Week In Review - September 8, 2020



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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.


APPALACHIA


Alzheimer's disease is more common in rural Appalachian Ohio communities than in other rural areas in the state, raising concerns about access to early, specialized care in a region where many residents face struggles getting the medical care they need, a new study by Ohio State University (OSU) shows. The research was published online recently in the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease.


CHILDREN/FAMILIES


In a special meeting, the State Board of Education Tuesday took its latest action to bring its child care regulations into line with pandemic orders and the rules of its sister agency in overseeing child care providers, the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS.) The law requires Ohio Department of Education (ODE) regulations on child care to meet or exceed those of ODJFS. Gov. Mike DeWine recently ordered further revisions to ODJFS rules to account for the pandemic and the remote instruction many schools are providing, updating regulations to allow child care providers to receive public funding for the care of school-age children during school hours, something that's usually not permitted.


CORONAVIRUS


Senior centers and older adult day care services will be permitted to reopen under a "phased approach," according to a health order signed Monday by Lance Himes, interim director of the Ohio Department of Health (ODH). Opening under "limited capacity" can begin effective Monday, Sept. 21, and that includes configuring facility layouts for enhanced infection control, such as offering as few points of entry as possible and setting up a "holding area" for cases where symptoms arise.


A National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) committee charged with developing a framework to assist policymakers in planning for equitable allocation of a vaccine against COVID-19 issued a discussion draft of the preliminary framework for public comment on Tuesday, Sept. 1. It is available for download at www.nationalacademies.org/VaccineAllocationComment.


Addressing reporters at his Tuesday COVID-19 briefing, Gov. Mike DeWine again discussed school and college opening efforts while also raising other topics on roadway safety and addressing gun violence. The daily update showed an increase of 1,453 cases, the highest number since the end of July, and DeWine said that provides "a stark reminder that the virus is not going away." He also said the level of increase is likely a result of schools and colleges reopening.


Thursday the Ohio Department of Health (ODH) reported that 50 people died from confirmed or suspected COVID-19 cases in the past day, the highest one-day total since June. Ohio now has 4,226 deaths, and has averaged 22 deaths daily in the past 21 days. There were 1,245 new cases in Ohio in the past 24 hours, 89 new hospitalizations, and 14 intensive care unit admissions.


A federal lawsuit filed Monday by the group "Ohio Stands Up" seeks a preliminary injunction on all state orders filed under the COVID-19 emergency declaration, arguing that they represent a denial of constitutional rights "due to unfounded fear and intentional manipulation." The suit was filed by Fremont attorney Thomas Renz and Lorain attorney Robert Gargasz, who previously filed a suit on behalf of dance studios over pandemic closures.


Sen. Matt Dolan (R-Chagrin Falls), in presenting sponsor testimony Tuesday before the Senate Finance Committee - which he chairs -- on his SB357, which provides for the distribution of the state allocation from the federal CARES Act for local communities' COVID-19 pandemic-related expenses, explained that SB357 is essentially the final distribution from the $2 billion in the CARES Act funds that Ohio received. The first distribution, totaling $775 million, was sent directly to communities in the state with a population of over 500,000 (Cuyahoga, Franklin, Hamilton, Montgomery and Summit counties and the city of Columbus). That left $1.225 billion for the state to distribute to communities with populations below 500,000. The bill cleared the committee on Wednesday and was passed unanimously by the Senate later that day.


On Thursday, Gov. DeWine announced the signing of a new health order that outlines details for K-12 schools' reporting of COVID-19 cases. Under the order, parents or guardians and school staff should notify a school of a positive test or a clinical diagnosis. Within 24 after receiving that notification, the school should notify other parents and guardians about that case in writing, providing as much information as possible without releasing protected health information. The school must also notify its local health department within 24 hours.


CORRECTIONS


The Ohio Department of Youth Services (DYS) Monday confirmed that a youth at the Circleville Juvenile Correctional Facility was pronounced dead by the Pickaway County EMS at 7:36 a.m. According to DYS, "The youth, age 17, was found unresponsive this morning by a youth specialist who was conducting routine medical rounds. A facility nurse was called, who immediately initiated medical intervention, including CPR. The ambulance arrived and EMS personnel performed CPR on the youth, before pronouncing him dead."


