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Week in Review October 23, 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.


AGING The Social Security Administration (SSA) announced that retirement benefits will increase by 3.2 percent, an average of $50 per month, beginning in January 2024. The cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) will apply to more than 66 million Social Security beneficiaries. Recipients of Supplemental Security Income (SSI) payments will also see a 3.2 percent increase in payments in January. SSI increases will apply to approximately 7.5 million people, meaning more than 71 million Americans will receive higher benefits next year, as there is some overlap in Social Security and SSI recipients. SSA also announced an increase in the maximum amount of earnings subject to the Social Security tax starting in January. These adjustments happen each year, and in 2024, the taxable maximum for the Social Security tax will increase from $160,200 to $168,600, an increase of over 5 percent. APPALACHIA U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) announced Monday the Ohio Manufacturing Extension Partnership, also known as MAGNET, will receive $1.25 million from the U.S. Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) for a project on "Manufacturing the New Energy Economy in Appalachia." This funding will help small and medium manufacturers in Appalachian Ohio "grow production in new energy and technology sectors through technical assistance, training, supply chain mapping and diversification support, and guidance on factory upgrades and product expansions," according to Brown's office. It will also help manufacturers increase energy efficiency, lower costs, and attract and retain workers. ARTS, SPORTS AND ENTERTAINMENT The Ohio Arts Council (OAC) is currently conducting a statewide online arts and culture survey of Ohioans. "Our purpose is to better understand how we can best invest resources to meet Ohio's needs," OAC Executive Director Donna Collins said. "We hope to reach as many Ohio residents as possible with this survey. We encourage you to take it yourself and share it widely with your community. All responses will be anonymous." The survey -- which will close on Friday, Nov. 3 -- can be found at https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/2023ARTS. The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame is receiving sustainability funding from the Ohio Arts Council (OAC) after all, agency spokesperson Justin Nigro told Hannah News. "They amended the guidelines to basically exempt line items or earmarks that were for capital projects from that guideline," Nigro said. The Rock Hall is one of several organizations that was affected by the OAC's former policy, which prohibited arts organizations from receiving OAC sustainability funding while simultaneously receiving an earmark in the operating budget. Arts advocates and Joint Committee on Agency Rule Review (JCARR) Chair Rep. Jamie Callender (R-Concord) expressed frustration with the policy, prompting OAC to make the change. ATTORNEY GENERAL Attorney General (AG) Dave Yost announced Ohio's next solicitor general Wednesday -- "appellate ace" and Ohio native Elliot Gaiser. Yost said Gaiser will become lead attorney for state and federal appeals as Ohio's 11th solicitor general on Monday, Nov. 20. "Having clerked for [U.S. Supreme Court] Justice Alito, [Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals] Judge Jones and [D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals] Judge Rao, Elliot is a master craftsman of ironclad legal arguments rooted in originalist principles and constitutional restraint," Yost said in a statement. "His accolades and versatility distinguish him from his peers and make him well-suited for the role of solicitor general." Gaiser joins the Ohio Attorney General's Office from the Jones Day law firm in Columbus, where he is an associate attorney for issues and appeals. Yost and 49 other attorneys general have negotiated a $10 million settlement with payment processor ACI Worldwide, the AG's office announced Tuesday. The settlement is a result of a testing error in 2021 that led to the attempted unauthorized withdrawal of $2.3 billion from the accounts of 477,000 mortgage holders, Yost's office said. Ohio will receive $342,803 from the settlement. The attorneys general investigated and negotiated this case in partnership with the states' financial regulators, who have reached a separate $10 million settlement with ACI. AUTOMOBILE INDUSTRY The DeWine administration and Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS) recently announced the state received two federal grants totaling nearly $10 million for electric vehicle (EV) manufacturing workforce development. This follows the development of a state strategy to strengthen the advanced manufacturing workforce for EV production. One grant will provide $5 million for training and credentialing for 700 residents of 18 Northeast Ohio counties. As part of that project, called "Charged Up," ODJFS will work with the Manufacturing Advocacy and Growth Network, Mahoning Valley Manufacturers Coalition, and education and training providers to prepare people to work in battery production facilities. The other grant is for nearly $5 million and will support training and credentialing for 550 unemployed and underemployed Ohioans in Western and Central Ohio. The “Workforce Advancement in Vehicle Electrification” (WAVE) effort was created by ODJFS, OWT, the Ohio Manufacturers’ Association, local workforce development boards and area employers and educators. It is inspired by other successful programs for underserved populations, including the Individual Microcredential Assistance Program (IMAP). BALLOT ISSUES A new poll released this week by Baldwin Wallace (BW) University shows strong support for both statewide issues on the Tuesday, Nov. 7 ballot. The BW Community Research Institute's (CRI) Ohio Pulse Poll, which interviewed 750 likely voters between Monday, Oct. 9 and Wednesday, Oct. 11, found 58 percent of respondents favoring passage of reproductive and abortion rights constitutional amendment Issue 1. Support for Issue 1 included 89 percent of Democrats surveyed, 39 percent of Republicans, and 51 percent of independent voters, BW said. Among other demographics, 65 percent of parents, 54 percent of gun owners, and 37 percent of evangelicals support Issue 1. Eight percent of respondents said they were undecided. BW said the opinions on legal abortion access among respondents were similar to its Oct. 2022 poll. On Issue 2, the initiated statute that would legalize recreational marijuana, 57 percent of respondents support its passage, while 7 percent were undecided. Looking at political affiliation, 66 percent of Democrats, 50 percent of Republicans, and 59 percent of independent voters support passage of Issue 2. Seventy percent of parents and 71 percent of respondents ages 18 to 49 support Issue 2, as did 47 percent of self-identified evangelicals and 47 percent of respondents age 50 or older. Politicians shouldn't be in charge of deciding whether an individual receives reproductive or abortion care, according to Innovation Ohio President and CEO Desiree Tims, a supporter of Issue 1. Tims participated in an Issue 1 debate hosted by the Ohio Debate Commission and Spectrum News 1. Issue 1. Mehek Cooke, an attorney and spokesperson for the campaign opposing Issue 1, said the proposed constitutional amendment is too "broad" and "extreme" for Ohioans. Earlier this month, the Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol (CRMLA) launched a television ad to encourage Ohioans to vote in favor of Issue 2, the initiated statute that would legalize recreational marijuana. The group said the ad highlights how many Ohioans are counting on Issue 2's passing this November and explains the critical benefits that come with regulating and taxing adult-use marijuana. CIVIL RIGHTS With a focus on how youth have been affected and policies at the state and local government level, the Columbus Metropolitan Club Wednesday held a discussion on "Facing Hate, Finding Hope: America's LGBTQ+ Community Under Attack." Panelists included Khris Goins, president and founder of Black Transmen of Ohio; J. Bennett Guess, executive director of the ACLU of Ohio; Amanda Erickson, director of education and outreach at Kaleidoscope Youth Center; and Chris Equizi, who performs in drag as Virginia West and is show director at District West. Guess said an ACLU report found over 530 bills considered "anti-LGBTQ" have been introduced in state legislatures around the country this year, which sets a record and is more than twice the amount in 2022. Voting rights advocate Margaret "Peg" Rosenfield was one of eight people inducted into the Ohio Civil Rights Hall of Fame this week. The Ohio Civil Rights Commission (OCRC) hosted the 14th annual Ohio Civil Rights Hall of Fame induction ceremony which also honored the following:

