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Latest Government News From Ohio

Week in Review

Friday, June 23, 2017


Approximately 16,500 farmers have been certified to apply fertilizer in the state, Ohio Department of Agriculture (ODAg) Director David Daniels said Monday. According to state law established through 130-SB150 (Hite-Peterson), farmers applying commercial fertilizer on more than 50 acres of land must be certified by Saturday, Sept. 30, 2017.

The Ohio Department of Agriculture (ODAg) has started the process of disrupting the gypsy moth mating season, according to the department and the Ohio State University (OSU) College of Food, Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. The department flies a small, yellow plane a couple hundred feet above treetops and buildings, spraying an organic product called SPLAT GM-O to confuse male gypsy moths amid their search for females, OSU said in a news release.


Extended family members in the Pike County murders are once again at the center of state and local investigations into the execution-style shootings. The Ohio Attorney General’s Office and Pike County Sheriff’s Office issued a request for information Monday on four members of the Wagner family, who are related to the slain Rhoden family by way of Edward “Jake” Wagner’s relationship with the deceased Hannah Rhoden. Wagner, 24, and Rhoden had a daughter who now lives with the younger Wagner. Attorney General Mike DeWine is asking anyone with information on the Wagners to contact the Bureau of Criminal Investigation (BCI) tip line at 855-BCI-OHIO or the Pike County sheriff at 740-947-2111.


Backers of a proposed constitutional amendment that would give victims of crime more rights during the judicial process submitted 563,556 signatures to the secretary of state’s office Thursday in order to get the issue on the November ballot. In order to qualify for the ballot, 305,591 of those signatures must be valid. Backers also said they collected signatures in all 88 counties, more than exceeding the requirement that signatures must be collected from at least 44 counties.


The FY18-19 biennial budget bill, HB49 (R. Smith), underwent one last round of major changes Tuesday before the Senate passed the bill Wednesday and the House voted to reject Senate changes, setting up the conference committee to hammer out a final version. That committee met for the first time Thursday to hear new revenue projections that confirmed estimates of a $1 billion shortfall.

Ohio Medicaid would be prohibited from enrolling new individuals in the expansion group starting on July 1, 2018 under the Senate GOP’s latest version of the budget. The policy was one of several changes accepted in the omnibus amendment to HB49 (R. Smith), which was reported out by the Senate Finance Committee on Tuesday. Committee Chairman Scott Oelslager (R-North Canton) said the budget is balanced, cutting $1.055 billion from the as introduced level. Oelslager told reporters that qualifying individuals will be able to gain coverage in Medicaid Group VIII during an open enrollment period from July 1, 2017 to July 1, 2018. He also noted that people with serious mental illnesses will be exempted from work requirements under the amendment.

At Wednesday’s Senate session, HB49 was approved 24-8 on a mostly party-line vote, with Sen. Kris Jordan (R-Powell) voting against the budget and Sen. Sandra Williams (D-Cleveland) supporting the proposal. Sen. Vernon Sykes (D-Akron) was recused from voting.

Republicans did not offer any last-minute amendments to the budget, with members of the GOP caucus mostly spending time praising various provisions in the bill while acknowledging that nobody received everything they desired. Senate President Larry Obhof (R-Medina) told reporters after the session that he feels “pretty good” about where the budget ended up.

“We had some pretty tough circumstances. We will find out for sure what the revenue projections are tomorrow and what the Medicaid caseloads are going to be, but we have anticipated a more than $1 billion hole that needed to be closed. This bill does that,” Obhof said. “I’ve had some very good conversations with the governor and with the House, and I think we’re all focused on the same things — making sure that we have a balanced budget, that we fund the necessary services for the people of Ohio, and that we run government as effectively and efficiently as possible. I think the final product next week, agreed upon by the two chambers and the governor, will accomplish all those things.”

