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Week in Review September 18, 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.

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A majority of Ohio economists in a new survey said that women who receive abortion services will have improved economic outcomes, such as higher educational attainment, higher labor force participation, and higher wages . The survey from the public policy research group Scioto Analysis found 13 of the 17 academic economists agreed women who receive abortion services would benefit economically. The economists surveyed were part of Scioto Analysis' Ohio Economic Experts Panel, which includes economics professors from over 30 higher education institutions in Ohio.

Ohioans United for Reproductive Rights became the first group to go on the air with an ad on November's Issue 1, the reproductive and abortion rights amendment. The ad encourages a "yes" vote on Issue 1, telling viewers that the issue puts decisions about birth control, pregnancy, miscarriage care, and abortion back into the hands of Ohioans. The ad said that the "last thing we want is government making" personal medical decisions.

A woman who obtains an abortion should be guilty of murder, the president of the Foundation to Abolish Abortion said during a Statehouse rally on Wednesday. "Equal protection means that the same laws that protect us protect pre-born children. That means there can't be exceptions for mothers," Bradley Pierce said during the event, which was attended by about 50 people.


The OneOhio Recovery Foundation reached a confidential settlement Friday with Harm Reduction Ohio in litigation over the foundation's adherence to open meetings laws. However, Harm Reduction Ohio said it will soon file suit against the state over a budget amendment related to OneOhio. Neither side in the dispute could discuss specifics. "The matter has been resolved," said OneOhio spokesperson Connie Luck in an email.

Gov. Mike DeWine Wednesday visited the monthly meeting of the OneOhio Recovery Board, whose creation he brought about, sharing a few key principles he thought they should consider but emphasizing that he will not seek to steer their efforts. "This is probably the only time you're going to hear from me on this. This is your baby," the governor said.


A new round of H2Ohio open enrollment is underway, the Ohio Department of Agriculture (ODAg) announced Monday. Farmers in the 14 counties of the Maumee River Watershed project area can now enroll or re-enroll acreage into the program, the department said in a news release.

The H2Ohio water quality initiative's incentive program for agricultural producers is spreading from the Western Lake Erie Basin to the entire state, the DeWine administration said Thursday. The program provides funding to help offset the risk of implementing agricultural best management practices (BMPs) meant to improve water quality. The expansion begins early next year, but with a limit of 500,000 new acres to be enrolled statewide.


Attorney General Dave Yost targets environmental, social and governance (ESP) investment policies in a new conversation with the Florida-based Foundation for Government Accountability (FGA). Yost announced the taped feature late Sunday, when he slammed hedge funds and other investors using American's retirement dollars to "make American business go green, go woke, go progressive ... whether you like it or not." He says Americans have a right to their environmental or social convictions but not to form business "cartels" that influence public policy by investing trillions of dollars of other people's money in ESG-sensitive enterprises.


The Office of Budget and Management (OBM) announced Friday that the state's Rainy Day Fund (RDF) stands at a record of nearly $3.7 billion, "an increase of $174.7 million following the accrual of interest at the close of FY23 and the completion of a cash transfer into the fund" as authorized by the FY24-25 budget bill, HB33 (Edwards). This is an increase over the "historic high" of the fund announced earlier this year when it reached nearly $3.5 billion. Meanwhile, OBM reported August tax revenues were 1.4 percent over estimates.


Behavioral health and addiction treatment facilities will be required to be certified by the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services (OhioMHAS) under provisions added to budget bill HB33 (Edwards), with the certification requiring accreditation by a national accrediting service. OhioMHAS has been seeking to educate providers about the changes in the budget, which take effect on Tuesday, Oct. 3.

After the Ohio House made substantial cuts to funding for the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR), those dollars were mostly restored by the Ohio Senate and Conference Committee on HB33 (Edwards), though funding for the agency did not match its initial request. Another highlight of ODNR's FY24-25 operating budget is that Ohio college students from out-of-state will now be able to obtain hunting and fishing licenses at lower costs. The budget allows full-time students who are enrolled in any accredited Ohio public or private college or university to obtain resident hunting and fishing licenses and permits, regardless of their home state of residency and at "significantly lower fees" compared to a nonresident license.