  • Rev. Dr. Lavaughn Venchael Booth (1919-2002) founded the Progressive National Baptist Convention (PNBC), which supported Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s fight for freedom and provided him with a denominational home. PNBC started with 33 members and now numbers more than 2.5 million around the globe. Booth served as pastor of Zion Baptist Church Cincinnati for 32 years.

  • Sundance is the first Native-American inductee into the Ohio Civil Rights Hall of Fame. He is an activist and educator who currently serves as director of the Cleveland American Indian Movement. He led the movement to change the use of Native-American imagery as sports mascots and team names.

  • Joseph Robinson Patterson (1918-1996) was a community activist in the city of Cincinnati. He was key in establishing the local National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) in Northern Kentucky, which is part of the Greater Cincinnati Metropolitan Area. He served as executive vice president of the Political Action Programming Assembly (PAPA) and was one of nine Black students in a lawsuit against universities' not allowing Black students to enroll, which led to a federal court ruling forcing universities to admit Black students.

  • Veronica Isabel Dahlberg is the founder and executive director of HOLA Ohio, and has worked for more than 25 years as an advocate for Latinos, immigrants and farmworkers. She most recently established a Hispanic Community Center in Painesville, which opened in May 2022.

  • Charity Adams Earley (1918-2002) paved the way for Black women in the military. She served as commander of the Army's first African American female regiment and was the first Black officer in the Women's Auxiliary Corps (WAC). She was promoted to lieutenant colonel, which was the highest rank for a soldier in the WAC.

  • Penelope "Penny" Wells is an activist, teacher and organizer/director of Mahoning Valley Sojourn to the Past. She serves as a member of Mahoning Valley Historical Society; co-chair of the Youngstown City Schools Equity Committee; member of Lit Youngstown Board; co-convener of the MLK Jr. Planning Committee in Youngstown; member of the YWCA Anti-Racism Day Committee; and member of the Education Committee of the League of Women Voters of Greater Youngstown, studying charter schools and their effect on Youngstown public schools.

  • Lt. Col. Harold H. Brown, Ph.D. (1924-2023) was a member of the Tuskegee Airmen known as the "Red-Tail Angels" in World War II. He was a prisoner of war, Columbus State Community College vice president and co-author of Keep Your Airspeed Up: The Story of a Tuskegee Airman.

DISABILITIES


Gov. Mike DeWine and Director Kara Wente of the Ohio Department of Children and Youth (DCY) announced a new initiative aimed at improving services for children with special needs. The program, called Ohio Promote Resources, Opportunities, and Meaningful Inclusion through Support and Education (PROMISE) will focus specifically on increasing access to quality child care and other support services for children with special needs. Ohio PROMISE will provide a number of different programs both to indicate credentialed child care facilities and to increase access to those facilities.


ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT/URBAN REVITALIZATION


The Ohio Third Frontier commission recently approved $250,000 in grants to support two companies with commercialization of health care products as part of the Technology Validation and Start-up Fund. The two recipients included:

  • Digital Story Therapies, city of Columbus (Franklin County), was awarded $100,000 to commercialize an app that uses speech therapy methods to help hearing-impaired children by boosting their speech and reading comprehension skills. Personalized lessons are designed for each child. The company plans to license this technology from the Research Institute at Nationwide Children's Hospital.

  • Rescue Ventilation Solutions, city of Cincinnati (Hamilton County), was awarded $150,000 to commercialize a device called SPIRITUS which aids patients who are severely injured or sick by helping them breathe via bag-valve masks (BVM). The company plans to focus on emergency medical services agencies and hospitals. The technology was developed by the University of Cincinnati and the company intends to license the technology from the University of Cincinnati.

