their lawsuit to force the state to allow more than one absentee ballot drop box per county.


Secretary of State Frank LaRose warned Ohio voters Tuesday that, while absentee ballots could be requested until noon on the Saturday before election day -- Oct. 31 -- the functional deadline was Tuesday, Oct. 27 because of the turnaround time required in processing and delivering the mail. LaRose also announced the indictment of two men -- John Burkman and Jacob Wohl -- on charges of using a robocall scam to suppress voting in minority communities.


Ohio's U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown held the third in a week-long video series discussing the various ways a Joe Biden presidency would benefit Ohio workers and unions on Wednesday. He was joined by Tim Burga, president of the Ohio AFL-CIO; Linda Hinton, international vice president, CWA District 4; Mike Knisley, executive secretary-treasurer, Ohio State Building & Construction Trades Council; Melissa Cropper, president of the Ohio Federation of Teachers and secretary-treasurer of the Ohio AFL-CIO; and Wayne Blanchard, director of the United Auto Workers 2B.


Former Vice President Joe Biden leads President Donald Trump 48 percent to 43 percent in the presidential race, according to a new Quinnipiac University survey of likely Ohio voters. Two weeks ago, Quinnipiac found Biden leading Trump 48 percent to 47 percent.


Secretary of State Frank LaRose said Thursday that 56,789 Ohioans are trained and ready to serve during the Tuesday, Nov. 3 General Election, exceeding a statewide goal of 55,165 poll workers. According to LaRose's office, the number of trained poll workers includes 23,649 Democrats, 20,733 Republicans and 12,407 unaffiliated or minor party poll workers. While this is the largest aggregated statewide number of poll workers ever trained for an election in Ohio, a handful of individual counties still lag behind the goal for their county, the secretary of state said.


EMPLOYMENT/UNEMPLOYMENT


The number of initial unemployment claims has dropped back below 20,000 for each of the last two weeks, halting a four-week streak of rising weekly jobless claims. For the week ending Oct. 17, the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS) reported 17,598 jobless claims to the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL). For the week ending Oct. 24, ODJFS reported 17,531 such claims to the federal government. Last week's unemployment claims report had been delayed due to a technical issue with how Ohio information was being reported to DOL, ODJFS Director Kimberly Hall and ODJFS Deputy Director Julie Smith told Hannah News, hence the reporting of two weeks.


ENERGY/ UTILITIES


Columbus and Cincinnati sued the state of Ohio and FirstEnergy Corp. in Franklin County court Tuesday to halt the collection of nuclear and solar energy subsidies from all utility customers in Ohio. The cities say Attorney General Dave Yost's civil suit against FirstEnergy, former House Speaker Larry Householder (R-Glenford) and related entities and cohorts in the alleged HB6 (Callender-Wilkin) bribery scheme falls short by allowing the "unconstitutional tax" of nearly $1 billion to proceed on Jan. 1, 2021.


The Ohio Consumers' Counsel (OCC) and Northeast Ohio Public Energy Council (NOPEC) are asking the Supreme Court of Ohio to overturn the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio's (PUCO) decision certifying competitive supplier FirstEnergy Advisors (FEA) as the newest member of the FirstEnergy family. They say the commission denied them and Ohio consumers constitutional due process when it blocked legal discovery and other evidentiary proceedings in a hotly contested case challenging FEA's right to employ the same management team and trade name under Ohio's corporate separation laws governing utilities.


FEDERAL


Office of Budget and Management (OBM) Director Kimberly Murnieks is one of 25 state and local officials recently appointed to the federal Advisory Committee on Data for Evidence-Building, established per legislation signed into law last year. The Foundations for Evidence Based Policymaking Act set up the committee to review, analyze and make recommendations on how to promote the use of federal data for evidence building, with duties that include assisting the federal Office of Management and Budget (OMB) director on issues of access to data and providing recommendations on facilitating data sharing, data linkage and privacy techniques.


U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown told reporters that while the Senate will meet for a lame duck session following the election, he predicted that another coronavirus stimulus package in that timeframe is unlikely, given what he characterized as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's (R-KY) unwillingness to negotiate with Democrats.


GENERAL ASSEMBLY/STATEHOUSE


Rep. Larry Householder (R-Glenford) paid several hundred thousand dollars in political donor money to the attorneys defending him against federal corruption charges in September, campaign finance records filed this week show. The spending appears likely to generate another referral to the Ohio Elections Commission.


