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Week in Review October 2, 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 Development (DOD) announced Wednesday its BroadbandOhio initiative has awarded Ohio State University (OSU) $125,000 in grant funding to help establish high-speed Internet connectivity for OSU's College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences (CFAES) Molly Caren Agricultural Center in London. This will enable the center to be used as a demonstration area and proving grounds for autonomous farming equipment. DOD said the project is expected to generate "valuable insights" on the effectiveness of semi- and fully-autonomous farming equipment, helping to shape the future of agriculture. It can also be a model for other states by showing the potential of this technology.


ATTORNEY GENERAL


The Ohio Attorney General's Office kicked off the 2023-2024 Teen Ambassador Board this week. The 152 high school juniors and seniors represent 97 public, private, charter and online schools in 43 counties; some members are home-schooled. During their one-year tenure, teen ambassadors will have an up-close view of state operations through conversations with government officials, interactive learning sessions and other activities.


AUTOMOBILE INDUSTRY


The United Auto Workers (UAW) union called workers to strike at 38 parts distribution facilities across 20 states for General Motors (GM) and Stellantis, stepping up from the three plants it initially picketed. Additional Ford facilities were not included in expansion of the Big 3 strike in recognition of substantial progress on contract negotiations there, UAW President Shawn Fain said. A GM parts facility in West Chester and a Stellantis facility in Streetsboro are among the new strike locations. Workers at a Toledo Jeep plant were already on strike as part of the initial wave.


BALLOT ISSUES


Supporters of a constitutional amendment initiative campaign that would remove elected officials from the redistricting process filed a petition summary for the third time Friday, Sept. 22 after making more revisions in response to Attorney General Dave Yost's latest rejection. Yost has twice rejected the summary as not providing a fair and truthful summary of the proposed amendment, most recently for omissions regarding the definition of political affiliation. The amendment, supported by the campaign group Citizens Not Politicians, would create a 15-member Ohio Citizens Redistricting Commission consisting of Republicans, Democrats and Independents, barring current or former elected officials from serving.


IT’S IN THE FY24-25 BUDGET


The nation's online chat sites have about four months to prepare for the launch of Ohio's Social Media Parental Notification mandates, which will impose civil penalties of up to $10,000 per day for portals that do not obtain consent from parents or guardians of children under 16 who use such sites. The DeWine administration had previewed the Social Media Parental Notification Act (SMPNA) as part of HB33 (Edwards) in comments to Hannah News a week before the budget dropped following "State of the State" comments on the mental health crisis among youth. Lt. Gov. Jon Husted said at the time executive language would require guardians' verified consent to a child's online chat, reinforced by written confirmation via U.S. mail or telephone. SMPNA evolved through the legislative process to define further what "social media" does and does not include and to provide additional parental controls over online content.


CHILDREN/FAMILIES


The "Strong Foundations Act" is needed to address Ohio's abysmal maternal and infant mortality rates, Rep. Andrea White (R-Kettering) said Tuesday. "It's risky business to have a baby in our state. Ohio has some of the worst infant and maternal mortality rates in the entire nation," White told the House Finance Committee during sponsor testimony on HB7 (White-Humphrey). The bill was reported out of the House Families and Aging Committee in June, and some provisions of the bill were included in the budget. The bill is being considered by the House Finance Committee because it includes a $37.5 million appropriation in FY24 and an $18.5 million appropriation in FY25 for various programs to improve the health of mothers and infants.


CORONAVIRUS/MONKEYPOX


Gov. Mike DeWine and Ohio Department of Health Director Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff both discussed the importance of Ohioans’ receiving the new COVID-19 vaccine, which is recommended for everyone age six months and older who has not received a dose within the last two months. DeWine said he is feeling better after becoming ill with COVID, describing a "fairly light" experience thanks to vaccines and medication.


The weekly figures reported by ODH Thursday include 7,721 new cases, down from 8,224 on Sept. 21; 255 hospitalizations, down from 312; 12 ICU admissions, up from nine; and 33 deaths, up from 28. ODH also reported Thursday that an additional 109 people received the bivalent vaccine booster in Ohio over the past seven days, bringing the total to 1.93 million or 16.49 percent of the state's population. Other ODH data showed that in the past week, there were 2,624 initial vaccinations and 1,636 completed vaccinations. ODH also said there had been incorrect data in the Sept. 21 announcement, leading to two negative numbers of -60 first booster shots and -514 second booster shots as the change from last week.

Ohio's vaccination rates are 65.04 percent or 7.6 million started and 60.31 percent or 7.05 million completed, along with 4.02 million people who received first boosters and 1.84 million, second booster shots.


ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT


The DeWine administration and Ohio Department of Development (DOD) announced Monday that the $600 million onshoring grant to support Intel's manufacturing campus had been disbursed, saying it shows the state is delivering on its commitments. An agreement on that funding was finalized in June, providing $300 million for each of the two chip factories, or fabs. The announcement in turn noted Intel has committed to creating 3,000 jobs, $405 million in annual payroll and over $20 billion in fixed asset investment by Dec. 31, 2028. As part of the agreement, Intel will be required to provide annual performance reports beginning March 1, 2024. Those will include the amount of grant funds distributed, how they were used, total investment per year, cumulative amount invested in the project and numbers of new jobs and payroll created. There will also be a description of the construction activity for each fab; data on aggregate amounts of purchases made from all suppliers, including megaproject suppliers; the aggregate amount expended on research and development activities at the site; the total number of employees working there and which counties they reside in; and a summary of the supply chain activity in support of the project.


Gov. Mike DeWine's administration announced Monday the approval of assistance for six projects expected to create 332 new jobs and retain 926 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 $27 million in new payroll and spur more than $426 million in investments across Ohio.


EDUCATION


Ohio's new five-star report card system needs improvement, Senate Education Committee Chair Andrew Brenner (R-Delaware) said Tuesday. "We may need to take a look at some of the weighting," Brenner told Hannah News following Tuesday's meeting of the Senate Education Committee, during which members heard presentations from Interim Superintendent of Public Instruction Chris Woolard and Ohio State University (OSU) researcher Vladimir Kogan. The state issued its first overall star ratings for schools earlier this month.


School buses are the safest way for kids to get to school regardless of whether they have seat belts, but properly-worn lap-shoulder belts can make children even safer, a national crash investigation official told Gov. Mike DeWine's new working group on bus safety Monday. A veteran local transportation official, meanwhile, briefed the group on considerations related to the other ways kids get to school, including the increase in parent drop-offs and pick-ups. DeWine created the Ohio School Bus Safety Working Group in the wake of a bus-minivan collision in Clark County that killed an 11-year-old. Kristin Poland of the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) said belts can complement the benefits of "compartmentalization" -- a design feature of buses including their seat padding and high-backed frames that is meant to keep passengers contained. While no death is acceptable in school transportation, she said the safety record of buses is excellent -- an average of five driver and six passenger fatalities per year from 2012 to 2021, versus tens of thousands of other road deaths.


ELECTIONS


The Ohio Elections Commission Thursday found that U.S. Rep. Shontel Brown's (D-Warrensville Heights) former county council campaign had committed a campaign finance violation by filing a late report but did not fine the campaign for good cause shown.

Thursday's agenda of the Ohio Elections Commission was also scheduled to continue a hearing on a complaint against Rep. Jean Schmidt (R-Loveland), but it was continued to a future date after all parties were unable to attend the day's meeting. In other commission news, the Ohio Supreme Court agreed to stay a lawsuit former Ohio Republican Party Chair Matt Borges had filed against the commission after both parties agreed to wait until after the commission holds a hearing in early November on the case.


ELECTIONS 2023


The deadline for Ohioans to register to vote for the Tuesday, Nov. 7 election is Tuesday, Oct. 10, and early in-person and absentee voting by mail begins Wednesday, Oct. 11. Ballots were sent Friday, Sept. 22 to active duty military and overseas voters. Voters can cast their ballots early in-person; vote-by-mail; or on Election Day. Absentee voting has already begun for military and overseas voters with those ballots mailed out Friday, Sept. 22. New voter registration and needed updates to a current registration can be done entirely online at http://VoteOhio.gov. Additionally, every county board of elections will be open until 9 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 10 for anyone who chooses to register in-person. Early, in-person voting hours at local county boards of elections will be as follows:

  • Wednesday, Oct. 11-Friday, Oct. 13, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

  • Monday, Oct. 16-Friday, Oct. 20, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

  • Monday, Oct. 23-Friday, Oct. 27, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

  • Monday, Oct. 30- Friday, Nov. 3, 7:30 a.m.-7:30 p.m.

  • Saturday, Nov. 4, 8 a.m.- 4 p.m.

  • Sunday, Nov. 5, 1-5 p.m.

  • Tuesday, Nov. 7 Election Day, polls open 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.

Voters may also choose to vote by mail. Information about requesting an absentee ballot can be found online at VoteOhio.gov. The deadline for absentee ballot applications to be received by the local board of elections is Tuesday, Oct. 31. Absentee ballots must be postmarked by Monday, Nov. 6 or delivered directly to the local board of elections by 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 7.


