Week In Review - September 12, 2022



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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


Reproductive rights organizations and abortion providers Friday withdrew their challenge to "heartbeat" abortion law 133-SB23 (Roegner) in the Ohio Supreme Court, and, instead, asked the Hamilton County Court of Common Pleas to block the state from enforcing the law. "Each day that Ohioans have lacked access to reproductive care has been devastating. In the two months since we filed in the Ohio Supreme Court, our remaining Ohio clinics have struggled to keep open their doors, and access to care in neighboring states has been shutting down. At this point, Ohio patients are left in impossible circumstances. We simply cannot wait any longer for the Ohio Supreme Court to act, so we have decided to file in the Hamilton County Court of Common Pleas. The people of this state have suffered long enough," American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Ohio Legal Director Freda Levenson said.


The 10th District Court of Appeals found in 1993 that there is a right to abortion under the Ohio Constitution regardless of whether the procedure is protected by the U.S. Constitution, Hamilton County Court of Common Pleas Judge Christian Jenkins said Thursday. He called it “a clear holding” in the Preterm-Cleveland v. Voinovich decision which, while it isn't binding, Jenkins said, is still "good law." He added that, "It has not been reversed. It doesn't even have a yellow flag ... in fact, it has positive citations." Jenkins' comments came during a hearing on whether to grant a temporary restraining order (TRO) blocking "heartbeat" law 133-SB23 (Roegner), which prohibits abortion when fetal cardiac activity is detected. Jenkins did not issue a TRO on Thursday, saying he wanted to check on whether there is a jurisdictional issue because the Ohio Supreme Court hasn't technically dismissed Preterm-Cleveland v. Yost.


ADDICTION/SUBSTANCE ABUSE


Sen. Nathan Manning (R-Ridgeville) joined Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction (DRC) Director Annette Chambers-Smith and Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services (OhioMHAS) Director Lori Criss at a Grafton ribbon cutting for a new opiate treatment program at Lorain Correctional Institution (LorCI). OhioMHAS, the recovery services provider for DRC, secured a $2.8 million, two-year contract with Community Medical Services (CMS) to expand LorCI's medication-assisted treatment (MAT) program.


Many individuals in Southwest Ohio are continuing to obtain opioid prescriptions despite documentation that they have an addiction problem, Montgomery County Coroner Kent Harshbarger Thursday told the Senate Addiction and Community Revitalization Committee during a hearing at Wright State University in Fairborn. Harshbarger said the Ohio Automated Rx Reporting System (OARRS) is more accessible than ever, telling Sen. Bob Hackett (R-London) that he's not sure exactly where the disconnect is. "Somewhere, there's a failure point that should be investigated," Harshbarger said. "We're still having overdose deaths even when they're on medication-assisted therapies. It shouldn't happen if the reports are accurate and being checked routinely, as they are required to be."


AGING


The General Assembly should pass legislation providing $50 million in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) dollars to expand the Program for All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE), advocates said during a roundtable discussion with state legislators on Friday. PACE, which allows nursing home-eligible individuals to instead receive care while living at home, is currently only available in Cuyahoga County. Program advocates are seeking legislation to require the Ohio Department of Aging (ODA) to expand PACE into Franklin, Hamilton, Montgomery, Lorain, Lucas and Summit counties. Mike Dittoe, a partner with High Bridge Consulting, said PACE expansion was part of the Senate version of the biennial budget, HB110 (Oelslager), but the language was pulled during conference committee so further work could be done on a standalone bill.


AGRICULTURE


The Ohio Department of Agriculture (ODAg) announced Tuesday that Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) has been detected in a backyard flock in Ashland County and a commercial chicken flock in Defiance County. The positive detections were confirmed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (USDA-APHIS). HPAI is a highly contagious virus that spreads quickly and can be fatal to flocks and devastating to both commercial and non-commercial poultry owners. The virus can infect poultry -- such as chickens, turkeys, pheasants, quail, domestic ducks, geese, and guinea fowl -- and is carried by free flying waterfowl such as ducks, geese and shorebirds.


BALLOT ISSUES


The ACLU of Ohio Thursday urged Ohioans to vote "no" on State Issue 1, a proposed constitutional amendment that requires courts to consider public safety when setting cash bail. The group called the proposed amendment "an unnecessary, politically motivated attempt to enshrine cash bail into the Ohio Constitution, under the guise of public safety," Patrick Higgins, policy counsel for the ACLU of Ohio said, "This whole effort can be boiled down to guilty until proven wealthy. Cash bail hurts our communities, our economy, and the disproportionate negative impact falls most heavily on our Black and Brown neighbors, and low-income Ohioans. Issue 1 is the antithesis to common-sense bail reform, and we urge Ohioans to cast a 'no' vote."


