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Latest Government News From Ohio

Week in Review

Friday, August 26, 2016

AGRICULTURE

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has awarded two Ohio organizations more than $1 million to develop new farmers in the state. The Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association (OEFFA) will receive $566,141 for a comprehensive training program for organic and sustainable beginning farmers, while Ohio State University (OSU) will receive $599,715 to run an aquaculture boot camp.

ATTORNEY GENERAL

A Sandusky County grand jury has indicted Sandusky County Sheriff Kyle Overmyer on 43 criminal counts including felony drug charges, theft in office and tampering with records after the Bureau of Criminal Investigation (BCI) found Overmyer, 42, had removed controlled substances from community drop boxes that accept unused prescriptions, the Ohio Attorney General’s Office announced Wednesday.

CHILDREN/YOUTH

Child care providers that receive state funding should continue to apply for federal Head Start grants despite a rule change disallowing layering, Rep. Teresa Fedor (D-Toledo) said during a conference call with reporters.

DEATH PENALTY

A trial judge publicly reprimanded by the Ohio Supreme Court for improper dealings with a Trumbull County prosecutor further neglected the Court’s instructions in his resentencing of death row inmate Nathaniel Jackson, the high court said Wednesday. Justices nevertheless found that the late Judge John Stuard’s failure to consider the defendant’s presentencing statement before re-imposing the death penalty was not a “reversible error,” even though the Court had already granted Jackson’s accomplice a third sentencing hearing on the same factual grounds.

ECONOMY

The latest ranking of states’ economic performance in Governing magazine finds Ohio in the 30th spot, just after New York and ahead of Montana.

EDUCATION

Amid Ohio’s debate about oversight of online charter schools, the U.S. Department of Education is reminding states of their obligations to ensure students’ rights under federal disability law are maintained when they’re engaged in virtual education.

After a lengthy and heated debate Monday over a compliance rule for charter school sponsors, the Joint Committee on Agency Rule Review (JCARR) voted on party lines to re-refer the rule to the state’s Common Sense Initiative (CSI) for further review of any adverse impact on business.

In addition to a series of webinars and regional meetings, the Ohio Department of Education is now using an online survey to solicit feedback on its implementation of the federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).

Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow’s (ECOT) court battle with the Ohio Department of Education (ODE) will continue after Franklin County Common Pleas Judge Jenifer French denied the state agency’s request to dismiss the lawsuit. ODE filed the dismissal motion earlier this month, saying the online charter school had failed to exhaust all of its administrative remedies before turning to the courts, and also casting the school’s lawsuit as a premature attack on decisions ODE hasn’t even made — specifically, whether the attendance review that sparked ECOT’s lawsuit will lead to funding revisions.

Taxpayers are not getting their money’s worth out of charter schools such as the Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow (ECOT), Ohio Democrats said Tuesday. Democrats are taking a back-to-school-tour, during which they are criticizing the diversion of local tax dollars to charter schools that they say often perform poorly.

The Ohio Department of Education is requesting public comments on an updated draft of proposed new operating standards for gifted education, a subject of regular debate at the State Board of Education in the past several months.

The Cleveland Plan has produced a mixed bag of results for the district’s public schools, according to left-leaning think tank Innovation Ohio. The city proceeded to pass a 15-mill operating levy to support the plan, created in 129-HB525 (Williams-Amstutz) and signed in July 2012, and Cleveland Municipal School District (CMSD) is seeking to renew the levy this November. Innovation Ohio’s report said the state should restore much of the funding that has been cut over the past six years in order to further help the district.

The Joint Education Oversight Committee reviewed Executive Director Lauren Monowar-Jones’ initial list of potential research topics Thursday, as well as proposed committee procedures for how topics will be selected and prioritized. Jones said Ohio’s implementation of the federal Every Student Succeeds Act was a clear first-tier priority in her one-on-one conversations with members, and the committee also told her to focus on school transportation as an early priority.

The Kasich administration’s Common Sense Initiative (CSI) office told the Ohio Department of Education (ODE) to open another comment period on rules for the charter school sponsor evaluation process, following the Joint Committee on Agency Rule Review’s vote earlier this week to refer the rules back to CSI.

