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Latest Government News From Ohio

Week in Review

Friday, May 19, 2017

ADDICTION/SUBSTANCE ABUSE

The state would dedicate 10 percent of its Rainy Day Fund to strengthen local governments and provide treatment infrastructure for groups working against the statewide opioid epidemic under new legislation announced Wednesday by Sen. Joe Schiavoni (D-Boardman).

AGING

A significant number of the state’s nursing homes are performing poorly on quality measures, according to a new report from Miami University and data from the Ohio Department of Medicaid (ODM). The report from Miami’s Scripps Gerontology Center (SGC) says Ohio ranks below the national average on all 10 quality indicators measured by the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Minimum Data Set (MDS). This is despite the fact that the ODM pays nursing facilities an amount that is in line with the national average, the Governor’s Office of Health Transformation said in a document accompanying the data set from the state.

However, nursing home representative Peter Van Runkle told Hannah News the study relied on “old data” and that figures for 2017 show a “different picture.”

The House Aging and Long-Term Care Committee used its meeting Wednesday to hear presentations from groups with its same focus — the Ohio Association of Area Agencies on Aging (O4A), Ohio Council for Home Care and Hospice (OCHC) and LeadingAge Ohio.

AGRICULTURE

The Ohio Department of Agriculture (ODAg) has introduced two new nutrient management tools, the department announced Thursday. The “Ohio Applicator Forecast” is a new online tool designed to help nutrient applicators identify times when the potential nutrient loss from a fertilizer or manure application is low, ODAg said. In addition, the “Ohio Agricultural Stewardship Verification Program” is a pilot certification for farmers who protect farmland and natural resources by implementing best management practices on their farms.

ATTORNEY GENERAL

Ohio Attorney General (AG) Mike DeWine Friday announced that Ohio and several other states have reached an agreement in principle to join the federal government in a settlement with CareCore National LLC, a benefits management company, to resolve allegations that it improperly authorized medical procedures paid for with Medicare and Medicaid funds. The settlement includes $446,878.80 in restitution and other recoveries for Ohio’s Medicaid program.

A recently-launched program helping Southern Ohio drug addicts and their children — the Ohio Sobriety, Treatment and Reducing Trauma (START) program — should be funded statewide if it proves to be effective, Attorney General Mike DeWine said Monday at the Two Days in May Conference on Victim Assistance. “We would hope the state Legislature will take a look at this program, see that it does in fact work, and in the future, fund a program like this in every county in the state of Ohio,” DeWine said. While he has not officially announced his candidacy, DeWine is expected to seek the Republican nomination for governor in 2018.

Attorney General Mike DeWine is co-leading an appeal to Congress signed by 50 attorneys general that seeks to return to the states certain Medicare fraud recoveries currently being kept by the federal government.

AUDITOR OF STATE

Auditor Dave Yost warned the public about the cashing of fraudulent checks that appear to be from an account controlled by the Ohio Auditor of State’s Office. The three checks, written in the amounts of $562.09, $542.93 and $548.26, were cashed in the Dayton area and were edited to appear as though they came from Yost’s office, but carried the account number of the Mahoning County Treasurer’s office.

BALLOT ISSUES

The campaign team supporting the Ohio Drug Price Relief Act was announced Tuesday and will include a former Ohio Republican Party chairman and one of the top Republican media consultants in the country. Calling itself a “bipartisan political dream team,” Ohio Taxpayers for Lower Drug Prices will support the Ohio Drug Price Relief Act, an initiated statute which would restrict what the state pays for pharmaceuticals to what the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs pays for the same drugs.

FY18-19 BUDGET

Deans from various medical schools in Ohio asked the Senate Finance Higher Education Subcommittee Thursday to reverse a cut in their budgets and restore separate line items that had been combined into one line item by the House. The provision added by the House to HB49 (R. Smith), the biennial budget, combines the various line items for medical schools and residency programs, including Ohio State’s colleges of dentistry and veterinary medicine, into one item. The chancellor of the Ohio Department of Higher Education would have the authority to determine how the funds would be distributed.

Approximately 70 witnesses queued up Wednesday in five-minute time slots to present their issues and concerns on a wide variety of human service provisions in the House-passed FY18-19 proposed budget to the Senate Finance Health and Medicaid Subcommittee. Topics ran the gamut from programs addressing the opioid crisis, behavior health redesign, Medicaid and the House constraints on spending in the next biennium, the medically handicapped program, tobacco cessation, early childhood education and so forth.

