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Latest Government News From Ohio

Week in Review

Friday, November 17, 2017


Ohio Attorney General (AG) Mike DeWine and 43 other attorneys general sent a letter to congressional leaders asking them to repeal a law they say has limited the Drug Enforcement Agency’s (DEA) ability to hold drug manufacturers and distributors accountable for contributing to the nation’s opioid epidemic. In the letter, the attorneys general say the “Ensuring Patient Access and Effective Drug Enforcement Act of 2016″ diminishes the DEA’s ability to suspend and begin proceedings to show how a manufacturer or distributor engaged in unlawful behavior that endangers public health. The law and its effects on opioid diversion investigations were profiled in a recent joint investigation by “60 Minutes” and the Washington Post.

The Ohio State University College of Social Work recently received a $3 million grant from the Children’s Bureau of the Administration for Children and Families at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to address substance abuse problems in Ohio — one of the largest grants ever awarded in the college’s 100-year history. The grant will support regional partnership intervention activities in Fairfield and Pickaway counties to reduce child abuse and neglect among families with substance use problems.


Ohio Long-Term Care Ombudsman Beverley Laubert briefed the House Aging and Long-Term Care Committee on Wednesday on the history and recent efforts of her office. Laubert explained her office’s duties originate in the federal Older Americans Act and related state laws, though she noted state lawmakers were leaders in the U.S. in 1990 when they extended the office’s responsibilities to include home- and community-based services.

In their second to last meeting, the Speaker’s Task Force on Alzheimer’s and Dementia heard from representatives of agencies that support families on the current services and what more should be done, including by the Legislature. They also announced that the last meeting would be on Tuesday, Dec. 5, and that the task force would issue a report and suggest legislation following that meeting.


Ohio’s agricultural industry, which depends heavily on often undocumented migrant workers from Mexico and Central America, is experiencing one of its most significant labor shortages in years, according to Ohio State University’s (OSU) College of Food, Agricultural and Environmental Sciences (CFAES). It was the toughest year for staffing farm operations in at least two of the Ohio counties that hire the most migrant workers — Sandusky and Huron — according to OSU Extension educators there.


The Ohio Attorney General’s Office announced Monday that Ohioans who sent money to scammers through Western Union’s wire service may now apply for compensation from a $586 million fund held by the U.S. Department of Justice’s victim asset recovery program. The fund stems from a multistate settlement the AG announced in January.


Auditor Dave Yost gave two villages good news Thursday when he released them from troubled fiscal statuses. Yost said he was releasing the village of Leipsic in Putnam County from fiscal emergency, and the village of Bloomingburg in Fayette County from fiscal caution. Bloomingburg became just the second local government to move out of the state’s fiscal caution designation without slipping further into fiscal distress.


Corrections directors, state legislators, law enforcement officials and behavioral health professionals from all 50 states gathered in Washington, D.C. this week at the 50-State Summit on Public Safety, organized by the Council of State Governments’ (CSG) Justice Center in partnership with the Association of State Correctional Administrators. The two-day event was designed to help leaders weigh individual state trends in crime, arrests, corrections populations, addiction and mental health, and to develop integrated approaches to addressing their unique challenges. State teams examined clear strategies for reducing crime and recidivism, improving outcomes for people with mental health and substance use disorders, and reducing spending on prisons and jails.


Gov. John Kasich handed 69-year-old Alva Campbell a 19-month reprieve from the Death House Wednesday after execution officials reportedly failed to locate a suitable vein for lethal injection, making Campbell the second person in eight years to escape execution in Ohio because medical experts said they could not find a site for the IV. His capital sentence has been reset to June 5, 2019.


The Ohio Development Services Agency (DSA) has awarded 11 communities grants totaling more than $4.8 million through the Community Development Downtown Revitalization and Neighborhood Revitalization Competitive Set-Aside programs. The grants will improve streets, sidewalks, bridges, public facilities and infrastructure as well as rehabilitate buildings in a community’s central business district.

