Week in Review > Week In Review 10-2-23Posted by Paul Imhoff on October 02nd, 2023
The Ohio Attorney General’s Office kicked off the 2023-2024 Teen Ambassador Board this week. The 152 high school juniors and seniors represent 97 public, private, charter and online schools in 43 counties; some members are home-schooled. During their one-year tenure, teen ambassadors will have an up-close view of state operations through conversations with government officials, interactive learning sessions and other activities.
Supporters of a constitutional amendment initiative campaign that would remove elected officials from the redistricting process filed a petition summary for the third time Friday, Sept. 22 after making more revisions in response to Attorney General Dave Yost’s latest rejection. Yost has twice rejected the summary as not providing a fair and truthful summary of the proposed amendment, most recently for omissions regarding the definition of political affiliation. The amendment, supported by the campaign group Citizens Not Politicians, would create a 15-member Ohio Citizens Redistricting Commission consisting of Republicans, Democrats and Independents, barring current or former elected officials from serving.
IT’S IN THE FY24-25 BUDGET
The nation’s online chat sites have about four months to prepare for the launch of Ohio’s Social Media Parental Notification mandates, which will impose civil penalties of up to $10,000 per day for portals that do not obtain consent from parents or guardians of children under 16 who use such sites. The DeWine administration had previewed the Social Media Parental Notification Act (SMPNA) as part of HB33 (Edwards) in comments to Hannah News a week before the budget dropped following “State of the State” comments on the mental health crisis among youth. Lt. Gov. Jon Husted said at the time executive language would require guardians’ verified consent to a child’s online chat, reinforced by written confirmation via U.S. mail or telephone. SMPNA evolved through the legislative process to define further what “social media” does and does not include and to provide additional parental controls over online content.
The “Strong Foundations Act” is needed to address Ohio’s abysmal maternal and infant mortality rates, Rep. Andrea White (R-Kettering) said Tuesday. “It’s risky business to have a baby in our state. Ohio has some of the worst infant and maternal mortality rates in the entire nation,” White told the House Finance Committee during sponsor testimony on HB7 (White-Humphrey). The bill was reported out of the House Families and Aging Committee in June, and some provisions of the bill were included in the budget. The bill is being considered by the House Finance Committee because it includes a $37.5 million appropriation in FY24 and an $18.5 million appropriation in FY25 for various programs to improve the health of mothers and infants.
Ohio’s new five-star report card system needs improvement, Senate Education Committee Chair Andrew Brenner (R-Delaware) said Tuesday. “We may need to take a look at some of the weighting,” Brenner told Hannah News following Tuesday’s meeting of the Senate Education Committee, during which members heard presentations from Interim Superintendent of Public Instruction Chris Woolard and Ohio State University (OSU) researcher Vladimir Kogan. The state issued its first overall star ratings for schools earlier this month.
School buses are the safest way for kids to get to school regardless of whether they have seat belts, but properly-worn lap-shoulder belts can make children even safer, a national crash investigation official told Gov. Mike DeWine’s new working group on bus safety Monday. A veteran local transportation official, meanwhile, briefed the group on considerations related to the other ways kids get to school, including the increase in parent drop-offs and pick-ups. DeWine created the Ohio School Bus Safety Working Group in the wake of a bus-minivan collision in Clark County that killed an 11-year-old. Kristin Poland of the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) said belts can complement the benefits of “compartmentalization” — a design feature of buses including their seat padding and high-backed frames that is meant to keep passengers contained. While no death is acceptable in school transportation, she said the safety record of buses is excellent — an average of five driver and six passenger fatalities per year from 2012 to 2021, versus tens of thousands of other road deaths.
ODNR is calling on teachers and students in Northern Ohio to join the “H2Ohio Students Take Action Program.” The program, which is focused on wetland restoration projects, gives teachers and students a firsthand look at conservation and ecology, ODNR said. The H2Ohio Students Take Action Program provides middle and high school teachers and their students with real-world learning opportunities, access to wetland sites, career exploration opportunities and more. Projects in this program urge students to “take action” with their ideas and use what they learn to positively affect their watershed.