EDUCATION


The State Advisory Panel for Exceptional Children (SAPEC) is accepting applications for membership through Wednesday, Nov. 1, 2023, for the 2024-2025 school year. The panel is seeking members to represent the categories of Parents of Individuals with Disabilities and Individuals with Disabilities. The membership application and additional information on the panel can be found at the education department website at https://tinyurl.com/3du9rvb5. Individuals can also contact Parise Callahan or Karen Johnson at SAPEC@education.ohio.gov for more information.


The Ohio State Highway Patrol (OSHP) increased enforcement during National School Bus Safety Week which ended Friday, Oct. 20. OSHP said school bus violations include passing a stopped school bus, school zone violations and other school bus or school zone-related activity. National School Bus Safety Week is supported by the National Association for Pupil Transportation and reminds motorists, students and school bus drivers of their roles in ensuring children's safety. This year's theme is "BEEP! BEEP! School bus safety starts with me."


The Broadcast Educational Media Commission (BEMC)'s Policy Committee met Monday to review and update its policies and procedures handbook. The committee also briefly discussed HB257 (Hoops-Claggett). Currently in the House Government Oversight Committee, HB257 would allow members of certain public bodies to hold and attend meetings virtually under certain conditions. BEMC Executive Geoffrey Phillips said there is a "general feeling" the Ohio House will pass the bill. The legislation would benefit BEMC by allowing commissioners who must travel to Columbus to attend some meetings virtually. The legislation prohibits a public body from holding a virtual meeting if there is a vote on a “major nonroutine” issue.


The uniform education system of the U.S. stands out from the more pluralistic model of many world democracies, a Johns Hopkins University researcher said Tuesday at a forum sponsored by Ohio organizations that advocate for expanded school choice. This model balances the public policy interests of an engaged and knowledgeable citizenry and the private and family interests of choice and education that incorporates desired values, said Ashley Berner, director of the Johns Hopkins Institute for Education Policy. She frequently cited the Netherlands, among others, as an example, noting that nation provides funding and pursues academic accountability for 36 types of schools run by various civic and religious groups. The Fordham Institute and Buckeye Institute sponsored her presentation, which was followed by a question-and-answer session moderated by Fordham President Emeritus Chester Finn.


Supporters of legislation to require schools and universities to maintain single-sex restroom and locker room facilities urged a House committee Wednesday to pass the bill in the name of women and girls' safety and privacy. Dozens of people spoke or submitted written remarks in favor of HB183 (Bird-Lear) during a proponent hearing in the House Higher Education Committee. Several witnesses focused their testimony on a recent case involving the Xenia YMCA. According to testimony and media reports, Rachel Glines, a transgender woman, was charged with but found not guilty of indecent exposure after women complained about Glines' being naked in the female locker room. Many of the witnesses used Glines' prior name of Darren. Janell Holloway, a witness in that trial, described for the committee her fear and discomfort at encountering Glines in the locker room.


The state this week sought dismissal of litigation challenging K-12 governance changes to the responsibilities related to the governor and the State Board of Education, arguing that the shift is clearly allowed under the legislative discretion included in the 1953 constitutional amendment creating the board. Former Senate President Larry Obhof, recently appointed as outside counsel to represent Gov. Mike DeWine and the state in the litigation, also asserts the plaintiffs can't show any particular injury that gives them standing to sue, and argues their legislative procedure claims are also baseless.


A literacy education group whose methods would be barred under reading instruction laws included in the FY24-25 budget filed suit this month to challenge the provisions of HB33 (Edwards). The litigation overlaps the lawsuit challenging K-12 governance changes in the budget bill as well and both lawsuits have been assigned to Judge Karen Phipps. The Reading Recovery Council of North America filed suit over provisions of the bill that bar "three-cueing," defined as "any model of teaching students to read based on meaning, structure and syntax and visual cues." The complaint argues that both the prohibited "three-cueing" approach and the endorsed "science of reading" approaches are too vaguely defined to be properly followed.


ELECTIONS 2023


The following endorsement was made over the week:

  • The Ohio Legislative Prayer Caucus announced it is endorsing a "No" vote on Issue 1, the reproductive and abortion rights constitutional amendment.

ELECTIONS 2024


Hannah News has published a preliminary list of candidates running for the General Assembly, Congress, and state offices in 2024. Information in the list was compiled based on candidate announcements, information from boards of elections on candidates who have pulled petitions to run for certain seats, and campaign finance activity. The list is not complete and will be regularly updated. The filing deadline for the 2024 primary is Wednesday, Dec. 20. All candidates that appear on the list may or may not ultimately file to run for the seats they have pulled petitions for. Questions and/or comments should be sent to pressreleases@hannah.com.


Rep. Casey Weinstein (D-Hudson) announced he will be seeking the Democratic nomination for the 28th Ohio Senate District in 2024 rather than run for re-election. The seat is currently held by Sen. Vern Sykes (D-Akron), who is term limited. Weinstein's home is currently in the 27th Senate District, but under a new map approved by the Ohio Redistricting Commission last month, Hudson and Green are now paired with the city of Akron. Currently in his third term, Weinstein announced his bid on social media, becoming the first candidate in the race.

Michelle Teska, a conservative businesswoman who lives in Clearcreek Township, announced that she is seeking the Republican nomination for the 55th Ohio House District in 2024. The seat is currently held by Rep. Scott Lipps (R-Franklin), who is term limited. A former sales manager for Cox Media Group, she and her husband currently co-own Golden Heart Senior Care, where she serves as president. She was born and raised in Dayton and is a graduate of the University of Dayton. She said she already has the endorsements of Sen. Steve Wilson (R-Maineville) and Lipps, as well as Warren County Right to Life and the Conservative Republican Leadership Committee.


