Week In Review: October 4, 2019



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


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


ABORTION


The number of abortions obtained in Ohio in 2018 decreased by 2 percent from 2017, according to statistics released Tuesday by the Ohio Department of Health (ODH). A total of 20,425 induced pregnancy terminations were reported in 2018, down from 20,893 in 2017, according to ODH’s report, “Induced Abortions in Ohio.” The 2017 number was a slight increase over 2016’s total of 20,672.


ADDICTION/SUBSTANCE ABUSE


Too many elements of the litigation against drug makers and distributors are still in play to predict whether state governments will be able to take the lead in settlement negotiations, Attorney General Dave Yost said Wednesday after news that Johnson & Johnson agreed to a $20 million payout for Cuyahoga and Summit counties over fallout from the addiction crisis. Gov. Mike DeWine also addressed the settlement and litigation Wednesday, saying he wants to find a way to set aside some of the resulting money for the long-term fight against addiction.


Emergency departments at Ohio State University (OSU) and University of Cincinnati (UC) will start in January seeking DNA samples from patients in the hopes of learning more about the links between a person’s genetic markers and their risk of opioid addiction, as part of a study supported by Attorney General Dave Yost’s office. Yost announced that initiative and a new task force investigating addiction prevention techniques and strategies Thursday, saying more focus on prevention is needed to ultimately turn the tide on Ohio’s opioid addiction crisis.


AGRICULTURE


Senate President Larry Obhof (R-Medina) Friday praised a recent agreement to improve trade between the United States and Japan that will expand market access for certain agricultural and industrial goods, calling it a “big win” for Ohio farmers. Japan was Ohio’s fifth-largest export market in general in 2018.


Japanese Ambassador Shinsuke Sugiyama had mentioned ongoing work toward the agreement during a recent event at the Statehouse with Gov. Mike DeWine.


ARTS, SPORTS AND ENTERTAINMENT


Gov. Mike DeWine said Wednesday he’s not looking for Ohio to follow California’s lead on compensation for college athletes. “This is not something I’m planning on doing or recommending to the Legislature,” DeWine said when asked about the new law signed by California Gov. Gavin Newsom.


ATTORNEY GENERAL


Attorney General Dave Yost Monday said his office is reviewing reports of intimidation against people gathering signatures for a potential HB6 (Callender-Wilkin) referendum and encouraged anyone who has experienced such an incident to report it to his office. Yost told reporters in a press conference in Twinsburg that most of what his office has heard has been anecdotal through news reports or on social media and that’s why he wants signature gatherers who experience harassment and intimidation to report them to his office by calling 1-800-282-0515.


Attorney General Dave Yost joined other state and federal officials Monday to announce a $103 million settlement with Avanir Pharmaceuticals over allegations it paid kickbacks to medical professionals and used off-label marketing tactics to illegally promote its flagship drug, Nuedexta. As part of the five-state settlement, $7 million will be earmarked for Medicaid programs in response to allegations that improper marketing of Neudexta triggered false claims to government health care programs.


BALLOT ISSUES


Because the former campaign manager for then-Attorney General Mike DeWine and another veteran of Ohio Republican Party (ORP) leadership find themselves on opposing sides of controversial HB6 (Callender-Wilkin) energy subsidies, three Ohio Supreme Court justices whose campaigns were managed by the two men have withdrawn from the case on the legality of the anti-HB6 petition. Justices Judith French, Patrick Fischer and Patrick DeWine, whom political consultant and former ORP deputy finance director Trevor Vessels advised in previous Supreme Court races, recused themselves from the FirstEnergy lawsuit to halt Ohioans Against Corporate Bailouts’ ballot referendum.


CENSUS


Data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s recently released American Community Survey (ACS) provides a broad look at life in Ohio, covering areas such as demographics, economics, housing, health care, education and transportation. ACS data indicate that Ohio typically mirrors nationwide trends, with slight deviations and a few significant exceptions. The data were based on five-year averages from 2013 through 2017. For example, the living situations and romantic relationships of Ohioans broadly align with the rest of the nation. Ohio households are comprised of 46.4 percent married-couple families, 17.4 percent “other families,” 30.0 percent people living alone, and 6.2 percent other nonfamily households.


