Week in Review > Week In Review 10-30-23Posted by Paul Imhoff on October 30th, 2023
Ohio joined 32 other states Tuesday in suing CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s Meta and divisions including Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp over claims it knowingly addicts young people to its social media products to sell advertising and increase profits. The federal lawsuit says Meta, Facebook and Instagram have “profoundly altered the psychological and social realities of a generation of young Americans” — through anxiety, depression, insomnia, and disruption of academic and social life — a situation the U.S. surgeon general has labeled a “youth mental health crisis.” A common feature of Meta’s social media prompts is the “fear of missing out” (FOMO), says Attorney General Dave Yost and others, accusing the company of structuring ephemeral content to induce youth-FOMO.
IT’S IN THE FY24-25 BUDGET
The Department of Education and Workforce (DEW) recently set out expectations for processing complaints related to schools’ compliance with their transportation obligations to private and charter school students. The budget bill, HB33 (Edwards), took a new approach to establishing penalties for non-compliance, after a similar mechanism in the prior budget bill, 134-HB110 (Oelslager), was enjoined in court. Under HB33, schools can be found out of compliance if they can’t meet transportation obligations for five or more consecutive days, or more than 10 total days during an academic year. Noncompliant conduct can include dropping off students more than 30 minutes early, picking them up more than 30 minutes late or failing to transport students entirely, among other requirements of law. Beginning with complaints made after Friday, Dec. 1, DEW will make a determination within 30 or 45 days of receiving a complaint. Information on how to file complaints and the process for handling them is at https://tinyurl.com/3rdup4ve.
Members of the Commission on Infant Mortality met Wednesday to discuss the social drivers leading to Ohio’s high infant mortality rate, which remains higher than most other states. Significant racial disparities in outcomes also persist. The commission moved to virtual meetings during the pandemic, but Wednesday’s hearing was held in person. Staff from the Health Policy Institute of Ohio (HPIO) presented information from their report, “Social Drivers of Infant Mortality,” which provides updated data and analyzes the implementation of recommendations from a separate 2017 report from HPIO titled, “A New Approach to Reduce Infant Mortality and Achieve Equity.”
Gov. Mike DeWine Friday named Jessica Voltolini interim director of the renamed Department of Education and Workforce (DEW) effective Monday, Oct. 23 after a visiting Franklin County judge denied a preliminary injunction to further block the transfer of control over K-12 education governance from the State Board of Education (SBOE) to the governor’s office. Richard Frye, a retired Franklin County Common Pleas Court judge, ruled Friday that the state can proceed with the education overhaul laid out in the latest state budget, HB33 (Edwards).
Gov. Mike DeWine says his Ohio School Safety Center (OSSC) and Ohio Traffic Safety Office (OTSO) are partnering in 2023-2024 to raise student awareness about safety measures at school and on the road. As divisions of the Ohio Department of Public Safety (DPS), OSSC and OTSO are sponsoring the informational campaign “Safe Streets Safe Schools” during the academic year “to help students stay safe before, during and after school, whether in the halls, classrooms or their cars,” the administration says.
The State Board of Education (SBOE) won’t meet Monday, Oct. 30 for candidate interviews as previously planned, but President Paul LaRue said he believes the board can fill the long-vacant superintendent position by year’s end. “The search firm put a pause on the search, so what we’re going to do is do the next steps at the regularly scheduled November meeting,” LaRue told Hannah News in a phone interview.
“Our hope is that by December, by the end of the year, we’re able to have the superintendent of [public] instruction in place,” he said. What exactly the board will do in November is still to be determined. The board next meets Tuesday, Nov. 14 and Wednesday, Nov. 15.
Sens. Theresa Gavarone (R-Bowling Green) and Bill DeMora (D-Columbus) have introduced legislation that would prevent the residential and family information of elections officials from being included in public records. SB173 (Gavarone-DeMora) would include elections officials on the list of public service workers, which the sponsors said would ensure information on their residences and families are redacted from public records before their release.
The Ohio Elections Commission held another hearing regarding a complaint against Rep. Jean Schmidt (R-Loveland) on Thursday, but a final decision on the matter will not be made until Thursday, Dec. 14 at the earliest. The commission spent more than four hours considering testimony on the matter, which was brought by Southwest Ohio conservative Chris Hicks. The complaint alleges that Schmidt did not properly report assistance her campaign received from the Ohio Republican Party (ORP) and allies of former House Speaker Larry Householder (R-Glenford). Multiple witnesses were questioned by Hicks and former Franklin County Prosecutor Ron O’Brien, who is Schmidt’s attorney.