Ohio Senate Workforce and Higher Education Committee Chair Sen. Jerry Cirino (R-Kirtland) announced a symposium on a variety of topics relevant to higher education governance will be held in the Statehouse Atrium next month. In announcing the symposium, which will be co-hosted by Senate President Matt Huffman (R-Lima), Cirino invited all current members of the boards of trustees of Ohio’s 14 public universities. “This symposium, which I believe is the first ever of its kind in Ohio, will be a great opportunity for the trustees of our critical institutions of higher education to spend time with the Senate and to hear from respected speakers,” said Cirino. The senator’s office said the symposium will feature nationally recognized speakers discussing policy formulation, future strategies and current challenges.
Union Institute & University, a primarily online college based in Cincinnati, cancelled its fall semester of classes due to financial issues and ongoing lawsuits, the Cincinnati Business Courier reported. After announcing the semester would be postponed by two weeks, Vice President for Academic Affairs Tom Frederick reportedly emailed the student body on Friday, Sept. 8 that the semester will instead be cancelled. He said there are currently no plans to close Union Institute, and that the university, which operates on a trimester system, will proceed with its winter semester in November. Also, the Higher Learning Commission (HLC), the university’s accreditation agency, released a letter announcing it has assigned it a financial distress designation, “based on the institution being placed on Heightened Cash Monitoring 2 (HCM2) by the U.S. Department of Education and related information.”
The Ohio Redistricting Commission late Tuesday unanimously passed new House and Senate maps that will lock in a Republican majority until the end of the decade. The two Democrats on the commission — Senate Minority Leader Nickie Antonio (D-Lakewood) and House Minority Leader Allison Russo (D-Upper Arlington) — said that while they were voting for the plan and that it was better than what was originally adopted as the working document last week, the process was still broken and should be taken out of the hands of politicians. According to co-chair Auditor Keith Faber, the new map would see 20 Republican, three lean Republican, nine Democratic, and one lean Democratic seats in the Senate. There would be 58 Republican, three lean Republican, 30 Democratic seats, and eight lean Democratic seats in the House.
After hearing testimony Tuesday morning, members of the commission worked behind closed doors into the evening before finally returning just after 10 p.m. to announce a deal had been struck. Sen. Rob McColley (R-Napoleon) introduced the new plan, dubbed the “Unified Bipartisan Redistricting Plan,” going over the changes. Most occurred in Ohio’s larger counties, making some districts more competitive. This action followed the commission’s holding two hearings in Geauga County Monday when it was criticized for meeting on the Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur, a scheduling that co-Chair Auditor Keith Faber said was a “mistake.” A hearing was held Friday, Sept. 22 in Mount Sterling.
Meanwhile, the plaintiffs in the cases challenging the previous maps asked the Ohio Supreme Court Monday to adopt a schedule “to review any new General Assembly-district plan for compliance with the requirements of the Ohio Constitution, including Article XI, Sections 6(A) and 6(B).” Motions were filed in both the League of Women Voters of Ohio v. Ohio Redistricting Commission and Bria Bennett v. Ohio Redistricting Commission.
As legislators work on priority legislation addressing the runup in property values and attendant tax increases, the Senate Ways and Means Committee chair suggested Wednesday the possibility that county budget commissions could be authorized to provide relief. The committee heard proponent testimony Wednesday on SB153 (Lang), which would require basing property valuations on a three-year average of sales for 2023 through 2025. The House Ways and Means Committee recently reported out a similar measure, HB187 (Hall-Bird). Sen. Louis Blessing (R-Cincinnati), chair of the committee, said it’s theoretically possible but practically unlikely that taxing districts, most of them schools, would in large numbers ask county budget commissions to reduce taxes and forego unanticipated revenue increases driven by the valuations. However, he asked a witness his thoughts on giving budget commissions the power to act unilaterally to reduce taxes, with some guardrails put in place.
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