CRIME AND PUNISHMENT


Senators considered the public policy impact of a new offender registry for certain misdemeanor crimes -- a "john" database -- Wednesday as the Senate Judiciary Committee heard testimony on HB431 (Abrams-Carfagna). Joint sponsor Rep. Cindy Abrams (R-Harrison) cited Ohio's reputation as "the fourth worst state for human trafficking in the nation" and spoke of her experience with adult and underage prostitution as a Cincinnati police officer.


After multiple delays, Rep. Larry Householder (R-Glenford) appeared in federal court Thursday via videoconference and pleaded not guilty to the racketeering charge against him. The former speaker had previous appearances delayed while he secured new counsel, and he was represented at arraignment by Steven Bradley of the Cleveland law firm Marein & Bradley.


DISASTERS


Ohio Task Force 1 (OH-TF1) assisted with relief efforts in Louisiana following Hurricane Laura, according to a social media update Monday. Gov. Mike DeWine previously noted the team had been sent to the area during his COVID-19 briefing Thursday. OH-TF1 personnel worked near the town of Lake Charles and in the Calcasieu Parrish area, according to the Facebook post. They were one of several FEMA Urban Search and Rescue (US&R) Teams providing assistance.


ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT


Gov. Mike DeWine's administration announced Monday the approval of assistance for five projects expected to create 574 new jobs and retain 1,058 jobs statewide. The projects are expected to collectively result in more than $23 million in new payroll and spur more than $68 million in investments across Ohio.


JobsOhio announced Wednesday that it had hired Tim Derickson to serve as senior director of food and agribusiness. That will involve leading the economic development nonprofit's efforts in a sector with "hundreds of companies that cultivate, process, package, distribute and market foods and beverages enjoyed around the world," according to JobsOhio. Derickson has been ODAg assistant director since 2017, and formerly served as interim director as well. He represented the 53rd House District from 2009 to 2016.


ECONOMY


Members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) community are experiencing greater levels of economic hardship and social isolation compared to the broader population, according to advocates on a Center for Community Solutions webinar. Charleigh Flohr, research manager at the Human Rights Campaign Foundation, said the industries LGBTQ people tend to work in have been greatly affected by the pandemic, including the retail and food services industries, where she said 20 percent of LGBTQ people work.


EDUCATION


Gov. Mike DeWine named Paul LaRue, a veteran history teacher retired from Washington Court House Schools, as the newest member of the State Board of Education, filling one of two vacancies on the board. LaRue replaces Cindy Collins, a real estate agent with Gorsuch Realty and president of the Lancaster Board of Realtors, who resigned in the spring, citing "other obligations" in her resignation letter. Reginald Wilkinson, director of the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction in the Taft administration, resigned earlier in August after his appointment to the Ohio State University Board of Trustees. He was appointed to the board in June 2019 to replace Kasich appointee David Brinegar.


Numerous allowances lawmakers made for schools in the previous academic year in light of the pandemic would be extended under SB358 which was introduced by Sens. Teresa Fedor (D-Toledo) and Nathan Manning (R-North Ridgeville). It would extend changes enacted earlier this year in HB197 (Merrin-Powell), a pandemic omnibus, and HB164 (Ginter), a student religious expression measure amended to include pandemic flexibility for schools. The bill was heard Wednesday in the Senate Education Committee where sponsors said it prohibits the Ohio Department of Education (ODE) from issuing state report cards through the 2021-22 school year, eliminates state-required standardized tests, and allows for teacher and principal evaluations to be completed without the use of student growth measures. The bill would additionally prohibit ODE from awarding first-time building performance-based EdChoice vouchers for the 2021-22 school year, and would prohibit creation of new academic distress commissions.


The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) said Monday it will extend flexibility for distributing school meals amid the pandemic through year's end but does not have enough money to extend them through the entire school year. USDA said the waiver extension, approved through December or until funding runs out, includes the following Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) and Seamless Summer Option (SSO) flexibilities:

  • Allowing SFSP and SSO meals to be served in all areas and at no cost.

  • Permitting meals to be served outside of the typically-required group settings and meal times.

  • Waiving meal pattern requirements as necessary.

  • Allowing parents and guardians to pick-up meals for their children.