The following endorsement was made over the week:
– The U.S. Senate campaign of Bernie Moreno announced the endorsement of former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich.
Ohio’s unemployment rate remained at 3.4 percent in September, according to the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS), showing no change from August. However, the state’s nonagricultural wage and salary employment increased 8,400 over the month. ODFJS said the state’s employment, which went from a revised 5,639,700 in August to 5,648,100 in September, marks the highest payroll employment reported since the series started in 1990. The number of workers unemployed in Ohio in September was 199,000, up from 196,000 in August. The number of unemployed has decreased by 37,000 in the past 12 months from 236,000. The September unemployment rate for Ohio decreased 0.7 percent from 4.1 percent in September 2022.
The recent Ohio Chamber of Commerce 2023 Energy Summit underscored former Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) Chairman Asim Haque’s repeated warnings that the 13-state electric grid faces a megawatt shortage by 2030. Brownouts and possible blackouts loom, he signaled, without fossil-fuel-generated baseload plants to keep the grid running 24/7. Addressing the Capitol Square gathering, Haque, now senior vice president of state and member services for PJM Interconnection, put a finer point on his remarks to both chambers from earlier this year. “We are worried about a supply problem — having enough watts — by the end of the decade,” he said of the PJM region, which is responsible for monitoring wholesale markets for day-to-day electricity and periods of peak demand and for dispatching megawatts real-time in varying conditions.
A competitive energy marketer charged with 150 separate violations of Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) rules will forfeit $1 million to make consumers whole, restore customers’ standard local utility rate, and surrender its competitive retail electric service (CRES) and competitive retail natural gas service (CRNGS) license to operate in the state. PUCO says RPA Energy Inc. d/b/a Green Choice Energy violated 23 sections of the Ohio Administrative Code governing CRES and CRNGS providers as far back as February 2021. “RPA engaged in significant misconduct by spoofing telephone numbers in outbound telemarketing, modifying recordings of sales calls, falsifying third-party verification (TPV) … failing to maintain records required by staff to complete its investigation, and failing to comply with a commission health and safety order during the recent pandemic, among other violations” including forged customer signatures and nondisclosure of monthly fees, commissioners stated Wednesday in a 45-page order.
Centrus Energy announced recently that it has begun enrichment operations at its High-Assay Low-Enriched Uranium (HALEU) facility in Piketon, and expects to begin withdrawing HALEU product later in October. It is the only Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC)-licensed HALEU facility in the United States and the first new U.S.-owned, U.S.-technology uranium enrichment plant to begin production since 1954.
Forty-eight businesses and organizations are receiving Encouraging Environmental Excellence (E3) awards in 2023, Ohio EPA Director Anne Vogel announced recently. Ohio EPA’s E3 program recognizes businesses and organizations through four levels of recognition: “Achievement,” “Silver,” “Gold,” and “Platinum.” The Encouraging Environmental Excellence in Communities (E3C) program recognizes local governments and communities, which can work toward three levels of recognition: “Achievement,” “Silver” and “Gold.” The Encouraging Environmental Excellence in Education (E4) program recognizes K-12 public and private schools, which also work through three levels of recognition: “Root,” “Branch,” and “Leaf.” This year’s statewide E3 award winner is the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction (DRC) (E3 Platinum), which operates its own composting facility and has composted 34.9 tons of food waste.
House Speaker Jason Stephens (R-Kitts Hill) addressed a number of issues following Monday’s House Rules and Reference Committee, including filling the vacancy left by former Rep. Bob Young (R-North Canton), ticket prices for high school football games, the upcoming capital budget, and several bills.
