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The SGI Group is a results-oriented advocacy firm headquartered in Columbus, Ohio.  We also have a strong presence in Washington, D.C. that allows us to represent our client’s interests at the state and federal levels.  We advocate for our clients across the state, helping to shape policies and to find funding for projects through the legislative and regulatory process.  We also have a very successful and grants program where we have secured hundreds of millions of dollars from private foundations and state and federal agencies.

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Latest Government News From Ohio

Week in Review

Friday, October 13, 2017

Highlights:

The 2016 Ohio Infant Mortality Report released Friday indicates a slight uptick in the number of infant deaths in the state despite a significant decrease in the number of sleep-related deaths.

The national unemployment rate fell to 4.2 percent in September, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)

A recent Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) study found that annual employer-sponsored family health insurance premiums rose a modest three percent in the last year nationwide, while Affordable Care Act (ACA) marketplace premiums rose 20 percent in that same time period.

 AFFORDABLE CARE ACT

Two former top health care officials, Lori Lodes and Joshua Peck, who oversaw outreach, paid media and public education for HealthCare.gov’s second, third, and fourth Open Enrollment periods, are launching Get America Covered as Wednesday, Nov. 1 approaches, marking the open enrollment period when people can sign up for health care at http://www.healthcare.gov/. This follows news from the federal government that this administration has drastically cut funding for outreach efforts for Obamacare and its Marketplace health insurance policies and the subsequent shutting down of the Ohio Health Care Navigator program.

ATTORNEY GENERAL

Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine unveiled a new law enforcement training program, the Ohio Peace Officer Training Academy Scenario Training Equipment Program (STEP), Wednesday that works to bring customized, low-cost, scenario-based training to law enforcement agencies across the state. He launched it at the annual Ohio Law Enforcement Conference in Columbus.

Attorney General Mike DeWine honored a group of peace officers Thursday with Distinguished Law Enforcement Achievement Awards during the attorney general’s Law Enforcement Conference in Columbus.

BALLOT ISSUES

Office of Budget and Management (OBM) Director Tim Keen submitted the fiscal analysis on the two statewide issues as required by law this week, finding Issue 1, the constitutional amendment granting certain rights to victims of crime, would have a marginal fiscal impact on the state level, and finding that savings are possible under Issue 2, the Drug Price Relief Act, but noting that there are too many variables to estimate the full fiscal impact.

The head of the organization that helped bring Issue 2, the Drug Price Relief Act, to the November ballot, said Thursday that Ohioans will be able to learn more about his organization starting this weekend after buying airtime all over the state to run a one-hour documentary. Michael Weinstein, the president of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, said his organization is spending $62,000 to air the documentary to highlight the work of the foundation.

BUSINESS/CORPORATE

The Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS) joined with Gov. John Kasich Friday in recognizing Oct. 6 as Manufacturing Day, noting that Ohio ranks third in the nation in the number of manufacturing jobs and produces more than $100 billion in manufactured goods annually.

CHILDREN/FAMILIES

The 2016 Ohio Infant Mortality Report released Friday indicates a slight uptick in the number of infant deaths in the state despite a significant decrease in the number of sleep-related deaths. The Ohio Department of Health (ODH) reports the number of infants who died before their first birthday rose from 1,005 in 2015 to 1,024 in 2016, increasing the state’s infant mortality rate from 7.2 to 7.4 deaths per 1,000 live births. The rate increased for every racial subgroup, with black Ohioans still facing the highest rate at 15.2 deaths per 1,000 live births.

DISASTERS

On Friday, a team of six airmen from the Red Horse Squadron of the 179th Airlift Wing of the Ohio National Guard (ONG) left for Puerto Rico with a reverse osmosis water purification unit to assist hurricane relief efforts by producing fresh drinking water for local communities over the next several months. This is the third ONG unit deployed in the last week.

EDUCATION

Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow (ECOT) again sought an injunction last week to stall state funding clawbacks, telling the Ohio Supreme Court it could close up shop by January otherwise.

Schools can now apply to participate in the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (USEPA) 2017 School Bus Rebate Program, according to the agency’s website. USEPA is offering up to $20,000 in grant money per vehicle to replace older school buses and up to $6,000 per vehicle for retrofits.