Emmalee Kalmbach, spokesperson for Gov. John Kasich, issued the following statement: “Gov. Kasich is grateful to members of the Ohio Senate for their passage of a state budget that keeps Ohio’s fiscal house in order and strengthens our jobs-friendly climate. Now that the Senate has concluded its work, the governor looks forward to working with the joint House/Senate conference committee to hammer out a final two-year budget that preserves Ohio’s fiscal health, furthers our pro-growth policies and protects our most vulnerable citizens.”

During the Senate session, Republicans tabled nearly every proposed amendment from Democrats over a span of several hours, including two alternative budget plans based on repealing the small business “pass-through” tax deduction. Sen. Mike Skindell (D-Lakewood) argued the cuts were not creating jobs and were mostly benefitting wealthy individuals such as lawyers, accountants and lobbyists. Republicans pushed back on that claim, with Sen. Matt Huffman (R-Lima) saying he knows middle-class business owners such as florists, dry cleaners and restaurant owners who are benefitting from the tax deduction.

The House voted 93-1 against concurring with Senate amendments; Rep. Ron Hood cast the lone vote in favor of concurrence. Rep. Bill Seitz (R-Cincinnati) listed numerous reasons to object to the Senate’s version of the budget, saying senators had undone House attempts to reassert legislative control over Medicaid and bypassed separate debates on utility concerns by seeking to address wind turbine setbacks in HB49, for example.

As the conference committee on HB49 (R. Smith) began hammering out the differences between the House and Senate versions of the FY18-19 biennial budget, new projections from the Office of Budget and Management (OBM) and the Legislative Service Commission (LSC) confirmed Thursday that lawmakers have $1 billion less to work with than was originally thought when the bill was introduced in February. OBM Director Tim Keen, however, told reporters that he believes the package passed by the Senate on Wednesday is “very close to where we need to be,” and may only be off by $20 million to $25 million.

Meanwhile Thursday, at a press conference called by House Democrats, House Minority Leader Fred Strahorn (D-Dayton) told reporters the version of HB49 (R. Smith) voted out of the Senate “remains unstable” and is an “abuse of taxpayer trust.”

“Not only do we believe that his budget does not serve the best interests of working Ohioans, we believe that it is a continuation of a series of proposed budgets that have not emphasized the right priorities for Ohio’s economy to grow and for Ohio’s people to prosper,” Strahorn said, blaming previous Republican budgets for the roughly $1 billion shortfall projected in the FY18-19 budget. Strahorn was joined at the Statehouse press conference by House Minority Whip Nickie Antonio (D-Lakewood) and House Finance Committee Ranking Member Jack Cera (D-Bellaire), who is serving on the HB49 Conference Committee.

“I didn’t think it could get any worse than what we saw in the House, but you know, as usual, the Senate proved me wrong,” Cera said.


About half of those implicated in Columbus schools’ data manipulation scandal haven’t faced discipline yet, according to Auditor Dave Yost, prompting him to order a special review of the Ohio Department of Education.

The Ohio Department of Education (ODE) notes that this month brought the release of a new version of ACT WorkKeys, the job skills assessment used in one of the state’s three pathways to earning a high school diploma. Because of the update, the new version of the test will have a different scoring scale. That means students will need to take all three sections of the test from the same version. The original version of WorkKeys will remain available through the state testing portal until Sept. 30, so all students seeking re-takes on the original version must complete them by that date.

Rep. Andrew Brenner (R-Powell) got a chance Tuesday to pitch colleagues on his plan for a major overhaul of school funding that would allow money to follow students and end the use of local property tax levies for K-12 education. The House Finance Committee heard sponsor testimony on Brenner’s HB102, an updated version of the plan he introduced late in 2016 as 131-HB628. Brenner, chairman of the House Education Committee, said he believes he’s laid out the framework for a fair system that answers the findings of the DeRolph rulings, while acknowledging repeatedly Tuesday that many details are still to be addressed.

Not much more than a year after it launched, the Joint Education Oversight Committee (JEOC) is on the chopping block, targeted for dissolution by October in the Senate’s version of the biennial budget. Senate President Larry Obhof (R-Medina) said the General Assembly doesn’t need a special joint committee to perform the panel’s intended work. Lawmakers created the joint committee in the previous budget, 131-HB64 (R. Smith). It only started meeting in April of 2016 and hired its first director, Lauren Monowar-Jones, last June.