The Senate Transportation, Commerce and Workforce Committee continued its occupational license reviews Wednesday with a presentation on the licensing responsibilities of the State Board of Education (SBOE) and ODE. The board issues 42 credential types to different types of educators, including new temporary licenses established in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, which were created so teachers can enter the field even if they have not yet completed the exams required for full licensure. Marjorie Yano, director of the Office of Policy and Legislative Affairs at ODE, said the department believes the current licensing structure is meeting the needs of educators, schools and families.


After a summer filled with anxiety over the pandemic, economic hardship and racial justice, families and educators will need to attend to children's mental and emotional needs as they resume schooling, experts said at Wednesday's Columbus Metropolitan Club forum. Columbus City Schools Superintendent Talisa Dixon, Nationwide Children's Hospital psychologist Dr. Parker Huston and a family ambassador for Columbus schools' French immersion school, Amanda McClafferty, joined the discussion, moderated by Greg Moody, interim director of professional development for Ohio State's John Glenn College of Public Affairs and former health and human services adviser to Gov. John Kasich.

ELECTIONS


Secretary of State Frank LaRose's office released Friday the list of nearly 116,000 Ohioans whose voter registrations are on the cusp of cancellation, though not until after the upcoming presidential election. Voters on the list whose registrations stay inactive through Monday, Dec. 7 will be removed from the rolls, his office said. LaRose said he's releasing the list so individuals can search to see if their registrations are poised for cancellation, and so advocacy groups can help to identify those voters and help them to maintain their registrations. To search a name or download the entire list, visit https://registrationreadiness.ohiosos.gov.


Two House Democrats have introduced legislation that would prohibit so-called petition blocking in the wake of the tactic's use to oppose a referendum campaign against nuclear bailout legislation HB6 (Callender-Wilkin). Reps. Bride Rose Sweeney (D-Cleveland) and Jeff Crossman (D-Parma) introduced HB752 which would prohibit anyone from interfering with the circulation of election petitions by threatening, intimidating or compensating another person, a practice commonly referred to as petition blocking.


ELECTIONS 2020


As current polls predict a closer presidential race in Ohio than in 2016, the Senate caucuses said their top priority will be to protect their most vulnerable seats in November, but if the mood of the electorate swings their way, pickups can be had. For Senate Republicans, that means protecting a 24 to 9 majority, although the caucus' overall majority is not in doubt for the 134th General Assembly. That means protecting incumbents including Sens. Theresa Gavarone (R-Bowling Green), Stephanie Kunze (R-Hillard), and Matt Dolan (R-Novelty), while also holding on to open seats such as Sens. Peggy Lehner's (R-Kettering) District 6 and John Eklund's (R-Chardon) District 18. Democrats want to protect Sens. Sean O'Brien (D-Bazetta) and Vern Sykes (D-Akron). Both caucuses agree that Kunze's District 16 will be the most competitive, especially after Republicans lost District 3 in Franklin County in 2018 and Democratic candidates in House districts won all but one seat in the county that cycle.


Kanye West "failed to state a claim upon which relief can be granted," Attorney General Dave Yost said in response to the rapper's lawsuit seeking to force Secretary of State Frank LaRose to place him on the November presidential ballot. Yost also argued that the Ohio Supreme Court "lacks jurisdiction over relators' claims." The West campaign and Secretary of State Frank LaRose traded briefs over the week with West saying LaRose "abused his discretion and clearly disregarded applicable legal provisions and standards" when the secretary of state rejected West's petition for errors. LaRose's office, however, argued in its brief before the Court that the petitions filed by West and Tidball failed to comply with substantive statutory requirements. According to the secretary of state, Ohio law requires the joint candidates to copy their original signed statement of candidacy onto the separate part petition papers they circulated before they were signed by the electors.


With both major party conventions wrapped up, U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) said he's confident former Vice President Joe Biden will win Ohio's electoral votes in the presidential campaign. "I know that, six months ago, people thought Ohio was not in play for Biden, and now it is clear that Biden's going to win Ohio -- clear to me," Brown said in a videoconference with reporters to offer his thoughts on the race and the conclusion of the Republican National Convention (RNC), when President Donald Trump delivered his re-nomination speech from the White House.