The Ohio Chamber of Commerce announced it has formed a strategic partnership with independent Medicare advisor Chapter to offer Medicare guidance tailored to the needs of Ohio Chamber members. The chamber said that the partnership will allow members to have access to the most comprehensive, transparent, and unbiased guidance available from Chapter, which reviews every Medicare plan across all insurance carriers.


Ohio Department of Health (ODH) Director Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff expressed confidence Thursday that updated COVID-19 vaccinations will be readily available to Ohioans, including those without insurance. It is expected providers will receive supplies of the updated vaccine by the end of this week, after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommended it to anyone age six months or older who has not received a COVID vaccine in the past two months. The updated vaccine was formulated to better target predominant variants that are currently circulating, ODH explained.


The Ohio Department of Development (DOD) is now accepting student applications for the Diversity and Inclusion Technology Internship Program, which provides an opportunity for students to gain hands-on experience while contributing to cutting-edge technology companies. The program offers paid internships to current college students with a variety of backgrounds and majors. For more information and to apply, visit TechIntern.Development.Ohio.Gov.

The Ohio Department of Development (DOD) announced Wednesday it recently signed a memorandum of understanding with the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Serbia (CCIS), strengthening economic and trading relations between Ohio and the country. This follows "significant importing and exporting growth over the past few years," according to DOD. "Through this agreement, Ohio and Serbia forge a powerful partnership, united by the shared vision of driving economic growth and prosperity," DOD Director Lydia Mihalik said. "This collaborative commitment paves the way for innovation, trade, and mutual benefit, as we harness the strength of our regions to create a vibrant and prosperous future."

Ohio is updating signs at major entry points to the state with Ohio's new branding and slogan -- "The Heart of it All" -- replacing older and outdated signs, the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) said. Gov. Mike DeWine and the Ohio Department of Development announced Ohio's return to the "Ohio, The Heart of it All" slogan for state branding earlier this year. The branding, last used in 2001, replaced the "Find it Here" slogan.


The online application for grants to help schools cover the cost of travel to the Ohio Statehouse opened on Monday, Sept. 11, at 10 a.m. and remain open until 6 p.m. on Monday, Sept. 18, the Capitol Square Review and Advisory Board (CSRAB) and the Capitol Square Foundation (CSF) announced. A total of 81 schools will receive grants for the 2023-24 academic year. The grants are to help schools defray bus transportation costs for field trips to the Ohio Statehouse and its museum. Each grant's amount will be based on one-way mileage from the visiting school to the Ohio Statehouse. More information about the program is available at

The School Bus Safety Working Group met for the first time on Monday, with Ohio Department of Public Safety (ODPS) Director Andy Wilson saying members will examine a wide range of topics to help prevent another school bus fatality from occurring. Gov. Mike DeWine, who attended the meeting, announced the creation of the group following the death of 11-year-old Aiden Clark, a Northwestern Local School District student who was killed when another vehicle collided with his school bus in Clark County. The working group also added two new members -- Ohio Association of Pupil Transportation Northeast Region Director Melody Coniglio and Benton Carroll Salem School Board Vice President Jeff Dornbusch.

With a month still to go to qualify for this academic year, Ohioans have sent in three times as many EdChoice applications than they did a year ago, and the state has already granted thousands more scholarships than for 2022-2023. The jump in applications follows state budget action that made most children eligible for full EdChoice awards and every student eligible for at least a partial voucher. According to the Ohio Department of Education (ODE), families had submitted 70,487 applications as of Friday, and 29,452 scholarships had been awarded. By comparison, families submitted 26,578 applications last year, and the state made 24,320 awards.

After state lawmakers earlier this year stripped the State Board of Education (SBOE) of most of its powers, more changes could be on the way. Biennial budget bill HB33 (Edwards) mostly sidelines SBOE and the state superintendent in favor of a new governor-appointed director of the renamed Department of Education and Workforce (DEW). The board and state superintendent will retain a small subset of their current powers, mostly around educator licensure, licensee disciplinary actions, and school district territory transfers. A former SBOE member, Rep. Sarah Fowler Arthur (R-Ashtabula) presented sponsor testimony in the House Primary and Secondary Education Committee on her proposal to make additional changes to the board. Fowler Arthur's HB235 reduces the SBOE from 19 members to 15 members, all of whom would be elected based on the 15 congressional districts, moves elections for State Board members from the nonpartisan ballot to the partisan ballot, and provides for primary elections for State Board members.

