Week in Review > Week In Review 11-13-23Posted by Paul Imhoff on November 13th, 2023
A little more than a year after the U.S. Supreme Court ended nationwide constitutional protections for abortion, Ohio voters enshrined an explicit right to abortion into the state constitution. Ohioans approved reproductive and abortion rights constitutional amendment Issue 1 by a vote of 55.8 percent to 44.2 percent, according to numbers posted by the Ohio Secretary of State’s Office late Tuesday night. Several hundred Issue 1 supporters gathered at the Hyatt Regency for an election night party Tuesday hosted by Ohioans for Reproductive Rights (OURR). When it became clear that the measure was going to pass at around 9 p.m., the crowd began cheering loudly and a number of attendees were crying tears of joy. “Ohioans can rest easy knowing that we will never again be denied timely medical care or be forced to leave our home for the care we need,” said Lauren Blauvelt, co-chair of OURR and executive director of Planned Parenthood Advocates of Ohio.
Organizers of the effort in support of the reproductive and abortion rights constitutional amendment Issue 1 weren’t without reason to celebrate on Wednesday. Issue 1 saw passage at over 56 percent among turnout from nearly 49 percent of registered voters, a relatively large proportion for an off-year election on Tuesday. “I think what we saw was a definitive victory for abortion access, that the majority of Ohioans support abortion access and turned out the vote to ensure that Issue 1 passed,” said Blauvelt at a Wednesday news conference. “This is a solid majority of Ohio voters who have come together to speak, and we feel really confident that now this is the law of the land and it needs to be upheld,” Blauvelt added. Ohio is now the seventh state in the nation where voters have affirmed abortion rights since the U.S. Supreme Court struck down Roe v. Wade in 2022. The first six states were Michigan, Vermont, Kentucky, Kansas, Montana and California. But despite different political settings, abortion rights movements have found success through grassroots measures like broad coalitions of different voter groups and support built from the bottom up, according to Veronica Ingham of Ohioans for Reproductive Freedom.
At another Wednesday news conference, a group dedicated to helping state-level Democrats across the country said Tuesday election results in Ohio and elsewhere demonstrated the potency of the abortion issue and highlighted the importance of focusing on state-level races even as the focus shifts to the White House contest in 2024. The Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee (DLCC), in a teleconference with reporters pointed to Ohio’s Issue 1 victory, Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear’s (D-KY) re-election victory and Democratic state legislative gains in Virginia, New Jersey and New Hampshire. DLCC Interim President Heather Williams and Senior Advisor Jessica Post said abortion is motivating voters whether the issue is being addressed directly, as with Ohio’s ballot question, or as part of legislative campaigns, as with elections in Virginia. There, incumbent GOP Gov. Glenn Youngkin campaigned for full control of the Virginia Legislature with the goal of enacting a 15-week restriction on abortion, but Democrats appear instead to have won majorities in both chambers. Williams said she expects to see additional ballot measures in states on abortion following Ohio’s Issue 1 result, but argued she expects further victories regardless.
Senate President Matt Huffman (R-Lima) issued a statement Tuesday night on the victory of Issue 1, saying that life “is worth fighting for. As a grandparent of eight, the life of a baby is always worth the fight. The national abortion industry funded by wealthy out-of-state interests spent millions to pass this radical language that goes far past abortion on demand. This isn’t the end. It is really just the beginning of a revolving door of ballot campaigns to repeal or replace Issue 1.” House Speaker Jason Stephens (R-Kitts Hill) said the Legislature has “multiple paths that we will explore to continue to protect innocent life. This is not the end of the conversation.
Yes on Issue 2 Campaign spokesman Tom Haren told reporters Tuesday night the result represented a “landslide victory” of Ohioans saying “they want marijuana regulated like alcohol.” Haren added that Ohioans have seen how similar programs work in other states, including the amount of tax revenue generated and the testing of the marijuana provided through them. Asked about the number of Ohioans who voted against the issue, he said, “Those voters will see how successful the adult use program will be here in Ohio once Issue 2 gets implemented.”