Secretary of State Frank LaRose Monday turned to barbershops and salons for his next initiative to get Ohioans registered to vote and to recruit more poll workers, partnering with shops and schools as the November election approaches. LaRose announced the "Styling for Democracy. Now Vote!" initiative at a Columbus-area barbershop, saying it has three main objectives: To get people to register to vote by the Monday, Oct. 5, deadline; to try to get people to mail their absentee ballot requests in as soon as possible; and to sign up more poll workers to get to the 35,000 needed to run a successful election.


Former Gov. John Kasich supports Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden because he offers a "return to normalcy," Kasich said during a recent video conference with 43 Alumni For Biden, a group of staff of the 43rd President George W. Bush who support Biden's candidacy. "It's pretty clear to me that this election is not about ideology," Kasich said. "It's about a return to some sense of normalcy, because this is so abnormal, what we're seeing."


Long-time Fox News anchor Chris Wallace will moderate the first presidential debate in Cleveland, the Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD) announced Wednesday. The second presidential debate will be moderated by Steve Scully, senior executive producer and political editor of C-SPAN and the third presidential debate will be moderated by Kristen Welker, White House correspondent for NBC News. The vice presidential debate will be moderated by Susan Page, Washington bureau chief at USA Today.


A Morning Consult poll released this week showed that despite two weeks of party conventions and civil unrest prompted by a police shooting in Kenosha, WI, the presidential race between Donald Trump and Joe Biden remains relatively unchanged. In Ohio, Trump had led 49 percent to 45 percent over Biden before the conventions, while the latest poll shows Trump leading 50 percent to 45 percent after the conventions.


Following the Democratic and Republican national conventions, likely voters support former Vice President Joe Biden over President Donald Trump 52 percent to 42 percent, according to a Quinnipiac University national poll released Wednesday.


While data from Ohio county boards of elections indicate that the state is close to meeting the minimum number of poll workers required to run the November election, more are needed to account for potential cancellations and no-shows, Secretary of State Frank LaRose announced Thursday. The current number of committed poll workers across the state is 33,577, while the minimum number required is 37,057, according to LaRose's office. The target number for committed and trained poll workers is 55,588, meaning Ohio needs 26,635 more to meet its goal. LaRose said his office will provide Ohioans with weekly poll worker updates as reported by the 88 county boards of elections, and it will be the first time such information has been collected and shared prior to an election. It can be found at PollWorkerTracker.OhioSoS.gov.


The following endorsements were made over the week:


  • Cincinnati Right to Life Political Action Committee endorsed Steve Chabot, Brad Wenstrup, and Warren Davidson for Congress; Sharon Kennedy and Judi French for Ohio Supreme Court; Louis Blessing and Terry Johnson for Ohio Senate; and Tom Brinkman, Chris Monzel, Cindy Abrams, Bill Seitz, Jennifer Gross, Thomas Hall, Paul Zeltwanger, Jean Schmidt and Adam Bird for Ohio House.

  • The re-election campaign of Rep. Dave Greenspan (R-Westlake) announced the endorsement of the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 18.


EMPLOYMENT/UNEMPLOYMENT


For the week ending Aug. 29, the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS) reported 18,719 initial unemployment claims to the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL). Last week, ODJFS reported 18,988 new jobless claims.


ENERGY


Democratic lawmakers recently redoubled the pressure on Chairman Sam Randazzo of the Ohio Power Siting Board (OPSB) to address 11th-hour permit changes to Lake Erie's offshore Icebreaker Windpower project, which says a dusk-to-dawn shutdown would push it in the red. Sen. Sandra Williams (D-Cleveland) and Rep. Jeffrey Crossman (D-Parma) represented the Northeast Ohio delegation that has been pushing the chairman and OPSB to reconsider their May vote, which approved Icebreaker on the condition it forfeit roughly a fourth of its 20.7 megawatt (MW) generating capacity by ceasing operations overnight for nine months out of the year.


ENVIRONMENT


The Ohio Air Quality Development Authority (OAQDA) recently approved guidelines for its new Clean Air Improvement Program (CAIP). The program intends to support air quality facility improvements statewide by providing financial support through its bond financing and related tax exemptions, including sales and use, real property, and bond interest income. Qualified projects include, but are not limited to, the following: whole building projects, new construction component isolation, retrofit component isolation, renewable energy generation and criteria pollutant or greenhouse gas reduction.