CHILDREN/FAMILIES


The sponsors of a bill to educate children on preventing childhood sexual abuse sought to distinguish their measure from other sex education efforts at a Tuesday meeting of the House Health Committee.


Reps. Scott Lipps (R-Franklin) and Brigid Kelly (D-Cincinnati) said their bill, HB321, would require age-appropriate instruction in child sexual abuse prevention for kids in kindergarten through sixth grade and age-appropriate instruction in sexual violence prevention education for seventh through 12th grades.


Leaders of the Ohio Domestic Violence Network (ODVN) praised Rep. Laura Lanese (R-Grove City) for leading the effort to ensure -- for the first time ever -- that funding for domestic violence programs was included in the state budget. The Legislature provided $1 million in General Revenue Funds (GRF) for domestic violence programs in each fiscal year of the FY20-21 budget, HB166 (Oelslager).


CIVIL RIGHTS


The Ohio Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday Commission is accepting nominations now through Friday, Oct. 11 for awards honoring Ohioans who carry on the legacy of the celebrated civil rights leader.


The commission, with administrative support from the Ohio Department of Administrative Services (DAS) Equal Opportunity Division, will announce award winners at the annual Ohio Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Commemorative Celebration in January. Nominations for each of the eight awards can be submitted electronically at www.das.ohio.gov/mlk.


DEATH PENALTY


Citing a recent disciplinary complaint, Gov. Mike DeWine on Monday issued a reprieve for Death Row inmate Cleveland Jackson, delaying Jackson’s execution from Nov. 13, 2019 to Jan. 13, 2021. DeWine’s office said a certified disciplinary complaint was made public on Friday against two attorneys specifically related to their representation of Jackson.


ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT


Gov. Mike DeWine’s administration announced Monday the approval of assistance for seven projects expected to create 845 new jobs and retain 319 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 $48 million in new payroll and spur more than $12 million in investments across Ohio.


EDUCATION


U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos recently recognized 362 schools as National Blue Ribbon Schools for 2019. A total of 14 of those schools are in Ohio. The recognition is based on a school’s overall academic performance or progress in closing achievement gaps among student subgroups.


Schools serving disadvantaged and minority children teach as much to their students as those serving more advantaged kids, according to a nationwide study released recently by Ohio State University (OSU). The results might seem surprising, given that student test scores are normally higher in suburban and wealthier school districts than they are in urban districts serving mostly disadvantaged and minority children. But those test scores speak more to what happens outside the classroom than to how schools themselves are performing, said Douglas Downey, lead author and professor of sociology at OSU.


Counselors, teachers, local school leadership and health care organizations urged lawmakers Tuesday to institute health education standards in Ohio, saying the measure can pay dividends in academic achievement as well as help to address other concerns like increased childhood obesity and Ohio’s addiction crisis. Proponents testified in the Senate Education Committee in support of SB121 (Sykes-Kunze), which would require the State Board of Education adopt such standards. Some committee members appeared skeptical, questioning why local schools can’t address the issue themselves and whether statewide standards would be relevant to the varying health concerns of communities.


A group of senators will visit Massachusetts on Monday, Oct. 7 in search of lessons from that state’s experience with school turnaround efforts in the city of Springfield, as part of continued work to change Ohio’s academic distress law via HB154 (Jones-J. Miller). “We’re going to see if we can get some fresh ideas here that can infuse some life into 154,” Sen. Peggy Lehner (R-Kettering), chair of the Senate Education Committee, told Hannah News.


In its initial discussion on redesigning the Ohio high school experience, members of the State Board of Education’s Graduation Requirements and High School Redesign Task Force reviewed broad goals of the effort and decided to survey schools in their districts to identify best practices that could be implemented statewide. A document outlining the scope of work divided the high school redesign effort into three phases: (1) research and information gathering; (2) developing a framework of attributes of an engaging and inspiring high school; and (3) developing recommendations and actions.


ELECTIONS


Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose released Friday a “Fresh Start” searchable list of the 182,858 voter registrations that were recently cancelled so that interested Ohioans can register to vote before the Monday, Oct. 7 deadline.


