Week in Review > Week in Review 1-22-24

Posted by on January 22nd, 2024

BALLOT ISSUES

Groups wanting to put a constitutional amendment before Ohio voters that would enshrine certain voting rights and procedures in the Ohio Constitution have resubmitted their proposed summary language after Attorney General Dave Yost had rejected the first submission late last year. Among Yost’s reasoning for rejecting the previous submission was the title of “Secure and Fair Elections,” with Yost telling the group that “the proposed amendment is a compilation of specific election regulations. While the petitioners may believe that these proposed regulations may ultimately result in secure and fair elections, the title is completely untethered to the actual substance of the proposed amendment. Thus, the title is misleading and fails to fairly and truthfully describe the content of the proposed amendment.” The new title of the ballot initiative is “Ohio Voters Bill of Rights,” which is similar to a 2014 effort that did not make it to the ballot.

CHILDREN/FAMILIES

Lt. Gov. Jon Husted appeared with Sen. Stephanie Kunze (R-Dublin) and Sen. Bill DeMora (D-Columbus) at a Tuesday news conference to highlight legislation aimed at limiting minors’ ability to view pornographic material online. SB212 requires pornographic websites to verify users’ ages before allowing them to access content on their website if more than one-third of the website’s content is harmful to juveniles. Husted said SB212 tries to apply the same rules from the physical world to the digital world for the ability of minors to access adult products, likening pornography to alcohol and tobacco. Husted said the online content children can see is leading to issues including depression, bullying, eating disorders, academic decline and low self-esteem, citing the U.S. Surgeon General who has called this a public health issue.

EDUCATION

Two vacancies now exist on the State Board of Education (SBOE) following the resignation earlier this month of Brandon Kern, an appointee of Gov. Mike DeWine. Kern’s resignation letter, dated Jan. 8, did not include a reason for his departure, but simply stated it had been an honor to serve. Kern is director of public policy and issues analysis for the Ohio Soybean Association, and his prior experience includes work for Treasurer Robert Sprague, Ohio Farm Bureau, the Ohio Senate and the late U.S. Sen. George Voinovich. Kern’s resignation follows that of Christina Collins, the elected member for District 7, who left to become executive director of Honesty for Ohio Education.

The DeWine administration announced Tuesday the availability of grant funding to provide training for educators to teach computer science. Up to 1,100 educators can get training through the Teach CS grants, created in the biennial budget, HB33 (Edwards). Of those, 650 would be newly credentialed, while the remainder would get continuing education. Seventeen education institutions across the state will be awarded $6 million to cover training costs. More information about Teach CS is at http://tinyurl.com/3y574wa2.

Attorney General Dave Yost Wednesday announced $6.7 million in safety grants for the 2024-25 academic year with funding from budget bill HB33 (Edwards). Ohio’s 600-plus school districts can now apply for a grant of $2,500 or $4.50 per student, whichever is greater, to support safety planning, training and classroom programs. Publicly funded community schools, private schools, STEM schools, education service centers (ESC), and schools operated by county boards of developmental disabilities also are eligible. This year’s grants seek to allow school leaders flexibility in determining how best to improve student safety. Funds may be used for the following, among other programs: Certification training for school resource officers; active-shooter response training and equipment; and educational resources for all grades.

Ohio schools should have a preliminary list by month’s end of instructional materials that meet new state literacy standards, according to the Department of Education and Workforce’s (DEW) point person for reading, Melissa Weber-Mayrer. She said by the end of January the agency expects to publish a preliminary list of qualifying materials, with plans to continue reviewing additional materials and to put out a final list by March.

DEW leadership convened its second public meeting Thursday, something the agency is required to do every other month to provide updates on initiatives and programs. The public meeting mandate was included in the HB33 (Edwards) governance transition provisions for K-12 education, which converted the Ohio Department of Education into DEW and put it under authority of the governor’s office rather than the State Board of Education. The board retains oversight mostly of educator licensure and professional conduct enforcement.

HIGHER EDUCATION

Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) has donated supercomputing resources to the University of Cincinnati (UC) to be used for testing and creating learning environments at the Advanced Research Computing Center (ARCC) at Digital Futures, an interdisciplinary research facility at UC. ARCC is designed to accelerate computational research and scholarship. It provides tools and services used by researchers for artificial intelligence (AI), modeling and simulation and machine learning, UC explained.