FEDERAL


The Trump administration's Navigable Waters Protection Rule leaves millions of miles of streams and acres of wetlands unprotected based on a selective interpretation of case law and a distortion of scientific evidence, according to researchers from Ohio State University (OSU) and other institutions. In a Policy Forum article published in the Aug. 14 issue of Science, the researchers assert that the Navigable Waters Protection Rule undermines the spirit -- if not the letter -- of the Clean Water Act by protecting only waters that have a permanent hydrologic surface connection to rivers, lakes and other large "navigable" bodies of water.


GENERAL ASSEMBLY/STATEHOUSE


House Speaker Bob Cupp (R-Lima) Monday announced the creation of the House Select Committee on Energy Policy and Oversight to consider all bills related to the repeal and/or replacement of energy subsidy bill HB6 (Callender-Wilkin) with HB738 (Skindell-O'Brien), HB740 (Skindell-Denson) and HB746 (Lanese-Greenspan) referred to it. He later announced that Rep. Jim Hoops (R-Napoleon) will chair the new 15-member select committee. Rep. David Leland (D-Columbus) is the ranking minority member. The first meeting of the group is set for Thursday, Sept. 10 when it will take up HB746.


Attending his first House session since federal prosecutors unveiled multiple charges against him including bribery, former House Speaker Larry Householder (R-Glenford) told reporters Tuesday that he would plead not guilty to the charges and that he is innocent. Householder's arrest and subsequent indictment along with four others sent shockwaves through Capitol Square, and led to the House ultimately stripping him of his speakership, though refusing to boot him from the chamber for now. The former speaker said he showed up to the day's session because he wants to continue to represent his district, and believes he can still be an effective legislator.


At Tuesday’s House session, the chamber approved a conference report on HB606 (Grendell), which creates liability protections for businesses amid the pandemic, and concurred with Senate amendments on HB203 9Lipps), regarding mobile dental facilities; HB431 (Oelslager), regarding addiction treatment; and HB272 (Oelslager-Hillyer), regarding court jurisdiction. But the chamber abruptly adjourned before taking up 11 other bills on its calendar. House Speaker Bob Cupp (R-Lima) said he wanted to prevent Democrats from offering amendments to repeal HB6 (Callender-Wilkin) saying it would be “reckless and hasty” to address controversy over the bill in that manner. Reps. Michael Skindell (D-Lakewood) and Michael O'Brien (D-Warren) had said Friday, Aug. 28 they planned to file a discharge petition Monday to bring to the floor legislation that would repeal HB6.


Opening debate on HB6's (Callender-Wilkin) proposed repeal in the Senate Energy and Public Utilities Committee Tuesday boiled down to the difference between legislative process versus substance and the relative importance of FBI agents' probable cause -- read "reasonable grounds for guilt" -- to charge former Speaker Larry Householder (R-Glenford). That, in turn, was held up against constitutional guarantees around a defendant's innocence until proven guilty. The merits of nuclear and solar energy subsidies themselves should not be the focus of bipartisan repeal legislation SB346 (O'Brien-Kunze), Committee Chairman Steve Wilson (R-Maineville) said -- at the same highlighting a new Legislative Service Commission (LSC) comp doc that had been requested for House and Senate versions of HB6. "Should we repeal it due to circumstances that have come to light and that happened in the House?" Wilson asked rhetorically, promising a full vetting despite the ostensible care his chamber had taken in amending the House bill. Sens. Sean O'Brien (D-Cortland) and Stephanie Kunze (R-Hilliard) answered his question with an unqualified yes.


On Wednesday, the Ohio Senate unanimously passed SB357 (Dolan) that would send $650 million in federal funds to local government entities to help in fighting the coronavirus pandemic and agreed to a conference committee report on HB606 (Grendell) that provides civil immunity for certain entities during the pandemic.


The Senate also refused to concur to House amendments to both SB10 (Wilson) which addresses theft in office penalties and SB163 (Kunze), the ALS awareness license plate -- this latter so more license plate amendments can be added to the bill.


