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Latest Government News From Ohio
Week in Review
Friday, December 7, 2018
Drug overdose deaths increased nearly 10 percent from 2016 to 2017, and Ohio’s death rate was the second highest among states, according to a new data compilation from the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Ohio’s age-adjusted drug overdose death rate was 46.3 deaths per 100,000 population, trailing West Virginia’s 57.8 deaths and ahead of Pennsylvania’s 44.3 and Washington, D.C.’s 44. Ohio was one of 21 jurisdictions with a rate higher than the national rate.
Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine Tuesday announced a multi-state consumer protection settlement with one of the nation’s largest debt buyers — Encore Capital Group and its subsidiaries Midland Funding and Midland Credit Management — to require the company to reform its debt buying and collection practices. The settlement, which includes Ohio, 41 other states and the District of Columbia, resolves an investigation into claims that Midland had signed and filed affidavits in state courts in large volumes without verifying the information printed in them, a practice commonly called “robo-signing.”
The House Government Accountability and Oversight Committee heard extensive testimony over the week on HJR19 (LaTourette-Holmes) which proposes changing the constitutional and statutory initiative process. While flagged for a possible vote on both Wednesday and Thursday, it did not get reported out.
Asked by Hannah News what would happen with the resolution during hearings the week of Dec. 10, Chairman Louis Blessing (R-Cincinnati) said he could only comment that it was an “ongoing process.”
The Ohio Chamber of Commerce Research Foundation released findings Monday from its quarterly “Prosperity Pulse” report of economic indicators based on survey responses from business owners, posting the highest numbers since its inception in 2017. Its eponymous “Prosperity Pulse index,” which the chamber calls a “measure of economic health of Ohio companies,” measured 139.9 for quarter three of 2018. This represents a 24-point jump from quarter two.
Amid the flurry of the lame-duck session and upcoming leadership changes in statewide offices, the Columbus Chamber of Commerce Tuesday hosted a discussion on what issues businesses should expect to be especially significant, particularly in regard to health care, trade and medical marijuana. Panelists included John Carney, of Porter Wright, on health care; Daniel Ujczo, of Dickinson Wright, on international trade, and Madison Whalen, of Roetzel & Andress, on medical marijuana.
JobsOhio announced Wednesday that 10 Ohio companies have joined ELITE, the London Stock Exchange Group’s (LSEG) international business support and capital raising initiative. The move comes after the launch of ELITE USA in Ohio to accelerate growth of midmarket companies, JobsOhio and LSEG said. More than 1,000 companies have joined ELITE from 35 countries across 35 sectors.
CRIME AND PUNISHMENT
SB341 (Obhof-Eklund), legislation introduced on Monday that makes clear drug sentencing reforms will be a priority in the next General Assembly, was heard in the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday. Senate President Larry Obhof (R-Medina) had said earlier this was a way to get feedback to help craft the bill for the 133rd General Assembly. SB341′s only sentence states, “It is the intent of the General Assembly to develop and enact legislation to reform Ohio’s drug sentencing laws.”
Legislation prohibiting the state from executing individuals found to be suffering from serious mental illness (SMI) at the time of their crime was reported out of the House Criminal Justice Committee on Tuesday. Lawmakers approved HB81 (Seitz-Antonio) by a vote of 9-3, with Reps. Jim Butler (R-Dayton), Jim Hughes (R- Columbus) and Dorothy Pelanda (R-Marysville) voting against it.
Her Majesty’s Consul General for Chicago, John Saville, addressed the House Finance Committee Tuesday, saying that establishing a free trade pact with the United States will be a top priority of the United Kingdom (UK) following the country’s official departure from the European Union (EU) on March 29 as part of the Brexit deal. As consul general for Chicago, Saville oversees trade and other economic issues with the entire Midwest.
Flexibility for the next two high school graduating classes and movement toward a long-term fix to diploma requirements passed the Senate unanimously Thursday and now heads to the governor’s desk after the House concurred, also on a near-unanimous vote. The Senate vote on HB491 (Edwards) followed action on Wednesday by the Senate Education Committee which amended the bill to give class of 2019 students the same flexibility in meeting graduation requirements given to the class of 2018, while class of 2020 students would see somewhat different requirements.