Gov. Mike DeWine told reporters Thursday the results of Issues 1 and 2 will “certainly” be accepted in the state, while also saying the majority of Ohio voters are “somewhere in the middle” on abortion and that the General Assembly has a “responsibility” to set guardrails around recreational marijuana usage. On Issue 1, he said those majority views include support of setting exceptions for rape and incest, and opposition to having “abortion up until the time of birth.” In time, he continued, they may consider how the constitutional amendment is working. DeWine also said there is a “continuum,” with small numbers believing in either no abortion or abortion at any time, but Issue 1 only posed “two choices.”
DeWine further told reporters that the courts will decide what other abortion laws remain in effect, and that could be part of Ohioans’ view on the amendment. He also said he did not regret signing 132-SB23 (Roegner), the “heartbeat” abortion ban, and that it became “abundantly clear” after the Dobbs decision that Ohioans had “a real strong feeling” in support of rape and incest exceptions.
Regarding Issue 2, DeWine said he had spoken with Huffman and Stephens and will meet with them Monday morning as well. He has asked the Legislature to take “appropriate action” within the next 30 days to “carry out our duty to the people of the state” while respecting the voters’ decision. Specific goals he detailed are to protect children, both in terms of advertising and inadvertent exposure to food products containing marijuana; to ensure people can be in public areas without smelling marijuana, as that has been an issue in other states; and to reduce the number of people who drive while under the influence.
The Office of Budget and Management (OBM) reported Monday that the state’s October revenues came in $162.6 million or 7.2 percent over estimates for the month with a total of $2.4 billion collected. That takes the FY24 revenues to nearly $218.6 million or 2.4 percent over estimates. Leading the way in October was the Personal Income Tax which was nearly $133.8 million or 18.8 percent over estimates. That was followed by the Commercial Activity Tax (CAT) exceeding estimates by $16.6 million or 14.0 percent and the auto sales tax coming in at $14.8 million or 9.4 percent above projections.
A new analysis by senior officials in the Biden administration shows that federal COVID relief dollars for child care programs decreased child care expenses for families, helped women with young children re-enter the workforce, and boosted the wages of child care workers. The analysis comes as President Joe Biden pushes for an additional $16 billion for the program. The report by the President’s Council of Economic Advisers (CEA) found the American Rescue Plan Act’s (ARPA) Child Care Stabilization program lowered child care costs for a typical family with young children by over $1,200 per child per year. It estimated the program increased labor force participation and employment of mothers with young children by an additional 3 percentage points, and boosted the wages and employment of child care workers. ARPA, which was passed and signed in 2021, provided $24 billion in subsidies to child care providers in an effort to keep them open and help retain staff.
Steve Dackin is back atop the state’s K-12 education agency after a very brief stint last year cut short by an ethics inquiry. Gov. Mike DeWine said Thursday he’s nominating Dackin to serve as the first permanent director of the Ohio Department of Education and Workforce (DEW), a renamed and reconfigured agency that’s assuming many powers from the State Board of Education (SBOE) and state superintendent. Dackin is a former teacher, school administrator and community college official who served as vice president of the State Board of Education, a position he resigned to pursue the job of state superintendent. His former board colleagues chose him for the role, but he served just weeks before resigning and returning his pay. The Ohio Ethics Commission had launched an inquiry over his conduct in leading the board’s search for a new superintendent but then turning around and seeking the position himself. He ultimately signed a settlement with the commission in which he agreed to complete three hours of ethics training and forego seeking the superintendent position for a year. According to the settlement, an official in DeWine’s office had “invited” Dackin to seek the superintendent post.
Ohio voters approved 69 percent of school funding requests on the Tuesday ballot, according to data compiled by the Ohio School Boards Association (OSBA). Approval of 115 of 167 funding issues represents a slight decrease in the approval rate from the prior November election, when 87 of 120 requests, or 73 percent, won passage. Overwhelming approval of renewal funding requests was offset by the failure of many new funding issues, according to OSBA. OSBA maintains a database of levy results at https://tinyurl.com/bddtyemd.