FY22-23 BUDGET


Ohio brought in 3.4 percent more in tax revenue than expected in August, led by income tax collections that exceeded forecasts, according to preliminary figures from the Office of Budget and Management (OBM). Income taxes generated $54.2 million or 6.8 percent more than expected to reach $847.6 million. Sales taxes generate $24.4 million or 2.2 percent more than expected to reach $1.1 billion. Non-auto sales taxes generated the bulk of that, coming in more than $17 million or 1.9 percent over estimates. Auto sales taxes were up $7.1 million or 3.7 percent. The total of $82.7 million in collections over estimates represents the entirety of collections over estimates for the fiscal year; OBM updated revenue projections for FY23 last month and so did not calculate estimates for July revenues. Total tax collections for FY23 so far are $4.5 billion, 1.9 percent ahead of estimates.


CORONAVIRUS/MONKEYPOX


Updated COVID-19 vaccination booster shots that target dominant variants of the virus will be available very soon after the federal Centers for Disease Control (CDC) acted late Thursday, Sept. 1 to affirm Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommendations in favor of the updated versions. "The updated COVID-19 boosters are formulated to better protect against the most recently circulating COVID-19 variant. They can help restore protection that has waned since previous vaccination and were designed to provide broader protection against newer variants. This recommendation followed a comprehensive scientific evaluation and robust scientific discussion. If you are eligible, there is no bad time to get your COVID-19 booster, and I strongly encourage you to receive it," CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said in a statement. The FDA had approved the updated shots earlier on Thursday.


Federal officials Tuesday urged Americans to be vaccinated with the updated COVID-19 shot that better protects against the Omicron BA.4 and BA.5 subvariants, calling it "a major milestone" and an opportunity to avoid up to 100,000 hospitalizations and 9,000 deaths in the fall if vaccination is completed at a level similar to that of the flu vaccine. The comments came during a briefing by the White House's COVID-19 Response Team that included Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases; Walensky; Dr. Ashish Jha, White House COVID-19 response coordinator; and Xavier Becerra, secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Becerra said that by the end of this week, over 90 percent of Americans will live within five miles of a location with the new vaccines. They want to reach the highest-risk populations first and will be ramping up outreach efforts in the coming weeks.


Ohio Department of Health (ODH) Director Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff Thursday echoed comments by federal officials in urging Ohioans to receive the new bivalent vaccine, saying COVID-19 is still spreading and that lasting effects known as "long COVID" are a "very real condition." In response to a question from Hannah News, ODH Public Information Officer Ken Gordon said updated boosters effectively replace the originally formulated boosters, which had previously been received twice by some. The updated Pfizer bivalent vaccine booster is open for those age 12 and older, while Moderna is for those age 18 and older. Recipients should wait two months since their previous vaccination. While Vanderhoff said 6.2 million Ohio adults have gotten the initial two shots, only 3.6 million received a first booster and that is "crucial" to building long-term immunity. People at greater risk of severe illness or death due to COVID-19 -- those who are immunocompromised, have underlying medical conditions or are age 60 and above -- should make it a particular priority to get the new vaccine, he continued.


The latest COVID-19 numbers showed 21,731 new cases, 504 hospitalizations, 37 ICU admissions and 86 deaths in the seven days ending Thursday. That compares to 25,280 cases, 575 hospitalizations, 39 ICU admissions and 84 deaths in the previous period. Since the pandemic began, there have been 3.1 million cases, 125,230 hospitalizations, 14,131 ICU admissions and 39,576 deaths.


Regarding monkeypox, Vanderhoff said the pace of new cases is "slowing demonstrably," with a decline in Central Ohio. Some areas are seeing supply exceed demand for the monkeypox vaccine; ODH is not relaxing its efforts and can provide vaccine deliveries to any local health department within one business day. The state's monkeypox dashboard shows 215 total cases, 15 hospitalizations and zero deaths.


EDUCATION


DriveOhio, the Ohio Department of Transportation's smart mobility hub, announced this week that it is scaling up its Smart Mobility Ambassador Program across the state and will provide increased opportunities for K-12 students to get involved in real life science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) skills development in an effort to get more students thinking about transportation as a future career path. Currently, the program is seeking interested K-5 afterschool program leaders to incorporate DriveOhio's STEM projects and content, such as coding and hands-on activities, into afterschool programs and events.


