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Latest Government News From Ohio

Week in Review

Friday, December 2, 2016

ADDICTION/SUBSTANCE ABUSE

Police officers would receive qualified immunity from civil liability for issues arising from naloxone use under a new version of mid-biennium review (MBR) legislation SB319 (Eklund) accepted by the House Finance Committee Thursday. Officers would receive immunity for any injury, death or loss to person or property allegedly arising from obtaining, maintaining, accessing or administering naloxone, which can reverse the effects of an opioid overdose.

ATTORNEY GENERAL

On Monday, an advisory group set up by Attorney General Mike DeWine to consider changes to the structure and processes involved in the student loan borrowing process heard an outline of the process a student loan goes through once it is in default and turned over to the attorney general’s office.

The Ohio Attorney General’s Office offered donor tips for “Giving Tuesday,” the Tuesday after Thanksgiving when individuals are urged to make charitable contributions during the holiday shopping season.

AUDITOR OF STATE

State Auditor Dave Yost has released a compilation of school districts’ performance audits, finding that schools offering an open enrollment option had a “range of results” when it came to their net revenues resulting from the program.

A medical transportation company based in Lucas County billed the state for hundreds of services that lacked proper supporting documentation, according to a Medicaid examination released Tuesday by Auditor of State Dave Yost. The review found Citywide Medical Transportation, LLC was overpaid by $182,381 — more than 84 percent of the $215,908 it received from the state from February 2013 through December 2014. With interest, the provider owes the Ohio Department of Medicaid $186,555, according to a release from the auditor’s office.

CORRECTIONS

The American Civil Liberties Union’s Ohio affiliate is leading a coalition of 21 groups seeking an end to contract negotiations between the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA).

CRIMINAL JUSTICE

While a National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) report shows Ohio metal theft claims decreased in 2015, the state remained first in the nation for such incidents from 2013 to 2015. While last year saw a 9 percent drop in claims, from 1,526 in 2014 to 1,070, there were still 4,042 claims between 2013 and 2015. Ohio easily led Pennsylvania (2,819), New Jersey (2,585), New York (2,101) and Texas (1,833).

ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT

The Ohio attorney general’s latest report on state development funding shows one in five businesses receiving tax credits failed to comply with the terms of their award, though performance in all classes of business incentives has continued to improve over the course of the Kasich administration.

ECONOMY

Sen. Kenny Yuko (D-Richmond Heights) said a federal judge’s block on new overtime rules proposed by the Obama administration means Ohio should pass legislation raising the minimum wage and the salary threshold for Ohioans.

EDUCATION

Appellate judges ordered the dismissal of Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow’s (ECOT) challenge to a lower court action in its dispute with the state on enrollment reviews, citing jurisdictional issues. Meanwhile, the online charter school says the Ohio Department of Education (ODE) is mistreating it in a separate administrative appeal process.

U.S. Secretary of Education John King Jr. sent a letter to governors and state superintendents across the country encouraging the elimination of all uses of corporal punishment in schools. Dozens of other educational, medical and advocacy groups are urging the same.

President-elect Donald J. Trump announced his intent to nominate Betsy DeVos as secretary of the U.S. Department of Education. The Trump transition office describes DeVos, a leader in the national school reform movement for more than two decades, as “a highly successful education advocate, businesswoman and philanthropist.”

Tourism and entertainment businesspeople urged senators Monday to push Ohio schools’ start dates back past Labor Day, predicting economic benefits and touting the opportunity for additional family time. Representatives of amusement parks, campgrounds and vendors who serve county fairs, speaking before the Senate Education Committee, urged passage of Sen. Gayle Manning’s (R-North Ridgeville) SB346, which would require schools to start post-Labor Day, though local boards of education could opt out by passing a resolution.

The Ohio Department of Education (ODE) responded Tuesday to the General Assembly’s mandate in HB2 that it evaluate the “similar students measure” (SSM) for analyzing schools, determining it would be “neither valid nor useful” as part of Ohio’s school accountability system. The measure was developed by the California Charter Schools Association. Lawmakers included a requirement for ODE to report by Dec. 1 in HB2 (Dovilla-Roegner), the recent charter school reform law.

The U.S. Department of Education (USDOE) this week announced final regulations for three elements of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), the federal law replacing the No Child Left Behind Act, including deadlines for submission of state implementation plans. Final regulations address the accountability, data reporting and state plan provisions of ESSA, and “focus on supporting states in using their flexibility to provide a high-quality, well-rounded education, and ensure equity remains at the core of implementation,” USDOE said in a statement.

