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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ABORTION A law prohibiting abortion when fetal cardiac activity is detected has taken effect in the state of Texas after the U.S. Supreme Court failed to act on abortion providers' request to intervene. A similar "heartbeat" law in Ohio, 133-SB23 (Roegner), was passed by the General Assembly and signed by Gov. Mike DeWine in 2019. That law has never gone into effect, and remains enjoined. While both Ohio law and the Texas law ban abortion at about six weeks' gestation, the enforcement mechanisms in the two state laws differ. The Ohio law would allow the state to take action against individuals violating it, while the Texas law relies on private citizens to enforce the law by suing individuals who they suspect are violating it. According to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), private individuals could sue anyone they believe are providing or assisting with an illegal abortion in Texas, including health care workers, members of the clergy or drivers for companies like Uber and Lyft. ADDICTION/SUBSTANCE ABUSE The Ohio Hotel and Lodging Association began an effort Tuesday to increase naloxone nasal spray access, train staff on its use and offer more information on the danger of overdoses for International Overdose Awareness Day. The program was created through collaboration with the RecoveryOhio initiative and local agencies, including the Trumbull County Mental Health and Recovery Board's Alliance for Substance Abuse Prevention (ASAP). A federal bankruptcy ruling in the case of OxyContin manufacturer Purdue Pharma and its owners, the Sackler family, is slated to have the family pay more than $4 billion and relinquish ownership, but shield them from further liability. Ohio joined a multi-state effort two years ago to reach a settlement with the company over claims it fueled the opioid crisis. ARTS, SPORTS AND ENTERTAINMENT A new study out of Ohio State University (OSU) has found that U.S. high school athletes were much more likely to play sports in college if they came from higher-income families with well-educated parents and attended wealthier schools. Researchers found that about 14 percent of 10th grade students whose families were in the top 20 percent in terms of socioeconomic status played sports in college, compared to fewer than four percent of those in the bottom 20 percent of socioeconomic status. Among those who became 12th grade athletes in high school, a substantial difference still remained: 23 percent of the most privileged students played college sports compared to nine percent of the least privileged students. ATTORNEY GENERAL The Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation (BCII) celebrated its 100th birthday Wednesday with the help of Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost, whose office houses the agency. The state Legislature created the Bureau of Criminal Identification in 1921 as a record-keeping office at the former Ohio Penitentiary as part of the former Department of Public Welfare. Technological advancements and the need for centralized law enforcement support spurred its growth into the state's crime lab and special investigations office. In 1963, the 105th General Assembly moved the renamed bureau under the AG's supervision, where it is identified as BCII in the Ohio Revised Code. BALLOT ISSUES A group seeking to amend the Ohio Constitution to allow civil lawsuits against government jurisdictions for deprivation of constitutional rights failed to get enough valid voter signatures for the proposal to advance to the next part of the ballot issue process, Attorney General Dave Yost said Wednesday. Last month, attorney Chandni Patel filed a petition summary on behalf of a committee seeking a statewide vote on a "Civil Action for Deprivation of Constitutional Rights Amendment" to the Ohio Constitution. The committee members are listed as Cynthia Brown of Canal Winchester, Sabrina Jordan of Dayton, Kevin Kahn of Cincinnati, Alicia Kirkman of Cleveland and Marcella Bailey of Columbus. FY22-23 BUDGET Gov. Mike DeWine's law enforcement priorities are moving ahead in the new biennium thanks to the Legislature's adoption of executive budget requests in HB110 (Oelslager) including Crime Gun Intelligence Centers and police body cameras under the Ohio Department of Public Safety (DPS); the Organized Crime Commission and Bureau of Criminal Investigation (BCI) under the Ohio Attorney General's Office; and the governor's largest law enforcement funding request -- local or regional drug interdiction task forces under the Ohio Narcotics Intelligence Center (ONIC). In addition to more than $15 million earmarked for the FY22 Law Enforcement Reimbursement Training Pilot Program inserted by the House and $1 million for officer recruitment emphasizing women and minorities, the biennial budget appropriates tens of millions of dollars for a wide range policing and public safety. Most were outlined by the governor in February and survived a difficult budget process intact. BUSINESS/CORPORATE Lordstown Motors Corporation announced Daniel Ninivaggi was appointed as CEO Thursday, Aug. 26, effective immediately. The company had been under the leadership of Angela Strand as interim executive chairwoman, following the resignation of former CEO Steve Burns. Ninivaggi is the former CEO of