Superintendent Paolo DeMaria sent a statutorily required report to lawmakers Friday on how the state should define online learning, part of the General Assembly’s efforts to reform e-school regulation and funding in the wake of the Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow (ECOT) saga. Lawmakers used SB216 (Huffman) as the vehicle for these efforts, establishing the Joint Committee on E-School Funding and requiring DeMaria to submit recommendations for defining online learning by the end of November. The Joint Education Oversight Committee, to which he sent his report, is to call at least one public hearing on the recommendations and issue its own report by year’s end.
Rep. Bob Cupp (R-Lima) Tuesday released the final report of the Ohio Speaker’s Task Force on Education and Poverty, which met from July 2017 through November 2017, to examine the issue of poverty and education, and how that relates to the achievement gap. The task force focused on the following areas: community and health education prevention and awareness in high-poverty areas; national perspectives on education and poverty; state policies and data collection currently in place; dropout prevention and recovery programs; career technical education; and early childhood education.
The East Cleveland Academic Distress Commission met for the first time Wednesday, Dec. 5, the Ohio Department of Education announced. The agenda for the meeting included appointment by Superintendent Paolo DeMaria of a chair. Per state law, filling that role will start a 60-day window for the commission to find and hire a CEO to assume operational control of the district and develop an academic improvement plan.
A recount held on Friday in the 28th House District race did not change the certified results, with Democrat Jessica Miranda defeating Rep. Jonathan Dever (R-Cincinnati) by just 56 votes. The race went to a recount after the final tally fell within the half-percentage point margin that triggers an automatic recount under state law. Sherry Poland, director of the Hamilton County Board of Elections, said in an email that after the conclusion of the hand recount Friday, Dever asked that the recount be stopped, a request the board granted. She said the hand recount total matched the electronic count, and the certified official result of the race stands.
U.S. Rep. Joyce Beatty (D-Columbus) was elected vice chair of the 55-member Congressional Black Caucus, her office announced.
Rep. Dan Ramos (D-Lorain) introduced legislation to legalize the growing, cultivation, production and sale of industrial hemp in Ohio. “Hemp is not the same psychoactive plant that is too often confused with marijuana,” Ramos said on HB773. “It is a crop, a fiber already grown and used around the world to manufacture paper, clothing, and a whole host of products we use every day. Banning hemp would be like banning cotton.”
Senate Republicans said Tuesday they’ve picked Rep. Brian Hill (R-Zanesville) to fill the vacant 20th District seat, previously held by U.S. Rep. Troy Balderson (R-Zanesville). It’s the second time Hill, a former Muskingum County commissioner, has been appointed to replace Balderson. House Republicans appointed him to a House seat in 2011 after Balderson took an appointment to replace Sen. Jimmy Stewart (R-Albany) in the Ohio Senate.
Ohio House Democratic Leader Fred Strahorn (D-Dayton) Tuesday appointed Rep. Adam Miller (D-Columbus) as Caucus Chair for the Ohio House Democrats, a position charged with building and strengthening legislative relationships both in Columbus and throughout the state.
In the House on Wednesday, HB719 (Pelanda) requiring the attorney general’s office to create and maintain a statewide tracking system for the processing of sexual assault examination kits unanimously passed, a week after the bill was held over a potential amendment to eliminate the statute of limitations on rapes. Also passed 53-28 was HCR24 (Riedel), a resolution that urges Congress to propose the Regulation Freedom Amendment to the U.S. Constitution to allow a regulation to be struck down when 25 percent of the U.S. House or Senate transmit written opposition to the regulation. Also passing 59-26 was SCR23 (Obhof-Peterson), which reasserts the principles of federalism found throughout the U.S. Constitution. The House also passed legislation that would eliminate the sales tax on feminine hygiene products, dubbed the “pink tax” by opponents of the tax, as part of HB545 (Arndt), legislation that allows “microbusinesses” to remit their sales tax in cash. The chamber unanimously passed SB231 (Gardner) creating a violent offender database. The bill is dubbed “Sierah’s Law” after a Fulton County woman who was kidnapped and murdered by an offender who had been previously convicted of abduction.
