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Week in Review November 27, 2023


Ohio statehouse government affairs week in review January 2023


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

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



AGRICULTURE


The Ohio Department of Agriculture (ODAg) Thursday held a groundbreaking ceremony for the new Ohio Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory (OVDL), to replace the current Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory. The most recent capital budget, 134-HB687 (Oelslager), provides $72 million for the project. According to ODAg, the 70,000-square-foot facility will include 40 percent more laboratory space and updated bio-security measures. It can accommodate dozens of new staff members and will be more energy efficient, the agency said. The current building, which dates to 1961, cannot meet testing demand, meaning many tests needed by Ohio businesses are sent out of state, ODAg said.


ATTORNEY GENERAL


County auditors will have a dual role in carrying out the state's $1 million court judgment against Dollar General in Ohio over evidence it has been charging the wrong price at the register for as many as nine out 10 products. Auditors will continue to monitor the state's nearly 1,000 Dollar General stores for price tag discrepancies over the next four years and have until Thursday, Nov. 30 to name county recipients of company foodbank dollars and inform the Ohio Attorney General's Office. Dollar General agreed to remunerate the state $175,000 in investigative fees and costs, pay a $75,000 civil penalty and provide $750,000 for distribution to foodbanks in all 88 counties.


The Ohio Attorney General's Office will assist in the prosecution of a Hocking County man who reportedly fired over 150 rounds at officers after a woman and child fled an alleged domestic violence incident at a Logan residence. A deputy and K9 were grazed by bullets but did not suffer life-threatening injuries. Steven Hardbarger, 45, was indicted Friday on more than 20 criminal counts following the July 30 shootout, where numerous area law enforcement agencies responded and exchanged fire. He eventually surrendered around 9 p.m.


BALLOT ISSUES


Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost Friday rejected the latest petition summary for a "Protecting Ohioans' Constitutional Rights" amendment to repeal constitutional immunities and defenses in cases alleging a civil rights violation by government actors. It is the seventh time the proposal was rejected, with the last rejection occurring in August.


CHILDREN/FAMILIES


The DeWine administration announced Monday the opening of applications for the latest round of child care stabilization grants, as well as new child care rates that will take effect early next year. Starting in February, the state will increase base reimbursement rates for publicly funded child care to the 35th percentile of a market rate survey conducted in 2022, up from 25 percent, a first step toward a goal of reaching 50 percent by the end of next year and achieving compliance with federal regulations. The Office of Child Care at the federal Administration for Children and Families, a division of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, wrote letters to states in April notifying them they were considered out of compliance with equal access regulations if their rates were below 50 percent of market rates. The Ohio Child Care Resource and Referral Association (OCCRRA) is hosting online applications for the fourth round of stabilization grants at its website, http://occrra.org. The $200 million in federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding can be used for operating costs, workforce recruitment and retention, expanding access or mental health and wellbeing of students and employees.


EAST PALESTINE DERAILMENT


Gov. Mike DeWine and several cabinet directors visited East Palestine Friday, with the administration announcing it will provide the village $150,000 to support purchases of new emergency response vehicles and equipment. Federal funds will partially cover the cost of two eight-ton dump trucks, a one-ton utility bed truck and a drone, with the state money now making up over 65 percent of the required local match.


ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT/URBAN REVITALIZATION


The DeWine administration announced Monday it is partnering with Intel, JobsOhio and the Ohio Grants Alliance on a semiconductor supply chain consortium to better position Ohio to federal efforts and grants. That includes its bid to become one of two new federally recognized and funded semiconductor clusters in the U.S., and to help current and prospective Ohio suppliers compete for federal grant funding on semiconductor materials and manufacturing equipment.


The Office of Budget and Management (OBM) recently filed a proposed rule for the All Ohio Future Fund, a budget program that underwent several changes through the legislative process and line-item vetoes by Gov. Mike DeWine. The fund, formerly the Investing in Ohio Fund, will provide $667 million to help secure economic development projects. OBM is slated to hold a public hearing on the proposed rule Monday, Dec. 11 at 1:30 p.m. in its office's Root Homestead Conference Room, 35th Floor, 30 E. Broad St. OBM anticipates the changes will become effective on or by Friday, Jan. 26, 2024. Items in the proposed rule include definitions, with "eligible applicant" covering local government entities, land reutilization corporations, nonprofits, and for-profit organizations "willing to develop project-ready sites to improve the economic welfare of the people of the state of Ohio."