Ohio issued its first set of overall school and district ratings on state report cards Thursday for the 2022-2023 academic year under the new 5-star evaluation system, with data showing test scores rising from last year but lagging pre-pandemic performance. Ratings distributions show the large majority of schools and districts at or above the 3-star level, the rating given to schools that meet state standards.

The latest biennial budget HB33 (Edwards) included structural changes for the Broadcast Educational Media Commission (BEMC), the state agency responsible for supporting various public broadcasting services in Ohio, including the Ohio Channel. The budget bill removed General Assembly appointments to the commission. During a meeting Thursday, members also discussed hurdles presented by a new joint use agreement and highlighted the progress of a pandemic-era education program that has since expanded in scope.


Ohio would become a closed primary state, requiring voters to formally declare a partisan affiliation at least a month ahead of time before casting a primary ballot, under legislation introduced in both chambers and backed by Secretary of State Frank LaRose. Sen. Michele Reynolds (R-Canal Winchester), sponsor of SB147, Rep. Thomas Hall (R-Middletown), sponsor of HB208, and LaRose called a press conference Tuesday to argue for the legislation, saying it will modernize data collection and increase confidence in election outcomes.

Secretary of State Frank LaRose explained Tuesday his decision to move his state office a few blocks across downtown Columbus from East Broad Street to Civic Center Drive, objecting strongly to the suggestion that it had any connection to his campaign for U.S. Senate. LaRose said he has no campaign office yet for U.S. Senate, so the fact that his campaign address matches the new address for the state office simply reflects that the law firm that filed his federal campaign paperwork used its own address.

Secretary of State Frank LaRose Thursday announced that his office has formalized data sharing agreements with Florida, Virginia and West Virginia that will allow the states to look for evidence of voter fraud and duplicate voter registrations. The announcement comes months after LaRose pulled Ohio out of the Electronic Registration Information Center (ERIC), a coalition of now 24 states and the District of Columbia that has a similar aim of improving voter rolls. At the time of Ohio' s withdrawal from ERIC, LaRose said the group had ignored demands to make reforms that would bolster confidence in its performance.


Attorney General Dave Yost issued subpoenas after alleged fraudulent use of people’s identities in the public comment process for potential development of oil and gas resources under state park lands. A Dealer investigation found dozens of people who said their names were used without their permission on comments urging energy development in parks. House Minority Leader Allison Russo had asked Yost to investigate the matter, and the Ohio Environmental Council asked the Ohio Oil and Gas Land Management Commission to halt decision-making on leasing until an investigation takes place.

The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) says the latest audit of the Ohio Valley Electric Corporation (OVEC) shows the aging coal plants' continued operation costs Ohioans more than the regional market price but is nevertheless "prudent," despite a previous draft report by the same auditor showing that "keeping the plants running does not seem to be in the best interests of the ratepayers." Commissioners last week approved London Economic Institute's (LEI) OVEC audit on behalf of Duke Energy Ohio, which holds 9 percent ownership, following LEI's 2021 audit on behalf of American Electric Power, which holds a 43.5 percent stake in OVEC.

Republican and Democratic leaders on Ohio energy policy accused the governor and Legislature Wednesday of failing to enact systemic reforms in the wake of 133-HB6's (Callender-Wilkin) bribery scandal. Sen. Mark Romanchuk (R-Ontario) and Ranking Minority Member Kent Smith (D-Euclid) of the Senate Energy and Public Utilities Committee addressed the Ohio Manufacturers' Association (OMA) Energy Conference in Columbus. They followed Lt. Gov. Jon Husted's opening speech, which stressed the need for resilient generation resources and reasonable prices to support Ohio's growing economy. "The goal is pretty simple with energy: We want a reliable supply at the lowest possible cost," Husted said, drawing agreement from OMA's conference participants.


