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Latest Government News From Ohio

Week in Review

Friday, September 15, 2017

ADDICTION/SUBSTANCE ABUSE

When drug users go online for the first time to buy opioids, they aren’t looking for the widest selection or the best prices for their illicit purchases, a new study from Ohio State University suggests. Researchers found that first-time drug buyers who visited one marketplace on the “darknet” cared only about finding trustworthy sellers — those who would deliver what they promised and keep the buyers’ identities secret.

The Controlling Board Monday approved a request to use Third Frontier Commission funds for a statewide competition to develop new technology to address Ohio’s opioid crisis. Daryl Hennessey, chief of the business services division at the Development Services Agency, said Cleveland-based NineSigma will help the state facilitate the challenge competition. He said the goal is to figure out what issues in the state’s opioid crisis can be solved with technology, and then to help develop that technology. The first round of the competition will identify those issues, while subsequent rounds will focus on solutions.

AGING

The House Speaker’s Task Force on Alzheimer’s and Dementia heard testimony Tuesday from a variety of sources on the types of long term care and support offered by community- and facility-based organizations to those Ohioans with Alzheimer’s and dementia. Those testifying also shared the emerging challenges of taking care of a growing elderly population, with special attention to what type of living experience should be provided to those individuals with diseases that harm their memory and cognitive functions.

AGRICULTURE

The Ohio Grape Industries Committee Tuesday released its 2016 Economic Impact report, which finds that Ohio’s grape and wine industry has a significant impact of $1.3 billion on the state’s economy and provides 8,067 full-time jobs, with more than 2,700 additional jobs created since 2012, according to the Ohio Department of Agriculture (ODAg).

ATTORNEY GENERAL

Five drug manufacturing companies accused by Attorney General Mike DeWine of failing to appropriately address the addictive nature of prescription opioid painkillers are pushing back, requesting that DeWine’s lawsuit against them be thrown out. In May, DeWine announced his office was filing suit against five prescription opioid manufacturers — Johnson & Johnson/Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Endo Health Solutions, Teva Pharmaceutical Industries/Cephalon, Allergan and Purdue Pharma — accusing them of “deceiving” the medical community and the public with “smooth pitches and glossy brochures that downplayed the risks and highlighted the benefits” of long-term use of painkillers for chronic pain.

The ninth annual Take Action Video Contest sponsored by the Ohio Attorney General’s Office is now underway. This contest gives Ohio high school students a chance to win up to $2,500 in college scholarships. To enter, Ohio high school students (grades 9 to 12) must produce and submit a 60-second video on smartphone privacy, social networking scams, or creating strong passwords. The deadline to submit videos is Friday, Dec. 8.

BALLOT ISSUES

Attorney General Mike DeWine Friday threw his full support behind Issue 1, the crime victims’ rights constitutional amendment, taking on a role as co-chair of the campaign. DeWine said he will give interviews and advocate for the issue, though he said his role won’t involve him in the day-to-day strategy of the campaign. He said he is happy to put his name to the issue, saying its passage is long overdue.

The Humane Society of the United States this week filed a ballot initiative petition with the Ohio Attorney General’s Office for a constitutional amendment to tighten restrictions on potentially abusive, large-scale dog breeding operations, often referred to as “puppy mills.” If certified, the Stop Puppy Mills Ohio petition committee will begin gathering signatures to place the constitutional amendment on the November 2018 ballot.

Ohioans for Gun Safety, a group supporting “common sense background checks for gun safety in Ohio,” said this week that it is working on a ballot issue that would require background checks on all gun sales in Ohio, including private sales.

Backers of Issue 1, a constitutional amendment placing certain victims’ rights into Ohio’s Constitution, released the results of a poll they commissioned showing 71 percent of likely voters in support.

BUSINESS/CORPORATE

Following a massive data breach of consumer credit report agency Equifax, U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) Friday called on the company to edit the terms of a user agreement for a free service that the agency is offering to help those affected, indicating that the users may be unknowingly giving up their legal rights. Equifax had announced earlier that as many as 143 million U.S. consumers may have had their names, Social Security numbers, birth dates, addresses and driver’s license numbers accessed in the criminal data breach.

CENSUS

The U.S. Census Bureau released findings from the American Community Survey (ACS) this week, including detailed statistics on income, poverty, health insurance and other topics. Several organizations subsequently offered their own conclusions based on data relevant to their areas of concern.