The Department of Administrative Services (DAS) reports that, for the third consecutive year, the state of Ohio has exceeded the goal of its Minority Business Enterprise (MBE) program by purchasing 23.65 percent of eligible goods and services through certified minority-owned businesses, while spending just over $305 million. Ohio’s MBE program mandates that state agencies set aside 15 percent of their annual purchases for goods and services for certified minority-owned businesses.


A recent Fordham Institute study comparing teacher absenteeism in charter schools and traditional public schools has several key flaws, according to a review published this week by the National Education Policy Center (NEPC). The Fordham report, “Teacher Absenteeism in Charter and Traditional Public Schools,” found that public school teachers were nearly three times more likely to be absent from school when compared to their charter counterparts. It argued that this may have an adverse effect on student learning. The NEPC review argues that the Fordham report ignores large bodies of contradictory academic research, is selective in its sources and ignores discrepancies in data.

The phone line at the governor’s office is open for local school board members seeking to discuss anti-drug education and/or strategies to prepare students for in-demand jobs, Gov. John Kasich said Monday. “Starting in kindergarten and all the way through 12th grade … I just want a teacher to get in front of the classroom once a week and just tell kids to stop the drugs, because evidence suggests that kids who hear an anti-drug message are 50 percent less likely to do drugs,” Kasich told attendees of the Ohio School Boards Association (OSBA) Capital Conference. “If you have any problems with any of this, you can go to the ‘Start Talking’ website. If you want to talk to me, call me. I’ll talk to you.”

The Ohio School Boards Association (OSBA) Delegate Assembly Monday elected John W. Halkias as the association’s 2018 president-elect. Halkias serves on the Plain Local Schools Board of Education in Stark County.

State ratings of charter school sponsors for the 2016-2017 school year released Wednesday were substantially improved from the previous year, while also reflecting a shrinking of the ranks of sponsors. The latest ratings include three sponsors rated “exemplary,” the highest grade — Findlay City Schools, Zanesville City Schools, and Tri-Rivers Schools. In the next rating tier, 21 sponsors were deemed “effective,” while 13 were rated “ineffective.” The bottom rating of “poor” — which can lead to termination of sponsorship authority — went to eight sponsors.

The Ohio School Boards Association’s (OSBA) Delegate Assembly this week approved a number of changes to the association’s legislative platform including the addition of a new plank to the students and learning section that calls on local public school districts to educate students and families about the tragic consequences of drug addiction. The new plank supports legislation that provides new and additional dedicated funds to assist schools in the battle against drug addiction and heroin and other opioid abuse.

Ohio schools would have four years to stop issuing out-of-school suspensions and expulsions as punishment for children in preschool and early elementary grades under bipartisan legislation to be introduced in the Senate, though the requirement would not apply to discipline imposed for violent or dangerous behavior. Sen. Peggy Lehner (R-Kettering), chair of the Senate Education Committee, said at a Statehouse press conference Tuesday she’ll again seek the suspension-expulsion ban for grades three and below, including preschool, after a past attempt to include the proposal in last year’s truancy law overhaul, 131-HB410 (Rezabek-Hayes), failed.

The State Board of Education started discussions Monday on an element of its Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) plan that would establish a new report card indicator for students who retake high school exams. Chris Woolard, head of accountability for the Ohio Department of Education (ODE), told the board’s Accountability and Continuous Improvement Committee that the new indicator would reflect the difference in course- and test-taking patterns between the current end-of-course exam system and the previous Ohio Graduation Test (OGT).

A State Board of Education Committee Monday voted to add a new section on Ohio history to the licensure test for educators looking to teach middle grades social studies. The Educators and Student Options Committee voted 5-1 to approve the addition of a fifth content section to the Ohio Assessments for Educators middle grades social studies test and set a minimum passing score for the test. If approved by the full board, the “Ohio” portion in the United States section will constitute 10 percent of the assessment’s score.

An online education provider for one of the state’s diploma programs for adults urged the State Board of Education on Tuesday to provide a first-year safe harbor from proposed performance benchmarks, saying the timing of the program’s launch made it difficult to get many students through the program in its inaugural year. Greg Harp of Graduation Alliance, which runs the 22+ Adult High School Diploma Program at a few community colleges in Ohio, said the state risks losing some of its biggest providers by setting a benchmark for the program’s first year, even though the programs are highly likely to meet the benchmark in the second year and beyond.