diversified holding company Icahn Enterprises L.P. CHILDREN/FAMILIES Gov. Mike DeWine announced Wednesday that victim service agencies supporting victims of crime during COVID-19 can apply for supplemental funding from the 2021 Family Violence Prevention and Services Act/American Rescue Plan Act (FVPSA/ARP), effective immediately. CIVIL RIGHTS Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 does not apply to discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity, according to Attorney General Dave Yost. Yost and 17 other state attorneys general have filed a lawsuit in federal court challenging the Biden administration's policy seeking to protect LGBTQ+ individuals from discrimination in education. The lawsuit is being led by Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery, and was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Tennessee Knoxville Division. The complaint challenges recent administrative actions by the U.S. Department of Education (USDOE) and the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). CORONAVIRUS Around one in eight hospital patients and one in five intensive care unit (ICU) patients statewide currently have COVID-19, Ohio Department of Health (ODH) Director Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff announced Thursday. These ratios are even more severe in rural hospitals, Vanderhoff continued during a press briefing, with around one in four hospital patients and one in three ICU patients there due to COVID-19. The daily update of 7,087 new cases was the highest number since the winter surge, with the exception of the Wednesday total of 7,102 that included more than 1,000 cases from an Aug. 15-25 backlog. ODH also said there were 240 hospitalizations and 29 ICU admissions reported in the last 24 hours. The 21-day averages are now 3,929 cases, 154 hospitalizations and 15 ICU admissions. Vanderhoff said that hospitalizations had been "relatively stable" in early July -- when only a few hundred cases were being reported per day -- but that has now "grown dramatically" to approximately 10 times as much. More than 2,500 Ohioans are currently hospitalized with COVID-19, around 750 are in the ICU and 450 are on ventilators, he continued. Hospitals are only admitting those "seriously ill" with COVID, he added. The Ohio Department of Administrative Services (DAS) and Ohio Department of Health (ODH) said Friday that they are in the process of distributing surplus personal protective equipment (PPE) to schools, groceries, libraries, social service agencies and other entities. After Gov. Mike DeWine shared plans Wednesday to try out a new testing protocol with 10 school districts in Warren County that could avoid the need for unmasked and unvaccinated children to quarantine after exposure to COVID-19, Melissa Cropper, the head of the Ohio Federation of Teachers (OFT), said DeWine would be better off ordering a statewide mask mandate. The Ohio State Medical Association (OSMA) voiced its support late Wednesday for a joint statement by the American Medical Association (AMA), American Pharmacists Association and American Society of Health-System Pharmacists in opposition to the ordering, prescribing or dispensing of ivermectin as a means of preventing or treating COVID-19 outside of clinical trials. DEATH PENALTY Ohio's lethal injection calendar once again eclipsed the four-year mark Tuesday with an execution date of Thursday, Oct. 30, 2025 set for Timothy Coleman of Springfield. He is on Death Row for the 1996 shooting death of Melinda Stevens, a confidential informant of Springfield police who had made controlled drug purchases from suspected dealers including Coleman. The state's next execution is set for Warren Henness on Wednesday, Jan. 12, 2022. ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT The Ohio Department of Development (DOD) detailed Wednesday how certain equal opportunity programs are now fully within its Minority Business Development Division due to changes made in the state budget. Management of these programs had previously been shared with the Ohio Department of Administrative Services (DAS). DOD Director Lydia Mihalik previously discussed these changes -- effective at the start of the fiscal year on July 1 -- in an interview with Hannah News. EDUCATION Gov. Mike DeWine asked the Ohio Department of Education (ODE) Tuesday to look into Bishop Sycamore, identified as a school in Columbus, that lost 58-0 against Florida-based IMG Academy in a nationally televised game at the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton over the weekend. The game, however, raised questions about Bishop Sycamore's operations and status. ODE records list it among "non-chartered, non-tax" (NCNT) schools. Those ODE records provide a post office box as the school's mailing address and list a physical address that matches the Resolute Athletic Complex, an indoor sports facility near Easton in Columbus. ODE later agreed with DeWine's assessment that the Bishop Sycamore saga merits scrutiny but is exploring what authority it has over it, given its status as a NCNT organization. The Finance Committee of the Broadcast Educational Media Commission discussed guiding principles Monday for formulating its upcoming capital appropriations budget request to the DeWine administration and lawmakers. Geoffrey Phillips, executive director of the commission, said the organization recently