DEATH PENALTY

Convicted double murderer Gary Otte died by lethal injection at 10:54 a.m. Wednesday, according to the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction (DRC). He is said to have sung a hymn leading up to his death. The next execution, that of Alva Campbell, Jr., is set for Wednesday, Nov. 15. That will be last one this year according to the DRC execution schedule.

DISASTERS

AccuWeather, a weather forecasting company, predicts that the “historic impacts” of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma will lead to $290 billion in economic costs. “This is the first time in the history of record keeping that two Category 4 or higher hurricanes … have struck the U.S. mainland in the same year,” AccuWeather said. It was also noted that Irma had sustained intensity for the longest period of time anywhere since the satellite era.

EDUCATION

Inviting a box turtle to help teach art along with nature conservation is one of many novel strategies Jonathan Juravich employs at Liberty Tree Elementary School in Powell to get children excited about learning. Friday during school, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Paolo DeMaria visited that class, announcing that Juravich is the “2018 Ohio Teacher of the Year.” In August, he’d received the State Board District 6 Teacher of the Year award. He will represent Ohio in the national 2018 Teacher of the Year program sponsored by the Council of Chief State School Officers in the Spring 2018.

The Joint Education Oversight Committee (JEOC) Tuesday heard presentations from three different groups on their approaches to social and emotional learning as a way to improve education outcomes in the districts throughout the state.

The Supreme Court of Ohio narrowed the docket for the Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow (ECOT) Wednesday, dismissing one case filed by the online school; accepting one out of four arguments in a separate complaint; and denying the joint appeal of several students’ families. The sole legal theory on which the Court will proceed is whether the Ohio Department of Education (ODE) misinterpreted the Ohio Revised Code in ordering ECOT to repay the state $60 million for disputed student enrollment.

More than half of Ohio districts saw above average academic growth in their students last school year, and proficiency rates improved year over year, but that growth and improvement didn’t translate to high levels of achievements for many students on state tests, according to report cards released Thursday for Ohio’s 609 traditional school districts for 2016-2017. No additional measures were included in this latest release compared to the 2015-2016 report cards.

At Thursday’s meeting of the House Speaker’s Task Force on Education and Poverty, members heard from Matt Weyer, education program senior policy specialist for the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) on the ways other state legislatures are addressing the challenges of poverty through early child education.

ELECTIONS

Franklin County Prosecutor Ron O’Brien announced Thursday that a grand jury has returned seven indictments for various illegal voting charges in connection with elections that occurred in 2012, 2015, and 2016. Secretary of State Jon Husted said his office had turned these individuals over to the prosecutor thus proving that the state’s elections system catches those cheating in Ohio elections.

ELECTIONS 2018

Four Democratic candidates for governor faced off for the first debate ahead of next year’s primary Tuesday evening in Martin’s Ferry, touching on issues ranging from education to Ohio’s economy. Former Rep. Connie Pillich, Sen. Joe Schiavoni (D-Boardman), Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley, and former U.S. Rep. Betty Sutton each touted their experience and leadership as the reasons they should be elected the next governor, and took on the current Republican leadership in Columbus.

Democratic candidate for governor Connie Pillich announced an “Education Stimulus” plan to spur economic growth and attract workers and businesses to the state by making investment in education a top priority in Ohio. This includes universal pre-K and “debt free” college for middle class students.

Husted for Governor recently unveiled its first supporting coalition, Gun Owners for Husted. According to the campaign, “… the coalition leaders are made up of prominent Second Amendment leaders both within the state and nationally. Each member joins the coalition in his or her personal capacity.”

Gene Krebs will run for the 5th Senate District seat, the former state representative and Ohio Consumers’ Counsel Governing Board chair announced Thursday. Krebs will face Rep. Stephen Huffman (R-Tipp City) in the Republican primary for the office, which is currently held by term-limited Sen. Bill Beagle (R-Tipp City). Huffman announced his candidacy in May.

Don Elijah Eckhart announced Thursday that he will seek the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate in 2018, according to the Columbus Dispatch, making him the fourth Republican in the race for the seat currently held by U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH). Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel, Cleveland banker Mike Gibbons, and Marysville business owner and political activist Melissa Ackison have also announced campaigns.

ENVIRONMENT

A University of Toledo (UT) researcher received a nearly $2.4 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy to find a faster, cleaner process to produce fuel using algae without needing to add concentrated carbon dioxide.

