Week in Review > Week In Review 10-9-23Posted by Paul Imhoff on October 10th, 2023
The Controlling Board Monday approved $1.6 million in additional funds for the attorney general’s office and the Ohio Peace Officer Training Academy (OPOTA) to use for administering a police officer training program added to biennial budget HB33 (Edwards). Jay Easterling, chief financial officer for the attorney general, explained that the $40 million appropriated for a special police training fund in the budget only included $100,000 for administrative costs, which he said was low for what is needed. The request before the Controlling Board allows the attorney general’s office and OPOTA to build staff for administrative and processing work, as well as to hire more trainers and expand into other forums such as virtual reality training, Easterling said. He said it will help keep the program fresh and current.
Attorney General Dave Yost’s office is now taking applications through Thursday, Nov. 30 for grant funding for up to $30,000 to help schools respond quickly to threats for items such as silent panic alarms, gunshot-detection technology and more. Applications can be submitted online at https://grants.ohio.gov/fundingopportunities.aspx. The submission date will be a factor in evaluating applications, Yost’s office said. Awards are expected to be announced in January and paid in early 2024. Those with questions about the program can contactOfficerSchoolSafetyGrants@ohioago.gov.
A proposed constitutional amendment that would replace the state’s legislative and congressional redistricting process with a 15-member citizens’ panel took a step forward Monday after Attorney General Dave Yost approved the petition summary on its third try. The “Amendment to Replace the Current Politician-Run Redistricting Process with a Citizen-Led Commission Required to Create Fair State Legislative Districts Through a More Open and Independent System” now heads to the Ohio Ballot Board, which will determine if the proposal contains one or more ballot issues. Yost had previously rejected two submissions from the group behind the amendment — Citizens Not Politicians — saying the summary language did not meet the requirement that the language be “fair and truthful.”
Better than expected collections in the non-auto sales tax offset small dips in other sources to yield tax collections slightly above expectations in September, according to preliminary data from the Office of Budget and Management (OBM). Tax receipts were $5.2 million or 0.2 percent above expectations, reaching $2.3 billion for the month. Sales taxes were up overall by 2.1 percent or $22.3 million, with non-auto sales taxes up 3.8 percent or $43.2 million vs. forecasts but auto sales taxes down 7 percent or $11.8 million. Monthly sales tax collection reached $1.1 billion. The personal income tax missed expectations by 0.4 percent or $4.2 million, bringing in $1.07 billion. The Commercial Activity Tax yielded $21.1 million, $2.2 million or 9.5 percent below forecasts.
Opportunities for Ohioans with Disabilities (OOD) will host hiring events and provide information about available positions during National Disability Employment Awareness Month which is observed in October. The events are part of OOD’s campaign to celebrate the contributions of workers with disabilities and raise awareness about the employment of people with disabilities. The hiring events will provide individuals with disabilities the opportunity to connect one-on-one with employers. OOD will also host a no-cost webinar for employers on invisible disabilities in the workplace, scheduled for Thursday, October 19 at 10 a.m. to coincide with Invisible Disabilities Week. The webinar will discuss the barriers and limitations employees with invisible disabilities may encounter at work and ways to remove these by providing reasonable accommodations and information about best practices.
Ohio’s minimum wage is scheduled to increase to $10.45 per hour for non-tipped employees and $5.25 per hour for tipped employees on Monday, Jan. 1, 2024, the Ohio Department of Commerce (DOC) announced. The minimum wage will apply to employees of businesses with annual gross receipts of more than $385,000 per year, according to DOC. The current 2023 minimum wage is $10.10 per hour for non-tipped employees and $5.05 per hour for tipped employees. The 2023 Ohio minimum wage applies to employees of businesses with annual gross receipts of more than $372,000.
