Week in Review 01-20-2023

Posted by on January 24th, 2023 in News

BALLOT ISSUES

If a requirement for constitutional issues to get 60 percent of the vote in order to pass had been in place over the past 40 years, state bond issues paying for infrastructure, housing, and former Gov. Bob Taft’s Third Frontier program would not have passed, according to former Rep. Mike Curtin. Curtin, who is a retired Columbus Dispatch editor, highlighted the impact the resolution formerly known as 134-HJR6 (Stewart) would have had on bond issues at a Thursday news conference. Sponsor Rep. Brian Stewart (R-Ashville) has resubmitted the proposal but it has not officially been introduced in resolution form.

FY22-23 BUDGET

Gov. Mike DeWine Tuesday announced Ohio’s Rainy Day Fund (RDF) has reached a balance never seen before in the fund’s history with a cash balance of nearly $3.5 billion. The Ohio Office of Budget and Management (OBM) transferred $727 million into the fund to reach the historic number. The fund, which is a reserve balance set aside to protect the state budget from cyclical changes in revenues and expenses that may occur during poor economic times, is capped at 8.5 percent of General Revenue Fund revenues. The transfer into the fund made Tuesday was authorized by the General Assembly in 134-HB45 (West-Roemer).

EDUCATION

The Senate Education Committee kicked off Tuesday a series of hearings that will likely last through February to vet Republicans’ plan to transfer much of the K-12 administrative and policymaking authority to the governor’s cabinet. Sen. Bill Reineke (R-Tiffin), sponsor of SB1 and its predecessor, 134-SB178, made a similar pitch Tuesday as he had in the lame duck session, citing lagging test scores, delayed rollouts of key initiatives and a lack of alignment to workforce needs under the oversight of the State Board of Education and state superintendent. They would retain authority over realms like teacher licensure and discipline and school district territory transfers under SB1, but the new Department of Education and Workforce (DEW) he proposes would be run by an appointee of the governor. Reineke emphasized amendments to assuage the concerns of home school families and non-chartered, non-public schools, often referred to as “-08 schools” after the section of Ohio school operating standards under which they are governed. Under SB1, those standards would be codified rather than left to rule. Sen. Andrew Brenner (R-Delaware), chair of the committee, also noted that SB1 is a “clean bill,” untethered from some controversial provisions paired with SB178 in lame duck, like restrictions on transgender athletes and on school vaccination policies. Brenner said the next hearing on SB1 will take place Tuesday, Feb. 7, and further hearings are likely each week of February, with the potential for a vote late that month or early in March.

More than two dozen education-workforce partnerships were honored by the state with the 2023 Business-Education Leader Awards for Excellent Business Advisory Councils (BACs), the Ohio Department of Education (ODE) and Lt. Gov. Jon Husted’s office announced. All Ohio school districts and educational service centers (ESCs) are required to have BACs, which bring education and business leaders together to collaborate on initiatives that connect education with regional workforce needs. Ohio rates BACs on a four-star scale, based on their implementation of quality practices on collaboration, delineation of key professional skills for future jobs and development of curriculum on those skills, and creation of environments for students to show proficiency in professional and workforce skills for future employment.

ODE is taking nominations for the Teachers of Ohio Representing Character and Heart (TORCH) award, which each year goes to five teachers who model strong personal character and concern for students, colleagues and communities. Information about the award and a link to nominate teachers is available at https://tinyurl.com/j659s4rc .

The Ohio High School Athletic Association (OHSAA) announced a partnership with nonprofit organization Esports Ohio to support and promote its annual state tournament in May. There are currently 250 schools that have teams affiliated with Esports Ohio, according to OHSAA. Esports Ohio was created by teachers to “create a world where electronic sports are embraced as a positive educational and developmental change agent for all students.” More information about Esports Ohio can be found at https://www.esportsohio.org/ .

GENERAL ASSEMBLY/STATEHOUSE

Three weeks after the surprise election of Rep. Jason Stephens (R-Kitts Hill) as speaker upended the usual organizational routines of the House, the chamber is set to come back into session to handle “procedural resolutions.” The House clerk’s office announced a 2 p.m. Tuesday, Jan 24 session for adoption of those resolutions, at the same time converting the planned Wednesday, Jan. 25 session to “if-needed” status.

Senate President Matt Huffman (R-Lima) says he’s not yet sure how he’ll approach negotiations with members of the House during the 135th General Assembly. House Speaker Stephens had won his position with the votes of 22 Republicans and all 32 Democrats, while 43 Republicans voted for Rep. Derek Merrin (R-Maumee). Merrin and his supporters have since formed a separate caucus, with Merrin as its leader. Following Tuesday’s Senate Rules and Reference Committee meeting, Huffman was asked whether he would mainly negotiate with Stephens, Merrin or House Minority Leader Allison Russo (D-Columbus). “In this case, there’s sort of this — can I say ‘three-headed monster?’ Too late, I already did. … I’m certainly going to be conversing with everybody, but the speaker — and the speaker’s office — is a unique position, and I’m going to keep that in mind too,” Huffman said. He hasn’t met with Stephens as yet but plans to do so in the near future.

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