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Latest Government News From Ohio

Week in Review

Friday, July 21, 2017

AFFORDABLE CARE ACT

Gov. John Kasich weighed in Friday on the latest Senate version of a health care reform plan to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, saying it was “still unacceptable.” Kasich has been a vocal critic of the first plan that was introduced in the Senate as well as of the House-passed version, taking aim at the proposals’ effects on the Medicaid expansion allowed under the Affordable Care Act.

As Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and President Donald Trump have discussed a “repeal only” approach to the Affordable Care Act in the short term, U.S. Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH), a critical GOP vote, said he wouldn’t support it if it happened, but didn’t expect it too either.

AGRICULTURE

With reports of swine flu at fairs around the state, the Ohio departments of agriculture (ODAg) and health (ODH) said Friday that Ohioans should practice good hygiene when visiting livestock exhibits this summer. The agencies said visitors should always wash their hands with soap and water before and after petting or touching any animal. Never eat, drink or put anything in their mouths in animal areas. Parents and caregivers are encouraged to leave strollers outside the animal exhibits and carry small children. Older adults, pregnant women, young children and people with weakened immune systems should consider avoiding animal areas, the agencies said.

The Ohio State Fair’s first-ever “Hometown Sounds and Craft Beer Fest” will be held on opening day, Wednesday, July 26. The event will feature a free concert from Ohio artists billed as “Hometown Sounds” including McGuffey Lane, Erica Blinn and Colin Gawel and The League Bowlers and the opportunity to try two craft beers from 12 breweries from across Ohio — two each from the state’s six regions.

ATTORNEY GENERAL

The Ohio Attorney General (AG) opened the application period Wednesday for $3 million in grants supporting the expansion of Drug Abuse Response Teams (DART) and Quick Response Teams (QRT) to fight the opioid epidemic in FY18-19. A provision of budget bill HB49 (R. Smith), the grants will be awarded to local law enforcement agencies and must include a partnership with a treatment provider. Application materials can be found on the AG website at www.OhioAttorneyGeneral.gov/LawEnforcementGrants.

AUDITOR OF STATE

Auditor Dave Yost recently released the village of Edgerton in Williams County from fiscal emergency, a status it held for more than three and a half years.

BALLOT ISSUES

Backers of a constitutional amendment addressing victims’ rights have collected enough signatures and the issue will appear on the November ballot, Secretary of State Jon Husted’s office said Monday. The proposal, named “Marsy’s Law” after a California woman who was murdered by her ex-boyfriend, would put the rights of crime victims during the judicial process into the Ohio Constitution. Backers submitted 563,556 signatures last month, and Husted’s office said 371,749 of those signatures were valid.
Three medical professionals who support a proposed constitutional amendment that would limit what the state can pay for prescription drugs said industry groups, including those that represent their professions, don’t speak for all in that profession when opposing the so-called Drug Price Relief Act.

Meanwhile, Ohioans Against the Deceptive Rx Ballot Issue, the formal opposition to the proposal, said Tuesday that claims by proponents that the amendment will save the state $400 million are “simply false and without merit.” The group released an analysis by Greg Browning, a former Ohio budget director under Gov. George Voinovich, that said proponents are ignoring the discounts Ohio currently receives on prescription drugs and thereby have “used faulty logic involving the most basic of relevant policy and fiscal realities.”

FY18-19 BUDGET

The conference committee’s FY18-19 budget compromise retains increased opioid funding promised by the Senate, though the final version of HB49 (R. Smith) rolls back some support for Drug Abuse Response Teams (DART) administered by the Ohio Attorney General’s Office.

CORRECTIONS

“Passage of Hope,’ the travelling public art installation painted by 10 incarcerated men in Toledo Correctional Institution, local artists Yusuf Lateef and Matt Taylor and led by project manager, Emily Numbers, is now on display at Rhodes Tower where it will remain through the end of the year. ‘Passage of Hope’ was completed in October 2016 and spent the fall and winter in Toledo’s Government Center and Lucas County’s Common Pleas Courthouse. The painting is the result of a partnership by People for Change, the University of Toledo’s Inside-Out Program, Art Corner Toledo and Toledo Correctional Institution.