Rep. Bob Young (R-North Canton) announced his resignation from the Ohio House Friday afternoon as he faces misdemeanor domestic violence charges. He said he plans to officially resign from his seat on Monday, Oct. 2. In a letter to House Speaker Jason Stephens (R-Kitts Hill), Young said the allegations have become a "distraction" and asked for continued privacy for his family. Stephens had asked Young to resign and stripped him of his chairmanship over the House Pensions Committee.

Tickets for the Ohio Statehouse's annual Haunted Tours went on sale Monday, Sept. 11. The tours will take place Friday, Oct. 13; Saturday, Oct. 14; Friday, Oct. 20 and Saturday, Oct. 21 at the state Capitol. Tickets must be pre-ordered. Tickets are available online at; in-person at the Statehouse Museum Shop on the ground floor of the Ohio Statehouse; and over the phone by calling 614-728-9234.

The House State and Local Government Committee will start the periodic review of state licensure requirements next week, with a series of four meetings set to hear agency testimony and plans for public and interested party feedback next month. The office of Rep. Marilyn John (R-Shelby), chair of the committee, said hearings will take place Tuesday, Sept. 19, Wednesday, Sept. 20, Tuesday, Sept. 26 and Wednesday, Sept. 27. Lawmakers established an ongoing process for regularly reviewing professional licensure requirements in 132-SB255 (McColley).

Wednesday’s Senate session included passage of SB56 (Roegner), which would have Ohio join the Interstate Massage Compact (Impact); SB106 (Schaffer), requiring workers’ compensation coverage for testing for air ambulance personnel after exposure to blood, bodily fluids, drugs or other substances; and SR201 (Kunze), recognizing Rail Safety Week in Ohio. The body re-referred to committee SB113 (Hoagland), which would bar those who fail to comply with the Military Selective Service Committee from holding public office or being employed by the state.


Ohio State University (OSU) says a proposed class action lawsuit against the school for refusing to refund campuses fees during the COVID-19 shutdown has dragged on too long and will only drag on longer if the Ohio Supreme Court does not immediately declare that "discretionary function immunity" protects government jurisdictions on its face and cannot be reviewed by any court in the state. OSU and a half dozen other Ohio universities are facing class action claims over fees charged for classroom access, technology and lab use, student activities, bus service and the like when campuses were closed by COVID-19 emergency measures. Counsel for Ohio State told the Court Tuesday that the university elected to shut down student facilities in March 2020 -- three weeks before Gov. Mike DeWine's emergency declaration -- out of an abundance of caution.


The Ohio Housing Finance Agency (OHFA) said this week that the "Save the Dream Ohio" program, which helps Ohioans avoid foreclosure and/or utility shutoffs, is winding down with $197 million of the $280 million in federal funds that the state was awarded having been allocated. OHFA said it is now only accepting applications for assistance with delinquent mortgage payments. Funding for assistance with future mortgage payments has been exhausted. Applications are reviewed in the order in which they are received, and awards are subject to funding availability.

The Senate Select Committee on Housing held its second hearing Wednesday, with invited testimony from statewide organizations and groups in the Columbus area. Chair Michele Reynolds (R-Canal Winchester) again noted she plans to have future meetings in other parts of Ohio. The hearing included testimony from the Legal Aid Society of Columbus, Columbus-based Homes on the Hill (HOTH) Community Development Corporation, Ohio Mortgage Bankers Association (OMBA), Ohio Housing Council (OHC) and Coalition on Homelessness and Housing in Ohio (COHHIO).


The Ohio Supreme Court opened public comment Tuesday on proposed changes to its Rules of Practice and Procedure, an annual rules package that in recent years has drawn pushback from the Legislature. The latest amendments would expand the classes of defendants eligible to reopen their appeal by claiming ineffective assistance of counsel and would impose new limits on how long an officer could take to file a formal complaint after an arrest and how long a court could delay before a defendant's probable cause review and first appearance, among other changes.