ECONOMY


Seasonal retail spending in Ohio is expected to increase by 0.7 percent over 2022 to approximately $32.2 billion, the Ohio Council of Retail Merchants (OCRM) and University of Cincinnati (UC) Economics Center announced Monday as part of their forecast for this year's October through December period. The forecast, first started in 2010, looks at spending in "relevant" retail sectors, excluding motor vehicle and parts dealers, gas stations, food services, and arts and entertainment. The 2022 forecast projected a 3.4 percent increase to nearly $32 billion. This marks the 11th consecutive year of forecasted growth as well.


EDUCATION


The incoming permanent director of the new Ohio Department of Education and Workforce (DEW), Steve Dackin, could begin as soon as early December, according to the agency's interim Director Jessica Voltolini. Voltolini and other senior officials at the agency Tuesday held the department's first public meeting under changes enacted in the state budget, HB33 (Edwards), discussing the transition, future meetings, and providing a budget implementation update, among other topics. Dackin will officially begin as director of the department pending confirmation by the Ohio Senate. Voltolini said a Senate hearing is tentatively expected in the first week of December.


ELECTIONS 2023


The November election saw victory on local ballots for several former lawmakers, including former Rep. Barbara Sykes’ election to the Akron City Schools Board of Education; former Rep. Tim DeGeeter’s re-election as Parma mayor; former Rep. Jim Trakas’ re-election to Independence City Council; former Senate President Richard Finan’s re-election as mayor of Evendale; former Rep. Todd McKenney’s re-election as judge on the Barberton Municipal Court; and former Rep. Michael O’Brien’s election to Warren City Council.


ELECTIONS 2024


An early list of candidates running for legislative seats is updated on the front page of www.hannah.com. The list was compiled using data from county boards of elections, candidate announcements, and campaign finance activity. The list will be updated weekly. Please send any additions/corrections and candidate announcements to pressreleases@hannah.com. The filing deadline is Wednesday, Dec. 20.

State Board of Education Member Charlotte McGuire announced Monday that she will be running for the 6th Ohio Senate District next year. The seat is currently held by Sen. Niraj Antani (R-Miamisburg), who is running for Congress instead. The district had been redrawn in the latest round of redistricting, making it more favorable to Democrats. McGuire, a former president of the board, announced her candidacy in Dayton at an event with Senate President Matt Huffman (R-Lima).


Derek Myers, chairman of multi-media company NewsPatrol, announced he will seek the Republican nomination for the Second Congressional District in 2024. He said he will "inject honesty, integrity, and a conservative voice into Congress."


EMPLOYMENT/UNEMPLOYMENT


Ohio's unemployment rate increased to 3.6 percent in October, according to the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS), rising from 3.4 percent in September. However, the state's nonagricultural wage and salary employment increased 7,700 over the month. ODFJS said the state's employment, which went from a revised 5,648,200 in September to 5,655,900 in October, marks the highest payroll employment reported since the series started in 1990.


ENERGY/UTILITIES


The Biden administration announced the award of $169 million Friday to HVAC manufacturers in 15 locations, including in Sidney, with the larger goal of adding 20 million heat pumps to the country's electric grid by 2030. President Joe Biden says climate change gives him emergency authority to invoke the Defense Production Act of 1950 and increase domestic production of five "clean" energy technologies including heat pumps -- the first such of the awards under the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) and "Justice40."


Ohio Consumers' Counsel (OCC) Maureen Willis attended her first board meeting Tuesday as head of the independent agency following her elevation on Oct. 1. The Governing Board turned to pending utility legislation in a brief meeting and updated members on Chairman Michael Watkins' fourth request for a special meeting of the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) Nominating Council to consider reforms to PUCO's appointment process. "No response," Watkins said in a terse comment on the Nominating Council's continued disinterest in OCC's larger call for PUCO appointments more closely aligned with consumers than utility interests.