Meanwhile, the November election season began Friday, Sept. 22 with the distribution of ballots for active duty military and overseas voters.


Residents opposed to a Bellefontaine municipal ballot issue proposing to restrict drag performances asked the Ohio Supreme Court on Friday to overturn Secretary of State Frank LaRose's tie-breaking decision to allow the issue to appear on the November ballot. The ordinance would bar attendance of minors at "adult oriented exhibitions featuring male or female impersonators who provide displays and entertainment appealing to sexual interests," and bar such shows on public property or at "any location viewable by a minor."


Innovation Ohio this week launched its Ohio Voter Guide for the upcoming Tuesday, Nov. 7 General Election. Saying the initiative "is part of our ongoing commitment to foster informed and engaged citizenship in Ohio," Innovation Ohio said the guide provides descriptions on the statewide voting issues. The group said the guide gives voters the ability to learn about Ohio's statewide issues, check and update their voter registration, provide early vote options, and allow Ohioans to sign up for election reminders.


ELECTIONS 2024


Seven Republican presidential hopefuls met Wednesday night in California at the Reagan Presidential Library for another debate hosted by Fox News and Univision with a smaller field as one prior debate participant failed to meet polling and fundraising thresholds and the poll leader, former President Donald Trump, continued to stay away. Ohio entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy remained on the stage alongside former North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, former Vice President Mike Pence, former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley and U.S. Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) Former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, who was in the prior Milwaukee debate, failed to qualify.

Republican Scott Pullins announced that he will run for the 98th House District in 2024. Incumbent Rep. Darrell Kick (R-Loudonville) is term limited.


ELECTIONS 2026


Republican gubernatorial candidate Matt Mayer announced earlier this month that he was ending his gubernatorial campaign, saying the data points don't support his continuing. Mayer, who formerly ran the Buckeye Institute, was the first Republican to announce earlier this year that he was running for governor.


ENERGY/UTILITIES


"Nothing in the statute requires that a just and reasonable rate of return be based on current market conditions." The Ohio Supreme Court affirmed this conclusion repeatedly Tuesday in a 5-2 decision granting Dominion Energy Ohio a profit margin of 9.91 percent based on 2008 lending rates three times higher than the current "cost of debt," leaving Northeast Ohio ratepayers with a four-year-old bill of $73 million. The Court did address the Ohio Consumers' Counsel (OCC) and Northeast Ohio Public Energy Council's (NOPEC) complaint against Dominion profits by ordering the utility to file a full rate case by October 2023 reflecting the current cost of debt.


The 13-state regional transmission organization (RTO) encompassing Ohio says Ohioans and other electric consumers do not need a virtual "circuit breaker" to avoid astronomical energy prices during cyber-attacks or weather emergencies like 2014's polar vortex or last year's "bomb cyclone" known as Winter Storm Elliott that slammed all but the southwest United States. PJM Interconnection launched a stakeholder process in 2020 to determine whether its energy supply needs a stop-loss mechanism or so-called circuit breaker to prevent spiraling energy prices during hostile weather and market conditions. American Municipal Power (AMP) and Ohio's Electric Cooperatives (OEC), both based in Columbus, told PJM last year that a poll of its Energy Price Formation Senior Task Force (EPFSTF) showed two-thirds of its industry members wanted new tools to intervene in unstable energy markets. In August, the board of managers pulled back from the proposed circuit breaker, noting an FPA filing under Section 206 would require current market protections to be "unjust and unreasonable." "While the PJM board continues to support the concept of a circuit breaker, it does not believe the current market rules to be unjust and unreasonable due to its absence. Further, the broad spectrum of stakeholder views on the various design components of a circuit breaker serves as an additional data point to the board indicating that reaching resolution through a Section 206 filing would be challenging," it said.

OCC says the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) is contradicting its own findings and those of state and federal courts in granting another six-month stay of the commission's four investigations into FirstEnergy and scandal-plagued 133-HB6 (Callendar-Wilkin). PUCO launched probes into the utility's political spending, corporate separation and customer billing riders roughly three years ago before halting them in August 2022 at the request of the U.S. Attorney's Office, which was investigating former House Speaker Larry Householder then but currently has no pending trials or indictments involving HB6. The commission granted another six-month stay last February and a third in August. "The U.S. Attorney's most recent correspondence makes it clear that its investigation is still ongoing and, thus, the interference concerns cited in our Aug. 24, 2022 entry remain largely at issue. Further, we recognize that, while the federal criminal trial resulted in two convictions, those convictions are currently being appealed," commissioners state unanimously. "As such, we find the U.S. Attorney's request to extend the existing stay to be reasonable."