Other bills passed by the House on Wednesday included HB705 (Hambley) addressing the circumstances in which school district and educational service center treasurers may be held liable for a loss of public funds; HB710 (Johnson) adding “high-mobility multipurpose wheeled vehicle manufactured for military purposes” to the definition of “historical motor vehicle”; HB721 (Riedel) designating the week that includes July 20 as “One Small Step Week”; and HCR20 (Schaffer), urging Congress to encourage the administrator of the FMCSA to change the crash indicator BASIC regulation standards to consider only crashes in which the driver was at fault for the crash.
Additionally, the House agreed to Senate amendments on HB489 (Dever) addressing banks and credit union regulation, and HCR10 (Thompson) condemning increased acts of anti-Semitism.
In Wednesday Senate action, HB158 (Perales), which makes people who quit their job to accompany their spouse on a military transfer eligible for unemployment compensation benefits, passed 30-0. Also passing on Wednesday was legislation creating a new sports event grant fund that is limited to $10 million. The bill, HB531 (Schuring-Greenspan), appropriates $5 million in FY19. It passed 29-1. The upper chamber unanimously passed SB214 (Terhar-Lehner), which bans any person from performing female genital mutilation on another person younger than 18. It also prohibits any person from transporting a minor to a location for the purpose of facilitating such an act, making either violation a second-degree felony.
The Senate voted 31-0 to concur with House amendments to SB20 (Hackett), which increases penalties for offenders who permanently harm children.
Also passing the Senate on Wednesday were the following bills:
- HB7 (Cupp), which makes a number of changes to protections for health care providers. The bill passed 31-0.
- HB38 (Greenspan), which increases penalties for murdering a first responder or military member if the killer knows their professional status and kills them because of it. The bill passed 31-0.
- HB338 (Ginter), which permits medical professionals listed on the National Registry of Certified Medical Examiners and chiropractors to perform the annual physical examination required under the Ohio State Highway Patrol for bus drivers. The bill passed 30-0.
- SB56 (Lehner-Tavares), which aims to reduce barriers to patient care with step therapy reform. The bill passed 31-0.
- SB323 (Kunze), which creates a statewide tracking system for the processing of sexual assault examination kits. The bill passed 31-0.
- SB326 (Bacon), which designates the first week of May as “Tardive Dyskinesia Awareness Week.” The bill passed 31-0.
In Senate action on Thursday, HB58 (Brenner-Slaby) which deals with cursive handwriting passed 27-2; SB250 (Hoagland) which addresses trespassing at “critical infrastructure” facilities passed 23-5; and SB231 (Gardner), dubbed “Sierah’s Law” which creates a state registry of violent offenders, goes to the governor after the Senate agreed to House changes 24-3.
Other Thursday Senate action saw the following bills pass:
- HB68 (Anielski), which includes impaired persons in the definition of victims of voyeurism, pandering obscenity and other crimes, and also incorporates language of SB235 (Eklund), which allows some offenders to seek relief from sex offender reporting requirements and apply for record sealing. It passed 29-0.
- HB286 (LaTourette), which addresses palliative care. It passed 29-0.
- HB291 (Wiggam), which allows local governments to use insurance instead of bonds as protection against liability from actions of dishonest employees. It passed 29-0.
- HB522 (Hackett), which addresses alcohol permits and outdoor refreshment areas. It passed 29-0.
- HB137 (Kent), which adds police officers to the list of those designated as mandatory reporters of child abuse. It passed 27-0.
- HB572 (Scherer-Howse), a pensions omnibus measure originally written to address service credit eligibility for employees of county developmental disabilities boards. It passed 29-0.
On Thursday, the Ohio House moved six more bills, including bills that regulate the sale of brine from oil and gas operations and address the opioid epidemic, and sent eight bills on to Gov. John Kasich with its concurrence on Senate amendments. The concurrences included HB228 (Johnson-LaTourette), which addresses gun laws in the state but without the “stand your ground” provision that the bill originally had, and HB491 (Edwards), legislation addressing education licenses that the Senate amended to include an extension of alternative high school graduation pathways through the class of 2020. Other concurrences include the following:
- HB7 (Cupp), addressing medical care protections.