Looking to engage the State Board of Education in a discussion about the future of the state’s testing system, Superintendent Paolo DeMaria Monday presented the recommendations of an advisory group focused on determining what tests, if any, the board should eliminate. DeMaria said the group of 24 stakeholders, including parents and educators, expressed frustration with both federally and state mandated end-of-course tests, and a desire for other ways to measure student growth and success.

The Joint Education Oversight Committee (JEOC) heard Thursday from Executive Director Lauren Monowar-Jones addressing research looking at the funding, enrollment and learning outcomes of Ohio’s early childhood education programs to inform a report tentatively slated for release in January 2018. While initial comments from JEOC Chairman Rep. Bob Cupp (R-Lima) indicated the report would be largely informative, Sen. Peggy Lehner (R-Kettering) said consideration will be paid to meeting the codified goals of Ohio’s Step Up To Quality (SUTQ) framework, which ranks the state’s early childhood education centers on a five-star scale.


The U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals Monday overturned a lower court’s decision to dismiss a lawsuit that claimed Ohio’s absentee ballot system violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), finding the court erred because facts supporting the positions of both sides of the lawsuit have “yet to be litigated.” The lawsuit was filed by three blind Ohio residents against Secretary of State Jon Husted, claiming that Ohio’s paper ballot absentee voter system discriminates against them. Blind voters must seek the aid of a sighted person in order to vote absentee, thus depriving them of the ability to vote anonymously, plaintiffs claimed.


Former U.S. Rep. Betty Sutton, a Democratic candidate for governor, Thursday released a plan to combat sexual harassment and sexual assault in state government. The plan builds on her call to create a Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity as well as an open letter organized by Sen. Charleta Tavares (D-Columbus) from her and other legislators and staffers to address misconduct in the Legislature. Sutton proposes creating an independent arm of the department to spearhead efforts to fight sexual harassment and assault by creating policies to prevent quid pro quo harassment and a hostile environment, review all job applicants for a history of sexual harassment, and ensure that companies that do business with the state establish effective sexual harassment and assault policies.

Rep. Tom Patton (R-Strongsville) said Tuesday he will seek re-election to the Ohio House rather than run for the Republican nomination for the 16th Congressional District, where U.S. Rep. Jim Renacci (R-Wadsworth) is not seeking re-election as he runs for governor. In a statement, he cited the health problems of his newborn grandson as having motivated his decision to stay in the General Assembly. Rep. Christina Hagan (R-Alliance) and former Ohio State University football star Anthony Gonzales are seeking the Republican nomination for Renacci’s seat.

U.S. Rep. Brad Wenstrup (R-Cincinnati) this week announced his re-election campaign for the Second Congressional District.

Republican Attorney General Mike DeWine announced two hires Friday for his gubernatorial campaign, both of whom were involved in his 2014 re-election. Ryan Stubenrauch will be press secretary, reprising his 2014 role, and Brenton Temple will be senior political director.

Chris DePizzo will attempt to unseat U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan (R-Niles) in 2018, the Republican attorney has announced.

Former U.S. Rep. Zack Space’s campaign for state auditor Thursday released its first campaign video, titled “I’m Ready. Are You?”

The following endorsements were made over the week:

- House Speaker Cliff Rosenberger (R-Clarksville) and Delaware County Prosecutor Carol O’Brien endorsed Mike DeWine for governor.


The number of people working in clean energy industries throughout Ohio is 105,443, a more than 4 percent increase since 2015, according to an analysis from Clean Energy Trust and business group Environmental Entrepreneurs (E2). “Job growth across sectors including renewable energy generation, advanced grid, energy efficiency, clean fuels, and advanced transportation is occurring almost six times faster than overall job growth in the state,” according to the 2017 Clean Jobs Midwest report.


Three of the state’s top conservationists have been recognized by the Ohio Environmental Council (OEC): Sandy Bihn received the Lifetime Achievement Award; Tim Moloney, the Conservation Hero Award; and Alicia Smith, the Community Leader Award.


