Week in Review > Week In Review 12-11-23

Posted by on December 11th, 2023

FY24-25 BUDGET

The state collected about $26.1 million or 1 percent more in taxes during November than expected, according to preliminary figures from the Office of Budget and Management (OBM). Overperformance in the income tax offset small misses on sales taxes and the Commercial Activity Tax. The income tax generated more than $800 million, nearly $60 million or 8.1 percent ahead of the forecasted $741 million. Sales taxes in total were off 0.6 percent or $6.4 million, reaching $1.14 billion. The non-auto sales tax was nearly on target, coming in just $1.3 million or 0.1 percent short, while the auto sales tax missed forecasts by $5 million or 3.2 percent. The Commercial Activity Tax generated $484 million, $5.3 million or 1.1 percent below projections. Total tax collections for November reached $2.53 billion, compared to expectations of $2.51 billion.

ECONOMY

Moody’s Investor Service bumped Ohio’s issuer rating to Aaa from Aa1, the DeWine administration said Friday. The ratings agency noted a “continuing trend of very strong financial management, improving reserves and liquidity, low and declining leverage and a state economy that is poised for diversification and growth.” The ratings change came ahead of the state’s plan to issue nearly $400 million in general obligation refunding bonds later in December.

EDUCATION

The Senate voted 25-6 on Wednesday to confirm Steve Dackin as the first director of the Ohio Department of Education and Workforce (DEW). Those voting against Dackin were Sens. Niraj Antani (R-Miamisburg), Nickie Antonio (D-Lakewood), Bill DeMora (D-Columbus), Paula Hicks-Hudson (D-Toledo), Kent Smith (D-Euclid) and Steve Wilson (R-Maineville). This came after the Senate Education Committee unanimously recommended his appointment on Tuesday.

During the hearing Tuesday in the Senate Ways and Means Committee on HB187 (Hall-Bird), legislation addressing property tax increases, Sen. Jerry Cirino (R-Kirtland) didn’t mince words about the issues he believes the Legislature needs to address around school funding. He opened his comments to the representatives of the three school management groups — the Buckeye Association of School Administrators (BASA), the Ohio Association of School Business Officials (OASBO) and the Ohio School Boards Association (BASA) — by referencing that there are “not enough children in schools.” Cirino also commented that there was a lot of complaining about the Legislature’s expanding EdChoice in the last budget. “Quite frankly, I was very much taken aback by that,” he said, noting it came on top of the school districts’ receiving a 13.9 percent increase in funding. “But it seemed like it was an inappropriate complaint. We were quite generous with the systems in the formula, and yet at the same time, criticism for us trying to give … choice for students who are in underperforming schools, of which there are many in Ohio, to go and try to do better for themselves.”

A senior official at the Department of Education and Workforce (DEW) and two local superintendents from Central and Southeast Ohio emerged Tuesday as the finalists to become the next state superintendent, a job with a narrower set of powers under new K-12 governance changes enacted in the state budget. The State Board of Education met in executive session for nearly four hours Tuesday before voting to offer interviews to three of 19 applicants for the post: Paul Craft, superintendent of Buckeye Valley Local Schools in Delaware County; Jeffrey Greenley, superintendent of Belpre City Schools; and Julia Simmerer, senior executive director of the Center for Teaching, Leading and Learning at the Department of Education and Workforce. They will interview the candidates at the regular board meeting the week of Dec. 11 with potentially a hiring decision at another special meeting Monday, Dec. 18.

The School Bus Safety Working Group will send its report and recommendations to policymakers in January 2024, Ohio Department of Public Safety (ODPS) Director Andy Wilson said Friday. Wilson said he may schedule another meeting to release the final report, but that hasn’t been decided yet. He told Hannah News that ODPS staff and DeWine Assistant Policy Director Erin Reed will largely be responsible for putting the final report together after receiving recommendations from working group members.

Cincinnati Archbishop Moeller senior running back Jordan Marshall has been named Ohio “Mr. Football” by the Ohio Prep Sportswriters Association (OPSWA). Marshall is the 37th winner of the award, according to the Ohio High School Athletic Association (OHSAA). Marshall, at 6-foot and 205 pounds, totaled 149 points in statewide voting by OPSWA members.

GENERAL ASSEMBLY/STATEHOUSE

The Ohio Senate announced late Monday the selection of Brian Chavez (R-Marietta) to replace former Sen. Frank Hoagland (R-Adena) who resigned effective Dec. 1. Chavez is the manager and owner of Reno Oil & Gas, Inc., which manages the drilling and field maintenance of more than 450 conventional gas and oil wells. He is also the owner of Chavez Well Service, LLC., and the CEO of Deeprock Disposal Solutions, LLC. He was sworn in Wednesday, Dec. 6. Chavez will serve the remainder of Hoagland’s term and then run for a full four-year term in November of 2024.