Financial firm Prudential is currently accepting applications for the 2018 Prudential Spirit of Community Awards, highlighting the volunteer work of middle and high school students. Through Tuesday, Nov. 7, the company, in partnership with the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP), invites students in grades five through 12 to apply if they have “made meaningful contributions to their communities through volunteer service within the past 12 months.”

Sen. Matt Huffman (R-Lima) said Tuesday he has introduced a bill, SB216, to reduce some regulations on local schools that was put together with the help of superintendents in his district. Calling the bill “the Public School Deregulation Act,” he said there is often talk about making sure regulations by the state and federal government are not burdensome on businesses, but the same thing happens with local schools as well.

At Thursday’s meeting of the Speaker’s Task Force on Education and Poverty, members heard presentations from two educational leaders on the type of work being done in the state’s dropout recovery and intervention schools and the potential positive impact they can have for some of Ohio’s must vulnerable students.

Shannon Jones, executive director of education nonprofit Groundwork Ohio and former Republican state senator, told the Joint Education Oversight Committee (JEOC) Thursday that statute-mandated goals for publicly funded early childhood learning centers are not being met, and she recommended lawmakers “double” early childhood education spending as a remedy.

With more than 300 buildings certified, the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) recently recognized Ohio for having more LEED-certified K-12 schools than any other state in the country. LEED, or Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, is the world’s most widely used green building rating system.

The Ohio School Boards Association (OSBA) named Jennifer Hogue as its new director of legislative services, succeeding Damon Asbury, who is serving as OSBA interim deputy executive director. He plans to retire from the association after that position is filled.

ELECTIONS

The Ohio Supreme Court Friday sided with the Mahoning County Board of Elections when it refused to put two issues on the November ballot, including one that would ban fracking within Youngstown city limits, after the board decided that the issues fell outside of the scope of the permissible subject matter of a municipal initiative.

ELECTIONS 2018

The four Republican candidates for governor in 2018 outlined their plans Sunday evening during an event hosted by Citizens for Community Values (CCV) in Westerville, just minutes away from Gov. John Kasich’s residence. Despite being a Republican crowd, those in the audience voiced their displeasure with Kasich. The candidates added that while they like some of what Kasich has done, they disagree with some of his more recent moves, with two candidates saying the governor had changed tenor after deciding to run for president.

EMPLOYMENT/UNEMPLOYMENT

The national unemployment rate fell to 4.2 percent in September, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), and the nation lost 33,000 jobs over the month with a sharp decline in food services and drinking places as well as below-trend growth in some other industries.

Rep. Kirk Schuring (R-Canton) introduced new legislation Wednesday to make changes to Ohio’s unemployment compensation system that he said he believes is closer to a compromise than previous bills. The bill, HB382, along with companion resolution HJR4, will reduce benefits to unemployed workers as the state tries to improve the solvency of the Unemployment Compensation Insurance Fund. The state borrowed more than $3 billion from the federal government between 2009 and 2014 after the fund’s balance dropped to zero during the recession, and state lawmakers have said they want to prevent any future borrowing by keeping the fund solvent.

ENERGY

The Ohio Environmental Council (OEC) Action Fund on Monday launched a statewide ad campaign opposing consumer subsidies for Ohio Valley Electric Corporation (OVEC) in HB239 (Smith-Carfagna) and SB155 (Terhar-Peterson) and customer supports for two FirstEnergy nuclear power plants in HB178 (DeVitis) and SB128 (Eklund-LaRose).

ENVIRONMENT

Ohio EPA Director Craig Butler recently presented 18 Encouraging Environmental Excellence (E3) awards, the agency announced. The E3 program recognizes businesses, nonprofits and government agencies for going above and beyond compliance with requirements while demonstrating environmental excellence, the agency said.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) has taken a step to repeal rules set by the Obama administration aimed at restricting carbon dioxide emissions from existing power plants. USEPA Administrator Scott Pruitt on Tuesday issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) to repeal the Clean Power Plan (CPP).

The Lorain County Board of Commissioners was awarded $550,000 to address water quality in the Black River Area of Concern (AOC), the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) announced Tuesday. The Black River AOC is on the binational list of toxic hotspots that have been targeted for cleanup under the U.S.-Canadian Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement. The funding is a supplemental award to an existing grant of $600,000, increasing the total amount to more than $1 million, the agency said.

GAMING/GAMBLING

Ohio’s four casinos saw a slight bump in their revenues in September compared to a year ago, while the seven racinos outperformed the casinos as they also saw an increase in revenues over the month.