ELECTIONS 2016

Judge John O’Donnell conceded he lost his Ohio Supreme Court race to First District Court of Appeals Judge Pat Fischer.

Secretary of State Jon Husted certified the official results of the 2016 general election Thursday, saying the official turnout of the election was 71.33 percent. A total of 5,607,641 Ohioans cast ballots, out of 7,861,025 registered voters. The turnout percentage was higher than in 2008 and 2012, though more Ohioans cast ballots in those elections. There were fewer registered voters in 2016.

President-elect Donald Trump and Vice President-elect Mike Pence held a stop in their “USA Thank You Tour” in Cincinnati Thursday evening.

ELECTIONS 2018

Senate Minority Leader Joe Schiavoni (D-Boardman) said this week he is setting the groundwork to run for governor in 2018.

Beau Euton has joined Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor’s Onward Ohio as finance director, the Columbus Dispatch reported this week. Euton had previously served as vice president of membership at the Ohio Chamber of Commerce. The nonprofit Onward Ohio was formed by Taylor last year as she prepares for a possible 2018 gubernatorial run.

ENERGY

Senate members and opponents of alternative energy redo SB320 (Seitz) recycled many of the same arguments both for and against the resumption of state mandates on renewables and energy efficiency Tuesday. Asked to restore portfolio standards and defer counter action for further debate, Chairman Troy Balderson (R-Zanesville) of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee said three General Assemblies on the topic was enough. “With all due respect, we’ve been having this discussion for five years,” he told one of more than 60 speakers on the bill, with only three identified as interested parties and the rest as opponents.

After six hours of testimony from more than 60 witnesses, a bill cleared House committee Wednesday that could serve as a vehicle for the long-awaited follow-up to energy “freeze” 130-SB310 (Balderson) — current legislation that, according to House Speaker Pro Tem Ron Amstutz (R-Wooster), may well resolve Gov. John Kasich’s concerns over a continued delay in energy efficiency and renewable energy standards. Daylong hearings on HB554 (Amstutz) in the House Public Utilities Committee followed equally lengthy remarks on SB320 (Seitz) Tuesday in the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, and by most of the same witnesses. The overwhelming majority in both cases opposed anything other than a reactivation of stalled energy standards enshrined in 127-SB221 (Schuler).

ETHICS

There isn’t evidence that Ohio Right to Life President Mike Gonidakis has used his position as president of the State Medical Board to affect matters filed by the anti-abortion organization, according to the Ohio Ethics Commission.

FEDERAL

U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan’s (D-Niles) longshot bid to become the U.S. House Democratic leader did not succeed Wednesday, as U.S. Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) was re-elected by House Democrats.

GENERAL ASSEMBLY/STATEHOUSE

Ahead of the Tuesday meeting of the Sunset Review Committee, Chair Sen. Kris Jordan (R-Powell) Monday released a copy of the proposed report in bill form as well as a cover letter describing the proposed changes. The committee Tuesday agreed unanimously by those present to send its draft recommendations on to the House and Senate amid some discussions about altering the proposal in committee.

The House voted Tuesday to reject Senate changes to a bill that would establish an ongoing, periodic review of the state’s billions of dollars in tax expenditures, objecting to an unrelated amendment on state procurement added in the other chamber. “With this amendment in there, the bill is basically dead. It’s not going to go anywhere,” said Rep. Terry Boose (R-Norwalk), the sponsor of HB9. Tuesday’s House session also included passage of HB476 (Schuring), which bars state contracting with businesses engaged in boycott or divestment actions against Israel; HB148 (Patterson), which requires assistance from the Ohio School Facilities Commission for school districts that are merging; HB487 (Roegner-LaTourette), which would create a State Seal of Biliteracy to be included on the transcripts of bi-literate students; SB232 (Bacon), which amends the law regarding transfer on death designation deeds and affidavits; and HB580 (T. Johnson-Huffman), which recognizes November as “One Health Awareness Month.”

Tuesday’s Senate session included passage of SB347 (LaRose), to eliminate unnecessary special primary elections where only one candidate files; SB270 (Eklund), to revise pawnbroker laws; SB306 (Yuko), to designate July 8 as “Harrison Dillard Day”; SB322 (Hite), to require training for new chiefs of police; and SB337 (Hughes), a road naming bill. The chamber also concurred with House amendments to SB252 (Hite-Patton), which aims to prevent sudden cardiac arrest in youth sports.

