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Latest Government News From Ohio

Week in Review

Friday, January 13, 2016

AFFORDABLE CARE ACT (ACA)As Republicans in Congress debate a repeal of President Barack Obama’s signature health insurance law, some in Ohio are cautioning against the effects that pulling the plug on the Affordable Care Act (ACA) could have on the Buckeye State. Policy Matters Ohio, a left-leaning think tank, released a new report Wednesday on the possible ramifications of repealing the Affordable Care Act. It found that a repeal of the law in 2019 could jeopardize the health coverage of 30 million American and 964,000 Ohioans.

AGING

The Ohio Caregiving Act, which was proposed by AARP Ohio and passed by the Ohio General Assembly in the waning days of the 131st General Assembly, “will give important new support to more than a million family caregivers, who help parents, spouses, children with disabilities and other loved ones live independently in their homes and communities. The new act … ensures hospital patients’ designated family caregivers are offered instruction in providing needed care at home …. Ohio is the 35th state to put a version of the AARP CARE (Caregiver Advise, Record, Enable) Act on the books,” the organization said.

AGRICULTURE

The next round of funding through the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) is now available, according to the Ohio Department of Agriculture’s Division of Soil and Water Conservation. The tri-state, five-year, $17.5 million program is funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). The goal of the program is to reduce nutrients and harmful algal blooms in Lake Erie by assisting farmers in installing conservation practices that benefit water quality in the western basin of Lake Erie. Applications are due to USDA by Jan. 20, 2017.

FY16-17 BUDGET

The revenue shortfalls that have sparked warnings of a tight FY18-19 budget continued in December, when lagging personal income tax collections offset a small bump in sales tax money, according to preliminary numbers from the Office of Budget and Management (OBM). Tax receipts were 2 percent below estimates in December, coming in $37.4 million short of the expected $1.9 billion for the month.

FY18-19 BUDGET

With release of the budget just weeks away, House and Senate leaders announced they will keep their finance chairmen from last session in place for the 132nd General Assembly. House Speaker Cliff Rosenberger (R-Clarksville) said Rep. Ryan Smith (R-Bidwell) will get a second stint as chairman of the House Finance Committee, assisted by Rep. Scott Ryan (R-Newark) as vice chair. Senate President Larry Obhof (R-Medina) gave Sen. Scott Oeslager (R-North Canton) a third consecutive term holding the gavel in the Senate Finance Committee.

Addressing economic development leaders Thursday, Gov. John Kasich continued to say that he expects a tight budget and said he will do everything possible to make sure his successor gets a budget in balance. The event, hosted by the Columbus Partnership, also featured remarks from Senate President Larry Obhof (R-Medina) and Speaker Cliff Rosenberger (R-Clarksville), who previewed their upcoming agendas. Many of the remarks made by the three leaders featured comments they have made previously.

CHILDREN/YOUTH

A typical family will spend $233,610 from birth to age 17 on child-rearing expenses, according to a new federal report released Monday. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) “Expenditures on Children by Families, 2015,” developed by economists at the agency’s Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion (CNPP), estimates that for a child born in 2015, a married couple middle-income family will spend between $12,350 and $13,900 annually. Families with lower incomes are expected to spend $174,690 and families with higher incomes are expected to spend $372,210 from birth through age 17.

CIVIL RIGHTS

Recognized as a special guest speaker, Ohio Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor offered remarks and helped present awards at the Ohio Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Commemorative Celebration Thursday. “Much has changed during the past 50 years, but Dr. King’s lessons remain timeless,” she said. “Dr. King warned us to shift from a thing-oriented society to a person society. He also said, ‘Life and history give eloquent testimony to the fact that conflicts are never resolved without trustful give and take on both sides.’”

CONSTITUTIONAL MODERNIZATION COMMISSION (OCMC)

Long-time Capitol Square staple William Weisenberg told the Ohio Constitutional Modernization Commission’s (OCMC) Legislative Branch and Executive Branch Committee Thursday that he has been a participant in lame duck sessions. But as the committee looks at constitutional sections involving the General Assembly, Weisenberg, an attorney, said that he has seen more bad legislation and controversial laws adopted in the period between the election and the end of session than he perceived was necessary. “It’s a time of mischief,” he told the committee.

Three witnesses shared ideas and concerns Thursday with an Ohio Constitutional Modernization Commission (OCMC) committee to address what many consider an antiquated and offensive provision regarding individuals with disabilities in the state’s top governing document. The Education, Public Institutions and Local Government Committee heard from Ruth Colker, professor of constitutional law at Ohio State University’s Moritz College of Law; Marjory Pizzuti, president and CEO of Goodwill Columbus; and Sue Hetrick, executive director of the Center for Disability Empowerment.

