This report reflects the latest happenings in government relations, in and around the Ohio statehouse. You’ll notice that it’s broad in nature and on an array of topics, from A-Z. This will be updated on a weekly basis.
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The AARP recently released its "Nursing Home COVID-19 Dashboard," which tracks how nursing homes across the nation are handling the coronavirus pandemic by reporting on key indicators including cases and deaths from the disease, as well as nursing home supplies of personal protective equipment (PPE).
The share of Ohio's COVID-19 deaths occurring in nursing homes is nearly twice the national average during the four-week reporting period, according to data collected by AARP. In Ohio, nearly two of every four reported COVID-19 deaths occurred in a nursing home, even though nursing home residents represent less than one percent of the state's population.
Lt. Gov. Jon Husted and Senate President Larry Obhof (R-Medina) both reminded Ohio businesses Monday of opportunities available as part of a $419 million package of CARES Act funds recently approved by the Controlling Board. Under the Small Business Relief Program, $125 million is being provided for grants to businesses of no more than 25 employees. This money can go to a "variety" of expenses, according to Husted's release, including mortgage, rent or utility payments; salary, wages or other employee compensation; business supplies and equipment; and certain other costs. The Bar and Restaurant Assistance Fund provides $38.7 million for businesses with an on-premises consumption permit that are struggling due to the pandemic and limits on the full use of that permit. They can receive $2,500 per unique location, and must have an active permit as of the close of business on Friday, Oct. 23. In addition, $50 million is being allocated to 47 community action agencies to provide rent, mortgage and water and/or sewer assistance to Ohioans in need.
Panelists including Sens. Hearcel Craig (D-Columbus) and Dave Burke (R-Marysville) and Rep. Stephanie Howse (D-Cleveland) agreed Thursday that elected officials and everyday Ohioans can do more to understand and address racism affecting the health and economic status of people of color in Ohio. Moderated by President and CEO Christi Angel of the YWCA of Columbus, the panel took up some hard questions concerning African-Americans’, Hispanics’ and other minorities' day-to-day experience in the Buckeye State. "The conversations around race can be challenging; they can be difficult," said Angel, a former Statehouse lobbyist. She said Ohio is becoming not less but "more white" in suburbs, ex-urbs and rural communities.
Ohio continued to set records for new COVID-19 cases throughout the week with 3,845 new cases on Friday; 4,229 new cases on Tuesday; and 4,961 new cases on Thursday.
Gov. Mike DeWine used his Thursday COVID-19 briefing to introduce an expanded executive team at the Ohio Department of Health (ODH). Bureau of Workers’ Compensation Administrator Stephanie McCloud will become director. OhioHealth Chief Medical Officer Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff will become ODH medical director; Interim ODH Director Lance Himes will stay on as senior deputy, taking charge of the state’s vaccine distribution plan; and Office of Budget and Management Assistant Director Kathleen Madden will become ODH chief of staff.
The Ohio High School Athletic Association (OHSAA) football state championships will be hosted at Fortress Obetz, a multi-purpose sports complex located just southeast of Columbus. The Division I state championship will take place on Friday, Nov. 13, while the finals in Divisions II through VII will be played on Friday, Nov. 20, Saturday, Nov. 21 and Sunday, Nov. 22, with two games each day.
The Ohio School Boards Association (OSBA) Delegate Assembly elected Robert M. Heard Sr. as the association's 2021 president-elect Thursday. He has served on the Cleveland Municipal Schools Board of Education for 15 years. Heard was elected during the annual business meeting of the OSBA Delegate Assembly. Current OSBA President-elect Scott E. Huddle, a member of the Mad River Local Board of Education in Montgomery County, will become OSBA president on Jan. 1, 2021.
The Ohio School Boards Association's (OSBA) Delegate Assembly approved changes to the association's legislative platform, which spells out for legislators, policymakers and others where OSBA stands on issues that affect public education.
The Center of Science and Industry (COSI) has launched new COSI Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) kits meant to bring a hands-on learning experience to students. The kits provide teachers, caregivers and parents with five days of "connected, standards aligned learning experiences," and come in several themes. The water kit, nature kit and space kit are all available for order now, and dinosaurs, energy, engineer and human body themed kits will be available soon. They are recommended for grades K-8. Order or find more information about the kits at https://cosi.org/connects/kits/.