GENERAL ASSEMBLY/STATEHOUSE

Supporters of the “Ohio Citizen Participation Act” Tuesday thanked Sen. Matt Huffman (R-Lima) for introducing SB206 to protect Ohioans from frivolous lawsuits that chill their First Amendment rights of free speech. A coalition of citizen, media and advocacy groups has been working on the legislation for more than three years “so that Ohio joins the majority of states with similar protections,” they explained in a release. “Such laws create an option for an expedited court process to dispose of lawsuits that target citizens simply for exercising their rights.”

Ohio Legislative Inspector General (OLIG) Tony Bledsoe said Tuesday that a total of 43 legislative and executive agency agents and 176 employers have failed to file reports for the May through August 2017 time period. The reports were due Monday, Oct. 2.

At Tuesday’s meeting of the House Speaker’s Task Force on Alzheimer’s and Dementia, Chairwoman Dorothy Pelanda (R-Marysville) and members heard testimony on a variety of issues including professional training at assisted living centers, elder abuse, shared living models and the effects of Alzheimer’s on those with pre-existing developmental disabilities.

With just over two months remaining in 2017, Senate President Larry Obhof (R-Medina) said overall priorities for the Senate will include the opioid epidemic, improving education and workforce development and making Ohio “as job friendly as possible.” Having previously said that SB8 (Gardner-Terhar) could be used to address budget issues, Obhof again told Hannah News Tuesday that he’d like to finish work on the bill by the end of October.

Wednesday’s House session included passage of HB226 (Seitz-Sweeney), to allow fireworks purchases starting in July 2020; HB79 (Retherford-Hagan), regarding firearms use by tactical medical professionals; HB184 (Gavarone-DeVitis), regarding teledentistry; HB24 (Ginter), regarding tax exemptions for veterans organizations’ properties; HB76 (Arndt-Gavarone), which creates two license plates; HB311 (Johnson), a road naming bill; and SB27 (Beagle), to designate March 13-April 15 as “Ohio Deaf History Month.” The latter now heads to the governor.

The Senate Wednesday approved the appointment of Ohio Right to Life President Michael Gonidakis to serve another term on the State Medical Board on a party line vote. The chamber also passed HB31 (Cupp), to abolish defunct boards; and HB94 (Sykes-Perales), designating February as “Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month.” Both bills now go to the governor for his signature.

In other legislative action, House Criminal Justice Committee reported out HB137 (Kent), requiring police officers to be mandatory reporters of child abuse; House Education and Career Readiness Committee reported out HB98 (Boggs-Duffey), regarding career information for students; House Financial Institutions, Housing and Urban Development reported out HB251 (Greenspan), regarding bond maturities; and House Higher Education and Workforce Development Committee reported out SB3 (Beagle-Balderson), regarding workforce development.

GOVERNOR

Appointments made during the week include the following:

- Mariame Diabate of Columbus (Franklin County), Comfort A. Kenneh of Gahanna (Franklin County), Eugenie Kirenga of Kettering (Greene County) and Ibrahima Sow of Reynoldsburg (Franklin County) reappointed to the New African Immigrants Commission for terms beginning Oct. 8, 2017 and ending Oct. 7, 2020.
- Michael D. Reese of Dublin (Franklin County) to the Ohio Water Development Authority for a term beginning Oct. 6, 2017 and ending June 30, 2021.
- Daniel C. Fischer of Logan (Hocking County) to the Hocking Technical College Board of Trustees for a term beginning Oct. 6, 2017 and ending Aug. 26, 2020.
- Robert A. Montagnese of Pataskala (Licking County) reappointed to the Central Ohio Technical College Board of Trustees for a term beginning Oct. 10, 2017, and ending Sept. 30, 2020.
- William A. Dodson, Jr. of Columbus (Franklin County) to the Ohio Commission on Fatherhood for a term beginning Oct. 10, 2017, and ending July 30, 2019.
- Edward J. Levine of Gahanna (Franklin County) to the Medical Quality Foundation Board for a term beginning Oct. 10, 2017, and ending July 20, 2020.
- Michael W. Wise of Chagrin Falls (Cuyahoga County) to the Oil and Gas Leasing Commission for a term beginning Oct. 10, 2017, and ending Sept. 29, 2018.
- Robert D. Brokaw of Hilliard (Franklin County) to the Housing Trust Fund Advisory Committee for a term beginning Oct. 11, 2017, and ending March 18, 2021.
- James S. Aslanides of Coshocton (Coshocton County) to the Technical Advisory Council on Oil and Gas for a term beginning Oct. 11, 2017, and ending Jan. 31, 2019.
- Mark K. Papke of Parma Heights (Cuyahoga County) and John S. Petkovsek of Chesterland (Geauga County) reappointed to the Environmental Education Council for terms beginning Oct. 12, 2017, and ending Oct. 1, 2019.

HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES

More than 100 Ohio hospitals and health care buildings competing in the Ohio Hospital Association’s (OHA) 2017 Energy Cup contest to reduce energy use and limit greenhouse gas emissions have reduced year-over-year energy consumption by 1.2 percent, almost twice the national average, in the first six months of the year.

At Wednesday’s meeting of the Commission on Infant Mortality, members witnessed four presentations primarily focused on updating the group on newly released and upcoming data on the state of infant mortality in Ohio, as well as programs that have had local success in the Columbus area.

A recent Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) study found that annual employer-sponsored family health insurance premiums rose a modest three percent in the last year nationwide, while Affordable Care Act (ACA) marketplace premiums rose 20 percent in that same time period.

President Donald Trump on Thursday signed an executive order his administration claims will improve access and lower the cost of health care, while critics charge its undermines protections in the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and will ultimately raise costs for many individuals. “The time has come to give Americans the freedom to purchase health insurance across state lines, which will create a truly competitive national marketplace that will bring costs way down and provide far better care.” Trump said.

HIGHER EDUCATION

The rapid growth of the private space industry has increased the demand for lawyers trained in the complex international and domestic aspects of space law and policy. Cleveland State University’s (CSU) Cleveland-Marshall College of Law is expanding its space policy initiatives through the creation of the Global Space Law Center. It is the first law school research center in the United States dedicated exclusively to the study of the law of outer space.

IMMIGRATION

A Columbus church has become the first in Ohio to shelter a woman who faces deportation, but those involved in the case said it is unknown what federal officials may do next. The case was part of a panel discussion titled “Sanctuary, an Immigration Personal Story” at Columbus Metropolitan Club (CMC) Friday. Panelists include Ruben Castilla Herrera, an organizer with Central Ohio Worker Center, which represents low wage workers and the growing immigrant and refugee community of Central Ohio; Joseph Mas, an attorney who represents immigrants and refugees; and Joel Miller, a pastor at Columbus Mennonite Church.

JUDICIAL

In what the Supreme Court of Ohio describes as the “latest chapter in the ongoing campaign by disbarred attorney Stanley M. Chesley” to dodge his creditors, justices moved 4-3 Thursday to block Hamilton County Probate Judge Ralph Winkler from hearing Chesley’s request to transfer his law firm’s assets to a third party.

At its session at Marietta High School later in October, the Ohio Supreme Court will celebrate 30 years of holding oral arguments in local communities across the state by returning to the city of the first off-site session. Washington County will host the justices of the Ohio Supreme Court in an off-site session on Wednesday, Oct. 18. Arguments will begin at 9 a.m.

If a police officer with a search warrant violates Ohio’s “knock-and-announce” law, criminal evidence found in the search can still be used to prosecute the suspect, the Ohio Supreme Court ruled Tuesday. The Court had been asked to determine whether the Ohio Constitution provides greater protection than the U.S. Constitution against improperly executed search warrants by allowing suppression of the evidence when officers violate the state’s knock-and-announce law.

Rep. Ron Young (R-Leroy) Thursday praised the Ohio Judicial Conference’s (OJC) new bench card for courts on the subject of cognovit notes, an issue he has worked on for several years. Currently, many financial institutions in Ohio offering private commercial loans add a clause in their promissory notes in the form of a cognivit note that allows them to immediately call for and collect a debt without informing debtors or giving them any opportunity to defend themselves in court.

LAW ENFORCEMENT

A new agent has joined the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation (BCI) tasked with the mission of sniffing out hidden electronic devices that may contain criminal evidence. Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine Friday introduced Reptar, a 22-month-old black Labrador retriever specifically trained to assist law enforcement around the state executing search warrants in cases of child pornography crimes and other law enforcement investigations.