- HB38 (Greenspan), raising the penalties for the death of a first responder or military member.
- HB137 (Kent), making peace officers mandatory reporters of child abuse or neglect.
- HB158 (Perales), permitting spouses of military members transferred to Ohio to be eligible for unemployment compensation benefits.
- HB338 (Ginter), modifying the law on medical exams for school bus drivers.
- HB531 (Schuring-Greenspan), addressing sports events grants.
HB546 (Patton), addressing telemedicine services, was informally passed and not brought back during Thursday’s session.
Bills passed by the House on Thursday include the following:
- HB393 (DeVitis-O’Brien) which addresses the sale of brine from certain oil and gas operations. It passed 52-31.
- HB501 (LaTourette) which changes the professional title of “registered veterinary technician.” It passed 60-28.
- SB119 (Hackett-Hottinger) passed the House 85-0 just months after it passed the companion bill HB167 (Edwards). The bill allows the dispensing of naltrexone for opioid addicts if a pharmacy can verify the patient is on some form of naltrexone therapy.
- SB158 (Wilson), which addresses elder fraud, passed 81-0 after the chamber accepted an amendment proposed by Rep. Stephanie Howse (D-Cleveland) that would add two ex-officio members on the elder abuse commission appointed by the minority leaders of the Legislature.
- HB603 (Perales), giving residency status for in-state tuition purposes at state institutions of higher education to all military service members who are on active duty and to their spouses and dependents, passed 84-0.
- SB263 (Huffman), making changes to notary public laws, passed 73-8.
Senators also bid farewell to Sen. Mike Skindell (D-Lakewood), who is heading to the House, Sen. Frank LaRose (R-Copley), who will become Ohio’s next secretary of state, as well as Sens. Gayle Manning (R-North Ridgeville), Scott Oelslager (R-North Canton) and Charleta Tavares (D-Columbus).
The House continued its goodbyes this week with farewells to Reps. Wes Retherford (R-Hamilton), Steve Huffman (R-Tipp City), Dan Ramos (D-Lorain), Al Landis (R-Dover), Jim Hughes (R-Columbus) and Alicia Reece (D-Cincinnati).
The Senate Education Committee narrowly defeated changes to the EdChoice school voucher program amid questions of cost, though the committee’s chair said state scholarships are due for the type of wholesale review sought by the sponsor of the changes. The committee voted 5-6 against adopting Sen. Matt Huffman’s (R-Lima) proposed amendment to HB477 (Koehler), a measure originally written to repeal outdated sections of state law related to education.
Advocates for universal health coverage urged adoption of a single-payer system Wednesday, saying it would cut out administrative expenses and complexity, free businesses of costs and make people healthier. The House Insurance Committee heard proponent testimony on HB440, a proposal from Reps. Teresa Fedor (D-Toledo) and Bernadine Kennedy Kent (D-Columbus), who separately held a press conference at the Statehouse to tout benefits of the legislation.