The House Finance Committee held two hearings this week on Sen. Bob Peterson’s (R-Sabina) SB331, which would set state standards for where pet stores can buy dogs, preempting local ordinances. Peterson said the bill would give Ohio some of the strongest standards, and argued that municipalities aren’t equipped to enforce and implement local standards, while the Ohio Department of Agriculture does have that expertise and will be in charge of enforcement under his bill. Representatives of a number of animal rights organizations expressed opposition to the bill at a Thursday hearing, claiming it is an assault on home rule that is being pushed to allow Petland to acquire puppies from inhumane, high volume breeders.

Two Republican lawmakers are seeking to address what happens to a person’s online accounts — such as those on social media, email or banking websites — when they die or become incapacitated. Reps. Robert Cupp (R-Lima) and Jeff Rezabek (R-Dayton) provided sponsor testimony on HB602 Tuesday, telling the House Judiciary Committee that it is an important question to answer at this point in time. Only Cupp was available to read the testimony in person.

Wednesday’s Senate session included passage of HB325 (Green-O’Brien), which encourages drug treatment for pregnant women and provides $2 million to address the opiate crisis; SB195 (Hughes-Hottinger), which makes bestiality a crime; HB440 (Anielski), which designates the Saturday before Thanksgiving as Ohio Survivors of Suicide Loss Day; SB288 (Eklund), regarding pass-through entities; SB314 (Lehner), which allows older people to name caregivers who’ll be notified of upcoming hospital discharges; and SB364 (Peterson), which allows sale of state lands. The chamber also approved House amendments to SB232 (Bacon), regarding transfer on death designation deeds and affidavits.

Legislation that would prohibit the General Assembly from holding session after the general election in an even-numbered year received its first hearing on Wednesday. “In my time serving in the House I have come to respect our committee process. I feel that during the lame-duck session legislation is often rushed and does not properly go through the committee process,” Rep. Terry Boose (R-Norwalk) told the House State Government Committee during sponsor testimony on HB577. “Also, as elected officials we need to be held accountable for our actions, so we should be voting on legislation before the election, not after.”

In a session that saw Gov. John Kasich give remarks to the chamber, the Senate passed four bills including one that would enhance penalties on drug dealers that sell heroin laced with fentanyl. Kasich was in the chamber and was invited to the dais by Senate President Keith Faber (R-Celina), who welcomed “former state Sen. Kasich.” The governor gave brief remarks, recollecting his time in the chamber. He also encouraged everyone to talk and listen to each other, regardless of politics. Legislation passed in the session included SB237 (LaRose), the fentanyl bill; HB185 (Koehler), regarding arson; SB265 (Seitz), regarding gambling employees; and SB271 (Gentile), to allow retiring law enforcement officers to buy their police horses or dogs at fair market value.

In other legislative action, House Commerce and Labor Committee reported out HB601 (Pelanda), to define microbusinesses; House Community and Family Advancement Committee reported out HB286 (Vitale), regarding rights of religious organizations and officials to refuse to perform marriages that don’t conform with their sincerely held religious beliefs; House Insurance Committee reported out HB416 (Schuring), regarding joint self-insurance pools; House Judiciary Committee reported out SB139 (Seitz-Williams), regarding death penalty trial files; House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee reported out HB605 (Ramos) and HB477 (Howse-K.Smith), both road naming bills; Senate Education Committee reported out HB89 (DeVitis), regarding the Medicaid School Program; Senate State and Local Government Committee reported out HB167 (Sweeney), regarding lawmakers’ terms on the Legislative Service Commission; House State Government Committee reported out SB227 (Bacon), regarding functions of the attorney general; Senate Agriculture Committee reported out SB151 (Beagle), to revise vicious dog laws; Senate Civil Justice Committee reported out HB493 (Sears-Ryan), regarding child abuse and neglect reporting; and HB432, regarding decedents’ estates; Senate Criminal Justice Committee reported out SB162 (Seitz-Williams), regarding the death penalty and mental illness; Senate Health and Human Services Committee reported out HB216 (Pelanda), regarding advanced practice nurses; HB285 (Sprague), regarding prescription refills; HB470 (Schuring), regarding palliative care; SB42 (Beagle), regarding minors and mental health treatment; HB290 (Sprague), regarding terminally ill patients and unapproved drugs; and HB505 (Huffman-Pelanda), regarding regulation of biological products; Senate Transportation, Commerce and Labor Committee reported out HB532 (R. Smith), regarding real estate brokers; HB436 (Cupp-Rogers), regarding OVI offenses and driving privileges; and HB236 (Blessing-Landis), regarding engineering training.