ELECTIONS

The National Association of Election Officials has recognized the Franklin County Board of Elections for cutting its number of rejected provisional ballots so that more votes can be counted, the board said. The award noted Franklin County had lowered its number of rejected ballots 62 percent by creating the position of paper ballot captain to oversee provisional voting in every polling location, and by using electronic poll books and a new checklist to ensure provisional voters receive the correct ballot.

ELECTIONS 2016

Secretary of State Jon Husted Wednesday certified two independent presidential candidates for the November ballot, including national Libertarian Party nominee Gary Johnson, who would replace Charlie Earl, after Libertarians in the state filed Earl’s name instead when the group filed its signatures earlier this month. Richard Duncan will be listed as an independent candidate, with Ricky Johnson as his vice presidential candidate. Gary Johnson’s running mate is William Weld.

EMPLOYMENT/UNEMPLOYMENT

Ohio’s unemployment rate dropped to 4.8 percent in July from 5 percent in June, the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services said. Ohio added 11,400 jobs over the month, going from a revised 5,494,900 in June to 5,506,300 in July 2016.

ENERGY

Ohio will pull down more than $2 million and part of another $400,000 in regional funding from the Obama administration’s Partnerships for Opportunity and Workforce and Economic Revitalization (POWER) Initiative, which seeks to bolster communities and workers hit with job losses in coal mining, coal power plants, and coal-related supply chain industries.

ENVIRONMENT

The National Park Service (NPS) is celebrating its 100th anniversary on Thursday, with hundreds of events taking place around the country to celebrate the centennial. U.S. Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH), the author of the National Park Service Centennial Act, said everyone has benefitted from the NPS.

ETHICS

Each year, the Ohio Ethics Commission releases an annual online e-course that offers a general overview of the Ohio Ethics Law. These hour-long courses challenge learners to apply knowledge regarding the Ohio Ethics Law in the following areas: conflicts of interest, public contracts, nepotism, post-employment and representation. The 2016 course can be found online at www.ethics.ohio.gov/education/elearning/ecourses.html.

FEDERAL

U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) asked for support for first responders during a press conference Tuesday by providing them emergency funding for naloxone, a drug used to reverse narcotic overdoses. Brown said U.S. Sen. Rob Portman’s (R-OH) championed Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA), signed into law in July, is “a good first step but doesn’t go nearly far enough” without accompanying funding to combat the drug epidemic.

Most members of Ohio’s delegation to Congress signed a letter this week to the U.S. Missile Defense Agency, urging consideration of Camp Ravenna Joint Military Training Center as the preferred site for the East Coast Missile Defense System. The proposed missile defense site is in U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan’s (D-Niles) district.

GENERAL ASSEMBLY/STATEHOUSE

The General Assembly’s new Joint Education Oversight Committee now has a website at www.jeoc.ohio.gov.

The Controlling Board moved Kasich administration funding requests without comment Monday to set up Ohio’s new medical marijuana program, as lawmakers held none of three related items on the agenda.

GOVERNOR

Gov. John Kasich says the country has squandered the long-time opportunity for welfare reform presented by federal legislation he supported as chair of the U.S. House Budget Committee two decades ago. In a New York Times op-ed Monday, Kasich says the bipartisan agreement was one of the “greatest legislative achievements of the 1990s” and one of the biggest disappointments of the 21st century.

The governor made the following appointments during the week:

- Sherri Richardson of Cincinnati (Hamilton County) and Christopher L. Wyche of Columbus (Franklin County) to the Central State University Board of Trustees for terms beginning Aug. 19, 2016, and ending, respectively, June 30, 2023, and June 30, 2025.

- Mykalley A. Detty of Washington Court House (Fayette County) to serve as the student member on the Shawnee State University Board of Trustees for a term beginning Aug. 22, 2016, and ending June 30, 2018.

- Leonard Hubert of Granville (Licking County) reappointed to the Civil Rights Commission for a term beginning Aug. 23, 2016, and ending July 28, 2021.

- Andrew R. Thomas of Pepper Pike (Cuyahoga County) to the Oil and Gas Commission for a term beginning Aug. 23, 2016, and ending Oct. 14, 2018.