The Trump administration took its pitch for an income tax overhaul to America’s heartland Tuesday when U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told a select audience on Capitol Square that the president’s plan to double the standard deduction for personal withholding and lower the corporate tax rate to 20 percent will put money back into average American pockets. Mnuchin addressed the Ohio Council of Retail Merchants’ annual meeting at the Columbus Athletic Club, where the Goldman Sachs alum laid out President Trump’s larger economic strategy of a tax, trade and regulatory reform.


In a tersely worded email sent late Monday, Senate Minority Leader Kenny Yuko (D-Richmond Heights) announced that Senate Minority Chief of Staff Mike Premo had submitted his resignation at Yuko’s request, following recent “credible” information regarding “inappropriate conduct toward staff ….” Long-time Senate staffer George Boas has assumed the role of acting chief of staff.

Rep. Wes Goodman (R-Cardington) suddenly resigned early Wednesday morning after House Speaker Cliff Rosenberger (R-Clarksville) told the freshman lawmaker to due to “inappropriate behavior related to his state office.” Rosenberger announced the resignation, saying he was told the details of the behavior Tuesday afternoon. The speaker’s statement did not elaborate on what the behavior was. Goodman released a statement expressing regret “that my actions and choices have kept me from serving my constituents and our state in a way that reflects the best ideals of public service. For those whom I have let down, I’m sorry.”

The Ohio Senate unanimously passed HB199 (Blessing), the Ohio Residential Mortgage Lending Act, and SB152 (Dolan), which deals with structured settlement payment transfers, during its session on Wednesday, in addition to passing the prohibition on abortions because of a Down syndrome diagnosis and the Conference Committee report on SB8 (Gardner-Terhar).

The Conference Committee on SB8 (Gardner-Terhar) and the full Senate Wednesday unanimously approved the report on the bill containing an omnibus amendment that makes a number of budget corrective changes including a nearly $7.4 million increase in state aid for school districts experiencing reductions in Tangible Personal Property Tax (TPP) reimbursements. The report must still go before the full House.

State agency representatives were at the mercy of the “Bucket of Invalidation” during Thursday’s Joint Committee on Agency Rule Review (JCARR) meeting. Bucket creator and former JCARR Chairman Ross McGregor — who said he polished the bucket in his basement recently — was on hand to pass the container around to committee members. JCARR Chairman Rep. Mike Duffey (R-Worthington) said there were 651 rules that have missed their five-year review.

The House Speaker’s Task Force on Education and Poverty met Thursday to give its non-legislative members an opportunity to talk about the successes and challenges they’ve experienced in their own local school districts and organizations. It was the final meeting called by Chair Rep. Bob Cupp (R-Lima) before the group will compile a summary of testimony heard and recommendations to the Legislature.


Appointments made during the week include the following:

- Susan J. Pohler of Columbus (Franklin County) and Dr. Raymond “Butch” Losey of Cincinnati (Clermont County) to the Counselor, Social Worker, and Marriage and Family Therapist Board for terms beginning Nov. 13, 2017, and ending Oct. 10, 2019.
- Betty Montgomery of Columbus (Franklin County) to the State Medical Board for a term beginning Nov. 15, 2017, and ending July 31, 2022.
- Brianne Y. Patek-Gruber of Perrysburg (Wood County) reappointed to the Ohio Statewide Independent Living Council for a term beginning Nov. 15, 2017, and ending Oct. 26, 2020.
- Arthur C. Schlesinger of Miamisburg (Montgomery County) reappointed to the Ohio Statewide Independent Living Council for a term beginning Nov. 14, 2017, and ending Oct. 26, 2020.
- John H. Ballard of Akron (Summit County) to the Ohio Statewide Independent Living Council for a term beginning Nov. 14, 2017, and ending Oct. 26, 2020.
- Richard “Scott” Blake of Columbus (Franklin County) to the Accountancy Board for a term beginning Nov. 14, 2017, and ending Oct. 20, 2024.
- Joshua D. Atkinson of Napoleon (Henry County) appointed to the Wildlife Council for a term beginning Nov. 16, 2017, and ending Jan. 31, 2021.