The U.S. Supreme Court Monday declined to hear an appeal that challenged Ohio laws that opponents said threw out provisional and absentee ballots for simple mistakes. The Northeast Ohio Coalition for the Homeless (NEOCH), the Central Ohio Coalition for the Homeless (COCH), and the Ohio Democratic Party were among groups that challenged 130-SB205 (Coley) and 130-SB216 (Seitz), saying the laws suppressed voters by throwing out ballots for trivial and technical errors.

Many counties will not be ready for the 2020 General Election if voting machines are not promptly addressed by the Legislature, Secretary of State Jon Husted said Wednesday.
“It’s something we are constantly speaking with the General Assembly about. I understand they have many problems and challenges that they have to face, but this is one that has to get done because there will be a day when our voting equipment — somewhere, someway — will fail if we don’t,” Husted told local elections officials during the 2017 Ohio Secretary of State Summer Conference at the Ohio Union on Ohio State University campus.


Former Democratic U.S. Rep. Zack Space filed a designation of treasurer form Friday for a campaign committee for a potential run for state auditor.

Attorney General Mike DeWine issued a statement Monday saying that this Sunday, June 25, he expects “to make a major announcement about Ohio’s future” at the annual DeWine Family Ice Cream Social at their home in Cedarville. DeWine has hinted broadly at plans to run for the Republican gubernatorial nomination but has not yet made it official.

The Renacci for Ohio campaign Monday announced that U.S. Army veterans Kevin Bojarski and Brook Harless will co-chair the campaign’s veterans coalition along with World War II veteran Rudy Sasko, who is U.S. Rep. Jim Renacci’s uncle. Renacci’s gubernatorial campaign also announced the hire of several veterans of President Donald Trump’s successful Ohio campaign in 2016. The hires join Rob Scott, the campaign’s senior advisor who served as the Ohio state director for Trump’s primary campaign in Ohio and deputy state director for Trump in the general election.

Endorsements released over the week include the following:

- International Union of Electronic, Electrical, Salaried Machine and Furniture Workers (IUE-CWA) endorsed Nan Whaley for governor.


The state’s unemployment rate was 4.9 percent in May, down from 5.0 percent in April, according to the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS). Ohio’s nonagricultural wage and salary employment increased 6,300 over the month, from a revised 5,509,100 in April to 5,515,400 in May, the department said in a news release.


Rover Pipeline LLC will make a one-time $1.5 million payment to the Ohio History Connection (OHC) as part of an amended memorandum of agreement (MOA). According to the original MOA, Rover was to pay OHC $1.5 million on March 1 of every year for five years. According to the amended version, Rover will make one payment of $1.5 million on July 7 and will “continue to consult regarding additional mitigation measures to offset the adverse effects that have already occurred to the Stoneman House and adverse effects that shall occur to” a historically significant property in Crawford County. OHC complained to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) about the non-payment, which led to the dispute resolution process.


Lake Erie’s ecosystem is in poor condition and the trend is deteriorating, according to a new report put out by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Canadian government. The “State of the Great Lakes 2017 Highlights Report” ranked the condition of Lake Erie as the worst of the five Great Lakes, putting it in “poor condition.” According to the report, harmful algal blooms resulting from excessive nutrient inputs occur regularly in the western basin and Lake St. Clair during the summer, and have impacted drinking water treatment systems.


Gov. John Kasich was one of seven governors to sign a letter Friday criticizing the U.S. House of Representatives’ handling of the American Health Care Act (ACHA) and urging the U.S. Senate to work in a bipartisan manner to ensure the bill provides coverage and care for vulnerable Americans. The letter, addressed to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) and Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-New York), urges both parties to work together to develop a bill that will “result in a system that is available and affordable for every American.”