- Larry L. Long of Bexley (Franklin County) to the State Audit Committee for a term beginning Aug. 25, 2016, and ending June 30, 2017.

- Kurt A. Kaufman of Waynesfield (Auglaize County) to the Task Force for Creating Opportunities for Shared Governance on Co-Located Campuses for a term beginning Sept. 26, 2016, and ending Nov. 1, 2016.

HEALTH & HUMAN SERVICES

More than 6,000 inmates from the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction (DRC) are eligible for the new Community Transition Program (CTP) to be administered by the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services (OhioMHAS) and operated by CareSource of Dayton, fiscal agent for the roughly $65 million that CTP will cost in its first year.

The state will soon begin baiting raccoons to protect the animals from the rabies virus, the Ohio Department of Health (ODH) announced.

Organizations representing doctors, consumers and women have asked the Ohio State Medical Board (OSMB) to force the resignation of OSMB President Michael Gonidakis, saying his other job as president of Ohio Right to Life (ORTL) “poses a conflict of interest so profound that it cannot be remedied.”

The Ohio Department of Health finds in a new report that drug overdose deaths in the state continued to increase in 2015, citing fentanyl as a main contributor to the rise. Overdose deaths remained the leading cause of injury-related death of Ohioans last year, with such deaths rising by 20.5 percent, increasing from 2,531 in 2014 to 3,050 last year. Over the past three years, fentanyl-related deaths climbed from 84 in 2013, to 503 in 2014, to 1,155 last year.

HIGHER EDUCATION

The University of Cincinnati (UC) said its Textbook Affordability Initiative has helped students save more than $1.9 million over the past year. A collaboration of multiple UC offices and departments, the initiative focuses on finding and developing cost-effective means of textbook purchasing, the university said.

HOUSING

July home sales lagged June’s by 2.7 percent and are 1.1 percent behind levels seen this time last year, while prices are up, the Ohio Association of Realtors reports. July home sales totaled 146,746, compared to 148,346 a year earlier and 150,880 last month.

JUDICIAL

A Franklin County judge ordered the Ohio Department of Education (ODE) to give back records it got from the Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow (ECOT) by Monday, Aug. 22.

A federal judge in Texas issued an injunction Sunday to block the Obama administration’s guidance on transgender students’ use of restrooms, locker rooms and other sex-segregated facilities. While the ruling came in a lawsuit separate from Ohio’s own challenge to the policies, the Texas judge said in his opinion that the order should apply nationwide.

Disability Rights Ohio (DRO) on Monday filed a motion for class certification in its case against the state, Ball v. Kasich.

In a 2-1 decision, the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Tuesday that the move by the General Assembly to eliminate the overlapping period covering the end of voter registration and the beginning of early voting, known as “Golden Week,” is constitutional, overturning a lower court’s ruling that it had disparate impact on some minority voters.

The Ohio Supreme Court must decide whether an irrevocable trust located in the state of Delaware — long known as a tax haven for businesses and other entities — but established by an Ohio resident and drawing assets from a business incorporated in the Buckeye State should be subject to Ohio income tax. The answer to that question will mean the difference between $1.28 million in stock proceeds either to be retained by a former resident of the state or to be paid out to the Ohio tax commissioner.

It took nearly 20 years, but the Supreme Court of Ohio Thursday declared unconstitutional a 1996 law making juvenile offenses criminal convictions for the purpose of adult penalty enhancement. The Court said language in 121-HB1 (Thomas), dealing with juvenile bind-over standards, violates basic due process rights under the U.S. and Ohio constitutions.

The 2nd District Court of Appeals was correct to allow a fired teacher’s arbitration appeal filed but not officially served within the required 90-day timeframe, a split Ohio Supreme Court ruled Thursday.

LOCAL GOVERNMENT

The Ohio Development Services Agency (DSA) announced $1,625,854 in grants and loans awarded by the Local Government Innovation Council Wednesday. According to the administration, the 12 grants from the Local Government Efficiency Program (LGEP) and three loans from the Local Government Innovation Program (LGIP) will help communities increase efficiencies, cut costs and provide improved public services.