It’s time for Americans on both sides of the gun issue to leave their respective bubbles and pursue solutions to reduce violence, Gov. John Kasich said in an op-ed article over the weekend. “As a nation, these tragedies have united us in shock and mourning, yet the first talk of solutions tears us apart,” Kasich said in a guest column for Cleveland.com on Sunday. “No one among us is willing to put aside our rock-ribbed, pre-loaded position on guns in order to sit down and find the common ground for solutions.”

The Ohio Association of Chiefs of Police (OACP) and the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) of Ohio have “lost a lot of credibility” on Second Amendment issues, Buckeye Firearms Association President Jim Irvine said Tuesday. Responding to a question from Sen. Cecil Thomas (D-Cincinnati) during his proponent testimony on SB180 (Uecker-Hottinger), Irvine said the organizations’ dire predictions on the effects of gun rights expansion have not become reality.


Legislation introduced this week by Rep. Stephen Huffman (R-Tipp City) aims to provide Ohioans transparency into the cost of health care services while side-stepping the legal issues that a similar law has faced. Speaking at a press conference Tuesday, Huffman said his bill, HB416, would repeal the current health care price transparency law that was folded into the previous General Assembly’s workers’ compensation budget, 131-HB52 (Hackett). That law was championed by Rep. Jim Butler (R-Oakwood).


U.S. Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) will give the autumn commencement address at Ohio State on Sunday, Dec. 17 at the Jerome Schottenstein Center, the university announced Monday. The ceremony begins at 2 p.m.

Youngstown State University (YSU) announced Monday that the James and Coralie Centofanti Charitable Foundation has pledged an additional $500,000 to help support the Centofanti Symposium at the university.


The Ohio Supreme Court announced the opening of the application period Wednesday for technology grants meant to remove barriers to the “efficient and effective administration of justice.” Any court of appeals, common pleas court (including its internal divisions), municipal court or county court is eligible to apply. Mayor’s courts are not eligible to participate in the program, the Supreme Court noted.


Legislation proposed by Rep. Jeff Rezabek (R-Dayton) would make “sweeping changes” to the juvenile criminal justice system, the lawmaker said Tuesday in sponsor testimony on HB394 before the House Criminal Justice Committee. Rezabek said two of the major components — changing mandatory bind-overs to discretionary and reforming confinement credits — were recommended by the Ohio Criminal Justice Recodification Committee. The other major provisions are those amending juvenile court costs/restitution statutes and eliminating life without parole for juveniles, with exceptions.


Ohio Medicaid Director Barbara Sears said Thursday her department will add two weeks to the beta testing window for the behavioral health redesign initiative, stretching it from Nov. 30 to Dec. 15, but insisted the administration is ready to flip the switch Jan. 1 on new claims processes.


Youth advocates for mental wellness joined state officials Thursday for the launch of the Be Present campaign, which is meant to help young people care for themselves and support peers amid isolation, depression and other mental health issues. The campaign is also meant to help address the problem of youth and young adult suicide. Angie Bergefurd, assistant director of the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services (OhioMHAS), said the campaign was developed by youth, for youth.


The head of Ohio’s largest public retirement system testified Wednesday in the House about the pension fund’s operations as well as plans to curtail inflationary benefit increases in a bid to shore up long-term finances. Ohio Public Employees Retirement System (OPERS) Executive Director Karen Carraher spoke to the House Aging and Long-Term Care Committee about the system and its advocacy for HB413 (Scherer), though the bill was not formally before the committee for a hearing Wednesday.


Former Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray said Wednesday that he will step down as director of the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau (CFPB) by the end of the month. Though he did not say what his next move will be, many speculate that he would be returning to Ohio to run for governor.

The Ohio Restaurant Association (ORA) announced this week that Homa Moheimani has been named manager of media and communications. Moheimani will be responsible for planning, developing and producing all communications, including editorial, digital and video content. She will also be in charge of media relations, public relations and social media activities in support of the ORA and its education program, Ohio ProStart, as well the annual Mid-America Restaurant Expo.