has been provided about $1.5 million in capital budgets for its own operations. The commission is in the midst of updating its capital plan for the next three to five years, he said. State Reps. Adam Miller (D-Columbus) and Sarah Fowler Arthur (R-Rock Creek) Monday introduced HB403 which is meant to close a loophole in the reporting process for teachers who leave schools while under investigation. The bill would require schools to file a report with ODE regarding teachers who retire under threat of investigation for misconduct. Under current law, schools are only required to report when a teacher resigns under threat of termination or nonrenewal of a contract while under investigation. Teachers may use this loophole to retire while under investigation for misconduct and then apply to work for another school or school district with nothing in their record. Under HB403, a teacher who resigned under the same circumstances would be reported to ODE so that schools and districts would be on notice. ELECTIONS Secretary of State Frank LaRose traveled to the Franklin County Board of Elections Wednesday to promote an audit of the special congressional election that took place Tuesday, Aug. 3, for the 15th Congressional District, saying it will help to prove that elections in Ohio are secure and accurate. LaRose said he viewed the audit as an opportunity to do some civics education and highlight the audits that are required after elections to show that the ballots were counted accurately. Meanwhile, LaRose's office announced Wednesday that it has begun the supplemental process of removing recently inactive voter registrations from the system, citing the need to keep elections secure as well as following the requirements under current law. LaRose directed the 88 county boards of elections to begin a four-year process to identify registrations that have been inactive for at least two years, as well as registrations that appear in the National Change of Address (NCOA) database. Each of the identified registrations must be sent a confirmation notice informing the voter that activity must take place at some point over the next four years in order to remain active. ELECTIONS 2021 The following endorsement was made over the week:
The congressional campaign of Republican Mike Carey announced the endorsement of the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB).
ELECTIONS 2022 Ohio Supreme Court Justice Pat DeWine Tuesday announced he would run for re-election to his current seat on the Court rather than seeking the position of chief justice, a campaign he had been exploring over the past year. His decision leaves Justice Sharon Kennedy as the top Republican candidate to succeed Chief Justice Maureen O'Connor, who cannot run for re-election due to age limits. Justice Jennifer Brunner announced earlier this year that she would run for the Democratic nomination for the seat. Jim Renacci, the former congressman who is challenging Gov. Mike DeWine in next year's Republican gubernatorial primary, sent a letter to Attorney General Dave Yost and Secretary of State Frank LaRose asking for them to investigate the governor and his involvement in the scandal surrounding nuclear bailout bill 133-HB6 (Callender-Wilkin). An FBI investigation has led to charges against numerous individuals including former House Speaker Larry Householder. DeWine has denied knowing of the behind the scenes maneuvering to get the bill passed by Householder and former leaders of FirstEnergy. Renacci said he contacted Yost and LaRose because their offices are responsible for the overview of nonprofit organizations and political finance violations. The following endorsement was made over the week:
The U.S. Senate campaign of J.D. Vance announced the endorsement of former U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer.
GAMING/GAMBLING With September's designation as National Suicide Prevention Month, the Problem Gambling Network of Ohio (PGNO) is urging families to recognize the connection between suicide and gambling addiction. "Disordered gambling has the highest suicide rate among all addictions, with one in five problem gamblers attempting suicide," PGNO said. Citing the 2017 "Report on Problem Gambling Services," the group said nearly 10 percent of Ohioans who gamble are currently experiencing or are at-risk of developing a gambling problem. GENERAL ASSEMBLY/STATEHOUSE The Senate cancelled the session scheduled for Wednesday, Sept. 8 -- what had been the first session following the summer break -- but confirmed a meeting of the Senate Rules and Reference Committee at 11:30 a.m. in the Senate Chambers for that day. The recently-enacted law that bill sponsor Rep. Bill Roemer (R-Richfield) calls the "good HB6" contains a variety of provisions, including language prohibiting the COVID-19 vaccine from being administered to a minor without first receiving written consent from their parent or guardian. The legislation was a reintroduction of 133-HB673 (Roemer), which died in the upper chamber during the lame duck session of the 133rd General Assembly after being informally passed on the Senate floor three times. GOVERNOR Appointments made during the week include the following:
Keith D. Harris, Jr. of Warrensville Heights (Cuyahoga County) to serve as a student member on the Central State University Board of Trustees for a term beginning Aug. 27, 2021 and ending June 30, 2023.