GOVERNOR

The governor made the following appointments during the week:

- Dudley H.A. Wright of Johnstown (Licking County) reappointed to the State Board of Emergency Medical, Fire, and Transportation Services for a term beginning Nov. 23, 2016 and ending Nov. 12, 2019.
- Sandra Drabik Collins of Toledo (Lucas County) to the Miami University Board of Trustees for a term beginning Nov. 29, 2016 and ending Feb. 28, 2025.
- Lynn S. Stevens of Hillsboro (Highland County) to the Southern State Community College Board of Trustees for a term beginning Dec. 1, 2016 and ending May 11, 2022.

GUNS

More than 30 individuals on Wednesday presented testimony opposing legislation that would allow higher education institutions to permit the concealed carrying of firearms on campus. Many of those attending the Senate Government Oversight and Reform Committee’s hearing on HB48 (Maag) were Ohio State University (OSU) students who were on campus during Monday’s vehicle and knife attack.

HIGHER EDUCATION

A new project underway at Ohio State University measures exactly how big football plays are, using the data to teach students lessons in science. Specifically, geologists have planted sensors around Ohio Stadium to measure the seismic activity generated by fans as they cheer on the Buckeyes. In partnership with Miami University and the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, professors in Ohio State’s School of Earth Sciences conceived of the project at the start of the 2016 football season as a way to help students get an intuitive sense of concepts in geology that are sometimes hard to grasp.

Bowling Green State University (BGSU) announced recently it received a $20,000 grant to help it become a tobacco-free campus. The award for BGSU is one of the first 20 Tobacco-Free Generation Campus Initiative Grants given by the American Cancer Society and CVS Health Foundation. The initiative is a $3.6 million, multi-year program meant to “accelerate and expand” adoption of smoke- and tobacco-free campus policies.

In any given year, roughly seven out of 10 Ohioans do not engage in any organized volunteer work, according to the 2016 Ohio Civic Health Index, co-authored by Miami University’s John Forren and Theresa Ervin Conover, assistant professors in justice and community studies. Those Ohioans who do volunteer spend considerably less time on that task than they used to, and participation in volunteerism is now the lowest among Ohio’s youngest adults. The report is the product of an ongoing partnership between the Miami University Regionals’ Center for Civic Engagement and the National Conference on Citizenship.

The Youngstown State University Board of Trustees Thursday approved a one-year contract extension for President Jim Tressel that will retain him through June 2018. The contract also includes three potential one-year extensions that could keep him there until at least June 2021.

MARIJUANA

Shumaker, Loop & Kendrick LLP on Monday announced the addition of the Marijuana Law and Policy Group to its roster. “Recent developments in Florida, Ohio and across the country have spawned an emerging area of law and policy surrounding legalized marijuana, bringing unprecedented legal issues to the fore,” the law firm said in a news release.

NATURAL RESOURCES

A newly released report from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) shows development of Ohio’s mineral resources in 2015 produced more than $1.8 billion worth of geologic commodities, including increases in the mined amount of limestone, salt, sandstone, sand and gravel.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), Ashtabula Metroparks and the Great Lakes Fishery Commission have signed a project partnership agreement (PPA) to complete the Harpersfield Dam fishery and ecosystem restoration project.

PEOPLE

Policy Matters Ohio has named a former community organizer and journalist as its director of communications. Caitlin Johnson previously worked in the Cleveland area as a leader of the Ohio Organizing Collaborative and formed two groups, Communities United for Responsible Energy and Clevelanders for Public Transit.

The governor’s former chief investment officer and JobsOhio president returns to public policy deliberations next week to help the state explore the relationship between enterprise and the arts. Mark Kvamme, co-founder and partner of venture capital firm Drive Capital, will anchor discussions on Tuesday, Dec. 6 for the 2016 Creative Ohio Conference at the Ohio History Connection (OHC).