Leila Kubesch, an English as a second language and Spanish educator at Norwood Middle School, Ohio's 2020 Teacher of the Year and Ohio's 2021 Teacher Fellow, has received the following two national awards: the Horace Mann Award for Teaching Excellence and the 2020 Toyota Family Teacher of the Year by Toyota and the National Center for Families Learning.
The Ohio Supreme Court rebuffed attempts by Attorney General Dave Yost and a long list of news outlets and media associations Thursday to gain access to the late Dayton shooter Connor Betts' school records after his 2019 killing of nine people outside Ned Peppers Bar. The Court said public record exemptions do not expire upon death of a student or former student, as litigants argued, with majority and dissenting opinions mounting dueling claims over the "plain language" of R.C. 3319.321(B).
The Broadcast Educational Media Commission (BEMC) heard an overview Thursday of ongoing efforts to improve remote education, both by overcoming connectivity and technology barriers and planning for ongoing improvements that allow for seamless transitions among in-person, hybrid and distance learning.
Unofficial results showed a record-setting Election Day, according to Secretary of State Frank LaRose. Current results show 5,812,804 Ohioans voted in the 2020 election, surpassing the previous record set in 2008 when 5,773,777 ballots were cast overall. In 2016, 5,607,641 voters cast a ballot in the General Election.
President Donald Trump has won Ohio's 18 Electoral College votes after defeating former Vice President Joe Biden in the Buckeye State. The Associated Press called the race for Trump after midnight, with the president leading Biden 53 percent to 45 percent. Trump again performed well in Eastern Ohio and parts of Northeastern Ohio, winning Jefferson, Ashtabula, Columbiana, Trumbull and Mahoning counties.
While President Donald Trump easily took Ohio, which many polls had suggested would be a toss-up state, U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) said Wednesday he is confident Democratic candidate Joe Biden will walk away from the race as the next president of the United States when counting is finished.
"We've known for some time it would take longer than in past years to get results in this election ... it means the system is working," Brown told reporters.
It was a bad day for pollsters who, by all accounts, said Ohio was going to be a close race. Some polls before the election showed Biden up as much as 4 points before the election, while others put Trump up by five. The president currently sits with an 8-point advantage, though it could narrow after absentee and provisional ballots are counted.
The Republican advantage on the Ohio Supreme Court will drop to 4-3 after 10th District Court of Appeals Judge Jennifer Brunner defeated Justice Judith French on Tuesday night. Republicans held on to the majority due to Justice Sharon Kennedy's win over Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas Judge John O'Donnell.
House Republicans were able to flip four Democratic seats on Election Night, while Democrats picked up a seat in Cuyahoga County race, meaning the House GOP will have a 64-35 majority in the 134th General Assembly. Senate Republicans picked off their top target in Sen. Sean O'Brien (D-Cortland), but the Democrats' best chance of a pick-up has remained too close to call. Democrat Monique Smith bested Rep. Dave Greenspan (R-Westlake) to win the 16th House District seat. Those seats won by Republicans include those of Reps. Gil Blair (D-Mineral Ridge) and Randi Clites (D-Ravenna) and the open seats of term-limited Reps. Jack Cera (D-Bellaire) and John Patterson (D-Jefferson). The one race that remains too close to call at week's end is that of Sen. Stephanie Kunze (R-Hilliard), who held a 41-vote lead over Democrat Crystal Lett. Hannah News has published a complete list winners of Ohio's state races as well as Faces of the 134th General Assembly.
Ohio's congressional delegation remains intact with all incumbents winning re-election to the 117th U.S. Congress which will convene early in 2021. That means Ohio sends 12 Republicans and four Democrats to the U.S. House and one Republican, Sen. Rob Portman, and one Democrat, Sen. Sherrod Brown, to the U.S. Senate. Neither of the state's U.S. senators were up for re-election this year.