Natalia S. Harris of Columbus (Franklin County) to the Central State University Board of Trustees for a term beginning Aug. 30, 2021 and ending June 30, 2030.
Alan Gary Starkoff of Galena (Delaware County) to the Cleveland State University Board of Trustees for a term beginning Aug. 27, 2021 and ending May 1, 2026.
Haley M. Crews of Wellsville (Columbiana County) to serve as a student member on the Kent State University Board of Trustees for a term beginning Aug. 27, 2021 and ending May 16, 2023.
Johnathan M. Holifield of Cleveland Heights (Cuyahoga County) to the Kent State University Board of Trustees for a term beginning Aug. 27, 2021 and ending May 16, 2027.
Katrina Lea DeGroff of Wauseon (Fulton County) and Joel A. Miller of Napoleon (Henry County) to the Northwest State Community College Board of Trustees for a term beginning Aug. 27, 2021 and ending June 9, 2027.
Brooke Campbell of Akron (Summit County) to serve as a student member on the University of Akron Board of Trustees for a term beginning Aug. 27, 2021 and ending July 1, 2023.
Christine Marie Amer Mayer of Solon (Cuyahoga County) to the University of Akron Board of Trustees for a term beginning Aug. 27, 2021 and ending July 1, 2028.
Rupesh Venkatanaga Boddapati of Toledo (Lucas County) and Anjali Atul Phadke of Xenia (Greene County) to serve as student members on the University of Toledo Board of Trustees for terms beginning Aug. 27, 2021 and ending July 1, 2022 and July 1, 2023, respectively.
Michael R. Miller of Toledo (Lucas County) the University of Toledo Board of Trustees for a term beginning Aug. 27, 2021 and ending July 1, 2029.
Ranjan Kejriwal of Springboro (Warren County) to the Wright State University Board of Trustees for a term beginning Aug. 27, 2021 and ending June 30, 2030.
Matt Damschroder of Columbus (Franklin County) to the Governor's Executive Workforce Board for a term beginning Aug. 27, 2021 and continuing at the pleasure of the governor.
Jerry N. Hruby of Brecksville (Cuyahoga County) reappointed to the Ohio Turnpike and Infrastructure Commission for a term beginning Aug. 27, 2021 and ending June 30, 2026.
Megan O'Callaghan of Dublin (Franklin County) reappointed to the State Board of Registration for Professional Engineers and Surveyors for a term beginning Sept. 25, 2021 and ending Sept. 24, 2026.
Matthew John Blair Jr. of Niles (Trumbull County), Matthew A. Szollosi of Columbus (Franklin County) and Martin J. Sweeney of Cleveland (Cuyahoga County) reappointed to the State Lottery Commission for a term beginning Aug. 27, 2021 and ending Aug. 1, 2024.
Charles E. Winburn of Cincinnati (Hamilton County) to the Ohio Civil Rights Commission for a term beginning Sept. 6, 2021 and ending July 28, 2026.
Kimberly P. Jordan of Worthington (Franklin County) reappointed to the Children's Trust Fund Board for a term beginning Aug. 27, 2021 and ending July 2, 2024.
Geraldine B. Warner of Cincinnati (Hamilton County) reappointed to the Ohio Arts Council for a term beginning Aug. 27, 2021 and ending July 1, 2026.
Kevin Scott Miller of New Albany (Franklin County) to the Ohio Humanities Council for a term beginning Aug. 27, 2021 and ending Oct. 30, 2022.
Christopher Shaffer of Waverly (Pike County) reappointed to the Ohio Commission on Service and Volunteerism for a term beginning Aug. 27, 2021 and ending April 21, 2024.
Robert C. Smith of Westlake (Cuyahoga County) reappointed as chairperson of the Broadcast Educational Media Commission for a term beginning Aug. 27, 2021 and ending June 20, 2023.
Tod J. Grimm of North Royalton (Cuyahoga County) and Jason M. George of Kettering (Montgomery County) to the State Board of Pharmacy for terms beginning Aug. 27, 2021 and ending June 30, 2024 and June 30, 2025, respectively.