Missy Craddock is the new executive director of the Ohio Occupational Therapy, Physical Therapy and Athletic Trainers Board (OTPTAT) as of Monday, Nov. 13, she told the Joint Committee on Agency Rule Review (JCARR) Thursday. Craddock previously worked as a policy adviser for Gov. John Kasich and deputy director of public affairs for the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services. She had been in charge of coordinating the Medical Marijuana Control Program. Craddock replaces Tony Tanner, who left OTPTAT in May 2017, according to his LinkedIn profile. Tanner is now the owner and managing partner of The Butcher & Grocer in Columbus.

Ohio Development Services Agency Director David Goodman announced Thursday that Matthew MacLaren will lead TourismOhio beginning in January. He succeeds Mary Cusick, who left the post in August. MacLaren most recently served as senior vice president of member relations for the American Hotel & Lodging Association (AHLA).


Secretary of State Jon Husted Wednesday announced 9,250 new entities filed to do business in Ohio throughout the month of October, an increase of 969 when compared to the same month in 2016.


The Controlling Board pulled two items from its agenda Monday and held another two for brief questions, the latter including a $280,000 request from the Ohio Department of Health (ODH) for EBT smart cards for the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program and a $22,000 item from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) for emergency dock repairs at North Bass Island. The ODH and ODNR agenda items both went on to unanimous approval.


The United Auto Workers (UAW) of America said Thursday it was unsuccessful in a drive to unionize the Moraine auto glass plant of Fuyao Glass America.


Ohio Consumers’ Counsel Bruce Weston gave House members a refresher Tuesday on the role of his office and the difference between an electric security plan (ESP) with its assorted billing riders and a market rate offer (MRO) for electric generation. The latter is a largely academic discussion as Ohio has never had an MRO, Weston noted, despite statutory language on market-based rate plans and ESPs in energy omnibus 127-SB221.


The Ohio Attorney General’s Office announced Thursday that $1 million in recovered funds from the “Bobby Thompson” veterans charity scam case has been awarded through 10 grants to Ohio veterans’ organizations. Each of Ohio’s five Honor Flight hubs will receive $115,000; Operation Legal Help Ohio will receive $100,000 to provide free legal help and another $150,000 to support transportation costs at Ohio’s 20 veterans’ courts; Family and Community Services will get $100,000 to fund repairs and appliances for a facility in Lorain that will provide housing for female veterans and their children; Ross County Veterans Council will receive $36,000 to help create a healing garden; and Toledo-based Heroes in Action, which supports service members and veterans throughout Ohio, will receive $10,000.

Ohio and its capital may soon become home to the “only public museum” dedicated to sharing the experiences of veterans across all eras and branches of the military, according to a bipartisan press release from Ohio members of the U.S. House of Representatives. All 16 representatives co-sponsored HR1900, the National Veterans Memorial and Museum Act, which passed the House on Nov. 7 and has been referred to a Senate committee. The museum is being built at 300 W. Broad St., across from COSI, and is expected to open next summer.


The House Criminal Justice Committee on Tuesday started hearings on legislation prohibiting the dilation and evacuation (D&E) procedure, the most common method used to perform abortions during the second trimester. Sens. Matt Huffman (R-Lima) and Steve Wilson (R-Maineville) both provided sponsor testimony on SB145, which they said would end the “gruesome” practice of “dismemberment” abortions.

Performing an abortion because of a Down syndrome diagnosis would become a criminal act under
legislation passed by the Senate Wednesday. SB164 (LaRose) would prohibit a doctor from performing the medical procedure if they know the woman is seeking an abortion because of a test result indicating Down syndrome in the fetus, a prenatal diagnosis of Down syndrome or any other reason the woman believes the fetus has Down syndrome. Doctors who violate the prohibition would face a fourth-degree felony, revocation of their medical license and possible civil penalties. The bill passed 20-12, with Sens. Matt Dolan (R-Chagrin Falls), Stephanie Kunze (R-Hilliard) and Gayle Manning (R-North Ridgeville) joining Democrats in opposing the measure.


During National Apprenticeship Week which runs through Sunday, Nov. 19, the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS) together with Gov. John Kasich and Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor is encouraging more Ohioans to consider registered apprenticeship programs, which allow workers to earn while they learn and bypass student loan debt.

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