The Hannah News interview series for freshman legislators featured Rep. Tavia Galonski (D-Akron). Abruptly joining the Ohio General Assembly might seem like a daunting task to many, but just a little over one month into her new position representing the city of Akron in the House, Galonski is taking it in stride. “It’s been like drinking water out of a fire hose,” she said. “There’s a huge learning curve, but I absolutely love it. I feel like my qualifications, my background and my experience uniquely qualify me for being able to excel at this job.”

Aside from passage of the biennial budget, HB49 (R. Smith), Wednesday’s Senate session included passage of SB77 (Coley), to create “KylerStrong Foundation” license plates; SB78 (Hoagland), which designates a portion of State Route 7 in Jefferson County as the “U.S. Air Force Staff Sergeant Yvonne Marie Fair Memorial Highway”; HB124 (Brenner-Carfagna), which would fix a mistake from the Delaware County Board of Elections and allow approximately 2,000 people to vote on a levy for the Delaware Area Career Center; and SB117 (Hite), which designates May as “Drive Ohio Byways Month.”

Aside from voting to reject Senate amendments to the budget, the House voted Wednesday to pass HB170 (Carfagna-Duffey), to create state academic standards for computer science; HB41 (Pelanda), an elections bill; HB199 (Blessing), regarding mortgage lending; SB2 (Hite), regarding environmental laws; HB95 (Hughes-Seitz), to create enhanced penalties for distracted driving; HB125 (Craig-Seitz), which caps fees for traffic violations in response to small-town speed traps; HB213 (Dever), regarding real estate appraisal licensing; HB158 (Perales-Craig), to grant unemployment benefits to military spouses who must leave a job because of a redeployment; HB223 (Dever), regarding structured settlements; HB145 (Huffman-Sprague), regarding confidential treatment for medical providers with addiction problems; HB69 (Cupp), regarding reimbursements to township fire and emergency services for revenue foregone in a tax increment financing arrangement; HB60 (Hambley), to create enhanced drivers licenses good for use at international land border crossings into Canada and Mexico; HB10 (Arndt), to allow intra-state equity crowdfunding; SB7 (Bacon-Manning), regarding protection orders; and HB195 (Ingram-Seitz), regarding standards for transporting people in wheelchairs; and voted to concur with Senate amendments to HB124 (Brenner-Carfagna), which aims to fix an error with a Delaware career-tech education levy.

In other legislation action, House Criminal Justice Committee reported out HB215 (Riedel), to create the Paulding County Municipal Court; House Education Committee reported out SB8 (Gardner-Terhar), regarding school facilities; and HB235 (Gavarone), regarding procedures for approval of the state’s Every Student Succeeds Act plan; House Public Utilities Committee reported out HB133 (Ryan), providing tax exemptions for disaster relief work; House State and Local Government Committee reported out SB37 (Hite), regarding training for police chiefs; HB229 (Romanchuk-Wiggam), to designate Feb. 3 as “Charles Follis Day”; House Ways and Means Committee reported out HB24 (Ginter), regarding tax exemptions for veterans organizations’ property; House Higher Education and Workforce Development Committee reported out HB58 (Brenner-Slaby), to require instruction in cursive handwriting.


Appointments made during the week include the following:

- Molly S. Seals of Canfield (Mahoning County) and Capri S. Cafaro of Hubbard (Trumbull County) to the Youngstown State University Board of Trustees for terms beginning June 20, 2017 and ending, respectively, April 30, 2024 and June 30, 2026.


Lance Himes has been named the permanent director of the Ohio Department of Health (ODH), the governor’s office announced Tuesday. Himes has served as interim director of the department since March 2017.

Mental health providers and Kasich administration officials all professed a commitment to the goals of a planned behavioral health redesign Thursday but offered contrasting views on the system’s readiness for the changes. One psychologist urged members of the Joint Medicaid Oversight Committee to keep paying close attention to the transition, saying the administration and providers are “no longer in a functional relationship” and need “rational” third-party oversight. Perspectives also differed among the providers who testified to JMOC Thursday on whether to press ahead now or delay implementation.