ELECTIONS 2020


Two Democrats in the 55th House District race released a joint statement this week, with Jim Behmer announcing he was dropping out and is now supporting the other Democrat, Zach Stepp. The seat is currently held by Rep. Gayle Manning (R-North Ridgeville), who is expected to run for re-election.


ENVIRONMENT


Gov. Mike DeWine Friday said he has directed the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (Ohio EPA) and Ohio Department of Health (ODH) to analyze the prevalence of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in Ohio’s drinking water. PFAS are manmade chemicals that are used in products such as carpeting, upholstery, cookware, food packaging and firefighting foam. PFAS contamination from manufacturing operations and firefighting activities can migrate through soil, posing potential contamination threats to surface and ground waters. Although the health impacts of PFAS are not fully known, some studies show that two specific chemicals within the PFAS family, PFOA and PFOS, could negatively affect health. There are currently no drinking water standards for PFAS compounds, but the USEPA established a health advisory level of 70 parts per trillion for PFOA and PFOS in drinking water.


The Ohio Air Quality Development Authority (OAQDA) has approved $5.16 million for three Ohio businesses to purchase and install equipment that will preserve air quality in Cuyahoga and Montgomery counties.


GENERAL ASSEMBLY/STATEHOUSE


Senate President Larry Obhof (R-Medina) announced that Rep. Louis Blessing III (R-Cincinnati) has been selected by the screening committee to fill the vacancy in the 8th Senate District created when Sen. Lou Terhar resigned due to medical issues. Blessing is currently in his fourth term in the Ohio House where he represents portions of western Hamilton County in the 29th House District and chairs the Primary and Secondary Education Committee. The other applicants for the seat included former Rep. Jonathan Dever and Judith Boyce, a former municipal clerk who lives in the village of Cleves.


According to the House Journal for Thursday, Oct. 3, Speaker of the House Larry Householder (R-Glenford) has appointed the following new committee chairs:


- Rep. Derek Merrin (R-Monclova) is the new House Ways and Means Committee chair, replacing former Rep. Tim Schaffer (R-Lancaster), who was appointed to the Senate earlier this year.


- Rep. Scott Lipps (R-Franklin) now chairs the House Health Committee, succeeding Merrin.


- Rep. Tim Ginter (R-Salem) will chair the House Aging and Long Term Care Committee, following former Rep. Steve Arndt (R-Port Clinton), who retired.


As the December filing deadline for the 2020 ballot approaches, there are currently 19 members of the General Assembly who won’t be able to seek re-election because of term limits. That number will drop by the end of the 133rd General Assembly as Rep. Ryan Smith (R-Bidwell) is resigned in early October and Rep. Louis Blessing III (R-Cincinnati) was just selected to fill a vacant Senate seat. Other lawmakers might seek other appointments before the end of their terms next December, 2020. In the House, there are 14 members ineligible to seek re-election due to term limits. Of those 14, 10 are Republicans: Smith, Blessing, John Becker (R-Cincinnati), Jim Butler (R-Dayton), Anthony DeVitis (R-Uniontown), Doug Green (R-Mt. Orab), Ron Hood (R-Ashville), Rick Perales (R-Beavercreek), Mark Romanchuk (R-Mansfield) and Gary Scherer (R-Circleville). In the Senate, five members -- all Republicans -- are term-limited. They are Sens. Dave Burke (R-Marysville), William Coley (R-West Chester), John Eklund (R-Chardon), Peggy Lehner (R-Kettering) and Senate President Larry Obhof (R-Medina).


Over the last week, Speaker of the House Larry Householder (R-Glenford) appointed two screening panels to review candidates wishing to fill the 93rd House District and 29th House District seats due to the resignation of Rep. Ryan Smith (R-Bidwell) and pending resignation of Rep. Louis W. Blessing III (R-Cincinnati).


Renovations to the Ohio Statehouse parking garage will move into Phase 2 on Friday, Nov. 1, the Capitol Square Review and Advisory Board (CSRAB) announced Thursday. The garage renovations have an estimated completion date of late summer 2020. During Phase 2, the garage will remain in service but continue at a reduced capacity. Approximately 25 percent or 300 spaces will be under construction throughout the entire project. The reserved spaces will be moved in this phase. Also during Phase 2, the North revolving door entrance to the Statehouse, the adjoining stairway and elevator will be closed. However, the walking entrance to the Rhodes Tower will be open to the public.