LIBRARIES

Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine, the State Library of Ohio and Ohio Library Council announced a new effort aimed at increasing awareness about opioid abuse and addiction. DeWine said opioid addiction awareness posters will be distributed to libraries across the state. The library council and state library will be making the posters available to Ohio’s 251 public library systems and 146 academic libraries at higher education institutions.

LOCAL GOVERNMENT

The attorney general concluded this week that county boards of election are political subdivisions and therefore prohibited from requiring officers and employees to reside within the county — at least on a board’s own authority. Pointing to an overlapping mix of state laws, constitutional provisions, court rulings and past AG opinions, the Lucas County prosecutor’s office had asked Attorney General Mike DeWine whether election boards are in fact a state function of the Ohio Secretary of State’s Office or “political subdivisions” under R.C. 9.481(B)(1).

With cyber-fraud attacking bigger and more consequential targets, Auditor of State Dave Yost Thursday issued a “Best Practices” newsletter aimed at helping local government leaders protect tax dollars and taxpayer information. The newsletter can be found online at http://tinyurl.com/yc7rowjm.

MARIJUANA

Those seeking to add a qualifying medical condition to the Medical Marijuana Control Program (MMCP) will have their first opportunity to submit petitions on Thursday, Nov. 1, 2018. The submission period will last until Monday, Dec. 31, 2018, according to MMCP. The State Medical Board of Ohio will consider the petitions, which are to be filed electronically through http://medicalmarijuana.ohio.gov/ .

PENSIONS

The School Employees Retirement System Board of Trustees voted Monday to suspend cost-of-living increases for pension benefits for three years in a bid to improve the system’s long-term financial outlook.

All six Ohio public retirement plans met or exceeded their fund benchmarks during the first half of 2017, according to a performance review conducted by investment consulting firm RVK. Returns for the plans ranged from 6.5 percent to 8.6 percent for the period, with all major asset classes producing positive results except for commodities, RVK President Jim Voytko told members of the Ohio Retirement Study Council (ORSC) on Thursday.

PEOPLE

The Ohio Hospital Association (OHA) announced Friday that it has promoted Ryan Biles to executive vice president. Biles currently is the senior vice president of OHA’s health economics and policy team.

Strategic Public Partners (SPP) announced Tuesday that John Campbell has been named president of the firm. For over five years, he has served as SPP executive vice president.

The Panetta Institute for Public Policy announced that Ohio’s U.S. Sen. Rob Portman (R) was selected to receive the 2017 Jefferson-Lincoln Award along with U.S. Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI). They will be honored for their years of public service and for their spirit of bipartisanship in representing the American people and their constituents.

Voices for Ohio’s Children recently announced the hiring of the following: Kathleen Gmeiner as the agency’s new senior health policy associate; Dr, Kelley Smith as a health policy associate; and Gavin French as the communications associate.

Recently retired long-time Statehouse Columbus Dispatch reporter Alan Johnson announced on his Facebook page Wednesday that will be working for the National Alliance on Mental Illness Ohio (NAMI Ohio). He said he will be researching and writing newsletters.

TRANSPORTATION

Gov. John Kasich announced the official launch of the state’s smart mobility center Tuesday following the roll-out of a regional initiative along U.S. 33 last fall. The governor told thousands of professionals at the Ohio Transportation Engineering Conference (OTEC) in Columbus that the new division inside the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) will be named DriveOhio, whose task is to coordinate smart corridor deployment statewide.

UTILITIES

The Ohio Consumers’ Counsel (OCC) is asking the state’s highest court to compel Chairman Asim Haque and fellow members of the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) to act on its complaint against Duke Energy’s customer disconnection policies after two years of inactivity before the commission.

The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) Wednesday accepted the results of FirstEnergy’s wholesale auction that will ultimately determine its standard service offer (SSO) through May 2021. The auction, held on Oct. 10, 2017 secured both two- and three-year products to supply electricity to FirstEnergy’s Ohio utility customers.

WORKERS’ COMPENSATION

The Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation said Friday there are nearly $10 million in rebate checks that have not been cashed by more than 5,500 employers, and those checks will be expiring soon. The uncashed checks are among the more than 160,000 BWC issued in July as part of the agency’s Third Billion Back rebate initiative. Uncashed checks will expire, or stale date, 95 days after the check’s issuance date. That’s Tuesday, Oct. 10 for some employers and as late as Wednesday, Oct. 18 for others.

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