The Ohio Department of Education (ODE) announced the opening of grant applications for the Homeless Targeted Support Grant, an initiative funded by the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) for schools, districts, Head Start programs and joint vocational school districts to increase supports for students experiencing homelessness. Winners will receive $10,000 grants for the following purposes:


  • Provide families with housing insecurity the knowledge and resources to ensure educational stability and consistency.

  • Support the essential, basic needs of students experiencing homelessness.

  • Bolster existing and create new wrap-around services and supports.


The deadline to apply is Monday, Oct. 17; applicants should submit materials through ODE's CCIP system.


A deal two suburban Cleveland-area school districts signed to share property tax revenue in order to resolve a dispute about transferring territory between them can be enforced despite a lack of approval for the agreement by the State Board of Education (SBOE), the Ohio Supreme Court ruled Tuesday. Dispute over the land and taxes between Beachwood City Schools and Warrensville Heights City Schools stretches back 30-plus years and has been in the courts since 2017. The city of Beachwood annexed 400-plus acres in an area known as the Chagrin Highlands in 1990, and Beachwood Schools then asked the SBOE to approve a transfer of the territory to its district from Warrensville Schools, a move the latter opposed. They negotiated for years and, with the help of a retired federal judge as mediator, reached a deal in 1997 that saw Beachwood withdraw its transfer request, but Warrensville Heights agree to give Beachwood 30 percent of tax revenue from nonresidential and nonagricultural property.


Amid historic learning losses, the Buckeye Institute and other school choice advocates are saying the state should pursue policies like universal open enrollment and broad-based education savings accounts to help students recover lost learning time from the pandemic. In partnership with the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, the Buckeye Institute Wednesday hosted a forum touting its new report on how expanded school choice initiatives can help students recover from the pandemic learning losses.


Honesty for Ohio Education announced it will hold a "Vote for Honesty: A Rally for the Future of Education" at noon on Saturday, Sept. 17, on the West Plaza of the Ohio Statehouse. "We invite every Ohioan who is concerned about educational gag orders and other attacks on teaching the truth to join us at the intersection of education and democracy," said Cynthia Peeples, founding director of the Honesty for Ohio Education coalition, which includes more than 40 organizations and hundreds of Ohioans from across the state.


ELECTIONS


Secretary of State Frank LaRose Wednesday said he was referring four individuals who allegedly cast ballots in two different states in 2020 to Attorney General Dave Yost and local prosecutors for potential prosecution. LaRose's office said the actions of the individuals were discovered through Ohio's joint partnership with several states. The individuals allegedly had cast ballots in Iowa, Missouri, Nevada, and Oregon, and then cast another ballot in Ohio in violation of state law. The secretary of state said the referral is the first round of several, with additional referrals expected in conjunction with other partner states.


ELECTIONS 2022


Terpsehore Maras, an independent candidate for secretary of state who was disqualified after a challenge left her short of valid signatures to make the November ballot, filed a lawsuit against Secretary of State Frank LaRose in the Ohio Supreme Court on Friday. Maras, a podcaster, had been qualified for the Tuesday, Nov. 8 ballot as an independent candidate in July by LaRose's office, but an Ohio Republican Party staffer later challenged her candidacy. After a hearing, retired Ohio Supreme Court Justice Terrence O'Donnell, who had been appointed by LaRose as an independent hearing officer, declared that 17 of Maras' signatures were invalid, dropping her below the 5,000 required threshold. LaRose's office followed up on O'Donnell's recommendation by disqualifying Maras from the ballot.


Democrats seeking to unseat statewide incumbents continued to face an uphill climb in fundraising in August, with Republicans padding their advantage, according to the latest campaign finance reports. Tuesday was the deadline for statewide candidates to release their fundraising numbers for August with state law requiring the candidates to release their totals on a monthly basis until November. Gov. Mike DeWine's campaign reported $1.5 million in contributions, no expenditures, and nearly $11 million on hand. Whaley's campaign reported $910,493 in contributions, no expenditures, and $2.7 million on hand.


Former President Donald Trump will rally with U.S. Senate candidate J.D. Vance later this month, according to Trump's Save America PAC. The rally will be held beginning at 7 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 17, at the Covelli Centre, 229 E. Front St., Youngstown.