Military veteran Bill Albright announced that he is running for the Ohio House 77th District. The seat is currently held by Rep. Scott Wiggam (R-Wooster), who is term limited.


Brad Cotton, a physician who formerly worked in emergency medicine, is running for the Ohio House's 12th District. The seat is currently held by Rep. Brian Stewart (R-Ashville), who is running for re-election. Cotton, who is seeking the Democratic nomination for the seat, said on his website that he is running "because Ohioans deserve better leadership and a pathway to a brighter future."


Former Rep. Mike Dovilla (R-Berea) announced he is seeking the Republican nomination for the 17th House District in 2024. The seat is currently held by Rep. Tom Patton (R-Strongsville), who is term limited and running for the Ohio Senate. Dovilla calls himself a "lifelong conservative and vocal advocate for limited government and engaged citizenship," and said he believes "public service is a privilege and elected office is a high honor in our represented republic." He said he would resume his work to improve Ohio's business climate, promote access to high quality education, and hold government responsible through increased transparency.


New quarterly federal campaign finance reports filed by Sunday's deadline show all three of the Republican candidates for U.S. Senate willing to spend their own money in order to unseat U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH). State Sen. Matt Dolan (R-Chagrin Falls) leads businessman Bernie Moreno and Secretary of State Frank LaRose in cash-on-hand after the third quarter period spanning July through Sept. 30. Moreno, however, raised the most over the quarter with $1.2 million, and has about $5 million on hand. Both Dolan and Moreno lent their campaigns about $3 million each. LaRose trails, having reported nearly $792,000 in contributions, but also lent his campaign about $250,000 of his own money. After expenditures, he has about $868,000 on hand. Meanwhile, Brown reported about $5.8 million in contributions, spending $3.28 million, and $11.23 million on hand.


U.S. Rep. Emilia Sykes (D-Akron), who represents one of the more competitive congressional seats in Ohio, announced Friday that her re-election campaign has raised $456,543 in the third quarter. Sykes said her campaign has raised more than $1 million for the cycle.


The Ohio Democratic Party Wednesday criticized Secretary of State Frank LaRose for spending taxpayer funds to move his official office. At an event, Ohioans Armando Telles, Katie Seewer, and Alfred Navarro announced they've filed three separate public records requests to LaRose's office, the Office of Budget and Management, and the Department of Administrative Services for all public documents pertaining to LaRose's office move. They pointed to reports that the new office location also is the location listed as his Senate campaign headquarters.


The following endorsements were made over the week:

  • The U.S. Senate campaign of Republican Frank LaRose announced a number of new endorsements from local conservative leaders, including former Sen. Joe Uecker.

  • The U.S. Senate campaign of Republican Bernie Moreno announced the endorsement of Summit County Republican Party Chairman Bryan Williams.

ENERGY/UTILITIES


The Biden administration announced Friday funding for seven regional clean hydrogen hubs, including the Appalachian Regional Clean Hydrogen Hub (ARCH2) that will cover Ohio, West Virginia, and Pennsylvania. The hubs are aimed at accelerating the commercial-scale deployment of low-cost, clean hydrogen. Federal funding comes through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.


The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), PJM Interconnection's Independent Market Monitor (IMM) and the Office of Ohio Consumers' Counsel (OCC) agree on one thing: Electric generation giant Vistra Corp.'s proposed acquisition of Ohio's two nuclear plants from FirstEnergy successor Energy Harbor could put the Texas-based company in a position to manipulate wholesale markets and inflate consumer utility costs in the 13-state region encompassing the Buckeye State. Vistra and Energy Harbor respond by accusing DOJ of encroaching on the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission's (FERC) authority as an independent federal agency and call its warnings about the proposed merger "unsupported assertions that are inappropriate in this proceeding and inconsistent with commission regulations and precedent." FERC did not halt the nuclear plant purchase outright but granted OCC's claim that Vistra/Energy Harbor's merger application was deficient.

State regulators rebuffed OCC’s attempt to restart the probe into FirstEnergy and energy subsidies in 133-HB6 (Callender-Wilkin) Wednesday and accused the ratepayer advocate of trying to "supplant" the U.S. Attorney's Office in its ongoing investigation of potential suspects beyond former House Speaker Larry Householder and his immediate cohorts. The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) launched civil investigations into FirstEnergy's political spending, corporate separation and customer billing riders some three years ago before halting them last year in deference to the U.S. Department of Justice's (DOJ) criminal investigation of Householder, former Ohio Republican Party Chairman Matt Borges and others. The commission granted another six-month stay last February and a third in August.


ENVIRONMENT


The Ohio Water Development Authority (OWDA) announced that it has awarded $90.6 million through low interest loans to 10 projects that will provide improvements and replace aging infrastructure to make water quality improvements for Ohioans. OWDA said the awarded projects received an interest rate ranging from 1.75 percent to 4.20 percent.

The Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR), the Otsego Local School District and the Black Swamp Conservancy recently completed the Otsego Schools' Fox-Shank Living Laboratory Project. The H2Ohio project is designed to give students the opportunity to learn about ecology and water quality at a restored wetland in northwest Ohio.


ODNR and the University of Toledo (UT) broke ground recently on a new project to restore wetland and stream channels. The University of Toledo Center for Alumni and Donor Engagement (CADE) project is meant to improve the flow of water to filter runoff more effectively before it enters the Ottawa River and eventually Lake Erie. Crews will install stream enhancement structures, such as log barriers, to allow the water to pool in floodplains longer before flowing out to the river. Further excavation and repair work to the banks of the channel will also prevent erosion.