In addition, the Senate unanimously passed three other bills: HB8 (Manchester-Galonski) to improve foster caregiver training; HB339 (Merrin), making changes to the laws governing insurance; and HB364 (G. Manning), designating Feb. 13 as "Aortic Aneurysm Awareness Day."


In other legislative action, the House Rules and Reference Committee reported out SB318 (Kunze-William), to extend the Women’s Suffrage Centennial Commission through 2021 and to provide a process to remove former Speaker Larry Householder (R-Glenford) from certain other positions; Senate Government Oversight and Reform Committee reported out SB317 (Coley), regarding armed school employees; Senate Health, Human Services and Medicaid Committee reported out SB80 (Maharath), designating the last week of September as “Diaper Need Awareness Week”; and SB311 (McColley-Roegner), to limit the health director’s authority; Senate Insurance and Financial Institutions Committee reported out SB112 (Eklund), regarding debt adjusting.


GOVERNOR


The following bills were sent to the governor for his signature:


HB272 (Oelslager-Hillyer) To expand the basis of a court's exercise of personal jurisdiction to include any basis consistent with the Ohio Constitution and the United States Constitution.


HB341 (Ginter) Regarding the administration of drugs for addiction treatment.


HB606 (Grendell) To grant civil immunity to a person who provides services for essential businesses and operations for injury, death, or loss that was caused by the transmission of COVID-19 during the period of emergency declared by Executive Order 2020-01D, issued on March 9, 2020, and to declare an emergency.


GUNS


No state or local government official could legally issue an order closing licensed firearms dealers on a statewide or regional basis during an emergency -- such as a pandemic -- under SB360, which was introduced by Senate President Larry Obhof (R-Medina) and which had its first hearing before the Senate Government Oversight and Reform Committee.


Despite receiving 152 pieces of opponent testimony, the Senate Government Oversight and Reform Committee on Tuesday voted along party lines to report out SB317 (Coley), which seeks to clarify that local school boards can authorize teachers and staff to carry concealed weapons on school grounds without police training. Committee Chairman Bill Coley (R-West Chester), Senate President Pro Tempore Bob Peterson (R-Sabina), Senate Majority Floor Leader Matt Huffman (R-Lima), Sen. Rob McColley (R-Napoleon) and Sen. Kristina Roegner (R-Hudson) voted to advance the bill, while Sens. Hearcel Craig (D-Columbus), Teresa Fedor (D-Toledo) and Cecil Thomas (D-Cincinnati) voted against it. The Republicans tabled several amendments proposed by Craig before reporting the bill out of committee.


HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES


Forty-nine Ohio community health centers are among more than 1,300 nationwide receiving a combined $117 million in Quality Improvement Awards from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). According to the Ohio Association of Community Health Centers (OACHC), the awards from HHS' Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) recognize the highest performing centers and those showing significant gains in quality improvement from the previous year. Total funding to Ohio centers was more than $4.6 million.


Residential waiver providers in the developmental disabilities system will receive a total of $74 million to offset pandemic response expenses following federal approval of the payments, the Ohio Department of Developmental Disabilities (DODD) announced. Payments will go to agency and independent providers for the Ohio Shared Living, Homemaker-Personal Care and On SiteOn Call programs.


The Ohio Department of Medicaid (ODM) is moving to expand telehealth services, filing permanent rules on the subject after several months of allowing greater use of telehealth on an emergency basis because of the pandemic. The agency announced the move Tuesday, citing "overwhelming support" from patients and providers based on their experience during the pandemic. ODM said the rules will extend flexibility at least through the pandemic; going beyond that will depend on whether the federal government allows continued flexibility.


A Center for Community Solutions (CCS) study on pricing for common procedures at Ohio hospitals found that established prices have "little current direct consumer benefits" for Ohioans. The pricing information available now does not change consumer behavior or affect chargemaster rates, CCS found, and this is due to several complex factors. The report recommends creation of an independent oversight entity similar to one in Massachusetts, pursuing "reference-based pricing" as Montana did or establishing a basic health plan in the marketplace. CCS also noted that the report "is not intended to frame hospitals as bad actors" but reflects systemic pricing problems caused by "policy development that is agnostic to price and quality."