Gretchen Blazer Thompson of Dublin (Delaware County) and Shelia Louise Hiddleson of Delaware (Delaware County) to the Rare Disease Advisory Council for a term beginning Aug. 27, 2021 and ending April 22, 2023.
Bernadetta J. King of Canton (Stark County) to the Ohio Statewide Independent Living Council for a term beginning Aug. 27, 2021 and ending March 14, 2024.
John L. Moore of Dublin (Franklin County) appointed and Matthew J. Sauer of Cincinnati (Hamilton County) reappointed to the Opportunities for Ohioans with Disabilities Council for a term beginning Aug. 27, 2021 and ending June 1, 2024.
Trisha R. Cole of Cincinnati (Hamilton County) to the Norwood Financial Planning and Supervision Commission for a term beginning Aug. 27, 2021 and continuing at the pleasure of the governor.
Deborah A. Lieberman of Clayton (Montgomery County) and Robert D. Brokaw of Hilliard (Franklin County) reappointed to the Housing Trust Fund Advisory Committee for a term beginning Aug. 27, 2021 and ending March 18, 2025.
Geoffrey Michael Bishop of Westerville (Delaware County) reappointed to the Ohio Fair Plan Underwriting Association Board of Governors for a term beginning Sept. 19, 2021 and ending Sept. 18, 2023.
Marcie E. Kress of Stow (Summit County), Kelly Bensman of Toledo (Lucas County) and Paul F. Wise of Westerville (Delaware County) reappointed to the Materials Management Advisory Council for a term beginning Aug. 27, 2021 and ending July 1, 2024.
Kevin L. Baxter of Powell (Delaware County) to the Underground Technical Committee for a term beginning Aug. 27, 2021 and ending Dec. 31, 2022.
HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES Several Ohio health, human services and anti-hunger organizations are sharing in more than $2 million of an $80 million national grant award to act as health navigators, helping people to understand and obtain health coverage through the federal marketplace. The largest grant award of more than $1.9 million went to the Ohio Association of Foodbanks and a consortium including Charitable Healthcare Network, Community Action Committee of Pike County, Freestore Foodbank, Medworks, Mid-Ohio Food Collective, Toledo/Lucas County CareNet, Universal Health Care Action Network of Ohio and Washington-Morgan Community Action. HIGHER EDUCATION Gov. Mike DeWine announced Monday the state is awarding 27 institutions of higher education a total of $5 million in grants to fund security enhancements on their campuses. The awards are part of the 2021 Campus Safety Grant Program funded as part of the capital appropriations bill, 133-SB310 (Dolan), in the last General Assembly. The Ohio School Safety Center reviewed the campus safety grant applications in consultation with the Ohio Department of Higher Education (ODHE), and the funds were released by the Controlling Board. Following the Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) recent full approval of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, more of Ohio's colleges and universities have announced vaccine mandates for campus communities. Ohio University (OU) announced Tuesday that all students, faculty and staff at all campus locations are required to be vaccinated by Monday, Nov. 15. The University of Cincinnati (UC) and the University of Toledo (UT) also joined a slew of other Ohio education institutions requiring COVID-19 vaccines for students and faculty. Dr. Harold L. Paz will be stepping down from his position as executive vice president and chancellor for health affairs at Ohio State University (OSU) and CEO of the Wexner Medical Center, effective Sunday, Oct. 3. JUDICIAL Chief Justice Maureen O'Connor challenged courts to advance racial fairness and lawmakers to embrace bail reform Thursday during a State of the Judiciary address emphasizing non-partisanship in Ohio courts. O'Connor returned to the Hilton Easton ballroom for her penultimate SOJ address with less than two years remaining on the high court. When her final term expires in December 2022, she will have served two decades on the Supreme Court and 12 years as chief. The U.S. Supreme Court recently upended the Biden administration's latest eviction moratorium by vacating a stay of a lower court ruling on the topic. Ohio housing advocates said it's now up to Ohio judges to slow evictions in order to allow rental assistance funding to get to tenants in need. After expiration of an earlier moratorium, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) instituted a new one covering counties with substantial or high levels of COVID-19 transmission. The U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, however, found the moratorium unlawful in a case brought by the Alabama Association of Realtors and other plaintiffs, but stayed its ruling at the request of the Biden administration. Justices lifted that stay Thursday, Aug. 26. The Ohio Supreme Court Tuesday issued a new order allowing Ohio attorneys to receive continuing legal education credit by serving as poll workers at election sites during the Tuesday, Nov. 2 General Election. It is the third election that the credit will be offered after the collaboration, known as