In other action over the week, the Senate Judiciary Committee reported out SB138 (Eklund) which deals with body cavity searches; HB38 (Greenspan) which addresses the murder of a first responder or military members; HB451 (Retherford) which deals with crime victims and public records; HB511 (Lanese-Rogers) which deals with underage marriage; HB296 (Gavarone) which deals drug crimes near addiction services; HB92 (Schaffer) which deals with public indecency; HB595 (Cupp-Rezabek) which deals with wills and trust law; HB411 (Seitz-Sykes) which modifies the state’s wrongful imprisonment law; HB497 (Rogers-Manning) and SB251 (Schiavoni) which address dissemination of sexual images; HB271 (McColley-Rezabek) which deals with accessibility law violations; and HB68 (Anielski) which addresses the definition of a victim of voyeurism; the House Criminal Justice Committee reported out HB81 (Seitz-Antonio) which prohibits sentencing someone with serious mental illness to death; HB561 (Boggs-Lanese) which eliminates spousal exceptions for sexual crimes; HB607 (Wiggam) which addresses a court assignment for Orrville; and HB327 (Schaffer-K. Smith) which deals with importuning penalties; the Senate Agriculture Committee reported out HB522 (Lanese) dealing with a liquor permit; and HB480 (Hill) which deals with multi-parcel auctions; the Senate Health, Human Services and Medicaid Committee reported out HB541 (Patterson-LaTourette) which deals with health services volunteers from other states; and HB131 (Gavarone-Reineke) which addresses the practice of physical therapy; the Senate Insurance and Financial Institutions Committee reported out HB156 which deals with vision insurance; the Senate Local Government, Public Safety and Veterans Affairs Committee reported out HB297 (Hagan) which deals with title transfer on death; HB454 (Patteron-Arndt) which deals with unused cemetery lots; HB500 (Carfagna) which revises township laws; and HB300 (Barnes) which provides for a state ID for disabled persons; the House Federalism and Interstate Relations Committee reported out SB255 (McColley) which deals with occupational licensing boards; House Health Committee reported out HB72 (Johnson-Antonio) which addresses step therapy protocols; SB119 (Hackett-Hottinger) which addresses addiction treatment and opioid prescribing by physicians and dentists; and HB601 (Ginter) which deals with medication assisted treatment; House Insurance Committee reported out SB273 (Hackett) which revises the “rating agency” definition; Senate Education Committee reported out HB428 (Ginter-LaTourette) regarding student religious expression; HB502 (Anielski) which deals with youth suicide awareness training; and HB477 (Koehler) which repeals outdated education provisions; Senate Rules and Reference Committee reported HB338 (Ginter) which deals with school bus drivers exams; the Senate Transportation, Commerce and Workforce Committee reported out HB494 (Antani) which deals with franchisor compensation law; SB308 (Uecker-Yuko) which revises the state’s elevator law; HB548 (McClain) which addresses hearing protection for motorcyclists; and SB320 (Beagle-Lehner) which deals with state occupational licenses and military spouses; the House Community and Family Advancement Committee reported out HB533 (Pelanda) which addresses foster care training; the House State and Local Government Committee reported out HB65 (Hill) which deals with sanitation registration; and HB624 (Kent) which establishes the New African Immigrants Grant and Gift Fund; the Senate Government Oversight and Reform Committee reported out HB359 (Stein) which addresses procedures for retiring an Ohio state flag; HB453 (Greenspan) which deals with rights of charter county hospitals; HB139 (Perales-Keller) which address public records disclosure exemptions; HB425 (Antani-Craig) which address police body cams; and HB137 (Kent) which addresses mandatory child abuse reporting; and the Senate Public Utilities Committee reported out HB402 (Hill) which revises regulation of telephone companies.
Ohio Gov. John Kasich ordered flags to be flown at half-staff for the entire month of December Saturday in honor of President George H.W. Bush, who passed away on Friday, Nov. 30 at the age of 94. “Ohioans join with all Americans and millions of people throughout the free world to mourn the death of President George Herbert Walker Bush. He will be remembered as a devoted husband and father, a gentleman, a patriot, a public servant, a statesman and a leader. He understood the value and power of each of us and that’s why he created ‘a thousand points of light’ to encourage us to come together as a nation and lift each other up. Our thoughts are with the Bush family and all those who worked with this great man to make the world a better, safer place,” Kasich said in a statement on Bush’s passing. Other elected officials also weighed in on President Bush’s death.
“I don’t think anybody got left behind.” A governor who began his administration warning observers to get on the bus or get run over reflected on his eight years in office Tuesday in a speech ranging from education to the environment to poverty to his future aspirations. In an address to the City Club of Cleveland, Gov. John Kasich recalled the “shambles” left by the Strickland administration and his own successes as state executive, a frequent refrain since the early days of his administration.
Appointments made during the week include the following:
- Kyle J. Hall of Urbana (Champaign County), Michael J. McDorman of Springfield (Clark County) and Margaret M. Noonan of Springfield (Clark County) reappointed to the Clark State Community College Board of Trustees for terms beginning Dec. 1, 2018 and ending Nov. 30, 2024.