The Ohio State Bar Association's Judicial Election Campaign Advertising Monitoring Committee said Tuesday that three of the six candidates running for the Ohio Supreme Court in 2022 have signed its "Clean Campaign Agreement." Canton attorney Paul Hervey, chair of the Ohio Bar's Judicial Election Campaign Advertising Monitoring Committee, commended Justice Jennifer Brunner, Judge Terri Jamison and Judge Marilyn Zayas for agreeing to conduct their campaigns in accordance with the pledge, and in line with the guidelines in Canon 4 of the Ohio Code of Judicial Conduct. Justices Pat DeWine, Pat Fischer and Sharon Kennedy have declined to sign the pledge this year.


Secretary of State Frank LaRose this week launched a new public service announcement to encourage Ohioans to register to vote for the Tuesday, Nov. 8 general election. The spot, "Voting Is about Our Future," was released in partnership with the Ohio Association of Broadcasters. It features elementary school-aged children calling on Ohio adults to make their voices heard by registering and voting.


Calling it "One Good Job," Democratic gubernatorial nominee Nan Whaley this week announced a plan to spend $65 million on apprenticeship readiness programs in order to create well-paying jobs for Ohioans in the communities they live. The former Dayton mayor announced the plan in events around the state, including a stop in Columbus on Wednesday. She said she would pay for the program out of funds from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill as well as funds from the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services. Whaley noted that the Intel project needs nearly 7,000 construction workers, and said that the company has already said it will likely need to bring in workers from other states. She said investing $65 million in apprenticeship readiness programs will give workers the skills and support they need to start a union apprenticeship program quickly. The investment will support more than 17,000 Ohioans, she said.


The Ohio Elections Commission Thursday added new complaints to pending full hearings against both former Republican gubernatorial candidate Joe Blystone and Rep. Brian Stewart (R-Ashville). The complaint against Blystone, who lost a primary against Gov. Mike DeWine in May, was sent to the commission by the secretary of state's (SOS) office, citing "continued blatant and knowing campaign finance violations." The SOS office said Blystone did not like being told by their office that the campaign had to collect information on every contributor but was told the law is the law. Commission Executive Director Phil Richter, who had recommended the new complaint be combined in a hearing with the earlier complaints against Blystone's campaign, suggested the commission plan on a new hearing for December, which he said would give the Blystone campaign the time it needs to work out issues with the secretary of state. He added that the commission would also have a better picture of what issues are still left to address from the complaints. In other action, the commission also combined a new complaint against Stewart with a previous complaint against him, which will be heard at a later, yet to be scheduled time.


After staying on the sidelines for the Republican primary earlier this year, former President Donald Trump issued an endorsement for Gov. Mike DeWine's re-election Wednesday evening.


Democratic secretary of state candidate Chelsea Clark Thursday called for an independent review of actions by Secretary of State Frank LaRose, questioning decisions such as his office's disqualification of independent secretary of state candidate Terpsehore Maras, calling it “partisan games.” She said she is proposing having the audits conducted by one former state secretary of state from each party.


The following endorsements were made over the week:


  • The Ohio Patrolmen's Benevolent Association endorsed Mike DeWine for governor; Frank LaRose for secretary of state; Sharon Kennedy for Ohio Supreme Court chief justice; Pat Fischer and Pat DeWine for Ohio Supreme Court justice; Sen. Nathan Manning (R-North Ridgeville) for re-election; Reps. Tom Patton (R-Strongsville), Cindy Abrams (R-Harrison), Kevin Miller (R-Newark), and Haraz Ghanbari (R-Perrysburg) for re-election; Sean Brennan, Steve Demetriou and Cecil Thomas for the Ohio House; and Michael Ryan, Tom Teodosio and Donna Carr for the Ohio Court of Appeals.

  • Gov. Mike DeWine's re-election campaign announced the endorsement of the Cincinnati Firefighters Union Local 48 Political Action Committee.

  • Ohio House candidate Sam Lawrence announced the endorsement of Cincinnati Mayor Aftab Pureval.