Ohioans seeking to resolve tax disputes would have to deal with significantly worse service under the House-passed version of HB49 (R. Smith), Ohio Board of Tax Appeals (BTA) Executive Director Kathleen Crowley said Thursday. The House version cut the board’s budget by approximately $27,000 in FY18 and $28,000 in FY19 from the as-introduced executive budget, which was already proposing reduced funding levels from FY17.

BUSINESS/CORPORATE

The Ohio Chamber of Commerce’s Research Foundation released findings of its business leader survey, which found its statewide “prosperity pulse” denotes a steady business economic health in the first quarter and it is projected to strengthen in the second.

CORRECTIONS

The Ohio Civil Service Employees Association (OCSEA) announced Thursday that the Kasich administration had “finally” issued formal notice of prison farm layoffs. The union said the notice would preserve workers’ employment rights and provide the public with an official reason for the farms’ closing.

EDUCATION

A student’s “diminished expectation of privacy” allows schools to search untended book bags without a warrant in order to ensure their contents do not endanger fellow students or staff, a unanimous Supreme Court of Ohio ruled.

Rep. David Leland (D-Columbus) introduced HB220 to subject charter school funding to full state audits even when transferred to private management companies. According Leland’s office, the bill would specify state funding remains designated as public funds even when transferred to a third-party management company that runs daily operations. That would subject the money to legal restrictions for permissible use as well as auditing by the state auditor.

The Ohio Family and Children First Cabinet Council (OFCF) is looking for school districts interested in a two-year pilot program to address student truancy, created as part of last year’s overhaul of truancy statutes in HB410 (Hayes-Rezabek). Per the new law, which took effect in April, the OFCF is to establish the pilot program of multi-disciplinary truancy teams for the 2017-2018 and 2018-2019 school year. Participating in the pilot program will suffice for compliance with some of the new law’s requirements related to forming absence intervention teams, according to a letter to schools from OFCF Director Chad Hibbs.

Referrals to the state for potential educator misconduct continued a general upward trend, though the increase was lower than that seen in the previous two years, according to the Ohio Department of Education (ODE). The department’s Office of Professional Conduct recently released its annual report for 2016, showing 11,537 referrals, an 8.5 percent increase. That compares to increases of 17 percent seen in 2015 and 10.4 percent in 2014. The upward trend has generally continued, excepting small drops in 2009 and 2012, for the past decade. The report characterizes the referral volume as “relatively small,” given the approximately 318,000 licensed educators in Ohio.

Several witnesses representing schools, teachers and technology companies Tuesday urged the House Education Committee to act on a proposal to create statewide computer science standards in Ohio. The proposal in HB170, sponsored by Reps. Mike Duffey (R-Worthington) and Rick Carfagna (R-Westerville), would direct the State Board of Education to write the standards and allow for computer science courses to be used to fulfill course requirements for science and math, among other provisions.

ELECTIONS 2018

Rep. Kathleen Clyde (D-Kent) became the first Democrat in the 2018 secretary of state’s race Tuesday, saying Ohio can and must encourage participation in elections and strengthen democracy.

U.S. Rep. Pat Tiberi (R-Columbus) said Tuesday that he won’t run for U.S. Senate in 2018, giving Treasurer Josh Mandel a clearer path to have a rematch against U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH), who defeated him in 2012.

Less than 24 hours after Kathleen Clyde joined the 2018 secretary of state’s race, Sen. Frank LaRose (R-Copley) officially threw his hat into the ring, setting up a primary on the Republican side against Rep. Dorothy Pelanda (Marysville).

ENERGY

Rover Pipeline LLC has failed to pay Ohio History Connection (OHC) the $1.5 million it agreed to provide under a memorandum of agreement (MOA) finalized earlier this year, according to a letter from OHC to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to offset the demolition of the Stoneman House in Carroll County and planned adverse effects to another historically significant property in Crawford County.

ENVIRONMENT

The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (Ohio EPA) will hold two public hearings on Friday, June 16, to accept public comments on the draft 2018 Program Management Plan for the Drinking Water Assistance Fund (DWAF). The fund provides financial and technical assistance for a variety of projects that help improve or protect the quality of Ohio’s drinking water.

Local health departments and public entities will receive nearly $1 million to address mosquito-borne viruses, Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (Ohio EPA) Director Craig Butler and Ohio Department of Health (ODH) Acting Director Lance Himes announced Wednesday.