Rep. John Becker is wasting law enforcement resources on a political dispute with Gov. Mike DeWine and should be ordered to pay attorney fees or spend a day watching criminal trials as a sanction to deter such "frivolous" complaints, Attorney General Dave Yost argued in a court filing. Becker had filed a "private citizen affidavit" against DeWine weeks ago, seeking to have Clermont County Prosecutor Vincent Faris bring charges ranging from terrorism to inducing panic to corruption over the governor's response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Becker had previously drafted articles of impeachment against the governor. When Faris declined to pursue a complaint based on Becker's charges, the lawmaker turned to the 12th District Court of Appeals in hopes of an order compelling Faris to act. Becker retorted in a filing Monday that Yost himself deserves to be sanctioned and should resign.


After a long search that Chairman Dave Burke (R-Marysville) said was restarted several times, the Joint Medicaid Oversight Committee (JMOC) Tuesday hired a new executive director who has previous experience leading a state agency. Jada Brady previously served as executive director of the Ohio Liquor Control Commission but began her public service career as an aide in the Ohio Senate. Most recently, she worked as a Medicaid analyst for the Franklin County Department of Job and Family Services. She told the committee that over the last six years, she has gained a great deal of experience with Medicaid operations on the county level.


Sens. John Eklund (R-Chardon) and Nickie Antonio (D-Lakewood) highlighted their sponsored SB302 during a video conference Wednesday, saying the bill would require the State Board of Emergency Medical, Fire and Transportation Services to develop guidelines for the assessment, triage and transportation of stroke patients to hospitals.


Rep. Adam Miller (D-Columbus) Thursday announced he is introducing legislation to crack down on intentional, overt acts that are aimed solely at keeping people from voting. He noted that under Ohio law, it is not currently a crime to intentionally mislead, intimidate, or coerce someone as to where, when or how to vote. The bill is being introduced in response to reports of unauthorized groups and individuals being called to "monitor" the upcoming election across the country.


GOVERNOR


On Wednesday, Gov. Mike DeWine signed HB211(Arndt) to establish a process by which a person may obtain title to a watercraft vessel or outboard motor that has been left on the person's property. It becomes effective in 90 days.


Appointments made during the week include the following:

  • Jo Hannah Ward of Delaware (Delaware County) to the Opportunities for Ohioans with Disabilities Council for a term beginning Oct. 26, 2020 and ending June 1, 2022.

  • Charles F. LoParo of Dublin (Union County), Peter J. Moore of Pataskala (Licking County), Jane E. Gerhardt of Cincinnati (Hamilton County) and Margie Hegg of Upper Arlington (Franklin County) reappointed to the Opportunities for Ohioans with Disabilities Council for terms beginning Oct. 26, 2020 and ending June 1, 2023.

  • Diana H. Talmage of Ottawa Hills (Lucas County) and Srinivas K. Hejeebu of Sylvania (Lucas County) reappointed to the Owens Community College Board of Trustees terms beginning Oct. 26, 2020 and ending Sept. 21, 2026.

  • Michael R. Pratt of Perrysburg (Wood County) reappointed to the State Speech and Hearing Professionals Board for a term beginning Oct. 26, 2020 and ending March 22, 2023.

  • Kenneth R. Yeager of Newark (Licking County) to the Chemical Dependency Professionals Board for a term beginning Oct. 26, 2020 and ending Dec. 23, 2022.

  • Adriana A. Sfalcin of Dublin (Franklin County) reappointed to the Board of Embalmers and Funeral Directors for a term beginning Oct. 26, 2020 and ending June 30, 2025.

  • John J. Lynch of Cleveland (Cuyahoga County) reappointed to the Real Estate Appraiser Board for a term beginning Oct. 26, 2020 and ending June 30, 2023.

  • Kristen M. Scott of Dublin (Franklin County) and James C. Miles of Miamisburg (Montgomery County) reappointed to the Credit Union Council for terms beginning Oct. 26, 2020 and ending Sept. 22, 2023.

  • Karl H. Schneider of Columbus (Franklin County) reappointed to the Board of Building Appeals for a term beginning Oct. 26, 2020 and ending Oct. 13, 2024.

  • Marcie E. Kress of Stow (Summit County) to the Materials Management Advisory Council for a term beginning Oct. 26, 2020 and ending July 1, 2021.

  • Stephen J. Sargent of Circleville (Pickaway County) to the Materials Management Advisory Council for a term beginning Oct. 26, 2020 and ending July 1, 2023.

  • Bradford L. Garrison of West Salem (Wayne County) to the Ohio Livestock Care Standards Board for a term beginning Oct. 26, 2020 and ending Jan. 25, 2023.

