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 number of abortions in Ohio increased 3 percent between 2019 and 2020, the Ohio Department of Health (ODH) said in its latest report on annual abortion statistics. ODH said there were 20,605 induced pregnancy terminations in the state in 2020, including 19,438 obtained by Ohio resident women. The agency noted that there has been a steady decline in abortions from 2000 to 2020, averaging a decline of approximately 720 per year.
Ohio Department of Agriculture (ODAg) Director Dorothy Pelanda appeared before the Senate Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee Tuesday, saying the agency and the industry have remained resilient despite the challenges of the pandemic. She outlined a number of programs administered by the agency, including meat inspections, plant and animal health, H2Ohio, promoting agriculture, and ride inspections.
Total General Revenue Fund (GRF) tax receipts for September finished $94 million (4.5 percent) higher than the budgeted estimate, the Ohio Office of Budget and Management (OBM) announced Wednesday.
Lordstown Motors Corporation (LMC) and Hon Hai Technology Group, known as Foxconn, announced Friday that they had reached an agreement in principle to work jointly on LMC electric vehicle (EV) programs at the LMC plant in Lordstown. LMC continues to "move forward with its plan to build a limited number of vehicles for testing, validation, verification and regulatory approvals during the balance of 2021 and the first part of 2022," according to its release.
Ohio Department of Health (ODH) Director Bruce Vanderhoff announced Friday the state has doubled the prize money for the Ohio Vax-2-School program to a total of $2 million in scholarships. In addition, Vanderhoff said the state plans to expand the age group of eligible Ohioans to younger children. Entries opened Monday, Oct. 4 for Ohioans aged 12 to 25, online at www.ohiovax2school.com or by phone at 1-833-4-ASK-ODH.
After pushing a bill establishing new exemptions for COVID vaccine mandates through committee in one hearing but scrubbing the planned floor vote last week, the House announced Monday two days' worth of hearings on HB435 in another committee. The House Commerce and Labor Committee held informal hearings on the bill Wednesday and Thursday. Wednesday’s hearing was scheduled to last all day but ended before lunch, with the bulk of the time dedicated to questioning of Ross McGregor, a manufacturing company owner and former lawmaker who spoke against the bill on behalf of the Ohio Manufacturers' Association. At Thursday’s hearing, the bill faced criticism from all sides of the issue. Representatives of health care organizations and business groups argued that the legislation goes too far in restricting the ability of employers to require vaccines to ensure a safe workplace. Anti-vaccine activists said the bill doesn't go far enough to protect unvaccinated individuals. Trial lawyers derided HB435 for language that "would gift new immunity to negligent, harmful actors until June 2023."
Ohio is seeing "early indicators" that COVID-19 case numbers are peaking and may start to decline, Ohio Department of Health (ODH) Director Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff told reporters Monday. Hospitalizations and deaths "should soon follow," he continued during the morning briefing.
Ohio reported Tuesday 5,533 COVID cases from the previous 24 hours, below the three-week average of 6,094. Meanwhile, hospitalizations of the past day hit 375, above the average of 262; intensive care unit admissions reached 27, compared to the average of 23. The twice-weekly death count, updated Tuesdays and Fridays, included 217 deaths. The daily average sits at 58.
The Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction's (DRC) Bureau of Community Sanctions and Adult Parole Authority (APA) are moving forward on the administration and Legislature's FY22-23 budget priorities for improved reentry, recovery, community-correction and employment of felony offenders with additional resources for chemical dependency, workplace skills and education, along with tougher standards for community-based correctional facilities (CBCF) developed by the University of Cincinnati.
CRIME AND PUNISHMENT
The Ohio Supreme Court and the University of Cincinnati agreed Monday to "tell the full story" of criminal sentencing in Ohio as Chapter 1 of the larger march toward comprehensive criminal justice data. Chief Justice Maureen O'Connor said the state's current "swamp" of unknown or disparate felony sentencing will present a clearer picture when the Ohio Sentencing Database Platform (OSDP) is complete.
Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost Monday announced the results of the statewide anti-human trafficking "Ohio Knows" operation, which focused on targeting the "demand side" of human trafficking. The operation, which took place from Sept. 24 to Oct. 1, included the arrest of 161 men who were trying to buy sex in what Yost said was the largest human trafficking sting in Ohio history to date. Three of the men arrested sought to buy sex from minors.
The Ohio Domestic Violence Network (ODVN) reported another year of striking increases in domestic violence fatalities. Ohio saw 131 domestic violence fatalities in the year ending June 30, 2021, a 20 percent increase from the period last year, and a 62 percent increase from two years ago, according to ODVN's sixth annual count of domestic violence fatalities in the state.
Ohio Supreme Court Chief Justice Maureen O'Connor joined a panel of seasoned jurists and a voice for broad-based decriminalization Thursday to address the future of felony sentencing for individuals battling not only addiction but also felony incarceration numbers that disproportionally impact persons of color. O'Connor gathered virtually with former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, moderator and Ohio State University (OSU) law Professor Douglass Berman, Chief Justice Algenon Marbley of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio, and author and speaker Piper Kerman, whose "Orange is the New Black" spawned a Netflix series based on her time in federal prison for international money laundering.
The governor's office says $4 million from HB110 (Oelslager) is now available for the first year of the Ohio Violent Crime Reduction Grant Program the administration proposed early in the budget process. "Local law enforcement officers are already out there doing everything they can to protect the public, and these grants will help them do even more," Gov. Mike DeWine said in a statement. "Public safety strategies are constantly evolving, and these funds will help ensure that local agencies have the tools they need to protect our neighborhoods and hold violent offenders accountable." The grant application for FY22 can be found at the Ohio Department of Public Safety's (ODPS) Office of Criminal Justice Services (OCJS) webpage at https://ocjs.ohio.gov/#gsc.tab=0. The application deadline is 5 p.m. on Monday, Nov. 8.
Gov. Mike DeWine's administration announced Monday the approval of assistance for 12 projects expected to create 2,426 new jobs and retain 3,252 jobs statewide. During its monthly meeting, the Ohio Tax Credit Authority (TCA) reviewed economic development proposals brought by JobsOhio and its regional partners. The projects are expected to collectively result in more than $108 million in new payroll and spur more than $162 million in investments across Ohio.
The combination of Ohio Aerospace Day and the past statewide defense and aerospace forums into one event provides a "single focus," Gov. Mike DeWine said during opening remarks Tuesday. "Ohio has always been -- and will continue to be -- a leader," he continued. DeWine also praised the commitment JobsOhio has shown to military and defense installation growth in the state and noted the pending creation of an Air National Guard cyber wing in Mansfield.
Ohio military and federal installations generated $40 billion in gross regional product and 380,500 direct and indirect jobs in 2020, according to an economic analysis released by JobsOhio during the two-day Ohio Aerospace Day forum. At 6 percent of the state economy, this represents $69 billion in total activity. The Dayton region, home to installations including Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, has $19.4 billion in total activity and 103,000 jobs. The analysis included a review of U.S. Department of Defense, Homeland Security, Veterans' Affairs (VA) and National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) installations in the state. It was prepared by Matrix Design Group, and Matrix Senior Research Analyst Matt Schwalb detailed the methodology used for the analysis at the forum Tuesday.
Ohio remains second in aerospace manufacturing attractiveness, according to PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) findings presented during the second day of Ohio's 2021 aerospace forum. The full report has not been publicly released yet, but Ohio was also second in 2020. PwC Global Aerospace and Defense Leader Scott Thompson explained the methodology during the forum, adding that Ohio was first in tax policy, third for both economy and industry, fourth in infrastructure, 17th in labor and 33rd in cost. Thompson added that business leaders are more accepting on the cost issue if states provide quality and accessibility, and that labor is one of the biggest challenges in the industry.