In its opening meeting of 2017, OCMC’s Constitutional Revisions and Updating Committee discussed changes to the petition process for constitutional amendments and planned the group’s future steps. Members discussed changes to the order of the petition process and the roles of the secretary of state’s Ballot Board and the attorney general in verifying petition text. Those addressing the committee included OCMC Executive Director Steven Hollon, senior policy adviser Steven Steinglass and attorney Donald McTigue.

OCMC’s Judicial Branch and Administration of Justice Committee continued discussion Thursday on four separate sections of Article I, starring writs of habeas corpus in Section 8 and “no imprisonment for debt” in Section 15 for votes at the next meeting but reserving Section 12 and grand jury language in Section 10 for further debate in the coming months. Members agreed to no recommended changes in habeas corpus rights and prohibitions against debtors’ prison, except in the case of criminal fraud.

DEATH PENALTY

A coalition of death penalty opponents including Ohioans to Stop Executions (OTSE), Catholic Conference of Ohio, League of Women Voters and others marked Ronald Phillips’ third stayed execution date in three years Thursday by urging Gov. John Kasich not to resume executions after a federal moratorium is lifted.

EDUCATION

The State Board of Education voted unanimously Monday to elevate Tess Elshoff from vice president to president and elect Nancy Hollister as vice president. The change in leadership comes at a time when more than a third of board seats have new members.

The roster for a workgroup formed to study changes to Ohio’s graduation requirements is mostly complete, Superintendent Paolo DeMaria said Monday at the State Board of Education’s biennial organizing meeting. The workgroup is set to meet Wednesday, Jan. 18 and every other week thereafter to answer the board’s request for recommendations on how to respond to concerns that current requirements have left too many students off-track for graduation.

With the U.S. Senate set to begin hearings on President-elect Donald Trump’s nomination of Betsy DeVos as secretary of education, Ohio Democrats Tuesday demanded she pay a fine that a political action committee she headed owes to Ohio. The All Children Matter PAC was hit with more than $5 million in fines by the Ohio Elections Commission in 2008, ruling that the organization DeVos helped found along with her husband had illegally transferred money to an Ohio-based affiliate.

Ohio is among 10 states sharing in $20 million from JPMorgan Chase and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) meant to increase the number of students graduating ready for a career. The grant is part of Chase’s $75 million New Skills for Youth Initiative. Ohio will get $2 million over three years to “expand and improve career pathways,” as will Delaware, Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Nevada, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, Tennessee and Wisconsin.

State appeals judges this week declined Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow’s (ECOT) request for an expedited decision on its case against the Ohio Department of Education (ODE), but vowed to keep the case moving briskly nonetheless.

The Ohio Education Association (OEA) said Thursday it has collected nearly 8,500 petition signatures from Ohioans in opposition to Betsy DeVos’ appointment by President-elect Donald Trump as U.S. secretary of education.

ELECTIONS

The U.S. Supreme Court Monday upheld a dismissal of a lawsuit by two Libertarians who were removed from the 2014 ballot after Secretary of State Jon Husted ruled they were ineligible to run. Charlie Earl, who ran for governor, and Steven Linnabary, who ran for attorney general, sued Husted in federal court, arguing that their constitutional rights had been violated when they were removed from the ballot in 2014.

An East Liverpool woman has pleaded guilty to falsifying voter registrations in 2015, Attorney General Mike DeWine’s office said Friday. Rebecca Hammonds, 32, pleaded guilty on Friday to 13 counts of making a false registration and one count of election falsification. All of the charges are felonies of the fifth-degree.

ELECTIONS 2018

U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) has hired Justin Barasky to manage his 2018 re-election campaign, Barasky confirmed on Twitter Monday. “No one fights harder for Ohio than Sherrod Brown. We’re going to win in 2018. It’s an honor to join this team,” Barasky wrote.

EMPLOYMENT/UNEMPLOYMENT

The national unemployment rate increased to 4.7 percent in December, up from 4.6 percent in November, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) announced Friday. The number of unemployed persons was 7.5 million, up from 7.4 million in November, according to the agency.

ENERGY

The Ohio Development Services Agency (DSA) announced Wednesday that is now taking applications for $11.25 million in low-interest investment capital from its Energy Loan Fund to help businesses, manufacturers, nonprofits and local governments improve energy efficiency in FY17.