FEDERAL


For three times, U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Urbana) did not receive the 217 votes necessary to become speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, as of Friday, Oct. 20. Jordan received 199 votes on Wednesday, with 22 members of the House Republican caucus voting for someone else to lead the chamber. On Tuesday, Jordan received 200 votes, losing 20 Republican votes. On Friday, he did not fare any better. U.S. House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) received 212 votes.


U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and U.S. Rep. Michael Turner (R-Dayton) announced Wednesday that the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) has selected Ohio to host a defense innovation hub, the Ohio Mission Acceleration Center (MAC), and will fund the hub with $1.9 million. One of five in the nation, this hub, which is part of DoD's Defense Innovation Unit, is intended to accelerate the development and adoption of new technology solutions to meet national security challenges and to support Ohio small businesses that are on the leading edge of that new technology. Specifically, the hub will serve as a bridge between small businesses and DOD, according to the federal lawmakers. Brown and Turner explained that the MAC will bring different organizations together -- including startups, academia, industry, local and federal partners, and other local talent and technology -- to promote innovation, connect them directly to Department of Defense needs, and strengthen the defense industrial base. Headquartered in Dayton, it will be operated by the Ohio Mission Acceleration Center, part of a Mission Acceleration Center National Network, and Ohio's Parallax Advanced Research to support national security and regional economic development goals. The center will help make the complex defense acquisition process more accessible to innovators seeking to develop prototypes, test the prototypes in realistic environments, reduce risk, and transition the technologies into weapon systems that will give America's military forces an advantage over foreign adversaries.


GAMING/GAMBLING


Problem gambling is increasing across the state, according to the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services (OhioMHAS). "The prevalence of problem gambling in Ohio is 2.8 percent, which is an estimated 254,729 individuals among the Ohio adult population of 9,193,508," OhioMHAS said in its latest five-year survey, which includes results through 2022. In 2017, the percentage of problem gamblers was 0.9 percent, and it was 0.4 percent in 2012. OhioMHAS officials presented the findings to the Ohio Casino Control Commission (OCCC) during the commission's meeting this week.


GENERAL ASSEMBLY/STATEHOUSE


Rep. Bill Seitz (R-Cincinnati), who is term limited after this session, told the Cincinnati Enquirer that he is retiring after this session and will not seek to run for the Ohio Senate in 2024. First elected in 2000, Seitz has served two stints in the Ohio House and one in the Senate. He told the newspaper that running for the Ohio Senate would mean running against Sen. Bill Blessing (R-Cincinnati) in a primary. "I've been friends with Bill Blessing and his dad for a million years. I wouldn't do that in a million years," Seitz said. He also told the newspaper that he gave up smoking earlier this year after he was diagnosed with kidney cancer.


The Capitol Square Review and Advisory Board (CSRAB) announced that the elevator in the South Light Court is now closed for construction. The stairs will remain open to the public for several months during the project. For elevator access to the House of Representatives and the House Clerk's office, folks are encouraged to follow signage to the south elevator near the Map Room and Atrium. On the second floor, turn right and enter the House Chamber where a House sergeant-at-arms will be available for assistance. Beginning Tuesday, Oct. 24 and through the month of November, the southwest elevator leading to and from the parking garage sliding doors will be closed for renovations.


The Summit County Republican Party Executive Committee has recommended the appointment of New Franklin Councilman Jack Daniels to replace Rep. Bob Young (R-North Canton), who officially resigned from his seat earlier this month, a spokesperson for the county party confirmed. Daniels has been an at-large councilman for the city since January 2022. Young resigned effective Oct. 2 after facing misdemeanor domestic violence charges. A spokesman for House Speaker Jason Stephens told Hannah News Wednesday that the process is still ongoing for replacing Young. The caucus has not yet set a deadline for those interested in applying for the seat to submit their applications.


Ohio House Democrats Tuesday announced plans to introduce legislation that would bring Ohio law into alignment with federal rules for marriages between same-sex couples. The "Marriage Equality Act," they said, is needed amid growing attacks against LGBTQ+ individuals, and to protect the rights of same-sex and interracial couples should landmark U.S. Supreme Court decisions ever be overturned. Rep. Jessica Miranda (D-Cincinnati) said she and her co-sponsor Rep. Tavia Galonski (D-Akron) felt "it was time to put something positive out into the world."


The House State and Local Government Committee heard public and interested party testimony as part of its occupational licensure review Tuesday, with Chair Marilyn John (R-Shelby) saying her office will draft the required report following the hearing for which she is seeking input from other committee members. Common Sense Initiative (CSI) Director Joseph Baker gave an update on efforts to modernize state laws, including removal of "unnecessary" paper forms or mailing requirements, in-person interactions and usage of outdated technology. His written testimony included extensive details on rule changes by the boards and commissions under committee review and how they responded to stakeholder feedback.


In other legislative action, the House Criminal Justice Committee reported out HB139 (Roemer-J. Miller) which increases penalties for assaults on sports officials; HB56 (Plummer-White) which addresses police pursuit, fleeing penalties; and HB161 (Miranda-Hillyer) which eliminates spousal exceptions for sexual assault charges.


GOVERNOR


Gov. Mike DeWine issued the following three reprieves of execution on Friday due to the state's inability to obtain the drugs needed to carry out the death penalty in Ohio:

  • Greg Lott, who was scheduled to be executed on Feb. 15, 2024. The new date of execution is April 14, 2027.