Two loan programs to support minority- and women-owned businesses were announced by the DeWine administration Wednesday, and the Ohio Legislative Black Caucus (OLBC) added its support Thursday as well. The Women's Business Enterprise Loan Program and Ohio Micro-Enterprise Loan Program were both created under the FY22-FY23 operating budget, HB110 (Oelslager).
The Ohio Department of Development (DOD) announced awards totaling more than $12 million as part of the Community Development Critical Infrastructure and Neighborhood Revitalization programs Monday. Both have around $6 million awarded, with 13 recipients in the critical infrastructure program and nine in the neighborhood revitalization program. The grants will benefit more than 35,000 Ohioans, DOD said.
The three districts under state academic distress oversight have submitted their plans for improving academic performance and reverting to local control to the Ohio Department of Education (ODE). East Cleveland City Schools, Lorain City School District and Youngstown City Schools all met the Thursday, Sept. 30 deadline to submit their academic improvement plans; they can be found online at https://tinyurl.com/c33pxfsz.
The U.S. Department of Education included 16 Ohio schools in its recent recognition of National Blue Ribbon Schools, an honor that is based on a school's overall academic performance or progress in closing achievement gaps among student subgroups. U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona recognized 325 schools nationally this year, the 39th year for the award.
Ohio State University (OSU) is partnering with the city of Columbus, Columbus City Schools, and Columbus State Community College for a new initiative that will offer training to teachers and students. The "STEAMM Rising Columbus" initiative will create a summer institute to train and develop 500 STEAMM teachers in the next five years. The initiative also establishes STEAMM Pathways among the participating educational institutions to develop and share curriculum to provide more access to this specialized education, OSU explained in an announcement about the program.
Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow (ECOT) had no right to turn to the courts for review of the State Board of Education's decision that it owed more than $60 million to the state, the Ohio Supreme Court ruled Tuesday in a split decision.
Does one school district's agreement to split levies from disputed land with a wealthier neighbor amount to a "tax grab" by the second district, as Warrensville Heights claims, or does the contract remain enforceable when no land transfer has occurred and the State Board of Education has not approved the deal, as Beachwood City School District argues? That is the question the Ohio Supreme Court faced in Wednesday's oral arguments, when justices considered Beachwood's annexation of Warrensville Township land in 1990; Warrensville Heights' six-year battle over Beachwood's secondary attempt to transfer the land to its district; their subsequent contingency agreement in 1997 allowing Warrensville Heights schools to retain the parcel and split the revenue with Beachwood 70/30 when it reached $22.3 million in value; and Warrensville Heights' objection when Beachwood attempted to exercise its contractual rights 16 years later when the land hit $22,258,310.
The Ohio School Safety Center, a division of the Ohio Department of Public Safety (ODPS) and Ohio Homeland Security, convened a free, virtual conference on school safety topics Wednesday through Friday of this week. The conference includes more than 60 breakout sessions and keynote addresses, covering topics including physical security, mental health, school climate, critical incident response, cyber, threat assessment and more. Gov. Mike DeWine kicked off the summit Wednesday with opening comments, touting his administration's efforts to promote and fund school safety initiatives. Among them is the creation of the Ohio School Safety Center itself. The center assists local schools and law enforcement agencies in preventing and preparing for any acts of violence.
Nonprofits that award scholarships for primary and secondary school students can now apply to participate in a new program that provides tax credits to such organizations. Lawmakers created the tax credits in the recently enacted biennial budget, HB110 (Oelslager). The Scholarship Granting Organization Certification application is available at https://charitable.ohioago.gov/getdoc/5d14089f-b282-4e7c-82e5-b19876874990.
Sponsors and supporters of legislation to create a money-follows-the-student education funding model released a draft substitute bill Wednesday to replace the placeholder copy in the introduced version of HB290 (John-McClain).