Ohio Medicaid officials detailed their plans Thursday for extending pandemic-era policies in home and community-based services (HCBS) before the Joint Medicaid Oversight Committee (JMOC) in a hearing that also saw lawmakers asking about disenrollment trends. The Ohio Department of Medicaid (ODM) is aiming for a Jan. 1 effective date for continued or modified policies instituted during the pandemic to avoid spreading COVID-19. The federal government recently told states these policies are no longer scheduled to expire in November but can continue while states are pursuing amendments to their HCBS waivers. The policies were instituted via Appendix K, a mechanism for quickly enacting service changes amid disasters and emergencies.


A population of the invasive elm zigzag sawfly was recently discovered infesting elm trees at the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Forest Service Northern Research Station Lab in Delaware and in northern Franklin County. The forest service and the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) Division of Forestry report that subsequent surveys have also located the species on nearby properties.


The Ohio History Connection selected Diana Welling as the new director of its State Historic Preservation Office, effective Monday, Oct. 9. Since 2016, Welling has overseen the Resource Protection and Review Department of the State Historic Preservation Office as the department head and deputy state historic preservation officer. She has worked with state and federal agencies, as well as residents throughout Ohio, to advocate for the preservation of significant cultural resources.


The actuary for the Ohio Police and Fire Pension Fund (OP&F) incorrectly calculated that the unfunded liability for the statutory pension benefits would be fully amortized over a period of 29 years, Pension Trustee Advisors (PTA) President William Fornia told the Ohio Retirement Study Council (ORSC) on Thursday. "We do not believe that the 29-year funding period is calculated using realistic assumptions of future OP&F administrative expenses. Specifically, the Cavanaugh MacDonald Consulting (CMC) methodology assumes that a one-time $9 million credit from Ohio Public Employees Retirement System (OPERS) to OP&F recognizing the cost of OPERS benefits for OP&F staff would recur year-after-year for 29 years. This will not occur," Fornia said. In a letter to ORSC sent Thursday, Larry Langer and Wendy Ludbrook of CMC wrote that they do not agree with Fornia's conclusion that the funding period is 31 years.


The Ohio Job and Family Services Directors Association (OJFSDA) said Monday that its longtime executive director, Joel Potts, is leaving to join the new Department of Children and Youth (DCY). Laura Abu-Absi, assistant executive director, will move up to succeed Potts, the association said.

The Center for Community Solutions (CCS) announced that its chief operating officer, Emily Campbell, is the new president and CEO, succeeding John Corlett. Campbell has been with the organization for 16 years and chief operating officer since May 2022. She was chosen from among more than 470 applicants following a broad search by an executive search firm and the CCS Board of Directors, according to CCS. Campbells' prior work included directing demographic and socioeconomic work and developing long-term plans for ending the HIV epidemic for Cuyahoga, Franklin and Hamilton counties in collaboration with the Ohio Department of Health and others. Corlett, who has been leading the organization since 2014, will retire at the end of November and become senior visiting fellow to assist with the transition.

The Ohio Conservative Energy Forum (OHCEF) announced Tony Zartman has become the organization's first operations and program director. Zartman previously served as the Ohio Land & Liberty field specialist, concentrating on educating local elected officials on the economic and community benefits of renewable energy projects. He served 12 years as a Paulding County commissioner. Prior to his time as a commissioner, he farmed for 20 years and has managed a construction company now for over 25 years.

The National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) announced that Cameron Garczyk has been named assistant state director in Ohio. Garczyk started with the NFIB Ohio office in 2019 and most recently served as the member benefits program manager.

E.J. Thomas, the former Columbus-area lawmaker and House Finance chair, will soon retire from his role as president and CEO of Habitat for Humanity MidOhio. He has held the position since 2004. He said in an email to supporters of Habitat that he will leave within the next few months, with the intent to have a successor in place before he goes.


The impact of LGBTQ+ and critical race theory (CRT) on public education was front and center Friday at the Ohio Republican Party's Central Committee, where members also passed resolutions against the Issue 1 ballot amendment on reproductive and abortion rights and the Issue 2 initiated statute legalizing recreational marijuana, but tabled a resolution calling for partisan school board elections. Central Committee members unanimously opposed K-12 curriculum addressing gender identity, CRT, equity, diversion and inclusion (EDI), social-emotional learning and common core but concluded placing an "R" by school board candidates' names would hurt rather than help their chances in some districts, especially urban ones.