The Ohio Development Services Agency (DSA) announced that the cities of Berea and Northwood have received grants to clean up abandoned gas stations. The projects were evaluated based on the impact cleanup will have on the environment, the community, and the local economy.

FEDERAL

Former U.S. Senator and Heritage Foundation President Jim DeMint, now a senior advisor to Citizens for Self-Governance, said in Columbus Tuesday that a convention of states is needed to save the nation. DeMint first addressed the House Federalism and Interstate Relations Committee, saying the federal government is out of control and on an “unsustainable course,” so much so that he thought no member of Congress, regardless of party, could honestly disagree. DeMint then went before the Senate Government Oversight and Reform Committee to make similar arguments, this time testifying on SJR1 (Huffman), which would join Ohio in the Article V convention. DeMint spoke with Hannah News later Tuesday at a convention of states reception at the Athletic Club of Columbus.

GENERAL ASSEMBLY/STATEHOUSE

The House majority quickly filled the vacant 52nd District, announcing late Monday that West Chester Township Trustee George Lang will replace former Rep. Margy Conditt. Lang was one of six candidates for the seat formerly held by Conditt, whose resignation became effective Friday, Sept. 8. Lang was sworn in during the session on Wednesday, Sept. 13.

Rep. Jim Butler (R-Oakwood) detailed legislation introduced Tuesday that aims to provide a significant financial incentive for companies and organizations to find cures for major diseases by creating a new multi-state compact. Describing his bill, HB345, at a press conference, Butler said that, unlike in previous generations, there has not been a major, ground-breaking cure discovered for a disease since polio. He shared his personal experience of losing his mother to breast and liver cancer in 2001 and his father to pancreatic cancer in 2008.

House Majority Floor Leader Bill Seitz (R-Cincinnati) on Thursday announced the 16 individuals who will be participating in the Speaker’s Energy Task Force. The first meeting is set for Wednesday, Oct. 4.

In other legislative action, the House Economic Development, Commerce and Labor Committee reported out HB193 (Hagan) which prohibits employers from requiring employees to get a flu shot (although the speaker later said this may be re-referred to committee); the House Federalism and Interstate Relations Committee reported out HB79 (Retherford-Hagan) which deals with the concealed carry abilities of tactical medical professionals; the House Government Accountability and Oversight Committee reported out HB226 (Seitz-Sweeney) which revises the state’s fireworks laws pending the outcome of a study group; the House Health Committee reported out HB252 (Huffman) which designates January as “Blood Donor Awareness Month” and HB244 (Patterson) which designates June as “Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness Month”; and the House Transportation and Public Safety Committee reported out naming bill HB257 (Green) and license plate bills HB261 (Anielski-Roegner) and HB266 (Roegner).

GOVERNOR

Appointments made during the week include the following:

- Darnita M. Bradley of New Albany (Franklin County) to the Tax Credit Authority for a term beginning Sept. 8, 2017, and ending Jan. 12, 2019.
- William “BJ” Nurczyk, Jr. of Steubenville (Jefferson County) to the Eastern Gateway Community College Board of Trustees for a term beginning Sept. 8, 2017, and ending Oct, 16, 2017.
- Aravind Immaneni, Ph.D., of Cincinnati (Hamilton County) to the Third Frontier Commission for a term beginning Sept. 12, 2017, and ending Sept. 28, 2018.
- Kashi Adhikari of Columbus (Franklin County) to the Asian American Pacific Islander Advisory Council for a term beginning Sept. 12, 2017, and continuing at the pleasure of the governor.
- Lynn M. Busdeker of Tiffin (Seneca County), Erin T. Hofmeyer of Cleves (Hamilton County), Ronald J. Kleinman of Fairlawn (Summit County), Susan Welch Stevens of Findlay (Hancock County) and Trevor J. Vessels of Columbus (Franklin County) reappointed to the Ohio Occupational Therapy, Physical Therapy and Athletic Trainers Board for terms beginning Sept. 12, 2017, and ending Aug. 27, 2020.
- Timothy E. McIntire of Washington Township (Montgomery County) reappointed to the Ohio Occupational Therapy, Physical Therapy and Athletic Trainers Board for a term beginning Sept. 13, 2017, and ending Aug. 27, 2020.

GUNS

The Cardinal Center Campground and Shooting Center in Marengo will now open their rifle and pistol ranges to the public four days a week, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) has announced. The Cardinal Center has entered into an agreement and is partnering with the ODNR Division of Wildlife to provide public shooting access while the Delaware Shooting Range is temporarily closed, the department said.

HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES

The third annual report card for Ohio Medicaid managed care plans was released, continuing the state’s efforts to inform consumers and provide incentives for the health plans to improve their services. Dayton-based CareSource received the best marks, receiving three stars in two categories (doctors’ communication and service and keeping kids healthy) and two stars in the remaining three categories. Three other plans received three stars in one category while Paramount Advantage did not receive a three-star ranking in any category. Paramount and UnitedHealthCare both received one star in two categories.

HIGHER EDUCATION

Saying the current approach is not working, U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos announced her agency will begin work on a new policy to address campus sexual assault enforcement under Title IX. DeVos called acts of sexual misconduct “reprehensible, disgusting and unacceptable,” but said the system established under President Barack Obama for addressing assaults “failed too many students” and wasn’t working. While she did not outline specifics of what the new policy will be, DeVos said the agency “will seek public feedback and combine institutional knowledge, professional expertise, and the experiences of students to replace the current approach with a workable, effective and fair system.”

The interim tag has been removed for Lisa Nielson, who was named this week as the director of the Case Western Reserve University (CWRU) Flora Stone Mather Center for Women.

Wright State University’s Raj Soin College of Business now offers students a chance to learn creative problem solving skills and risk taking with the ability to see new opportunities through a new entrepreneurship minor.

Ahead of the Sunday, Oct. 1 release of the 2018-19 “Free Application for Federal Student Aid” (FAFSA) form, the U.S. Department of Education suggests that those students looking to fill it out should have the following information collected before starting: FSA ID; Social Security number; driver’s license number; 2016 tax records; records of untaxed income; records of assets; and list of schools applying to.

A $15 million renovation project will upgrade the overall technology of University of Cincinnati (UC) College-Conservatory of Music (CCM) performance venues to advance the working and learning experiences of students. Launched in Spring 2016, the renovations have temporarily closed many of CCM’s theaters, but venues are scheduled to reopen for performances during the Fall 2017 semester.

A recent report from financial planning and data aggregation firm WalletHub shows that Ohio ranks near the bottom in a nationwide assessment of community college systems. Ohio ranked 41st out of the 44 state community college systems evaluated based on an analysis of 728 institutions across the country. Community colleges were judged across 14 metrics in the three categories of cost and financing, education outcomes and career outcomes. The study ranked 22 of Ohio’s community colleges, the highest being Washington State Community College in Marietta ranking 207th and the lowest being Eastern Gateway Community College in Steubenville ranking 720th.

A new study from Ohio State University researchers suggests feeling the pain from a failure does more to correct a mistake than simply thinking about what went wrong. Ohio State researchers said that their study found people who just thought about a failure tended to make excuses for why they were unsuccessful and didn’t try harder when faced with a similar situation. In contrast, people who focused on their emotions following a failure put forth effort when they tried again.

JUDICIAL

Franklin County Probate Judge Robert G. Montgomery recently announced that the court has entered into a collaborative agreement with the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center and the Franklin County Guardianship Service Board (GSB) to provide funding for additional services to those indigent wards who are under guardianship with the Franklin County Guardianship Service Board.

The Ohio Supreme Court’s Children & Families Section has released two new tool kits designed to help juvenile courts and child welfare staff to review statutes and best practices and work with greater care and efficiency with the families and children involved in docketed cases.

LOBBYISTS

A national conservative organization known for its “Taxpayer Protection Pledge” will open its first state affiliate in Ohio, Americans for Tax Reform (ATR) President Grover Norquist announced Wednesday. Jack Boyle will serve as executive director of Ohioans for Tax Reform (OTR).

MARIJUANA

The Health Policy Institute of Ohio (HPIO) released an online resource page dedicated to medical marijuana. The resource page includes descriptions of medical marijuana legalization legislation 131-HB523 (Huffman), state regulations on marijuana and state vs. federal legal considerations. The page also includes resources on the health and policy implications of changes in marijuana use. The page can be accessed at www.healthpolicyohio.org/medical-marijuana-resource-page.

MILITARY AFFAIRS

Rep. Rick Perales (R-Beavercreek), chair of the Speaker’s BRAC and Military Affairs Task Force, told Hannah News following the first meeting of the group Tuesday that it is uncertain at this time whether there will be a BRAC (Base Realignment and Closure) effort at the federal level this year. But he is certain one is coming, thus making the work of his task force critical to the state’s preparing for the review.

