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Week In Review - November 28, 2022



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

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


AFFORDABLE CARE ACT


Rep. Juanita Brent (D-Cleveland) joined advocates and a federal official Tuesday to remind Ohioans that the Affordable Care Act (ACA) open enrollment period runs through Jan. 15, 2023 and to highlight provisions in the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) that they said will help keep health care costs low. The event was hosted by the Ohio branch of Protect Our Care, an advocacy group focused on expanding health care access, and featured Dennis Gonzalez of the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS), as well as Steven Wagner, executive director of Universal Health Care Action Network (UHCAN) Ohio, and Samuel Camacho, an ACA navigator with UHCAN Ohio. The open enrollment period began on Nov. 1. Individuals who want coverage to start on the first of the year, however, need to enroll by Thursday, Dec. 15 -- people who enroll after that date will have their coverage begin on Feb. 1.


ATTORNEY GENERAL


The Ohio Attorney General's Office has opened registration for the 2023 Human Trafficking Summit scheduled for Thursday, Jan. 26 at the Greater Columbus Convention Center. In its fourth year, the summit allows survivors, social workers, victim advocates, police officers, lawyers, prosecutors, judges and other stakeholders to learn how different parts of the state are succeeding in the fight against human trafficking and seeks to inspire them to fill regional gaps in services. The Human Trafficking Summit website, including a registration portal, can be found at tinyurl.com/ym7x359p


ECONOMY


Speakers at a news conference on upcoming holiday spending Tuesday said Ohio is expected to have its 10th year of sales growth this season, but warned that a potential railroad strike would be "devastating." "A railroad strike would be hurtful for the holiday season...rail is one piece of a transportation network for moving goods across the United States. We are optimistically hopeful that the railroad strike will be handled," Ohio Council of Retail Merchants (OCRM) President and CEO Gordon Gough said. Gough also said the forecast shows "continued stability" as the state recovers from the pandemic and re-centers its economy "on the needs of the 21st century." The report was released by OCRM and the University of Cincinnati (UC) Economics Center. Brad Evans, director of research at the economics center, said the projection is for Ohio to have a 3.4 percent increase in relevant retail spending compared to 2021, with growth in all nine metro areas they analyzed. Cincinnati, Cleveland and Columbus will make up over 50 percent of the spending once again, he continued, and Ohio's projection is lower than some nationwide forecasts.


EDUCATION


More than $1 million in grant funding is going to support hundreds of STEM projects in schools across the state, Battelle and the Ohio STEM Learning Network announced Monday. Funded by Battelle, the $1 million in grants will support 223 projects in 163 schools across 60 counties, reaching 65,000 students.


ELECTIONS


A provision of SB320 (Gavarone) requiring the address on a person's photo identification to match the address on their voter registration in order to vote would affect approximately 1.65 million Ohioans, according to members of the Ohio Voter Rights Coalition (OVRC). American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Ohio Deputy Policy Director Collin Marozzi, citing the 2020 U.S. Census, said 1.65 million Ohioans do not live at the same address they did one year ago. "Even if they had an appropriate driver's license or state ID card, those 1.65 million Ohioans would have a non-compliant ID under SB320," Marozzi said during a virtual OVRC press conference, joined by League of Women Voters of Ohio (LWVO) Executive Director Jen Miller, All Voting is Local Ohio Campaign State Director Kayla Griffin and Zach Roberts of the Ohio Veterans Network, among other voting rights advocates.


EMPLOYMENT/UNEMPLOYMENT


According to new figures released Friday by the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS), Ohio's unemployment rate rose to 4.2 percent in October, from 4 percent in September, as the state added 15,700 nonagricultural wage and salary jobs over the month. The number of workers unemployed in Ohio is 242,000, up from 232,000 in September. The number of unemployed has decreased by 19,000 in the past 12 months from 261,000. The October unemployment rate for Ohio decreased 0.3 percent from 4.5 percent in October 2021. The U.S. unemployment rate for October 2022 was 3.7 percent, up from 3.5 percent in September 2022, and down from 4.6 percent in October 2021.