The family of an 11-year-old Columbus girl who was killed after being struck by two vehicles while crossing the street to catch her bus testified before the Senate Transportation, Commerce and Workforce Committee on Wednesday in support of SB134 (Gavarone) to increase penalties against drivers who go around stopped buses with flashing lights. They said they don’t want any family to have to go through what they are going through now. Elizabeth Robertson-Rutland was killed in Columbus on Sept. 18 early in the morning when she was struck while crossing the street to catch her bus.


The Sunset Review Committee heard from four agencies at its Wednesday meeting: the Bureau of Workers’ Compensation Board of Directors; the Ohio Aerospace and Aviation Technology Committee; the Lake Erie Commission; and the Ohio Public Defender.


Rep. Janine Boyd (D-Cleveland Heights) said Tuesday that she has filed for maternity leave with House leadership and announced her adoption of a baby boy. She said she plans to be in attendance and participate in any hearings regarding HB3 (Boyd-Carruthers), which would strengthen protections for victims of domestic violence.


Besides the legislation creating the civilian cybersecurity reserve force, the House also passed the following bills during its session on Wednesday:


- HB46 (Greenspan) which would legally require the Ohio Treasurer of State’s Office to continue using its government expenditure database.


- HB123 (G. Holmes-G. Manning) which seeks to address the growing problem of youth suicide and violence. It passed 85-7.


- HB158 (Blessing) which would allow courts to grant driving privileges to first-time offenders whose licenses were suspended because they failed to have auto insurance. It passed 90-2.


- HB160 (Ingram) which eases restrictions on the sales and shipping of alcoholic ice cream. It passed by a vote of 76-16.


During the gaggle following the day’s session, Speaker of the House Larry Householder (R-Glenford) addressed the matter of LGBTQ protections in the House handbook. “The House has long had a policy of looking at various amounts of classes that are recognized federally and by the state as being protected classes. LGBTQ currently is not one of those protected classes, so we continue to comply with federal and state law.”


A number of issues Householder said he wants to hear the debate on include allowing college athletes to profit from their own likeness and sign endorsement deals; banning flavored vaping liquids; revising school funding with his noting hearings on HB305 (Cupp-Patterson) will likely begin the week of Oct. 7; and sports betting. Regarding the referendum on HB6, he said he is not involved at this time but believes the General Assembly did a good job vetting the bill before passing it.


In other action, the Senate Health, Human Services and Medicaid Committee reported out SB76 (Lehner-Maharath) which designates the first week of May as “Tardive Dyskinesia Awareness Week,” SB97 (S. Huffman) which addresses cost transparency for health care services, and SB151 (Maharath) which designates May as “Maternal Mortality Awareness Month.”


GOVERNOR


State Medical Board of Ohio (SMBO) staff members are in the process of “compiling a comprehensive list of legislative items to present” to the SMBO Policy Committee in October, according to the board’s project plan sent to Gov. Mike DeWine’s working group on Richard Strauss. The Governor’s Working Group on Reviewing the Medical Board’s Handling of the Investigation Involving Richard Strauss was created in May. That group’s report found the SMBO didn’t take action on Strauss’ license or report anything to law enforcement following allegations of sexual misconduct against the former Ohio State University (OSU) physician, who is now deceased. SMBO officials have generally discussed its plans to implement many of the working group’s recommendations, but its required official report to the working group was completed and sent this week.


GUNS


Two of the House Republican Caucus’ newest members, Reps. Phil Plummer (R-Dayton) and D.J. Swearingen (R-Huron), introduced HB354 to improve the firearms background check process and modify the definition of “mental illness” to include individuals suffering from drug addiction, among other provisions. The bill would provide $10 million for Lt. Gov. Jon Husted’s InnovateOhio to develop a new National Instant Background Check System (NICS) reporting portal and $2.4 million annually for the Ohio Department of Public Safety (ODPS) to manage the portal and create a NICS compliance team, they said.