DEATH PENALTY

Three inmates set to relaunch state-sponsored executions in Ohio asked the U.S. Supreme Court Tuesday to stay their sentences until the Court can decide whether the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals applied the wrong legal standard in overturning a preliminary injunction against Ohio’s method of lethal injection. The inmates include Ronald Phillips, who is scheduled for execution on Wednesday, July 26, Gary Otte and Raymond Tibbetts.

Hosted by Ohioans to Stop Executions (OTSE), Wednesday’s Statehouse press conference featured faith leaders in an all-out appeal to Gov. John Kasich’s spiritual convictions. They urged him to halt the July 26 execution of Ronald Phillips and allow the Legislature to undertake a comprehensive review of the three-year-old recommendations of the Ohio Supreme Court Joint Task Force on the Administration of Ohio’s Death Penalty.

However, on Thursday, the governor’s office confirmed that Kasich will personally monitor the scheduled execution of Phillips on July 26, instead of attending the usual celebrations around the opening of the Ohio State Fair, set for the same day.

EDUCATION

Praise for Ohio’s education system was followed by a realistic description of its many challenges in remarks delivered by State Superintendent for Public Instruction Paolo DeMaria at Friday’s meeting of the City Club of Cleveland.

Secretary of State Jon Husted’s office is seeking guidance from the attorney general on how the shifting affiliations of school districts to educational service centers (ESCs) affect who stands for election to ESC boards. The issue, arising after statutory changes included in the FY12-13 biennial budget, 129-HB153 (Amstutz), also was the subject of discussion in the most recent budget deliberations.

The Ohio Department of Education (ODE) wants input on the kind of information stakeholders want to see included in the weekly EdConnection newsletter it sends out to educators across the state. Those interested can fill out a survey posted at https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/879RRLJ.

Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow (ECOT) filed notice this week that it’s initiating another appeal, this time challenging a trial court’s ruling on open meeting laws. The online charter school is going to the 10th District Court of Appeals in response to a decision from Franklin County Common Pleas Judge Guy Reece II rejecting ECOT’s claims that the State Board of Education violated open meetings laws while deliberating the school’s administrative appeal of enrollment and funding decisions.

The State Board of Education’s business meetings could be available for live viewing as early as September after the board voted last week to authorize the Ohio Channel to provide coverage. Following up on remarks he made in June, District 10 board member Nick Owens introduced a resolution at the board’s July meeting to authorize broadcasting, online live-streaming and video archiving of the business portion of board meetings by the Ohio Channel.

The Ohio Department of Education (ODE) announced recently it has added 49 new industry-recognized credentials to guide career-based programs and help students prepare for in-demand jobs, based on input from companies and industries in the state. Earning an industry-recognized credential can be used to fulfill requirements for earning a high school diploma under Ohio law.

ELECTIONS

Ohio Right to Life’s political action committee said Thursday its candidate endorsement criteria are changing to require holding a “100 percent pro-life position,” meaning candidates who support exceptions to abortion restrictions in cases of rape or incest cannot be endorsed. The organization said while it has supported a few candidates with those views in the past, it has not advanced legislation including such policies. Ohio Right to Life said it made the decision in collaboration with its local affiliates.

ELECTIONS 2018

New reports filed by federal candidates this week show the U.S. Senate race shaping up to be an expensive battle, while many U.S. House incumbents are sitting on large cash reserves. The filing deadline for campaign activity in the second quarter of this year passed over the weekend. Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel, who is seeking a rematch with U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) in 2018, said Monday that his campaign has raised $1.7 million in the second quarter and has $3.3 million on hand.

Mike Gibbons, a Cleveland banker who is seeking the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate in 2018, announced his campaign raised nearly $700,000 since he entered the race in June. Gibbons’ campaign said he raised $690,000 in the second quarter fundraising period, which includes a $200,000 personal loan. The campaign is reporting $615,000 cash on hand. In other news, he announced that his campaign has hired consulting firm BrabenderCox to serve as media strategist.

Ohio Democratic Party Chairman David Pepper said Tuesday he’s excited about the party’s current field of statewide candidates and wouldn’t speculate on former Attorney General Richard Cordray’s likelihood of wading into the gubernatorial race.

The following endorsements were made over the week:
- Reps. Bill Seitz (R-Cincinnati) and Tom Brinkman (R-Cincinnati) and Sen. Lou Terhar (R-Cincinnati) endorsed Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor for governor.