Ohio's shale oil production is nearing its previous all-time high in the latest figures from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR), while natural gas numbers cooled slightly since the first three months of 2023. Between Q1 and Q2, horizontal "fracking" yielded a respectable gain in oil output to 6,915,830 barrels (bbls) -- barely 4 percent off Ohio's historical high of 7,200,000 bbls in 2019. ewfThat is a major rebound from the second quarter of 2022, rising nearly a third year-over-year in April-June of this year.


Ohio is expanding its bitcoin footprint with Melbourne, Australia-based Arkon Energy's plans for a 100-200 megawatt (MW) data center at the former Ormet Primary Aluminum Corp. in Monroe County, where the PUCO has approved a "reasonable arrangement" between Arkon and American Electric Power (AEP) of Ohio to promote the state's economic development.


ENVIRONMENT


Ohio Sea Grant, in partnership with Ohio State University (OSU), the University of Toledo and the Ohio Department of Higher Education (ODHE), has released the 2023 research findings update for the statewide Harmful Algal Bloom Research Initiative (HABRI), which seeks solutions for harmful algal blooms in Ohio. HABRI is funded by the ODHE, with $18.5 million made available since 2015. Matching funds from participating Ohio universities increases the total investment to more than $37 million. The initiative currently consists of 97 research teams working on different priorities identified by state agencies, including the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (Ohio EPA), Ohio Department of Agriculture (ODAg), Ohio Department of Health (ODH), the Ohio Lake Erie Commission and Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR).


The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (Ohio EPA) has announced a new grant to help businesses understand the rules for managing scrap tires. Health districts and solid waste management districts can apply for funding to support community education and outreach, such as visits to scrap tire generating businesses and educational materials, Ohio EPA said. Grant recipients will also make follow-up visits to verify that the businesses are properly managing scrap tires and recognize those that are demonstrating proper scrap tire management. The program also involves identifying and locating scrap tire businesses within the district and notifying stakeholders, including local government officials and law enforcement, about this program. As many as 8,000 businesses in Ohio generate scrap tires, which are defined as any tires that aren't being used for their original purpose.


ODNR is calling on teachers and students in Northern Ohio to join the "H2Ohio Students Take Action Program." The program, which is focused on wetland restoration projects, gives teachers and students a firsthand look at conservation and ecology, ODNR said. The H2Ohio Students Take Action Program provides middle and high school teachers and their students with real-world learning opportunities, access to wetland sites, career exploration opportunities and more. Projects in this program urge students to "take action" with their ideas and use what they learn to positively affect their watershed.


FEDERAL


A potential federal government shutdown should not affect Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) recipients in Ohio, Gov. Mike DeWine said Thursday. "Yes, we've looked at that. We do not see an immediate problem as far as delivering those federal services here in the state of Ohio. We do have the money to do that," DeWine said during a press conference with Ohio Department of Health Director Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff, responding to a question from Hannah News.


"Obviously, we hope the federal government will resolve this problem, and move forward," DeWine added. According to the White House, Ohio has a total of 179,262 WIC recipients, including 42,341 women, 93,119 children and 43,802 infants. A federal government shutdown could occur on Sunday, Oct. 1 if Congress and the president fail to agree.

DeWine and Vanderhoff were also asked how a potential federal government shutdown might affect access to the new COVID-19 vaccines. Vanderhoff said a shutdown should not affect anyone's access to vaccines.


GAMING/GAMBLING


Hollywood Columbus Casino will pay a $200,000 fine for failing to comply with minimum security staffing requirements and allowing underage patrons to enter the facility, according to the Ohio Casino Control Commission (OCCC). The fine is part of a settlement agreement signed by Central Ohio Game Ventures General Manager Rick Skinner and approved by OCCC.


GENERAL ASSEMBLY/STATEHOUSE


With the clock ticking on Boy Scout sex abuse claims, the House could well turn next Tuesday's "if-needed" placeholder into an active voting session so victims can take full advantage of the organization's bankruptcy settlement under HB35's (Seitz-Miranda) temporary statute of limitations repeal and emergency clause approved by the Senate Wednesday. The upper chamber passed the legislation as an emergency measure in separate 31-0 votes after several members addressed the Boy Scouts Honor Act. Chairman Nathan Manning (R-North Ridgeville) of the Senate Judiciary Committee said the act is less about the statute of limitations on tort claims and more about the organization's child sex abuse scandal and resulting bankruptcy. "This is a very narrowly tailored bill," Manning said of the statute's five-year repeal. HB35 is limited to Boy Scout victims wishing to take full advantage of its $2.7 billion bankruptcy settlement, which prorates damage claims based on individual states' statute of limitations cut-offs.