State Board of Education (SBOE) member Lisa Woods lost her bid for re-election to Christina Collins in District 5 in Tuesday's election. The preliminary vote was 51.2 percent to nearly 48.8 percent. Two other incumbents, however, won their races: Antoinette Miranda in District 6 and Meryl Johnson in District 11. Miranda won with 62.5 percent of the vote while Johnson received 57.2 percent of the vote in preliminary results. Other new members on the board include Michelle Newman in District 9 and Brendan Shea in District 10. Former Rep. Diana Fessler was unopposed in District 1.
Eighty-three of the 123 school funding questions on local ballots Tuesday were approved based on preliminary results, the Ohio School Boards Association (OSBA) said Wednesday. That represents a 67 percent passage rate, down from the 73 percent passage rate in the 2019 general election.
Townships enjoyed success on nearly all of the 500-plus funding issues they placed on Tuesday's ballot, according to the Ohio Township Association (OTA). The OTA said 498 of 516 issues passed based on preliminary results, a 96.5 percent success rate.
All but one of the library districts seeking funding support on Tuesday's ballot saw victory, according to the Ohio Library Council (OLC), continuing a years-long pattern of electoral success for library systems.
Voters approved 16 funding issues -- one seeking additional funding, one a replacement levy and 14 levy renewals. Portage County District Library saw the lone defeat, getting 47 percent support for its 10-year, 1 mill additional levy.
The more than 100 judicial contests on Ohio ballots Tuesday saw defeat for 22 sitting jurists, according to information provided by the Ohio Supreme Court. Aside from the defeat of Justice Judith French by former Ohio Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner, the results brought losses for 15 sitting common pleas judges, five appellate judges and one county court judge. Beyond the turnover brought by incumbent losses, the contests saw change in another 41 bench seats where the current occupants did not run, either by choice or because of Ohio's constitutional age limit for judges.
All local human services levies on the ballot for behavioral health, children services, developmental disabilities and senior services passed except for one developmental disability services levy in Morrow County.
Three park levies passed during the 2020 general election, according to the Ohio Environmental Council (OEC) Action Fund.
Groups that were part of a coalition that worked on voting issues in advance of the 2020 election said Wednesday they saw a contest that was largely smooth but nonetheless highlighted some flaws in how Ohio runs the voting process. The coalition, which included ACLU of Ohio, League of Women Voters of Ohio, All Voting is Local Ohio and Ohio Voice, said a voting issues hotline largely fielded general questions about voting, but also included a 50 percent increase over 2016 in calls about improper electioneering at poll sites and voter intimidation tactics.
With key battleground states including Pennsylvania, Michigan, North Carolina and Georgia still not having declared a winner in this year's presidential contest as of Wednesday afternoon, the Columbus Metropolitan Club (CMC) fielded its post-election discussion on the implications of those delayed results, as well as public opinion polls' contradicting Ohio's actual vote count, and President Trump's early "victory speech."
As Ohioans prepared to head to the polls on Tuesday, Ohio officials sought to alleviate safety concerns, whether it is over the COVID-19 pandemic or other outside factors during the election. Secretary of State Frank LaRose went to the Delaware County Board of Elections on Sunday to record a video he posted on social media to highlight the steps polling locations are taking to ensure voters are safe from the pandemic.
Ohioans should look beyond their political differences and focus on unifying principles and the shared adversary of COVID-19, Gov. Mike DeWine wrote Sunday in an open letter to Ohioans. The governor amplified the message he's been stressing at twice-weekly briefings for months, encouraging Ohioans to come together to protect themselves and one another. He also urged Ohioans to exercise their right to vote, but to remember common ideals like liberty and opportunity for all. And he called for Congress to "quickly" pass further COVID-19 relief legislation in a bipartisan fashion.
U.S. Rep. Troy Balderson (R-Zanesville) faced off with his two opponents in the 12th Congressional District, Democrat Alaina Shearer and Libertarian John Stewart, in a special Columbus Metropolitan Club forum Friday, saying that "scare tactics" have made it harder for things to get done in Washington, D.C.
For the week ending Oct. 31, the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS) reported 21,263 initial unemployment claims to the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL). New jobless claims had fallen below 18,000 for the last two weeks, but are back up above 20,000 again as the state continues to deal with a record-setting surge in COVID-19 cases.