ENERGY/UTILITIES


The Ohio Consumers' Counsel (OCC) said this week that short-term indicators show natural gas heating prices will continue to rise this winter in the state and nation, though not as high in Ohio and the rest of the Midwest as other parts of the U.S. Natural gas costs in Ohio and other bread-basket states have remained below those in the West, Northeast and South since at least 2012, serving as an outlier to pull the national average below all other regions combined, OCC staff told its Governing Board Tuesday. The Midwest price per thousand cubic feet of gas (Mcf) hovered around the $8 mark for eight years until 2020 and has since spiked to $14 Mcf, including Ohio. That trend will continue into 2023, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA).


FEDERAL


The Biden administration has closed the application portal for federal student loan forgiveness after the program was blocked by two federal courts. "Courts have issued orders blocking our student debt relief program. As a result, at this time, we are not accepting applications. We are seeking to overturn those orders," the U.S. Department of Education said on the application site. A federal judge in Texas ruled that the plan overstepped the White House's authority, the Associated Press reported. Before that, the U.S. Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals put the plan on temporary hold while it considers a challenge from six Republican-led states.


GAMING/GAMBLING


Intralot is officially the sixth type C sports gaming proprietor, the Ohio Lottery announced Monday. The company is also the Ohio Lottery's current gaming systems vendor. Previously announced type C sports gaming proprietors include Elys-Wright Bet, UBetOhio, BetSkyBox and BetIGG.


GOVERNOR


Gov. Mike DeWine Friday announced the appointment of Rhonda L. Best to the Tiffin-Fostoria Municipal Court and K. Alyse Rettich to the Miamisburg Municipal Court. Best, of Tiffin, will assume office on Monday, Dec. 5, 2022, filling a judicial vacancy created by Mark Repp's removal from the bench by the Tiffin City Council. Best must run for election in November 2023 in order to complete the unexpired term ending Dec. 31, 2025. Rettich, of Miamisburg, will also assume office on Dec. 5, taking the seat formerly held by her father Robert Rettich III, who died. Rettich must run for election in 2023 to retain the seat.


GREAT LAKES


For the second year in a row, the harmful algal bloom (HAB) in the Western Basin of Lake Erie was more severe than researchers predicted, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) announced in its final seasonal assessment. The 2022 HAB had a severity index of 6.8, which is considered "moderately severe," NOAA said. NOAA scientists predicted a bloom with a severity index of 3.5 in July. They did revise their prediction up to 4.5 in August, but that forecast was still well short of the actual severity index.


HIGHER EDUCATION


Rep. Laura Lanese (R-Grove City) will resign from the General Assembly on Sunday, Nov. 27 to become the next president and CEO of the Inter-University Council (IUC) of Ohio. The association announced Tuesday that Lanese, who chairs the House Higher Education and Career Readiness Committee, had been selected by 14 Ohio public university presidents to lead the IUC. Lanese will replace Bruce Johnson, who is retiring after 16 years. Lanese will begin in her new role on Monday, Nov. 28.


The U.S. Department of Education (USDOE) on Tuesday announced an extension of the pause on student loan repayment, interest and collections. "The extension will alleviate uncertainty for borrowers as the Biden-Harris administration asks the Supreme Court to review the lower-court orders that are preventing the department from providing debt relief for tens of millions of Americans," USDOE said. Payments will resume 60 days after USDOE is permitted to implement the program or the litigation is resolved, which will give the U.S. Supreme Court an opportunity to resolve the case during its current term. If the program has not been implemented and the litigation has not been resolved by Friday, June 30, 2023, payments will resume 60 days after that.


Cleveland State University (CSU) announced it will remove the 'Marshall' name from its College of Law. There are no immediate plans for a new name for the college, the university said, and until further notice it will be known as the CSU College of Law. The original Cleveland-Marshall College of Law was named in part after U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Marshall, the nation's longest serving chief justice. The name Cleveland-Marshall College of Law was the result of a merger of the John Marshall College of Law and the Cleveland Law School in 1946. The university's Board of Trustees voted unanimously to accept a recommendation from CSU President Laura Bloomberg and a university committee to remove the name based on findings that "Marshall's beliefs and actions related to slaveholding are contrary to the values of the university and its commitment to justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion for all members of its community."