- Andrew E. Doehrel of Galena (Delaware County) reappointed to the Ohio Expositions Commission for a term beginning Dec. 2, 2018 and ending Dec. 1, 2024.
- Lizabeth E. Lafferty of West Union (Adams County) and Douglas J. Preisse of Columbus (Franklin County) to the Ohio Expositions Commission for terms beginning Dec. 2, 2018 and ending Dec. 1, 2024.
- Susan Tave Zelman of Columbus (Franklin County) to the Northeast Ohio Medical University Board of Trustees for a term beginning Dec. 3, 2018 and ending Sept. 21, 2027.
- Gary R. Salmon of Oxford (Butler County) to the Sewage Treatment System Technical Advisory Committee for a term beginning Dec. 4, 2018 and ending Dec. 31, 2019.
- Bradley J. Smith of Westerville (Franklin County) to the Board of Building Appeals for a term beginning Dec. 4, 2018 and ending Oct. 13, 2022.
- Paul E. Hall of Williamsburg (Brown County) to the Ohio Reclamation Forfeiture Fund Advisory Board for a term beginning Dec. 5, 2018 and ending Jan. 10, 2022.
- William McCreary of Toledo (Lucas County) reappointed to the Third Frontier Commission for a term beginning Dec. 5, 2018 and ending April 1, 2019.
- Jeffrey M. Davis of Grove City (Franklin County) to the Opportunities for Ohioans with Disabilities Council for a term beginning Dec. 5, 2018 and ending June 1, 2020.
- Robyn Lightcap of Springboro (Warren County) to the Children’s Trust Fund Board for a term beginning Dec. 5, 2018 and ending July 2, 2019.
- Lisa R. Bielke of Wooster (Wayne County) to the Ohio Livestock Care Standards Board for a term beginning Dec. 6, 2018 and ending Jan. 15, 2021.
- John E. Leland of Kettering (Montgomery County) reappointed to the Ohio Aerospace and Aviation Technology Committee for a term beginning Jan. 1, 2019 and ending Dec. 31, 2019.
- M. Gabriella Celeste of Shaker Heights (Cuyahoga County) reappointed to the Ohio Public Defender Commission for a term beginning Jan. 13, 2019 and ending Jan. 12, 2023.
- Sandra J. Vorhies of Columbus (Franklin County) reappointed to the Ohio War Orphans Scholarship Board for a term beginning Jan. 1, 2019 and ending Dec. 31, 2022.
- John R. Leutz of Grandview Heights (Franklin County) and Thomas M. Robbins of Marion (Marion County) reappointed to the Statewide Emergency Services Internet Protocol Network Steering Committee for terms beginning Jan. 1, 2019 and ending Dec. 31, 2022.
After removing controversial provisions on the “duty to retreat,” or otherwise known as “stand your ground,” the Senate Government Oversight and Reform Committee voted on party lines to move gun rights expansion bill HB228 (T. Johnson) to the full Senate, where it passed 19-10 on Thursday. The House agreed to the changes later in the day, 59-21, sending it on to the governor. The bill had received extensive testimony over the week.
The Ohio Department of Higher Education (ODHE) recently announced the release of $5.3 million in grants to 25 Ohio colleges and universities as part of their Regionally Aligned Priorities in Delivering Skills (RAPIDS) program. The RAPIDS program provides funding to the institutions so that they can make strategic investments in educational equipment or co-op/internship programs with regional business partners with the goal of improving workforce development.
University of Toledo (UT) Provost Andrew Hsu has been named the 23rd president of the College of Charleston in South Carolina.
Boise State University’s director of enrollment will soon become the University of Toledo’s (UT’s) next vice president for enrollment in January 2019. Jim Anderson oversaw three years of record enrollment at Boise State, where he has served since 2013.
The Youngstown General Duty Nurses Association (YGDNA) is donating $300,000 to Youngstown State University (YSU) to establish a scholarship endowment supporting future generations of nurses in the Youngstown area.
The Ohio Development Services Agency (DSA) is currently accepting applications from businesses interested in growing exports as part of the Export Internship Program, which connects companies with college students who’ve taken export-focused coursework. This year’s program includes 52 students from 12 universities, according to a DSA release.