The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) will now give the Office of Ohio Consumers' Counsel what it has sought since late summer: A thorough audit of FirstEnergy utilities covering "the time period leading up to the passage of amended substitute HB6 (Callender-Wilkin) and the subsequent referendum efforts," the commission announced Wednesday.
The gavel continued to fall on lead parties in the $61 million federal corruption probe of HB6 (Callender-Wilkin) as FirstEnergy's Board of Directors fired former CEO Charles "Chuck" Jones and two other executives including the utility's senior vice president of product development, marketing and branding, Dennis Chack, and senior vice president of external affairs, Michael Dowling, on the same day federal Judge Timothy Black accepted racketeering pleas from a longtime confidant to former House Speaker Larry Householder (R-Glenford) and a high-profile Capitol Square lobbyist.
The state of Ohio's power to audit public utilities and their owners, operators and business records has been "put on trial" by FirstEnergy Corp. as it seeks to challenge the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) and the Office of the Ohio Consumers' Counsel's (OCC) authority to examine its "political contributions" -- including any supporting HB6 (Callender-Wilkin) -- and other company expenditures," the consumers' counsel says in its latest effort to question FirstEnergy executive Santino Fanelli. OCC answered the embattled utility's request for protective order on behalf of Fanelli Monday with a long list of Ohio Revised Code citations in support of the position that PUCO and Consumers' Counsel Bruce Weston have "broad" powers to inquire into FirstEnergy's internal operations affecting ratepayers.
Dayton Power & Light's (DP&L) parent company, THE AES Corp., is adding another woman to its top leadership team with the announcement of company veteran Kristina Lund as DP&L's new president and CEO.
The Whitewater River watershed in Southwest Ohio continues to be one of the cleanest river systems in the state, according to the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (Ohio EPA). An Ohio EPA survey of the watershed found a high diversity of fish and other aquatic species, the agency announced.
Ohio Realtors and the National Association of Realtors (NAR) recently presented a $5,000 check to the Capitol Square Review and Advisory Board (CSRAB) to go toward repair costs at the Ohio Statehouse. The Statehouse saw more than $158,000 in damage amid protests earlier this year.
Gov. Mike DeWine's keynote at Thursday's Impact Ohio forum covered a wide range of topics, from the results of the presidential election, to the pandemic, to his priorities for the coming months. DeWine was interviewed by Trevor Brown, professor and dean of the John Glenn College of Public Affairs at Ohio State University, for the keynote. Asked for his thoughts on why Ohioans turned out for President Donald Trump Tuesday, DeWine said he believes there's a sense that Trump is a fighter who has people's backs.
HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES
Leaders of the group Families USA, a national, non-partisan consumer health care advocacy organization, said a COVID-19 relief package as well as interplay between the Affordable Care Act (ACA) U.S. Supreme Court case and legislative health care activity will be "top of mind" for the next presidential administration.
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) awarded nearly $1 million to Ohio State University (OSU) for research to improve the understanding of the long-term effects of housing interventions targeting lead and other residential hazards and to improve methods that identify and control residential health hazards such as pests, injury hazards, and asthma triggers. The funding is part of $9.4 million HUD awarded to 13 universities and public health organizations for this research. These grants are particularly important to improve the ability to protect vulnerable populations, such as children and seniors, from exposure to these hazards, HUD said.
Eastern Gateway Community College (EGCC) announced earlier this week its largest enrollment ever for a fall semester, with a total of 41,843 students on campus and online. This number also includes 23 percent more Ohio students, with nearly half of those students from within the college's four-county service district.
Ohio State University (OSU) President Kristina Johnson appointed "Grace" Jinliu Wang, a veteran higher education administrator, to fill the newly created post of executive vice president for research, innovation and knowledge enterprise. Under Wang's leadership, Ohio State will be consolidating a number of existing offices and programs into one unit, including the Office of Research, Corporate Engagement and Technology Commercialization Offices, the Keenan Center for Entrepreneurship and the West Campus Innovation District.
Case Western Reserve University (CWRU) announced this week that the Board of Trustees selected former University of Minnesota President Eric W. Kaler to lead the institution beginning July 1, 2021.
