Week In Review 12-02-2022

Posted by on December 05th, 2022 in News

BALLOT ISSUES

A proposal to increase the threshold to pass citizen-initiated constitutional amendments now also applies to constitutional amendments proposed by the General Assembly. A substitute version of HJR6 (Stewart), accepted on Thursday by the House Government Oversight Committee, would require all proposed constitutional amendments to receive 60 percent of the vote to be adopted into the Ohio Constitution. The previous version of the resolution only applied to citizen-initiated constitutional amendments. Rep. Brian Stewart (R-Ashville) announced the resolution with Secretary of State Frank LaRose in mid-November.

Earlier in the week, voting rights groups and veterans of ballot issue campaigns said that more than 140 organizations are prepared to fight changes to the initiated constitutional amendment process and expect many more to sign on to the effort. Speakers from the League of Women Voters, Ohio Organizing Collaborative and other groups argued at a Statehouse press conference that the proposal, HJR6 (Stewart) is undemocratic and also unfair, because at that point, it gave lawmakers a different set of rules for passage than voters. Similar proposals in other states have failed recently, they said.

EDUCATION

A major overhaul of education in Ohio is needed to address growing workforce challenges and prepare students for the future economy, according to proponents of a bill that would reform the operations of the Ohio Department of Education (ODE) and State Board of Education (SBOE). Sen. Bill Reineke’s (R-Tiffin) SB178 was previously a placeholder bill for legislation to reform the “functions and responsibilities” of ODE, the SBOE, and the state superintendent, but on Tuesday members accepted without objection a sub bill of over 2,100 pages. SB178 would restructure ODE into a cabinet level state agency called the Department of Education and Workforce (DEW), as well as create the position of director of DEW, who would be appointed by the governor with the consent of the Ohio Senate. The bill would create two separate divisions in the department — Primary and Secondary Education and Career-Technical Education (CTE), each of which would be headed by a deputy director.

Proponents testified Wednesday that a lack of accountability at ODE and the state school board, as well as dysfunction in the board itself are reasons that change is needed. Wednesday’s Senate Primary and Secondary Education Committee saw proponents Michael Linton of Accurate Mechanical Inc., Troy McIntosh of the Ohio Christian Education Network, and Chad Aldis of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute urge passage of SB178 (Reineke), while Scott DiMauro of the Ohio Education Association, testifying as an interested party, told lawmakers to take their time and allow all stakeholders to weigh in on the issue. McIntosh told the committee that the structure of the SBOE, and the ongoing level of dysfunction within the board, have combined to create an inefficient and often unresponsive ODE. As examples, he cited a poor rollout of the Afterschool Child Enrichment program, slow EdChoice Scholarship processing, a cumbersome process for chartering new non-public schools, delays in processing teacher licensure applications, student transportation issues across the state, and an inability to hire a state superintendent.

Sen. Vern Sykes (D-Akron) asked McIntosh when his group became aware of the structural change proposed in the bill. McIntosh said several weeks ago. Sykes noted McIntosh’s extensive testimony and said it shows he has had time to consider it and asked if others should be afforded more time to consider what it changes themselves.

The DeWine administration announced Monday a third round of grant funding for school security upgrades, awarding $57.8 million. Funding through the K-12 School Safety Program will benefit 708 schools in 57 counties, according to the governor’s office.

GrowNextGen, an organization started by the Ohio Soybean Council to encourage development of entrepreneurs and leaders in the industry, announced it is giving its GrowNextGen Teacher Leader of the Year 2022 award to Shelby Guthrie, a food science and agriculture education teacher at Global Impact STEM Academy in Springfield.

GENERAL ASSEMBLY/STATEHOUSE

With caucus leaders now named for both chambers, Hannah News has released a preliminary legislative directory for the 135th General Assembly that includes House and Senate leadership, all legislators, their Statehouse phone numbers and district addresses. It will be updated as information on legislators’ offices and committee assignments becomes available as well. Statewide officials, justices of the Ohio Supreme Court and members of Ohio’s congressional delegation are also included in the directory. The directory can be found HERE.


HIGHER EDUCATION

Ohio State University (OSU) President Kristina M. Johnson officially announced she will resign as president at the close of the current academic year in May 2023. Johnson’s departure comes after about two and a half years into her five-year contract with the university. The Columbus Dispatch, which first broke the story of Johnson’s plans to leave, reported the OSU Board of Trustees asked Johnson to resign following an investigation conducted by an outside firm into “concerns about her that were raised by staff.”

PENSIONS

Sen. Kirk Schuring (R-Canton) is looking to buttress Ohio’s statutory investment standard with new language to stave off the adoption of environmental, social and governance standards, aka ESG, at pension funds, universities and the Bureau of Workers’ Compensation. He said the measure was not introduced in reaction to any action by Ohio institutions but is meant to be preventive. “The topic of ESG is sweeping the entire nation … [the bill] just underscores what the best investment policies for the state institutions that are listed in the bill should be.” Schuring introduced his proposal as SB367, which generally directs that a given investing institution “shall make investment decisions with the sole purpose of maximizing the return on its investments” and “shall not make an investment decision with the primary purpose of influencing any social or environmental policy or attempting to influence the governance of any corporation.”

The Ohio Public Employees Retirement System (OPERS) and State Teachers Retirement System (STRS) are pushing for lead-plaintiff status in the class action lawsuit targeting Warner Bros. Discovery (WBD) for allegedly skewing its financials to support a corporate merger, costing state pensions and other investors more than $31 billion in market capitalization. STRS and OPERS say CEO David Zaslav and CFO Gunnar Wiedenfels of WBD, a merger of AT&T subsidiary WarnerMedia and Discovery Inc., knew Warner had overinvested in HBO Max and other streaming services and inflated HBO subscribers by 10 million in company disclosures but hid those facts from shareholders. WBD’s common stock price plunged by more than half in five months, according to the lawsuit.

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