Secretary of State Frank LaRose's office released the latest statewide party affiliation information Friday, showing the state has more registered Democrats than Republicans. According to the county boards of elections' voter registration and voter history data from 2019-2021, Ohio's voter affiliation breakdown is currently as follows:
Number of Registered Voters in Ohio: 7,982,501
Number of Registered Democrats: 947,027
Number of Registered Republicans: 836,080
Number of Registered Libertarians: 2,847
Number of Unaffiliated Registered Voters: 6,196,547
A split Ohio Elections Commission Thursday voted four to two that there was no campaign finance violation in a complaint filed by two groups against Ohio legislators and the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) over the use of software that ALEC had given to the legislators.
Voter registration for the Tuesday, Nov. 2 General Election ended Monday, Oct. 4, 30 days before Election Day. Early, in-person voting and absentee balloting began Tuesday, Oct. 5.
Secretary of State Frank LaRose Tuesday convened his Ready for November Task Force as early voting for the Tuesday, Nov. 2 General Election began, saying he wanted to have a conversation on voting security as more disinformation and conspiracy theories circulate. LaRose said that he wanted to provide information on how secure Ohio's elections are, adding that many Ohioans don't realize "the care that goes into elections."
Consumer protection attorney Morgan Harper said Monday that she will report raising more than half a million in her quarterly campaign finance report for her U.S. Senate race. Harper, who is seeking the Democratic nomination for the Senate next year, said her filing will show $533,146 from 4,117 contributions, with 86 percent of contributors giving $100 or less.
Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley Wednesday sent a letter to Democratic gubernatorial primary opponent Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley proposing a series of debates between the two leading up to the primary next May. The letter calls for the two to agree on a schedule of debates in each major media market around the state until the primary. The campaign noted that by this point in the 2018 gubernatorial campaign cycle, Democratic candidates had already participated in a televised debate.
Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Tim Ryan Wednesday announced his campaign has raised $2.5 million in the third quarter and has more than $3.6 million on hand. Ryan, who will face Morgan Harper in next year's Democratic primary for the seat, saw 96.6 percent of contributions at $100 or less, his campaign said, and the fundraising numbers include 22,522 new donors in the quarter.
The following endorsements were made over the week:
The gubernatorial campaign of Democrat John Cranley announced the endorsement of the Stark County Black Caucus.
The gubernatorial campaign of Democrat Nan Whaley announced the endorsement of the Baptist Ministerial Alliance of Columbus and Vicinity.
For the week ending Oct. 2, the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS) reported 9,222 initial traditional unemployment claims to the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL). That number is lower than last week, when the department reported 10,135 traditional jobless claims.
Speaking during an event at a Nationwide Children's Hospital parking garage overlooking the I-70/I-71 split in Columbus, U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) Friday expressed optimism that President Joe Biden will be signing a $1 trillion infrastructure bill by the end of the month despite the U.S. House delaying a vote on the bill on Thursday.
In addition to changes in membership of the House Health Committee announced in tandem with action on vaccine mandate exemption measure HB435 (Carfagna-Seitz), the House formalized a handful of other changes to committees' memberships last week, as follows:
Economic and Workforce Development: Rep. Paul Zeltwanger (R-Mason) removed, Rep. Andrea White (R-Kettering) appointed.
Infrastructure and Rural Development: Reps. Don Jones (R-Freeport) and Thomas Hall (R-Middletown) removed, Reps. Kevin Miller (R-Newark) and Zeltwanger appointed.
Transportation and Public Safety: Rep. Jeff LaRe (R-Canal Winchester) removed, Miller appointed.
All Ohio high school students will soon be required to complete one-half unit of financial literacy to graduate, under legislation that is headed to the governor's desk. The Senate on Wednesday unanimously concurred with House amendments to SB1 (Wilson-McColley), sending the bill to Gov. Mike DeWine for his signature. The bill applies to all public school students who enter ninth grade for the first time on or after July 1, 2022. Also passing Wednesday were SB217 (Schaffer), to align state law to FBI guidelines for criminal records checks; and HB291 (Callender-Troy), an omnibus road and bridge naming and license plate measure.
House Speaker Bob Cupp (R-Lima) announced several changes to the session schedule for the rest of the year, in part to plan for the possibility that congressional redistricting will stretch into late November.