State budget funding meant to address capacity limits in career-technical education programs was awarded to 35 schools Friday, the DeWine administration announced. Under HB33 (Edwards), $200 million is available in FY24 for construction projects to support establishment or expansion of career-technical education programs, with priority given to programs aligned to a list of top jobs maintained by the Office of Workforce Transformation or that qualify for the Innovative Workforce Incentive Program. Friday’s announcement covers $199.8 million of the funding. Award amounts range from nearly $15 million for Four County Career Center in Northwest Ohio, for welding fabrication and electrical systems programs, to $1.6 million for Oregon City Schools for its agribusiness program. The full list of awards is at https://tinyurl.com/9mhc77j2.
A new video from the Ohio School Safety Center (OSSC) addresses the topic of school threats, both the importance of taking them seriously and the consequences they have. OSSC partnered with the Buckeye State Sheriffs’ Association (BSSA) and Ohio Association of Chiefs of Police (OACP) on the effort.Featuring Ohio Department of Public Safety (DPS) Director Andy Wilson, Union County Sheriff Jamie Patton and Ottawa Hills Police Chief John Wenzlick, the video addresses repercussions of joking about violence in schools; legal consequences of making threats, even as pranks; lasting effects on one’s future and opportunities; and the importance of reporting safety concerns rather than sharing them on social media.
State Board of Education members suing over K-12 governance reforms that transferred most of their powers to the governor’s cabinet are objecting to a magistrate’s recommendation that they not be granted an injunction against the power transfer. In a filing from late Friday, Nov. 3, the plaintiffs urge Judge Karen Phipps to overrule Magistrate Jennifer Hunt and instead grant an injunction against provisions of the state budget that gave most of their authority to the renamed and reconfigured Department of Education and Workforce (DEW), led by a gubernatorial appointee. The lawsuit alleges the power transfer violates the 1953 constitutional amendment that created the State Board of Education (SBOE), and that lawmakers enacted the language in violation of constitutional rules on legislative procedure. Under HB33 (Edwards), lawmakers changed the Ohio Department of Education (ODE) into DEW and gave it and its director most of the powers now held by the SBOE and state superintendent. The board retained jurisdiction over educator licensure and discipline issues as well as school district territory transfers.
A total of 1,766 local issues were before voters on Tuesday’s ballot. These included issues addressing police and fire funding, liquor sales, operating levies, funding for parks and recreation program, human service levies for local boards of developmental disabilities, mental health and health, infrastructure issues, as well as school and library levies.
According to numbers posted on the secretary of state’s website, 855,076 Ohioans cast absentee ballots ahead of Tuesday’s election, with more than half of those cast in-person. The numbers show that 566,404 total votes were cast at county boards of elections, including 79,338 this past weekend. Sunday was the final day of early-in person voting after legislation passed in the last General Assembly, 134-HB458 (Hall) eliminated Monday voting to give boards of elections more time to prepare for the Tuesday election days. Those numbers may not be final as Friday and Saturday voting numbers from Cuyahoga County were not available. County boards of elections reported 223,732 ballots were returned by mail by voters, while 19,081 were personally delivered to a board of elections, and 45,859 were returned through a drop box. There were 410,600 absentee ballots mailed to voters, meaning about 121,928 absentee ballots are still outstanding.
Voting rights groups Tuesday outlined a number of issues that had been reported to them around the state as Ohioans went to the polls to decide state Issues 1 and 2, as well as a number of local issues and municipal races. Some of those issues occurred during the early voting period, with Nazek Hapasha, policy affairs manager for the League of Women Voters of Ohio, telling reporters that the group had received reports of voters who applied for an absentee ballot by mail but never received it. She said a high number of these voters are students, and added that a high number of the issues occurred in the process of getting the ballot from boards of elections to the voter. Hapasha said they have been trying to follow up with those voters, and have found the situations and reasons differ, but said overall they have concerns about the shortened time frame for requesting and returning ballots after 134-HB458 (Hall) made changes to previous law giving voters up to 10 days after an election to return a ballot as long as it had been postmarked by Election Day.