Late in the week, Judge Karen Phipps of Franklin County Common Pleas Court extended until Friday, Oct. 20 a temporary restraining order that blocks for now the transfer of K-12 governance powers from the State Board of Education and state superintendent to the governor’s cabinet. The judge also asked parties to address whether the attorney general’s office should be disqualified from representing anyone in the case. This followed a preliminary injunction hearing on Monday before Phipps’ Magistrate Jennifer Hunt in the suit challenging whether provisions of HB33 (Edwards) run afoul of the 1950s constitutional amendment creating the state board, as well as constitutional provisions on legislative procedure. Gov. Mike DeWine weighed in both Monday and Tuesday, maintaining that the Department of Education and Workforce (DEW) would come into existence by simple operation of law Tuesday, Oct. 3 and he said it would be led for now by Interim Superintendent of Education Chris Woolard, notwithstanding the restraining order in litigation by State Board of Education members that restricts DeWine’s implementation of the new agency. DeWine spoke at a press conference Monday less than an hour after the court hearing adjourned, saying he needed to provide clarity that basic functions of government would continue while the legal questions are ironed out. He argued again Tuesday morning in an address before the Buckeye Association of School Administrators (BASA) and remarks to reporters afterward that he’s compelled to ensure continuity of operations at the new department even though a judge ordered him not to take action on implementing the new agency and K-12 governance structure. But SBOE members behind the lawsuit said in a new filing that DeWine’s interpretation is “not a good-faith reading” of what the court decided.
The House Transportation Committee Tuesday heard two bills addressing school bus safety, albeit from two different approaches. Rep. Bernie Willis (R-Springfield) told the committee his HB279 responds to a recent incident in his district where a student was thrown from a school bus and killed. The bill would require seatbelts to be installed on school buses over a five-year time frame. He said while he considers this to be a “life safety issue for children” as opposed to a financial one, he estimated the cost would be 2.5 percent of a school district’s transportation budget. He broke that down further by explaining that at an estimated cost of $16,800 per bus to retrofit it or add seatbelts and with about 23,000 school busses in Ohio of which 15 percent have “seatbelts of some kind,” the “total bill could be close to $400 million.” The second school bus safety bill was Rep. Richard Brown’s (D-Canal Winchester) HB140 which has the four components addressing drivers who illegally pass a stopped school bus including escalating penalties for repeat offenders. HB140 would also provide public education about school bus safety laws.
Lawmakers in the House Higher Education Committee Wednesday debated HB183 (Bird-Lear) which requires public and chartered nonpublic schools, educational service centers (ESCs), and institutions of higher education to “designate specified facilities for the exclusive use of students of either the male biological sex or the female biological sex.” In addition, the bill prohibits public and chartered nonpublic schools and ESCs from “permitting members of the female biological sex to share overnight accommodations with members of the male biological sex.” In sponsor testimony, the sponsors said the legislation is needed to protect young women and girls, saying that policies to allow transgender women to use women’s public restrooms have caused harm and led to assaults. Rep. Adam Bird (R-Cincinnati) said superintendents and schools have personally asked him to introduce the legislation.
The U.S. Department of Education (USDOE) recently awarded a grant that could be worth up to $1.9 million for a Cincinnati charter school, Cincinnati Classical Academy. The Charter Schools Program (CSP) Developer Grant is meant to support the opening of new or replication of existing high-quality charter schools. The first-year grant amount is about $445,000. According to its application, Cincinnati Classical Academy opened in the 2022-2023 academic year to serve K-6 students and intends to add one grade per year to eventually serve K-12 students. The application says it will replicate a classical education model proven by work in 23 other schools across 13 states.
Following the meeting of the House Rules and Reference Committee Tuesday, Ohio House Speaker Jason Stephens (R-Kitts Hill) weighed in on the legal fight over K-12 education governance between members of the State Board of Education (SBOE) and the governor’s office. Asked about Wednesday’s committee hearing on HB259 (Schmidt-Miller), which would abolish the death penalty in Ohio, Stephens said he is personally against abolishing the death penalty but would see how the committee process plays out. Regarding Ohioans’ upcoming vote on Issue 2, which would legalize adult-use marijuana, Stephens was asked if he would amend or change the law if voters passed it. Stephens noted the initiative is a “piece of legislation,” not “a constitutional amendment.” He suggested lawmakers’ position on amending the law may come down to how their districts vote on Issue 2.