  • John Stojetz, who was scheduled to be executed on March 14, 2024. The new date of execution is May 19, 2027.

  • Archie Dixon, who was scheduled to be executed on April 17, 2024. The new date of execution is June 16, 2027.

Gov. DeWine Wednesday received the National Distinguished Advocacy Award from the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN) for his work on tobacco control laws. Leo Almeida, Ohio government relations director of ACS CAN, told Hannah News that DeWine has a "legacy" of advancing tobacco control policies from his time in Congress, as state attorney general, and more recently as governor, noting his veto of tobacco preemption laws.


GREAT LAKES


A new initiative to plant 250 million trees by 2033 started with a ceremonial tree planting at the Great Lakes Science Center in Cleveland. The Great Lakes St. Lawrence Governors and Premiers (GSGP) announced the Trees Initiative during a recent leadership summit in Northeast Ohio. "Our goal to plant 250 million trees over the next 10 years will support a healthier environment and contribute to a better future along our Great Lakes,” GSGP Vice Chair Gov. Mike DeWine said. GSGP also announced a new project to promote the health benefits of trees. GSGP will partner with the Cleveland Clinic and the Cleveland Tree Coalition to plant 200 trees in low-canopy Cleveland neighborhoods and create informational resources for health care professionals and local communities. A grant from the Cleveland Foundation will support the project.


HANNAH NEWS


In addition to its Committee Dashboard that tracks the current status of the day's legislative committees, Hannah News has now added a direct link to the committees' Ohio Channel livestream in the following locations:

  • All and My Committee Agendas: Livestream links are now available on clients' All and My Committee Agendas pages, allowing them to watch meetings in real-time, no matter where they are.

  • Hannah's Committee Dashboard: Hannah's Committee Dashboard has been revamped to include livestream access, providing a centralized hub to stay informed about committee proceedings.

  • Email Alerts: When a bill is called up in committee, clients will now receive a redesigned Committee Dashboard email including a direct link to the livestream.

HIGHER EDUCATION


Gov. Mike DeWine announced Friday that he plans to nominate Ohio Department of Higher Education (ODHE) Senior Vice Chancellor Mike Duffey to replace ODHE Chancellor Randy Gardner when he retires at the end of 2023. "I am pleased that Mike Duffey has agreed to serve as the next leader of the Ohio Department of Higher Education," DeWine said in a statement. "Mike has the energy, vision and expertise to tackle the variety of issues facing higher education and I am confident that as chancellor, Mike will continue to build on the successes of Chancellor Gardner." Duffey's nomination will require Senate confirmation. The DeWine administration announced Gardner's forthcoming retirement on Thursday.

Personal finance site WalletHub released its rankings of the 40 best colleges and universities in Ohio, as part of an overall list of more than 800 nationally. Case Western Reserve University (CWRU) was first in the state and 56th nationally. The report also ranked institutions on subcategories of Student Selectivity; Cost and Financing; Faculty Resources; Campus Safety; Campus Experience; Education Outcomes; and Career Outcomes. These findings were drawn from 30 metrics including student-faculty ratios, graduation rates, post-attendance median salaries, student-loan default rate and the share of former students outearning high school graduates. WalletHub sought to calculate the value of institutions after attendance as part of its report.


JUDICIAL


An Austin, TX-based company has prevailed after a three-year delay to build two solar farms on some 1,800 acres in Preble County after the Ohio Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that citizens had failed to prove the combined 150-megawatt (MW) facilities would violate state laws and administrative codes on renewable energy setbacks and environmental outcomes. Open Road Renewables originally filed in late 2018 to build Alamo Solar Farm I on 900-plus acres in Gaspar and Washington townships between Eaton and Camden and Angelina Solar Farm I on 800-plus acres in Israel and Dixon townships near College Corner, both in Preble County. The utility-scale generating plants were expected to begin generating 70 MW and 80 MW, respectively, by December 2020.


LOBBYISTS


For the latest installment of its series “Faces on Capitol Square,” Hannah News spoke with Mike Weinman, director of government affairs for the Ohio Fraternal Order of Police (Ohio FOP) for nearly 11 years. He reflected on his career, the challenges facing police officers, and changes at the Statehouse. After serving in the U.S. Air Force for seven years, Weinman believed he was more than prepared for police work. Still, when he joined the Columbus Police Force, it was a shock. "My first two months on the streets in Columbus, just doing my FTO [field training officer], you know my field training, I saw so much more than I did in my seven years in the Air Force," Weinman said. Weinman, who is originally from the Pittsburgh area, ultimately served on the Columbus Police Force for less than a year and a half. In December 1998, he was dispatched to a traffic accident where the driver shot him twice, paralyzing him from the waist down. Weinman had to find a new path for his life. He would end up trading his job patrolling the city of Columbus for one negotiating with lawmakers in the Ohio Statehouse.


MEDICAID/MEDICAID REFORM


The Buckeye State is handling the Medicaid unwinding process about as well or better than any other state in the U.S., according to officials from the Ohio Department of Medicaid (ODM) and Public Consulting Group (PCG) LLC. "Ohio ... has one of the highest retention rates in the Medicaid redetermination process. It has, nationally, one the lowest procedural termination rates in the unwinding process compared with any other state, and our disenrollment rate for children is lower than adults," ODM Deputy Director and Policy Chief Patrick Beatty told the Joint Medicaid Oversight Committee (JMOC) on Thursday. Beatty said ODM has either completed or commenced review of more than 2.1 million people in the Medicaid program, out of a total of 3.5 million. Ohio's renewal rate is approximately 70 percent, Beatty said, while its procedural termination rate is 19 percent. However, due to the department's work with PCG, ODM's procedural termination rate is "effectively" 9 percent, Beatty said.