Gov. Mike DeWine Monday announced that 33 colleges and universities in Ohio will receive a total of $5 million for security and safety projects on their campuses. The grant awards are part of the 2022 Campus Safety Grant Program, which was funded with support from capital appropriations bill 133-SB310 (Dolan). The Ohio School Safety Center, a division of the Ohio Department of Public Safety, reviewed the safety grant applications in consultation with the Ohio Department of Higher Education (ODHE). "These funds will go directly toward helping our institutions of higher education become more secure," DeWine said. Since its creation in 2021, a total of about $10 million in funding has been awarded through the Ohio School Safety Center's Campus Safety Grant Program, DeWine said.


Ohio State University (OSU) said its carbon emissions fell by 30 percent since adopting sustainability goals in 2015. Ohio State's carbon footprint has declined from 615,051 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent emissions in FY15 to 428,392 metric tons last year, according to the university's latest resource stewardship scorecard. The university's current goal is to cut carbon emissions to zero by 2050. President Kristina M. Johnson has also directed leaders to develop an acceleration plan that would achieve net zero emissions in 2040, the university said. The acceleration plan will be based on operational, financial and environmental considerations.


Grace Wang, Ohio State University's (OSU) executive vice president of research, innovation and knowledge, will depart the university on March 1, 2023. Wang has been named president of Worcester Polytechnic Institute, one of the nation's first technological universities. Wang joined Ohio State in December 2020 to help lead the university's research, creative expression and scholarship. Over the past two years, she has worked closely with university leaders, research faculty and staff, and partners at the state and federal level to create a vision and structure for OSU's Enterprise for Research, Innovation and Knowledge, including record-breaking research and development expenditures of $1.236 billion in FY21 and on the future of Carmenton, the name of OSU's innovation district.


Rebecca Z. German has been appointed vice president for research at the Northeast Ohio Medical University (NEOMED). German is a National Institutes of Health (NIH) R01-funded researcher with more than 30 years of research and academic leadership experience. Over the last nine years, she has served as a professor of anatomy and neurobiology at NEOMED. German studies swallowing dysfunction (dysphagia) and the protection of respiratory airways in pre-term and other medically compromised infants. Her research with the youngest population has potential applications for older adults, who often develop swallowing problems along with neurological diseases such as Parkinson's.


Ruth E. Carter, an Academy Award-winning costume designer for the Marvel Studios films "Black Panther" and its sequel, "Black Panther: Wakanda Forever," will speak at the University of Toledo's (UT) 39th annual Conference for Aspiring Minority Youth. Diana Patton, an attorney, author, motivational speaker and alumna of UT, also will speak at the event. The event, sponsored by Toledo Excel, a longtime scholarship incentive program at UT, and Owens Corning, begins at 8:30 a.m. on Saturday, Jan. 28, in Thompson Student Union Auditorium. The free, public conference is for seventh- and eighth-graders, high school students and parents. For more information and to register, visit https://tinyurl.com/mr2u46p8.


JUDICIAL


Chief Justice Maureen O'Connor has put her imprimatur on the final class of lawyers admitted to the state bar under her administration. The retiring chief addressed more than 600 new attorneys recently at the Palace Theatre in Columbus. "I charge you to be those heroes who do the work well, who serve others, who value and protect your reputation and the reputation of the justice system," O'Connor said during her remarks. She emphasized the importance for bar members to benefit their communities and help others navigate challenging circumstances.


The Ohio Supreme Court on Tuesday dismissed as moot the state's appeal of the 10th District Court of Appeals' decision on whether the governor had the authority to block Ohioans from receiving payments under the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation Program (FPUC). The unanimous Ohio Supreme Court did not explain its reasoning for declaring the appeal of Bowling v. DeWine moot. Franklin County Court of Common Pleas Judge Michael Holbrook ruled in favor of Gov. Mike DeWine in the case, but the 10th District Court of Appeals reversed, leading to the state's appeal to the Ohio Supreme Court. Former Democratic Attorney General Marc Dann brought the challenge, while Attorney General Dave Yost is defending the DeWine administration. According to Yost's office, the Ohio Supreme Court's decision should be the end of the matter.