FEDERAL


Ukrainian Ambassador to the United States Oksana Markarova and former U.S. Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) Friday called for additional aid to Ukraine in its fight against Russian attacks, saying the conflict is about upholding "freedom" and "democracy." Markarova and Portman, who served as co-chair of the Senate Ukraine Caucus until he retired at the beginning of the year, appeared at the City Club of Cleveland Friday. The forum was moderated by City of Club of Cleveland CEO Dan Moulthrop. Ohio Congresswoman Marcy Kaptur (D-Toledo) also appeared at the event and introduced the panelists.


GENERAL ASSEMBLY/STATEHOUSE


Rep. Elliot Forhan (D-South Euclid) lost his committee assignments, aide, Statehouse badge access and other privileges over allegations of harassment, hostility and intimidation of legislative colleagues and staff. House Minority Leader Allison Russo (D-Upper Arlington) stripped his assignments and caucus privileges Friday, and Speaker Jason Stephens (R-Kitts Hill) followed Monday with suspension of badge access and reassignment of his aide. Attorney General Dave Yost appointed outside counsel at Stephens request to assist in an investigation. Forhan responded in a letter to Stephens on Monday, asking him to reverse course and saying Russo’s letter to him did not “specific any act that could create the reasonable apprehension of violent conduct.” He also wrote that similar actions had not been taken against former Rep. Bob Young, who resigned after charges of domestic violence were filed against him. Rep. Juanita Brent (D-Cleveland) said Tuesday she had sought and been granted a civil protection order against Forhan, citing social media posts directed at her and Forhan’s attempts to learn her whereabouts from other local officials, which she said left her concerned for her safety.


HIGHER EDUCATION


Ohio State University announced the appointment of Karla Zadnik as interim executive vice president and provost, effective Monday, Jan. 1, 2024. Zadnik currently serves as dean of the College of Optometry, a position she has held since 2014, and is the Glenn A. Fry Professor in Optometry and Physiological Optics. She has also served as interim dean of the College of Public Health since July. Zadnik will serve as Ohio State's interim provost as well as remain in her position as interim dean of the College of Public Health. Jeffrey Walline, associate dean for research in optometry, will step in to lead the College of Optometry as interim dean.


U.S. Rep. Bill Johnson (R-Marietta) accepted Youngstown State University’s offer of its presidency and will not run for re-election to the 6th Congressional District next year. He said he will remain in Congress for several more months, however.


JUDICIAL


A former judge and ex-felon dealt an indefinite suspension Tuesday is nevertheless eligible for immediate reinstatement of her law license after a nine-year interim suspension for unlawful interest in a public contract. Justice Patrick Fischer says that's not long enough, considering what the high court calls her unrepentant attitude, and that Democrat Tracie Hunter's ethics clock should restart at zero. In a disciplinary ruling by only four of the Ohio Supreme Court's sitting justices, Chief Justice Sharon Kennedy, Justice Melody Stewart and 8th District Judge John Gallagher concurred in Justice Michael Donnelly's opinion to uphold the Board of Professional Conduct's proposed indefinite suspension with credit for time served.


LOCAL GOVERNMENT


Attorney General Dave Yost announced the creation of a school of good governance Monday for new and aspiring public officials that is named after the nation's founding statesman. He says the Mt. Vernon Project's School of Public Service is premised on the conviction that a public servant is a surrogate for the governed and service is not an opportunity for self-promotion. Yost rolled out the 70-minute series of six videos on topics ranging from government finance to ethics during a virtual press conference in which he thanked Mt. Vernon Mayor Matthew Starr for helping him forge the idea over the recent summer.


MILITARY AFFAIRS


Dolly Parton's Imagination Library of Ohio has now partnered with Wright-Patterson Air Force Base (WPAFB) to provide free books to the 35,000 military, civilian and contractor families associated with the base. First Lady Fran DeWine and Col. Christopher Meeker announced the partnership Thursday as one of the first Imagination Library partnerships with a military installation in the country.


NATURAL RESOURCES


Young hunters across Ohio harvested 10,039 white-tailed deer during the two-day youth season on Saturday and Sunday, Nov. 18-19, according to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) Division of Wildlife. Each fall, the state allows hunters 17 and younger to hunt with a nonhunting adult before the statewide gun season begins.