Will Ohio’s embrace of reproductive and abortion rights amendment Issue 1 on Tuesday have an effect on 2024? Will the Legislature immediately try to undercut both Issue 1 and recreational marijuana initiated statute Issue 2? Those were among the questions debated by a panel assessing the results of Tuesday’s election during a Columbus Metropolitan Club forum on Wednesday. The panel featured USA Today Network Ohio Bureau reporter Haley BeMiller, Wendy Smooth, Ohio State University professor of women’s gender and sexuality studies and senior vice provost for Inclusive Excellence, Franklin County Republican Party Chair Meredith Freedhoff, and Julie Womack of Red, Wine and Blue. It was moderated by Associated Press reporter Julie Carr Smyth. Smooth said the passage of Issue 1 follows a trend that abortion supporters believe shows them “running the table” when it comes to ballot initiatives dealing with reproductive and abortion rights. The results of all of these issues shows that Americans are supportive of some level of choice, adding that it seems to also be driving a number of other races. She said the question is why that is the case.
The House has just seven sessions set for the first six months of 2024, although other tentative dates are on the calendar, according to a schedule released Thursday. Little may happen before April, with just one session and two if-needed sessions scheduled before then. The schedule released by the clerk’s office Thursday starts with an if-needed session Wednesday, Jan. 10 and session Wednesday, Jan. 24, and concludes with session on Wednesday, June 26. February has just one if-needed date, on Wednesday, Feb. 7. March – which this year includes the Tuesday, March 19 presidential primary and Easter on Sunday, March 31 – has no session dates at all. April includes Wednesday sessions on April 10 and April 24. May includes Wednesday sessions on May 8 and May 22. June includes Wednesday sessions on June 12 and June 26.
Two doctors in the House Democratic Caucus quickly followed Tuesday’s passage of the reproductive and abortion rights amendment in Issue 1 with the announcement Thursday of a bill to repeal several abortion restrictions. Reps. Beth Liston (D-Dublin) and Anita Somani (D-Dublin), respectively a pediatrician and an OBGYN, said they’ll introduce legislation known as the Reproductive Care Act. According to Liston, it will do the following:
– Repeal 133-SB23 (Roegner), the six-week “heartbeat” abortion ban.
– Remove mandatory waiting periods before getting an abortion.
– Eliminate transfer agreement requirements for abortion clinics.
– Eliminate other targeted restrictions against abortion providers, aka TRAP laws.
– Create privacy protections for reproductive health information.
– Prevent discrimination due to reproductive health decisions.
– Protect against criminalization of reproductive health decisions.
Former state Rep. Shalya Davis has been selected as the new president and CEO of the Ohio Legislative Black Caucus Foundation (OLBCF), the caucus announced Thursday. She succeeds Barbara Sykes, a former state lawmaker, who was recently elected to a seat on the Akron School Board.
HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES
Public Children Services Association of Ohio (PCSAO) and the Ohio Association of County Behavioral Health Authorities (OACBHA) reported the outcomes of the local levy elections Tuesday night. Children services saw 12 of 14 levies pass with only the Highland and Knox counties losing. All 11 local alcohol, drug addiction and mental health (ADAMH) levies on the Tuesday ballot passed.
Inter-University Council (IUC) of Ohio President and CEO Laura Lanese Thursday hosted the inaugural symposium for military-connected students ahead of Veterans Day this weekend. Held in the Atrium of the Ohio Statehouse, the event drew about 75 attendees, according to IUC staff. The IUC represents the state’s 14 public universities. Lanese told Hannah News one goal of the symposium was to connect university officials with each other as well as others working with military-connected students and veterans. Lanese said she hopes to turn the symposium into an annual event. The symposium included two panel discussions, one on military-connected students’ campus experiences and another on military-connected students in the workforce. Both highlighted some of the specific challenges faced by military-connected students and veterans.