Sen. Jerry Cirino (R-Kirtland), chair of the Senate Workforce and Higher Education Committee, Monday hosted what is believed to be Ohio’s first symposium for trustees of the state’s 14 public universities, telling them they have an important role to play in finding solutions to the raft of pressing issues facing institutions of higher education. Cirino recounted those challenges including declining enrollment, changing workforce needs and student debt as well as growing cultural and political divides. “We have gender issues on campus that you all are having to deal with,” Cirino told the trustees, “and inclusive in that is intersectionality. Now everybody’s got something to complain about, and it’s pretty tough for all of you to deal with trying to anticipate what those are and dealing with all of the victims that now live on campus.” Cirino and Senate President Matt Huffman (R-Lima), who also spoke at the event, encouraged trustees to take on a more influential role in governing their institutions and signaled a desire for more partnerships between trustees and state lawmakers. “We didn’t give as much money to higher education, at least to the four-year institutions … because we’re not sure about the financial future and the ability of these universities to self-govern,” Huffman said. “It’s not up to the employees to make good financial decisions. It’s up to the president and his administration, and ultimately, it’s for the board of trustees to make the president make those good decisions or hire people who will make good decisions. So, [it’s a] very important job. They have the authority. We hope that they’ll exercise their authority and begin solving some of the issues in higher ed.”
Rep. Casey Weinstein (D-Hudson) and Rep. Lauren McNally (D-Youngstown) introduced HB290 to create a child tax credit for middle- and low-income families in Ohio. The bill creates an annual, refundable tax credit for middle- and low-income Ohio families with children under the age of 18. Families would receive a tax credit of up to $1,000 per child aged 5 and younger and up to $500 per child aged 6-17.
In other action, the House Primary and Secondary Education Committee reported out HB147 (Fowler-Arthur-A. Miller), regarding the revocation of teacher licenses; the House Transportation Committee reported out road naming bills HB269 (Holmes) and HB252 (John); and the House Homeland Security Committee reported out HB241 (J. Miller-K. Miller), which addresses filling vacant police positions.
The state is expanding a program to provide emergency naloxone access cabinets and fentanyl testing strips to private colleges and universities, Gov. Mike DeWine announced. Previously, only public institutions were eligible for the program. In 2020, the Legislature passed 133-HB341 (Ginter), which expanded access to naloxone through different means of distribution, including the emergency access cabinets. Earlier this year, up to five emergency access cabinets were offered at no cost to each of Ohio’s public colleges and universities. That offer has been expanded to include independent colleges and universities. The program is administered through a partnership between RecoveryOhio and the Ohio departments of higher education, mental health and addiction services, and health.
The Inter-University Council of Ohio (IUC), which represents the state’s 14 public universities, will host its first symposium for military-connected students on Thursday, Nov. 9 ahead of Veterans Day. The event, which will be held in the Statehouse Atrium from 10 a.m. to noon, will include discussions about how public
The Supreme Court of Ohio Wednesday held oral arguments in three cases in Eastern Ohio at Buckeye Local High School in Rayland in Jefferson County as part of a traveling civic education program for students. The school, which sits less than three miles from the West Virginia border, hosted approximately 425 high school and homeschooled students from Jefferson and Harrison counties. Teachers and students prepared ahead of time for the visit and studied the facts and arguments in the case they heard. Local attorneys also assisted, working with educators at each school before the event to explain Ohio’s judicial system and discuss the materials.
The Ohio Supreme Court cleared its docket of 167 criminal cases Thursday following July’s decision to uphold the constitutionality of the Reagan Tokes Law, which empowers the executive branch to set prison terms for violent felons based on their conduct behind bars.
Battelle for Kids, a national, not-for-profit organization with the mission of focusing on deeper learning for every student, appointed Michael Duncan as its new president and CEO. He succeeds Karen Garza, who announced her retirement after a 38-year career in education including the past seven years at the helm of Battelle for Kids. Duncan actually joined the organization in August 2023, working alongside Garza over a two-month leadership transition period.
Ohio Department of Health (ODH) Director Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff warned Ohioans about rising injuries among children caused by e-cigarette devices, or vapes. He also said to expect an uptick in cases of COVID-19, flu and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) in the coming weeks. Vanderhoff said the state is seeing an increase in injuries caused by exposure to e-cigarette and vaping devises, particularly among children ages five and younger. “I want to raise the alarm that the liquids in e-cigarettes or vaping devices are proving to be an increasing risk to our young children,” Vanderhoff said during a virtual press conference. “This liquid can contain nicotine, THC, CBD, flavors, or some combination of those. Young children can be poisoned by swallowing the liquid, taking a puff if they have seen someone else use it, or even from absorbing it through their skin or eyes.”
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