HIGHER EDUCATION


The Ohio State University (OSU) Board of Trustees recently approved plans for the largest single facilities project ever undertaken by the university -- a 1.9 million-square-foot inpatient hospital. The board approved professional services and construction contracts to build the Wexner Medical Center Inpatient Hospital. Scheduled to open in early 2026, the hospital has a total project cost of $1.79 billion and will be funded with auxiliary health system funds, university debt and fundraising, according to OSU.


Sen. Teresa Fedor (D-Toledo) along with Reps. Paula Hicks-Hudson (D-Toledo), Lisa Sobecki (D-Toledo) and Mike Sheehy (D-Oregon) recently wrote a letter to University of Toledo (UT) Interim President Gregory Postel urging him to "halt the transfer of residents, faculty and programs from the University of Toledo's Dana Cancer Center to ProMedica's Flower Hospital." The transfers were due to begin Tuesday, Sept. 1, but the legislators said the university should wait until the attorney general's office completes its review of the Academic Affiliation Agreement between the university and ProMedica.


HOUSING/HOMELESSNESS


A new eviction moratorium issued by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is "nice to see" as a signal leaders understand the connection between housing security and disease mitigation, but is not an adequate way to address housing problems amid the pandemic, according to the Coalition on Housing and Homelessness in Ohio (COHHIO). Bill Faith, executive director of COHHIO, said in a statement on the CDC action that emergency rental assistance is the best way to help Ohioans who are facing eviction and homelessness.


More efficient permitting processes, tenant-based rental assistance and a state tax credit for housing development are among strategies identified in a new regional housing strategy for Central Ohio. The Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission (MORPC) and other partners released the housing plan Tuesday for seven counties: Delaware, Fairfield, Franklin, Licking, Madison, Pickaway and Union. The strategy identifies the following five key issues affecting housing in the region: increased competition, driven by population growth, a low rate of housing production and lingering effects of the Great Recession; barriers to housing access, including lending disparities, creditworthiness, housing instability and housing discrimination; limited supply of low-income housing, with more homes being built at higher price points and a limited amount of rental assistance available; demand for housing that meets a wider range of needs based on age, ability and household size; and housing instability, reflected in costs, evictions, homelessness and homes in need of repair.


JUDICIAL


Appellate districts are handling COVID-19 in similar fashion to the state's lower courts but, like the Supreme Court of Ohio, face the separate challenge of conducting oral arguments at a time of continued social distancing and size-restricted gatherings. Most appeals courts are now holding regular arguments remotely but allow or even encourage decisions based on "filed briefs only." As of Aug. 31, it appears only the 3rd District in Lima is conducting oral argument in person -- albeit with face coverings and regular sanitation.


LIBRARIES


On the first anniversary of the program, First Lady Fran DeWine announced that 78 of Ohio's counties are now participating in the Ohio Governor's Imagination Library (OGIL) Program with another three -- Crawford, Van Wert and Mercer - launching the OGIL Program in September. A total of 206,463 Ohio children from birth to age five are enrolled to receive a free Imagination Library book in the mail every single month.


LIQUOR/ALCOHOL


The Ohio State Highway Patrol's Ohio Investigative Unit (OIU) announced Saturday that it had cited three bars for allegedly violating health orders, then followed with a Sunday release on "blatant violations" found at an Akron bar. The release sent Sunday said OIU agents entered Pick's at Portage Lakes from a lakeside dock area after being denied entry at the front door at approximately 10 p.m. and found 100 to 150 patrons at the three different bar areas. Many were standing shoulder to shoulder or walking around to drink and socialize without practicing social distancing.


Two House bills under consideration in the Senate Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee received support Tuesday from proponents who said the state's bars, craft brewers and craft distillers need greater flexibility with how, where and when alcohol can be served if the industry is to weather the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and related social distancing restrictions.


MEDICAID/MEDICAID REFORM


The Ohio Department of Medicaid (ODM) announced that it has extended the deadline by one week for proposals for a single pharmacy benefit manager (PBM). The deadline had originally been Friday, Sept. 4; it is now Friday, Sept. 11.


MILITARY AFFAIRS


The U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) has designated Ohio a "Defense Manufacturing Community (DMC)," the Development Services Agency (DSA) said Thursday, strengthening the state's position toward receiving a $5 million grant for workforce training. The DMC designation adds Ohio as part of a program "designed to support long-term community investments that strengthen national security innovation and expand the capabilities of defense manufacturing," DSA said.