The Senate also passed HB61's (Troy-Callender) marking Nov. 19 as "James A. Garfield Day" after Ohio's assassinated president by a 31-0 margin but split mostly along party lines 25-6 over SB158's (Cirino) effort to bar municipalities from adopting a charter provision or ordinance allowing city council to "appropriate, allocate or draw money" from the city's treasury for disbursement by unelected persons.


Senate President Matt Huffman (R-Lima) took a range of questions after session, dominated by Tuesday's bipartisan redistricting map. "Not only do Democrats have some reticence about it, but so do some Republicans," Huffman said. They include former Ohio Supreme Court Chief Justice Maureen O'Connor, who issued a statement Tuesday accusing Redistricting Commission members of protecting their own seats in an act of bipartisan cronyism.


The House State and Local Government Committee both Tuesday and Wednesday continued its routine review of occupational licensure requirements, per the process laid out in 132-SB255 (McColley). Rep. Marilyn John (R-Shelby), chair of the committee, said "significant" work has been done so far and that she plans to have a hearing for public testimony during the week of Oct. 16. Her goal is to have the committee's report done by the end of October. During Tuesday's marathon, three-hour meeting, the committee heard from licensing agencies regarding real estate peace officer training, architects and landscapers, industrial compliance, agriculture, and more while on Wednesday the committee heard from the Ohio Casino Control Commission (OCCC), the Accountancy Board of Ohio, the Ohio State Racing Commission, and the Ohio Department of Public Safety.


With the deadline for all state agencies to submit their rule reduction reports having passed, all but four agencies have or are on track to hit their target of a 10 percent reduction in regulatory restrictions, announced Joint Committee on Agency Rule Review (JCARR) Chair Rep. Jamie Callender (R-Concord) and Vice Chair Sen. Theresa Gavarone (R-Bowling Green). This mandatory reduction is part of the process outlined in 134-SB9 to reduce what legislators identified as "excessive regulation" in the Ohio Administrative Code (OAC).

Statehouse managers this week said the building now includes a universal, height-adjustable changing table to assist those with disabilities and complex health needs. The Capitol Square Review and Advisory Board (CSRAB) was assisted in providing the table by the Montgomery County Board of Developmental Disabilities and Changing Spaces Ohio, which advocates for accessible restrooms for all. The mobile, universal table is found in the Mother's Room, a private room off the Map Room in the Statehouse basement. It can accommodate people up to 400 pounds.


The Ohio Senate announced this week the launch of an online newsroom, titled "On the Record - The Views the News Excludes," saying it is meant to counter media bias.

In other action, the House Transportation Committee reported out highway and “corridor” naming bills HB251 (Pavilga) and HB253 (Upchurch-Holmes); and the Senate Insurance Committee reported out SB115 (Schuring), which addresses limits health insurers place on dental care services.


HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES


The Senate Small Business and Economic Opportunity Committee heard proponent testimony Tuesday on HB49 (Ferguson-Barhorst), which seeks to enhance federal protections on price transparency for hospital services. Witnesses emphasized the effort's bipartisan nature and said Ohio can take a leading role on the issue, while also responding to arguments opponents might bring. Patrick Neville, a former Republican leader in the Colorado House of Representatives, described a similar bill he introduced there that took effect in August 2022. He said this is an effort to codify federal rules -- which were begun by President Donald Trump and signed by President Joe Biden -- into state law. That will enable Ohio to act as an enforcer and give consumers the power to enforce protections themselves.


HIGHER EDUCATION


Ohio Senate Workforce and Higher Education Committee Chair Sen. Jerry Cirino (R-Kirtland) announced a symposium on a variety of topics relevant to higher education governance will be held in the Statehouse Atrium next month. In announcing the symposium, which will be co-hosted by Senate President Matt Huffman (R-Lima), Cirino invited all current members of the boards of trustees of Ohio's 14 public universities. "This symposium, which I believe is the first ever of its kind in Ohio, will be a great opportunity for the trustees of our critical institutions of higher education to spend time with the Senate and to hear from respected speakers," said Cirino. The senator's office said the symposium will feature nationally recognized speakers discussing policy formulation, future strategies and current challenges.