Lawyers for Liberty, was created with the secretary of state's office. Attorneys also earned credit for working during the November 2020 General Election and for the May primary election this year. According to the Court, 1,255 attorneys have participated in the program. Gov. Mike DeWine Wednesday announced the appointment of Jennifer L. Arnold to the Noble County Court and of Robert W. Parrott to the Marysville Municipal Court in Union County. MARIJUANA/HEMP In a short meeting Monday, the Ohio Ballot Board unanimously approved with no discussion a proposed initiated statute that would legalize marijuana for adult recreational use. Attorney Don McTigue was the lone witness to appear before the panel, saying the proposed law fits the case law for issues to be certified as a singular measure because all of the provisions in the proposal relate in one way or another to the authorization, regulation, and control of adult use of cannabis. Democratic lawmakers as well as industry stakeholders called for changes to the state's medical marijuana licensing process over concerns that the current lottery system does not equitably distribute the licenses. Reps. Juanita O. Brent (D-Cleveland) and Thomas West (D-Canton), president of the Ohio Legislative Black Caucus (OLBC), said that only about nine dispensaries in the state are minority-owned. Earlier this year, the Ohio Pharmacy Board (OPB) proposed to allow 73 more medical marijuana dispensaries to operate in Ohio to meet growing demand for the Ohio Medical Marijuana Control Program (MMCP). That would bring the state's total number of dispensaries to 130. Brent said the application period for the additional licenses is to begin Tuesday, Sept. 14 but suggested OBP hold off to address the concerns over equity. Cameron McNamee, director of policy and communication for the OBP, said the Madison County Court of Common Pleas struck down the board's economically disadvantaged group (EDG) provision in 2019 and another court also struck down the EDG provision for the Ohio Department of Commerce, meaning the General Assembly must address the issue. MILITARY AFFAIRS Among the U.S. military service members who died in the attack on the Kabul airport during evacuation efforts in Afghanistan was Max Soviak, a Navy Fleet Marine Force hospital corpsman from Berlin Heights, a village in Erie County. NATURAL DISASTERS Ohio Task Force 1 has moved into the New Orleans area, according to a Monday update, following the aftermath of Hurricane Ida. The FEMA Type-1 urban search and rescue (USAR) team and three others had staged near Lafayette, LA ahead of the storm making landfall. NONPROFIT ORGANIZATIONS Individuals can now vote for the American Institute of Architecture (AIA) Ohio's People's Choice Design Award. The institute gives out annual awards in the following six categories: newly completed buildings; additions, renovations; and restorations, interior architecture; small projects; unbuilt projects (not built and not intended to be realized); and the 25 Year Award -- which the Ohio Statehouse is up for. In addition to the six categories, AIA Ohio said it will have two supplemental design awards: the AIA Ohio Impact Award and the AIA Ohio People's Choice Award, which can be voted on at https://aiaohio.secure-platform.com/a/gallery?roundId=76. Voting is open to through Friday, Sept. 17. The AIA Ohio People's Choice Award winner will be announced during the AIA Ohio Virtual Design Awards Program, taking place on Thursday, Sept. 30. PEOPLE Former Rep. Doug Green died Wednesday of complications from COVID-19, according to the Cincinnati Enquirer. The 66-year-old had served in the Ohio House until last year, when term limits prevented his running for re-election. Before he was a state legislator, he served as Brown County recorder and Brown County auditor. Former Rep. Gary Scherer wrote on Facebook that Green had been one of his best friends in the Ohio House. Maria Bruno is the new public policy director for Equality Ohio, the LGBTQ+ advocacy organization announced Thursday, Aug. 26. Bruno is joining Equality Ohio after working for several years as a civic engagement coordinator and policy analyst for the Coalition on Homelessness and Housing in Ohio (COHHIO). REDISTRICTING/REAPPORTIONMENT The Ohio Redistricting Commission hosted its final two public hearings of the week of Aug. 23 on Friday at the University of Akron and the Ohio State University (OSU) Mansfield campus. As in previous hearings, the vast majority of witnesses expressed their frustration with current district lines that split up counties and communities. Saying the state can do better, numerous witnesses asked the commission members to put partisanship aside and pursue a redistricting process that is fair and transparent, though some also cast doubt that Republican leadership would follow through on bipartisan district maps. The Ohio Redistricting Commission Tuesday, Aug. 31 adopted rules that contain procedures for anyone to submit a redistricting plan for new General Assembly districts to the commission and heard one proposal from the Senate Democratic Caucus. As expected, the first