House Democrats are committed to passing legislation addressing gun violence and other public safety issues this fall, House Minority Leader Emilia Sykes (D-Akron) said Wednesday. House Dems have introduced a number of bills to curb gun violence in the wake of the mass shooting in Dayton and have launched a website to provide resources for Ohioans who want to get involved. That website is http://dosomethingohio.com/.


HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES


The Ohio Children’s Trust Fund (OCTF) said it will use a $2.71 million grant to pilot a child abuse and neglect prevention program in three Northeast Ohio counties. The federal Community Collaborations to Strengthen and Preserve Families grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is one of eight awards provided nationwide.


HIGHER EDUCATION


Gov. Mike DeWine has declared October FAFSA Completion Month to urge Ohio students to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) for post-secondary education funding. Recognition of the official month is part of the Ohio Department of Higher Education’s (ODHE) “3 to Get Ready” campaign to encourage students to take steps to prepare for post-high school education by applying for aid, submitting college applications and selecting where they’ll pursue further education. The campaign highlights the importance of FAFSA completion; Ohio College Application Month, which runs Oct. 1-Nov. 15; and College Signing Day, typically held in the spring as a way to celebrate students’ plans for after high school.


A NASA satellite searching space for new planets gave astronomers an unexpected glimpse at a black hole ripping a star to shreds. It is one of the most detailed looks yet at the phenomenon, called a tidal disruption event (or TDE), and the first for NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (more commonly called TESS.) The milestone was reached with the help of a worldwide network of robotic telescopes headquartered at Ohio State University (OSU) called ASAS-SN (All-Sky Automated Survey for Supernovae). Astronomers from the Carnegie Observatories, Ohio State and others published their findings recently in The Astrophysical Journal.


HOUSING/HOMELESSNESS


The Ohio Development Services Agency (DSA) awarded more than $21 million to 31 communities to rehabilitate, repair and construct affordable housing for low-income Ohioans as well as provide homeownership and rental assistance. The Community Housing Impact and Preservation (CHIP) program grants are funded by the Ohio Housing Trust Fund and the federal Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) and HOME Investment Partnership Programs.


INSURANCE


Reps. Casey Weinstein (D-Hudson) and Allison Russo (D-Columbus) testified in the House Health Committee Tuesday seeking approval for their proposal to require insurance companies to cover hearing aids for Ohioans under the age of 21. The sponsors said hearing aids are currently classified as “cosmetic devices” by many insurance companies, though Weinstein said it was “ludicrous” to have hearing aids in the same category as Botox. HB243 would require health plan issuers to cover one hearing aid per hearing-impacted ear up to $2,500 every four years for individuals under the age of 21, for no more than $5,000 total, and to cover the associated costs for screenings, fitting and repairs required for the proper care and maintenance of hearing aids.


The average rate for Ohio homeowners insurance from the top 10 carriers in the state did not change in 2018, while average rates for auto insurance increased one half of a percent, Ohio Department of Insurance (ODI) Director Jillian Froment said in a release Thursday. Annually Ohioans pay an average of $850 (ninth lowest) for homeowners insurance and $727 (14th lowest) for auto insurance compared to the national average, according to the most recent data from the National Association of Insurance Commissioners. Ohio’s combined average premiums are $551 below the national averages.


JUDICIAL


Gov. Mike DeWine Friday appointed James R. O’Leary to serve as a judge on the Painesville Municipal Court. O’Leary, of Concord Township, assumed office on Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2019, and must run for election on Nov. 5, 2019, for the remainder of the term ending Dec. 31, 2023. O’Leary replaced Judge Michael Cicconetti, who resigned.


LOCAL GOVERNMENT


First it was a rally by the Ku Klux Klan in her area that cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to provide police protection. Then it was a tornado that hit the area on Memorial Day. Then, on Aug. 4, a man began firing into a crowd in the popular Oregon District, killing nine people and injuring 27 in 32 seconds before police killed him. “My city had a hell of a summer,” Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley told an audience at the Columbus Metropolitan Club (CMC) on Wednesday.