The Ohio Department of Commerce (DOC) has awarded another medical marijuana cultivator license after Johnstown’s Ohio Grown Therapies successfully argued its case during an Ohio Revised Code Chap. 119 hearing. There are now 14 level one cultivators and 13 level two cultivators.
Columbus-based Battelle announced a new partnership with Canadian cannabis company Canopy Growth Corporation this week, noting multiple imports of marijuana to Battelle’s research centers.
The Ohio Board of Pharmacy (OBP) has activated the Ohio Medical Marijuana Control Program’s (MMCP) patient and caregiver registry, the agency announced Monday.
Hunters in Ohio bagged 60,557 white-tailed deer during the 2018 weeklong deer-gun season, according to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR). That number is significantly lower than last year’s harvest, when hunters bagged 72,814 deer over the same period.
A substitute version of legislation changing cosmetology licensing was accepted in the House Government Accountability and Oversight Committee Tuesday, though proponents and opponents remained at odds, particularly over the number of training hours that should be required. The sub bill to HB189 (Roegner-Reece) was accepted without questions or objections, with Chairman Louis Blessing (R-Cincinnati) saying a vote would be taken the week of Monday, Dec. 10.
The Ohio Retirement Study Council (ORSC) recommended passage Tuesday of more than a dozen small changes to how state pension systems operate, the same day the changes were wrapped into House legislation pending in a Senate committee. The changes, amended into HB572 (Scherer-Howse) during a hearing Tuesday in Senate Insurance and Financial Institutions Committee, are technical and administrative in nature, according to Jeff Bernard, researcher for the council.
ORSC also voted Tuesday to adopt a staff recommendation for changes to SB296 (LaRose) and HB621 (Hughes), which would increase the amount of compensation families of fallen public safety officers can receive from the state’s Death Benefit Fund.
Warren J. Smith, a former cabinet director and union leader in Ohio, died recently at age 86. Smith was secretary-treasurer of the Ohio AFL-Cio from 1958-1983 and director of the Ohio Department of Transportation under Gov. Dick Celeste. He also served on the Ohio State University Board of Trustees and the Ohio Industrial Commission.
The Center for Community Solutions (CCS) announced that Julie Patterson is the new director of the AIDS Funding Collaborative (AFC). In this role, Patterson will also serve as a fellow with CCS.
The Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles (BMV) announced its implementation of the “Reinstatement Fee Amnesty Initiative,” which would reduce or waive driver’s license reinstatement fees for offenders whose licenses have been suspended for specific violations. The program is the result of Rep. John Barnes’ (D-Cleveland) HB336, and it will be fully implemented by the BMV on Jan. 31, 2019.
The Controlling Board cleared all items on its agenda Monday, though two were held for discussion before being approved without objection. Items receiving blanket approval included an Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) request for $9.9 million toward three projects.
The Ohio Ethics Commission recently issued Advisory Opinion 2018-02, which addresses when a city council member elected to represent a ward can participate in matters involving public infrastructure improvements that affect properties only in his or her ward, including property in which the council member has an interest. The commission also authorized staff to post “informal” advisory opinions on the commission’s website. These informal advisory opinions are issued to an individual person under the authority of the commission. While they are also reviewed and approved by the commission, they have not historically been available on the commission’s website, until now.
Policy Matters Ohio’s Zach Schiller testified Wednesday before the Senate Ways and Means Committee on HB469 (Schuring), urging the legislators to defer action on the bill which would create a new tax credit for insurance companies that invest in “transformational mixed-use development projects” valued at $50 million or more. He added that, “During this session, the General Assembly [GA] has approved new tax expenditures including a rural business growth credit, a sales-tax exemption for eyeglasses, an expanded business income deduction for compensation paid by professional employer organizations, a retroactive sales-tax exemption of certain property used in oil and gas production, a permanent sales-tax holiday, a sales-tax exemption for songs downloaded from a commercial digital jukebox and a kilowatt hour tax break on electricity used in chlor-alkali production. Until this session, there was only one tax expenditure allowed exclusively for insurance taxes; if this bill passes, there will be three (other tax expenditures also allow insurance companies and others to make use of them).”