ENVIRONMENT

The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (Ohio EPA) has issued final permits for a proposed cracker site for shale natural gas in Belmont County. The agency announced it has issued two wastewater discharge permits and one 401 Water Quality Certification (WQC) associated with the proposed PTT Global Chemical (PTTGC) America LLC petrochemical production plant that would be located at Old Route 7 and Ferry Landing Road in Shadyside.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) on Tuesday announced the availability of approximately $1 billion in credit assistance for water infrastructure projects under its new Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA) program. The program will provide long-term, low-cost credit assistance in the form of direct loans and loan guarantees to credit-worthy water projects, according to the agency.

FEDERAL

U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) took the lead among Democrats Friday in announcing his opposition to fellow Sen. Jeff Sessions’ (R-AL) nomination for U.S. attorney general under incoming President Donald Trump. Brown met with Sessions Wednesday to discuss his plans for the U.S. Department of Justice, views on the Voting Rights Act of 1965, and response to recent controversies in police-community relations. The Democrat said he did not hear what he needed to hear to support Sessions.

President-elect Donald Trump will have the authority to terminate Ohioan Richard Cordray as federal consumer watchdog and should exercise that power, two U.S. senators wrote this week in a letter to Vice President-elect Mike Pence. Cordray, Ohio’s former treasurer and attorney general and a possible Democratic candidate for governor in 2018, leads the federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) by appointment of President Barack Obama. While Cordray was confirmed for a five-year term, U.S. Sens. Ben Sasse (R-NE) and Mike Lee (R-UT) wrote in their letter that the structure and powers of the CFPB amount to an unconstitutional delegation of legislative authority to the executive.

Backpage.com announced Tuesday that it was suspending the adult section of its website, the same day a subcommittee led by U.S. Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) held a hearing accusing the company of knowingly facilitating sex trafficking. The Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, which Portman chairs, released a report that included the subcommittee’s findings from an 18-month investigation into sex trafficking. Portman, along with U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO), the ranking member of the subcommittee, have been looking into whether Backpage.com, a classified advertising website, knowingly facilitated sex trafficking. The report said the company did.

U.S. Sens. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Rob Portman (R-OH) Tuesday praised a ruling from the International Trade Commission (ITC) regarding Whirlpool, which has manufacturing operations in Clyde, Greenville, Findlay, Marion and Ottawa. The ITC found the company and its workers have been hurt by unfair imports of washing machines from China, meaning duties will be applied to washers imported from China to the U.S. The senators said manufacturers Samsung and LG have been “dumping” washers into the U.S. at unfair prices.

GAMING

Ohio’s seven racinos outperformed its four casinos in revenue in December, with racinos earning more than in December 2015 and the casinos seeing a decrease compared to the same period last year, according to new revenue estimates. Ohio’s four casinos earned $66.3 million in December, based on figures released Monday by the Ohio Casino Control Commission, down from $71.6 million in 2015 but up from $62.2 million in November 2016.

GENERAL ASSEMBLY/STATEHOUSE

Speaker Cliff Rosenberger (R-Clarksville) Thursday announced the House committees, the chairs and vice chairs for the 132nd General Assembly. This year, there are 21 standing committees and seven subcommittees – six of those are the subcommittees for the House Finance Committee. This is up from the 19 standing committees and six subcommittees in the 131st General Assembly. Among the appointments are the following subcommittee chairs of House Finance: Rep. Andy Thompson (R-Marietta) for Agriculture, Development Natural Resources; Rep. Mark Romanchuk (R-Mansfield) for Health and Human Services; Rep. Rick Perales (R-Beavercreek) for Higher Education; Rep. Bob Cupp (R-Lima) for Primary and Secondary Education; Rep. Robert McColley (R-Napoleon) for Transportation; and Rep. Keith Faber (R-Celina) for State Government and Agency Review, a new addition to the usual budget subcommittee structure.

GOVERNOR

The governor made the following appointments during the week:

- Christopher R. Schraff of Columbus (Franklin County) reappointed to the Sewage Treatment System Technical Advisory Committee for a term beginning Jan. 6, 2017 and ending Dec. 31, 2019.
- Earl R. Dohner of New Lebanon (Montgomery County) reappointed to the Ohio Board of Motor Vehicle Repair for a term beginning Jan. 6, 2017 and ending Jan. 1, 2020.
- Dr. Renu Kotwal of Cincinnati (Hamilton County) to the Chemical Dependency Professionals Board for a term beginning Jan. 9, 2017 and ending Dec. 23, 2017.
- Dr. Kimberly A. Riker-Brown of Monclova (Lucas County) reappointed to the State Veterinary Medical Licensing Board for a term beginning Jan. 9, 2017 and ending Dec. 31, 2019.
- Nancy E. Fellows of Willoughby Hills (Lake County) reappointed the Board of Nursing for a term beginning Jan. 12, 2017 and ending Dec. 31, 2020.
- Brian W. Hall of Hilliard (Franklin County) and L. Brock Perry of South Point (Lawrence County) reappointed to the Sewage Treatment System Technical Advisory Committee for terms beginning Jan. 12, 2017 and ending Dec. 31, 2019.
- Melinda Kale of Rudolph (Wood County) reappointed to the Governor’s Council on People with Disabilities for a term beginning Jan. 12, 2017 and ending Aug. 19, 2019.
- Eric S. Richter of Columbus (Franklin County) to the Ohio Rail Development Commission for a term beginning Jan. 12, 2017 and ending Oct. 20, 2021.
- William J. Siplivy of Stow (Summit County) to the Ohio Reclamation Forfeiture Fund Advisory Board for a term beginning Jan. 12, 2017 and ending Jan. 10, 2019.

HEALTH & HUMAN SERVICES

The Ohio Association of County Behavioral Health Authorities (OACBHA) promoted a new crisis service at a conference Wednesday at which Gov. John Kasich spoke in support of mental health services.

The Legislative Committee on Public Health Futures discussed draft recommendations Thursday related to its charge of improving public health as local health departments face a 2018 deadline to apply for accreditation. Sen. Dave Burke (R-Marysville), chairman of the committee, said he’s interested in using the upcoming budget to provide money to test a funding model focused on public health outcomes.

HIGHER EDUCATION

Diners waste far less food when they’re schooled on the harm their leftovers can inflict on the environment. However, if they know the food is going to be composted instead of dumped in a landfill, the educational benefit disappears, according to a new study from Ohio State University (OSU). “When composting enters the picture, educated diners waste just as much as those who haven’t learned about shrinking landfill space, dangerous greenhouse gas emissions and water and soil pollution,” OSU said.

More than 800 career college programs aren’t helping their students get jobs that can help them pay back the loans they took out to attend the program, according to new ratings from the U.S. Department of Education (USDOE). For-profit institutions had the worst showing, USDOE said.

University of Akron (UA) professor Matthew Akers says he sees Donald Trump’s win of the presidency in November as a teaching opportunity and has created a new course titled “Trump’s Triumph” to examine what Trump’s win means. “My course will answer a lot of questions people still have after the election,” says Akers, director of government relations and assistant director of the Ray C. Bliss Institute of Applied Politics. “We will discuss what happened during the 2016 presidential campaign as well as examine Trump and his positions and influences.”

JUDICIAL

The latest battle between state legislators and local officials over traffic camera fines went before the Ohio Supreme Court during oral argument Tuesday. The city of Dayton, which operates three dozen speeding and red-light cameras, says 130-SB342 (Seitz) is a thinly veiled attempt to thwart its home rule powers, while the Ohio Attorney General’s Office says the law is a comprehensive enactment that creates uniformity across the state and therefore passes constitutional muster. The General Assembly is hoping to prevail in its most recent attempt to control traffic camera use after former Gov. Bob Taft vetoed 126-HB56 (Raussen) and the Supreme Court shot down separate arguments against traffic camera penalties as necessarily criminal rather civil and local tribunals as properly judicial rather than administrative.

LOCAL GOVERNMENT

Raise Up Cleveland announced it is suspending its effort to raise the minimum wage to $15 per hour in the Northeast Ohio city. In a news release, the organization said it will “continue fighting in whatever ways possible to replace a starving wage with a living wage for hard-working people.” Gov. John Kasich recently signed SB331 (Peterson), which prohibits political subdivisions from establishing a minimum wage different than the state rate. Ohio’s current minimum wage is $8.15 per hour.

Voters should amend the Ohio Constitution to encourage the elimination of hundreds of political subdivisions by 2030, retired Center for Community Solutions (CCS) Executive Director John Begala said Wednesday. His idea, which he said would reduce the cost of local government to residents and businesses, proposes that major cities — such as Columbus, Cleveland, Cincinnati and Toledo — take over counties and surrounding suburbs to streamline services. For other areas, the counties would take over the operations of townships.

MEDICAID EXPANSION/REFORM

The Kasich administration recently issued a report reviewing the effects of Medicaid expansion on the health and care utilization of people enrolled after the program was expanded under the federal Affordable Care Act (ACA) to include more low-income adults without children. The report from the Ohio Department of Medicaid, “Ohio Medicaid Group 8 Assessment,” responds to a requirement in biennial budget measure 131-HB64 (R. Smith) that the administration undertake such a study.