The House State and Local Committee Wednesday began another round of reviewing occupational licensing boards. Per Ohio Revised Code (ORC) Section 101.63, as spelled out in 132-SB255 (McColley), the committee will hear from 19 occupational licensing boards in the next six to seven weeks, committee Chair Rep. Scott Wiggam (R-Wooster) said.
In other legislative action, the Senate Veterans and Public Safety Committee reported out SB168 (Hoagland), to create the Ohio Mobile Training Team, and SB185 (Schaffer), regarding local governments’ emergency powers and firearms rights.
The Ohio State University (OSU) Wexner Medical Center held its 12th annual "Faces of Resilience" fundraising event Thursday evening in which Gov. Mike DeWine and First Lady Fran DeWine were presented with the 2021 STAR Award for Outstanding Contributions in the Fields of Trauma and Resilience.
HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES
The human services coalition Advocates for Ohio's Future (AOF) Thursday provided several detailed and general proposals to use hundreds of millions of dollars in remaining federal COVID-19 relief funding, and also called on state leaders to bring their considerations for the funding's uses out in the open.
Ohio State University (OSU) will invest an additional $20 million per year over the next decade to enhance safety and security on and around campus, President Kristina M. Johnson and Columbus Mayor Andrew J. Ginther announced recently.
Ohio Dominican University (ODU) and Xavier University (XU) have partnered for a program meant to create a pathway for ODU students to pursue a career in the nursing field. Starting this fall, ODU students have the ability to apply for a select number of guaranteed seats in XU's Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing (ABSN) Program upon the completion of their bachelor's degree.
Ohio University (OU) announced Thursday that its Board of Trustees approved a resolution to move forward with developing a voluntary separation retirement program for Athens campus faculty "to respond to changing enrollment patterns and the need for greater flexibility with financial and strategic decisions."
The University of Dayton (UD) has announced a new scholarship to benefit nursing students, which will be established by Mary Boosalis, president and CEO of Premier Health and chair of the UD Board of Trustees. The scholarship funds will be administered by the Miami Valley Hospital Foundation as well as the university.
A collection of organizations focused on housing, finance, health and human services is urging Gov. Mike DeWine and the General Assembly to dedicate nearly $400 million of the state's $5 billion-plus in federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARP) COVID relief money to address affordable housing needs. "The recent economic upheaval, combined with rapidly increasing housing costs, have put many of our neighbors in precarious circumstances. Even before the pandemic, nearly 400,000 Ohio households were spending over half their income on rent, and that number has surely increased during the past year and a half," states a letter signed by 181 organizations including the Coalition on Homelessness and Housing in Ohio (COHHIO), Ohio Bankers' League, Ohio Credit Union League, Ohio Council of Churches, Nationwide Children's Hospital, multiple Medicaid managed care plans and numerous local entities.
Ohio Realtors reported recently that Ohio home sales in August were one percent above where they'd been a year earlier, but average prices were up double digits.
Gov. Mike DeWine flew to Texas Tuesday to see the work of the Ohio National Guard in assisting U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), which has been going on for nearly a year. DeWine also participated in a news conference Wednesday with other Republican governors who have placed blame for the border situation on President Joe Biden. DeWine said it has become a humanitarian and drug crisis, noting overdose deaths from fentanyl that he said has been coming over the border.
Justice Melody Stewart has received the St. Thomas More Award from the Lawyers Guild of the Catholic Diocese of Cleveland for "contributing high ethical standards and spiritual growth in the practice of law," the Ohio Supreme Court announced Friday.
The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (Ohio EPA) on Wednesday announced the launch of an online geographic information system (GIS) mapping tool for remediated properties across the state. The public can use the tool to track and research properties that have completed investigation and remediation work under Ohio EPA's Voluntary Action Program (VAP), the agency said in a news release.
The Ohio Democratic Party announced that Cameron Kier has been hired as the party's new press secretary starting this week. Kier previously worked in the public information department for the city of Dublin, and as a producer on WBNS's "Face the State."