MEDICAID/MEDICAID REFORM


Pharmacy reimbursements rose more than 5 percent after the Ohio Department of Medicaid (ODM) instituted a pass-through pricing model for pharmacy benefits, mostly from generic drug prescriptions, according to a consultant’s analysis released Monday. Health Plan Data Solutions (HDS), the firm ODM previously used to analyze the previous spread-pricing model, concluded the pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) hired by Medicaid managed care companies had successfully implemented the new pass-through model in the first quarter of 2019. During that period, reimbursements to pharmacies rose 5.74 percent compared to the last quarter of 2018, totaling $38.3 million in additional payments.


MENTAL HEALTH


The administration will soon undertake a comprehensive overview of the state’s mental health system to devise short- and long-term goals, Gov. Mike DeWine said Wednesday at a meeting of the mental health task force he formed while serving as attorney general. Wednesday’s meeting of the Attorney General’s Criminal Justice and Mental Health Force marked the official transfer of leadership to Attorney General Dave Yost, who said he wants to continue the work of the group co-founded by DeWine and former Ohio Supreme Court Justice Evelyn Stratton.


NATURAL RESOURCES


Gov. Mike DeWine announced Wednesday that the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) and American Electric Power (AEP) have reached an agreement for the state to purchase 31,443 acres of land to preserve it in perpetuity for conservation and outdoor recreation. The land is in Morgan, Muskingum, Noble, and Guernsey counties in eastern Ohio and will be acquired in six parcels over the next two years from AEP. Funding for the $47 million purchase comes from capital improvement funds appropriated in July by the Ohio General Assembly through HB166 (Oelslager).


OHIO HISTORY


The Ohio Statehouse Museum Education Center received a historic collection of items related to President William McKinley that were donated by former Ohio Supreme Court Justice Mary DeGenaro, according to the Capitol Square Review and Advisory Board (CSRAB). DeGenaro donated the photographs and political ephemera, which were part of her family’s collection.


Members of the Women’s Suffrage Centennial Commission Thursday continued to discuss plans to commemorate the 100-year anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment which gave women the right to vote. Most of Thursday’s discussion focused on the commission’s plans to have a statue memorializing the women’s suffrage movement built on the Statehouse grounds. Mary Anne Christie of the Ohio Republican Party remarked about the lack of visibility of female figures on the Ohio Statehouse grounds and noted that no statehouse in the country features a statue of a woman.


PEOPLE


U.S. Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) announced that Chief of Staff Mark Isakowitz is departing to pursue a new opportunity in the private sector. Replacing him is Deputy Chief of Staff and Communications Director Kevin Smith. In addition, he named Deputy Communications Director Emily Benavides as his communications director.


POLITICS


The Ohio Democratic Party Monday announced Democratic National Committee (DNC) Chair Tom Perez and 2020 presidential candidates Julian Castro, Amy Klobuchar, Tim Ryan and Tom Steyer will be speaking at the party’s annual State Dinner at the Greater Columbus Convention Center on Sunday, Oct. 13, just days before the next Democratic presidential primary debate in Ohio.


The Democratic National Committee (DNC), CNN and the New York Times announced 12 Democratic presidential candidates have been invited to participate in the fourth Democratic presidential primary debate that will be held on Tuesday, Oct. 15, at Otterbein University in Westerville.


POLLS/STUDIES


Former Vice President Joe Biden still leads the Democratic presidential primary field among Ohio voters in a new Emerson Poll, with U.S. Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) coming in behind Biden. Biden leads with 29 percent in the poll of 353 Democratic voters, with Sanders at 27 percent and Warren at 21 percent. No other candidate in the race gets more than 7 percent, including Ohio’s own U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Niles), who garnered less than 1 percent.


PUBLIC SAFETY


Recertification has begun in earnest for law enforcement standards adopted by the Ohio Collaborative Community-Police Advisory Board, even as a half of all jurisdictions remain non-compliant with state efforts to strengthen officer and citizen relations. Ohio Criminal Justice Services (OCJS) Executive Director Karhlton Moore announced Monday that the following 10 agencies had completed the revolving three- to four-year recertification cycle: sheriff’s offices in Greene and Montgomery counties and police departments in Beavercreek, Evendale, Fairfield, Greenville, Kettering, Lebanon, Milford and Vandalia (Montgomery County).