deadline in the Ohio Constitution of Sept. 1 for the Ohio Redistricting Commission to adopt new district maps for the Ohio House and Senate passed with no agreement, giving the panel a final deadline in two weeks to come up with new maps. However, since the commission did not adopt a bipartisan map by Wednesday's deadline, majority Republicans now have the option of adopting a four-year map by Wednesday, Sept. 15, if they cannot get the support of the two Democrats on the panel. A group connected to former Republican legislators and policy staffers announced this week that it is launching a public effort "to review, examine, and score the constitutionality of proposed legislative and congressional maps proposed as part of the state's redistricting process." Renew Ohio, formed in 2013, said it has launched www.OhioMaps.org, where Ohioans will have the ability to review maps proposed to and by the Ohio Redistricting Commission. The group's board includes former Sen. Jeff Jacobson; Mike Dittoe, a former Ohio House chief of staff under Speaker Cliff Rosenberger; and Mike McGuire, a former Republican policy advisor for the Ohio House. A public records case filed in the Ohio Supreme Court by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Ohio against the Ohio House of Representatives has been settled by the parties, the Court said Thursday in a filing. The lawsuit was filed in July by J. Collin Marozzi, a policy strategist at the ACLU, who said that he had sent a public records request to Ohio House leadership and staff in February seeking a number of records related to the Ohio Redistricting Commission. Requested records included those involving potential appointments to the commission, communications with the U.S. Census Bureau, communications with consultant firms or vendors regarding redistricting, communications with members of Ohio's congressional delegation related to redistricting, and information that may be used for redistricting. The Ohio Citizens Redistricting Commission (OCRC) -- not related to the official commission -- said it has submitted its official findings to the state body in charge of redistricting for the Ohio General Assembly. The group, made up of academics, political party officials, and community officials has been holding public meetings around the state, in which it said it was gathering input from Ohio citizens on what they want to see in new legislative districts. They announced their proposed "unity maps" last month. STATE GOVERNMENT The Controlling Board Monday approved two items from the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS) to extend contracts with firms that are helping the agency address unemployment compensation claims. The panel also approved new state labor agreements with two bargaining entities. The first is with about 4,000 employees represented by the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) District 1199, including nurses, social workers, physicians, and parole officers. The second is with the Unit 2 Association, representing 530 employees including natural resources and wildlife officers, gaming enforcement agents, tax enforcement agents, and other law enforcement officers employed by the state. UNEMPLOYMENT COMPENSATION The state of Ohio completed the process of paying off the nearly $1.5 billion it borrowed from the federal government to cover unemployment compensation costs during the pandemic over the week, following an announcement from Gov. Mike DeWine Wednesday that the process had started. The state used a large chunk of its portion of American Rescue Plan (ARP) Act dollars to fully pay off the loan, as provided in HB168 (Fraizer). Repayment of the loan began on Monday and required several cooperative steps between the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS) and the Office of Budget and Management (OBM). These included certifying the debt by OBM and transferring the funds by OBM to the Ohio Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund. The final transfer from the state of Ohio to the U.S. Department of the Treasury was expected to be completed by Thursday, Sept. 2. The Ohio Supreme Court decided late Tuesday not to allow lower court proceedings to continue while justices consider a case on Gov. Mike DeWine's decision to terminate supplemental unemployment payments months ahead of when they were due to expire. In the meantime, Justice Pat DeWine, son of the governor, bowed out the case earlier this week, citing a need "to avoid any appearance of impropriety that might result from my father's public involvement in this matter." And former Attorney General Marc Dann, who initially filed the case, brought two more cases this week on this topic and is contemplating a third. Dann filed the first case in July, saying state law compels the administration to seek out all advantages available for Ohioans under the unemployment compensation system, making illegal Gov. DeWine's decision to terminate the extra $300 in payments under the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) program offered during the pandemic. The governor halted the payments in June, ahead of