In other legislative actions, the House Commerce and Labor Committee reported out HB195 (Demetriou-Brennan) which creates an adaptive mobility dealer license; the House Pensions Committee reported out HB78 (Seitz-J. Miller) regarding State Teachers Retirement System Board membership/elections; and the House Transportation Committee reported out HB201 (Hillyer-Demetriou) which prohibits the adoption of California emissions standards in the state.
Emeritus Ohio State University (OSU) Professor Pierre Agostini is one of three individuals to be awarded the 2023 Nobel Prize in Physics for his study of electron dynamics in matter. Agostini shares the award with Ferenc Krausz from the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics in Munich, Germany and Anne L’Huillier from Lund University in Sweden. “The three Nobel Laureates in Physics 2023 are being recognized for their experiments, which have given humanity new tools for exploring the world of electrons inside atoms and molecules … to create extremely short pulses of light that can be used to measure the rapid processes in which electrons move or change energy,” the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences said in its announcement. The trio will split the cash award of 11 million Swedish kronor, roughly $1 million.
Ohio State University (OSU) Executive Vice President and Provost Melissa L. Gilliam has been named the next president of Boston University. She will continue to serve as Ohio State’s chief academic officer through the end of the year and will join Boston University (BU) as president-elect on Jan. 1, 2024. The university said Gilliam led the launch of the Ohio State Academic Plan, which includes programs to support faculty and staff. She established the Provost’s Early Career Scholars Program and the Scarlet and Gray Associate Professors Program. Gilliam created the Office of Faculty Affairs and the Office of Strategic Enrollment Management. The former focuses on faculty recruitment and recognition, while the latter integrates admissions, financial aid and additional functions to support enrollment and student success.
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) awarded nearly $5.2 million to Ohio for an initiative designed to address youth homelessness in rural parts of the state, the DeWine administration announced. The award comes from HUD’s Youth Homelessness Demonstration Program, which was created to support a range of programs including rapid rehousing, permanent supportive housing, transitional housing, host homes and more. The money will be administered through the Ohio Department of Development (DOD) in collaboration with the Coalition on Homelessness and Housing in Ohio (COHHIO) to establish a grant program for local communities to develop innovative solutions for providing safe and supportive housing. Selected communities will be required to establish Youth Action Boards, in which young people who have experienced housing instability actively lead local efforts to design, implement, and improve programs and policies to both prevent and eliminate this problem in their communities.
The plaintiffs in all three lawsuits challenging Ohio General Assembly maps adopted by the Ohio Redistricting Commission officially filed objections with the Ohio Supreme Court Thursday, Oct. 5 challenging the latest commission plan adopted unanimously last week. “Petitioners have waited the better part of two years for relief, during which time an entire election cycle has passed. The plan now before the Court suggests that the commission assumes that this Court will neither enforce Article XI, Section 6(B) nor adhere to its prior decisions. Petitioners submit that this is the last chance to show that Ohioans were not sold a bill of goods in 2015 — the last chance to show that the current redistricting process is not irredeemably broken,” the plaintiffs in one of the cases, Bria Bennett v. Ohio Redistricting Commission, wrote in its objection filed Thursday afternoon. The filing argues that the proportionality of the latest plan “is on par with that of the very first plan that this Court invalidated and that of the twice-invalidated plan that was used in the 2022 elections.” The filings also argue that the prior case precedent by the Court in these cases should continue to be followed with the latest maps.