A Wisconsin-based education organization is awarding 11 Ohio colleges and universities with a grant aimed at helping students who are experiencing a temporary financial emergency pay their bills and stay enrolled in school. The Great Lakes Higher Education Corporation and Affiliates awarded the two-year Dash Emergency Grants, which will provide grants of up to $1,000 to students who are going through a financial emergency, such as an unexpected car repair, medical or housing bill.

Cleveland State University (CSU) President Ronald M. Berkman Tuesday announced his decision to retire from the presidency in June 2018. Berkman, 70, is CSU’s sixth president and has served in that role since 2009. The university said it will mount a national search for his replacement beginning next month.

Researchers from Kent State University and the Moss Rehabilitation Research Institute (MRRI) in Philadelphia will conduct a series of studies to develop a theory of learning needed to advance aphasia rehabilitation after receiving a five-year, $2.4 million grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), according to Kent State.

Saying he wanted to introduce legislation that would take a proactive approach to addressing sexual assault and other dating violence on college campuses, Rep. John Barnes (D-Cleveland) Wednesday presented his HB240 to the House Higher Education and Workforce Development Committee with a video. The video, produced by the Cincinnati Enquirer, featured an Ohio woman who was sexually assaulted in a dorm at the University of Cincinnati (UC) after a freshman orientation. While the university ultimately expelled her attacker, charges against him were dropped by prosecutors, and she said she still felt unsafe on campus.


Two Ohio Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSAs) are among those singled out in the latest report on the U.S. housing market from Nationwide Insurance Company: the Columbus area for being among those areas with the lowest housing inventory-sales ratios in the first quarter of 2017, and the Toledo area for being among the top performing MSAs.


The Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) is promoting paddle sports by sponsoring two more Paddle Palooza Festivals this year at Portage Lakes State Park and Maumee Bay State Park. A third festival at Cowan Lake was this past weekend. The Portage Lakes event is Saturday, June 24 and the Maumee Bay event is Sunday, July 9.

During the first quarter of 2017, Ohio’s horizontal shale wells produced 3,904,732 barrels of oil and 371,921,659 Mcf (371 billion cubic feet) of natural gas, according the figures released recently by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR). Natural gas production from the first quarter of 2017 showed an increase over the first quarter of 2016, while oil production was reduced for that same period.


Charitable giving topped $390 billion in 2016, according to Giving USA’s 2017 report, which was highlighted at a Thursday event in Columbus by Una Osili, professor of economics and director of research at the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy at Indiana University. That total was a 2.7 percent increase over 2015 — 1.4 percent when adjusted for inflation. Osili characterized that as a modest increase but touted that it was the third straight year of gains in giving, meaning that the charitable sector can now focus on expanding giving rather than regaining lost ground following the Great Recession in 2008.


The Porter Wright law firm recently announced the addition of a Sports Law Practice Group with the hiring of Luke Fedlam. The firm said Fedlam brings over a decade of experience working with professional athletes and a well-rounded approach to the challenges they face at any phase of their career.

The Ohio Chamber of Commerce said its vice president for government affairs, Keith Lake, has graduated from the Institute for Organization Management, the professional development program of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation, and received the recognition of IOM.

Jeremy Morris will become the new executive director of the Ohio Statewide Independent Living Council, the council’s Governing Board announced Friday. Morris is now executive director of the Access Center for Independent Living in Dayton and will assume his new role July 3.


Gov. John Kasich announced the launch of a coordinated, statewide law enforcement response to human trafficking Monday that will engage Ohio’s undercover agents in identifying victims as well as traffickers. The governor gathered with Ohio Department of Public Safety (ODPS) Director John Born at the highway patrol training academy, where more than 80 agents from its Ohio Investigative Unit (OIU) began training in human trafficking intervention. The goal, said Kasich, is to reach young people before they are victimized and to give both sex- and labor-trafficked individuals a way out.


The Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS) pulled a rule changing the state funding formula for county child support enforcement agencies (CSEA) from Joint Committee on Agency Rule Review (JCARR) consideration Monday after the committee said there appeared to be an error in the Rule Summary and Fiscal Analysis submitted by the agency.