  • The Ohio Chamber of Commerce Political Action Committee endorsed Gov. Mike DeWine, Lt. Gov. Jon Husted, Attorney General Dave Yost, Auditor of State Keith Faber, Treasurer of State Robert Sprague, and Secretary of State Frank LaRose for re-election; Sharon Kennedy for Ohio Supreme Court chief justice; Justices Pat DeWine and Pat Fischer for re-election; Sens. Rob McColley (R-Napoleon), Steve Wilson (R-Maineville), Nathan Manning (R-North Ridgeville), Hearcel Craig (D-Columbus), Andrew Brenner (R-Delaware), Nickie Antonio (D-Lakewood), Kristina Roegner (R-Hudson), Kirk Schuring (R-Canton), and Michael Rulli (R-Salem) for re-election; Michele Reynolds, Shane Wilkin, and Al Landis for Ohio Senate; Reps. Donatavius Jarrells (D-Columbus), Adam Miller (D-Columbus), Allison Russo (D-Upper Arlington), Brain Stewart (R-Ashville), Bride Rose Sweeney (D-Cleveland), Dan Troy (D-Willowick), Cindy Abrams (R-Harrison), Bill Seitz (R-Cincinnati), Bill Roemer (R-Richfield), Bob Young (R-North Canton), Andrea White (R-Kettering), Phil Plummer (R-Dayton), Derek Merrin (R-Monclova), Scott Oelslager (R-North Canton), Gayle Manning (R-North Ridgeville), Joe Miller (D-Amherst), Jean Schmidt (R-Loveland), Sharon Ray (R-Wadsworth), Kevin Miller (R-Newark), Brian Lampton (R-Fairfield), Haraz Ghanbari (R-Perrysburg), Susan Manchester (R-Lakeview), Jim Hoops (R-Napoleon), Jon Cross (R-Kenton), Tracy Richardson (R-Marysville), Brian Baldridge (R-Winchester), Mark Johnson (R-Chillicothe), Ron Ferguson (R-Wintersville), and Darrell Kick (R-Loudonville) for re-election; and Jill Rudler, Dave Dobos, Omar Tarazi, Chris Monzel, Steve Demetriou, Adam Mathews, Nick Santucci, Roy Klopfenstein, and Bob Peterson for Ohio House.

EMPLOYMENT/UNEMPLOYMENT


The nation added 315,000 jobs in August, according to figures released Friday by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), but the national unemployment rate ticked up to 3.7 percent from July's 3.5 percent level. The biggest reason for the increase is an increase in the number of unemployed persons, which rose by 344,000 to 6.0 million. In July, these measures had returned to their levels in February 2020, prior to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. The 315,000 new nonfarm payroll jobs added in August brings the job level to higher than its pre-pandemic level in February 2020.


ENERGY/UTILITIES


A move by the state's largest government aggregator to shift over one million consumers' electric needs back on local utilities threatens the energy market for all Ohioans, undermines the competitive supply chain, and risks even higher prices than ratepayers already face due to continuing inflation, warns a leading provider of default electric service to FirstEnergy and American Electric Power (AEP) of Ohio. The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) did not rule on Dynegy Marketing and Trade's allegations Wednesday but voiced major reservations with Northeast Ohio Public Energy Council's (NOPEC) late-August announcement that it would summarily terminate its electric contracts after two decades and return residential and commercial customers to their local utility's standard service offer (SSO). NOPEC says it will reenroll them when prices drop and for now will sell its unused energy reserves into the wholesale market.


GAMING/GAMBLING


About 33 percent of the entities applying for sports gaming proprietor, services provider and supplier licenses are currently out of compliance with provisions of HB29 (Wiggam-Miller) requiring the submission of information on "persons in control" of the applicants for suitability investigations, according to Ohio Casino Control Commission (OCCC) Executive Director Matt Schuler. "All applicants impressed upon the General Assembly that they wanted to start on time, at the same time. In order to do that, they all have to keep pace. The commission and our applicants have many responsibilities in front of us between now and Jan. 1," Schuler said during Wednesday's commission meeting. "We do not have the time or the resources to carry them across the finish line. They have to be capable of doing the very minimum requirements set forward by the General Assembly." The required information on "persons in control" -- which includes holding companies and natural persons -- must be submitted by Wednesday, Oct. 5, Schuler said.


GENERAL ASSEMBLY/STATEHOUSE


As expected, lawmakers won't be returning until the lame duck session after November's election, as the House and Senate both cancelled if-needed session dates for this month. The two chambers have just five voting sessions apiece scheduled for the rest of the 134th General Assembly. Cancelled are the Senate's if-needed sessions on Wednesday, Sept. 21 and Wednesday, Sept. 28, and the House's if-needed sessions on Wednesday, Sept. 14 and Thursday, Sept. 15. October's calendar includes no session dates. The chambers are then scheduled to take a week's break for Thanksgiving before returning for a few more sessions:


Wednesday, Nov. 30: House and Senate


Thursday, Dec. 1: House


Wednesday, Dec. 7: Senate


Wednesday, Dec. 14: House and Senate


Wednesday, Dec. 21: House and Senate


The Legislature's Commission on Infant Mortality Wednesday heard from a number of representatives involved in various aspects of the "Healthy Beginnings at Home" (HBAH) program which is poised to move into Phase 2 by expanding from Columbus to also include the Akron/Summit County area. Angela Dawson, executive director of the Ohio Commission on Minority Health, pointed out how her commission is working on some of the same issues addressing infant mortality in the state through its Hub Network and other programs, adding how it would be beneficial if the programs worked together.