The departure of Hoagland and appointment of Chavez set off a committee shuffle in the upper chamber this week. Sen. Terry Johnson (R-McDermott) is moving over to chair the Veterans and Public Safety Committee, a post previously held by Hoagland. Chavez also was given a seat on that committee. Leadership of the Senate Community Revitalization Committee, which Johnson held, goes to Sen. Al Landis (R-Dover). Chavez is joining that panel as vice chair. Senate President Matt Huffman (R-Lima) also named Chavez to seats on the Senate Insurance Committee and Senate Transportation Committee.

The Senate Wednesday passed emergency legislation to provide property tax relief across the state, voting 31-0 to pass HB187 (Hall-Bird). The emergency clause was approved 29-2, with Sens. Niraj Antani (R-Miamisburg) and Catherine Ingram (D-Cincinnati) voting against it. Sen. Louis Blessing (R-Cincinnati) said the bill temporarily increases the homestead exemption, which applies to individuals who are 65 years of age or older, permanently and totally disabled or at least 59 years old and the surviving spouse of a person who previously received the exemption. Both the standard and enhanced exemptions are increased, and the standard homestead exemption will also apply to otherwise eligible individuals with a household income of up to $75,000. Those with higher incomes will get smaller benefit, Blessing said.

In addition, the Senate passed SB144 (Romanchuk) on a vote of 30-1. This bill makes several changes to the authority of pharmacists and other people under their supervision to administer immunizations. Antani was the lone “no” vote. The Senate also passed marijuana bill HB86 (LaRe) by a vote of 28-2.

The House chamber dodged a late-night gathering around legalized marijuana Wednesday when Speaker Jason Stephens (R-Kitts Hill) adjourned session without taking up Senate changes to HB86 (LaRe) or gun rights bill HB51 (Loychik-Schmidt) and promptly exited the chamber.

The House passed a half dozen road-naming and calendar-designating bills capped by the “Rep. Kris Jordan Memorial Highway” – HB165 (Lear-Ferguson). In addition, the House passed the following:

– HCR6 (King-Plummer) urging Congress to repeal the Windfall Elimination Provision and Government Pension Offset by a vote of 85-0.

– HCR7 (Creech-Peterson) petitioning Congress to make Daylight Savings Time permanent nationwide, by a vote of 64-19.

– HB195 (Demetrious-Brennan) creating an adaptive mobility dealer license by a vote of 89-1.

– HB78 (Seitz-Miller) regarding STRS board eligibility for “rehired retirants” by a vote of 89-0.

– HB29 (Humphrey-Brewer) exempting from a driver’s license suspension for those behind on child support who can show a suspension would prevent them from meeting their obligations by a vote of 84-0.

– HB203 (Roemer-Sweeney) requiring private owners of construction projects that do not involve one-, two- and three-family dwellings to pay contractors within 30 days of completing certified work by a vote of a 72-12 vote.

– HB272 (Mathews – Pizzulli) allowing all concealed carry holders and other “qualifying adults,” regardless of the jurisdiction’s size, to convey handguns into a building with a courtroom when court is not in session and the building is not in fact a courthouse. It also allows nonresidents “under disability” to regain firearm rights in Ohio. This passed 57-29.

The Senate Government Oversight Committee Wednesday heard from dozens of witnesses, many of them opponents, on HB68 (Click), which would ban certain gender affirming care for minors and prohibit transgender girls from playing on girls’ sports teams. Witnesses testified that the bill will hurt families and cause them to leave the state in order to get the care for their children that they need. They said it will hurt economic development efforts. Many told their own personal stories of being a transgender person or having a transgender child.

The controversial higher education bill Speaker Jason Stephens (R-Kitts Hills) recently said lacks support to pass the House nonetheless cleared committee Wednesday by a single vote. Stephens said last week that SB83 (Cirino) didn’t have enough votes and added that he wasn’t necessarily trying to do more to win support for it. But the House Higher Education Committee made a late-breaking addition of the bill to its Wednesday agenda this week, and in a brief hearing passed it 8-7. Republicans Young, Manning and Reps. Adam Bird (R-New Richmond), Bill Dean (R-Xenia), Derek Merrin (R-Maumee), Nick Santucci (R-Warren), Josh Williams (R-Oregon) and Bernard Willis (R-Springfield) voted in support. Ranking Member Joe Miller (D-Amherst) and fellow Democratic Reps. Munira Abdullahi (D-Columbus), Mary Lightbody (D-Westerville), Phil Robinson (D-Solon) and Casey Weinstein (D-Hudson) voted no, joined by Republican Reps. Gail Pavliga (R-Atwater) and Justin Pizzulli (R-Franklin Furnace).