PENSIONS


The State Teachers Retirement System (STRS) Board of Trustees voted Friday to put Executive Director Bill Neville on leave, with media reports indicating an anonymous letter from STRS staff alleged a pattern of harassment and threats of violence by Neville. Lynn Hoover, deputy executive director of finance, will serve as acting executive director. Attorney General Dave Yost appointed outside counsel to investigate the allegations.


PEOPLE


Former First Lady Rosalynn Carter, known for her mental health advocacy, passed away Sunday, Nov. 19 at her home in Plains, GA at the age of 96, the Carter Center announced. Rosalynn Carter was married for 77 years to former President Jimmy Carter, who is now 99 years old. Theirs was the longest marriage of any White House couple.


POLITICS


The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals this week upheld a lower court ruling dismissing a challenge to a state law on membership in Ohio political parties, agreeing that the plaintiff does not have standing to bring the lawsuit. Republican Brian Ames, a former member of the Ohio Republican Party's (ORP) state central committee, filed the lawsuit in federal court, contending that Ohio Revised Code Section 3517.03 has two unconstitutional provisions: a requirement that political parties elect one man and one woman from each central committee district; and a requirement that central committee members serve terms of either two or four years.


PUBLIC SAFETY


The Ohio State Highway Patrol (OSHP) added 39 troopers Friday as part of the agency's 172nd Academy Class. Cadets completed 30 weeks of intensive training that included crash investigation, criminal and traffic law, detection of impaired drivers, firearms, physical fitness, self-defense, and emergency vehicle operations. Director Andy Wilson of the Ohio Department of Public Safety (DPS), which houses OSHP, and patrol Superintendent Col. Charles Jones provided brief remarks, followed by a commencement address from Rep. Tracy Richardson (R-Marysville). Fairfield County Common Pleas Court Judge David Trimmer delivered the oath of office.


REDISTRICTING/REAPPORTIONMENT


In a short meeting held Monday, the Ohio Ballot Board certified as one issue the proposed constitutional amendment that would create a citizens commission to draw the state's legislative and congressional lines. Backers of the proposed Citizens Not Politicians amendment, which would create a 15-member commission with a ban on politicians serving on the panel, recently started over in their process after clearing the attorney general review of the petition summary and the Ballot Board before, saying they had discovered a typographical error in the summary language.


STATE GOVERNMENT


With the Ohio State-Michigan game approaching, the Ohio Department of Commerce (DOC) is encouraging consumers to create a gameday plan to ensure their TV service is ready to play. The football game is scheduled to air on local Fox affiliate stations at noon Saturday, Nov. 25. "Consumers who rely on their cable subscription to access the channel are reminded they can also access it over the air with an outdoor or indoor digital antenna and tuner. For this option, it's recommended to test the signal strength and location of the TV and antenna prior to gameday," DOC said in a news release.


TRANSPORTATION/INFRASTRUCTURE


The Ohio Turnpike's new toll collection system will be ready to go live after the holidays, Ohio Turnpike and Infrastructure Commission (OTIC) Executive Director Ferzan Ahmed said Monday. "We recently hit a huge milestone with the completion of all physical construction. After Thanksgiving, four new toll machines will be installed, and that will complete all installation," Ahmed said during Monday's OTIC meeting.


AAA is projecting a 2.3 percent increase in Americans traveling 50 miles or more from home over the Thanksgiving holiday period, while the Ohio State Highway Patrol said it plans to be "highly visible" and will be cracking down on impaired motorists. AAA said its forecast, which covers Wednesday, Nov. 22 through Sunday, Nov. 26, will be the third-highest forecast since it began tracking holiday travel in 2000. The top two years were 2005 and 2019, respectively.


WORKERS’ COMPENSATION


Ohio Bureau of Workers' Compensation (BWC) directors approved two rule amendments proposed by its Medical Services and Safety Committee Friday covering the five-year rule review of its Public Employee Risk Reduction Program (PERRP) and additional changes to administrative language governing the state insurance fund's Safety Intervention Grant Program. PERRP provides 600,000 state, county and local government employees oversight and assistance similar to the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), which covers private employers.



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


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