Gov. Mike DeWine authorized the use of the State Disaster Relief Program (SDRP) to help several counties affected by severe storms in February, May, June and July of 2022. The SDRP is a reimbursement program that can be used in instances where storm damage amounts do not meet the threshold for federal assistance. The program is intended to provide supplemental state assistance to local governments and eligible nonprofit organizations for costs associated with debris removal, emergency protective measures, and permanent work. Counties affected by flooding that occurred on Feb. 17 and Feb. 18 that may qualify for assistance include Gallia, Harrison and Jefferson counties. Counties affected by severe storms that occurred from May 6 to May 8 that may qualify for assistance include Monroe and Muskingum counties. Counties affected by the derecho that occurred from June 13 to June 17 that may qualify for assistance include Ashland, Coshocton, Guernsey, Hocking, Holmes, Jackson, Knox, Logan, Meigs, Monroe, Morrow, Noble, Richland, Tuscarawas, Vinton, Washington and Wayne counties. Clermont County, affected by tornadoes on July 6, may also qualify for assistance under the program.
Sen. Andrew Brenner (R-Delaware), chair of the Senate Primary and Secondary Education Committee, suggested Tuesday he may be looking to fast track a bill that would make significant changes to the operations of the Ohio Department of Education (ODE) and the State Board of Education (SBOE) when Sen. Bill Reineke’s (R-Tiffin) SB178 had its first hearing. Brenner said he plans to hold “several” hearings on the bill over the next several weeks “with a potential vote later this year in the session.” While a substitute version of the bill has not been officially introduced, Reineke provided some details of the sub bill in his sponsor testimony: “SB178 restructures the Department of Education to create a state cabinet-level agency called the Department of Education and Workforce (DEW) that will have a dual focus on primary and secondary education as well as preparing students for the workforce. This cabinet-level agency will be led by a director appointed by the governor with the advice and consent of the Senate. This creates a system similar to other states that have found world-class talent to lead their states into the 21st century and develop structures that have significantly increased student achievement through state-level actions.”
The full State Board of Education (SBOE) will take up a heavily debated resolution about draft Title IX regulations and gender identity in December, after supporters of the resolution fell short of the votes needed to act on it this month. Under board procedures, resolutions cannot come up for a full board vote at the same meeting in which they clear committee unless the board president and vice president agree to grant emergency consideration; their ruling can be overridden by a majority of the board. The board’s Executive Committee had approved member Brendan Shea’s resolution opposing Biden administration Title IX regulations Monday after accepting amendments suggested by member Mike Toal. On Tuesday, the board heard another few hours of public testimony on the resolution, with numerous witnesses from prior months’ meetings making return trips to speak on the issue. President Charlotte McGuire and Vice President Martha Manchester declined to grant emergency consideration, prompting board member Jenny Kilgore to request an override vote, which ultimately failed 9-10.
The SBOE voted overwhelmingly Tuesday to recommend lawmakers repeal the provision of the third grade reading guarantee law that requires struggling readers to be retained in third grade if they can’t meet testing benchmarks. The resolution, approved in October by the board’s Legislative Committee, cites data showing relatively few retained third graders end up achieving proficiency on subsequent tests. “As the results show, mandating third grade retention has not achieved the desired result,” the resolution states. Before adopting the resolution, members accepted amendments from Brandon Kern, chair of the Legislative Committee, and Tim Miller, that urge provision of additional resources and supports for literacy and reference the board’s FY24-25 operating budget request, which includes tens of millions of dollars in increased funding for literacy. Ahead of the votes, board members heard public testimony on the retention mandate resolution, both from education reform groups who defended the mandate and education practitioners who support its repeal.
Secretary of State Frank LaRose and Rep. Brian Stewart (R-Ashville) Thursday announced a proposed change to the Ohio Constitution that would require proposed constitutional amendments put before voters through the citizen initiative process to get at least 60 percent of the vote in order to be adopted. LaRose said that the Constitution has become “a tool of special interests” that he said “seek to permanently change our form of government to their liking and into their own self-interest.” Under the proposal, any constitutional issue brought to the ballot through the initiated process requiring the collection of voter signatures in order to qualify would need to hit the 60 percent threshold to pass. Constitutional amendments proposed to the ballot by the state Legislature would still only need a simple majority, as would initiated statutes brought by the public. LaRose said other states, including Massachusetts, Illinois, Oregon, Washington, Nevada, Nebraska, Mississippi, and Wyoming, have 60 percent thresholds.
LaRose appeared in person before the Senate Local Government and Elections Committee on Tuesday to support HB458 (Hall), legislation eliminating the August special election, saying he has yet to hear a good reason for holding one. Noting that the state held a special election for General Assembly primary candidates last August due to legal battles over redistricting, LaRose said overall turnout for that election was at 8 percent. In contrast, turnout for the Nov. 8 General Election was 51 percent.
The following are the results for a number of local levies on the Nov. 8 ballot: 87 of 120 or 73 percent of local school levies were approved; 85 percent of parks and recreation levies passed; 18 of 19 library levies passed; all 19 senior services levies passed; all seven of the children’s services levies passed; and all five of the mental health levies passed.
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