The Ohio Redistricting Commission had a false start Wednesday and did not resolve it in time for planned Friday meeting, as Republican lawmakers could not agree if the House or Senate member should sit as co-chair of the commission. The body was scheduled to meet Wednesday morning, but after a delay in starting, Gov. Mike DeWine put the commission into recess until Friday morning, citing the lack of consensus on a co-chair. But on Thursday night, he again postponed the meeting for an indefinite period, given the continued lack of agreement. Ahead of the meeting, House Minority Leader Allison Russo (D-Upper Arlington) noted the potential leadership battle in the next General Assembly between Speaker Jason Stephens (R-Kitts Hill) and Senate President Matt Huffman (R-Lima), who is term-limited and expected to seek election to the House next year. "It's not a secret that you've got two people on the commission who will be in the House next General Assembly and maybe competing for the same leadership role," Russo said.

Attorney General Dave Yost Thursday rejected the summary language for a proposed constitutional amendment that would replace the current redistricting process with a 15-member commission and bar politicians from serving on that commission. Backers of the amendment said they would adjust their language and refile. Yost said his staff identified "a critical omission that would mislead a potential signer as to the actual scope and effect of the proposed amendment."


All items on the Joint Committee on Agency Rule Review's (JCARR) final agenda cleared the committee without questions or comments Thursday, including Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services (OhioMHAS) rules regarding seclusion and restraint usage at facilities that OhioMHAS oversees.


Property tax relief bill HB197 (Hall-Bird) now includes language to modify how Current Agricultural Use Value (CAUV) is calculated for farmland. The House Ways and Means Committee on Tuesday unanimously accepted AM1092, which changes the CAUV process for farmland in counties that undergo a property tax reappraisal or triennial update in 2023, 2024 or 2025. Under the amendment, the farmland's CAUV "must equal the average of the value calculated for that tax year and the values that would have been assigned if the land were in a county that underwent a reappraisal or update in each of the preceding two years."

Reps. Thomas Hall (R-Middletown) and Dani Isaacsohn (D-Cincinnati) announced introduction Tuesday of legislation to freeze property taxes for Ohioans 70 years and up who earn less than $70,000 per year, saying relief is needed to help seniors stay in their homes amid drastic valuations in home prices and tax valuations.


The special Ohio Senate panel formed in the wake of a train derailment in East Palestine involving toxic chemicals adopted a final report Wednesday urging passage of federal legislation sponsored by Ohio's U.S. senators and an ongoing commitment to monitor the affected community for long-term effects of the chemical release. The Senate Select Committee on Rail Safety's final report was amended Wednesday morning to set more specific parameters for the length of time members would like to see continued soil and water testing in the vicinity of the derailment site to monitor for long-term effects.

The Ohio Turnpike and Infrastructure Commission announced it has added electric vehicle (EV) charging stations across the 241-mile toll road.' The Ohio Turnpike's EV charging infrastructure -- which was established through a public-private partnership -- currently includes 64 Tesla units and 16 Electrify America charging units at eight service plazas.


Gov. Mike DeWine announced Friday that the Ohio Bureau of Workers' Compensation's (BWC) Workforce Safety Innovation Center (WSIC) has awarded $5 million in grants to four major research institutions. Ohio State University, Kent State University and Nationwide Children's Hospital's Research Institute are receiving one award each and the University of Cincinnati two awards in the grant's second round.


Gov. Mike DeWine announced more than $2 million from the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) Monday for six projects supporting those recovering from addiction to enter or re-enter the workforce. Federal funding is part of ARC's Investments Supporting Partnerships in Recovery Ecosystems (INSPIRE) program to help address the disproportionate effect addiction has on the Appalachian workforce.

Lt. Gov. Jon Husted announced Thursday that 430 employers were approved for funding in the July round of TechCred, which will enable Ohioans to earn 4,961 tech-focused credentials. It was the 21st round of the program, and the next one is currently open until Friday, Sept. 29 at 3 p.m. Top industries receiving awards in July included manufacturing, construction, and transportation and warehousing services.

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

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