NATURAL RESOURCES


The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium and associated safari park and conservation center The Wilds, located in Cumberland, recently announced they had earned certification from American Humane, the world's largest certifier of animal welfare practices. This involved passing a rigorous third-party independent assessment on the well-being of animals in their care, according to the Columbus Zoo.


The Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) is inviting college students to apply for 2024 summer internships, which can help them discover "an array of career opportunities" within the department. "Ohio is fortunate to have so many great higher education institutions that are developing the new class of leaders," said ODNR Director Mary Mertz. ODNR expects to hire 60 interns in fields including biology, communications, engineering, forestry, geology, law enforcement, recreation, water quality and wildlife. Selected applicants "will put their knowledge into action with real world scenarios in the field and office," according to ONDR, and can further develop their skills through specialized professional development training.


NONPROFIT ORGANIZATIONS


Children's Defense Fund-Ohio (CDF-Ohio) announced the hiring of John Stanford as its new executive director. He succeeds Tracy Najera, now vice president of U.S. programs for UNICEF USA. Stanford is a former interim superintendent of Columbus City Schools, where he also held other senior leadership roles. He most recently was superintendent of Allentown School District in Pennsylvania. Stanford also served as education adviser to former Gov. Ted Strickland.


JPMorgan Chase announced recently it is investing $500,000 in two Columbus area nonprofits to develop a program helping New Americans to support their business development through access to capital and technical assistance. "BEGIN with Business CLAS" is a partnership of community development corporation Elevate Northland and Ethiopian Tewahedo Social Services (ETSS), which improves the quality of life of immigrant and refugee families in Central Ohio.


The commercial real estate development association NAIOP of Ohio announced Monday that its board of directors had elected a leadership team for 2024 through 2026. Newly elected executive committee members include President-elect Mike Sikora representing the Northern Ohio Chapter; Vice President Robert Ballinger representing the Dayton Chapter; Secretary Rick Craven representing the Central Ohio Chapter; and Treasurer Josh Gerth representing the Cincinnati-Northern Kentucky Chapter.


OHIO HISTORY


State and federal officials commemorated Ohio's Hopewell Ceremonial Earthworks' inscription as a United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO)World Heritage Site in a series of open houses around the state over the weekend. Hopewell Ceremonial Earthworks is the collective name of eight Earthwork sites in Ohio. Three are managed by the Ohio History Connection: Great Circle Earthworks in Heath, Octagon Earthworks in Newark, as well as Fort Ancient Earthworks and Nature Preserve in Oregonia. Five are managed by the National Park Service: Mound City Group, Hopewell Mound Group, Seip Earthworks, High Bank Works, and Hopeton Earthworks at Hopewell Culture National Historical Park in Chillicothe.


Ahead of the United States' bicentennial celebration, the America-250 Ohio Commission announced plans to distribute $1 million in grants to nonprofit, education, and local government organizations to celebrate the nation's 250th anniversary. Buckeye Impact Grants offer up to $50,000 for projects with a statewide, regional or significant local impact to showcase the achievements, struggles, honors, innovations and significance of Ohio since before its founding in 1803 to present day. Projects can include significant exhibitions, regional commemorative activities, digital and documentary media projects or other signature public events. Trillium Local Activity Grants offer up to $5,000 for projects that are more local in scale. Types of projects eligible for Trillium grants may include exhibitions, interpretative panels, local commemorative activities, educational programs or smaller digital and documentary media projects. Eligible parties for grants must be nonprofit organizations registered with the state of Ohio and located in Ohio. The deadline to apply for a grant as part of the fall 2023 cycle is Friday, Nov. 17, 2023. The winter cycle will open Monday, Jan. 15, 2024 with applications due Friday, March 1, 2024. For more information on eligibility, project guidance and information on applying for a grant, visit the AM250-Ohio website or RSVP for an informational webinar taking place on Friday, Oct. 20, at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.


PARKS/RECREATION


Cuyahoga Valley National Park (CVNP) celebrated the opening of a new 200-foot bridge across the Cuyahoga River near the Boston Mill Visitor Center last month. Park visitors can now safely cross the river between the Towpath Trail and Boston Store and the visitor center. Because the bridge is for both pedestrians and bicycles in a typically congested area, cyclists are required to walk bikes across the bridge and in the visitor center courtyard, CVNP said.


PENSIONS


Some board members of the State Teachers Retirement System (STRS) suggested Thursday that the state kick in more money directly rather than putting the weight of increased employer contributions on school districts shoulders. The STRS Board of Trustees heard an overview at its meeting of its actuarial valuation as of the end of FY23, the annual benchmark of how well funded it is and how long it would take to pay down unfunded liabilities. The system's footing improved slightly, moving from 80.9 percent funded to 81.3 percent funded, and from an amortization period for unfunded liabilities of 11.5 years to 11.2 years. State law calls for pension systems to come up with an improvement plan any time the amortization period exceeds 30 years. Contracted actuarial firm Cheiron performs the calculations for STRS. The latest figures are based on the actuarial value of assets versus their market value, a measure that incorporates asset "smoothing," incorporating outsize gains or losses into the valuation over a few years to avoid volatility.