their official expiration Sept. 6. For the week ending Aug. 28, the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS) reported 13,740 initial traditional unemployment claims to the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL). That number is higher than last week, when the department reported 8,182 traditional jobless claims. Ohioans filed 134,160 continued traditional unemployment claims last week, which was 2,003 fewer than the previous week. UTILITIES The Office of Ohio Consumers' Counsel (OCC) Governing Board will not get the ad hoc meeting of the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) Nominating Council it is proposing if the council chairman has his way. Michael Koren, appointed by former Gov. John Kasich and head of the Nominating Council since 2013, has rebutted OCC Board Chairman Michael Watkin's request in a letter released Wednesday. Watkins had followed last November's unsuccessful request for a special meeting after former PUCO Chairman Sam Randazzo's resignation with a second letter in August. The Governing Board chair has questioned "whether or not the Nominating Council should continue to be led by the representative of the utilities" when proposing candidates to the governor: OCC has generally called for PUCO appointments to have experience in consumers affairs rather than energy and utilities. Legislation that would eliminate 133-HB6's (Callender-Wilkin) subsidies for two Ohio Valley Electric Corporation (OVEC) coal-fired power plants could be amended and reported out of the Senate Energy and Public Utilities Committee in the next few weeks, Sen. Mark Romanchuk (R-Mansfield) said Thursday. Romanchuk discussed the status of SB117 with co-sponsor Sen. Hearcel Craig (D-Columbus) during a virtual event hosted by the AARP of Ohio, which supports the legislation. The bill has received three committee hearings, with the most recent occurring in mid-June. VETERANS Active military members and veterans should not hesitate to utilize mental health services provided by local and state agencies, Gov. Mike DeWine and other Ohio leaders said Monday. "Shortly after we started seeing the images of what was going on in Afghanistan, the terrible bombing, we started thinking about the men and women who were serving over there, and also started really thinking about the men and women who have served our country, veterans of Afghanistan and veterans of Iraq," DeWine said during a press conference at the Ohio Veterans Hall of Fame in the Vern Riffe State Office Tower. He was joined by Secretary of State Frank LaRose, Rep. Haraz Ghanbari (R-Perrysburg), Sen. Frank Hoagland (R-Adena), Adjutant General John Harris, Ohio Department of Veterans Services (ODVS) Director Deborah Ashenhurst and Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services (OhioMHAS) Director Lori Criss. WORKERS' COMPENSATION The Ohio Bureau of Workers' Compensation (BWC) Board of Directors on Friday voted to incorporate the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) Occupational Safety and Health Administration's (OSHA) COVID-19 Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) rules, with notable exemptions. "The proposed Ohio employment risk reduction standards will exclude federal standards for medical removal protection benefits, vaccination, and severability, since these standards do not address workplace safety and health conditions," says a BWC document on the Public Employment Risk Reduction Program (PERRP) rule. The BWC also issued a press release on Friday announcing that Gov. Mike DeWine has requested that the BWC Board of Directors expand the agency's December 2020 $5 billion dividend to approximately 3,000 employers who did not originally meet eligibility requirements. The requested expansion would allow for approximately $30 million to go to the previously ineligible employers who, through no fault of their own, could not perform their 2019 "true-up" in the timeframe for the dividend return, according to BWC. Ahead of the Labor Day weekend, BWC Thursday paid tribute to 114 Ohioans who died as a result of a workplace illness or accident. BWC Chief of Strategy John Logue led the annual Fallen Workers Memorial that also included BWC Board of Directors Chairman Chan Cochran, board member Michael P. Taylor, board member Peggy Griffith, Ohio AFL-CIO President Tim Burga, Ohio Chamber of Commerce President Steve Stivers, and Ohio Industrial Commission Executive Director Tim Adams. WORKFORCE Lt. Gov. Jon Husted announced the second round of grants for the Industry Sector Partnership (ISP) Thursday during an event at the Manufacturing Advocacy and Growth Network (MAGNET), a regional partner in Cleveland. The first awards were announced in January. The program helps bring Ohioans into the workforce pipeline, according to Husted's office, while also meeting the needs of local businesses. The new application period, which ends on Thursday, Sept. 30 at 3 p.m., will provide slightly more than $2.45 million for new and existing ISPs as a result of funding in the budget.
[Story originally published in The Hannah Report. Copyright 2021 Hannah News Service, Inc.]