Ohio State University (OSU) announced a partnership with the U.S. Air Force Monday to create a national consortium meant to increase opportunities in the Air Force for minority science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) students and graduates.
All three panelists on Impact Ohio's budget panel agreed Thursday that looking ahead at developing the proposed budget for the FY22-23 biennium first requires getting through this fiscal year. And the big unknown is COVID -- whether it will persist and for how long. Office of Budget and Management (OBM) Director Kim Murnieks tied recovery of the economy to the state's recovery from the pandemic. She reiterated the administration's concern with the recent trend of rapidly increasing cases, saying that "the curve of the economic universe" is tied to that of COVID cases. She called the next three months "critical to the economy" and state budget. "We must keep COVID in check."
Senate Majority Floor Leader Matt Huffman (R-Lima) is likely to become the Senate president-elect for the 134th General Assembly in the next couple of weeks, Senate President Larry Obhof (R-Medina) said Thursday during the Impact Ohio Post-Election Conference. Huffman is the only known candidate for the position, according to Senate GOP spokesperson John Fortney. There had been speculation that Senate Finance Committee Chairman Matt Dolan (R-Chagrin Falls) would also seek the job, but Dolan told Hannah News that he is supporting Huffman's bid for president.
Secretary of State Frank LaRose said he has had a message on the board in his office for months now: "On Nov. 4, the world will know and believe the election results from Ohio." Speaking in a video played at the Impact Ohio conference, LaRose discussed his strategies for carrying out Ohio's election, one that was relatively glitch free, save for a few small issues.
Ohio Republican Party Chairman Jane Timken said it was the state party's data collection and modeling that helped keep the Buckeye State red for President Donald Trump this year, giving him a win nearly matching his 2016 Ohio win. Timken told an Impact Ohio panel that while the state party initially suspended in-person contacts with voters because of the COVID-19 pandemic, they returned to it in June, utilizing social distancing and safety measures. They found voters were willing to talk, leading to 15 million voter contacts. That data went into the Ohio Republican Party's data operation, which allowed it to model the electorate and help to turn out voters.
The pandemic's disruptions to the health care sector, economy and Ohioans' personal wellbeing will reverberate for years, top sector officials said at Thursday's Impact Ohio post-election conference. Ohio Department of Medicaid (ODM) Director Maureen Corcoran, Ohio Hospital Association (OHA) President and CEO Mike Abrams and Ohio Association of Health Plans (OAHP) President and CEO Kelly O'Reilly addressed the issue on a panel moderated by Todd Baker, CEO of the Ohio State Medical Association (OSMA). "We will be living with the effects of this for many years, the aftermath is clearly greater drug and alcohol exposure, increases in suicide, mental health and substance use considerations, as well as ... additional smoking. Those are all things that affect our health," said Corcoran.
Now that Election Day has passed and campaigns are over, Lt. Gov. Jon Husted said during Thursday's Impact Ohio forum, it is time to ask "what do we need to do to help people get ahead." Economic data show many people are struggling due to the pandemic, he continued, and new state unemployment claims for the week again grew Thursday.
With Ohio's COVID-19 cases and deaths escalating to record heights this week, Ohio Supreme Court Chief Justice Maureen O'Connor is asking judges to adhere to stringent health precautions in their courtrooms. "Your first consideration as a judge is the health and safety of your employees and the public who enter the courthouse," O'Connor wrote in a letter emailed to all Ohio judges. O'Connor also reminded Ohio's judges that they have the authority to continue jury and bench trials for defendants on a case-by-case basis if certain conditions are met.
Six-foot rule violations snared a half dozen taverns over the weekend as liquor enforcement agents cited establishments for other coronavirus infractions including after-hours sales and consumption. Undercover agents with the Ohio State Highway Patrol's (OSHP) Ohio Investigative Unit (OIU) cited 11 clubs between Saturday and Sunday, including BG's Main Event in Rittman. Agents arrived to issue citations for furnishing alcohol to an intoxicated person and after-hours consumption stemming from Rittman Police Department cases on Oct. 23 and Oct. 24.