  • Melissa M. Shilling of Johnstown (Licking County) reappointed to the Environmental Review Appeals Commission for a term beginning Oct. 26, 2020 and ending Oct. 22, 2026.

  • Kathryn Bartter Arnold of Columbus (Franklin County) reappointed to the Great Lakes Protection Fund Board for a term beginning Oct. 26, 2020 and ending Oct. 10, 2022.

  • John H. Hull of Ottawa Hills (Lucas County) reappointed to the Petroleum Underground Storage Tank Release Compensation Board for a term beginning Oct. 26, 2020 and ending July 10, 2023.

  • Fady Faddoul of Mayfield Village (Cuyahoga County) reappointed to the Radiation Advisory Council for a term beginning Oct. 26, 2020 and ending Sept. 6, 2025.

  • John E. Sharier of Coshocton (Coshocton County) reappointed to the Historical Boilers Licensing Board for a term beginning Oct. 26, 2020 and ending Oct. 22, 2025.

  • Judy C. Wolford of Ashville (Pickaway) reappointed to the Ohio Organized Crime Investigations Commission for a term beginning Oct. 26, 2020 and ending Sept. 3, 2023.

  • Charles C. Chandler of Cardington (Morrow County) reappointed to the Ohio Criminal Sentencing Commission for a term beginning Oct. 26, 2020 and ending Aug. 21, 2024.

  • Philip S. Renaud II of New Albany (Franklin County) appointed to the State Audit Committee for a term beginning Oct. 26, 2020 and ending June 30, 2023.

  • Adam C. Shank of Powell (Delaware County) to the Ohio Arts Council for a term beginning Oct. 26, 2020 and ending July 1, 2024.

  • Katherine R. Fell of Findlay (Hancock County) to the Ohio Humanities Council for a term beginning Oct. 26, 2020 and ending Oct. 30, 2021.

  • Neal F. Zimmers Jr. of Granville (Licking County) to the Capitol Square Review and Advisory Board for a term beginning Oct. 26, 2020 and ending April 22, 2022.

  • Frederick E. Mills of Dublin (Franklin County) reappointed to the State Employment Relations Board for a term beginning Oct. 26, 2020 and ending Oct. 6, 2026.

  • Walter S. Moss of Canton (Stark County) and Anthony L. Johnson of Columbus (Franklin County) reappointed to the Ohio Collaborative Community-Police Advisory Board for a term beginning Oct. 26, 2020 and ending April 29, 2023.

  • Stephanie E. Green of Columbus (Franklin County), Janet E. Foley Orosz of Powell (Delaware County) and Philip E. Cole of Upper Arlington (Franklin County) reappointed to the Ohio Fair Plan Underwriting Association Board of Governors for a term beginning Oct. 26, 2020 and ending Sept. 18, 2022.

GREAT LAKES


The harmful algal bloom (HAB) that showed up in the Western Basin of Lake Erie over the summer was milder than forecasters predicted, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). While a "moderate" bloom measuring around 4.5 on the severity index was expected, the 2020 bloom ended up measuring 3.0 on that scale, making it a "relatively mild" bloom, NOAA said in its seasonal assessment on Thursday. NOAA called its forecast a "small overestimate." The 2020 bloom was much less severe than in 2019, which had a severity of 7.3.


HIGHER EDUCATION


Case Western Reserve University (CWRU) was named the best university in Ohio in a recent analysis by the financial advisory website WalletHub. The analysis, meant to determine the top-performing schools at the lowest possible costs to undergraduates, compared 1,009 colleges and universities in the U.S. across 30 key measures grouped into seven categories.


Kent State University President Todd Diacon Tuesday announced the appointment of Melody Tankersley as the new senior vice president and provost, effective Sunday, Nov. 1, 2020. Tankersley has served Kent State in positions of increasing responsibility since 1993. In 2019, she was named interim senior vice president and provost.


HOUSING/HOMELESSNESS


The delinquency rate among homeowners and renters has been rising since the COVID-19 pandemic began earlier this year, according to a report from the Ohio Housing Finance Agency (OHFA), indicating a potential increase in foreclosure rates in the months to come. OHFA included a look at how the pandemic is affecting housing in Ohio as part of its yearly Housing Needs Assessment report. The report shows a spike in the 90-day delinquency rate among homeowners this year starting in May and going above 3.5 percent. The foreclosure rate also began to rise around that time.