NATURAL RESOURCES

Early data gathered by wildlife agencies in the Western Basin of Lake Erie indicate that both the walleye and yellow perch hatches were near their annual average, according to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR).

PENSIONS

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Ohio recently applauded efforts by Cincinnati council members to divest city pension funds from private prisons, noting “the positive impact this announcement could have on the future of prisons for profit in Ohio.”

PEOPLE

Ohio State University law Prof. David Goldberger, a civil liberties scholar, U.S. Supreme Court litigator, law professor and American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) veteran, has been named the 2017 Norman Dorsen Presidential Prize recipient by the ACLU.

The Ohio Prosecuting Attorneys Association (OPAA) announced Tuesday that long-time Executive Director John Murphy will be retiring effective Monday, Oct. 2. Murphy will be succeeded by Columbus attorney Louis Tobin, who is currently deputy director of the Ohio Judicial Conference. Murphy has been with the organization for 41 years, 37 of that as executive director. He will temporarily stay on part-time to assist in the transition.

Mike Carey, chairman of the Board of Directors for the Ohio Coal Association, announced Tuesday that Michael (Mike) Cope has been named interim president of the association. Former President Christian Palich has been appointed to a position within the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in Washington, D.C.

A newly reconstituted Ohio Consumers’ Counsel Governing Board elected longtime member Michael Watkins as its new chair following the departure of former Chairman Gene Krebs. Watkins, who represents organized labor, has served on the board since 2010 and as vice chair since 2015. His current term expires in 2020.

American Municipal Power, Inc. (AMP) announced that Holly Karg had joined its staff as the new director of media relations and communications. She moves to the AMP from the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio where she was director of public affairs.

The partners at Bricker & Eckler LLP announced Tuesday that James F. Flynn will become the firm’s next managing partner effective Feb. 1, 2018. He will succeed Kurt Tunnell, who announced in August he will be stepping away from the firm and from the practice of law to pursue other interests.

POVERTY

The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) issued its annual Winter Reconnect Order for the 2017-18 heating season Wednesday to protect customers of PUCO-regulated electric or natural gas utilities.

REDISTRICTING/REAPPORTIONMENT

The four leaders of the House and Senate met in private this week to begin laying out a plan to pass congressional redistricting reform, but the leaders are still working out the details. Senate President Larry Obhof (R-Medina), Senate Minority Leader Kenny Yuko (D-Richmond Heights), House Speaker Cliff Rosenberger (R-Clarksville) and House Minority Leader Fred Strahorn (D-Dayton) met to talk about a process to work on a compromise for how the state draws its congressional districts.

SECRETARY OF STATE

Secretary of State Jon Husted Thursday said 10,002 new entities filed to do business in Ohio throughout the month of August, an increase of 1,507 when compared to the same month in 2016.

STATE GOVERNMENT

A former Ohio Department of Administrative Services (DAS) worker wrongfully sought and gained employment with a private company that had a state contract, according to an investigation by Inspector General (IG) Randall Meyer. Cathy Herron was a DAS project manager responsible for overseeing the implementation of an electronic document management system by Hyland Software. The company was awarded a DAS contract on Jan. 13, 2015 that was not set to expire until June 30, 2017. Herron resigned from DAS on June 23, 2016 to take a position with Hyland. The company received more than $4 million from the contract in FY16.

TRANSPORTATION

A proposed route connecting Pittsburgh and Chicago through Columbus was one of 10 chosen Thursday by a company proposing to build high-speed tube transportation networks around the world. Hyperloop One announced the 10 winning routes of its One Global Challenge, which called for comprehensive proposals for using its transport technology to move passengers and freight point-to-point, swiftly and on-demand.

UTILITIES

The Ohio Supreme Court has reaffirmed the safety mandate of the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) — along with reliability and cost, one of the commission’s three primary missions — ruling Wednesday that Columbia Gas of Ohio did not violate the Miller Act by discontinuing service to an entire neighborhood without first filing an application with PUCO.

WOMEN’S HEALTH/ABORTION

The battle over Toledo’s last abortion clinic went before the Ohio Supreme Court Tuesday. The Ohio Attorney General’s Office said the highly charged political issue has so far colored the legal analysis of what would normally be a clear victory for the state. Capital Care Network of Toledo, on the other hand, pointed to conflicting statutory and administrative rule language under budget bill 130-HB59 (Amstutz) that it calls unconstitutional.

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