Union Institute & University, a primarily online college based in Cincinnati, cancelled its fall semester of classes due to financial issues and ongoing lawsuits, the Cincinnati Business Courier reported. After announcing the semester would be postponed by two weeks, Vice President for Academic Affairs Tom Frederick reportedly emailed the student body on Friday, Sept. 8 that the semester will instead be cancelled. He said there are currently no plans to close Union Institute, and that the university, which operates on a trimester system, will proceed with its winter semester in November. Also, the Higher Learning Commission (HLC), the university's accreditation agency, released a letter announcing it has assigned it a financial distress designation, "based on the institution being placed on Heightened Cash Monitoring 2 (HCM2) by the U.S. Department of Education and related information."


HOUSING/HOMELESSNESS


August homes sales dropped by close to a fifth compared to activity a year earlier, but prices rose, according to Ohio Realtors. Sales figures of 12,730 represented a 17.2 percent decline from the 15,380 sales seen in August of 2022. The average sales price of $285,305 last month represented a 6.6 percent increase from the average price a year earlier of $267,610.

Local governments told lawmakers Tuesday of their efforts to update decades-old zoning codes to enable more and faster housing development. Officials from Columbus, Lancaster and Gambier were among numerous witnesses testifying before the Senate Select Committee on Housing. Columbus City Council member Rob Dorans discussed the city's ZoneIn initiative, meant to update a 70-year-old zoning code and cut down on the voluminous variance requests that regularly come before council and are a cause of year-plus delays in building approvals. The effort for now is focused on about 50 corridors identified as likely sites of both housing development and upgraded public transit services to help residents reach employment and necessities. Dorans said the update is not about allowing anyone to build anything they want wherever they want, but he noted many parts of the city aren't zoned to even allow a duplex.


JUDICIAL


The Ohio Board of Judicial Conduct announced five judicial campaign conduct seminars for the 2024 court election cycle Monday. The Ohio Code of Judicial Conduct requires incumbent judges and new judicial candidates to attend a two-hour seminar on campaign practices, finance and ethics. Candidates must complete the required course within one year before or 60 days after their certification for the Nov. 5, 2024 ballot. Seminars will be conducted on the following dates and times:


Wednesday, Dec. 6, 2023: 4-6 p.m., Embassy Suites Dublin


Wednesday, Jan. 31, 2024: 1:30-3:30 p.m., Holiday Inn Fairborn


Tuesday, Feb. 6, 2024: 1:30-3:30 p.m., Best Western Plus, Strongsville


Thursday, June 27, 2024: 1:30-3:30 p.m., Zoom video replay


Wednesday, Aug. 7, 2024: 1:30-3:30 p.m., Zoom video replay.


The General Assembly has the authority to change the Ohio Revised Code to allow the state to immediately appeal orders preliminarily enjoining state laws, attorneys for the Ohio Attorney General's Office and abortion providers told the Ohio Supreme Court during oral arguments in Preterm-Cleveland v. Yost on Wednesday. Hamilton County Court of Common Pleas Judge Christian Jenkins issued a preliminary injunction to indefinitely block enforcement of "heartbeat" abortion ban 133-SB23 (Roegner) in October 2022. Attorney General Dave Yost appealed the injunction to the First District Court of Appeals, but the appeals court ruled that the state appealed "prematurely." Yost then asked the Ohio Supreme Court to consider the matter, arguing that the state should be allowed to immediately appeal preliminary injunctions. Ohio Solicitor General Benjamin Flowers said trial court judges "are among the most powerful officials in all of state government" if the First District's decision stands.


LOCAL GOVERNMENT


Representatives of the campaign that brought the "People's Budget" ballot proposal to Cleveland voters in November appeared before the Senate General Government Committee Tuesday to ask the committee to let voters decide whether citizens should have more say in how the city spends its resources. Evan O'Reilly and Molly Martin appeared in opposition to SB158 (Cirino), which would override the proposal by requiring appropriation decisions to only be made by a municipality's legislative authority, which could not be circumvented. Called "participatory budgeting" by its supporters, O'Reilly said it is not a new idea, nor is it a partisan idea. He said it is designed to encourage responsible governance, civic engagement, and a restoration of faith in democratic institutions. He said it is not an attempt to replace or supersede Cleveland City Council, as council would still decide how to find the funds. The resident steering committee would be appointed by the council. The bill, however, was reported out of committee and passed by the Senate.