The Ohio Redistricting Commission Friday, Sept. 29 adopted an updated House and Senate redistricting plan, making one small change in Franklin County that had been requested by Democrats on the panel. The change, which moves Ward 34, Precinct C in Franklin County, puts Rep. Latyna Humphrey (D-Columbus) back into the 2nd House District, which she currently represents, and the 15th Senate District after she had been drawn into the 6th House District and the 3rd Senate District. The commission also adopted a rule that allows commission members to attend meetings and vote remotely as long as a core of the commissioners are present in the location of the hearing. The rule accommodated Senate Minority Leader Nickie Antonio (D-Lakewood) and Sen. Rob McColley (R-Napoleon), who attended remotely. House Minority Leader Allison Russo (D-Upper Arlington) made the motion to move the boundaries. Co-chair Auditor Keith Faber said the change does nothing to the political indexes of the map. After the hearing, Faber told reporters he saw the change as a courtesy following along with the good-faith negotiations that the commission had that led to the unanimous adoption of the map on Tuesday, Sept. 26. “You should execute the agreement everybody thought we had,” he said.
The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) Thursday presented the Ohio Facilities Construction Commission (OFCC) with a leadership award at the Greenbuild International Conference and Expo in Washington D.C. The award recognizes organizations for demonstrating outstanding vision, leadership, and commitment to significantly advance the green building industry. OFCC oversees agencies’ capital projects, manages Ohio’s K-12 school facility programs that support construction and renovation, and administers funding for community cultural and sports facilities projects.
The sponsors of a bill that would give a property tax break to Ohio homeowners who are over the age of 70 and have an income of under $70,000 told the House Ways and Means Committee that they chose those numbers as a starting point and are not set on staying at that number for their “70/70” plan. Reps. Thomas Hall (R-Middletown) and Dani Isaacsohn (D-Cincinnati) said their HB263 (Hall-Isaacsohn), which would implement a property tax freeze for individuals, is an opportunity to continue supporting those most vulnerable to increasing property tax costs. It would also reimburse local governments and schools for revenue that is lost.
The General Assembly should “fix the tax problem of the equation rather than artificially changing the value side” in order to address rising property taxes across the state, Warren County Auditor Matt Nolan told the Senate Ways and Means Committee on Tuesday. Nolan, who serves as co-chair of the County Auditors’ Association of Ohio’s (CAAO) Property Tax Committee, provided opponent testimony on SB153 (Lang-Johnson) during the meeting. He said SB153 and companion bill HB187 (Hall-Bird) would cause harmful unintended consequences. Nolan suggested the following three alternative solutions for the Legislature to consider:
– Use American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) or Rainy Day Fund dollars to grant a property tax credit to each property owner who sees an increase in taxes as a result of an increase in values.
– Apply the difference in taxes as a refundable income tax credit.
– Values would increase as already approved by the Ohio Department of Taxation, but instead of school rates hitting the 20-mill floor “hard,” the floor would adjust down based on value increases and inflation, Nolan said. “If values increase by 30 percent and inflation is 5 percent at the time, schools at the floor would not get the 30 percent increase they would today, but would rather get 5 percent. This approach allows school districts and local governments to continue to see increases in revenue at a rate that was traditionally intended by the creation of the floor, but does not allow for excessive increases that the current market conditions have created.”
The state of Ohio is still lagging behind most states in two key jobless claims metrics, according to financial advisory website WalletHub. Ohio ranks 40 in unemployment claims per 100,000 people in the labor force, and 27 when measuring which states saw the largest decreases in weekly jobless claims. Among Ohio’s neighbors, Kentucky had the fewest jobless claims per 100,000 people in the labor force, ranking 5. The Bluegrass State was followed by West Virginia (24), Indiana (28), Michigan (42) and Pennsylvania (46).
The Ohio Bureau of Workers Compensation (BWC) Board of Directors voted Friday to approve a 1 percent rate cut for about 38,000 public employers. The reduction in collectible premium represents an average cut across public employer taxing districts. During the board’s review of finances, staff told directors the agency had $22.7 billion in assets versus $15.2 billion in liabilities as of August, meaning a $7.6 billion in net position, about even with the position seen a year earlier.
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