Ohio State University (OSU) Tuesday announced that Ross Bjork will become the university’s next senior vice president and athletics director, pending approval by the Board of Trustees. Bjork, who will replace long-time OSU Athletic Director Gene Smith, will begin on July 1, 2024, at the time of Smith’s retirement. Bjork, a former student athlete, currently serves as director of athletics at Texas A&M University. He has more than 30 years of experience in intercollegiate athletics.

JUVENILE JUSTICE

The Ohio Department of Youth Services (DYS) should use capital dollars to build smaller correctional facilities, according to Ohio Juvenile Justice Working Group Chair Tom Stickrath. He also suggested bringing in “some fresh eyes and ears immediately to assess operations in our DYS facilities.”

MARIJUANA/HEMP

Gov. Mike DeWine appeared with Ohio Department of Public Safety Director Andy Wilson, Ohio Department of Health Assistant Director Lance Himes and Dr. Gary Wenk of the Ohio State University Medical Center at a Wednesday press conference to encourage legislators to pass a bill that would prohibit the sale of intoxicating hemp, such as Delta-8 THC, to minors. DeWine said the House could move to pass the Senate-approved version of marijuana bill HB86 (LaRe), which he said includes language that would restrict sales of Delta-8 THC to minors. If HB86 doesn’t pass, DeWine said a separate bill should be passed. He noted that Sen. Steve Huffman (R-Tipp City) is working on a separate piece of legislation. DeWine also said he intends to push for legislation that prohibits the use of colorful packaging, animated characters, and confusing labeling that is being “marketed towards kids.”

There are now 407,123 patients registered in the Ohio Medical Marijuana Control Program (MMCP), according to the November 2023 patient and caregiver update from the Ohio Department of Commerce (DOC). DOC is now the primary administrator of the MMCP, as provided for in budget law HB33 (Edwards). The Ohio Board of Pharmacy (OBP) now has a very limited role in regulating the medical cannabis industry. Of registered patients, 23,744 are military veterans, 24,692 are classified as “indigent” and 1,401 have a terminal diagnosis.

The Ohio Conference of Teamsters announced that Strawberry Fields in Columbus recently became the first cannabis dispensary in Ohio to join that union.

Rocket Systems Inc. is issuing a voluntary recall of various hemp products because they were produced without an inspection from the Ohio Department of Agriculture (ODAg). The issue was discovered during a routine inspection conducted by ODAg, according to a news release issued by Rocket Systems and shared by ODAg. There have been no reports of illness involving products addressed in the recall.

MENTAL HEALTH

Gov. Mike DeWine and the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services (OhioMHAS) Wednesday announced a statewide effort to address an increase in suicide rates among Black children and young adults. Black youth have the fastest growing suicide rate nationally compared to their peers of other racial and ethnic groups. Between 2007 and 2020, the suicide rate among Black youth ages 10-17 increased by 144 percent, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The Black Youth and Young Adults Suicide Prevention Initiative will fund local and regional efforts to increase access to culturally responsive prevention and early intervention services that focus on reducing and strengthening protective factors.

STATE GOVERNMENT

Cheryl Lyman Thursday announced she will retire effective Feb. 29 as executive director of the Ohio Facilities Construction Commission (OFCC), which oversees capital projects at state agencies, manages public K-12 school facility programs for construction and renovation projects, and administers funding for community, cultural and sports facilities projects. The announcement came during the commission’s January meeting. Lyman has nearly 35 years of experience in public service. During her tenure as executive director, the U.S. Green Building Council awarded OFCC a national leadership award and recognized Ohio as a global leader in Leadership in Energy and Design certified public buildings. Lyman received the Exceptional Women in Building Award from the National Institute of Building Services. OFCC also highlighted her oversight of DeWine administration initiatives such as the Ohio K-12 School Safety Grant and the Career Tech Construction Grant programs, as well as her role in planning Expo 2050, which include renovations and improvements at the Ohio Expo Center and State Fair grounds.

WORKFORCE

The Governor’s Office of Workforce Transformation recently updated the state’s “Top Jobs” list as required every two years, providing new information on which occupations are in-demand or deemed critical. The in-demand jobs must pay at least 80 percent of the state median wage of $17.22 an hour, have an annual growth in the number of jobs higher than the statewide average; or have more than 641 annual job openings. Among the newly added jobs are avionics technicians, at a median salary of $58,000; biomedical engineers, at a median salary of $93,000; and chemical engineers, at a median salary of $99,000.

Posted by on January 22nd, 2024

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