MARIJUANA/HEMP


Nearly three-fifths of likely Ohio voters favor marijuana legalization measure Issue 2, according to a new poll conducted by FM3 Research. "Our supporters come from all backgrounds: Democrats, Republicans, veterans, patients, mothers and fathers," Yes on 2 campaign spokesperson Tom Haren said. The poll found that 59 percent of likely Ohio voters support Issue 2, 36 percent are against it and 5 percent are undecided. The survey found Issue 2 support from 83 percent of Democrats, 51 percent of Independents and 45 percent of Republicans.


There are now 105 dispensaries operating under the Ohio Medical Marijuana Control Program (MMCP), the Ohio Board of Pharmacy (OBP) announced Thursday. The Landing Dispensary, located at 4029 Smith Rd. in Cincinnati, was awarded a dispensary certificate of operation.


NATURAL RESOURCES


Deer archery hunting begins statewide on Saturday, Sept. 30, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) Division of Wildlife announced. Hunters checked 210,977 deer in Ohio during the 2022-23 season, and a record 99,742 deer were taken with archery equipment. There has been a dramatic increase in the popularity of archery hunting in the past decade, and the accessibility of crossbow hunting is part of the reason, according to ODNR. Approximately 72 percent of last season's archery harvest was with a crossbow, although hunting with compounds, recurves and longbows is still popular.


ODNR and the Columbus and Franklin County Metro Parks recently celebrated the completion of the Walnut Creek Treatment Wetland Restoration, the first H2Ohio project in Franklin County. This restoration project was funded through the first round of the Ohio River Basin H2Ohio Wetland Grant Program. Now that it's complete, the string of wetlands will filter nutrients from the water before it flows into Walnut Creek. The project also includes a line of vegetation that provides habitat for various amphibian, insect and aquatic species.


NEWS MEDIA


WOSU Public Media Wednesday announced that Columbus Dispatch reporter Anna Staver is the new host of "All Sides," succeeding former host Ann Fisher, who retired in May. "All Sides" is a two-hour, daily public-affairs talk show covering issues and events that shape life in Central Ohio. Before covering the Statehouse for the Dispatch, Staver previously worked for The Denver Post, 9NEWS in Colorado, The Statesman Journal and The Idaho Press Tribune.


PEOPLE


The Ohio Department of Aging recognized several older Ohioans as the newest members of the Ohio Senior Citizens Hall of Fame earlier this month, while induction ceremonies are approaching for the next classes in the Ohio Veterans Hall of Fame and Ohio Civil Rights Hall of Fame.


PUBLIC SAFETY


The Ohio Division of Emergency Medical Services (Ohio EMS); State Board of Emergency Medical, Fire, and Transportation Services; and Ohio Chapter of the American College of Emergency Physicians (Ohio ACEP) will hold the EMS Medical Director Conference on Wednesday, Nov. 8 at the Columbus Fire Academy Auditorium. The registration deadline is Sunday, Nov. 5. Topics include administration for strategic preparedness and response; lithium-ion batteries and powered vehicles; cybersecurity; acute stress and resilience; substance and opioid use disorders and solutions; human trafficking and domestic violence; and issues facing rural EMS agencies. There will also be an update from the State Board of Pharmacy. More information is available at https://tinyurl.com/36tkrdkd.


The Ohio Peace Officer Training Academy (OPOTA) has added Owens Community College in Northwest Ohio to its regional providers as part of the latest entry in OPOTA's "Close to Home" program. “Close to Home” makes it easier for Ohio's 33,000 peace officers to access in-person, advanced and mandatory continuing professional training (CPT) at less cost to local law enforcement agencies.


REDISTRICTING/REAPPORTIONMENT


The Ohio Redistricting Commission late Tuesday unanimously passed new House and Senate maps that will lock in a Republican majority until the end of the decade. The two Democrats on the commission -- Senate Minority Leader Nickie Antonio (D-Lakewood) and House Minority Leader Allison Russo (D-Upper Arlington) -- said that while they were voting for the plan and that it was better than what was originally adopted as the working document last week, the process was still broken and should be taken out of the hands of politicians. According to co-chair Auditor Keith Faber, the new map would see 20 Republican, three lean Republican, nine Democratic, and one lean Democratic seats in the Senate. There would be 58 Republican, three lean Republican, 30 Democratic seats, and eight lean Democratic seats in the House.


After hearing testimony Tuesday morning, members of the commission worked behind closed doors into the evening before finally returning just after 10 p.m. to announce a deal had been struck. Sen. Rob McColley (R-Napoleon) introduced the new plan, dubbed the "Unified Bipartisan Redistricting Plan," going over the changes. Most occurred in Ohio's larger counties, making some districts more competitive. This action followed the commission’s holding two hearings in Geauga County Monday when it was criticized for meeting on the Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur, a scheduling that co-Chair Auditor Keith Faber said was a "mistake." A hearing was held Friday, Sept. 22 in Mount Sterling.