"Defunding is not the answer. The answer is reforming and changing the way we operate." Columbus Division of Police Chief Elaine Bryant told a packed room near the state capitol Wednesday that greater diversity, better training and a commitment to community service -- not police defunding -- can make Ohio's capital one of the safest cities in the country.
Warren Police Department in Trumbull County is the latest law enforcement agency to be formally certified under state law enforcement standards administered by the Ohio Department of Public Safety's Office of Criminal Justice Services (OCJS).
The Princeton Gerrymandering Project this week released its grades for the Senate Democratic Caucus' proposed congressional redistricting plan introduced as SB237 (Yuko-Sykes), finding the map gives a slight advantage to Democrats. The map gets an overall grade from the group of "B," and a "B" for partisan fairness, which is better than average for the category, but bias still exits.
In a post grading the Senate Democratic congressional redistricting proposal SB237 (Yuko-Sykes), former legislator Jeff Jacobson of Renew Ohio said that Democrats are projecting when they accuse Republicans of trying to draw a map that only favors their candidates while doing the same. Jacobson graded the SB237 plan a "C-", saying it fails to meet constitutional requirements.
Plaintiffs in all three lawsuits filed against the Ohio Redistricting Commission over new legislative district maps adopted for the Ohio House and Senate asked the Ohio Supreme Court to compel the Republican members of the commission to comply with discovery requests, including depositions. The Republican members of the commission Wednesday responded to the motions, saying the motions are unreasonable and not necessary. The Supreme Court partially granted the request Thursday, allowing for discovery and for depositions from the Republican members of the Ohio Redistricting Commission, but setting parameters surrounding those depositions.
The Controlling Board Monday approved all of the items on its agenda without lawmakers holding any of those items. Items approved Monday included coronavirus relief funds for schools, as well as money for adoption and child care programs, special counsel work, and vaccine distribution efforts. Most of Monday's meeting was spent receiving an update on a collective bargaining agreement between the attorney general's office and the Fraternal Order of Police Bargaining Unit 46, which represents Bureau of Criminal Investigation (BCI) agents.
Lawmakers continued efforts to lower and eliminate income taxes in the latest version of the budget, HB110 (Oelslager), but according to some experts, they deviated from how previous cuts were enacted as the top income tax bracket was eliminated, and the new top bracket rate dropped below 4 percent. When announcing the changes made to the conference committee version of HB110, the conferees noted that the bill would execute an across-the-board income tax cut at 3 percent. However, Howard Fleeter, an economist, long time tax consultant, and author of Hannah News' "On the Money," said he noticed the hit to revenues was much higher than the proposed 5 percent across-the-board tax cut passed by the Ohio Senate, which did not make sense if it was a straight 3 percent cut to all brackets. "I probably would not have noticed it if I wasn't so curious [about] how … this cost so much more money than what the Senate proposed," he said. Instead, he found that by getting rid of the top bracket, reducing the number of income brackets from five to four, and making the top marginal rate 3.99 percent, some earners will have nearly a 17 percent reduction as a result of changes in the budget.
Lt. Gov. Jon Husted announced Monday that the Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles (BMV) will provide Ohioans with valid credentials the ability to make one online order of a driver's license or ID card reprinting. This had previously only been an option in person at a deputy registrar location, and the new service could save an average of 500,000 visits per year. The reprint represents an exact copy of the last-issued credential, with no changes to personal information. It is not available for changes to a name, address or other identifier, though customers visiting the BMV can benefit from "Get In Line, Online" queuing.
TREASURER OF STATE
Ohio Treasurer Robert Sprague proposed the "Ohio Gains" initiative, which he said puts "the state's balance sheet to work for Ohioans." He explained that "the proposal centers around three new investment reforms that will help bolster support for the state's agriculture community, health systems and institutions of higher education.”
[Story originally published in The Hannah Report. Copyright 2021 Hannah News Service, Inc.]