Mike Duffey, the former lawmaker nominated by Gov. Mike DeWine to lead the Ohio Department of Higher Education (ODHE), lost his bid for Worthington City Council on Tuesday, removing a potential conflict. DeWine announced last month that he had selected Duffey, currently serving as a senior vice chancellor at ODHE, to succeed Randy Gardner as chancellor at the end of this year. However, at the time of DeWine’s announcement, Duffey was still a candidate for city council, and early voting had begun. DeWine’s office later told the Columbus Dispatch that the office was looking into the issue to see if a potential conflict would materialize from his serving in the dual roles.
Ohio library systems came within about 100 votes of running the table Tuesday night as 25 of 26 local funding issues won voters’ support, most by healthy margins. According to preliminary results from the Ohio Library Council (OLC), the only defeat came for the 10-year, 3 mill renewal/increase levy request for Kingsville Public Library in Ashtabula County, which fell short by 93 votes in a contest involving about 2,500 ballots. Otherwise, voters approved 16 renewal levies, four new/additional levies, one renewal with increase levy, three replacement levies and one renewal with decrease levy, with an average approval rate of 63 percent. The closest win came for Fairfield County District Library, which garnered 52 percent of the vote for its 0.5 mill, 10-year replacement levy. The most lopsided victory came for McComb Public Library in Hancock County, with 84 percent approval for its 1 mill, five-year renewal levy.
Adults ages 21 and older could have to wait nine months to purchase recreational marijuana from a dispensary in Ohio, according to the Ohio Department of Commerce (DOC). “Non-medical cannabis will not be immediately available to purchase in dispensaries, and the general public at this moment is not permitted in dispensaries unless the individual is a registered patient or caregiver in the Ohio Medical Marijuana Control Program (MMCP). There are currently no entities licensed to sell non-medical cannabis in the state of Ohio,” DOC said Wednesday. Voters approved adult use marijuana legalization initiated statute Issue 2 by a vote of 57 percent to 43 percent on Tuesday. Initiated statutes become effective 30 days after Election Day. The new law establishes the Division of Cannabis Control under DOC, and gives the division up to nine months to write rules and issue licenses. DOC is providing updates on the new adult use program at www.com.ohio.gov/nonmedicalcannabis.
Because Ohio already has a robust medical marijuana program and because the new recreational marijuana program builds off that existing regulatory infrastructure, there won’t need to be huge changes to the way the state implements the new recreational marijuana program approved by voters on Tuesday as a part of Issue 2, an attorney who worked with the pro-side of the campaign said at an Impact Ohio panel Thursday. Tom Haren, an attorney with Frantz Ward LLP who served as a spokesman for the Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, the group that brought Issue 2 to the ballot, expressed aggravation at state legislators who have floated changing the initiated statute since its passage on Tuesday. He said that the campaign was launched to put Issue 2 on the ballot two years ago, and there was no secret what it would be, but they didn’t “get the time of day” from legislators until voters approved it Tuesday. He said they aren’t hearing talk of repeal or gutting the law as much since Tuesday — “that has stopped,” — and now comments are more focused on “tinkering around the edges.”
With the new law is expected to take effect in 30 days, the panel was asked whether lawmakers are under a deadline to make any adjustments before it takes effect with a panelist noting that anything that lawmakers pass would still take 90 days to go into effect, unless they add an emergency clause. The biggest issue could see lawmakers addressing home grow, so that people do not use it as a way to grow and sell unregulated product.
There are nearly 400,000 patients registered in the Ohio Medical Marijuana Control Program (MMCP), according to the Ohio Board of Pharmacy (OBP). Specifically, there are 398,057 patients registered in the program, OBP said in its September 2023 MMCP patient and caregiver update. Of registered patients, 23,258 are military veterans, 24,233 are classified as “indigent” and 1,374 have a terminal diagnosis.Of the 398,057 registered patients, only 184,958 have both an active registration and an active recommendation from a doctor.