IMMIGRATION


Immigration lawyers and advocates took part in a forum to discuss problems they see in the current national system Friday, while also expressing changes they hope to see following the election. The discussion was the third of four held in October by the Ohio Immigrant Alliance. Participants included Katie Kersh, senior attorney and project director at Advocates for Basic Legal Equality (ABLE); Brian Hoffman, executive director of the Ohio Center for Strategic Immigration Litigation and Outreach; and Houleye Thiam, president of the Mauritanian Network for Human Rights in the U.S.


JUDICIAL


Ahead of the Monday evening confirmation by the U.S. Senate on a 52-48 vote and the swearing in of the newest member of the U.S. Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett, Ohio Democratic elected officials and other groups harshly criticized U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and U.S. Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) for supporting a confirmation vote on President Donald Trump's nominee during an election year after refusing to do so in 2016, when former President Barack Obama nominated Judge Merrick Garland. Her addition to the U.S. Supreme Court gives conservatives a 6-3 majority. Other comments addressed not only her qualifications, character and judicial philosophy but also her future votes on the Affordable Care Act, abortion and organized labor.


A drug user kicked out of successive court-ordered treatment programs has committed a serious breach of community control and may be sentenced to a lengthy prison term rather than the maximum 90 days allowed for a "technical violation" in R.C. 2929.15(B)(1)(c), even though drug relapse is not itself a crime, the Ohio Supreme Court says. The Court upheld a Richland County judge who sentenced David Castner II to a one-year prison term after he was thrown out of a Volunteers of America (VOA) treatment program and then Columbus' Alvis House while under community control for aggravated possession of drugs, a fifth-degree felony.


The Office of Disciplinary Counsel announced the redesign of its website Thursday to provide the public and legal professionals greater access to Ohio's "unique disciplinary system." It can be found at www.odc.ohio.gov.


LIBRARIES


Ohio Department of Higher Education Chancellor Randy Gardner announced Tuesday the appointment of Amy Pawlowski as executive director of OhioLINK, Ohio's academic library consortium. The appointment was effective immediately. Pawlowski joined OhioLINK in 2013 as deputy director for operations and e-licensing and has served in as interim director since February.


LIQUOR/ALCOHOL


The Ohio State Highway Patrol's Ohio Investigative Unit (OIU) announced that it had issued seven citations to bars for various health order violations, with four violations being announced in a press release Saturday and another three in a release Sunday.


MARIJUANA/HEMP


A total of 140,409 patients are registered under the Ohio Medical Marijuana Control Program (MMCP), according to the Ohio Board of Pharmacy (OBP). Of those patients, 9,756 are military veterans, 10,290 are indigent and 765 are terminally ill, OBP said.

MILITARY AFFAIRS


Government, military, academic and industry officials in aerospace met virtually Thursday for the first Ohio Space Forum, dedicating to continuing and expanding the state's role in contributing to space defense and exploration missions. Gov. Mike DeWine and U.S. Rep. Mike Turner (R-Dayton) provided welcoming remarks via video for the event, both promoting Ohio's proposal to the Trump administration for the Dayton region to serve as headquarters for the new U.S. Space Command.


NATURAL RESOURCES


The Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) has announced it will offer U.S. military members -- both active duty and veterans -- a 30 percent discount off one camping, getaway rental, state-operated cabin or resort lodge stay during November.


A renovated shooting range at the Spring Valley Wildlife Area opened to the public on Friday, Oct. 30, according to ODNR Division of Wildlife.


The ODNR Division of Forestry (DOF) is planning to hold three virtual open houses to discuss management plans for Ohio's state forests. The public is welcome to attend, ask questions, and submit written comments at any of the following virtual meetings hosted on Microsoft Teams: Monday, Nov. 2 at 5 p.m. for the Athens District State Forests Open House; Wednesday, Nov. 4 at 5 p.m. for the Chillicothe District State Forests Open House; and Thursday, Nov. 5 at 5 p.m. for the Northern State Forests Open House.


The ODNR Division of Natural Areas and Preserves announced that Ohioans can once again enjoy the view from the boardwalk at the Fowler Woods State Nature Preserve in Northern Richland County, following its reconstruction and reopening.


PEOPLE


Robert E. Murray, founder, CEO and president of Murray Energy -- now American Consolidated Natural Resources (ACNR) -- died Sunday, Oct. 25 at the age of 80. His death came less than week after he had announced his retirement from ACNR. He is survived by his wife of 58 years, Brenda, and sons Robert (Kelly), Jonathan and Ryan (Melanie) and eight grandchildren. Both Gov. Mike DeWine and Lt. Gov. Jon Husted issued statements on his death.