MILITARY AFFAIRS


Gov. Mike DeWine and Ohio Adjutant General John Harris announced Friday that the U.S. Department of the Air Force (USAF) has formally selected the 179th Airlift Wing in Mansfield to become the U.S. Air National Guard's first cyberspace wing. The selection follows a year-long assessment by the USAF and National Guard Bureau, with Mansfield named as the preferred location in August 2021.


NATURAL RESOURCES


The two-day special youth hunting season concluded with 9,515 deer harvested on Saturday and Sunday, Nov. 19-20, according to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) Division of Wildlife. Each fall, hunters 17 and younger head into the woods with a nonhunting adult for a special weekend of deer gun hunting. The top 10 counties for deer taken during Ohio's youth season include the following: Tuscarawas (411); Coshocton (364); Muskingum (286); Holmes (277); Knox (272); Guernsey (250); Washington (247); Harrison (229); Licking (228); and Carroll (194).


NEWS MEDIA


Two leaders of the Columbus Dispatch discussed the changing role of journalism and the future of the paper at the Columbus Metropolitan Club (CMC) forum recently. The forum featured panelists Edwina Blackwell Clark, executive editor of the Dispatch, and Amelia Robinson, opinion and community engagement editor of the Dispatch. Jessica Langer, editor in chief of the Lantern Media Group at Ohio State University, and Nicole Kraft, associate professor in the School of Communication at Ohio State. Asked what they thought about the changing "faces" of the paper, both stressed that greater diversity in a newsroom leads to greater coverage and more representation of diverse communities, which ultimately help democracy function.


PENSIONS


The Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC) said Tuesday it's approved an application for funding from an Ohio Teamsters pension fund under a new program meant to help beleaguered multi-employer pension funds. The Butch Lewis Act, sponsored by U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH), was incorporated into the American Rescue Plan Act, the sweeping COVID relief package that passed Congress at the outset of the Biden administration. The law created the Special Financial Assistance (SFA) Program to help plans like the Teamster Local 52 Pension Plan, based in Valley View, which struggled because of the bankruptcy of many contributing employers and was projected to run out of money in the coming year. According to PBGC, the plan covers 769 people.


PUBLIC SAFETY


The DeWine administration announced another $1 million from the U.S. Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) to improve arrest warrant backlogs at law enforcement agencies and staff retention at victim service providers. BJA continues to provide the Ohio Department of Public Safety's (DPS) Office of Criminal Justice Services (OCJS) federal Coronavirus Emergency Supplemental Funding (CESF) to pay for retention bonuses and law enforcement overtime and to clear unserved warrants for jailable offenses. Law enforcement agencies and victim services providers must apply for CESF no later than Wednesday, Dec. 7. The application form is available at OCJS's online grant system, tinyurl.com/2s4ej4kh, and at ocjsgrants.com for law enforcement and victim services agencies with active My Solicitations accounts.


The Ohio Department of Public Safety's (DPS) Office of Law Enforcement Recruitment (LER) opened the application process Friday for its 2022 grant supporting recruitment of minority and women officers. "Law enforcement agencies in Ohio are regularly working to recruit and hire more officers," Gov. Mike DeWine said. Interested agencies must show how they will increase engagement, recruitment, selection and retention of qualified women and minorities. Funds may also support research projects that evaluate current programming, recruitment, selection and/or retention processes. Projects may apply for up to 12 months of funding from Jan. 1 to Dec. 31, 2023. A voluntary bidders training webinar is scheduled for Thursday, Dec. 8 at 10 a.m. to address application preparation and review. Interested agencies can register at tinyurl.com/4c9b7vav