ENVIRONMENT

The Ohio EPA said the first transaction through the Ohio Materials Marketplace occurred Monday. The service allows Ohio businesses, not-for-profits and government organizations to advertise and acquire potentially useful products and materials that might otherwise be destined for disposal in landfills.

Ohio EPA has issued the final version of the 2018 Program Management Plan for the Drinking Water Assistance Fund (DWAF). The fund provides financial and technical assistance for a variety of projects that improve or protect the quality of Ohio’s drinking water.

Conservation groups have broadened their lawsuit challenging a U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management plan to permit fracking in Ohio’s only national forest. The Center for Biological Diversity, Ohio Environmental Council, Heartwood and Sierra Club are challenging a new 1,147-acre March 2017 lease sale in Wayne National Forest and adding claims that the federal fracking plans violate the Endangered Species Act, threatening animals in the forest and downstream.

An automated research tool is now patrolling Lake Erie in an effort to protect drinking water, according to the University of Michigan (UM). A robotic lake-bottom laboratory has begun tracking the levels of dangerous toxins produced by cyanobacteria that bloom each summer in the Western Basin, the university said.

The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (Ohio EPA) is handing out $30,000 in scholarships to 12 environmental science and engineering students attending Ohio’s colleges and universities, the agency announced Thursday.

FEDERAL

President Donald Trump is coming back to Ohio to hold a rally with his supporters in Youngstown on Tuesday, July 25.

U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) Director Richard Cordray joined U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) in a conference call with media on Wednesday to discuss his agency’s new rule prohibiting financial companies from using mandatory arbitration clauses to deny groups of consumers their ability to sue in court. Both, however, refused to answer questions about Cordray’s possible foray into Ohio’s gubernatorial race next year.

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions Wednesday announced new policy and guidelines regarding the federal collection of assets seized by state or local law enforcement under state law. The changes come after Ohio enacted 131-HB347 (McColley-Brinkman) on civil asset forfeiture proceedings. The bill originally banned the practice by Ohio law enforcement but was later altered to revise the procedures used to take cash and property from criminal suspects who have not been charged.

Rover Pipeline LLC’s purchase and subsequent destruction of the historic Stoneman House in Carroll County violated federal law, according to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s (FERC) Office of Enforcement.

GENERAL ASSEMBLY/STATEHOUSE

The Senate will consider overrides to Gov. John Kasich’s veto items in the enacted two-year budget as part of the “normal course of business,” according to Senate President Larry Obhof (R-Medina) Wednesday. “We’ve got a couple of if-needed days in August, I anticipate we’ll be here for one of those, and we’ll be here several days in September,” Obhof said.

The Senate released its remaining schedule for the rest of 2017, with if-needed sessions on the calendar for Wednesday, Aug. 16 and Wednesday, Aug. 23. However, if the Senate chooses not to utilize the August if-needed sessions, it will return the week of Labor Day, with committee hearings on Tuesday, Sept. 5, and an if-needed session on Wednesday, Sept. 6.

Reps. Nickie Antonio (D-Lakewood) and Janine Boyd (D-Cleveland Heights) announced legislation Friday that would require those convicted of a domestic violence crime, or served a civil protection order (CPO), to temporarily turn over their firearms to law enforcement. They said the “Domestic Violence Victim Protection Act” addresses the most dangerous time period for victims in abusive relationships. They also said the risk of homicide at the hands of an intimate partner increases eight times when a gun is in the house.

At a time when Congress is viewed through the public eye as the most partisan it’s been in decades, the National Conference of State Legislators (NCSL) has released a report that concludes most state legislatures are even more polarized than Congress. Drawing on 10 case studies of state legislatures across the nation, NCSL sought to analyze three scales to quantify the condition of each legislature: polarization (the extent of ideological differences between parties) versus moderation, policymaking versus gridlock and civility versus incivility.

GOVERNOR

Gov. John R. Kasich Monday signed the following bills into law which become effective in 90 days:
- HB63 (Hughes) which requires an additional prison term of six years for felonious assault if the offender also is convicted of a specification that charges that the offender used an accelerant in committing the offense and that the harm caused by the violation resulted in a permanent, serious disfigurement or permanent, substantial incapacity and names the act’s provisions “Judy’s Law.”
- HB103 (Reineke) which modifies the composition and powers of the financial planning and supervision commission of a political subdivision that is in a state of fiscal emergency and clarifies the duties of that political subdivision.