Senate Minority Communications Director Giulia Cambieri and Minority Senior Policy Advisor Chelsea Golterman recently left their positions with the Senate Democratic Caucus, while acting Communications Director Mallory Golski will leave her position effective Friday, Sept. 30. Casey Rife, who previously joined the caucus communications team as a Legislative Service Commission fellow, now serves as deputy communications director.


GOVERNOR


Gov. Mike DeWine, in accordance with orders issued by President Joe Biden, ordered that U.S. and state of Ohio flags be flown at half-staff upon all public buildings and grounds throughout the state until sunset on the day of interment in remembrance of Queen Elizabeth II, who died Thursday afternoon at the age of 96. The longest reigning monarch in United Kingdom history whose reign lasted 70 years, she "died peacefully" at Balmoral Castle, her estate in the Scottish Highlands, the Royal Family announced. Her son Charles, 73, is now king and will be known as King Charles III.


HOUSING/HOMELESSNESS


Leaders of a number of business, real estate and housing groups sent a letter to state and legislative leaders calling for a portion of Ohio's remaining American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds to be used to "dramatically increase the supply of housing that is affordable to the most vulnerable Ohioans." The letter, signed by the Ohio Housing Council, the Ohio Chamber of Commerce, Ohio Realtors, the Ohio Bankers' League and the Ohio Apartment Association, was sent to Gov. Mike DeWine, Senate President Matt Huffman (R-Lima), House Speaker Bob Cupp (R-Lima) and members of the Ohio General Assembly. The groups noted that the U.S. Department of Treasury recently issued guidance that they said eliminated all remaining barriers to using ARPA funds to finance affordable housing and development and rehabilitation by clarifying that ARPA funds can be used to finance, develop, repair or operate any rental unit that provides affordability of 20 years or more to households at or below 65 percent of local median income; expands presumptively eligible uses for affordable housing; and increases flexibility to use ARPA funds to fully finance long-term affordable housing loans.


INTEL


White House officials opened a "Communities in Action" series of discussions with local elected officials and community leaders by focusing on Ohio Wednesday, including a forum streamed for public viewing. American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) Coordinator Gene Sperling moderated the forum after opening comments by White House Director of Public Engagement Keisha Lance Bottoms on President Joe Biden's commitment to workers and unions and federal funds that have gone to Ohio. She said that includes $2.8 billion from the infrastructure bill already supporting over 125 projects, with $2.3 billion coming this year as well. Sperling said the administration has worked to build from the "middle-out" rather than with a top-down approach and seeks an equitable recovery as well. This has led to nearly 10 million jobs created and record unemployment declines across racial groups. Inflation is also being addressed by the Biden administration, he continued.


JUDICIAL


According to Kathleen Trafford, an attorney with Porter Wright, the United States has always had a history of harsh criticism of the nation's courts. She said it is perfectly fine for people to disagree with a judicial decision and question the legal reasoning behind it, but they cross the line when the attacks go after the judges themselves and the integrity of the court itself. Those kinds of attacks send a signal to the public that judges aren't fair and impartial and the work of the court is not to be respected, she said at a Columbus Metropolitan Club forum Wednesday.


NATURAL RESOURCES


The 31st Ohio Wildlife Officer Cadet Training Academy got underway in late August. The 11 cadets were hired from a pool of nearly 800 applicants and will complete more than six months of training before becoming Ohio wildlife officers. They will graduate in March 2023 and be assigned to individual counties, with one officer remaining at-large.


The Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) Division of Wildlife announced confirmed cases of Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease (EHD) in white-tailed deer in Athens, Butler, Champaign, Franklin, Greene, Hamilton, Highland, Madison, Perry, Preble, Ross, Union, and Warren counties. EHD is one of the most common ailments affecting deer, generally occurring in the late summer and fall in deer herds across North America. Outbreaks are often associated with drought. Ohio saw a rise in cases beginning in mid-August this year, the department said.