Meanwhile, the largest state pension fund, the Ohio Public Employees Retirement System (OPERS), also will consider asking lawmakers to boost employer contribution rates as well. OPERS Executive Director Karen Carraher presented a proposal to trustees to seek legislative approval to boost maximum employer rates from 14 percent to 18 percent for its general population plan, and from 19.5 percent to 24 percent for its law enforcement and public safety employee population plans. The proposal would also allow 1 percent increases in the maximum every decade if actuaries determine contributions should be higher. The current statutory maximum of 14 percent was set in 1976, and the OPERS board eventually brought the rates up to that maximum in 2008.


PEOPLE


Former state senator, state representative and U.S. congressman, Ron Mottl, died Friday, Oct. 13 at the age of 89. Known as the father of the Ohio Lottery, Mottl served in the Ohio Senate from 1969 until 1974 and the Ohio House from 1987 until 1997. In between he was a U.S. representative, serving from 1975 to 1983 when his district was eliminated. He is survived by his wife Debbie and four children: Ron Mottl Jr., Ron Mickey Mottl, Ronda Mottl and Amanda. Memorial donations in his memory can be made to the Greater Cleveland Sports Hall of Fame, 2001 Crocker Rd., Suite 510, Westlake OH 44145, where Mottl served on the board of directors for over 30 years.


REDISTRICTING/REAPPORTIONMENT


A report released recently looking at Ohio's redistricting process last year labeled it and the result "unmitigated disasters" and gave the state an "F." The report from Common Cause evaluated each state's redistricting process after the decennial census, looking at public access, outreach, and education in each state during redistricting based on an analysis of more than 130 detailed surveys and more than 60 interviews. For Ohio, the report said Ohio's hyper-partisanship routinely got "in the way of producing maps reflective of the state's voting patterns and demographics. Throughout the mapmaking process, the Ohio Supreme Court struck down state legislative maps five times and the congressional map twice because of partisan gerrymandering. Despite this, GOP leaders made few positive changes, instead running out the clock and forcing Ohioans to vote using unfair districts."


The response filed Monday by Republican members of the Ohio Redistricting Commission with the Ohio Supreme Court argues that the three lawsuits objecting to the latest Ohio House and Senate redistricting plan adopted unanimously by the commission demands that Republicans be "packed and cracked" to meet their proportionality demands. The response was filed by commission members Sen. Rob McColley (R-Napoleon) and Rep. Jeff LaRe (R-Canal Winchester) after plaintiffs in three separate lawsuits challenging previous General Assembly redistricting plans filed motions asking leave to file objections to the latest plan adopted last month. McColley and LaRe asked the Ohio Supreme Court to reject the motions, as did Republican commission members Gov. Mike DeWine, Secretary of State Frank LaRose, and Auditor Keith Faber, who filed a separate response but referred to the McColley/LaRe filing as the basis for their argument. The response argues that the objectors to the latest plan got the process backwards by focusing solely on the proportionality provision of Section 6B in Article XI in the Ohio Constitution, adding, "Again."


TECHNOLOGY/AEROSPACE


The National Association of State Chief Information Officers (NASCIO) recently honored the Ohio state government with its State IT Recognition Award in the Digital Services: Government to Citizen category, for a project to improve access to child care benefits. That was one of four categories Ohio had been competing in, along with Business Process Innovations; Cross-Boundary Collaboration & Partnerships; and Emerging & Innovative Technologies. Ohio was named a finalist in the other three categories. The child care project involved a partnership between the Department of Administrative Services (DAS) Ohio Benefits Program; Ohio Department of Job and Family Services; Ohio Department of Job and Family Services Directors' Association; and the Ohio Child Care Resource & Referral Association.


TRANSPORTATION/INFRASTRUCTURE


The Ohio Turnpike and Infrastructure Commission reauthorized its business inclusion program after months of discussion, making changes to proposed language on sheltered market opportunities. Renewal of the program, which seeks to connect more minority, women, and veteran-owned small businesses with commission contracts, had been tabled during previous meetings after commissioners had raised questions about the sheltered market opportunities program that would hold certain contracts for small business enterprise (SBE) bidding only. On Monday, Aimee Lane, the turnpike's director of contracts administration, said the new language will limit sheltered market opportunities to construction and consulting service agreements that do not exceed $2 million. She said that language aligns the commission's process with that used by the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT). With the adoption, Lane said program documents and the website will be updated with new information and they will work with the various departments at the turnpike to identify potential projects for sheltered opportunities. They will also hold outreach events.


The DeWine administration announced Wednesday that Ohio had become the first state to break ground on an electric vehicle (EV) charging station built as part of the National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure (NEVI) program. Ohio previously led the nation in being first to reveal its sites to be developed through the NEVI program. The first NEVI charging station is being built at the Pilot Travel Center along I-70 at U.S. 42, west of Columbus. Once complete, the station will have fast chargers installed by Evgo, which will be capable of providing up to 350 kW when charging a single vehicle. When four vehicles charge simultaneously, each port will receive up to 175 kW and can charge an EV up to 80 percent in 20 to 40 minutes. Customers will have all-day access to restrooms, Wi-Fi, food, beverages and other convenience items for purchase. The charging station will also have an overhead canopy to shield drivers from inclement weather such as rain or snow, like gas stations do.


WORKFORCE


The DeWine administration announced Monday that a new skills-based search function will help people applying for jobs in state government find positions based on specific experiences, skills and training rather than just academic degrees. The tool was developed in response to Gov. Mike DeWine's Executive Order 2023-10D, which made the state a "model employer for skills-based hiring practices." Adoption of this initiative makes Ohio one of the first states to use the skill-based hiring practice for recruiting its own employees, according to the administration.








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


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