Appointments made during the week include the following:
- Lilia J. Perez-Chavolia, Ph.D., of Hilliard (Franklin County) reappointed to the Public Benefits Advisory Board for a term beginning July 14, 2017, and ending June 30, 2020.
- Betty Montgomery of Columbus (Franklin County) reappointed to the Ohio Venture Capital Authority for a term beginning July 14, 2017, and ending Jan. 31, 2021.
- Joshua Thomas of Canal Winchester (Franklin County) as a student member on the University of Akron Board of Trustees for a term beginning July 14, 2017, and ending July 1, 2019.
- Jessica A. Peck of Valley City (Medina County) as a student member on the Kent State University Board of Trustees for a term beginning July 14, 2017, and ending May 16, 2019.
- Alberto Jones of Trotwood (Montgomery County) to serve as a student member on the University of Cincinnati Board of Trustees for a term beginning July 20, 2017, and ending May 13, 2019.
- Alex T. Boehnke of Columbus (Franklin County) appointed and Charles Dejonckheere of Cincinnati (Hamilton County), Jennifer G. Fenderbosch of Avon Lake, (Lorain County), Michael G. Dinneen of Worthington (Franklin County) and Kathryn A. Trent of Fayetteville (Brown County) reappointed to the Materials Management Advisory Council for terms beginning July 20, 2017, and ending July 1, 2020.

HIGHER EDUCATION

U.S. Rep. Joyce Beatty (D-Columbus) will be the speaker for Ohio State University’s summer commencement ceremony, the university announced. The event begins at 2 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 6 at the Schottenstein Center, and about 1,500 students are expected to receive degrees.

The ongoing debate over whether universities can use the images, names and likenesses of former student athletes in commercial advertisements and partnerships without compensating them was again raised with former Ohio State University football star linebacker Chris Spielman ostensibly answering “no.” He filed a class action lawsuit against the university in federal court, arguing that he and other former OSU student athletes have had their names, images and likenesses mishandled.

The Ohio Department of Higher Education (ODHE) released its second annual report on efforts to change campus culture surrounding sexual violence, finding more college students in the Buckeye State are getting education on prevention and intervention. ODHE has been collecting data on sexual violence on campuses with the help of Ohio’s higher education institutions as part of an effort to understand the problem of sexual violence and to find solutions.

HOUSING/HOMELESSNESS

The Ohio Housing Finance Agency (OHFA) Board Wednesday announced the recipients of the 2017 Housing Tax Credit (HTC) program awards, which are used to fund the construction, acquisition and rehabilitation of affordable housing communities throughout Ohio. Nearly $26 million in federal housing tax credits was awarded to 33 developments to create 1,698 housing units serving families, seniors and individuals with disabilities.

JUDICIAL

In a case described as the first of its kind under Ohio’s Safe Harbor human trafficking law, the Supreme Court of Ohio is set to hear the appeal of a girl convicted in the murder of her trafficker at the age of 15. Currently serving a sentence of 21 years to life, Alexis Martin was bound over from juvenile court and tried as an adult, though her attorneys say a Summit County judge failed to appoint a guardian ad litem or hold a hearing to determine whether to divert the complaint — both provisions of the Safe Harbor Act.

LAW ENFORCEMENT

National, state and local law enforcement officials announced Thursday that a federal grand jury has indicted 16 southwest Ohioans on a combined 45 counts related to trafficking fentanyl, the opiate implicated in driving the surge of overdose deaths here. Charges cover distribution of fentanyl, maintaining drug-involved premises, firearms offenses and money laundering, according to the office U.S. Attorney Benjamin Glassman of the Southern District of Ohio.

LOCAL GOVERNMENT

County-level leaders discussed their challenges with a long list of mandated responsibilities and funding requests and lamented the lack of a problem-solving ethos in D.C. at a Columbus Metropolitan Club forum on counties’ role in government ahead of this weekend’s annual conference of the National Association of Counties (NACo) set for the capital city. Matthew Chase, executive director of NACo, set the stage with an overview of counties’ reach and resources — $560 billion in combined budgets and an employee force that, at 3.6 million, exceeds 1 percent of the U.S. population. “All these things you think the city does, it’s actually the county,” Chase said.