Meanwhile, the plaintiffs in the cases challenging the previous maps asked the Ohio Supreme Court Monday to adopt a schedule "to review any new General Assembly-district plan for compliance with the requirements of the Ohio Constitution, including Article XI, Sections 6(A) and 6(B)." Motions were filed in both the League of Women Voters of Ohio v. Ohio Redistricting Commission and Bria Bennett v. Ohio Redistricting Commission.


STATE GOVERNMENT


Instructors in hair professions asked a Senate committee Wednesday to reject recent amendments to interstate licensure legislation that would lower training requirements, questioning its necessity in the wake of budget provisions that created a new license type that can be earned in a shorter time. They also argued the changes would complicate financial aid considerations for cosmetology and barbering students. The Senate Government Oversight Committee had starred SB89 (Roegner) for a potential vote ahead of Wednesday's sixth hearing on the bill but ultimately took no action after more than an hour of opposition testimony from several people. Dozens of others submitted written opposition comments, while several provided written comments in support or as interested parties.


TAXATION


As legislators work on priority legislation addressing the runup in property values and attendant tax increases, the Senate Ways and Means Committee chair suggested Wednesday the possibility that county budget commissions could be authorized to provide relief. The committee heard proponent testimony Wednesday on SB153 (Lang), which would require basing property valuations on a three-year average of sales for 2023 through 2025. The House Ways and Means Committee recently reported out a similar measure, HB187 (Hall-Bird). Sen. Louis Blessing (R-Cincinnati), chair of the committee, said it's theoretically possible but practically unlikely that taxing districts, most of them schools, would in large numbers ask county budget commissions to reduce taxes and forego unanticipated revenue increases driven by the valuations. However, he asked a witness his thoughts on giving budget commissions the power to act unilaterally to reduce taxes, with some guardrails put in place.


TECHNOLOGY/AEROSPACE


The Dayton Development Coalition (DDC) announced Thursday the Ohio Defense and Aerospace Forum will no longer be held Monday and Tuesday, Oct. 2-3 as planned, citing "the ongoing uncertainty surrounding the federal government budget. An announcement will be made in the upcoming week on next steps for the event," DDC continued. The annual event, created by DDC and U.S. Rep. Mike Turner (R-Centerville) in 2016, was set to be held at Wright State University this year.


TRANSPORTATION/INFRASTRUCTURE


The Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) shared potential improvements Friday to the U.S. 23 corridor north of Columbus, saying it intends to hold public meetings to hear feedback and develop a plan outlining next steps by the end of next year. The stretch of Rt. 23 from Waldo in Marion County to Worthington in Franklin County is congested and prone to crashes with 30 percent more traffic than it's designed to accommodate and 40 traffic signals, according to ODOT. Rapid development in the area is only expected to exacerbate the issue. Potential changes include traditional freeway interchanges, connector-road interchanges, overpasses and underpasses and a concept called restricted crossing U-turns (RCUT), which prevent direct left turns or through travel from side streets but provide nearby crossovers to accommodate U-turns. The biennial transportation budget, HB23 (Edwards), provided $10 million for analysis of transportation and development needs in high-priority areas.


The DeWine administration marked Rail Safety Week by reminding Ohioans that a person or vehicle is hit by a train every three hours in the U.S. The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO), Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) and its Ohio Rail Development Commission (ORDC) urged all Ohioans to be cautious at rail crossings, with a specific focus this year on pedestrians, joggers and bicyclists.


WORKFORCE


In recognition of September's being "National Workforce Development Month," the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS) announced Monday it has provided ApprenticeOhio employers and sponsors with nearly $1.6 million in reimbursement for training and tools under a year-long program.


Seventy-five employers and sponsors received this reimbursement, according to ODJFS, and the assistance has helped train 698 apprentices. The grants were made possible through federal funding.


The Columbus Metropolitan Club held a discussion on "Uncovering Ohio's 'Hidden' Workforce" Wednesday, focusing on trends that increased during the pandemic and ways to remove barriers to employment. The panelists included American Enterprise Institute Senior Fellow Brent Orrell and Workforce Development Board of Central Ohio President and CEO Lisa Patt-McDaniel. Diversified Systems Founder and CEO Archie Williamson hosted the forum. In his initial remarks, Orrell said the current issue involves finding those "hidden workers" and removing the barriers they face.





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


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