GENERAL ASSEMBLY/STATEHOUSE

Developing, maintaining and preserving Ohio’s trails will be the primary goals of a new legislative caucus, the Ohio Legislative Trails Caucus, formed recently with both Democratic and Republican members from both the House and Senate. Co-chaired by Sen. Sean O’Brien (D-Cortland), the caucus plans to develop pro-trails legislation and promote better coordination with state agencies.

Ohio House Democratic Leader Fred Strahorn (D-Dayton) announced Tuesday the start of a process to fill the vacancy in the 20th House District seat. The position was recently vacated by Heather Bishoff of Blacklick who resigned in order to pursue her financial planning business full-time and focus on her family.

Other bills on the floor Wednesday easily passed by unanimous or near-unanimous votes, including HB38 (Greenspan), that would up penalties for those who cause the death of a first responder or military member when the offender knew the victim was a first responder or military member and targeted the victim because of it; HB115 (Gavarone-Williams) that will create a voluntary database for law enforcement of people who have been diagnosed with a communication disorder; HB124 (Brenner-Carfagna), which would give voters another chance to vote on a levy from November 2015 that they missed because it was placed on the ballot in only one county where the district has territory; and SB24 (Terhar), to create the Ohio Consumer Installment Loan Act.

Ohio schools could forego large-scale construction and renovation projects through the Ohio School Facilities Commission (OSFC) in favor of state assistance with smaller upgrades to meet specific needs under SB8 (Gardner-Terhar), which the Senate passed unanimously Wednesday. In addition, senators approved SB4 (Kunze-Oelslager) so people who’ve been trafficked can have their records expunged.

The Capitol Square Review and Advisory Board (CSRAB) and the Capitol Square Foundation (CSF) will unveil the portraits of seven former speakers of the Ohio House of Representatives on Tuesday, May 23 at 11 a.m. in the Rotunda of the Ohio Statehouse.

In committee action this week, House Criminal Justice Committee reported out SB7 (Bacon-Manning), which changes the law concerning protection orders; House Federalism and Interstate Relations Committee reported out HR85, which urges the federal government to make changes to environmental laws; House State and Local Government Committee reported out HB51 (Faber), which requires the Legislature’s standing committees to review state agencies periodically, HB134 (Hambley-Kick), which changes school community improvement grants, and HB135 (Patmon), which designates June 12 as “Superman Day”; Senate Education Committee reported out SB8 (Gardner-Terhar), which requires the Ohio School Facilities Commission to establish a program on school technology and infrastructure; House Health Committee reported out HB196 which designates October as “Ohio Chiropractic Awareness Month”; and House Transportation and Public Safety Committee reported out HB60 (Hambley-Rogers), which authorizes the issuance of an enhanced driver’s license, and HB95 (Hughes-Seitz), which creates an enhanced penalty for distracted driving.

GOVERNOR

Gov. John Kasich made a strong appeal to faith and compassion Tuesday in a town hall meeting hosted by the Columbus Metropolitan Club, where the two-term governor denied his latest book was motivated by plans for a third run for president in 2020.

Ohio leaders paid tribute to the son of two Auschwitz survivors and a soldier who witnessed the liberation of Dachau during Wednesday’s observance of the 37th annual Governor’s Holocaust Commemoration, held before the Statehouse Holocaust Memorial.

Appointments made during the week include the following:

- Peggy Griffith of Deerfield (Portage County), Chauncey A. Cochran of New Albany (Franklin County), and David W. Johnson of Summitville (Columbiana County) reappointed to the Bureau of Workers’ Compensation Board of Directors for terms beginning June 12, 2017, and ending June 11, 2020.
- Peter M. McLinden of Lebanon (Warren County) to the Bureau of Workers’ Compensation Board of Directors for a term beginning May 12, 2017, and ending June 11, 2018.
- Donald L. Plotts of Mount Gilead (Morrow County) reappointed to the Marion Technical College Board of Trustees for a term beginning May 12, 2017, and ending April 29, 2020.
- Jean M. Jakovlic of Granville (Licking County) to the Ohio Developmental Disabilities Council for a term beginning May 12, 2017, and ending Dec. 31, 2019.
- Edward D. Good of Shadyside (Belmont County) reappointed to the Unemployment Compensation Review Commission for a term beginning May 15, 2017, and ending Feb. 26, 2023.
- John W. Zeiger of Columbus (Franklin County) to the Ohio State University Board of Trustees for a term beginning May 15, 2017, and ending May 13, 2026.
- Edward D. Eberhart of Barnesville (Belmont County) reappointed to the Belmont College Board of Trustees for a term beginning May 16, 2017, and ending May 12, 2020.
- Deborah Givens Crockett of Columbus (Franklin County), Pastor Mark D. Ford of Akron (Summit County), and Rabbi Avraham Louis Goldstein of Columbus (Franklin County) reappointed to the Advisory Board of the Governor’s Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives for terms beginning May 16, 2017, and ending May 4, 2018.

HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES

The Ohio Women’s Public Policy Network hosted a press conference Friday and said the American Health Care Act (AHCA), passed by the U.S. House and currently under consideration in the U.S. Senate, has high stakes for women and their families. They said there is not just one provision in the bill that will affect women negatively, but multiple issues such as cuts to Medicaid and hikes to insurance premiums.

As warmer weather approaches, the Ohio Department of Health (ODH) is urging Ohioans to protect themselves from mosquito and tick bites, which can contain various harmful diseases. ODH said that one type of mosquito is known to be able to carry West Nile Virus, of which there were 17 reported cases in 2016. Ohio is not known to have mosquitoes that carry the Zika virus, though there have been three travel-related cases of the Zika virus in Ohio this year.

Medicaid managed care plans presented to legislators Thursday on their pay-for-performance efforts and the challenges of data sharing among insurers, providers, hospitals and others in the health care system. Officials for Buckeye Community Health Plan and CareSource also fielded questions from the Joint Medicaid Oversight Committee (JMOC) on how to get people thinking about their health at a younger age and what they’re doing to break down racial and ethnic health disparities, among other topics.

The state would license a new type of dental care provider, known as “dental therapists,” under a bill introduced by Sens. Peggy Lehner (R-Kettering) and Cecil Thomas (D-Cincinnati). SB98 would establish the licensure of dental therapists, who would work under the supervision of a dentist, similar to a physician’s assistant, but would have an increased focus on educating patients about preventive care and conducting simple procedures such as fluoride treatments, fillings and non-surgical extractions.

HIGHER EDUCATION

Kent State University announced the receipt of a $1 million gift from the KeyBank Foundation to help increase recruitment and graduation for underrepresented students. The money will go toward a pre-existing program, Dynamic Education and Engagement for Diverse Students (DEEDS), that began in September 2016.

Linda Lewandowski has been named by the University of Toledo (UT) as dean of the school’s college of nursing. She will start her new position effective July 10. Lewandowski previously was at the University of Massachusetts Amherst College of Nursing, where she served as professor of nursing and former associate dean for academic affairs and graduate program director.

The “Internet of Things (IoT),” which refers to the vast interconnected network of devices — from cell phones to factory equipment — provides a treasure trove of data and other information from numerous aspects of society. To capitalize on IoT as a regional economic driver, Cleveland State University (CSU) and Case Western Reserve University (CWRU) have formed a new partnership to expand research and educational opportunities in this emerging technology, the universities announced after Cleveland State President Ronald M. Berkman and Case Western Reserve President Barbara R. Snyder signed a memorandum of understanding to formalize the new collaboration.

David Dees, interim dean for Kent State University’s two Columbiana County campuses, will continue in a permanent role, the university announced Tuesday. Dees will be dean and chief administrative officer for the campuses in East Liverpool and Salem beginning June 1; he had held the interim role since last July.

Ohio State University announced the formation of a Translational Data Analytics Institute aimed at making the state a “global hub for the development, application and study of translational data analytics solutions.”

Charlene Gilbert, an award-winning independent documentary filmmaker and scholar of women’s and gender studies, returns to the University of Toledo (UT) as the new dean for the College of Arts and Letters. Currently, she is at Ohio State University’s Lima campus where she has served as dean and director since 2014, as well as professor in the Department of Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies.

JUDICIAL

Ohio Supreme Court Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor delivered the oath and Justice Patrick Fischer gave remarks Monday at the spring swearing-in ceremony for nearly 200 new members of the bar at the Palace Theatre. The freshman attorneys passed the February 2017 bar examination and satisfied all of the Court’s other requirements for admission.