NATURAL RESOURCES


Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) Director Mary Mertz recently announced the selection of Dena Barnhouse as chief of the ODNR Division of Water Resources. "Dena Barnhouse's decades of experience as a professional engineer and manager with the ODNR Division of Water Resources make her the ideal candidate to lead this critical aspect of ODNR's work protecting Ohioans and their communities," Mertz said.


PEOPLE


Former Prevention Action Alliance Executive Director Marcie Seidel recently received the Hope Taft Prevention Advocacy Award at the annual meeting of the Prevention Action Alliance Board of Directors. Seidel, now retired, worked at the Prevention Action Alliance for 13 years, including nine years as its executive director.


The Ohio Academy of Family Physicians Foundation awarded the 2020 Family Physician Mentorship Award to Dr. Mary E. Krebs Wednesday, an award that recognizes a community-based Ohio family physician who, as a preceptor, has exhibited exemplary qualities and characteristics of mentorship excellence. Krebs practices family medicine as a solo physician at a rural federally qualified health center (FQHC) in Lebanon, OH. In addition to caring for her patients, Krebs teaches residents and medical students at Soin Medical Center in Beavercreek, OH and has developed the practice management curriculum for a new residency program.


The National Low Income Housing Coalition (NILHC) announced Wednesday that Coalition on Homelessness and Housing in Ohio (COHHIO) Executive Director Bill Faith received the Cushing Niles Dolbeare Lifetime Service Award at a virtual award conference. According to NILHC, Faith received the award "for his many years of leadership, dedication and tireless work to secure decent, safe, and affordable homes for the lowest-income people in Ohio and across the U.S."


PUBLIC SAFETY


Addressing reporters at his Tuesday COVID-19 briefing, Gov. Mike DeWine said that recent traffic safety statistics are "pretty alarming" and show that July was the deadliest month since 2007, with 154 Ohioans killed in crashes. The number of motorcyclists killed increased by 52 percent compared to July 2019, he said, and fatalities involving pedestrians rose by 113 percent as well.


STATE GOVERNMENT


Thursday's meeting of the Finance Committee of the Broadcast Educational Media Commission (BEMC) saw a discussion of various budget scenarios, with members characterizing the lowest proposed budget from the Office of Budget and Management (OBM) as "devastating" to the delivery of public media including The Ohio Channel, the state's public television and radio stations, as well as financial assistance the commission provides to the Statehouse News Bureau.

TRANSPORTATION/INFRASTRUCTURE


The Libertarian-leaning Reason Foundation recently released the results of its study on the benefits of states' monetizing their toll roads, finding that Ohio could earn $2.9 billion to fund other transportation projects or pay down growing public pension liabilities. The group studied nine states and found all could have "significant net proceeds" from leasing their toll road systems via long-term public private-partnerships. It used data from a number of overseas toll road transactions in recent years to estimate what each toll road system might be worth to infrastructure investors.


Howard Wood has been chosen as DriveOhio's new executive director, the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) announced. Wood began serving in his new role on Monday, Aug. 31. Patrick Smith, who had been serving as interim executive director, will remain with DriveOhio as senior managing director of stakeholder affairs.


UTILITIES


"Everyone who voted for HB6 will get questioned by folks in drab Brooks Brothers' suits." Former state lawmaker Gene Krebs, who gained considerable knowledge of the energy industry on the House Public Utilities Committee and as chairman of the Ohio Consumers' Counsel (OCC) Governing Board and member of the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) Nominating Council, says FBI agents have now "criminalized" legislative card-palming apparent during last year's debate on HB6 (Callender-Wilkin) energy subsidies and that allegedly has dogged the House and Senate since the days of Speaker Vern Riffe. Krebs charges the commission and General Assembly with "regulatory capture" by powerful distribution utilities in the white paper "Reforming the PUCO."


WORKERS' COMPENSATION


Gov. Mike DeWine and the Ohio Bureau of Workers' Compensation (BWC) paid tribute Thursday to 143 Ohioans who died as a result of a workplace illness or accident, according to the bureau.


[Story originally published in The Hannah Report. Copyright 2020 Hannah News Service, Inc.]

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