A recent report from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) detailing statistics on firefighter injuries found that an estimated 25,975 firefighters were injured while responding to fires, while an additional 4,525 were injured responding to an incident between 2015 and 2017. In that time period, 87 percent of fire-related injuries occurred in structure fires, with over three times as many of those injuries occurring in residential structures as in nonresidential structures. A firefighter was 11 times more likely to be injured in a structure fire than any other fire scenario, according to FEMA. The other 13 percent of firefighter injuries on fire sites occurred as a result of outdoor, vehicle and other fires combined.


STATE GOVERNMENT


Ohio’s minimum wage will go up to $8.70 per hour for non-tipped employees and $4.35 per hour for tipped employees on Jan. 1, 2020. This increase applies to employees of businesses with annual gross receipts of more than $319,000 per year. The current state minimum wage is $8.55 for non-tipped employees and $4.30 for tipped employees, applying to businesses with annual gross receipts of more than $314,000 per year. Under the constitutional amendment passed by Ohio voters in November 2006, the minimum wage increases each Jan. 1 at the rate of inflation.


TECHNOLOGY


Legislation requiring the governor to organize and maintain a state civilian cybersecurity reserve force designed to protect elections, local governments, businesses, infrastructure and other Ohioans from cyberattacks was unanimously passed by the Ohio House on Wednesday. SB52 (Gavarone) would create the Ohio Cyber Reserve, which would be part of the Ohio Adjutant General’s Department. The bill was amended in the House Finance Committee and received a technical amendment on the House floor, so the Senate will have to concur with the changes before SB52 is sent to Gov. Mike DeWine for his signature.


TOBACCO/SMOKING


On the same day advocates of vaping products rallied at the Statehouse in support of their right to use, Gov. Mike DeWine urged the General Assembly to pass legislation that would ban flavored vaping products. At a press conference held in his ceremonial office Tuesday afternoon, DeWine said he believes passing such a ban will have the biggest effect on curbing youth vaping. He noted that when he was in the U.S. Senate, he pushed a ban of flavored cigarettes, saying there was no doubt those products were aimed at young children.


TREASURER OF STATE


Treasurer Robert Sprague and the Board of Deposit suspended Wednesday a new state portal for using cryptocurrencies to pay taxes, saying launch of the program under his predecessor might have sidestepped formal approval and competitive bidding requirements for state financial services. The portal has been little used since it launched under Treasurer Josh Mandel in November, fielding payments from fewer than 10 businesses, according to the treasurer’s office. Sprague and Auditor Keith Faber voted as Board of Deposit members to suspend OhioCrypto.com and seek a formal legal opinion from Attorney General Dave Yost about whether the portal’s contracted payment processor should have been approved by the board. Yost, the third member of the board, abstained since he’s the one being asked to opine on the legality of the situation.


UTILITIES


Proponents and opponents of nuclear and solar energy subsidies in HB6 (Callender-Wilkin) have until Monday, Oct. 7 to weigh in on the Ohio Air Quality Development Authority’s (OAQDA) proposed rules for its Clean Air Resource Center. The agency is set to begin seven-year payments of $1.05 billion for nuclear and $140 million for solar by next March -- long before the ballot campaign to overturn HB6 could go before voters.


WORKERS’ COMPENSATION


The Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC) Board of Director’s recently approved rate reductions for 3,900 public employers based on an average 10 percent cut of $17.8 million adopted by members last month - aside from January’s 12 percent drop, the biggest government rate reduction since 2010. Starting in 2020, public hospitals, public works relief employers (PWRE) and public libraries will enjoy the largest cuts of 26.2 percent, 20.9 percent and 17.9 percent, respectively. Counties (6.5 percent), special public institutions (5.9 percent) and transit authorities (5.2 percent) will take the low end of the scale. Volunteer emergency medical services (EMS) will see no rate reduction; all other government employers, including municipalities, townships and schools, will fall somewhere in the middle.


The Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC) could soon propose a name change and department-wide rebranding that captures the “energy, vision and performance” of the government-run insurer, says Administrator/CEO Stephanie McCloud, culminating an internal review of the agency dating to early 2018. McCloud has told staff that BWC is presented with an opportunity to capitalize on its growth as a world-class insurance agency, “and now is the time to do it.”





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