The Ohio State Highway Patrol (OSHP) is looking for new troopers and has appointed regional recruitment teams in its nine regions. OSHP liaisons in each patrol district are actively recruiting at various community events, local schools, sporting events and other functions to reach potential candidates. After initial contact, recruitment liaisons work individually with applicants throughout the hiring process. Patrol applicants go through a selective process to become cadets, including knowledge and physical fitness testing, polygraph, and psychological and medical reviews. Selected applicants receive college-level instruction at the OSHP Training Academy in Ohio laws, crash investigation, arrest techniques, self-defense, firearms, defensive driving, human relations and other topics. They are paid during their residential training. The highway patrol's recruitment page can be found at statepatrol.ohio.gov/recruit/index.aspx


STATE GOVERNMENT


All agenda items were approved by the Controlling Board during its Monday meeting, with two held for questions before being approved without objection. The held items were submitted by the Ohio Court of Claims and the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) and were eventually approved.


TAXATION


State law does not allow Ohio to collect Commercial Activity Tax (CAT) from NASCAR for its broadcasting, online marketing and merchandise licensing revenue, the Ohio Supreme Court ruled Tuesday. In 2011, the Ohio Department of Taxation (ODT) initiated an audit of NASCAR's commercial activity from July 2005 through December 2010. It determined that parts of national activity related to broadcast revenue, online marketing, merchandise licensing and sponsorship fees should be "sitused" to Ohio, in proportion to the state's share of the population or of households subscribing to cable TV, depending on the revenue stream. The state also calculated tax liability based on revenue from races held in Ohio, which NASCAR did not dispute when challenging the other liability in the Board of Tax Appeals (BTA). The BTA determined NASCAR revenues were sitused to Ohio based on the second sentence of ORC 5751.033(F). That determination, wrote Justice Patrick DeWine, was in error.


TRANSPORTATION/INFRASTRUCTURE


AAA Ohio said Tuesday that more than 2.2 million Ohioans are expected to travel at least 50 miles this Thanksgiving holiday as state officials are recommending travelers leave early and be patient. According to AAA, 54.6 million Americans overall are expected to travel this holiday period, going from Wednesday, Nov. 23 through Sunday, Nov. 27. It is an increase of 1.5 percent from last year's Thanksgiving holiday, and represents 98 percent of pre-pandemic volumes. In Ohio, the number of travelers is expected to increase by 1.1 percent over last year and be 96 percent of pre-pandemic volumes. The increase in travel is coming despite a record price for gasoline this Thanksgiving. Schwind said it is the most expensive for this period since the group started keeping records.


As the Ohio Turnpike and Infrastructure Commission continues implementing its new toll collection modernization project, the commission Monday voted to submit new rules related to that implementation to the Common Sense Initiative (CSI) and the Joint Committee on Agency Rule Review (JCARR). SB162 (Reineke) authorized the commission to create new rules as part of the project, which aims to go live next year. Among the submissions are rules that state how the commission can use electronic monitoring to identify vehicle owners and to bill those owners for tolls. They will state how many invoices will be sent to vehicle owners and how much in administrative fees and charges will be added. The rules will also provide for an appeal and dispute process for those who receive invoices and want to challenge them before the commission. In other action, the commission received an update on the cost of the project from Executive Director Ferzan Ahmed, who put the current estimate at around $270.4 million. The cost at the planning level was about $189 million to $217 million during the planning level in 2017, and it was increased to a range of $199 million to $229.3 million in 2020, the midway point of the project.


WORKERS' COMPENSATION


The Ohio Bureau of Workers' Compensation (BWC) restarted its safety intervention grant (SIG) Friday after a two-year pause with $35 million in funding. SIG provides a 3-to-1 match of up to $40,000 to private and public employers in the State Insurance Fund looking to purchase equipment to "substantially reduce or eliminate injuries and illnesses" related to a particular task or operation. The program allows BWC and Ohio employers to partner in establishing best practices to reduce accidents and injuries. Covering eligible public and private employers across the spectrum, SIG includes the School Safety and Security Grant, School Safety and Security - HVAC Grant, Trench Safety Grant, Developmental Disabilities Grant, Drug-Free Safety Program Grant, Firefighter Exposure to Environmental Elements Grant, Body Armor Grant and Workplace Wellness Grant. More on the various safety grants can be found at tinyurl.com/mtkev6uf



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


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