Logan County Auditor Michael Yoder was named 2017 president of the County Auditors’ Association of Ohio (CAAO) at their annual winter conference. Also installed were Fairfield County Auditor Jon Slater as vice president, Stark County Auditor Alan Harold as second vice president, Seneca County Auditor Julie Adkins as third vice president, and Washington County Auditor William D. McFarland as secretary treasurer.

PUBLIC SAFETY

A man drove his car into pedestrians on the Ohio State University (OSU) campus Monday before proceeding to exit the vehicle and cut others with a butcher knife, according to authorities. A campus police officer quickly arrived on the scene near Watts Hall and shot the suspect dead, OSU Police Chief Craig Stone told reporters at an early afternoon press conference. Officials later identified the suspect as an OSU student named Abdul Razak Ali Artan during a second press conference, where they also identified the officer as Alan Horujko.

Ohio’s largest police department earned certification Tuesday under state standards established by Gov. John Kasich’s Ohio Collaborative Community-Police Advisory Board. The Ohio Department of Public Safety (ODPS) announced that the Columbus Police Department has adopted and implemented criteria including officer recruitment and use of force, “including deadly force.”

TRANSPORTATION

Regional efforts to develop a “Smart Mobility Corridor” in Central Ohio took another step forward Wednesday with the announcement of state funding and testing of a self-driving semi-truck. Gov. John Kasich announced the state will invest $15 million to install advanced highway technology along 35 miles of U.S. Route 33, and the truck used that route to travel from Dublin to East Liberty.

UNEMPLOYMENT COMPENSATION

The House started deliberations Tuesday on the latest proposal to overhaul unemployment compensation benefits, with Rep. Kirk Schuring (R-Canton) saying he tried to strike a balanced approach in HB620 that mirrored his past work on reforms to state pension systems. Schuring’s HB620 is mirrored by a companion, SB374, sponsored by Sen. Bob Peterson (R-Sabina), and is based on the work of a joint reform committee that met earlier this year. The House Government Accountability and Oversight Committee had three hearings on the bill this week, while Senate Ways and Means Committee had two, with business groups voicing strong backing while labor and other policy groups lodged objections.

UTILITIES

American Electric Power (AEP) of Ohio announced Monday that it will seek a six-year extension of the scaled-down power purchase agreement (PPA) and renewable energy plan approved this month by the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO).

On Wednesday, the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) accepted results of Duke Energy Ohio’s fourth wholesale auction that will help determine Duke’s retail generation service rates through May 2018. A PUCO news release said this particular auction will determine Duke’s price-to-compare for June 1, 2017 through May 31, 2018. It was held Tuesday and lasted 14 rounds, with four suppliers submitting winning bids. The average clearing price was $50.20 per megawatt hour.

Sen. Bill Seitz (R-Cincinnati) told the crowd at Thursday’s Senate Public Utilities Committee hearing that the forthcoming vote to recommend that the full Senate not approve the appointment of M. Howard Petricoff to the state’s utilities commission wasn’t about his qualifications or character but about his past involvement as an energy lobbyist. “I don’t think there’s any question that Mr. Petricoff, by his long, illustrious career, is qualified, is competent, has got a wonderful resume. I hope that the vote on this motion is not a reflection on his qualifications, because he is qualified,” Seitz said. “However, there were concerns about the process by which this has come to us, and there were concerns about the number of recusals that he would have to be engaged in.”

A consortium of municipal electric companies say legislation planned for lame duck introduction next week would set off a “tectonic shift” in local control by moving regulatory authority over “small cell” wireless towers to the state capital. The chair of the committee that could hear the legislation says the goal instead is to put Ohio in the vanguard of industry investment and 5G technology. The Ohio Municipal Electric Association (OMEA) says the term small cell can be misleading, as aerial and ground-based equipment for the emerging technology can have a “substantial” impact on public rights of way, street signs, water towers and other structures where towers could be mounted.

VETERANS

Chip Tansill, director of the Ohio Department of Veterans Services (DVS), reminded the state’s veterans of the availability of the Ohio veterans bonus, which pays between $500 and $1,500.

WOMEN’S HEALTH/ABORTION

The State Medical Board of Ohio has decided against taking formal disciplinary action against three physicians after a Dayton anti-abortion group complained they unlawfully performed an abortion on a woman high on drugs. “For the board to discipline a licensee, there must be medical or legal evidence that they violated Ohio law. In our review of your complaint, we did not find enough medical or legal evidence to justify further action and your complaint has been closed,” the board wrote in an email to Dayton Right to Life Executive Director Paul Coudron.

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