The House State and Local Government Committee Tuesday accepted an omnibus amendment to occupational licensure review legislation, HB238 (Fowler-Arthur-Klopfenstein), with the sponsors of the bill saying the changes were made at the request of the agencies.

The Statehouse will also host other musical events throughout the month of December, including the following:

– Monday, Dec. 11 – Centennial High School Choir

– Tuesday, Dec. 12 – Columbus Alternative High School Ensembles

– Wednesday, Dec. 13 – Grandview Heights “The Grandview Singers”

– Thursday, Dec. 14 – Hamilton Twp. High School Choir

– Friday, Dec. 15 – Bell Haven Elementary Unified Chorus

– Monday, Dec. 18 – Lancaster High School Chamber Singers

– Tuesday, Dec. 19 – Hilliard Davidson High School Choir

All events begin at 12 p.m. in the Museum Gallery unless otherwise noted.

In other legislative action, the House Civil Justice Committee reported out HB283 (Pizzulli-Schmidt) which adds a judge to the Adams County Court of Common Pleas; the House Commerce and Labor Committee reported out HB273 (Mathews) which deals with labor law notices; the House Homeland Security Committee reported out HB230 (Abrams-Swearingen) which addresses drug trafficking; the House Primary and Secondary Education Committee reported out HB70 (Fowler Arthur-Gross) which deals with school policies regarding over the counter drugs; and the Senate Community Revitalization Committee reported out SR240 (Johnson) which condemns China for its role in the global drug trade.

HIGHER EDUCATION

The Governor’s Merit Scholarship Program officially launched Monday, Gov. Mike DeWine announced. The scholarship program was included in state budget bill HB33 (Edwards). A total of $20 million was appropriated for the first year of the program, which is open to graduating seniors in the top 5 percent of their class in the Class of 2024. For students in the Class of 2024, the portal is expected to remain open through April 30, 2024. More information is available online at https://meritscholarship.ohio.gov/.

Ohio Dominican University’s (ODU’s) Board of Trustees has appointed Michael A. Grandillo to serve as interim president. Grandillo succeeds Connie Gallaher who will retire in December 2023 following the completion of the fall semester. He began at ODU on Wednesday, Dec. 6 as president-designate and as interim president on Saturday, Dec. 16. Grandillo has over 43 years of higher education experience, most recently having served as president of Madonna University in Livonia, MI from 2015 until his retirement in 2022. Currently, he leads a consulting firm specializing in higher education, government and public policy.

The Ohio Department of Development (DOD) offers college students the opportunity to work hands-on with companies working in global trade and commerce through the Ohio Export Internship Program (OEIP). The program accepts students who are taking expert-focused coursework at one of the following six Ohio universities: Ohio State University, Youngstown State University, Cleveland State University, the University of Dayton, Bowling Green State University and Ohio University. Applications are now available at https://tinyurl.com/m8fwcxpv. The Department of Development’s Export Assistance Office will review applications through the month of January, and internships will run from May-August 2024.

PENSIONS

Zachary Christensen, managing director of the Pension Integrity Project at the Reason Foundation, gave a presentation to the House Pensions Committee in which he recommended use of actuarially determined employer contributions (ADEC), rather than the fixed, statutory rates that now govern employer funding of pension systems. His presentation focused on the State Teachers Retirement System (STRS) and Ohio Police & Fire Pension Fund, two of three systems now seeking legislative support for employer rate hikes. The Ohio Public Employees Retirement System (OPERS) also is lobbying for higher employer rates. Christensen said the Ohio systems have made steady progress in improving their funded status since the major disruptions of the 2008-2009 recession and reforms that followed. But he said his organization’s modeling shows another recession or two in the coming decades could set them back seriously, particularly OP&F.

TECHNOLOGY/AEROSPACE

Lt. Gov. Jon Husted announced Monday the state now has a policy on artificial intelligence (AI) within government, meant to promote innovation while maintaining “core principles” to responsibly implement and effectively manage the technology. The policy was developed by a group of state government leaders and IT experts. The administration said it includes “guardrails and governance” for generative AI, which can generate new content such as code, images, music, text, simulations, 3D objects and videos. Requirements to integrate AI into state solutions under the policy include “a formal process for identifying, documenting, reviewing and approving AI use.” There is also guidance on how to train state employees about appropriate use of AI; set procurement guidelines that require business partners to share information related to use of AI and protection of state data; implement security and privacy controls for state agencies; and set statewide data governance requirements.

Posted by on December 11th, 2023

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