Ohio’s wild turkey poult index, a metric used to estimate nest success for the popular gamebird, was above average for the third year in a row, according to the ODNR Division of Wildlife. The 2023 Ohio index was 2.8 poults per hen, above the 10-year average of 2.7 poults per hen.
About a decade after pension reforms that saw teachers have to pay more and work longer for lesser benefits, the State Teachers Retirement System (STRS) is back on an upward trajectory, says Executive Director William Neville in an interview with Hannah News. But to sustain that movement, the system wants employers to contribute more. Employer schools and institutions of higher education contribute 14 percent of an employee’s pay to STRS. Teachers’ own share rose from 10 percent to the 14 percent level after passage of 129-SB342 (Niehaus-Kearney), the 2012 pension reform bill for STRS. The bill removed a higher benefit multiplier for teachers working beyond 30 years and required using a five-year salary average to calculate pension amounts rather than a three-year average. It also empowered the STRS board to change inflationary payments on the advice of actuaries. Each of the five state retirements systems underwent substantial changes at the same time.
The latest release from the Quinnipiac University Poll shows that 84 percent of respondents are either very concerned (43 percent) or somewhat concerned (41 percent) that the United States will be drawn into a military conflict in the Middle East. The poll found 16 percent are either not so concerned (10 percent) or not concerned at all (6 percent). The degree of concern varies by party. Fifty-two percent of Republicans say they are very concerned, while 30 percent of Democrats say they are very concerned, and 47 percent of independents say they are very concerned. “American voters watching the cauldron of the Middle East reaching a furious boiling point are fearful the war, so far confined to Israel and Gaza, will metastasize to include U.S. troops,” said Quinnipiac University Polling Analyst Tim Malloy. Half of respondents (50 percent) approve of the way Israel is responding to the Oct. 7 Hamas terrorist attack, while 35 percent disapprove, and 15 percent did not offer an opinion.
White-tailed deer activity is increasing because of the breeding season and drivers should be especially vigilant during the fall months, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) Division of Wildlife said. The frequency of deer-vehicle collisions in Ohio increases in October, November, and December.White-tailed deer are more active from late October through December during the fall breeding season. The breeding season, known as the rut, may cause deer to unexpectedly dart into roadways with little caution. Additionally, deer may move around more frequently, across wider areas, and at all hours of the day at this time of year. All these factors increase the risk of deer-vehicle collisions.
Attorney General Dave Yost Thursday certified the petition summary language of a resubmitted constitutional amendment that would create a citizens’ redistricting commission to draw state legislative and congressional district lines. The Citizens Not Politicians coalition had resubmitted its proposal last month over what it said was a typographical error in the previous language that had been approved by Yost and the Ohio Ballot Board. The group said the full text of the amendment sets the date for a citizens’ redistricting commission to adopt new legislative maps as Sept. 19, 2025. However, previously approved summary language inadvertently stated the deadline would be Sept. 15. The new language corrected that error.
The Ohio Manufacturers’ Association (OMA) Workforce Summit Wednesday included discussion of a range of ways the industry can cultivate needed workers, both in the short-term and for the next generation.In initial remarks, Lt. Gov. Jon Husted described how a strong manufacturing industry and the associated workforce are part of keeping the U.S. as a world leader, and said Ohio is “critical” in efforts to rebuild the national industry. He urged businesses to promote careers, rather than just jobs, and noted the sector can’t offer work-from-home opportunities in the way other sectors can. Husted further detailed the role of government in promoting manufacturing, including with industry sector partnerships, and said there has already been a change in attitudes regarding career centers and whether a college degree was the only pathway available. He additionally noted the $300 million in budget funding for career tech programs and talked about the over 70,000 credentials offered through TechCred, with manufacturing a lead industry as far as utilizing the program. Husted also said he hoped the federal government will recognize this lifelong training and adapt the Pell grant program for it. He closed by calling on manufacturers to help develop new ideas. In response to press questions, he said the most important part of building the manufacturing industry for the future is to ensure workers are available. That includes ensuring high school students graduate career ready, helping adults get reskilled and providing career pathways.
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