The Ohio Department of Taxation announced Friday that it would be reducing the income tax withholding rates for payroll taxes, a move previously alluded to by Gov. John Kasich. The change is attributed to the 6.3 percent income tax cut implemented in previous biennial budget 131-HB64 (R. Smith).
Ohio puts its reputation as the “Birthplace of Aviation” on the line Wednesday with the announcement of a strategic plan to advance the state’s leadership in unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), or drones. “FlyOhio” — a spinoff of the Ohio Department of Transportation’s (ODOT) public-private partnership for autonomous vehicles, DriveOhio — will join the Ohio UAS Center to create an unmanned traffic management (UTM) system, business applications and workforce development plan for smart mobility.
Gov.-elect Mike DeWine said Friday in remarks to the Ohio Republican Party State Central Committee that the swearing-in ceremony will be held in the Statehouse Rotunda. He plans a private official swearing-in shortly after midnight at his Cedarville home. He said children will be a big theme during his inauguration ceremony and celebration.
Gov.-elect Mike DeWine Tuesday announced his initial cabinet appointments including Maj. Gen. John Harris as adjutant general; Mary Mertz as director of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR); Laurel Dawson as the governor’s chief of staff; Ann O’Donnell as chief advisor; Alisha Nelson as the point person on the opioid crisis; and Ervan Rodgers as the chief information officer for Ohio.
Gov.-elect Mike DeWine announced Thursday morning that Suzanne Kiggin and Michael Kiggin will serve as honorary chairs of the DeWine Husted Inaugural Committee while David Luketic was named committee executive director.
Secretary of State-elect Frank LaRose Monday announced key staff appointments for his office, led by Merle Madrid as his chief of staff and Kim Burns as director of operations and assistant secretary of state. Others include Grant Shaffer as director of external affairs and deputy assistant secretary of state; Amanda Grandjean as director of elections and deputy assistant secretary of state; Allison DeSantis as director of business services and deputy assistant secretary of state; Jon Keeling as director of communication; and Patrick Piccinini as chief legal counsel.
Auditor-elect Keith Faber announced that outgoing Ohio Supreme Court Justice Mary DeGenaro will become the chief legal counsel for the auditor’s office. Also announced Thursday morning is the appointment of Sloan Spalding as Faber’s chief-of-staff.
Joung H. Lee, policy director for the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) provided the Senate Ways and Means Committee with an overview of the current status for funding highway infrastructure needs, telling the members that the nation is facing a 2020 deadline. That is when the funding provided through the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act — which was passed in December 2015 — expires. He said that, to keep funds available at the same levels as the FAST Act, adjusted for inflation, will require Congress “to identify $89.9 billion in additional revenues for a five-year bill through 2025; $114 billion would be needed to support a six-year bill through 2026.”
State regulators properly approved a rate plan for Ohio Power Company that allows the company to charge consumers to pay for power generated by the Ohio Valley Electric Corporation (OVEC), the Ohio Supreme Court ruled recently. The Supreme Court affirmed the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio’s (PUCO) decision to allow Ohio Power, an AEP company, to add a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) rider to its most recent rate plan. The Ohio Office of the Consumers’ Counsel (OCC) and the Ohio Manufacturers’ Association (OMA) Energy Group had challenged the plan, claiming the rider allowed the company to collect revenue from customers as a subsidy to maintain operations of non-competitive power plants in a competitive retail electric service market.
Ohio received GridWise Alliance’s “Outstanding Progress Award” for electric grid modernization Thursday in conjunction with the first meeting of the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio’s (PUCO) PowerForward Collaborative, which turned its focus on infrastructure and rate design for electric vehicles (EV).
The Senate delayed action Thursday on dramatic abortion restrictions in HB258 (Hagan-Hood), the heartbeat bill, though a committee vote is still planned for next week. Sen. Dave Burke (R-Marysville), chairman of the Senate Health, Human Services and Medicaid Committee, said the panel needed more time to evaluate amendments. The committee had slated the measure for a vote this week after two days of extensive testimony.
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