The ODNR Division of Natural Areas and Preserves announced a newly designed trail system at Marie J. Desonier State Nature Preserve, a 491-acre preserve that encompasses a variety of habitats typical of Appalachian Ohio. The department said the 2.5 miles of trail were re-designed to provide a more pleasant and sustainable experience for hikers.


The hiking/biking trail at Blackhand Gorge State Nature Preserve closed temporarily on Wednesday, Aug. 31 so the ODNR Division of Natural Areas and Preserves can repair and stabilize the streambank of the Licking River. Public access will be restricted from mile marker 3, west to the Brushy Fork parking area, which will also be closed. The trail and Brushy Fork parking area are scheduled to re-open in mid-November 2022, or once repairs are complete. All other preserve trails will remain open.


NONPROFIT ORGANIZATIONS


The Buckeye Institute said Thursday that attorney David Tryon has joined its Legal Center as director of litigation. He will oversee court filings, manage the institute's legal team including outside counsel and participate in state and federal cases. Tryon previously served as deputy solicitor general in the West Virginia Attorney General's Office and as deputy assistant secretary for policy and development at the U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights. He also has over 30 years of commercial litigation experience in private practice, including the Arnold v. City of Cleveland case that led to the Ohio Supreme Court's declaring the right to bear arms as a fundamental right under the Ohio Constitution, the institute noted.


The Ohio Urban Resources System (OURS) will now officially be known as the Ohio Urban Community Action Network (OUCAN). OUCAN was incorporated in 1985 to connect Ohio's urban community action agencies (CAA) in an effort to help provide resources, networking opportunities, policy support and education resources. The organization includes nine urban CAAs which serve more than 56 percent of Ohio's low-to-moderate income families, the group said.


OHIO HISTORY


While it's still years away, planning has already started for the 250th, or semi-quincentennial, anniversary of the founding of the United States of America. The Ohio Commission for the U.S. Semi-quincentennial was formed earlier this year on March 1, after details were laid out in HB110 (Oelslager). The 29-member group (also called America250-Ohio) is responsible for planning Ohio's participation in the nation's 250th anniversary on July 4, 2026. Over the summer, the commission has been going on a series of listening sessions to communities across the state, seeking feedback about how Ohioans think America's 250th anniversary should be celebrated. The U.S. Semi-quincentennial Commission, created by Congress, has existed for years, with the "commemoration period" officially beginning in 2020. According to the organization's website (www.america250.org), planners are hoping the anniversary will mark the "largest and most inclusive celebration in our nation's history."


PENSIONS


A new fiduciary audit of the Ohio Police & Fire Pension Fund (OP&F), required by law every 10 years, found the retirement system generally well run and in compliance with its fiduciary duties, but identifies dozens of areas for potential improvement. The Ohio Retirement Study Council (ORSC), which commissioned the audit, reviewed the findings Thursday. Randy Miller, chief operating officer of auditing firm Funston Advisory Services, said the pension system is in the midst of implementing changes to fulfill some of its recommendations, including through plans for implementation of a new pension benefits administration system. In the meantime, OP&F is doing a good job of administering the current system despite the manual nature of many processes, he said. Miller told Sen. Hearcel Craig (D-Columbus) completion of that system is probably the audit topic that will yield the greatest improvement. He said it will be important for OP&F to provide adequate resources for implementation, set specific milestones and keep the board apprised of the work.


PEOPLE


Gov. Mike DeWine's director of the Office of Law Enforcement Recruitment (OLER), Sarah Shendy, has been named a 2022 recipient of the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) "40 under 40" award, which recognizes law enforcement professionals around the world who demonstrate leadership and commitment to their profession. Shendy, whose family emigrated from Egypt when she was six years old, was among 16 panelists selected by DeWine as the former attorney general to evaluate training, certification, and advancement of Ohio peace officers. She also served as a subject-matter expert for the Ohio Peace Officer Training Academy's Community Diversity and Procedural Justice Committee.


PUBLIC SAFETY


Provisional data from the Ohio State Highway Patrol (OSHP) indicates that the 2022 Labor Day weekend was the safest since 2010, with four fatal traffic crashes claiming four lives. There were 17 fatalities in 2021 and 15 in 2020. Troopers arrested 405 drivers for OVI and issued 1,992 safety belt citations. They also made 221 drug arrests and 94 felony apprehensions. The Labor Day weekend reporting period began Friday, Sept. 2 at 12 a.m. and ended Monday, Sept. 5 at 11:59 p.m. A total of 16,894 traffic enforcement stops were conducted along with 10,356 non-enforcement stops. Troopers also provided assistance to 2,065 motorists.