Cleveland officials sued the state Tuesday to block a new law barring cities from requiring contractors to hire locally for public works projects, alleging the statute violates the Ohio Constitution’s home rule provisions. The law, enacted in HB180 (Maag), is to take effect at the end of the month.

MEDICAID EXPANSION/REFORM

Ohio Medicaid released its annual report card for the state’s five managed care plans this week, with Dayton-based CareSource getting the best marks as the only company to get above-average rankings in a majority of categories.

NATURAL RESOURCES

Pilots are now free to utilize seaplanes on Buckeye Lake, Indian Lake, Long Lake and Salt Fork Reservoir. A new Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) rule opening the water bodies to flying machines cleared the Joint Committee on Agency Rule Review (JCARR) earlier this week, but pilots do not have to wait for the rule to become effective because of an action taken by ODNR Division of Parks and Watercraft Chief Michael Bailey.

PEOPLE

Lisa Morris will retire as executive director of the School Employees Retirement System (SERS) at the end of October, the pension fund announced.

Ohio United Way President and CEO Barbara Sykes will take over Monday, Aug. 29, as state director of AARP Ohio, the organization announced Monday.

The Ohio State Medical Association (OSMA) has selected Todd M. Baker as its new CEO — its first leadership change in nearly a quarter-century. Baker, who since 2014 has served as co-CEO of OSMA, responsible for all day-to-day operations of the organization, will begin his new post in January 2017.

POLITICS/NATIONAL CONVENTIONS

Jerry Springer and other Ohio political experts discussed the nation’s current political environment Wednesday, with the veteran talk show host affirming that he doesn’t buy that 2016 is the worst time in American politics, nor the argument that reality TV created Donald Trump.

POLLS/STUDIES

A new study by Ohio State researchers finds that prison populations have continued to expand as the national crime rate has decreased.

Two new polls of Ohio voters show Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton with a lead over Republican nominee Donald Trump in the presidential race and U.S. Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) over Democratic challenger Ted Strickland in the Senate race.

PUBLIC SAFETY

Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine announced Friday that the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation (BCI) and Ohio Peace Officer Training Academy (OPOTA) have achieved re-accreditation under the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies’ (CALEA) Gold Standard Assessment.

The Ohio Department of Public Safety’s Office of Criminal Justice Services (OCJS) has added another police department to the list of law enforcement agencies certified under new state standards established by the Ohio Collaborative Community-Police Advisory Board.

Motor vehicle deaths have risen in Ohio over this time last year, but not as much as the rest of the country, according to estimates from the National Safety Council (NSC). Over the first six months of 2016, the state’s fatalities have risen 1 percent over the same period in 2015 while the country’s deaths have risen 9 percent; however, measuring from 2014 to 2016, the state’s deaths are up 19 percent while the nation’s deaths are up 18 percent.

SECRETARY OF STATE

Secretary of State Jon Husted announced Tuesday the launch of a free iBook, titled “Pathway to the Presidency,” that will give users an interactive guide to presidential elections in Ohio and will include a live election result feed on Nov. 8.

UNEMPLOYMENT COMPENSATION

The first hearing of the Unemployment Compensation Reform Joint Committee featured an update from the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS) on where Ohio’s unemployment compensation system is, with the agency’s assistant director telling members that just because Ohio is paying off its federal debt does not mean the fund is solvent.

UNIONS

The Ohio State Troopers Association and the state of Ohio have reached a tentative agreement for a new labor contract. Ninety percent of troopers voted in favor of the three-year deal, according to the Ohio Department of Administrative Services (DAS). “It is important to note that once finalized, this agreement will be historic because it will be the first time the state of Ohio and its five unions have all reached agreements through negotiations with a handshake over the bargaining table instead of going to an outside neutral third party for resolution,” said Marty Berkowitz, media manager for DAS.

WOMEN’S HEALTH/ABORTION

Attorney General Mike DeWine has appealed Preterm v. Kasich to the Ohio Supreme Court, asking justices to review whether abortion clinic Preterm Cleveland has standing to sue the state over abortion restrictions in 130-HB59 (Amstutz). The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Ohio, on behalf of Preterm Cleveland, sued the state in 2013 challenging abortion provisions in the budget bill, claiming they violate the single-subject rule of the Ohio Constitution.

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