The Ohio Development Services Agency (DSA) announced more than $1 million in grants Thursday to expand advanced manufacturing. “Ohio is a leader in manufacturing innovation,” DSA Director David Goodman said in a release. “We are committed to helping Ohio manufacturers find new ways to stay competitive and create jobs.”


The Montgomery County auditor’s $1.1 million reduction in the property tax value of a West Carrollton Carmax Auto Superstore was affirmed by the Supreme Court of Ohio Tuesday. The Court ruled in W. Carrollton City Schools Bd. of Edn. v. Montgomery Cty. Bd. of Revision that the West Carrollton City Schools Board of Education’s challenge to the revision failed to point to any evidence that would negate the auditor’s decision.

The Ohio Department of Taxation (ODT) released information on Ohio’s 2017 sales tax holiday which will run from Friday, Aug. 4, 2017 at 12:00 a.m. to Sunday, Aug. 6, 2017 at 11:59 p.m. More information regarding the sales tax holiday can be found in the department’s Sales Tax Holiday Frequently Asked Questions available on the department’s website at www.tax.ohio.gov/sales_and_use/salestaxholiday/holidayfaq.aspx. This third sales tax holiday was enacted by the passage of SB9 (Bacon) which was signed into law by the governor on Tuesday, June 13.


The Ohio Turnpike and Infrastructure Commission (OTIC) on Monday adopted a resolution authorizing the commission to fund part of a project replacing the overhead bridge for State Route 164. According to the resolution, the commission decided to contribute $1.5 million to the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) project because OTIC would save approximately that amount by avoiding maintenance for the current bridge.


Ohio owners of the coal-fired Ohio Valley Electric Corporation (OVEC) moved one step closer to legislatively sanctioned generation subsidies Tuesday as the House Public Utilities Committee approved major changes to HB239 (Smith-Carfagna) intended to soften opposition to the bill. With additional amendments pending, the legislation did not receive a scheduled vote, however.

The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) moved Wednesday to stop sub-metering companies from charging residents of multi-family units more for resold electricity than what PUCO-regulated utilities bill consumers directly for the same usage. The decision, which affirms a new class of regulated utilities in Ohio, follows three and a half years of debate in the General Assembly and a series of proposed legislation, including the latest companion bills, HB249 (Duffey) and SB157 (Bacon).

Among a raft Senate changes to budget bill HB49 (R. Smith) is one that would allow the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) to increase residential electric bills to salvage a local utility’s credit rating. Several paragraphs inserted into the 500-page omnibus amendment accepted by the Senate Finance Committee Tuesday add the new non-bypassable bill rider to electric security plans (ESP) implemented by 127-SB221 (Schuler).


Registration is now open for the biennial Ohio Women Veterans Conference to be held Saturday, Aug. 12, 2017 at the Ohio State University Ohio Union. This year’s theme is “Celebrating Generations of Service — 67,000 Veterans Strong.” Topic areas include managing money military style, maximizing military skills on a civilian resume, support and mentoring for women veterans in the workplace, challenges with aging, statewide resources, access to benefits and more. To register, visit http://dvs.ohio.gov/main/women-veterans-conference.html. For more information call 614-644-0898.


The Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC) is seeking outside contractors for new health and safety programs as part of its third “Billion Back” to member employers. BWC has issued two requests for proposals (RFPs), the first which seeks a supplier to manage workplace health and wellness programs and the second a supplier to create and lead a campaign that educates the public about the importance of health and safety at work and in the home.

Rep. Bill Seitz (R-Cincinnati) will apparently have to wait another day to try once again to block illegal aliens from receiving workers’ compensation benefits in the state of Ohio. The provision survived just over a month in the General Assembly before meeting the same fate Tuesday in workers’ comp budget HB27 (Brinkman) that it had encountered in a series of standalone bills dating back to 2010. Excision of the “unauthorized worker” ban was one of five changes to HB27 accepted by the Senate Insurance and Financial Institutions Committee before members reported the bill on a party-line vote.

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