NATURAL RESOURCES

Hunters checked 15,843 white-tailed deer during Ohio’s muzzleloader season, Jan. 7-10, according to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR).

PEOPLE

The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) has a new legislative liaison, Michael Guastella. Guastella was formerly a legislative and policy aide for the Ohio Department of Commerce (DOC) and a constituent aide in the office of Gov. John Kasich.

Longtime Statehouse lobbyist Ric Oxender announced Thursday that his firm, Oxender & Associates, has entered into an affiliation agreement with the government relations firm of Byers, Minton & Associates, LLC (BMA).

POLITICS

Jane Timken won a tight battle for Ohio Republican Party chair Friday after striking a deal with current Chairman Matt Borges, who stepped aside and was named chairman emeritus, a title he said will allow him to advise Timken and still be involved in the state party. Borges, himself elected after a contentious party battle that saw allies of Gov. John Kasich push for the ouster of then-Chairman Kevin DeWine, has served as chair for the last four years, but drew the ire of a number in his party after sharing his concerns with the media about the behavior of President-elect Donald Trump during last year’s campaign.

Three of the candidates to be the next Democratic National Committee (DNC) chair addressed the Ohio Democratic Party’s State Executive Committee Wednesday evening, although one of the front runners did not attend. Addressing the executive committee where Sally Boynton Brown, executive director for the Idaho Democratic Party; Pete Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, IN; and Thomas Perez, U.S. Secretary of Labor. U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN), one of the frontrunners for the position, was not in attendance.

PUBLIC SAFETY

Seventeen people died on Ohio’s roadways during the 2017 New Year’s and 2016 Christmas reporting periods, according to the Ohio State Highway Patrol (OSHP). Four people were killed during the 2017 New Year’s holiday, a four-day reporting period beginning Dec. 30 and ending Jan. 2. This is a decrease from the 2016 New Year’s reporting period, when 11 individuals died in traffic crashes.

Ohio has broken the 300 mark for the number of law enforcement agencies certified or in the process of certification under state standards adopted by the Ohio Collaborative Community-Police Advisory Board. The more-than 300 law enforcement entities comprise nearly a third of roughly 950 total law enforcement agencies in the state. As they include offices in most of Ohio’s metropolitan areas, these agencies account for 54 percent or more than 18,000 of all peace officers in the state.

Ohio Emergency Management Agency (Ohio EMA) announced recently the opening of the application period for the state’s “safe room” rebate program. The program provides a rebate for the purchase and construction/installation of tornado safe rooms for Ohio homeowners selected for the program.

SECRETARY OF STATE

If the past is any predictor of the future, Secretary of State Jon Husted would continue to cut government costs to state taxpayers as Ohio’s next governor. That is not a projection, either official or unofficial, of his plans for the next statewide election, but rather Husted’s answer to a hypothetical question following his address to the Ohio Association of Election Officials (OAEO) Winter Conference in Columbus Wednesday. The Republican told his county peers that he had cut the secretary of state’s budget by 16 percent and agency employees by a third since taking office in 2011, setting the stage for the next biennium.

TRANSPORTATION

The Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission’s (MORPC) Midwest Connect is one of 35 semifinalists for the Hyperloop One Global Challenge, the company has announced. The challenge was kicked off in May 2016 as an open call to individuals, universities, companies and governments to develop comprehensive proposals for using Hyperloop One’s transport technology in their region to move passengers and freight point-to-point, swiftly, and on-demand.

TREASURER OF STATE

Treasurer Josh Mandel announced Wednesday that the number of governmental entities that have signed up to place their spending records on his office’s OhioCheckbook.com has reached the 1,000 mark, with the Marion City School District and the village of Morral in Marion County helping the website reach and pass the milestone.

UTILITIES

Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) Commissioner Lynn Slaby, the former state representative and 9th District appeals court judge, issued a letter to Gov. John Kasich Monday stating he will not seek reappointment to the commission when his term expires in April 2017.

The Ohio Consumers’ Counsel (OCC) Governing Board agreed Tuesday to address telecom and other utility issues in 2017 that disproportionately affect rural and working Ohioans more than their professional peers. Chairman Gene Krebs said Democratic primary challenger Bernie Sanders and President-elect Donald Trump’s popularity in the recent election highlights the scores of underserved communities hit hard by inadequate or overpriced utilities.

WORKERS’ COMPENSATION

The Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC) could achieve as much as $2.5 million in savings and added revenue by shrinking its footprint, renting out the extra space and raising lease rates at its central office, Auditor Dave Yost said Tuesday. The bureau is among agencies undergoing performance audits this biennium per 129-SB4 (Schaffer).

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