Ohio is inching closer to the 600 mark for the number of law enforcement agencies having adopted and implemented at least three of a dozen policing standards established by the Ohio Collaborative Community-Police Advisory Board and administered by the Ohio Department of Public Safety's (DPS) Office of Criminal Justice Services (OCJS). OCJS announced Wednesday that the New Straitsville Police Department (Perry County) has been certified for use of force, including deadly force, and agency recruitment and hiring -- the only state law enforcement standards required for certification by DPS. New Straitsville brings to 582 the number of state-certified law enforcement agencies, in addition to four currently pursuing certification. That leaves roughly 300 departments of various types uncertified for Ohio's minimum law enforcement standards.


STATE GOVERNMENT


Ohio's issuer default rating (IDR) with Fitch Ratings has been upgraded to "AAA," up from "AA+," the DeWine administration said Thursday. It is the first time Ohio's Fitch rating has been that high since the agency began rating Ohio's credit in the 1990s, and is the highest rating for Ohio's IDR among the top three credit agencies since 1979. The higher rating equates to more favorable borrowing terms for state government. The IDR rating upgrade was accompanied by improvements in ratings for other state borrowing programs: an increase from "AA+" to "AAA" for general obligation (GO) bonds; "AA" to "AA+" for appropriation-backed bonds; "AA to "AA+" for the Ohio School District Credit Enhancement Program; and "A+" to "AA-" for the PPP Grantor Counterparty rating assigned to the Ohio Department of Transportation's Portsmouth Bypass project payment obligations.


STUDIES/POLLS


Common Cause on Tuesday released its "2022 Democracy Scorecard," which evaluates members of Congress on votes on campaign finance reform, ethics and transparency, and voting rights legislation. It is the fourth biennial release of the scorecard, which the group said helps constituents hold their members of Congress "accountable for passing common sense legislation that preserves and strengthens our democracy."


TOBACCO/SMOKING


Ohio is joining a 33-state settlement with JUUL Labs over claims it marketed fun-flavored e-cigarettes to children. The $439 million deal follows a two-year investigation of the San Francisco-based company and a dispute with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) over a possible ban on its products. The Ohio Attorney General's Office says JUUL gained its once-dominant position in the "vaping" industry by pursuing youth with flavors such as "Coco Mint," "Mango, "Brulee," "Cool Cucumber," "Classic Tobacco" and more, even though e-cigarettes are illegal for minors. Led by Texas, Connecticut and Oregon, the investigation found JUUL "relentlessly" targeted children with e-cigarette launch parties, advertisements with young, trendy-looking models and influencers, social-media posts and free samples.


TRANSPORTATION/INFRASTRUCTURE


Gov. Mike DeWine said Friday that the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) is now accepting applications for funding as part of the Local Major Bridge Program, which provides federal funds to counties and municipalities for bridge replacement, bridge rehabilitation and bridge demolition projects. DeWine had announced in April that more locally-owned bridges would be eligible for funding as part of the program. Modified program requirements opened eligibility to 238 bridges, up from 54. During the current funding cycle, the program will pay up to 95 percent of the construction and engineering costs for major bridge projects, with a cap of $20 million.


UNIONS


Workers at Disability Rights Ohio (DRO), the nonprofit designated under federal law to advocate for Ohioans with disabilities, are seeking to form the DRO United union, affiliated with the Office and Professional Employees International Union (OPEIU). "We believe that forming a union will promote transparency, ensure equity, increase staff well-being and retention, and add to the long list of reasons why we are proud to work at DRO. As a union, we will build a stronger, more sustainable organization for all staff, the people we serve, and partners we work with. We want your support in this," states a late August letter from employees to DRO leadership. However, leadership of the organization has declined to voluntarily recognize the union, instead opting for an election through the National Labor Relations Board.


WORKFORCE


Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS) Director Matt Damschroder Tuesday kicked off National Workforce Development Month by announcing a new outreach effort to help unemployed Ohioans quickly find new jobs. Through the Helping Ohioans Pursue Employment (HOPE) initiative, the department now emails unemployment applicant’s extensive information about the free in-person, employment services available at the state's 88 OhioMeansJobs Centers, in addition to the self-service features available at OhioMeansJobs.com. This is the first of several workforce development announcements that will occur throughout September.



[Story originally published in The Hannah Report. Copyright 2022 Hannah News Service, Inc.]


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