MARIJUANA

Senate Minority Leader Kenny Yuko (D-Richmond Heights) introduced a resolution urging Congress and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to reclassify marijuana under the Controlled Substances Act. Reclassification would increase research into marijuana’s effects and ease the burden on legal medical marijuana businesses, Yuko’s office said in announcing SCR13.

NATURAL RESOURCES

The final version of the budget, HB49 (R. Smith), includes a number of fee increases for non-resident hunters and anglers. The increases on outdoor enthusiasts from out of state represent a compromise between policymakers and sportsmen groups, which suggested hiking fees on Ohio hunters and anglers as well. The Ohio Wildlife Council had supported a $3 increase on in-state hunting, fishing and trapping fees as well.

The Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) swore in 23 new natural resources officers to serve at Ohio’s state parks, forests, preserves and waterways.

OHO CONSTITUTIONAL MODERNIZATION COMMISSION (OCMC)

The Ohio Constitutional Modernization Commission’s (OCMC) final report rests with the General Assembly after four years of commission deliberations and recommendations. The 600-page document is characterized as much by what it does not contain as by what it does, including six constitutional articles that received little or no attention. Members took a no-change approach to most sections they did consider, with some notable debate around gender-neutral language, ballot initiative reform, and expanded legislative term limits. However, none of these made it into final recommendations.

PEOPLE

Next month, Columbus will be one of 10 cities hosting the United State of Women’s Galvanize summit, which will bring together women of various backgrounds and professions for a two-day workshop series aimed at empowering them to become leaders in their fields and local communities. Tina Tchen, former chief of staff to First Lady Michelle Obama, joined Sen. Charleta Tavares (D-Columbus) and Nichole Dunn, president and CEO of The Women’s Fund of Central Ohio, at the Statehouse Monday to preview the event, to be held Aug. 12-13.

Former state Rep. Gene Krebs chose Tuesday’s Ohio Consumers’ Counsel Governing Board meeting to announce his resignation as board chairman in order to seek unspecified elective office in 2018. Krebs, of Camden in Preble County, would not say whether he is running for the General Assembly or another branch of state, local or county government. Vice Chairman Michael Watkins will take over as chair. Also leaving the board are Sally Hughes and Fred Yoder, who both have served since 2011 and chose not to seek another term.

Former colleagues of U.S. Rep. Ralph Regula praised his work for his district and said he will be missed after Regula died Wednesday evening, July 19, at his home at the age of 92. Regula served the Canton area from 1973 until his retirement in 2009. Before Congress, he served on the State Board of Education and as a member of the Ohio House and Senate. He was born in Beach City in Stark County in 1924, and graduated from Mount Union College in Alliance. He later received his law degree from the William McKinley School of Law. The Canton Repository said arrangements are pending for a private funeral service, but a public “celebration of life” is being tentatively planned at the University of Mount Union.

PUBLIC SAFETY

New drivers are now able to test their virtual skills before getting behind the wheel of an actual vehicle, the Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles (BMV) announced Thursday. Ohio is the first state to begin piloting portable driver simulator systems (PDSS) for safety screening and skill diagnostics prior to road tests, according to the bureau. Transportation budget bill 131-HB53 (Grossman) provided $450,000 in each fiscal year to purchase the simulators.

The National Safety Council (NSC) recently graded all 50 states’ safety policies and practices in a new report, giving Ohio a D and a 38th ranking in the nation. The lengthy report analyzed specific policies and practices in the areas of workplace safety, driving safety and home and community safety to grade each state, and according to the NSC, every state has some room for improvement. No state received an A, and only eight states received a B.

SECRETARY OF STATE

Secretary of State Jon Husted said Friday that 9,834 new entities filed to do business in Ohio during June 2017, an increase of 1,354 when compared to the same month in 2016.

TECHNOLOGY

A representative of one of the world’s largest cybersecurity firms told an advisory board formed by Attorney General Mike DeWine on Monday that ransomware attacks have been increasing and will likely continue to go up, especially in the United States because victims here are more likely to pay the demands of attackers.

WORKERS’ COMPENSATION

The Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC) has opened applications for next year’s Safety Innovation Awards, to be presented at the 2018 Ohio Safety Congress & Expo. Winners will receive $1,000 to $6,000 in cash awards, depending on their finishing spot, and be recognized at the Safety Congress & Expo.

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