A remembrance service will be held for Columbus homeless advocate Kent Beittel on Saturday, Nov. 7 from 1 to 4 p.m. at the Snyder-Rodman Funeral Center (101 Valleyside Dr.) in Delaware. A livestreamed memorial service follows on Sunday, Nov. 8 at 3 p.m. from Broad Street United Methodist Church. That service can be found at www.broadstreetumc.net and on the church's Facebook page.


POVERTY


Bottlenecked food supplies under COVID-19 are less a matter of farm and factory production and more a matter of packaging and end-purchasing, agricultural and industry experts told the Columbus Metropolitan Club (CMC) Wednesday. Grocery stores and food pantries both feel the pinch as more Ohioans eat in to save money and socially distance, forcing processors to rethink their products and foodbanks to compensate for lost restaurant food with hard cash. CMC hosted and the Ohio Association of Foodbanks moderated the discussion "Food Distribution: Reliable Yet Fragile" with the Ohio Farm Bureau Federation's (OFBF) vice president of public policy, Jack Irvin, and T. Marzetti Company's vice president of operations, Jeff Poor.


PUBLIC SAFETY


Fall almost certainly brings an increase in deer-related traffic crashes, according to the Ohio Department of Insurance (ODI), Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR), Ohio State Highway Patrol (OSHP) and AAA. In 2019, statistics from OSHP show there were 19,375 deer-related crashes on Ohio's roadways. Of those crashes, four resulted in fatal injuries to motorists and 966 people were injured. Additionally, 46 percent of these crashes occurred in October, November and December, according to the state agencies.


The panel issuing state policing standards vetted its latest proposal Thursday regarding law enforcement's response to mass gatherings, saying departments must embrace Ohioans' constitutional right to peaceful protest while remaining ready with riot-equipped officers when conditions deteriorate. The Ohio Community-Police Collaborative Advisory Board resumed its deliberations on mass gatherings commenced in September, when members took up Gov. Mike DeWine's call for a statewide standard on responding to mass gatherings following unrest over the tragic death of George Floyd.


STATE GOVERNMENT


Ohio Department of Administrative Services (DAS) Director Matt Damschroder Monday announced that the state certified more than 800 women-owned businesses on the first day of the Women-owned Business Enterprise (WBE) program. The new program became effective Friday, Oct. 9.


TRANSPORTATION/INFRASTRUCTURE


A joint legislative study committee was told that state agencies have not been able to find any current available product that can identify a motor vehicle after lawmakers eliminated the requirement for the use of a front license plate. The Ohio Department of Public Safety (ODPS) this week submitted its findings on whether there are viable alternatives to identify motor vehicles from the front of the vehicle to the Road to Our Future Joint Legislative Study Committee. The findings were submitted through written testimony because the committee has not been able to hold in-person hearings due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.


DriveOhio announced that it and the Ohio Turnpike and Infrastructure Commission have partnered with a multistate coalition to solicit and deploy a state-of-the-art smart logistics project to test Level I automation. According to DriveOhio, Locomation, a trucking company focused on safety, utilizing the nation's foremost experts in robotics technology, safety, and artificial intelligence, made a delivery run from Pittsburgh, PA through the state of Ohio via the Ohio Turnpike to Detroit, MI on Thursday, Oct. 22, 2020 using truck platooning technology. Travelling more than 280 miles, the company delivered groceries from the Greater Pittsburgh Community Foodbank to the Toledo Northwestern Ohio Foodbank.

UNEMPLOYMENT COMPENSATION


The number of initial unemployment claims has dropped back below 20,000 for each of the last two weeks, halting a four-week streak of rising weekly jobless claims. For the week ending Oct. 17, the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS) reported 17,598 jobless claims to the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL). For the week ending Oct. 24, ODJFS reported 17,531 such claims to the federal government.


The state of Ohio, which began borrowing from the federal government to cover unemployment compensation costs in mid-June, has now borrowed over $1 billion or $1,129,997,997 according to the U.S. Department of the Treasury.


WORKERS' COMPENSATION


The Bureau of Workers' Compensation Board of Directors submitted to lawmakers Friday estimates of the potential coverage costs should the General Assembly approve any of a half dozen bills that would grant presumptive eligibility for BWC coverage to certain classes of workers who contract COVID-19. The board approved a report written by BWC's Actuarial Division and reviewed by the Actuarial Committee that estimates ranges of costs based on optimistic versus conservative assumptions on spread of the virus in the general population and within specific worker categories. The law requires BWC to provide an actuarial estimate for any legislation expected to have a measurable financial effect on the BWC.


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

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