Columbus attorney Kenneth Donchatz — who once held himself out as the “ethics monster” of Ohio’s legal community — has had his law license stripped indefinitely for “significant acts of dishonesty,” including making false statements during legal proceedings, disobeying the rules of multiple courts, and acting deceptively throughout disciplinary proceedings, the Ohio Supreme Court said Tuesday.

Over 150 students competed in the Ohio Middle School We the People: The Citizen and the Constitution Wednesday at Columbus State Community College.

JUVENILE JUSTICE

The Office of the Ohio Public Defender (OPD), the ACLU of Ohio and the Children’s Law Center (CLC) sent a letter to the Supreme Court of Ohio on Monday urging it to increase protections for children in the juvenile justice system relating to the right to appointed counsel. In 2012, the three groups led a successful effort to require that children facing a felony charge at least consult with an attorney before being permitted to waive that right. Now OPD, ACLU and CLC are calling on the Court to expand it to all cases in which a child might risk being placed outside the home.

MARIJUANA

The Ohio Board of Pharmacy (OBP) is looking for a contractor to help the board develop and score its applications for medical marijuana dispensaries.

PEOPLE

Judy Mobley has been named the president and chief executive officer of Children’s Hunger Alliance, the nonprofit announced. Mobley joined Children’s Hunger Alliance in April 2016 as the senior vice president of finance and operations, and the organization said her leadership has helped it to begin to expand its many programs that support the needs of food-insecure children of all ages throughout the state.

Cuyahoga County litigator Robin Weaver has been elected the next president of the Ohio State Bar Association (OSBA). The president-elect will begin service as an association officer on July 1 and will take over as president in July 2018. Weaver is past president of the Cleveland Metropolitan Bar Association and has been active in OSBA operations for years.

Donald Widmer, 60, former Clay Township trustee, was sentenced in Ottawa County to community service and restitution after pleading guilty to a public corruption charge, Attorney General Mike DeWine’s office announced Monday.

SECRETARY OF STATE

Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted announced Monday that 9,569 new entities filed to do business in Ohio during April 2017, an increase of 263 when compared to the same month in 2016.

TRANSPORTATION

The Ohio Turnpike and Infrastructure Commission (OTIC) on Monday authorized the purchase of 51,500 tons of road salt. The request is higher than last year, when the commission approved a resolution for 42,200 tons. The year before that, the commission authorized the purchase of 74,000 tons.

Ohio’s newest Scenic Byway, the Johnny Appleseed Historic Byway, was announced Monday by the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT). The Johnny Appleseed Historic Byway’s routes are State Route 39 from Loudonville, northwest through Perrysville and Lucas, and ending in Mansfield; and State Route 603 from Mifflin to Malabar Farm, where it ends at State Route 95.

TREASURER OF STATE

Central State University, Bowling Green State University and Central Ohio Technical College have posted tens of thousands of financial transactions online as part of the first wave of state institutions of higher education to join Treasurer Josh Mandel’s Ohiocheckbook.com initiative.

UTILITIES

The Supreme Court of Ohio this week heard oral arguments on whether discontinuing gas service to an entire neighborhood for apparent safety reasons, and without the utility’s having first filed a written application with the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO), is a violation of the Miller Act, last amended by the General Assembly in 2010.

Opponents, proponents and interested parties descended on the House Public Utilities Committee Tuesday to provide their perspectives on HB178 (DeVitis), the so-called “ZEN bill” – zero emissions nuclear resource program.

The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) announced Thursday it will participate in the 30th annual International Roadcheck, a transportation safety and security event running Tuesday-Thursday, June 6-8, throughout the U.S., Mexico and Canada. The 72-hour roadcheck highlights the important place roadside enforcement holds in ensuring North American highways remain safe and secure.

WOMEN’S HEALTH/ABORTION

The state has submitted its merit brief to the Ohio Supreme Court in Capital Care Network of Toledo v. State of Ohio Department of Health, arguing the issue of abortion should not even be considered in the case. “[T]he Court should treat this as the ordinary administrative appeal that it is. The clinic did not satisfy a routine health-and-safety law, so it rightly lost its license. All of the arguments about abortion are for another case, another day, when they matter,” the brief prepared by Attorney General Mike DeWine’s office for the Ohio Department of Health (ODH) says

WORKERS’ COMPENSATION

On Wednesday, the House sent workers’ compensation budget HB27 (Brinkman) to the Senate after Democrats failed to get provisions dealing with undocumented workers and a decrease to the statute of limitations on filing claims taken out.

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