While a marijuana legalization initiative wasn't on the Ohio ballot Tuesday night, five states across the country passed pot reform measures during the 2020 general election. Arizona, Montana, New Jersey and South Dakota voted to legalize the use of marijuana for adults age 21 and older, while Mississippi passed a medical marijuana legalization initiative. In addition to legalizing marijuana for personal use, South Dakota passed a medical marijuana initiative, making it the first state in American history to enact both policies on the same day, according to a news release from the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP).
The Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) will be allowed to spend $13.1 million in H2Ohio funds that were frozen in FY20 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Ohio Lake Erie Commission Environmental Specialist Sandra Kosek-Sills.
The Ohio Community-Police Collaborative Advisory Board has taken up a proposed health and wellness standard for law enforcement agencies as the panel makes final changes to mass protest language vetted at Thursday's meeting. Ohio Association of Chiefs of Police (OACP) Executive Board President William Balling, chief of the Sidney Police Department, gave a detailed presentation on the developing health and wellness standard during the collaborative's remote meeting. He acknowledged officers face a variety of public and personal threats that only have increased with public backlash over real and perceived police misconduct.
Gallia County's newfound compliance with state policing standards leaves 17 sheriffs' offices yet to seek certification with the Ohio Department of Public Safety's (DPS) Office of Criminal Justice Services (OCJS). OCJS Director Kharlton Moore says 466 agencies employing over 30,008 law enforcement officers -- more than 93 percent of all peace officers in the state -- are now fully certified by the state.
Lt. Gov. Jon Husted and other state leaders offered an end-of-year update on pandemic response efforts and regulatory reform to the Common Sense Initiative's (CSI) Small Business Advisory Council (SBAC) Thursday, with InnovateOhio Deputy Director Mike Duffey also going over legislation they hope will be passed during the lame duck period. Husted said the goal of regulatory reform is to "save people time and money" and that he was excited for further state efforts. In regard to the current economic development situation and rising COVID-19 case numbers, he noted that Ohio is "doing well relative" to the region but still must "double-down on our efforts" such as wearing masks, social distancing and not gathering with people outside the household without those protections.
Lawmakers were within their rights to create a state collection system for municipal net profits taxes in the FY18-19 biennial budget, but violated the constitution by authorizing the state to keep half a percent of collected revenues to cover its administrative costs, the Ohio Supreme Court ruled Thursday.
The Center for Digital Government has given the state of Ohio an "A" in its 2020 Digital States Survey, a biennial evaluation of the technology practices of all 50 states. The Digital States Survey evaluates states' use of technology to improve service delivery, increase capacity, streamline operations and reach state policy goals, and assigns each state a grade based on quantifiable results.
The first-ever Ohio Space Forum featured discussion on planned NASA missions to the Moon and Mars, as well as ways Ohio can be involved in development of new technologies here on Earth. The virtual event, an offshoot of the recently renamed Ohio Defense and Aerospace Forum, opened with recorded remarks from Gov. Mike DeWine and U.S. Rep. Mike Turner (R-Dayton).
The DeWine administration pulled together transportation safety leaders from a diverse cross-section of public and private interests Wednesday to tackle vehicle hazards with "the greatest potential for killing people on Ohio roadways," Ohio Department of Public Safety (ODPS) Director Tom Stickrath told the newly-formed Ohio Traffic Safety Council. In its first meeting, Stickrath said the council will focus on the four traffic "Es" of education, enforcement, engineering/infrastructure and emergency response in an effort to remedy the spike in Ohio accident fatalities since 2019.
Sen. Terry Johnson (R-McDermott) is the recipient of the University of Rio Grande's Jim Marshall Veteran of the Year Award. This is the fifth year of the award, which celebrates veterans who have gone above and beyond the call of duty.
The Ohio Bureau of Workers' Compensation (BWC) formally approved Gov. Mike DeWine's request to issue a $5 billion dividend to Ohio employers, voting unanimously during a special board meeting Monday. BWC Administrator/CEO Stephanie McCloud said the dividend, along with CARES Act funding, "will hopefully be the difference between businesses staying open and businesses closing." She also said this action and those of DeWine will hopefully have a "noticeable difference" in Ohio's history during the pandemic.
[Story originally published in The Hannah Report. Copyright 2020 Hannah News Service, Inc.]